February 22nd, 1976 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-22-76 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Predestination. In our preaching through the Word of God, and in our preaching through the Book of Isaiah, we have come to chapter 46, and the text is verses 9-11:
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:
Then He gives an illustration of it:
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.
One of the marvelous things that Isaiah will present is the challenge of God to the false gods before whom the entire ancient world bowed itself in worship. The Lord Jehovah challenges them to foretell what is yet to come to pass. They are dumb. They cannot speak. They do not know, much less could they prophesy, foretell, what is yet to come. But the Lord says, “I can tell what is yet to come to pass, because I decree it, and it is My counsel that brings it to fruition.”
For example, Isaiah 41:20-23 and in Isaiah 45:20-22, there the Lord challenges these who are wooden gods and stone gods, false deities, to declare the future, then He says, “I am the One that from ancient days, declares what is going to come to pass. My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” [Isaiah 46:10]. Then He cites an instance of it, calling a ravenous bird from the east, referring to Cyrus who was born one hundred fifty years after this prophecy. “The man that executeth My counsel from a far country,” from Persia. “I have spoken it.” He is going to be born. “I will bring it to pass. He will deliver My people. I have purposed it.” God says, “I shall raise him up. I will also do it” [Isaiah 46:11]. He decreed the return of God’s people back to the Promised Land [2 Chronicles 36:22-23].
In the chapter preceding He calls Cyrus by name. In the last verse of the forty-fourth chapter, “That saith of Cyrus, He is My shepherd, and shall perform all My pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, It will be built; and to the temple, The foundation shall be laid” [Isaiah 44:28]. And then, in chapter 45, “Thus saith the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue all nations before him” [Isaiah 45:1]. This is the prophecy God has uttered one hundred fifty years before Cyrus was born. But that is the great Lord God. It is true today, the same Lord God that presides over the destinies of the men and the history of the nation. There is no religion that has prophecy in it except this religion.
Had Mohammed, or Buddha, or Confucius, or Brahman, or Krishna, or Vishnu— had any of these false gods tried to predict the future, their ridiculous inanity would have been most apparent. There’s no one that knows the future but God. I can tell you a way by which you can become a multi-multi billionaire: if you know the future, five minutes. That’s all. Three minutes. That’s all. Two minutes if you’re fast enough. I can tell you a way where you can become a multi-multi billionaire, and in time would own the whole world: if you can predict the future two minutes. Just go to the stock market and before stock goes up, buy it; before it goes down, sell it. In no time at all, if you can do that, know what will happen in two minutes, you can be a multi-multi billionaire. No man knows the future. Not even a stockbroker. No man knows the future except God.
Nor is there the phenomenon of prophecy, of prediction, in any other religion except the religion of the Lord God Jehovah. But God says, “I am He that purposes [Isaiah 46:11] and My counsel shall stand, and I will do all of My pleasure” [Isaiah 46:10]. The entire panorama of history, from the beginning to the ending, stands before God in a perfect present, and He sees it all. It is all a present, a now, before Him. And the hand of God in sovereign grace guides the great movements of time and tide in history throughout the generations and the eons.
It is a part of the perfection of God that He have a plan, a purpose. As you cannot think of the sun without heat or light, so you could not think of God without a plan and a purpose. God does not act whimsically, or sporadically, or advantitiously, or opportunistically, but God moves according to a great plan and a great purpose. It is also a part of the sovereignty of God that He achieves His purpose in human history. These things that happen do not surprise Him. These things are according to His foreknowledge. As Isaiah says in chapter 14, “This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? And His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” [Isaiah 14:26-27]. Or, as is avowed in my text, “My counsel will stand, and I will do all My pleasure” [Isaiah 46:10].
Above this earth, and above its history, there presides a great sovereign Lord, and He guides the events of time and tide according to His foreknowledge and His elective choice [Job 12:28; Acts 17:26].
I can see that plainly in the Bible, for the Lord will avow a thing that is going to come to pass, and then through the centuries He will guide it to that achievement. For example, the Lord will say in Genesis that the Seed of the woman shall bruise, shall crush, Satan’s head; the Seed of the woman [Genesis 3:15]. Then hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands, of years later, He will say, “It shall be of the seed of Abraham” [Genesis 12:3]. Then years later He will say, “It shall be of the seed of Israel, Jacob” [Numbers 24:17-19]. Then hundreds of years later He will say, “It shall be of the seed of David” [Psalms 132:11]. And then, hundreds and hundreds of years later He will say, “It shall be of the virgin Jewess, Mary” [Luke 1:35]. And finally, bring the consummation to the atoning death of our Christ on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50]. Through uncounted ages and ages, the hand of God guiding to the fulfillment of a marvelous prophecy [Isaiah 46:10].
You see that in the blood sacrifices in the Old Testament. Here is the blood of an innocent lamb offered by Abel [Genesis 4:4], and then, through the years and the years, you can trace that scarlet thread through the Bible: the blood of the Passover [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23]; the scarlet line behind which Rahab saved herself and her family [Joshua 2:18-21, 6:17, 22-23]; the blood of the daily sacrifice [Numbers 28:2] and on through the centuries until the blood of the atoning Christ on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50]. You can see it in the life of our Lord. Satan tried to slay Jesus when he was a Babe at Bethlehem by the sword of Herod [Matthew 2:16-18]. And His own townspeople thought to stone Him to death when He spoke in Nazareth [Luke 4:29]. And in the temple, they took up stones to stone Him to death [John 8:59]. And in Gethsemane, Satan tried to slay Him before the day of the cross [Matthew 26:47]. But God’s hand guided all through the years until the great sacrifice and atoning death on Calvary [Luke 23:33; Matthew 27:32-50; Romans 5:11].
This is the hand of God in human history. And we see it plainly in the preparation of the civilized world for the emissary, the evangelist, and the missionary of the Son of God. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years before Paul and before the Christian preacher, there was a man named Alexander who taught the whole world the Greek language. When Paul wrote His letter to the church at Rome, the Latin capital of the world, he wrote the letter in Greek. God was preparing the whole world for the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the Roman Empire laced the whole world together with a network of roads on which the apostles could walk, carrying the good news of the Son of God.
At Philippi I walked up and down a part of the Via Ignacio, a road that Paul walked on from Philippi to Athens to Corinth. In Rome, I have walked up and down the Via Appia, a Roman road that Paul walked on coming into the imperial city. God did that, made the whole world at peace and laced it together with Roman roads that the emissaries of the gospel of the grace of the Son of God might have free access everywhere. And everywhere that the gospel was preached, there preceding it was this Holy Book, the Old Covenant. Moses was read; the synagogue was everywhere, for hundreds and hundreds of years before God had scattered the Jews, the Diaspora [1 Peter 1:1], in preparation for the peace of those who would preach the grace of the Son of God. This is the Lord’s sovereign hand through all history.
And I see it, God’s hand, in reading the headlines of this modern day. He is the same God today that He was yesterday [Hebrews 13:8], and He holds the whole world in His hand. And He guides the destiny of all the nations of the earth. In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, the apostle Paul is prohibited from turning east [Acts 16:6-10], and the Holy Spirit turns him west, and always westward and always westward, and finally to the capital of the Roman Empire [Acts 23:11], and finally to the missionary to the evangelization to the English nation. And in God’s good providence, He chose the English nation to evangelize the world. From the English-speaking world has gone out thousands and thousands and thousands of missionaries. And the English-speaking world still sustains, in every corner of this earth, men and women who mediate the mind of God that was in Christ Jesus [1 Corinthians 2:16].
As you can see, we are in the celebration of the bicentennial, the two-hundredth birthday, of our nation. And at 7:30 o’clock, beyond this scrim that you see at the front of the auditorium, there will be depicted a dramatic story of our Baptist people in the founding, and in the origination, and in the promulgation of the freedoms that we know in America. But what we don’t remember is that when the Pilgrim Fathers came to this country, they did not only come to have their little church and their little school and their Christian home, but they also came for the evangelization of the New World. I’ve never heard it mentioned.
Listen to William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Colony in his story, Of Plymouth Plantation, he is giving the reasons why they left England and finally left Holland and came to the New World. And after he names them, I copy this paragraph, quote, “Lastly, and which was not least, a great hope and inward feel 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.” One of the purposes of the Pilgrim when he came to America was for the evangelization of the people who lived in the remote parts of the earth. This has been God’s hand in the history of the English-speaking nations of England, of America, of Canada, of Australia, of New Zealand, making it a universal language in this multitudinous, multifaceted life of the nations of the world today—God’s hand in human history.
I see that same sovereign hand in the Diaspora among the Jewish people [1 Peter 1:1]. God says they’ll be a nation before Him as long as the sun shines in the day and the moon shines in the night [Jeremiah 31:35-36]. As long as there is a sun and as long as there is a moon, just so will there be a nation of Israel before Him. And the same Lord God says that they will face homeward [Jeremiah 31:10]. He will gather them together, and they’ll have their own state, and their own nation, and their own government, and their own rulers. And I’m seeing that come to pass before my very eyes.
The same Lord God writes a great deal about Russia in prophecy. And without exception, the Lord God says that Russia will one day be absolutely annihilated, be completely destroyed [Ezekiel 38:1-23]. And I can see that as I read the headlines of the newspapers today. God’s hand in judgment upon atheistic, communistic Russia. Look! Look! Built into the communist ideology is its own seeds of annihilation. One of the maxims of Marxism is this, that, as he says, “Communism cannot succeed in one nation until it succeeds in all of the nations of the world.” He says, you cannot have revolution just in one country but you must foment it in all the countries of the world.
So, basically, basically, one of the ideologies of the communist world is this, they must export revolution. They must foment revolution in all the countries of the world. What you see Castro doing in Angola, and in Latin America, that is Russia. So, in the thing itself I see the hand of God working for the ultimate destruction of the atheistic, communistic nation.
Look. For a thousand miles, Russia is bordered by the giant China. And for all the years and the years China has been docile. It has been quiet. They had a great religious leader by the name, Chiang Kai-shek. And no one feared the giant of China. It was a calm and a peaceful nation. And more and more and more was being led by the missionaries and by the Christian leader through the faith of Jesus Christ. And then what happened? Russia, exporting her revolution, took over the government of China and the supine, pusillanimous attitude of America, who was convinced that the communists in China were nothing but agrarian reformers, we turned China over to the revolutionaries from Russia, and they made China communist, Red Communist.
But God’s hand is stretched out still. God still lives and He still governs the nations of the earth, for there is no enemy so vicious and so bitter that Russia could ever face as Russia faces today in Red Communist China. She has a thousand mile border with China. And China, with her great horde, look with longing eyes to those vast expanses in the north and in the east. And someday there will be the most awesome war the world has ever seen, fought between Russia and China.
Why? Because of God’s hand in human history. What once was a peace-loving and Christian-tempered nation, with a great Christian leader, is now headed by a government and followed by eight hundred million people, every one of whom is dedicated to the destruction of Russia. That’s God as He moves in human history today. He is not dead. Nor is He surprised. Nor do these deceive Him. According to His foreknowledge and His counsel does God move among the nations of the world today as He did then.
And that predestinarian sovereignty of God we see in all of our life, not just in the life of the nations of the world, but in our lives. I see it in every one of you. It was according to the foreknowledge and according to the elective purpose of God that you were begotten. No infant has any part in its own beginning, and no creature has any part in its own creation. You had no choice. You had no part at all in your birth. It came in a sovereign choice of Almighty God.
Why were you not born a Hottentot? Why were you not born a Bantu? Why were you not born an Australian aborigine? Because God chose you to be born as you were. You have no choice in your stature or in the color of your eyes. Why weren’t you born a hundred years ago? Why is it that you were not born a hundred years hence? These things are in the sovereign will and in the elective purpose of Almighty God.
There is Somebody, there is Someone, great and mighty, who rules above us. It is thus in all of our daily life. There is a purpose, there is a counsel, there is a program, there is a plan of God for every life. It fits into the grand mosaic of God’s writing human story. Now how do I know that? I know it for a very simple thing that I have observed in the forty and eight years that I have been a pastor. That there is a plan, there is a purpose, there is a program of God for every life.
I see it in a little, simple, thing. It is this: when a man is in the will of God—I don’t care what—if a man is in the will of God, he is happy, he is at peace, he is at rest. He has an infinite sense of fulfillment. Now the man may be in the middle of a mission field. He may be half-starved to death. He may be surrounded by bitter and vicious enemies. But if he’s in the will of God, he has perfect peace and perfect rest. But if a man is outside of the will of God for his life; I don’t care how he may succeed; I don’t care how famous or how rich, the man is fundamentally miserable and restless and unhappy.
There is a great Sovereign above us who directs in all of the affairs of men. And that same mighty Sovereign has a will for you. He has a plan and a purpose for you. And when you’re in that plan and purpose, you have joy unspeakable, full of gladness and glory. And when you’re outside of that plan and purpose, you are miserable enough to die every day of your life.
I sat—in one of the dark nations in the heart of Africa—I sat by the side of our executive secretary of the Foreign Mission Board. And it was a meeting of the mission; that is, all the missionaries and all the leadership of the nation were gathered together in what they call a mission. And there was a young doctor, a handsome young fellow, who was giving his report of the work of the physician in the nation, our Baptist missionary.
And as I sat there and listened to him, the executive secretary turned to me and he said, “Take a good look at that young man. Look at him real good, for I have something to tell you about him.”
So after the meeting was over the executive secretary said, “You notice that young doctor?”
I said, “Yes.”
“Well,” he said, “he belongs to a very wealthy family in America on the Eastern Seaboard.” And he said, “When he had won and was graduated with his doctor of medicine degree, he was sought by some of the finest clinics in the North and East, offering him a great salary. He’s a brilliant young man but,” but said the executive secretary to me, “he felt called of God. He felt called of God to be a medical missionary, so we appointed him and you heard him this morning.” He said, “His salary could be at this moment thousands and thousands of dollars in America but instead his salary is one thousand dollars a year,” which is what we were paying then. A thousand dollars a year as a medical missionary.
Did you know, that young fellow came to see me here in Dallas, and you’ve forgotten it, but I presented him to the congregation that morning, and I told you at that time that I did not feel worthy to stand in his presence. It’s a marvelous thing, it’s a wonderful thing, it’s a holy thing, a heavenly thing, when a man gives himself to the will of God. Money has nothing to do with happiness. Fame has nothing to do with happiness. Success has nothing to do with happiness. God is sovereign and it is God who made us and it is God who makes us for a definite purpose, a plan for our lives. And when we give ourselves to that plan, how it is on the outside, how all of the accouterments and embellishments may be around us, they are nothing at all when the heart is filled with the presence of the glory of God.
This is the sovereign grace of Him who presides over all time, over all history, over all life, over yours, over mine. He says, “I am the One who declares the end from the beginning and from ancient time, the things that are yet to be done. My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” [Isaiah 46:9-10]. The tragedy of human life is this, if I refuse and spurn the will of God, He raises up somebody else, but He does His work.
O Lord! That all of us might have that heart and that yielded surrendered willingness to obey God and to do what the Lord has laid upon our soul to do. You’ll never be happy any other way.
Now I must conclude. What is the ultimate and final meaning for us of this glorious doctrine, of the foreknowledge, the election, the predestinarian sovereignty of the great mighty God in heaven? What does that mean for us? Number one: it means that we, in Christ, shall ultimately triumph. We will not lose. As the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians avows, “For He, our Lord, He must reign, until He has put all enemies under His feet. And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” [1 Corinthians 15:25-26]. As the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews says it, “Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry” [Hebrews 10:37].
There are many times when we look at the headlines and watch the flow of history, there are many times we are sometimes made to think that we have lost the battle. The whole world is turning into darkness. The ravages of Satan are indescribably destructive. And God’s hosts, God’s little children, are so small and frail and feeble before the onslaught of the ravages of darkness. Don’t think so. Don’t ever persuade yourself so. There is some great, high, mighty Sovereign who sits above the skies, in whose hands even the world is as a small dust in the balance. And He guides all time and history, and He will not fail. The day is coming when, “The kingdoms of this world shall be the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever [Revelation 11:15]. We, joint-heirs, fellow heirs, kings and priests with Him [Revelation 5:9-10], we shall not lose. There is a sovereign ableness of God who guides all things, ultimately, in this world; and that Christ shall bring to an ultimate and final step chosen and elected consummation, all the things that happen in humanity. I am never to be discouraged. And I am never to be as one who has lost. We shall surely triumph! We cannot but win.
The second thing that this great doctrine does for us: it assures us of our certain and final and absolute salvation. We shall not fail of that ultimate goal. Listen to Simon Peter as he writes, we are “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God” [1 Peter 1:2]. The Lord knew me before I was born, and He wrote my name in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 17:8], before I came from my mother’s womb [Jeremiah 1:5]. “We are 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].
Lord, what if I be a Christian for all the days of my life, and then two years before I come to my death, I fall into hell? Lord, what if I am saved all the years of my life and then five minutes before I reach the pearly gates, I ultimately fall into hell? Is such a thing possible? It is not. It is not. For, God has given to those who look in faith to Him, eternal life. As the Lord said in the tenth chapter of the Book of John, “My sheep hear My voice. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never, ever perish . . . My Father, who gave them Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” [John 10:27-30] When I look in faith to Jesus Christ, He saves me forever and forever. I may fall; I may stumble; I may make mistakes; I may fall in the gravest sin and error, but I shall never fall out of the love and the grace of the glory and mercy and pitiful care and loving tender remembrance of God.
“For I am persuaded,” said the apostle, closing the incomparable eighth chapter of Romans, “For I am persuaded, that neither life nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things now present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” [Romans 8:38-39]. If we have looked in faith to the Lord Jesus, He saves us and He saves us forever. No one is able to take us out of His hand, but He holds us forever and forever [John 10:27-30].
Could I say just one other? What is this doctrine of the able sovereignty of God mean to us? It means to us, the passage that you read this morning in Romans 8:28: “For in all things God works together for good, to them who love the Lord, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” If I am a child of God, if I have looked in faith to Him, the things that happen to me in life are things in which God is working for my good.
If I were to lose my sight and be blind, if I am a child of God, the Lord is working something good for me in my blindness. Whatever the sorrow or the distress or the heartache that might overcome me, if I am a child of God in it, God is working some beautiful, and precious and glorious thing for me. There are no accidents in God’s sight and in God’s time. He sees it all. And the Lord orders everything for the blessing and for the good of His people. And someday, according to His infinite and unfailing, promise, He will deliver us without spot and blemish [Ephesians 5:27], in the presence of the great Glory where we shall see Him as He is, face to face, and be like Him: resurrected, immortalized [Revelation 22:3-4], redeemed by the love and the grace and the mercy and the atoning death of the Crucified One [Revelation 5:9-10].
Oh! What a richness and what a heavenliness and what a blessedness, does God reveal Himself to those who look in faith and in trust to Him [Hebrews 11:1-6]. And that is our appeal to you this holy hour. Do you remember what the Lord said? “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” [John 10:27-28]. Does the Lord speak to you? Do you hear His voice in your heart? Does God speak and with ears of faith do you hear? [Ephesians 2:8]. This holy and precious hour, this heavenly moment, would you answer God’s call with your life? Would you do it now? “God has spoken to me. I have heard His voice in my heart and I’m answering with my life.” There are uncounted thousands of you who have been watching this service on television. I’ve done no other thing except in a small and feeble way to present the self-disclosure of the great sovereign God who presides over this universe. Does He call you? Does God speak to you?
Where you are this moment, would you bow in the presence of the great Majesty, and for Jesus’ sake ask God to forgive your sins [Matthew 3:2], to come into your heart [Romans 10:8-13], to write your name in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], to keep you forever, now and in the world that is to come? [John 3:16, 10:27-28]. Glorious and happy day, if this is the day of salvation for you [2 Corinthians 6:2].
And in the throng who crowd this sanctuary this morning, in the balcony round, a couple you, a family you, or just one somebody you; in the press of people on this lower floor, these to whom God has addressed His voice of invitation and appeal, “I’m coming to the Lord. I give you my hand in token. I have given my heart to God” [Romans 10:8-13]. Would you make that decision now, the greatest decision you could ever make in your life? And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming down that aisle, walking down that stairway. “Pastor, I want to be baptized as the Lord has said in the Holy Book” [Matthew 28:19]. Or, “I want to put my life in the fellowship of this dear church.” Or, “I, for the first time in my life, am accepting Jesus Christ as my personal Savior” [Romans 10:8-13]. While our people pray and sing and stand before God, waiting for you, make it now. Come now. Do it now. On the first note of the first stanza, take that first step towards God, and the Lord will see you the rest of the way, as we enter together through the pearly gates in the Golden City [Revelation 21:21]. Do it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.