Man’s Need and God’s Answer
May 15th, 1977 @ 10:50 AM
MAN’S NEED AND GOD’S ANSWER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-15-77 10:50 a.m.
It is with infinite gladness that we share with the thousands and the thousands of you who are listening to this hour on radio and watching the service on television. This is the pastor bringing the message—and may I remind you that tonight, when we gather here at seven o’clock for the commencement and baccalaureate services of our Bible Institute, it would be a reproach upon what we are seeking to do to have a dull, dry, ordinary, without-appeal kind of a meeting.
The sermon tonight will be evangelistic. The service tonight, even though it is one of graduation, will be one of soul-winning appeal, and we are looking forward to you being here by the thousands and with a prayer in your heart that God will save the lost and add to His people. It will be a great moment when we gather tonight, and may God’s Holy Spirit move in the service as we plead for Christ.
In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we are in the middle of the fourth chapter, and that gave rise to the sermon Man’s Need and God’s Answer. Simon Peter says to the Sanhedrin, “Be it known unto you all, and to all of the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, but whom God raised from the dead, even by Him does this man stand before you whole,” quoting Psalm 118:22, “This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:10-12]. Now when those members of the Sanhedrin, the high priests, and all of the court, and the temple guard, “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” [Acts 4:13].
This is one of the most unusual passages that you could ever find in the Bible, for they are not talking about the Lord, nor is the original question concerning the name that saves all of the families and nations of the world [Acts :10-12]. The original question concerned a lame man—a man who had been born impotent, who all of his life from his mother’s womb had never walked [Acts 3:2]—and yet these apostles are not confining themselves to any such original discussion or beginning question. They are proclaiming the saving name of Christ to the whole world [Acts 4:10-12], and that is exactly what the apostles preached upon any occasion. Given any incident, any miracle, any sign, any wonder was just a text. It was a beginning for them immediately to proclaim the glorious gospel of Christ. “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which has become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:11-12]. All of that arising out of an original discussion concerning a lame man who could walk [Acts 3:6-8]. So the entire message of the apostles, whatever the occasion, however the providence, it was immediately a springboard, a launching, a beginning, an initiation, an introduction, a text for the preaching of the gospel saving of the Son of God.
Did you ever look at the construction, for example, of the Gospel of John? John closes in the twentieth chapter: “Many other signs,” sēmeia—he never uses the word miracle—”sign”: “And 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: and that believing ye might have life in His name [John 20:30-31].
John’s Gospel is constructed like this: he chose seven of the sēmeia –the signs of the Lord Jesus. He says there are so many of them that had he written them, he supposed the world itself could not have contained the books that should be written [John 21:25]. He chose seven of them, and each one of them is an introduction to a marvelous message about Jesus. For example, the Lord feeds the five thousand; and then immediately is the message of the Lord, the bread of life—the manna from heaven, the food angels eat [John 6:5-12, 31-58]. He opens the eyes of a blind man [John 9:7], and immediately follows it with a message that Jesus is the light of the world [John 8:12]. He chooses the sēmeion—the sign of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead—and immediately brings the message that He is the resurrection and the life [John 11:1-46]. So the whole message of the apostles: upon any instance, upon any incident, upon any providence, immediately they are proclaiming the marvelous grace of the Son of God.
You have to remember that the only Bible they held in their hand was the Old Testament. And there are ministers world without end who have great trouble speaking out of the Old Testament concerning Christ—finding the Lord in all of the words of the Old Testament. Not so the apostles. That was the only Bible they had, was the Old Testament Scriptures, and on every leaf, on every page, in every paragraph, in every syllable, in every word, in every letter, and every jot and every tittle, they saw the face of Jesus Christ. Isn’t that a wonderful thing?
I’ve often repeated this incident in the life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, whom I admire beyond any preacher who ever lived, and whom I read all of the time. Someone came up to him and said, “Mr. Spurgeon, your sermons sound all alike,” and he said, “That’s right. Wherever I take a text, immediately I make a beeline to the cross, preaching Jesus.”
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” [Acts 4:13]. They looked at those men, Simon Peter and John, the son of Zebedee, and marveled at them. They marveled at their boldness! Any time a man is filled with the Holy Spirit of Christ, he is bold in the testimony! When we are timid and reticent and hesitant about speaking for Jesus, it’s because we are backslidden and following afar off. When a man is filled with the Spirit of God and Christ lives in power in his heart, anywhere upon any occasion, he’s bold to speak out for the blessed Jesus. “They marveled at them,” and they marveled, perceiving that they were agrammatoi kai idiōtai. They marveled at their lack of education and training; agrammatoi, literally “unlettered.” They were untaught [Acts 4:13]. They were untrained. They hadn’t been to the seminary. They hadn’t been in any school. They were rough, crude, rude fishermen, tax gatherers, men of menial assignments and tasks: agrammatoi. They weren’t polished and educated and scholarly—kai idiōtai, idiōtai, translated here “ignorant” [Acts 4:13]. Literally, the word means “private men”; that is, they were men without status. They were not born in a king’s palace. They were not heirs to great fortunes. They were common, ordinary men without status and standing.
You know, it is a strange thing about human life. Great inheritance and great birth and honorary dignities will present a man somewhat, but some of the sorriest specimen of mankind you will ever find were born in a king’s court and are heirs to a magnate’s fortune. These men had the Lord in them, and as such, though dignity and hereditary confer some standing upon men, nothing like a man who is filled with the Spirit of God and the presence of Jesus. “And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” [Acts 4:13]; that is, looking at those men, and hearing them speak, and listening to the witness that they brought, they remembered: “I know where I’ve seen those men,” said the Sanhedrin. “We saw them with Jesus. We remembered them as being with Jesus.”
Isn’t that a glorious thing to be said about any group of men, or any minister? Not concerning his degrees, or his academic achievements, or his scholarly background and habits, and speaking of the Word, but the man is filled with the Spirit of God. He’s been with the Lord. Don’t you wish the whole world were filled with laymen and laywomen like that? And don’t you wish every pulpit has a minister in it that, when you see him and hear him, you immediately have the persuasion that the man has been with Jesus, he’s spent time in the presence of the Lord?
Now we turn to the message that they bring, the apostolic message: man’s need. They are talking about salvation, they say. “What man needs is deliverance. He needs salvation” [Acts 4:12]. Now, where does it come from? What is it that can deliver him and save him? Man’s need—and the answer is what?
Come with me now, and let us look at this whole world. And I’d like to sum up in that every newspaper that you read, and every headline published on the front page, every magazine that you read, every commentary that you hear on radio and on television, the whole bedlam of voices in the whole world—man’s need! And all of us can see the illimitable, immeasurable, universal need of mankind in every nation, in every tribe, in every language under the sun; man’s needs—he needs salvation and direction; he needs deliverance. Now, where is the answer and what is it? Now, looking at the whole world, they have an answer, and it is almost universally proclaimed. “The need of the world is answered in social amelioration, in the restructuring of society, in the redistribution of wealth, in social revolution.” That’s the universal reply to the cry of the human heart: social betterment.
So look at the whole world. Look in Russia, and look in China, and look in Europe, and look in South America, and especially in seething Africa—seeking to find the answer to man’s need in social and political re-structuring of its institutions. Well, look at it. Since 1917, that’s been a long time for the Bolshevik Revelation to continue in Russia. Visit Russia with me. Do you have any sense that this is the answer to the cry of the human heart, that, that you see in Russia? I haven’t been to China, couldn’t get in, but I have been all the way around it. And I have talked and visited with thousands of people who escaped it. Do you think that the restructuring of the social institution in China, that that is the answer to man’s need? Or even take England, where our forefathers came from. They have been in a socialistic experiment for now several decades, and they are bankrupt. Do you think their social experiments in England have uplifted the people and made it a greater nation with a greater impact upon the earth? England today is pitiful and tragic!
I do not know of a country that has turned to social experiment that is anything other than hurt and bankrupt, and its people lowered and lowered and continually lowered down to some common denominator that is beneath what a man ought to be and ought to live like. Yet that is the answer of the entire world to man’s need; social experimentation and ameliorations, the restructuring of the institutions of society. “Well pastor, we know immediately now what you are going to say; man’s needs, and what is the answer? We know what you are going to say: the answer lies in religion—religion.” Well we shall look at it honestly and fairly. We’ve had thousands of years in which to look at it, so there is nothing unusual about what we will now discuss. Man’s need, and the answer is religion?
There is a book entitled This Believing World. It’s an amazing volume. To me, according to the Revelation, the masterpiece of Satan is the false prophet, religion! Take any of them. Let’s take our own: the Christian religion and the institutional church. When I read the Bible, look at our Lord and the apostles and the message that they delivered, and I look in great areas of this earth at the institutional church, I can’t believe what I see and behold with my own eyes. You mean that is the Spirit of Christ and the message of salvation preached by these apostles? The church with its hands dipped in blood, persecuting, burning at the stake, sending into dungeons to rot their lives away—that is the answer to man’s need?
Not only our Christendom, our Christian religion, let’s take the others. Let’s take the Mohammedan, the Muslim. I was in northern Nigeria speaking at length to a house merchant. They are fanatical Muslims, fanatical Mohammedans. In talking to him, “How many wives do you have?”
“I can only have four at a time—four at a time. But if I am weary of this one, I just dismiss her and get one to take her place. Just so, according to the Muslim faith, I have not more than a four at a time.”
And then, the merchant talking about the young fellow over there, “What about him?”
“Well, he has just two wives, but give him time, because he himself is becoming affluent; he will also have four.” That is Mohammedanism! One of the most sad, one of the saddest stories I have read in history was when the Turks, the Mohammedan Turks slaughtered the Armenian Christians. And one of the Turks cried out—being blind, cried out, saying, “Bring me an Armenian Christian, that I can kill him, that I also might have a reward in heaven.” That is a religion, Mohammedanism, which is furthered by the sword, propagated by coercion and force.
Religion: let’s take, for example, Hinduism, its Krishna and its three hundred thirty million gods. Hinduism, Oriental religion, and it is spread over America as you wouldn’t believe. Walking down the street where I live, I saw a bunch of gurus coming out of a house within about two blocks of us, and I looked at them in amazement. And they had a sign, so I read the sign. All of us are invited to become a part of Hindu, guru religion, faith. What kind of religion [is] Hinduism? Standing in the heart of Calcutta, which is a city far larger than Chicago—standing in the heart of Calcutta, in the business district, as far up that boulevard as I could see, as far down that avenue as I could see, as far down this street as I could see, was the most impossible tangle of a traffic jam you could ever imagine. And why? Because in the center of the great city was a herd of sacred cows. You couldn’t move. You couldn’t drive. You couldn’t do anything but just watch those cows. You didn’t dare touch them or move them or push them along; sacred cows.
When I was there, the president of the Congress Party pointed to his feet and proudly said, “I have never worn shoes. I have never defaced or disgraced the hide of a sacred cow.” The whole world there, you dare not touch anything that breathes, that lives. In a village near Agra, I walked around; never saw so many monkeys in all of my life. They were everywhere. There were a hundred monkeys for every citizen in the village. They were on top of the houses; they were on the porch; they were in the yard; they were down the streets; they were on the bridges; they were in the roads; they were everywhere. Monkeys, monkeys, monkeys; everywhere more monkeys.
And their doctrine of reincarnation is something to behold! That’s Hinduism. That’s religion. If you are bad, you’ll come back as a dog. If you are worse, you’ll come back as a spider. If you are vile, you’ll come back as a serpent. And if you have been indescribably wicked, you’ll come back as a woman. That is Hinduism. As you walk along, you wouldn’t dare step on an ant; you might be stepping on your favorite grand uncle. Religion.
Buddhism: as there are millions and millions and millions who follow after Allah and Mohammed his prophet, they’re Muslims; as there are millions and millions and millions who worship at the shrine of Krishna and Hinduism, so there are other uncounted millions and millions and millions who for two thousand seven hundred years have been worshiping at the image and idol of Buddha, seated there fat, obese, happy, content, affluent, in a whole vast illimitable world of need, disease, disaster, despair, and death.
A Chinese correspondent was talking to an American correspondent, and the American happened to be a devout Christian. And the Chinese correspondent said to the American, “I am a Buddhist, and my religion is so much better than yours. You see, when I go to the pagoda and I bow before my god, there he is happy and smiling and affluent. And I have a happy religion, and I worship a happy god. But you, your religion is full of blood and suffering and crucifixion and death! When you come before your God, there He is dying in shame on a cross. I don’t like your religion. I like mine much better. Mine is a happy religion.”
The American correspondent had never thought about it like that, and he didn’t know how to answer. As the days passed, left on the side of the road was a Chinese man, starving, exhausted, dying. And the American correspondent went over to him and saw that the man lay there dying. And he called to a Chinese, called to a Chinese to come and help: “This man is dying!” The one who lives in a faith and religion like that, what would be a hundred million of them who were dying—so much flotsam and jetsam? As the American correspondent sought to find someone to help him with the man, not a one would stop; looked in contempt and disdain and passed on by. The American correspondent reached down and picked up the dying Chinese man in his arms, and as he held him in his arms and looked upon his silent face, he had his answer. Tell me, where would you take him? If you had in your arms a dying man, victim of starvation and exhaustion, of hunger and want, where would you take him? Would you take him and lay him before the fat, affluent, happy, smiling god called Gautama the Buddha? Or would you take him and tenderly and lovingly and prayerfully lay him at the feet of One who knew what it was to be hungry and to be poor and to be in need and in want? [Hebrews 4:14-16]. The faith of the Son of God is God’s answer to the need of the world [John 3:16].
I stood in Africa in the midst of a church. I was jammed on every side by those half-naked pagans. The church was filled as full as they could compress the people together. They were in the yard, filled the yard, looking in the windows, looking in the doors, listening to the Word of God. I was standing in front of the pulpit, waiting to be introduced. I was to preach to the throng that day. As I stood in front of the pulpit, waiting to ascend the pulpit to preach, I saw back of the pulpit and on the wall a big placard. In the center was a picture of our Lord, and around it were these words: “Christ is the answer to every human need.”
As I stood there and looked around me, pressed on every side by those half-naked pagans, and then up to the wall beyond the pulpit, looking at the figure of our Lord and the caption around His face: “Christ is the answer to every human need.” I have never been anywhere in this world where the gospel of Christ is preached but that there you will find also the school. There you will find also the hospital. There you will find also the orphan’s home. And there you will find the house of the Lord, the church with its spire pointing up to God in heaven. Christ is the answer to every human need; for the balm of Gilead, for the healing of the heart, for the restructuring of society, for the reconversion and the rebirth of the man, for the remaking of all humanity—the answer is in Christ our Lord.
May I bring it down to us? There is a man whom I knew—the father of three little boys, not a Christian. His wife suddenly died and left him with three little boys to raise, crushed and facing an awesome responsibility. I spoke to him: “My friend, God is able to help. There is Someone, if you will invite Him into your home, invite Him into your heart, there is Someone who will be an answer to every problem you will ever face. He will be wisdom to you, a shield and a buckler. He will be a friend in time of need [Hebrews 4:14-16]. He is able to see you through. Let Jesus come into your heart [Romans 10:9-10]. Take Jesus into your house and home. Love the Lord. Be a Christian. Follow Him.”
The days passed and I visited with him. He met me at an airport, and he said, “You know, that first step was the hardest I ever made. I don’t understand why, nor can I explain why, but that first step, opening my heart to Jesus, inviting Him into my life was the hardest decision I ever made. But having made it, having accepted the Lord, having received Him into my house and home, it has been blessed every step of the way,” rearing his three little boys in the love and nurture of the Lord [Ephesians 6:4].
There are no problems that God cannot solve, no difficulties for which Christ is not equal. There is in Him a solution to every confrontation known to the human spirit. In government, in law, in medicine, in house, in home, in education, in business, in every area of life, there is an ultimate answer, triumphant, glorious in Him. And that’s the gospel the apostles preached. That’s the message we preach today: to come in faith, in love, in commitment to the Lord Jesus and let Him see you through.
In a moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, to confess your faith in Jesus as Lord [Ephesians 2:8-9], to give your heart and life to Him [Romans 10:9-13], as the Spirit shall press the invitation, would you answer with your life? “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand walking down that stairway, coming down that aisle: “Here I am, pastor. I have decided for Christ, and I’m coming now.” Some of you to put your life in the fellowship of the church; a couple you, a family you, or just one somebody you, upon the first note of the first stanza, come. Make it now, do it now, while we stand and while we sing.