Man’s Need and God’s Answer
May 15th, 1977 @ 8:15 AM
MAN’S NEED AND GOD’S ANSWER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-15-77 8:15 a.m.
And we are grateful for the great throng listening to this message this hour on radio and here in this great auditorium. This is the pastor bringing the sermon entitled God’s Answer to Man’s Need. And may I remind you that tonight, when we have the commencement and baccalaureate services for our Bible School, our Institute, remember it will be a great evangelistic service. We ought to be here tonight by the thousands. We have a school not just for academic purposes—as you are going to see in the message delivered this morning—but we have a school for the purpose of winning men to Christ, preaching the gospel. And let’s be here, thousands of us tonight, sharing in that evangelistic hour, an unusual commencement and baccalaureate, I know, but the kind that it ought to be, presenting the claims of Christ to the human soul. And let’s believe when we come God will give us a glorious harvest, save the lost and add to His church.
In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we have come into the middle of the fourth chapter; Acts chapter 4. And in Simon Peter’s address to the Sanhedrin, this is what he says:
Be it known unto you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, but whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole.
This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner—
quoting Psalm 118:22—
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were agrammatoi kai idiotai, they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
This is a remarkable thing that we’re going to stand before and expound and look at this morning. You see, here is the preaching of the apostles addressed to the whole world: “This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner” [Acts 4:11]. “God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name” [Philippians 2:9]. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. Now what in the earth is that? For the original question did not concern the salvation and deliverance of mankind, but it concerned the healing of a lame and impotent man who was born unable to walk [Acts 3:1-9, 4:7]. But isn’t that the apostolic method? Unwearyingly, unfailingly, unwaveringly, they never stopped at just a mere incident or providence such as a miracle or a wonder or a sign; they just take that as a launching, they take that as an introduction, they take that as a text, they take that as a beginning, and beginning there, then they preach the gospel of the Son of God, just like this [Acts 4:8-12].
Do you remember how the Gospel of John is constructed? He never uses the word “miracle”: he uses the word sēmeíon, “sign.” He closed the twentieth chapter with this climactic asservation: “Many other sēmeía, many other signs did Jesus which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” [John 20:30-31]. Now look how he constructed his Gospel: out of all of the signs of the Lord—which John says if he were to write them all he did not think the world itself would hold the books [John 21:25]—out of all of the signs of the Lord, he has chosen seven of them. And this is the way he did: there would be a sign, Jesus feeding the five thousand [John 6:5-13]; then the message, He is the bread of life, the manna sent down from heaven, angels’ food [John 6:50-51; Psalm 78:25]. Isn’t that a marvelous thing?
All right, he chose another one: the opening of the eyes of a blind man [John 9:1-7]; then follows the message, Jesus is the light of the world” [John 9:5]. Then he chose another one: the resurrection, the raising of Lazarus from the dead [John 11:23, 43-44]; then follows the remarkable avowal, He is the resurrection and the life [John 11:25]. That’s the apostles. And the Bible they held in their hand was the Old Testament. And out of it they preached the Lord Jesus; every incident in it pointed to the cross.
There are men who say, “I find great difficulty, we find stumbling seeking to preach Christ in the Old Testament.” Not so the apostles: that was the Bible they held in their hand, and they found Him in every syllable and in every verse, in every paragraph on every scroll, on every leaf, in every letter of the law.
I’ve repeated, because of my abounding admiration for Charles Haddon Spurgeon, I’ve repeated, someone said to him, “Your sermons all sound alike”; and Spurgeon replied, “That’s right, wherever I take my text, I make a beeline to the cross”; preaching Jesus.
“And when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled, they marveled” [Acts 4:13]. The abounding assurance of those men in the gospel message that they delivered, they marveled at them: marveled at their boldness. Whenever a man is timid about saying the name of Jesus, whenever he’s hesitant about witnessing to the grace of the Lord, he is far backslidden. But when a man is full of the Spirit, and the life of the Lord is in his soul, he’s bold to speak the name of Christ anywhere, anytime, and it’s a happy, holy, heavenly privilege.
They saw the boldness of Peter and John, and marveled that they were learned? No, they were agrammatoi, literally “unlettered,” agrammatoi; that is, they were not men of the schools [Acts 4:13]. They’d never been to the seminary. They were not polished and elite; they were rude, crude, rough fisherman, or tax gatherers; they were manual laborers, they were common men. Kai idiotai, our word “idiot” comes from that, idiotai, literally it means “private men”; that is, they had no rank, they had no station. These were not sons of the king, these were not men of vast fortune, you know, riches and fame and heredity bear some dignity to a man, but actually nothing. Some of the most sorry specimen of mankind you’ll find in the king’s house and in the king’s court and among the tycoons and the children that they raise. These men had no standing, idiotai; in themselves they were nothing. Well then what of this? “And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” [Acts 4:13]. As they saw them and looked upon them, looked at their language, looked at their message, looked at their boldness and assurance, then they remembered, “We know where we’ve seen these men. We know where we’ve spoken of them. We saw them with Jesus.” Oh, what a glorious identification! Isn’t it wonderful to be known not because of our degrees, or because of our scholarship, or because of our learning, or because of our station, but known because we have been with the Lord? What a marvelous identification! Talk about an “ID”—could one be better than that? This is a man filled with the Spirit of God: he has been with Jesus [Acts 4:13].
Now to the message: God’s Answer to Man’s Need; Man’s Need and God’s Answer. So they addressed themselves as they always did: to the need of the whole world. The message of Christ is universal. It’s not in any certain language, it’s not to any certain tribe or people, it’s not to any social bracket or stratum, it’s not to any color, it’s not to any age; the message of Christ is universal: man’s need, which is salvation and deliverance; and they are delivering God’s answer. What is it? Well, let’s just look, and as we include the whole spectrum of the human race and human family and all history and especially the life of the world in which God has cast us, let’s just look.
What is man’s need? And what is the ultimate answer? Now that we need is obvious, and we’ll not spend any time on that. The man needs deliverance, he needs salvation, he needs uplifting, he needs everything that pertains to the making of a new society and a new heart and a new life—man’s need. Now, how do you meet it? What is the answer? Well, world without end today—and I literally mean that—from one circumference of this band that goes around the world clear up to the poles on either side, there is almost a universal answer, and that is this: what the world needs is social amelioration. What man needs is the restructuring of society. What man needs is social revolution. And we are seeing it, a very ferment of it in every nation of the world. You find it in China, you find it in Russia, you find it in the Middle East, you find it in the Near East, you find it in the Far East, you find it in South America, in North America, in Europe, in Africa: it is a teeming thing, this social revolution that is seeking to answer the needs of mankind.
Now, I ask you, just looking at it fairly, do you think that in Russia and the social revolution that came with the Bolsheviks in 1917, do you think that is the ultimate answer? Or look at China: do you think that is the ultimate answer? Or even look at England, with its socialistic experiment: do you think that is the answer? Yet all over this world it is an almost universal clamor that what the world needs is social restructuring! And yet after we have restructured it, and killed our enemies, and put the rest of them in prison to rot, and after we’ve changed all of the instruments of politics and the redistribution of wealth, it seems to me that the nation is more miserable and degraded than it was before. If you can visit a communist nation or a socialist nation and feel that this restructuring of the society has lifted up mankind, you have a sensitivity and an understanding that is far beyond me. It seems to me that they pull everybody down to the lowest possible common denominator.
Well, what is the answer to man’s need? Immediately, you reply and would think, “Well, if it isn’t social restructuring, and if it isn’t the redistribution of wealth, and if it isn’t social amelioration, then it must lie in religion. What the world needs is religion.” Well, we can look at that honestly and fairly. There is a book entitled This Believing World; and it’s an amazing volume. Satan’s masterpiece, if you read the Book of the Revelation, Satan’s masterpiece is the false prophet [Revelation 13:11-15]. That’s his genius, the false prophet. And I look at this believing world: it isn’t for lack of religion that mankind is so degraded and so lost in sin. There’s religion everywhere, of every kind; and many, many, many and in many, many instances it has a terrific grip upon the people—religion.
I look at the church, the institutional church. And when I read the Bible and look at that institutional church, I also marvel. Where did such a thing come from? How did such a thing develop? This is the church of Jesus Christ? I wonder at it. No small part of Western history will be consumed with the story of the church and its persecuting, witch-burning, stake-burning authority—the church, religion.
No small part of this world is Muslim. They believe in Allah and Mohammed his prophet. And just look at it. I was talking to a Hausa merchant in northern Nigeria, talking about his life, talking about his family, talking about his home, talking about his business. All those Hausa are fanatical Muslim. That’s also a part of the tragedy that is overwhelming Africa today. Well, he has four wives. “Are you stuck with them?” No, any day that he pleases he can dismiss that one or that one, and bring in another one; just so he does not have more than four at a time. That is Mohammedanism. And right over here a young merchant, and I began talking about him. And he says to me, “You see, he just has two wives. He’s not able. But give him time, and he’ll become affluent also; and he’ll have four.”
Mohammedanism, Islam, the Muslim faith was propagated by the sword. One of the saddest stories I ever read in history is this: a blind Turk, in the day when they were slaughtering the Armenian Christians, a blind Turk cried, cried, “Bring me an Armenian Christian, that I may kill him, in order that I too may have a great reward in heaven”—religion, religion.
Hinduism: did you ever see anything in America as the panting after those Oriental religions such as Hinduism? Did you ever see anything like that in America among an intelligent people? Krishna, and there are more than three hundred thirty million gods in India! What an amazing thing! The greatest traffic jam I’ve ever seen in my life I saw in Calcutta. As far as the eye could see down that boulevard, or down that street, or down that avenue and back of me, the traffic was jammed. Why? Because there was a big herd of cows right there in the business district of that vast city. And the thing was immobilized, and nobody dared touch one of them, or guide it out of the way. That’s India. That’s India. When I was there, the president of the Congress Party made the proud announcement, “I have never worn shoes. I have never defaced or disgraced the hide of a sacred cow.”
In a village near Agra, I never saw so many monkeys in my life. They were on every rooftop, they were on every court, they were down every street, they were in every yard, they were before every business house, and a little bridge over across the small stream running through the village they were solidly on that side and they were solidly on that side. There were monkeys everywhere. You see, you dare not touch anything living in India, dare not. They starve to death. There is enough fertility and productivity in India to feed half the world, and yet they starve to death. Those cows that ravage and forage over that land, there’s enough beef in them to feed the nation, beside the food that they ravage. But you dare not touch anything living. That’s Hinduism.
And their doctrine of incarnation is astonishing! If you have been bad, you come back in this life a dog. If you have been worse, you come back in this life a spider. If you have been vile, you come back into this life a serpent. But if you have been indescribably wicked, you come back into this life a woman. That’s Hinduism.
There is a reason why India is degraded and faces abject catastrophe every day of its history. I listened to Dr. Bennett, one of our great Baptist leaders, who was president of Oklahoma A&M College, who was applying Point Four after the Second World War, trying to help the poor nations of the world. And he said to me, “How in the world are you going to help a people where every cow is a god, and every swine is a devil, and every old stock in a plow is a religious exercise?”
Buddhism: think of the vast millions and millions and millions who bow before the little fat rotund god, Gautama, the “Enlightened One.” And there he sits in his Nirvana for these centuries and centuries, and the world around him in disease, and disaster, and disintegration, and death.
A Christian correspondent from one of the great newspapers of America was in China. And one of those Chinese correspondents said to him, “I like my religion better than yours. You see, when I go up to the temple to worship, there is my god, and he sits there prosperous and happy, rotund, fat. And I have a happy religion. My religion appeals. But your religion, you have a religion of blood, and of suffering, and of death. And when you go before your God, there He is nailed to a cross, dying in shame. I like my religion much better than yours.”
The American correspondent never thought about it, and he didn’t know how to answer. Upon a day, passing by there was a Chinese man left to die by the side of the road. What’s human life in a Buddhist country? And no one paying attention, no one pausing to look or to help; and he went over to the man dying, and he tried to stop people to help, “Don’t you see this man is dying?” They looked indifferently, unconcernedly, walked right on. The correspondent lifted up that dying Chinese man and held him in his arms. As he held that dying man in his arms, he had his answer, “Tell me, where would you take him? If you had in your arms an impoverished, and starving, and exhausted, and dying man, would you take him to the little fat rotund god called Buddha, and lay him there before his obesity and before his affluence and before his Nirvana, would you? Or would you take him and tenderly, lovingly lay him at the feet of Someone who knew what it was to suffer, and to be hungry [Matthew 21:18; Luke 4:2], and to die?” [Matthew 27:32-50]. He had his answer. That’s the Christ of the cross, and the Christ of the faith, and the hope of the world [Titus 2:11-14].
Not religion, but Christ: man’s need and God’s answer: the Christ of the cross [Matthew 27:32-50], the Christ of the tomb [Matthew 27:57-60], and the Christ of the resurrection morning [Matthew 28:1-7], and the Christ who is coming again [Acts 1:9-11]. I stood in an African church jammed on every side with those half-naked people. They were not only in every spot that could be found in the church, they were outside in the yard, peering through the windows, peering through the doors. And I stood in front of the pulpit, waiting to speak to that throng of Africans. And I stood there, jammed on every side by those half-naked Africans, I saw back of the pulpit and on the wall a very large placard, a very large placard: it had a picture of the blessed Jesus, and then the caption around it, “Christ is the answer to every human need.” And I stood there and looked all around me, pressing me on every side that group of Africans, looked at them, and then looked at the caption beyond them, “Christ is the answer to every human need.”
Everywhere I have ever been, if the gospel has been preached there you’ll find a school, and you’ll find a hospital, and you’ll find an orphans’ home, and you’ll find a church with its spire pointing up to heaven—God’s answer to man’s need.
And may I bring it down to us? We also are sinners [Romans 3:23], and we also face the judgment of death [Romans 6:23], and we also wrestle with our problems. Where do we find an answer? In Him [Romans 6:23, 10:9-10, 13]. I spoke to a man whose wife had died and left him with three little boys. And he, facing the prospect of being mother and father both to three little boys, was crushed, hardly knowing where to turn—three little boys. I said to him, “The Lord is able. Take Jesus into your heart. Take Jesus into your home. Let the Lord guide you in rearing those three little boys. Open your heart to the blessed Jesus, and you’ll find an answer to every problem, for every day, for every moment and step of the way. Take Jesus.” He did, and in the days past I met him at an airport, and he said to me, “That first step was hard, and I don’t know why that first step was hard, receiving Jesus as my Savior,” but he said, “After I took that first step, it has been blessedness, and happiness, and strength, and wisdom every step of the way.”
And you will find that in your life. We don’t have the same problems; our problems greatly differ, but we all have them. And we war against them. And the days multiply, and they become heavier. But He is able. He stands by us, our shield and buckler, our Savior and Friend. Take Jesus [Romans 10:9-10, 13; 2 Timothy 1:12].
Isn’t that the message? “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. That’s God’s wide open invitation to you today.
“This moment I let Jesus come into my heart. I give my life to Him. I have decided for Christ, and here I come” [Ephesians 2:8]. On the first note of the first stanza, if you are in this great throng in the balcony, in the press of people on this lower floor, down a stairway, down an aisle, “Here I come, pastor, I’m on the way.” Do it now, make the decision now. When we stand in a moment to sing, stand answering with your life, “Here I am, preacher, taking Jesus as my Savior, placing my life in the circle of the church.” God bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
NEED AND GOD’S ANSWER
I. The preaching of the apostle
A. Salvation in Christ
B. Original question
concerned a lame man
1. A starting
point for the preaching of the gospel
of John uses signs of Jesus (John 20:30-31, 21:25, 6:5-12, 31-54, 8:12,
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
II. They marveled at them (Acts 4:13)
A. At their boldness
B. Recognized they had
been with Jesus
III. What is man’s need?
A. Some say social
B. Some say religion
Christianity and the institutional church
C. The apostolic
preaching of the faith (Acts 4:12)
1. Christ is the
answer to every human need