Christ, The Word of God
April 2nd, 1978 @ 7:30 PM
CHRIST THE WORD OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-2-78 7:30 p.m.
On the radio of the great Southwest, KRLD, and on the radio of our Bible Institute, KCBI, we welcome the thousands uncounted thousands of you who listen to this hour. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Christ the Word of God. The Broadman Press, as I have explained many times now, has asked me to preach, out of the fifty years I have been a pastor, sixteen sermons that are favorite to me. These are messages that I have preached since; some of them since I was a teenager. They are sermons that bear to my heart a great truth from God. And particularly and especially is the sermon delivered tonight entitled Christ the Word of God.
As a background text, would you turn to Hebrews chapter 1 and let us read the first four verses? Hebrews chapter 1 and this is a background text. This will describe for us the person of Jesus our Lord: Hebrews chapter 1, verses 1 through 4. Now together, read it out loud with me:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time
past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days
spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all
things, by whom also He made the worlds; Who being the
brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and
upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by
Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty
on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by
inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
Christ the Word of God: Revelation 19:11-13:
And I beheld heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He
that sat upon him was Faithful and True…His eyes were as a
flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns…He was
dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The
Word of God.
John 1:1and 2:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made which was made.
The written word, the spoken word, the incarnate word; and all three of them are the same. A man and his word may be two different things, but not God and His word. God is identified with His word, and the word is identified with God; the written word, the spoken word, the incarnate word.
Whenever I receive the word of God, I receive God Himself. When I believe the word of God, I believe God Himself. Spiritually, when I know the word of God, I know God Himself. When I trust the word of God, I trust God Himself. God and His word are identified:
- “Forever, O God, Thy word is fixed in heaven” [Psalm 119:89].
- God’s word is like God Himself, “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” [Hebrews 13:8].
- This whole universe is upheld by the word of God: Hebrews 1:3, “Upholding all things by the word of His power.”
When we look into this vast creation, what hand is it that guides these planets in their orbits? And what omnipotence is it that guides the destiny of our created universe? It is the almighty hand of the omnipotent God, “upholding all things by the word of His power” [Hebrews 1:3].
I stood one time on the shores of the Indian Ocean, and it seemed to me that I was standing straight up, and the great body of water was held in the arms of the sea. Not long after that I was standing on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, and it seemed to me that I was standing straight up, and that great gulf was held in the arms of the sea. I then looked at a globe. And I tell you truly, one of those things is upside down. They are diametrically opposite of each other. If I were standing on my head on the shores of the Indian Ocean, then I was standing upright on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. If I were standing upright on the shores of Mexico, then I was standing on my head down there in the Indian Ocean.
Well, that poses a problem that anybody would ask an answer for. If these oceans are on opposite sides, and one of them is upside-down, why doesn’t the water spill out? And why don’t those people down there, who live around the Indian Ocean, fall off of this planet? What sticks them to it? What holds them together? What holds this whole universe together? That’s a logical question, and we take it to a learned scientist. He knows everything, this scientist. So we take it to the learned and scholarly scientist, and we say, “Scientist, want you to look at this globe. This Gulf of Mexico, if it is up here, then the Indian Ocean is down there. And if the Indian Ocean is up here, then the Gulf of Mexico is down there. Now, what we want to know is, if the Indian Ocean is down there, why doesn’t the water spill out? What holds this universe together? And why don’t those people fall off of it?”
And he says to me, “Why, you idiot! Don’t you know why those people don’t fall off, and don’t know why that water doesn’t spill out? And don’t you know what holds this world together? Gravity! Gravity is what holds those oceans in their basins, and gravity is what holds this universe together.”
And I smile in my ignorance and say, “Oh! Why in the world didn’t I think of that? Why, certainly, gravity is what holds this world together, and that is why the oceans don’t spill out, and that’s why the people don’t fly off of it; they are held here together by gravity.” And then I just happen to think, “Well, Mr. Scientist, who knows all the answers—Mr. Scientist, what is gravity? What is gravity?”
And he says, “Why, you dumb and stupid idiot! Don’t know what gravity is? Gravity is what holds the world together.” How lucid, and how learned, and how scholarly, and how apt: gravity is what holds the world together, and what holds the world together is gravity.
I hold my Bible in my hand, and I drop it and it falls down. Why doesn’t it fall up? Why doesn’t it fall out? Why doesn’t it fall off? Nobody knows. Nobody who ever lived knows. You can’t explain it; just as you can’t explain anything. You just observe; that’s all. It is God’s mystery of creation. And because they don’t know, they invent a word and call it gravity; the reason things fall down instead of falling up, falling out, falling off. “Upholding all things by the word of His power [Hebrews 1:3]. . .” It’s God who holds this universe together.
We are convicted by the word of God. Hebrews 4:12-13, “For the word of God is quick,” living:
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart….for all things are naked and open before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
We are convicted by the penetrating sharpness and quickness of the word of the living God. We are saved; we are born again by the word of God:
- 1 Peter 1:23, 25: “Born again…by the word of God. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
- James 1:18, “Of His own will begat He us by the word of God.”
- John 15:3, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”
- Ephesians 5:26, “We are sanctified, we are cleansed with the washing of water by the word.”
That is the interpretation, I think—the exegetical meaning, I think—of John 3:5, “Except a man be born of the water and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” That is, except a man be born of the word, the cleansing of the word, and the regenerating power of the Spirit of God, he cannot be saved. No man is ever saved apart from the preaching, and the believing, and the receiving of the testimony of the word of God to Christ our Lord. We are saved by and through the acceptance of the word of God.
We are kept from sin by the word of God: Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.” We are to walk by the word of God: Psalm 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” We are to live by the Word of God: Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” It is an amazing and startling thing that when the Lord answered the tempter in the trial in the wilderness, every trial He answered with and by the word of the living God [Matthew 4:1-11].
We are to die by the word of God: Revelation 3:10, “Because thou hast kept My word, I also will keep thee in the hour of trial that shall come over the whole earth.” We are to die in the word, by the word, with the word of God.
There was a beautiful woman in our church who fell in love with and married a man from a faraway state. And they chose to come to Dallas to live. He was a very worldly man. All of his life he had been a manager, a leader in a worldly context. He had lived a worldly life; she brought him to church faithfully. And as the days passed, he was converted and here made a confession of his faith in the Lord, and I baptized him. It seemed as though, because of the years he had spent in the world that he sought to redeem the time. He was doubly faithful, doubly prayerful, and read the Bible day and night. In the car he would place it by his side. When he went to bed at night he had his Bible in his hand. When he would shave he would prop it up by the side of the mirror, and as he shaved he would read the Word of God.
I was so grateful for him and proud of him. Then one of those things that brings sorrow to your heart: suddenly, without announcement, he died of a heart attack. When I went to conduct the funeral service, the memorial service, I stood by his wife and looked at his silent face there in the casket. To my great surprise, he was holding in his hand there in the casket his Bible; just like this. I turned to his wife, and I said, “I have never seen that before in my life. There he lies with a Bible in his hand.”
And she said to me, “When he was converted, he was so given to the calling of God, redeeming the days that he had lost and misspent out in the world, and so constantly read the Bible, that when the funeral director had prepared his body and placed it here in the casket—I had seen him so many times with that Bible in his hands,” she said, “I went to his room and I got his Bible and I placed it here in his hand as the last witness and testimony to the people who will be here at the funeral service; that the Bible is the true, and infallible, and living word of God.” We are to die by the word of God [Revelation 3:10].
We are to preach the word of God; 2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 16 and 17, “All Scripture,” all of it, from beginning to end:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for teaching, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect—
mature, grown up—
thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
[2 Timothy 3:16-17]
And what a shame, there is a chapter heading there, dividing the “therefore.” “I charge thee therefore,” the therefore points back to the great avowal that the apostle Paul had just said, that the Scripture is the inspired word of God. The apostle, writing to his son in the ministry, Timothy, said, “I charge thee therefore.” Therefore, based on the inspiration, and the infallibility, and the inerrancy of the word of God:
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing, preach the word: be instant in season, out of season; rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine….Do the work of an evangelist.
[2 Timothy 4:1-2, 5]
How do you get people to God? How do you win souls for Christ? Paul says, it is by preaching the word of God [2 Timothy 4:2]. The work of the evangelist is that he delivers the immutable and regenerating and soul-saving power of the word of God [2 Timothy 4:5]. That is what the preacher is to do. He is to stand up in the pulpit and open God’s Word and preach this message of the living Lord. He is not to stand up there and say, “Thus saith Einstein,” or, “Thus saith Dr. Sounding Brass,” or, “Thus saith Rabbi Smellfungus,” or, “Thus says Professor Dry as Dust.” What he is to do is to stand up there in the pulpit, with a Book in his hand, and say, “Thus saith the Lord God.” And when he does that, people are fed, and they are nourished, and they grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord.
Why, my brother, we can read in the newspaper on every editorial page. We can go down to a newsstand and buy a magazine and read it after dinner when we lie down on the sofa, if we are not too tired and go to sleep. We can listen to the commentaries on the radio and on television. And they are always talking about the things that are sweeping over this world: economics, politics, war and peace, race and Capitol Hill—a thousand other things. What we want to know when we come to church is not the rehashing of what we have been listening to and reading every day in the week. What we want to know is, “Does God say anything?” We know what the secretary of state says. We know what the president says. We know what all these commentators say. We know what all the people are saying. What we want to know in church is, “Does God say anything? If God says anything, what does God say? Preacher, tell us.”
I remember Jeremiah, listening to the king Zedekiah, and Zedekiah answered the prophet of God, “Is there any word from the Lord? Is there any word from the Lord? In the trials we face, and the death, inexorable, that is coming, is there any word from the Lord? Does God say anything?” And Jeremiah said He does. He has a word to say [Jeremiah 37:17].
God always speaks; and He speaks to us, and He speaks to the occasion, and He speaks to the trial, and He speaks to the trouble, and He speaks to the tribulation. And He speaks to the open doors, and the opportunities, and all the other vicissitudes, and fortunes, and circumstances of life. God talks and God speaks, and He speaks to us in His living Word. Our assurance of heaven is the word and promise of God, John 5:24, “Truly, truly”:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word,
and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life,
and shall not come into condemnation;
but is passed out of death unto life.
Our assurance of heaven is the word and the promise of God. I was converted when I was a child, ten years old. I was converted like this: in the little town in which I grew up, a little town of three hundred people, we were having a revival meeting in the little white crackerbox of a church house in which we called upon the name of the Lord. There was a visiting pastor from Dalhart, who was holding the revival services, and he stayed in our house during the days of that revival meeting. Every night after the service was over my mother would seat him at a kitchen table and pour him a glass of home-churned buttermilk, and I sat by his side at that kitchen table. And while he drank his glass of buttermilk, he would talk to me about the Lord.
On a week-day morning, I received permission from my parents to be dismissed from school to attend the ten o’clock morning service. That morning, when I walked into our little church, I happened to be seated immediately in the pew back of my sainted mother. When the preacher had done his sermon, made his appeal, and the people stood up and were singing, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” my mother turned to me. She was crying and said, “Son, today, will you take Jesus as your Savior?” I said, “Mother, yes, today, this minute; now, yes, Mother, I will take the Lord Jesus as my Savior.” And I went forward. And I gave the pastor my hand in token of the fact that I had received the Lord Jesus in my heart as my Savior.
I began to preach when I was seventeen years of age. And for the first ten years of my life, I preached out in the country and in small villages. For the first several of those years, I preached in a country place where there was no store, there was no highway, there was no anything—just the little church on the side of a creek. And we had, by the side of the church, a tabernacle; and in the summertime, we had the most marvelous of all of the revival meetings that you could ever have attended. They were called camp meetings. The people came and they camped on the ground all ten days of the revival. And that’s where I began preaching; in the summertime outdoors, under tabernacles, under arbors.
In those days they had what they called, “grove prayer meetings.” The women usually would stay under the tabernacle and have their prayer service. And the men would go to what they call a grove; that is, under the shade of the trees. And they would gather there and have their prayer service there. Then they would come together under the tabernacle and I would preach. That is the way I began my ministry, under those tabernacles.
In those grove prayer meetings, the men would give their testimony. And I never heard such testimonies in my life. They were marvelous! They were apostolic; they were Pauline. I will give you a typical example: one of the men pointed to a place, and he said, “I had been under the heavy burden of my sin for years. And I was standing in that place, right there.” And he said, “While I stood in that place, suddenly there came down from God a ball of fire from heaven. And it burst over my head and it struck me to the ground. How long I lay in that state,” he said, “I do not know, but when I came to myself, and I stood up,” then he described how that heavy burden of sin rolled away. And then he gloriously described the new life, and the new day: how the mules looked different when he plowed, how the birds sang, how the trees flowered, and how the sky looked. Oh! It was wonderful. It was wonderful.
But it had an effect upon me beyond what you would have thought for. I never saw a ball of fire. I never saw an angel from heaven. I never saw a ray of light from glory. I was converted as a boy, ten years of age, just trusting the Lord Jesus as my Savior. And I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t converted. I didn’t know the Lord; I wasn’t a Christian, I was not regenerated, I wasn’t saved.
You cannot conceive of the turmoil, and the trouble, and the trial, and the war, and the battle in my heart! For years—not a day, not a month—for years, when I would stand every Sunday before my little country congregation and preach, and then every night get down by my bed and cry unto the Lord: “Lord, I’m not really saved, I’m not really regenerated, I haven’t been saved—Lord, I’m not a Christian! I haven’t had a wonderful experience that I can tell the people about; I haven’t seen an angel, I haven’t seen a ball of fire, I haven’t seen a light from heaven. Lord, I’m not saved!”
That went on for years. And as I knelt before God, I cried to God for a great sign from glory that I was regenerated; that I was a Christian, that I was saved. “Lord, open the doors of glory; let me see a light; send an angel; Lord, Lord, that I could have some mighty experience to tell the people when I give my personal testimony.”
In those days, of course, I read the Bible. And I read in the eleventh chapter of the  Corinthian letter that the devil turns himself—Satan turns himself—he transforms himself into an angel of light [2 Corinthians 11:14]. I also read in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation that the Antichrist, that deceiver, sends fire down from heaven to deceive them upon the earth [Revelation 13:13-14].
And then as the days passed, it finally came to my heart, the truth of God, like this: when we shall stand in the presence of the great Lord God Almighty, at the judgment day of God [Jude 1:24], and the Lord’s saints are entering in, and I assay to join their number, and the Lord God stops me, and He says, “By what right, and by what prerogative do you walk on My golden streets and mingle with My redeemed?” [Revelation 21:21].
And I say to Him, “Lord God, Lord God, I know I’m a Christian. I know I’ve been saved. I know I’ve been regenerated. I saw an angel from heaven. I know I’ve been saved. I’m a Christian, I saw an angel from heaven.” And Satan laughs, “Ha, ha, ha, ha! He saw an angel from heaven? I was that angel! I transformed myself into an angel of light just to deceive him” [2 Corinthians 11:14]. And he drags my soul down to hell. What could I say? What could I do?
For in that great final day, when I stand in the great assize, before the judgment bar of Almighty God [2 Timothy 4:1], and God’s saints are entering in, and the Lord God stops me, and He says, “By what right and by what authority do you enter My beautiful city, walk on My golden streets, pass through My gates of pearl, mingle with My redeemed?” [Revelation 21:10-21].
And I say, “Lord God, Lord God, You know I’m saved, I’ve been regenerated, I’m a Christian. I saw a ball of fire fall over my head and it struck me to the ground. I know I’ve been saved, Lord. I saw a ball of fire.” And Satan laughs, “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! He saw a ball of fire? I sent that ball of fire from heaven just to deceive him!” What could I say? And what could I do, as he drags my soul down to hell?
And then it came to my heart: someday, when I stand in the great assize, at the judgment seat of Christ [2 Timothy 4:1], and God’s people are entering in, the saved and blood-bought throng [1 Peter 1:18-19], and I assay to join their number, and the Lord God stops me, and He says, “By what right, and by what prerogative do you join My redeemed and enter My beautiful city?” [1 Peter 1:18-19]. And I then will say to the Lord, “Dear God, when I was a boy ten years old they were having a revival meeting in the little white crackerbox church in which I grew up in that little town. And they were having a revival meeting, and the preacher stayed in our home. And every night after he preached, as he drank a glass of buttermilk he would talk to me about You. And on a weekday ten o’clock morning hour when I went to church, I happened to be seated back of my mother. Right there she is—standing right there. And she turned to me and she said, ‘Son, today, will you take Jesus as your Savior?’” And I said, ‘Mother, today, I will take Jesus as my Savior.’
“And Lord Jesus, You said here in Your Book, ‘He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right, the authority, the prerogative, the power to become the children of God, even to them that trust, that believe in His name’ [John 1:11-12].
“And Lord God, I am just depending upon You to keep Your word; that’s all, just trusting You, Lord, to keep Your word, that You didn’t deceive me, that You haven’t lied to me, that You haven’t misled me. I am just trusting You, Lord, to keep Your word.”
Then I dare Satan to scoff, and to ridicule, and to scorn, and to laugh! For you see, my salvation is not a matter between me and him. Even Michael the archangel, dare not rebuke him [Jude 1:9]. I am no equal for him, but my salvation does not depend upon my being mightier than Satan the archangel. My salvation is a matter of the Lord keeping His word; it is a matter between Him and Satan. And He says, “I will never leave thee, I will never fail thee, I will never forsake thee, I will never let you down” [Hebrews 13:5].
I have never doubted my salvation since; I settled it in the presence of the Lord. I can awaken at two o’clock in the morning, and there that promise is, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God” [John 1:12].
You know what sweet people? If I were to see an angel now, if I were to see a ball of fire, if I were to see a light from heaven, it would never occur to me now to connect it with my salvation. It would never enter my mind or my heart. If God were to give me a vision of angels, I’d praise His name, forever: “O Lord, how wonderful to see this, heaven opened, and to look at God’s angels.” I’d praise His name, if I could see a vision of angels; but, it would never occur to me now to make it a part of my salvation. For my salvation is based not upon angels, not upon balls of fire, not upon a great experience, not upon a light from heaven, but I base my salvation upon the word and the promise of God. If He prevails, I win. If He is victor, I am in the triumph. If He lives, I am saved—saved by the word and the promise of the Crucified One.
And that is the invitation we press to your heart tonight. Not reaching out for some monstrous experience, alien to the mind of God; but openly, and publicly, and unashamedly, where angels can see us [Luke 15:10], and where the people of God’s redeemed church can rejoice with us, “I do tonight receive the Lord Jesus as my Savior [Romans 10:9-10]. For all that He said He was, and for all that He promised to be, I’m coming. This is my time. This is my hour. This is my moment. This is God’s call for me; and I’m coming. And I’m doing it, now.”
In the presence of the Lord may all of us stand together? Quietly before the Lord, may all of us stand together? Now with the pastor, may we bow our heads? Our Lord, sometimes it takes a double portion of courage to step out into that aisle and down to this front. But God asks it of us:
Whosoever shall confess Me before men,
him will I confess before My Father in heaven.
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that He lives, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart we believe and trust; And with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
And our Lord, as our people pray, and as expectantly, and humbly, and earnestly, and lovingly, and tenderly, as we wait, may everyone in divine presence here tonight find himself down that aisle, accepting Jesus as Savior; giving heart and life to Him. Make it a night of wonderful commitment and decision. Thank Thee, Lord, for it. And now, Lord, as we sing, bless this hymn of appeal and bless these as they come. Do it, Lord. Make it a great night of salvation.
And in a moment the choir will lead us in that hymn of appeal. And I will be standing down here at the front. And in that balcony round, you; and the throng on this lower floor, you; down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Here I come, preacher. I’m taking Jesus as my Savior” [Romans 10:9-10]. Or, “I’m putting my life in this dear church.” Do it now, make it now, come now. So bless, Lord, as we wait, as we pray, as we rejoice in their coming. As the choir sings the appeal, thank Thee, Master, for the answered prayer, in Thy saving name, amen. Come.
THE WORD OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Why are we not idolaters?
A. The worship of anything other than God is idolatry (Luke 24:51-52, Revelation 4:8-10)
II. If not idolaters, then Christ is God
A. Purpose of Gospel of John is to present the deity of Christ
B. Christophany, a theophany (Isaiah 6:1, Genesis 32:30, Exodus 3:2, Joshua 5:13-15, John 20:28)
III. John’s presentation of the Lord Jesus
A. In the beginning was the Logos
1. logos – theological, philosophical expression in Greek
2. ho logos – definite article, “The Word”
a. Welcomed in the Pantheon; Christians refused
B. The incarnation (John 1:14)
1. The only begotten Son (John 3:16)