THE CLAIMS OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-14-76 12:00 p.m.
We are so grateful for your coming, and remember for many of you this is a busy lunch hour, and if you have to leave in the middle of a sentence, why, you be at liberty to do so. All of us understand and you will not bother me. I invited a man to come and he said, “But I can stay just a few minutes.” I said, “Then come. It will bless your heart, just those few minutes.” You can also remember that the services are rebroadcast about ten o’clock at night on KRLD. And if you have a friend or family to invite to listen to the rebroadcast, we pray it would be an encouragement to their hearts.
The theme for this year is “The Christ of the Cross”: on Monday, The Shadow of the Cross; yesterday, The Witnesses Against Him, what His enemies said about Him; tomorrow, What Shall I Do with Jesus? on Friday, My God, Why? and today, The Claims of Christ. Is He what He said He was? And can He do what He said He could do? The answer to that question is very easy for two reasons. One, we have the Holy Scriptures as a witness, and second, we have two thousand years of Christian testimony. And in that length of time and in reading this holy page, we have no timidity or hesitancy in making some great avowals concerning our Lord Christ today.
First: is He what He said He was? For there never was a teacher, or a philosopher, or a poet, or an author who ever spake the words that He spake; is what He said true? Is He what He said He was? On the day of the cross, as they walked up and down in front of Him, mocking Him, this is one of the things that they cried: “He trusted in God; let God deliver Him now, if He will have Him; for He said, I am the Son of God” [Matthew 27:43]. Is that true? “For He said,” one of the claims of Christ, “For He said, I am the Son of God” [John 10:36;]. He claimed God to be His Father [Luke 1:35; John 10:28-30]; that He was born of the Holy Spirit [Matthew 1:20], conceived in the womb of a virgin Matthew 1:23]; that He was the Son of God [John 10:36]. Is that true?
An infidel one time said, “What would you think if a young woman, pregnant, were to come to you and to say, ‘This Child has no earthly father. It is conceived of the Holy Spirit, and I am a virgin.’ Would you believe her? What would you say?” And the answer I would make is this. “If that virgin came to me and said, ‘I am pregnant by the Holy Spirit of God, and God is the Father of this Child.’ If that Child had been foretold in prophecy from before the foundation of the earth [1 Peter 1:20]; if when the Child was born, the angels of heaven sang and praised the Lord [Luke 2:13-14]; if when the Child grew to manhood, He spoke words [John 7:46], and did miracles as no man had ever done [Matthew 9:33]; and if after He was crucified [Matthew 27:32-50], the third day He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-6]; and if He had ascended into heaven [Acts 1:9-10], where He presides over an increasing and glorious kingdom of converts and men [Matthew 24:14]; if the girl had a Child like that, I would say God was His Father.”
It is the same kind of a thing as Napoleon Bonaparte replied when a man came before the great general and said, “I am a messiah. I’m founding a new religion. But I’m having difficulty getting men to believe in me”; and Napoleon answered and replied, saying, “Why, that’d be very simple. Just get yourself to be born of a virgin, and be crucified, and the third day rise from the dead; and you’ll have no problem getting people to believe in you.” The marvelous and incomparable witness of heaven to this Child, and the work that He did, and the words that He said that are unequaled in human literature, and the marvel of His resurrected life, felt and known among us today, bear witness to the truth of His claim: “I am the Son of God” [Matthew 27:43; John 10:36].
Again, our Lord said, “I am the light of the world: he that believeth in Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. I am the light of the world” [John 8:12]. Is He? I listened one time to a group of chaplains. I was speaking at a national convocation presided over by the chief of staff of the chaplains. And there was a little group of them who had fought together, and worked together, and ministered together in the South Pacific in the Second World War. And they were recounting some of their experiences in the islands, in the archipelagos of the South Seas. And as I listened to that chief of chaplains and some of the men who were with him in that arena of war, I was overwhelmed by what those men said. They spoke again and again of American soldiers who were converted by natives in those islands, whose grandfathers had been cannibals—the marvelous light and glory that had come to those Samoans, and Polynesians, and South Sea islanders by the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God. “I am the light of the world,” He said [John 8:12].
I sat by the side of a general in the Japanese Army in Hiroshima, in Hiroshima. He was then employed to be a Japanese teacher of young neophytic initiates, missionaries. By law, no man who had led in the Japanese war was allowed any place of prominence. So those men in the army and in the navy who fought in that Japanese war, in the Second World War, were assigned to menial positions. And this general of the Army was a teacher of English to these young missionaries. He was a Christian, to my great surprise, and as I sat by his side at a breakfast table, I asked him, “How is it that you being a general, a member of the highest military command in the Nippon army, how is it you became a Christian?” And he replied, “In our campaigns through China, in overrunning China,” he said, “I looked at my men, and I looked at our armies, full of violence, and blood, and rape, and terror, this is war”; and he said, “Wherever we went in China, I met the Christian missionary. And their work was one of love, and of ministering, of building hospitals and gathering orphans, and teaching the Word of the love of God.” And he said, “I could not hide it from my face or my mind, and I became a Christian.”
“I am the light of the world” [John 8:12]. In making a mission tour around the earth, mostly in third world nations, I was overwhelmed by the depths of poverty, and ignorance, and disease, and despair among the billions of the poor of the world. But wherever I went, there did I see the little church, with its spire pointed toward heaven, and by the side of the church a school, and by the side of the school an orphan’s home, and by the side of the orphan’s home a Christian hospital. “I am the light and the hope of the world” [John 8:12; Romans 15:12].
Is He what He said He was, the claims of Christ? The profoundest sentence ever uttered by a man is this. “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never ever die” [John 11:25-26]. “I am the resurrection, and the life.” Is that true?
The ancient world had a horror of death. To the ancient Greek it was a land of darkness beyond the cold and sullen River Styx. Even to the ancient Hebrew it was a land of sheol, an undefined region of darkness, the grave. But our Lord brought life and immortality to light [2 Timothy 1:10]. “I am the resurrection, and the life” [John 11:25]. He took the sting out of death, and He took victory from the grave [1 Corinthians 15:54-57]. In our Lord, death is now for the physical frame, just a sleeping in Jesus—no fear, no dread, no foreboding, no terror, no horror; just going to sleep in the Lord [Acts 7:60; 1 Thessalonians 4:13].
There’s a Greek word koimaō, which means “to sleep.” The substantive of the word is koimētērion, “sleeping place.” And when you take the Greek word and spell it out in English alphabet, it comes out “cemetery,” koimētērion, “sleeping place.” That’s a Christian word, invented and coined by the Christians, to refer to the place where they laid their beloved dead away; asleep in Jesus [1 Thessalonians 4:14]. You see, the ancient Roman burned his dead. And in urns they’d stash them away in crematories and idol temples. But to the Christian, that was unthinkable. To burn the body of our Lord, how tenderly and carefully did they wind it with [one] hundred pounds of spices, and lovingly laid the body of our Lord away [John 19:39-40]; so the Christian in Rome, in subterranean passages that they called catacombs, there they laid their loved ones away; a koimētērion, a sleeping place. That’s what it is for the Christian to die. He is asleep in Jesus [1 Thessalonians 4:14], and his spirit, his soul, his conscious life is with God [2 Corinthians 5:8]. Wherever Jesus is, there we are when we die, awaiting the great resurrection day when God shall give us back this physical house, this tabernacle, resurrected, glorified [1 Thessalonians 4:13-17]. And until then, we’re at home with Him [2 Corinthians 5:8]. “In My Father’s house are many mansions . . . And I go to prepare one of those for you; awaiting the day of your coming” [John 14:2-3]—to the Christian, death is a going to be with the Lord.
I’ll sing you a song of that beautiful land,
The far away home of the soul
Where no storms ever beat on the glittering strand,
While the years of eternity roll.
“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me shall never ever die” [John 11:25].
In our haste we turn now to what He said He could do. Is He able to do what He said that He could? He said, when He cleansed the temple, “Destroy this body, destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” [John 2:19]. And to them it was an impossible word. And they remembered it. At His trial they quoted it as blasphemous, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” [Matthew 26:59-61], when they had built it by slave labor over a period of forty-eight years with thousands of workmen. And when He died on the cross, they flung that claim into His teeth: “Ha! Thou that sayest, Destroy the temple, and in three days I will raise it up” [Matthew 27:40].
And when He was dead, and wrapped in a winding sheet and laid in the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea [Matthew 27:57-60], they went to Pontius Pilate and said, “We remember that deceiver and imposter said the third day He would rise again. Post a guard.” So they rolled over the front of the tomb a heavy stone, and they sealed it with a Roman seal, the might and power of the imperial government, and they set a guard to see that He stayed dead [Matthew 27:62-66]. “But the third day I will rise again” [Matthew 20:19]. And an angel came and broke that seal, and rolled away that stone, and in contempt sat upon it [Matthew 28:2], and the Lord of life walked forth; glorious, immortalized, transfigured. “The third day I will raise it up” [John 2:19].
Is He, can He do what He said He could do? He said to this man who was palsied, invalid, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” And they said, “He blasphemes. Who can forgive sins but God?” That’s correct. Only God can forgive sins. And the Lord said, “In order that you may know that the Son of Man hath power in this earth to forgive sins” [Mark 2:9]. He turned to the invalid and said, “I say unto thee, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” And he arose, and picked up his bed, and walked [Mark 2:4-12]. “Whether it is easier,” said our Lord, “to raise up that invalid or to forgive sins?” To me, they’re both alike impossible; but not to Him. To raise a man from the dead [John 11:43-44], as to forgive his sins [Mark 2:9], is in the power and prerogative of our living Lord.
Walking down Chicago Street, I heard singing. I stopped and walked in. It was the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. I sat down. I never saw such a motley group in my life, nor did I ever witness a service like that. Out of the gutter, out of the literal depths of depravity and hell, were they there, a host of them. They were singing songs about Jesus. They were writing poems about Jesus. They were testifying about the Lord Jesus. They were new men and new women in Him; power to forgive sins, to bring to us new and heavenly life.
And last, can He do what He says He is able to do? He said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” [John 10:10]. Can He give us abundant, overflowing life? Does He? Can He? Oh, the fullness of the gladness of the new life that we have in Christ Jesus!
If success is my life, to fail is to be miserable. If money is my life, to be poor is to be miserable. If popularity is my life, to be passed by is to be miserable. If to be young is my life, to be old is to be miserable. If health is my life, to be sick is to be miserable. If liberty is my life, to be in prison is to be miserable. If power is my life, to be weak is to be miserable. But if Christ is my life, whether I’m sick, or old, or imprisoned, or forgot, I am happy in Him: the abundant life [John 10:10].
I entered once a home of care,
And penury and want were there,
But joy and peace withal;
I asked the aged mother whence,
Her helpless widowhood’s defense;
She answered, He, “Christ Jesus is all.”
I saw the martyr at the stake,
The flames could not his courage shake,
Nor death his soul appall;
I asked him whence his strength was giv’n,
He looked triumphantly to Heav’n,
And answered, “Christ is all.”
I stood beside the dying bed,
Where lay a child with aching head,
Waiting Jesus’ call;
I saw him smile, ‘twas sweet as May;
And as his spirit passed away,
He whispered, “Christ is all.”
I dreamed that hoary Time had fled,
The earth and sea gave up their dead,
A fire dissolved this ball;
I saw the Church’s ransomed throng,
I caught the burden of their song,
‘Twas this, that “Christ is all in all in all.”
[from “Christ Is All,” W. A. Williams, 1873]
“For to me to live is Christ,” and whether it’s in prison, or in age, or in sickness, or in poverty, we live abundantly in Him, “and to die is a gain” [Philippians 1:21]. It’s going home to be with Jesus [2 Corinthians 5:8]. And our Lord, in the fullness of the blessing that comes to us from Thy gracious nail-pierced hands, we love Thee and praise Thee forever. Amen.
CLAIMS OF CHRIST
I. Is He what He said He was?
A. He is the Son of God(Matthew 27:43)
1. Virgin birth –
would you believe her?
a. Yes, ifâ€¦
answer for getting people to believe
B. He is the Light of
the world(John 8:12)
1. Chaplains speaking
of soldiers converted by South Pacific natives
2. Conversion of Japanese
3. Mission tour
around the world
C. He is the
resurrection and the life(John 11:25-26)
1. Cloud of death
enveloped every nation of the ancient world
took sting out of death and victory from the grave(2
Timothy 1:10, John 14:2-3)
II. Can He do what He said He could do?
this temple and in three days raise it up(John
2:19, Matthew 26:59-61, 27:40, 62-66, 28:2)
forgives sins(Matthew 9:2-7, Luke 5:19-25)
Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago
gives us abundant, overflowing life(John 10:10)
The new life we have in Christ Jesus
“Christ is All”