February 22nd, 1976 @ 8:15 AM
Election, Foreknowledge, Predestination, Sovereignty, Isaiah 1975 - 1976 (early svc), 1976, Isaiah
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-22-76 8:15 a.m.
We welcome you who are sharing with us this service on radio, WRR the radio of the city of Dallas. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, bringing the message entitled Predestination. In our preaching through the Book of Isaiah, we have come to chapter 46, and the text is verses 9 through 11:
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure:
Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth My counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.
This is a typical passage, Isaiah, in content and in presentation. Here God declares, through the prophet, that there is none like Him; no God but He, that His counsel shall stand, that He will do all of His good pleasure [Isaiah 46:9-10]. And He illustrates it by a reference to a man who is to be born a hundred fifty years later: calling a ravenous bird from the east,” referring to Cyrus, a “man that executeth My counsel from a far country” [Isaiah 46:11]. The mighty conqueror and the noble statesman from Persia, Cyrus. “I have spoken it, I will bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will do it” [Isaiah 46:11].
You see, it is not unusual to read in Isaiah where the great and mighty God calls the false gods that the people worship, that the whole world worships, except the little handful who knew the true God in Israel; the true God challenges these false gods to predict the future. He does so in Isaiah 41:20-23, challenging these false gods to make known the future if they can. Then He repeats it again in Isaiah 45:21, “Who hath declared these things from ancient time? Who hath told it from that time? Have not I the Lord? And there is no God else beside Me.” These false gods could not predict the future, but He can.
That phenomenon of prophecy is peculiar to the religion of Jehovah alone. It is found nowhere but in the Holy Word of God. There is no prophecy in the religion of Buddha; there is no prophecy in the religion of Shinto; there is no prophecy in the religion of the Hindu; there is no prophecy in the religion of the Mohammedan. Why? Because, had Buddha or Mohammed or Krishna or Brahma proposed to predict the future their foolishness would have been immediately apparent. There is no man that knows the future; only God. And there is no god that knows the future but the true God.
So in these Isaian prophecies, Jehovah again and again calls these false gods to come forth and to declare something that is yet to happen. They dare not do it, for they are false and incapable. But the true God declares, “I know the future. I not only predict it, I bring it to pass” [Isaiah 46:9-10]. And an illustration is here in my text. He calls for a ravenous bird, Cyrus, to deliver His people from Babylonian bondage; a man to execute His counsel from a far country [Isaiah 46:11]. And in the last verse of the forty-fourth chapter, and in the first verse of the forty-fifth chapter, He calls him by name, a man who is yet to be born, one hundred fifty years later [Isaiah 44:28, 45:1]. That is our great and mighty God.
And not only does the Isaian prophecy present the great Jehovah as one who can predict the future [Isaiah 46:9-10], but he also presents Him as one who brings it to pass [Isaiah 46:11]. The mighty God not only knows the future, He possesses foreknowledge; but He also controls the events of history, according to His good pleasure and according to His will [Isaiah 46:10]. We see this doctrine of predestination, of the foreknowledge of God, and of bringing to pass the purposes of God in human history, we see it throughout the Holy Scriptures, and we see it in the daily newspapers that we read today.
First: looking at the foreknowledge and the sovereignty of God guiding His purpose through the centuries as it is revealed here in the Holy Scriptures; it is a part of the perfection of God that He have a plan and a purpose. As it is impossible for us to think about the sun apart from its heat and its light, so it is impossible for us to think about God without a purpose and a plan. God does not govern capriciously, whimsically, adventitiously, opportunistically, but God governs His universe by purpose, by plan, and by design [Numbers 23:19].
It is a part of the sovereignty of God that He bring to pass that purpose and that plan [Isaiah 46:10]. He does not fail in it. His counsel and His judgment and His judicial choice always comes to pass. We can see that in the Scriptures, following the purposes of God through the years, and the centuries, and the ages, bringing, for example, His great redemptive purpose to pass in Jesus Christ our Lord [Ephesians 1:9]. He speaks first of the Seed of the woman [Genesis 3:15], then of the seed of Abraham [Genesis 12:3], then of the seed of Israel [Numbers 24:17-19], then of the seed of Judah [Genesis 49:10], then of the seed of David [Psalm 132:11], and finally of the Seed of Mary [Luke 1:35]. Through the centuries and the centuries and the centuries, guiding history to the great consummation of the atonement in Christ [Matthew 27:32-50; Luke 23:33; Romans 5:11].
We see it in all of the rituals, the blood of the lamb offered by Abel [Genesis 4:4], the blood of the Passover sacrifice [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23], the blood of the Day of Atonement [Leviticus 16:1-28], the blood of the daily offerings [Numbers 28:2], the blood of all of the rituals of tabernacle and of temple [Hebrews 9:1-23], and finally, the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50], through the centuries and the ages and the millennia, guiding to that great atonement in Christ [Romans 5:11].
We see it in the life of our Lord; when the sword in Bethlehem sought to slay the Child [Matthew 2:16]; when the people of Nazareth, His own townspeople, sought to throw Him over a cliff and destroy His life [Luke 4:28-29]; when they picked up stones in the temple to stone Him to death [John 8:59]; when in Gethsemane Satan tried to slay Him [Matthew 26:47]; finally guiding to the great atonement of Christ on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50]. God’s purpose in history, His counsel following after the great elective purposes of God.
Then we see it in the New Testament in the preaching of the gospel to the civilized world, the Greco-Roman Empire. There are the Greeks who under Alexander taught the whole world a common language. When Paul wrote the letter to the church at Rome, he wrote it in Greek. The whole world equated with one language. When the gospel was preached, there were Roman roads that laced the whole civilized world together. Standing near Philippi, I watched the course of one of those Roman roads, the Via Ignacio, and I walked on it for a distance, the same road that Paul walked on his way from Philippi to Athens and to Corinth. And then, in Rome, following the Via Appia, I walked on that road. God laid them down.
God created the great Roman Empire, and the Pax Romana that accompanied it, in order that we might have grace and ways and blessing to hear the gracious good news of the atonement of Jesus Christ. And everywhere there were synagogues and the Jewish people making known the prophecies of the Lord, preparing the whole world for the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God. This predestinarian, sovereign Jehovah who sits above the history of the world and who guides it to its ultimate and final consummation.
And not only do I see that sovereign ableness of God in guiding history through the centuries of the days past and to the preaching of the gospel to the civilized world, but I see that same sovereign God guiding the history of the nations today. I read it in the newspaper. I follow it in the headlines. In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit guided the apostle Paul away from the east and toward the west [Acts 16:6-10], and finally to Rome, and finally the gospel came to the English-speaking people. And in God’s great goodness, the English-speaking nations have become the great missionaries and preachers of the world.
We are celebrating the bicentennial, the two-hundredth birthday, of our nation. And in preparing this message, I began thinking about the book written by William Bradford who was the governor of the Plymouth Colony. In his story entitled Of Plymouth Plantation, he gives the reasons for the Pilgrims leaving Europe and coming to the New World. And I copied the last one. Quote from Governor Bradford, “Lastly, and which was not least, a great hope and inward zeal we had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way thereunto, for the propagating and advancing the Gospel of the Kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world.” It was the heart of the Pilgrim Father not only to come to America for the building of his little church, and the building of his schools, and the building of his Christian home, but it was also, Governor Bradford says, in the heart of the Pilgrim Fathers to use their colony in the New World as a basis for the evangelization of these unknown parts of the globe.
That has been a deeply moving and significant part of the English-speaking nations of the world. From England itself, from Scotland, from Wales, from America, from Canada, from Australia, New Zealand, from the colonies of the British Empire, there have gone forth those preachers and missionaries who have brought to the saving knowledge of Christ millions and millions in the story of the world. This is a hand of God in human history.
I see it in the national life, the hand of God in Israel. God is not done with Israel. There is a great destiny and a great future for Israel. And the prophet said thousands of years ago they will return home [Ezekiel 36:24-28]. And in our day we are seeing those prophecies come to pass. He is facing toward Israel’s homeland, and he is rebuilding his state. This is the sovereign God working in human history.
And I see it in the life of all the nations of the world, particularly in Russia. I see the hand of God in Russia. For the Scriptures have a good many things to say about Russia and some of those things have to do with her ultimate annihilation. Russia will someday be utterly and devastatingly destroyed [Ezekiel 38:1-23]. And how do I see the hand of God working in history today concerning Russia? Like this, for instance, on the inside of the ideological process of the communist world is the seed of its own destruction. For example, one of the great teachings of Karl Marx is this, that communism cannot succeed in one nation unless it succeeds in all the nations of the world, that the revolution cannot be contained in one national boundary, but it must be universal. The revolution must be in all the nations of the earth. So a fundamental principle of the communist revolution is that it must be exported. There must be fomented revolutions in other nations of the world. Castro is doing that. Russia, all the communist nations seek to do that. That is a part of their basic ideology.
Now, Russia had next to her a calm and quiet and docile China. Chiang Kai-shek was a great Christian leader, and the people were being led into the ways and paths of peace, of docility, of quiet. But according to Russian ideology, revolution must be exported. So Russia, under the quiet permissiveness of the United States who said to us that these Russians and these communists that are taking over China are nothing but agrarian reformers. That’s what they told us. All of this is in the purpose and plan of God, that America should be misled, and that we should allow such a thing as communism to take over the great mainland of China. So Russia comes into China and they foment a communist revolution and succeed in it, as they are succeeding in Angola now.
And China has become a bastion of the Red revolution. With what end and with what purpose? Look at it. Russia now has, on the other side of a thousand mile border with her, Russia has the most terrible and vicious enemy that God Himself could raise up against her. The day is coming when there will be the most awesome war the world has ever known, and it will be fought between Russia and China. Across that thousand mile border between those two countries, those great hordes of China look with great interest on those vast lands that they would like to seize and to populate, mines they’d like to work, forests they’d like to cut down, acres that they’d like to till. That’s God. That’s God. Russia herself has raised up the most bitter and vicious enemy that any nation could ever face in time or tide; the hand of God in human history.
The same predestinarian sovereign God also guides in our individual life and in our day-to-day work. There is Someone above us who controls and directs our lives; for example, our origin. How is it that an infant could bring about its own beginning? How is it that a creature could be the master of its own creation? Why were you not born a hundred years ago? Why were you not yet to be born a hundred years hence? Why are you not a Hottentot or a Bantu or an Australian aborigine? It is because of the sovereign purpose of God in your life.
You were born into this world in His will and in His purpose, and you have a certain sex and a certain height and a certain color of your eyes and a certain stature. You had nothing to do with it whatsoever. It is something that God has done in your life. So it is with all of our days by which we live. There is a purpose of God for us. There is a plan of God for each one. There is a great and heavenly and designed plan of God for your life. And when a man finds God’s purpose for him and gives himself to it, he finds peace and rest and happiness and joy. No matter what it is. But when a man violates that call of God in his heart, disobeys the heavenly vision, no matter how else he may be famous, or successful, or rich, or achieve goals that he sets for himself, inwardly he is miserable and unhappy and restless. There is no man who ever finds fulfillment and peace in his heart until he gives himself to the will of God for his life. That may be for some to be a lawyer, for some to be a teacher, for some to be a doctor, for some to be a businessman, for some to be a housewife and mother, for some to be a career girl. There are many, many, many callings of the Lord, and when I give myself to the high calling of God in Christ Jesus I find every rich moment, a feeling of fulfillment, of doing God’s work in the earth. But when I do not do God’s work and will, I am immediately plunged into dissatisfaction and unfulfillment and restlessness.
I sat at a missions meeting, a meeting of all of the missionaries in the nation. I sat in a missions meeting in one of the nations in the heart of Africa. By me sat the executive secretary of our foreign meeting board. At the mission meeting, there was a brilliant young doctor, a handsome young man, who was giving the report of the medical ministry of our Southern Baptist missionaries in that nation. And as I sat by the side of the executive secretary, he said, “Take a good look at that young fellow, that young doctor giving his report,” he said, “take a good look at him.” He said, “He’s a son of a very fine family in one of the states bordering the Atlantic ocean, eastern United States.” He said, “When he got his medical degree he was one of the most sought-after young men. Some of the fine clinics of the populated North and East sought for him but,” he said, “he gave his life to God’s calling to be a missionary doctor.” At that time we were paying the missionary a thousand dollars a year. The executive secretary said to me, “That young fellow now would be making many, many thousands of dollars a year. Instead, he stands up there giving his report at a salary of a thousand dollars a year.” He came to see me here in this church and I presented him to our people. I felt unworthy to stand in his presence.
There is a will and there is a purpose of God for each one, and that young man found it and that young man is doing it. He has something that money cannot buy. He has the fullness of God in his life. That is true with all of us, not just that young man whom God called to be a medical missionary, but each one of us has a calling. Each one of us has an assignment. And when we give ourselves to that calling from God there is a blessing in it and a fullness in it that is known but to those who have peace in the purpose of the Lord.
Now I must hastily conclude. What is the meaning of this great revelation that God is sovereign in the world and that God is sovereign in our lives? It has several marvelous meanings. One is this: that God shall bring history to its final and ultimate triumph. He will not fail. “For he must reign,” says the apostle, “until all enemies are placed under His feet. And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” [1 Corinthians 15:25-26]. He will not fail. And the tenth chapter of the Book of the Hebrews says, “For yet a little while, and He will come who shall come, and He will not tarry” [Hebrews 10:37]. God is bringing all things to an ultimate and a final consummation. “The kingdoms of this world, one day, shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ” [Revelation 11:15], and we shall be fellow rulers, fellow kings, joint heirs with the Son of God [Revelation 5:9-10]. It means, for us an ultimate triumph. Death cannot devastate us and the grave cannot hold us [John 11:25-26], and all that we know of the sorrows and fears of life cannot take away from us that ultimate and final glory the Lord hath prepared for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9].
Second: what does it mean this predestinarian ableness of the mighty God? It means that we shall be saved and forever [John 10:28-30]. It will not be that a man, having trusted Christ as his Savior, shall come within fifty miles of the Golden City and then finally fall into hell. It will not be that a man, trusting Christ, shall be saved for the first forty years of his life, and then two years before he dies, he’ll fall into hell. No. We’ll be saved by the ableness of God and the sovereign purpose of God forever and forever. He will not fail us. As the Lord said,
My sheep hear My voice . . . and they follow Me:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone pluck them from My hand.
My Father, who gave them Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them from My Father’s hand.
I and My Father are one.
The man who has looked in faith to Jesus Christ will be saved and that means forever and forever and forever. I may fall into disuse, as Paul says, “I beat my body black and blue that I might bring it into subjection: lest . . . after I had preached to others, I myself might become a castaway” [1 Corinthians 9:27]. It is possible for a man to stumble and fall. It is possible for a saint to be a sinner. It is possible for a man to fall into all kinds of weaknesses, but he will never fall away from the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus. “For I am persuaded, that neither height nor depth, nor life nor death, nor things created above or below shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” [Romans 8:38-39]. It is a part of the purpose of God that we be saved.
In this first chapter of 1 Peter, he says that we are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God” [1 Peter 1:2]. The Lord saw you before you were born and the Lord wrote your name in the Book of Life before you came into this world from your mother’s womb [Jeremiah 31:10]. “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God. . .to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God” [1 Peter 1:2, 4-5].
Ah! Lord, I thought I was doing it. Why, I’m not doing it at all. It is God that is helping me, and blessing me, and guiding me, and strengthening me, and shall someday bring me, through faith, to that salvation ready to be revealed at the last time [1 Peter 1:5]. This is God’s purpose for us who have looked in faith to the blessed Jesus [Ephesians 2:8].
Spare me one little simple illustration of that. Walking down Akard when our child was very small, walking down Akard we came to a red light. And I was standing by the little girl, and when the light turned green, she grabbed my hand and said, “Daddy, the light’s green, let’s go.” And she took my hand and she was very, very small. A very small little girl. You know what I did? I pulled her hand away from mine, and I took her hand in mine. And I said, “Now, sweet, let’s go.” You see, when she holds my hand, she might be distracted, see something, she might let go of my hand. But I’ll not let go of her hand when we’re walking through that traffic. I’ll hold her hand, and we’ll come safely to the other side.
That is the exact thing that God does with us. If my salvation depends upon my holding onto God, I might let go. I might make a mistake. I might stumble and fall. I might fail of the goal. But my salvation is not my clinging to God. My salvation is God holding my hand; God keeping me; God guiding and directing me. And I have no fear, and no worry, and no concern, and no burden. Any concern and fear and worry that I have is that I might not exalt Him enough, and I might not serve Him with all of the energy and zeal of my heart, that I might not be fully given to Him.
But I never worry about failing the beautiful city or appearing at the pearly gates [Revelation 21:21]. For that is God’s promise to me, that if I trust Him, and I did, that He would give me eternal life and He has [John 10:27-30]. It is not conditional. It is not provisional. It is not possibly or if. It is forever and forever. When I trust Him, He saves me [Acts 16:31], and that means He keeps me forever [John 10:27-28].
Now it is just such a heavenly and holy promise from God that we offer you this morning eternal life in Jesus Christ. To look in faith to Him [Ephesians 2:8], in repentance [Mark 1:15], in forgiveness [Ephesians 1:7], to give your heart and life to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13]; in a moment we stand to sing our appeal, and while we stand and sing it, a couple you, a family you, or just one somebody you: “Today, pastor, I have made that decision in my heart and here I come, and here I am. I’m putting my life with the people of the Lord, I’m joining the church, I’m coming to be baptized, I’ve come to be counted among the redeemed of the Lord” [1 Peter 1:18-19]. Or, “For the first time in my life, I’m coming today to accept Jesus as my Savior” [Romans 10:8-13]. As the Lord presses the appeal to your heart, make the decision now, and in a moment, when we stand up, stand up walking down one of these stairways, coming down one of these aisles. “This is my day, pastor, God has called me, He has spoken to my heart, and here I am, here I come.” On the first note of the first stanza, take that first step, and may the angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.