The Faith of Our Mothers
May 9th, 1976 @ 8:15 AM
2 Timothy 1:1-5
THE FAITH OF OUR MOTHERS
Dr. W.A. Criswell
2 Timothy 1:1-5
5-9-76 8:15 a.m.
The title of the sermon this morning is The Faith of Our Mothers. And I read from the beginning verses of 2 Timothy:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of the spirit which is in Christ Jesus,
To Timothy, my dearly beloved son—
son in the ministry—
Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded in thee also.
[2 Timothy 1:1-5]
His mother’s name was Eunice, but I so well remember when I was a youngster preaching about Eunice and all the people wondered, “What was that woman whom I was talking about?” We are so accustomed to pronounce it Eunice, that we will say Timothy, Eunice, and Lois; TEL. Did you ever hear of a TEL class? Timothy, Eunice, and Lois; it was a grandmother’s class and that is where it got its name. “The faith that dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I know in thee also” [2 Timothy 1:5]. And he had a right to know. For a child brought up in a Christian home such as Timothy was brought up in, whose mother was brought up in a like devout home, would have no other repercussion except that he also be an exponent and a proponent of the faith, the faith of our mothers.
One time I visited the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. I went there because it was the place where Billy Sunday was converted. He was a baseball player with the White Sox, a very worldly and half drunken member of the team. In that place he found the Lord and became one of the most effective preachers and evangelists of all time, Billy Sunday.
What was amazing to me when I walked into the mission was this; on one side, on this side against the wall, on the wall in large letters was printed John 3:16 on this side of the front wall. And on the other side of the pulpit, on the back wall was a question, “When last did you write to Mother?” Well, I stood there and looked at those two things, and I thought, “Well, how dissimilar? And why would they write a question like that, ‘When last did you write to Mother?’ and place it there over against the incomparable mini-Bible, John 3:16?” Then as I thought it through, I could easily understand why, whoever it was that built the chapel, put those two things together. When a derelict, a prodigal, a down-and-outer, a wine head, a drunk, someone who had fallen into the jetsam and flotsam section of life, when they went into that Pacific Garden Mission looking at John 3:16, looking at that question, “When last did you write to Mother?” it would bring back to him all of the training and all of the Christian love that he had known as a child growing up.
As I looked at it I thought, what a tragedy, what a sadness it would be if the question brought back to the mind of the derelict a mother who was not a Christian. Ah, how sad. “When last did you write to Mother?” And the thought of her brought to his heart all kinds of bitter, and rancid, and blasphemous things. But a mother that stood for God and represented Christ, the question would, on wings of the Spirit, be pressed into the heart of the beholder; the faith of our mothers.
Our Christian religion is a faith that is so largely framed and shaped by her. As the dipper will hold and shape the water, so the mother holds and shapes the Christian religion. Isaiah, through whom I am preaching in these days, Isaiah voiced a call to the nation that is dynamic and meaningful. He said to the people, “Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah who bare you” [Isaiah 51:1-2]. The beginning of the chosen nation, the chosen race, is a story of Sarah and Isaac, of Rebekah and Jacob, Israel, of Rachael and Joseph the beloved son.
The story of the beginning of the nation, heretofore nomadic, is a story of the influence of a mother who was hired to be a nurse for a child plucked out of the Nile River [Exodus 2:1-9]. What an astonishing phenomenon that this man Moses, learned, taught, educated in all of the arts and culture and wisdom of Egypt [Acts 7:22], when time came for a life determining decision [Exodus 2:11-15; Acts 7:23-29], should have chosen to suffer with the people of God rather than to reign on the throne of the Pharaohs [Hebrews 11:24-25].
How did such a providence ever develop? How could it have come to pass? The reason is patent and plain and simple. In the years of his education he was taught idolatry and all of those strange superstitions that we can read today in those hermetically sealed sands where the archaeologist has placed in our hands the very text books that Moses studied. How is that all of his years of training in afterlife were not able to turn his heart away from his own people and his own God?
The answer lies in the nurse that the daughter of Pharaoh hired to rear the little baby when she took him off the bosom of the Nile River [Exodus 2:7-9]. He was taught the faith and the true God by that nursing mother. And when he was old, when he came of age and the decision was made, he could not help but make the casting of his life in the mold of the teaching of his mother.
It is the same story in the beginning of the prophets, the last of the judges, and the first of the prophets. It is a story of a mother and a little child named Samuel, “Asked of God,” Hannah and the little lad whom she lent to the Lord all the days of his life [1 Samuel 1:20, 28]. In the story of the beginning of the kings, it is no less the same. It is the story, a beautiful romantic story of a Moabitess, a woman, a pagan by the name of Ruth who, clinging to her mother-in-law Naomi, said, “Entreat me not to leave thee. . . Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” [Ruth 1:16]. It is the story of the kings of Israel. It is the story of a woman, Ruth, who was the mother of Obed, of Jesse, and of David [Ruth 4:17, 21-22].
When we turn to the story of the New Testament, it is no less a faith so largely shaped by her gracious hands. The story begins with an account of the virgin birth by a beloved physician, Dr. Luke [Luke 1:26-35]. And it is plainly, manifestly, the story of a woman’s heart. When you read it you have the sense, the feeling of a story being revealed by a woman, Mother Mary. When the Lord began His life of immortality and glorification, raised from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7], it is the announcement of the resurrection on the part of a woman, Mary Magdalene that proclaims it [John 20:11-18]. And it is a group of women who, coming to the tomb, He first salutes [Matthew 28:9-10].
In the story of the expansion of the Christian faith, it is the same followed pattern. The first convert in Europe was a woman, a Philippian woman named Lydia. In her home did the apostles abide as they preached the gospel of the grace to Europe [Acts 16:14-15, 40], the whole remaking of Western civilization. And the Lord only knows in how many other places is the beginning of the grace of the truth of Christ in the heart of some believing woman.
For example, the second letter of John is addressed to, it begins, “The elder unto the elect lady and her children” [2 John 1:1]. Where did she live? Nobody knows. What was her name? Nobody knows. In the Eastern Star they have a point called Electa, and that is she, the elect lady, the Greek eklektos, chosen, somewhere in the Greco-Roman world this glorious mother and her children to whom the sainted, aged apostle John addresses this second epistle.
Not only is it a faith so largely shaped by her, but in turn the Christian religion is a faith that exalts womanhood and motherhood. I need not to bring to your remembrance things that you already know. The woman in the Roman Empire, and in Greek culture before it, was looked upon as a piece of chattel property. She had no status and no rights. She was none better than something owned like a slave.
Do you remember Socrates one time said, “Whatever gods there be, I thank the gods for three things. I thank the gods that I am a Greek and not a Bavarian. I thank the gods that I am a free man and not a slave. And I thank the gods that I am a man and not a woman.” He had cause to thank the gods for that, for a woman was no more than something bought and owned. Like in Africa, they buy a wife—a woman—with a cow or with a goat, and if she is unusually desirable, maybe two goats, and maybe if she’s unusually attractive, a cow and a calf.
All of us are familiar with the attitude of Mohammed and the Islamic faith toward the woman. By divine revelation Mohammed, who himself had polygamist wives without number, by divine revelation Mohammed said that his followers could not have more than four at one time, four wives at one time. I was arguing with an affluent Mohammedan merchant in the East. And I was talking to him about Mohammed’s vision limiting the Mohammedan to four wives. I said, “See that young fellow over there. How many wives does he have?”
He replied, “Well, he’s just starting. He doesn’t have but two, but as time goes on and he becomes affluent himself, he’ll have four.”
“Well,” I said, “what do you think about that limitation by divine revelation given to Mohammed that you can’t have but four?”
“Oh,” he says, “We have no trouble with that. We just are limited to four at a time.
“Well,” I said, “You just have four at a time. What do you do to change them?”
He said and I can’t use the word that he used because it’s a cuss word, but when I tell you the first letter you’ll know exactly what he said. He said, “I have four wives at a time. I’m not allowed by my faith to have more than four at a time. But,” he says, “if I see one that I like better than one of the four, I just say to that one in the four, ‘Get the “h” out of here!’ And I dismiss her, and I bring in another wife.”
I said to him, “Do you mean to tell me that you do that?”
He says, “I have done it time and again.”
I could not conceive of a more degrading faith than a faith like that. Somebody said, “Wherever Mohammedan is, if it isn’t a desert, it creates one”; such an unholy and unheavenly and ungodly attitude toward the divine creation of womanhood and motherhood.
I haven’t time to expatiate on the rest. I spent many, many days in India, and here is a typical doctrine of Hinduism. They believe in the transmigration of the soul. And if one has been bad, he’ll come back into this world as a monkey. If he has been real bad, he’ll come back into this world as a black spider. But if he has been unspeakably bad, he will come back into this world as a woman. You can’t conceive of such doctrines, and such faith, and such religion.
When you come to the Bible and the holy attitude of the Scriptures toward the faith, how much is it exalted in our mothers.
Faith of our mothers, guiding faith,
For youthful longing, struggle and doubt,
How blessed our vision, how blind our way,
Thy providential care without:
Faith of our mothers, guiding faith,
We will be true to thee till death.
Faith of our mothers, Christian faith,
In truth beyond our man-made creeds,
Still serve the home and save the Church,
And breathe thy spirit through our deeds:
Faith of our mothers, Christian faith,
We will be true to thee till death.
[“Faith of Our Mothers,” Arthur B. Patten]
Did you have a Christian mother? Do you have a Christian mother? This is the day when we thank God for her, and when we thank God for Christ, and when we thank God for our salvation, when we thank God for our Christian training, when we seek to glorify the Lord in our prayerful and loving and grateful remembrance of her.
We’re going to stand now and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing our invitation, with all of our people remaining, there’ll be time for you to make your way to the Sunday school class and department, all of us remaining for this moment; in this balcony so crowded around, and in the press of people filling this lower floor, to join us in the faith, would you make it now? To put your life with us in the praise and worship of Jesus our Lord, would you come and be with us? To march by our sides on the heavenly highway, the glory road, to the world that is yet to come, if the Spirit bid you respond, do it with your life, “Here I am. I make it now.” Down a stairway, down an aisle, “Here I come, pastor. Here I am”; while we stand and while we sing.