January 30th, 1974 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 3:16-17
1-30-74 Wednesday 7:30 p.m.
The other two lectures were introductory, preparing us for a study of the doctrines of our church. So tonight we begin the study of the doctrine itself. And the Articles of Faith begin with the first article on The Scriptures.
Now if you have your book and can share it with somebody, why, do it. And let us all read it out loud together, and follow me as you read it. This is the first article on the Scriptures. The next article we will take next Wednesday night, on The Trinity, the triune God. But the lecture tonight is on The Scriptures, the Word of God. Now all of us reading it out loud together, together now:
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is the record of God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error for its matter. It is inerrant and infallible in its original manuscript, which is to be taken as verbally inspired. It reveals the principles by which God judges us; and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.
Now that is the first article. Now, this is the lecture that I have prepared on The Holy Scriptures.
First, a little definition of the words that we use. “Scripture,” the Latin word for “I write,” for “write,” is s-c-r-i-b-o, scribo, scribo, scribo. However you want to pronounce the “i” in Latin. So, in Latin, the scriptura, what is written, s-c-r-i-p-t-u-r-a, scriptura, Scripture. And the Christian use of the word is technical. Scriptura actually means “anything that is written”; but to us the word Scripture is used to refer to the Bible, the Holy Scriptures. Now the word Bible, there is in Greek a word biblos which means “a written scroll, a scroll, a book.”
You’ve heard me explain that it was the Christian witnesses of the first century who took the scroll––all of the books of the world, all of them were scrolls. There was no exception to that. All the books of the world were scrolls, and as you read the scroll, you wound it from one stick to the other stick, all books were scrolls.
But the Christian witness, the Christian preacher, he needed to turn to a passage quickly. He expounded the Word of God. He proved that Jesus was the Christ by the Scriptures, by the Word of the Lord. So the Christian preacher, the first Christian witness, didn’t have time to dig down in a wheelbarrow––and it would have taken a wheelbarrow––and find in the scroll of Isaiah a passage; and then find in the Mosaic legislation a passage, and then find in the Psalms a passage, he’d be all day long just finding those passages. It was physically impossible and inept.
So what the Christian witness did was, he took the scrolls and he cut them up. He cut it leaf at a time, leaf at a time, and he bound it at the back, and he called it a codex. You call it a book. You’re idea of a book is not a scroll. It’s this. And this came from the Christian preacher, who took the scroll, cut the leaves, and bound them in the back so that he could turn to it.
“God said this in Samuel, and God said this in Kings, and God said this in Proverbs, and God said this in Isaiah, and God said this in Ezekiel, and God said this in Daniel,” and that’s the way the preacher preached. And that’s where this kind of a book came from. Biblos referred to a written scroll called a book. A biblion was a little book; a biblia was plural, “little books.” And that’s where our Bible comes from, biblia, “little books, Bible,” sixty-six little books, written and bound together as the Christian witness used it at the back. That is the Holy Scriptures, the Bible.
Now may I speak of the necessity for the revelation. Why do we have to have the Scriptures, without which we cannot be as Christians, we cannot know God? What is the necessity for the divine revelation? In Jeremiah 37:17, the King Zedekiah sent word to Jeremiah and said, “Is there any word from the Lord?” Does God say anything? And that is what we want to know.
And any thinking man, I am persuaded, wants to know the answer to that question. Is there any word from the Lord? Does God speak? Does God say anything? Now what is the necessity for this word from God?
All right, let’s look at it. We can know many things by study and by observation. We can study the soil and the seeds. We can study water and fruit. We can study the trees and minerals. We can study the fish and the cattle. We can study foods and poisons. We can study the forces and natural laws. We can study the motion of the stars and the workings of the human mind. We can look at the natural creation.
But all of those things are superficial. They are peripheral. Not one of them descends to, or down to, or above to, or approaches at the deeper things that we really want to know, things that really matter. The motion of the stars are something to observe, but actually it doesn’t really matter whether they move or don’t move; and all the other forces of nature that we can observe.
The things that really matter concern why, what, whence, who, wither; who made what we look at? What is His name if somebody made it, and who is He, and what is He like? And above all, what is the purpose that He made it for? What’s the reason for its being? Where did it come from? What is the beginning? And above all, where is it going to? What is its ending?
These questions a man cannot answer. By reason a man cannot know God. And by searching a man cannot find out God. He cannot.
May I give you an illustration of that out of the Bible? Paul stood, and you cannot conceive of a more philosophically, academically, intellectually, strategically, significantly dramatic situation in history than for Paul to stand in the university city of Athens before their highest and supreme court called the Court of the Areopagus. Now what does he say?
You know enough about history to know that the Athenians were the greatest incomparably, immeasurably, the greatest intellectual leaders of all time. There has never been anybody that even approaches them in any category. I don’t care what you name it. You name any category and the Greeks excelled in it.
There have been no philosophers that even that have even begun to touch the hem of the garment of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. They just never have lived. There is no architecture that even rivals the beauty and the glory of Greek architecture. You walk around over the world today, and you’ll see Greek architecture everywhere to this present day. There has never been an improvement upon those Greek columns, for example, never; same way in beautiful, glorious statuary, the sculpture, the painter, the poet, the dramatist!
If you want to talk about war, Alexander the Great never lost a battle, and conquered the world in about twelve years. There’s nobody like them. There’s nobody that ever has been like them. There’s nobody who ever will be like them.
Now, Paul stood on Mars Hill, the hill of the Areopagus, the hill where the Supreme Court met, and he had there the leaders of the Athenian world. And after hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of years of intellectual searching and probing, and writing, and everything the human experience could bring to the human mind, Paul stood there before the Athenians and said, “As I walk through your city I see that you are very religious, reverent” [Acts 17:22]. You have it translated in the King James Version “superstitious.” There never was a translation further away from the spirit of the truth than that one. “As I walk through your city I see that you are very reverent, you are very devout. I found a god on every corner, and I found other gods in between the corners.” There were more gods in Athens than there were people there.
Now after they had searched, and searched, and searched for the centuries and the centuries, they still hadn’t come to the truth. So Paul says, “As I passed by, looking at your devotions, I saw an altar to an unknown god” [Acts 17:23]. We don’t know Him yet. We haven’t found Him yet. A man by searching cannot find God. He cannot. He cannot.
In the third chapter of the Book of Ephesians the apostle says, “I make known unto you this mustērion which God has kept secret in His heart from the beginning of the ages” [Galatians 3:1-11]. What does that mean? It means simply this. That if we are to know God it must come through a self disclosure of the Almighty. It must come through a self-revelation of God. He must disclose Himself. He must reveal Himself to us. And if He does not do it, we cannot know Him, ever! The true knowledge that we want to know is beyond reason. It goes beyond what a man can think for of himself.
For example, here is a chicken who hatches out ducklings, you know, little fuzzy ducklings. She doesn’t know they’re ducklings. She thinks she a’sittin’ on hen eggs, chicken eggs. Unknown to her she was a’sittin’ on duck eggs, and the little ducklings hatch out. So the proud mother gathers her little chicks around her, and she’s walking with them down the road and comes to the pond. And when the chicken hen gets to the edge of the water, she stops. And to her amazement, the little ducklings go right on in the water and right on across. She can’t understand. It’s beyond her reasoning, whatever chicken reasoning is.
That’s exactly the way it is with human reason. Human reason can go just so far. It can go to the edge of the water, then it stops. It can go no further. It cannot. But faith can go right on, and faith can see God, and faith can hear God, and faith can listen to God, and faith can know God if God speaks and if God reveals Himself. And that is the Holy Word that you call the Bible, and faith is the way, the channel, the hand by which we grasp it and know it.
The only way to know God is through His divine self-revelation and self disclosure. What is His name? You’d never know it if He didn’t tell you. What is He like? You’d never know Him if He didn’t disclose Himself. And what purpose lies back of what He does? This life and the world in which God has cast our lives, what does it mean? You’d never know it except as God reveals it to us.
Now this is the purpose and the reason for the Bible; the self disclosure of God is in this Holy Book. This Bible was not given to teach men what they could find out for themselves; where the continents are, where the oceans are located, where the ocean currents run, such as mapping out the Gulf Stream, where the mountain ranges are and the valleys, the sources of the rivers, such as the Nile.
One of the tragedies of missionary history is that Livingstone searched all over Africa for the sources of the Nile and died never finding it. Isn’t that a tragedy? The Bible wasn’t written to tell us the source of the Nile or the source of the Mississippi or any other; what stars are planets and which ones are suns; to what use the forces of nature may be placed, electricity, penicillin; how to raise sheep and goats; horticulture; chemistry; geology; telegraphy; tailoring; just name it. The Bible was not written for any of that. Nor is it a textbook on any of that. But the Bible was written to disclose to us God, and God’s purposes for us in the earth.
Now the message of the Bible is to minister to that need. The Bible is for our souls and for our lives. It is written for a definite answer to human need. Look, can you imagine Jesus feeding the five thousand [John 6:1-14], and as He feeds the five thousand, giving them bread to eat, as He feeds them, can you imagine a cynic there, watching the Lord, and he says, “Did you know” in sarcastic tones, “that rubies and diamonds are much more beautiful and lavish and ornamental than bread? Why doesn’t Jesus give them jewels?”
Well, the reason is simple. They needed bread, not rubies and diamonds. They needed bread. The human need is for salvation, and for life, and we need that! Now the world may think that we need something else, but God thinks that we need to know how to be saved and how to live. And that is the revelation in the Book [2 Timothy 3:15].
You know, I remember when I was a boy I used to read in the funny papers Mutt and Jeff. And on this Sunday was a cartoon of Mutt and Jeff, covered the whole page, you know, one panel after another, that has stayed in my mind through the years.
Mutt and Jeff have been told that across the ocean there is a place where they scoop up diamonds. So Mutt and Jeff take all of their private property and funds, and they get enough money to cross the ocean. And sure enough, on the other side of the ocean the diamonds are just like sands of the desert. And they scoop them up, and scoop them up, and they get bags of them and bags of them. And they come back across the ocean to go home. And in the middle of the ocean something happens to the ship, and it goes down. So Mutt and Jeff are on a raft, and they are there with diamonds heaped all around them, bags of them, piles of them, diamonds running out their ears, and they’re just covered in diamonds. And then as the days pass, they’re not rescued.
And the last scene of that funny paper––and why in the world they think this is funny I don’t know, but you know the funny papers aren’t funny, they’re just cartoons I suppose––the last panel of that funny page was this. Mutt and Jeff are on that raft, and they are dying of thirst, and the burning sun is beating down upon them, and the diamonds are just falling off the edge of the raft into the ocean. And they’re not paying any attention to the diamonds that are falling off. Some of them big as your fist, some of them like hen eggs, you know, just the diamonds are just falling off the raft. And there they are—needing what? Diamonds? Rubies? All they needed was just a drink of water.
Now that’s what the Bible is! The Bible is to minister to our need like Jesus ministered to the five thousand [John 6:1-14]. He fed them bread, and the Bible is that for our souls. And for the need of the man God spoke words, and did deeds, and made revelations, and gave commandments, and made prophecies to an Adam, to a Noah, to an Abraham, to an Israel, to Moses, to a Daniel, to the prophets, to John the Baptist, to the apostles, and supremely, through Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word. That’s what God has done in the Book.
Now the revelation is progressive. And by that I mean it is fuller as the time goes on. And God’s self disclosure, He adds to it. He adds to it. For example, the Book of Hebrews begins with a wonderful presentation of how God made His Bible. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets”—here a little, there a little, yonder a little— “and here again hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son” [Hebrews 1:1-2]. So the revelation came fuller and fuller and fuller.
The message God spoke for each day was sufficient for that need and for that day. It came thus far, and then thus far, and it was all sufficient. Whenever we think that the thing was insufficient for that day, we’re mistaken in that. That’s why I don’t like the word “progressive revelation.” It sounds to me––yet it’s used all the time, “progressive revelation,” I believe in progressive revelation––but it sounds to me when you do that as though the thing back there was not sufficient. It was not adequate.
The thing that God did was adequate for any day that He did it, all sufficient. He spoke to individuals what they must do, and He did so, say, to Noah, and that was sufficient. He spoke by messengers to others what they must do, such as to Moses. He spoke by prophets and apostles what all succeeding generations must do, such as Isaiah and Paul. But the message to Noah was sufficient for his day, and the message to Moses was sufficient for his day, and the message to Jeremiah was sufficient for his day, and the message to John the Baptist was sufficient for his day, and the message to the apostle Paul is sufficient for our day.
Whatever God did, and the revelation He made of Himself, was absolutely and completely sufficient and adequate for that day and for that time. And as the days went on, God made it fuller and richer and deeper. And we knew more of God as the days passed.
Now God selected men to write His message, and each man wrote for his day. Moses wrote for the Law, which was adequate for his day. David for poetry, and for psalms, and singing; Isaiah wrote in Hebrew for the Hebrews; and Paul wrote in Greek for the people who understood Greek. Mark wrote a short, terse, succinct, graphic story of Jesus; and Paul wrote the theological argument of Romans; and John was chosen to cap it off with the great Apocalypse. But the revelation becomes fuller and fuller and fuller as God speaks of Himself, discloses Himself through all the generations.
Now there is one great common ingredient to all of it, and that is the inspiration, the direction of the Holy Spirit. There is a marvelous word in 2 Peter, the first chapter, verses 20 and 21. Peter writes that, “No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:20-21].
Now this is a very definite avowal of where the Bible comes from: that “no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.” Idios epiluseōs; idias means one’s own private property, it belongs to him, idias. Epiluō means “unlooses,” unloosing. Luō is the paradigm word—all you youngsters that are studying Greek—luō is a paradigm word, you know. Man, we all know luō.
Well, epiluseōs is “to unloose.” So this here, this idios epiluseōs is the ablative case of source or origin. Now you translate it like this:
No prophecy came out of one’s own private thoughts or persuasion, but the prophecy came not by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
[2 Peter 1:20-21]
He’s saying there that the prophecy, the Word of God, the Book is of divine origin and is not of human origination. A man didn’t think it up, but the Holy Spirit of God inspired it. So for the writing of the prophecy, the men needed spiritual illumination and guidance, and that is what the Spirit of God did for them.
The spiritual directive prevented them from writing errors. The Holy Spirit guided them in what they wrote. For example, look at Moses. The archaeologist has unearthed for us the very text that Moses studied. The Book says that Moses was learned in all of the science and wisdom of the Egyptians [Acts 7:22]. And we can read the texts that Moses studied as he grew up in the household of Pharaoh. The books that he went to school to study, we can read them today. There they are before our eyes. The archaeologist has dug them up and here they are.
All right, now look. In the days that Moses lived, the Egyptians had a cosmology. They had a science of the beginning of the universe. And it was this: the Egyptians taught in their finest science that there was a great big winged egg, and it flew around, and around, and around, and around until the process of mitosis was completed. And after the mitotic consummation, why, the egg burst and the world was born. Now that’s what Moses was taught.
So I pick up the Bible, and I expect to read about that flying ovoid going around, and around, and around, and out of it, why, the earth is hatched. Now that’s what I would expect to read because that was what he was taught. So when I open the Bible, instead of reading about that flying ovoid that Moses was taught, instead of that I read the ten most significant words in human speech: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” [Genesis 1:1].
Now how did he do that? By divine inspiration. And all of the errors––and they were unbelievable––all of the errors of the background, of the life, and culture, and times and educated and so-called science of the days in which the apostles and in which the prophets lived, none of that, none of that do you find in the Word of God. It is a miracle.
These men went to school, just as we go to school, and they were taught that stuff. If I had time we’d delineate it further. They were taught that stuff. But you don’t find it in the Bible. You don’t even begin to approach it.
Since you’re listening, why, let me take one other instance of it. The Babylonians also had a cosmogony. They had a doctrine of the beginning of the world, and they also had an anthropology. They had a doctrine of men, where they came from. Now this is according to the latest Babylonian science. This is Chaldea academic achievement in its highest and loftiest expression. They said, in their latest scientific studies, they said that there was a great chaotic monster named Tiamat. And they said there was a great marvelous god named Marduk. And Marduk the good god, and Tiamat the bad god, fought and fought and fought. And Marduk the good god overcame Tiamat the bad god.
And according to their finest scientific discoveries of that day, they taught the little kids that went to school that Marduk then flattened out the body of Tiamat, and that was the earth. Then they taught those little kids that went to school to learn science, they said that Marduk spit, and where Marduk spat men came up. Then according to the latest scientists of that day, the men spit. And where they spat women came up. And then according to the latest scientists, the women spit. And where the women spat animals sprung up. Well, there’s a great deal of the Bible written against Chaldean culture and background, so I open the Bible to read all about that chewing and spitting.
What do I read? Why, I read here in the Bible, in Isaiah, about “God, who sitteth above the circle of the earth” [Isaiah 40:22]. Dear me, “the circle of the earth”? Why it was hundreds and hundreds of years before men came to know that the earth was round, that it was a circle; “God, who sits above the circle of the earth.” Or, I read in Job, “The Lord God who hangeth the world, the earth, on nothing, nothing” [Job 26:7]. I don’t know how many centuries it was until the men began to know that the earth was out there in space, hung on nothing, just out there, as Hebrews 1:3 says, “upheld by the Word of God.” How did Job know that? All of that is by divine inspiration.
Not any, not any of the flagrant abysmally ridiculous errors and gross inanities of the ancient world got into that Book, not any of them. Yet the people lived in that world. They were taught that world, and it never found its way in the Bible. Why? Because of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
You can read it today in our advanced and enlightened and scientific age, and there’s not anything in it that will contradict anything you will ever learn, any discovery that man will ever make. It is a miracle, the Word of God! The activity and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gave to the Book its divine unity. There are forty authors who are writing over a period of a thousand five hundred years.
It would be impossible––and when I name it you can see the ridiculousness of the idea––it would be impossible for Moses to have conferred with Paul, to be sure that what he wrote back there in the Pentateuch would fit what Paul was going to write in the Book of Romans, in the Book of Galatians. How in the world is it that Moses, writing, oh, fourteen hundred years before Christ, and Paul writing sixty years after the birth of Jesus, fifteen hundred years apart, how is it that what they write fits just like that, just like that? The reason is, it is inspired by the Holy Spirit of God [2 Timothy 3:16]. God did it.
Now I am to speak of the authority of the Scriptures and then our time is done, and I must hasten. The authority of the Word of God, and this is the most important part of our lecture tonight. In Isaiah 8:20 is a very wonderful passage; Isaiah 8:20: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
In Acts 17:11 it says, “The Bereans searched the Scriptures to see if these things were true.” In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 4:1-2, is that incomparably blessed passage, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction. . .that the man of God may be perfect, mature, thoroughly furnished” [2 Timothy 3:16-17], unto all of the things that he is supposed to do. “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His coming and His kingdom; Preach the word” [2 Timothy 4:1-2].
Religion must be based upon some authority. It must be. You cannot have religion unless it is based upon some kind of an authority. Now there are three bases upon which religion can be established.
One: the authority for the faith can be found in the Church. A thing is true because the Church says it is true. Cyprian, for example, said, and I quote, “He who has not the Church for his mother, has not God for his Father.” The great Augustine said, quote, “I would not believe the Scripture unless the authority of the Church confirms it.” What you believe, what you base your soul on, can be what the Church says is the truth of God.
The faithful in the church are as dead people. They are raised to work and to live by the superior. The doctrine is true because the Church says it is true. The infallible source of truth is the Church. For example, there is nothing to give you any idea of the immaculate conception of Mary. Well, how do you know Mary was immaculately conceived? Because the Church says so. And if you don’t believe it, you’ll go to hell. It’s a dogma that you must believe, and it’s true because the Church says it is true.
The doctrine of the bodily assumption of Mary to heaven, the dogma that was promulgated by the pope in 1950, how do you know that Mary bodily went up to heaven when she died? How do you know that? Because the Church says she did, and you must believe that or fall into hell.
The treasury of merits to be distributed in indulgences, how could such a doctrine be? Because the Church says it is so. The infallibility of the pope, how could you believe that a man could speak ex cathedra, infallibly on anything moral, spiritual, secular, any way, how could he do it? And especially, when history says this infallible pope contradicts this infallible pope, how do you put that together? How do you know that’s true? Because the Church says that it’s true and you must believe it or fall into eternal hell.
How do you know there’s a purgatory? You have to believe in a purgatory because the Church says there is a purgatory. And if you don’t believe it you’ll go to hell. You have to believe the dogmas of the Church. That’s the way of salvation. The authority is found in the Church. And what the priest tells you, that’s the truth of God. And if you don’t do that, you fall into mortal sin.
A thing is true because the Church says it is true. Now that is one of the bases upon which you can base your soul and your life. That’s why the Roman Church has such a hold upon its people. They are taught if they depart from those dogmas, from that faith, they are eternally damned. You’re lost. The great authority for faith and for the building of your life is the Church.
All right, there is a second basis upon which we can base our faith and our hope for salvation: we can base it by our own inward experience and understanding. Spurgeon said, “Man’s nature is not an organized lie, but human consciousness has been warped by sin.” Why can’t you just take your own private judgment and build your faith according to what you yourself can believe? Why can’t you do that? Because the man can be deluded.
I mean the finest people in the earth can be deluded, deceived. I’ve got I don’t know how many telephone calls over there in my desk that I’m not returning. I am flooded with people who want to know about demon possession and about all of these things that “The Exorcist” picture show has brought into the consciousness and discussions and minds of the people.
Well, what kind of an answer are you going to find about all of these experiences in human life? Some of them demoniacal, and some of them, I don’t know what. I don’t like to use the word “pentecostal” because so many of those people are just marvelous people. But there are excesses in religion that put any other area of life in the shade. It’s just unbelievable how far out people can get in the name of God.
And once in a while they will talk to me, and they will say to me, “But I had an experience of so and so, and I cannot deny my experience.” Listen, all experience, I don’t care what it is, if you were to come to me and say, “But I saw an angel from heaven,” all experience has to be judged by the Word of God. Paul himself said, “Though I, or an angel from heaven, were to preach any other gospel unto you than that which I have preached, let him be anathema” [Galatians 1:8]. Then he repeated it again, “I say, I say again,” says Paul, “if I or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which is preached, let him be anathema, cursed” [Galatians 1:9]. All experience has to be judged by the Word of God. An experience is not a foundation, a criterion for faith. If you follow your own inclinations, and affinities, and predilections, and judgments, and thoughts, you’re going to be lost.
Now there’s another comment to be made about using experience, personal experience, what we think and feel, as a basis for faith. How in the earth, how in the earth am I to base my faith on somebody else’s experience, and somebody else’s thoughts, and somebody else’s persuasions, and somebody else’s affinities? How am I going to base my eternal soul on what somebody else thinks? I don’t care how smart he is, how brilliant he is, how able he is, how gifted he is, how am I going to present my soul before God someday at the judgment bar if all I have done is base my soul upon what somebody has said or somebody has thought. I cannot do it.
Well, if I am not to base my faith on the Church, that a thing is true because the Church says it’s true; and if I’m not to base my faith upon experience, somebody says it’s true therefore I accept that it’s true, it’s a man’s judgment; if I’m not to do that, upon what can I base my soul and my faith? Well, for us the answer is very plain. It is very simple and it is very easily delineated. We base our souls and we base our faith upon the divine revelation of God, the Holy Scriptures.
Lady Jane Grey was beheaded the twelfth day of February in 1554. Do you remember her in history? Lady Jane Grey was a prodigy. She was brilliant as a child, and she read the Scriptures in Hebrew and in Greek. King Edward VI chose her for his successor. Ten days later, Bloody Mary Tudor was proclaimed queen, and she had Lady Grey beheaded. And three days before her execution, Lady Grey said, and I quote, “I ground my faith on God’s Word and not upon the Church. If the church be a good church, the faith of the church must be tested by God’s Word, not God’s Word by the church.” Isn’t that a marvelous witness?
Now let me close with something from Dr. Truett. Possibly one of the most tremendous addresses that a Baptist ever made in the history of our Baptist denomination was in May of 1920, when Dr. Truett delivered the address entitled “Baptists and Religious Liberty” on the steps of the capitol in Washington D.C. Supreme Court justices were there. Senators were there. Representatives and Congress were there. The great men of government were there, and the people were there by the thousands and the thousands.
In that address, Dr. Truett took an illustration out of the year 1870 when the Catholic Church promulgated the doctrine of the infallibility of the pope. And Dr. Truett said that when the Vatican Council accepted that dogma of the infallibility of the pope, that Cardinal Manning stood up on an elevated platform and held the document in his hand, the dogma of papal infallibility. And Cardinal Manning, holding up the document cried to the Vatican Council, “Let the world go to pieces, and we will reconstruct it with this document.”
And Truett said, and I imagine he did it dramatically—Truett said, “The Baptist stands on the platform of the world, and he holds up the Bible, and he says, ‘Let the world go to pieces, and we will construct it on the authority and the basis of the Holy Word of God.’” That is the difference.
And that’s it in a little sentence. Where is the basis for our faith and practice? What is the basis for our hope? Where is our authority for what we believe? Not in a man, no matter who he is; not in an organization, no matter what it is; not on a church, no matter how fine it may present itself; not in experience, no matter how brilliant the man may be: but the basis, the authority for our faith is founded upon the immutable, unchanging, inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God [2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21]. That is the first article of our faith.