The Truth of the Faith
May 21st, 1978 @ 10:50 AM
THE TRUTH OF THE FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-21-78 10:50 a.m.
With gladness we welcome the multitudes of you who, across a great vast band of the Southwest, are listening to this service on cable television, and the thousands of others who are listening on Channel 39 in the great metroplex, and the other thousands who are sharing the hour with us on the two radio stations that carry it at this hour. This is the pastor bringing the message, in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, entitled Faith and The Faith, The Truth of the Faith. It is a message that has a background for our young people, particularly and especially, and it has a turn to it that I pray that the Lord will unusually bless.
As a background passage, not as a paragraph to be expounded, but as an introduction to the message that the pastor delivers today, I read from the Gospel of John, chapter 6, beginning at verses 66 through 69:
From that time many of the disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hath the words of eternal life.
And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
And in the background text, Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go if we turn aside from Thee, reject Thee? Thou hast the words of eternal life, and none other” [John 6:68-69]. You see, we fall into the persuasion that it is a matter of great faith on our part to believe in the Lord, and to believe in God, and to believe in His holy presence, creative in the world [John 5:17] and regenerative in our hearts [1 Corinthians 12:6; Philippians 2:13]. We are persuaded that that is a matter of tremendous faith, but the concomitant and the corollary also: we think to be an infidel, to be an atheist, is to have no faith at all. Is that true? Does it take more faith to believe in God and in Christ than it does to believe as an infidel, as an atheist believes? Is that right?
Well, we are going to look at it for just a moment this morning. And the avowal is that it takes more faith—indescribably more, illimitably more—to be an infidel, or an atheist, or an agnostic, or a rejecter and an unbeliever. It takes more faith to believe as they believe than it does to believe in the truth of the Lord God revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Now that is the thesis of the sermon, and we begin.
The faith of an infidel, and the faith of an unbeliever, and the faith of an agnostic is almost illimitable. It stretches credulity to an unbelievable extent. One: they believe that the whole world that you see around you—the firmament above us, life on this planet in which we share—that all of it just happened. No design, no intelligence, no creator; that all of it just happened. The intricacies of the vast system that we see above us and around us, the laws that govern them, the meticulous accuracy by which they obey them, that all of this is without design and without intelligence, that it just happened; it is an accident with no creator.
There was a man teaching a little class of junior boys and he had a pocket watch. And he laid the pocket watch on the little table in front of him, and he said, he said, “Boys, you see that watch?” He said, “Nobody made it. It just happened. There came rolling along one day some wheels, and they plopped down. There came rolling a spring, and it plopped in. And there came rolling around some hands, and they plopped on. And there came along a crystal, and it plopped on. Nobody made it. It just happened! And suddenly, it all got together, and there is my watch!” And one of those little junior boys, in astonishment, looked at his teacher and said, “Say, mister, ain’t you crazy?”
It takes a credulity beyond anything that man could imagine to believe that all of the vast infinitude of the intricacy of the world around us and in which we live just happened—there’s no intelligence back of it. What they believe is almost unbelievable!
Now when I look at the infinitude above and around me, and when I look at the world of life in which my own soul is cast, oh, what an endless, abounding library of facts and laws and governments do I see, in every area of observable life and creation. And then I listen to those men as they explain it, and they say this is what they believe: that it all began in a big bang! And out of that big bang, all of these intricacies developed thereafter. The great solar systems, and these cosmic laws, and all of the intricacies that we see in biology, and in botany, and in zoology, and in anthropology, that all of it came out of a big bang! That is their explanation of the whole universe and all the creation that we see.
I say it takes a credulity and a faith to believe that beyond anything that mind could imagine! It is just as likely that out of a big, accidental bang came all of the intricacies that we see in life as to believe that an explosion occurred in a printing shop, and, out of that big bang in the printing shop there came that set of International [Standard Bible] Encyclopedias on religion that I have in my study.
And, you know, thinking about these thoughts, I just walked around in my study, which is very spacious and has several thousand books in it, and I looked at that International Encyclopedia, and I thought, “Well, that was a big bang.” And then I look at the that Encyclopedia Britannica, and that was a big bang. And I looked at all these books the other day, and I say, “All that’s a bang, and a bang, and a bang, and a bang; here a bang, there a bang, everywhere a bang, bang. Bang, it just happened!”
That’s what they believe. That’s what they teach. I say it takes a faith and a credulity beyond anything mind can imagine to believe what the infidel believes and the atheist believes. It is a credulity beyond anything that I could describe, and we’ve just begun. To be an atheist, to be an infidel, you have to believe that life has no meaning, no purport, no consummation, no goal. It is absolutely without meaning and without purpose.
Can you believe that? Here’s a father and a mother, and they take in their arms a little baby that is a miraculous creation in itself. And they love the child and care for the child, and then they educate the child, and then they pray for the child, and they guide it with the best wisdom that they have: for what end? To feed it to the worms, to see it fall into the grave! That, to them, is the holy end and the purpose of life. Can you believe that? All of the emotions we feel in our souls, all the dreams that crowd our minds, all of the longings of our hearts—that there is no meaning and no purpose in it at all; just food for the worms, and a consummation found in the darkness of the grave.
Again they believe, this is their faith, that there is no ultimate standard of good. Everything is relative. It’s however you choose for yourself, but there is no ultimate good. There’s no God! There’s no ultimate righteousness. There’s no final canon standard; it’s just relative, and however you might choose for yourself.
That’s why a banker had an applicant, and when the banker found out he was an atheist, the banker said, “I don’t want you handling my money. I don’t want you handling the accounts of these people who trust me and place their savings here in this bank.” And the atheist said, “But sir, I am honest, and I’ll be, and I’ll be honest in the bank.” And the banker replied, “Yes, you are now, but how do I know you might change your mind, because you are responsible to nobody in honesty and morality but to yourself, and I am afraid of you. I won’t have an atheist responsible for the funds in my bank.” That is the Lord’s truth! A man who looks just to himself for the standard of righteousness, and is responsible just to himself, is a man that could do anything, anytime, anywhere, anyhow.
But if a man is a believer in God and he’s accountable to God, he lives in an altogether different kind of a moral world. There is an ultimate standard of goodness and a morality and a righteousness, and it lies in God. And if you don’t believe in that, it takes a faith for the goodness of man beyond what is demonstrable in human history and in human life.
Again, the faith of an atheist and of an infidel: it takes an illimitable faith to believe that you could find a form of behavior in skepticism. How in the world would you systematize it? How in the world would you describe it? The skeptics, the infidels, the atheists of this world are a bedlam of voices. There’s no one of them agrees. They all disagree, and they all have different programs and different explanations. And to weave it and to make it into one great, vast program of behavior is impossible. It cannot be done! And to have faith that it could be done is beyond what anybody could ever imagine.
Look again at the faith of an infidel and the faith of an atheist. The whole Bible to them is a piece of antique literature and has no more pertinency for us than the works of Homer, or of Shakespeare, or of any other volume written down for man to read. Isn’t that an amazing and an astonishing thing to believe?
There’s only one book in the world that has in it prophecy—prophecy, purporting to foretell the future, and it’s this Book that I hold in my hands. And I read prophecies back here that were written thousands and thousands of years ago, and they are coming to pass today. I read prophecies in this Book that were written thousands of years ago, and they came to pass in the life of our Lord. How one could blind himself to the truth and the revelation of God in the Bible takes a faith beyond anything that I could ever imagine. The whole gamut of the blessed Word of God to them is just nothing. Its witness and its testimony is sterile and void. How does a man believe that? How does he ever come to see that?
And again, on the pages of that Holy Bible is presented the immaculate and glorious character of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. How do you create a character like Jesus? For a man to create a character like Jesus, to write it down in a book, would be for the man himself to be a Christ, a Jesus. He’d have to invent His life. He’d have to invent His words. He would have to invent the whole spirit that made Jesus Jesus. He’d have to be Jesus. He would have to be Christ to create the Christ. No man could do that. Man can’t think that, man can’t say that, man can’t do that, and to believe that he could is a faith beyond anything that credulity could ever accept.
May I make one other out of a jillion others that I could say? The faith that it takes to be an infidel and the faith that it takes to be an atheist—that life can be beautiful and precious and godly without God, and without the Christian faith, and without all of those things that pour into our souls from heaven that make us better than we are—how is it, how is it that a life can be beautiful, and precious, and saintly, and godly, and the energizing force back of it and in it is the faith of an infidel or the faith of an atheist? How could it be?
Did you hear me, do you remember a few months ago, I was speaking of a preacher whom I knew—a man, he came to church here one time, a world-famous expositor of the Bible. He was preaching on the streets in San Francisco with a Salvation Army band, and one of those infidels out there, typical of that part of the world, walked up to him, and before all the crowd gathered there on the street said, “I challenge you to a debate!”
And the preacher said, “Fine, I accept your challenge. You name the place, you name the time, and I’ll be there. But I have just one request: when we have our debate, you bring a hundred men with you who have been lifted out of the gutter, regenerated and saved by the gospel of atheism and infidelity, and I’ll bring a hundred men who have been raised out of the gutter by the gracious goodness of the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God. You bring a hundred saved by infidelity, and I’ll bring a hundred saved by the gospel of the Son of God.”
There’s no debate. Where would you find one man in the whole world lifted out of the gutter of iniquity, depravity, by the gospel of infidelity and atheism? Let me tell you young people something. Some of these days, in about three months, some of you are going to Russia, and you are going to Moscow, and when you go to Moscow, you will do like all the rest of us. You will want to be in that vast throng, looking on the dead, cold face of Lenin, that mausoleum in the center of the Red Square before the frowning walls of the Kremlin. That is atheism and that is infidelity. That’s the gospel of a man who doesn’t believe in God and who rejects Christ.
The father of it was Karl Marx, whose life I haven’t time to recount. One of the sorriest wretches who ever lived! He let his own children starve to death; Karl Marx. And you’re going to look on the cold, dead face of Lenin; died at fifty-four years of age in 1924, and he died of syphilis. When you look on his face, remember that, and when you look, compare it to the sainted life of the blessed Jesus. Can you imagine His dying of a venereal disease? Can you? Or when you look on his dead face, think of the life of the sainted apostle John, or Francis of Assisi, or John Wesley, or your own sweet, wonderful Christian mother. Think of it.
The difference between infidelity and Christianity is the difference between damnation and heaven itself. And I’m just avowing that for a man to believe that the gospel of infidelity and atheism can produce a beautiful and precious and saintly life is to believe what I think is a credulity beyond imagination. It takes faith, faith indescribable, to be an infidel or an atheist.
Now I want to turn it around. What is the faith of the Christian? “Lord, Thou hast the words of eternal life; and if we turn away from Thee, to whom shall we go?” [John 6:68]. Now I want to describe the faith of a Christian. We believe in God, the Creator of heaven and earth [Genesis 1:1], and we believe that He is revealed to us, that He is made known to us, in Jesus our Lord; “He that hath seen Me,” said the blessed Jesus, “hath seen the Father” [John 14:9]. Paul says He is the image of the invisible God [Colossians 1:15]; Paul says that He holds all things by His right hand [Colossians 1:17]. He is “the way, and the truth, and the life” [John 14:6]; to look at Jesus is to look at God, and to know Jesus is to know God, and to love Jesus is to love God, and to follow Jesus is to follow God, and to give your life to Jesus is to give your life to God [John 14:7-9]. And to know the will of Jesus for your life is to know the will of God for your life, and to receive from His hands precious blessings, benedictory, heavenly, is to receive them from the hands of God.
That’s the faith of a Christian: that we know God, the great Creator [Genesis 1:1], in Jesus our Lord—that all things were made by Him [John 1:3; Colossians 1:16]. His omnipotent hand created it all. He is the Logos from all eternity [John 1:1], the God that speaks, and the God that acts, and the God that creates, the God whom we know and love, revealed to us in Jesus Christ [John 1:18]. Then, as I see, this is the faith of the Christian [John 6:29]. Then God presents Himself to me as someone who is for me, not against me. He is for me. He forgives me. He loves me. He seeks my highest good and my best welfare. He is that kind of a God, revealed to me in Jesus Christ [Colossians 2:9].
Now look at how wonderful that is. And He knows all about me. Hebrews 4:13 says “before whose eyes our souls are opened and naked.” He knows all about me: every thought that I think, every iniquitous desire I have ever desired, every false, and demeaning, and squalid, and iniquitous thing that has ever gone through my mind, every unrighteous deed I’ve ever done. He knows all about me and loves me still [Romans 5:8]. That is love at its best and at its highest, like your love for the child that does wrong. To hate the child because he does wrong is one thing; a far more heavenly thing is to love the child, even when he does wrong, to help him do right—that’s God! He sees me, and He knows I have a tendency to stray, like a lost sheep [Luke 15:4-7]. He sees me, and He knows that my life is prodigal, like that of a wayward son. But His attitude toward me is one of love, and of comfort, and of forgiveness, and of invitation [Luke 15:11-32]. That is the faith of the Christian.
Then it goes further: He sees and He knows that sin alienates. Sin separates. It always does. Sin will separate between a man and his wife. Sin will separate between a boss and his employee. Sin will separate between two friends. Sin will separate wherever it appears, and sin separates us from God, and He sees that and He knows that [Isaiah 59:2]. So the Lord Jesus Christ with one hand holds to the hand of God, and with the other hand He holds to the hand of us sinners, and He reconciles us together in Him [1 Timothy 2:5]. He puts us together: the holy heavenly God and the sinful and wayward and iniquitous man [Romans 5:8]. But somebody has to pay a debt. “The soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:4], and “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23], and I can’t pay it. I could never be righteous enough to pay it, and I could never be rich enough to pay it.
He pays it for me. He dies in my stead. He is my substitute, and when He died on the cross, He bore my sins in His own body on the tree [2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24]. And God imputes to me His purity, and His righteousness, and His goodness, and His perfection [1 Corinthians 1:30], and I am given life for death, forgiveness instead of condemnation [Ephesians 2:1-9]. That is the Christian faith. And when He died for my sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], He did not remain in the sepulcher. That tomb is empty [Matthew 28:5-7]. He was raised for my justification [Romans 4:25], that is, to be my Friend, and my Lawyer, and my Advocate, and my Mediator, and my Pleader, and my Priest [Hebrews 4:14-16, 7:25]. He is there at the right hand of God to see me through [Hebrews 10:12].
And I can talk to Him. There is no problem I face in life but that I can take to Him and ask Him all about it, and in weakness, find strength; in discouragement, find encouragement; when I am lost, to see light from His blessed face; words of wisdom that fall like dew distilled from His lips. Paul said in Romans 5:10, “For if, when we were sinners, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son,” He paid the debt, “much more, being reconciled now, we shall be saved by His life,” His life in glory. He says, “Come boldly to the throne of grace, and find strength in the hour of need” [Hebrews 4:16].
He is living, a living Lord, a living Savior, to meet every need of our lives. That means in youth, that means in manhood, that means in old age, that means in death, and that means in the eternity that is to come; He is my Friend. That’s the Christian faith. God is for me. His grace is all-sufficient. He is a companion and a friend that walks by our sides. And He promises me life abundant [John 10:10], abounding, eternal; life here, life hereafter; His presence and blessing now, His presence and blessing in the eternity that is yet to come [John 10:27-30]. That is the Christian faith.
And it is mediated to me how? By my righteousness? No. By my goodness? No. By my worth or loveliness? No. It is mediated to me in a simple way, to which all of us can respond, and in which all of us can share [Romans 10:8]. Had the way to respond to the grace and goodness of God been any one of a thousand ways that I could name, there’s some of us that couldn’t make it. If you had to be smart, in order to be saved, there’s some of us that couldn’t make it. I preach at 8:15 in the morning to a large group of—we call them Special Education children and young people. Their minds have been damaged in some way, and they are retarded. But the way to be saved is so simple that these retarded ones, I baptize all along the way. It isn’t because we are smart that we are in the kingdom of God, because some of us may not be smart. And in a thousand other ways that I could say, we might, some of us, be denied. What if we bought it? What if it were for a price? Then some of us too poor, never be able to purchase it; or to be worthy of it, to be righteous and good: not one of us would ever be able to achieve it. God mediates it to us in a decision, in a commitment [Romans 10:9-10]; and that, the humblest and the poorest and the most unlearned among us can do.
I have preached the gospel to Stone Age Indians and have seen them saved. I have preached the gospel to people who were in the darkest level of life in the heart of Africa, and I’ve seen them saved. There is no stratum, there is no culture, there is no civilization, there is no societal structure in which a man finds himself that he cannot be saved. The Lord made it that way, that all of us might find an entrance.
Jesus illustrated it like this: if a man were bitten by a serpent, if he would just look at the brazen serpent raised in the wilderness, he would be saved [Numbers 21:6-9; John 3:14-15]. Do you think of that? Just by looking; why that? I’ll tell you why. There were some of them who were dying, bitten of those tenuous serpents, those fiery snakes; there were some of them dying from that venomous bite that could not do anything else but lift up their eyes and look. That’s all. They couldn’t do anything more. They were dying, and all they could do was just look [Numbers 21:6-9]. It was so with that malefactor who was crucified with Jesus. All he could do was just turn his head to the Lord Jesus and ask Jesus to save him [Luke 23:42-43].
And that’s the way it is to be saved. We’re not saved because we’re smart, and we’re not saved because we’re rich, and we’re not saved because we’re good. We are saved by the grace of God [Ephesians 2:8-9]. We’re saved in the mediation of His love and grace to us by a decision to accept Him, to look at Him in faith, to expect healing from His nail-pierced hands.
I bowed my head one time and I prayed, “Dear Lord, what is it to have saving faith? What must I do to be saved?”
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:30-31].
“Lord, what is that faith that saves?” And as I prayed, there came to my mind, as though in answer from heaven, 2 Timothy 1:12: “For I know whom I have believed,” and there is that word faith. “For I know whom I have believed,” and that was the word I wanted to know the meaning of. “For I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” [2 Timothy 1:12]. And that was God’s answer to my heart.
Saving faith is a commitment to the Lord. I commit to Jesus my days and my time. I commit to Jesus my soul. I commit to Him my eternity, my every tomorrow. I commit my life to the Lord Jesus, like a man mailing a letter commits the epistle to the post office. Like a man making a deposit at the bank, he commits his savings to the bank. Like a man signing an insurance policy, he believes and he commits maybe his wife and his children and their care to an insurance company. It’s a commitment of your life to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in a simple decision that we’re added to the kingdom, that Jesus comes into our hearts, that the Spirit of God regenerates us [John 3:3, 7]; and God does the rest. He has promised, and He will faithfully keep that word.
And that’s our invitation to your heart today, to make that decision for Christ. “I will commit my soul to the keeping of the blessed Savior. I believe He is able to see me through, and I’m taking Him. F-A-I-T-H, Forsaking All, I Take Him, and I’m coming.” That simple decision, that volitional choice, that casting of your life and lot with Jesus, that’s what it is to be a Christian. That is saving faith.
And the thousands of you that have been listening to this service on radio and television, if you have never opened your heart to Jesus, today would you say, “Lord, come into my heart. I commit my soul and my life to Thee. Lord, write my name in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. Count me among those on the pilgrimage road to glory.”
And in the great throng in this auditorium this morning, a somebody you: “Today, today, I take Jesus as my Savior [Romans 10:9-13]. I ask Him and believe He will do it, to forgive my sins [1 John 1:9], to write my name in His book in heaven [Luke 10:20], to take care of me in an abounding life here [John 10:10], and to give me eternal life in the world to come” [John 3:16, 10:27-30]. Would you come and stand by me? There are families here to come into the fellowship of the church, gather the children together, father and mother, and come. A thousand times welcome. Somebody giving his heart to Jesus, to be baptized as the Lord commanded us who have trusted Him as Savior [Matthew 28:19-20], come. Every Sunday night we have a baptismal service at 6:30 o’clock just for you. If there is someone today, this hour, who has felt the call to a special full time vocational service in the Lord, you come: “God’s called me to be a staff member for Him.” “God’s called me to be a preacher for Him.” “God’s called me to be a missionary for Him, and I’m answering that call with my life.” In a moment when we stand, as the Spirit shall open the door, tugging at your heart, would you answer with your life? Walk down that stairway, walk down this aisle—there’s time and to spare; if you are in the last seat of the second balcony, come now. The greatest decision you’ll ever make is that decision for God. Make it now, and may angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
OF THE FAITH
I. Rejecting our Lord requires faith
illimitable and unbounding to believe
A. That the world
around me just happened
B. That there is no
purpose in life
C. That there is no
standard for goodness, righteousness or morality
D. That you can create
a system of behavior out of skepticism
E. That the Bible is a
mere piece of antique literature
1. Bible and Christian
religion only faith with prophecy
2. The portrayal
and presentation of Christ
F. That atheism can
create as beautiful a life as the Christian faith
God is made known to us in the incarnate Christ Jesus (John 14:9, Colossians 1:15, John 14:6, 1:1)
attitude toward us is one of love
He sees me as I am (Hebrews 4:13)
Knows that sin separates (Ezekiel 18:4, Romans
a. He bridges the gulf
between God and me
He was raised for our justification
Our living Lord, intercessor, mediator (Romans
5:10, Hebrews 4:16)
offers us eternal life now and hereafter
in a simple way (Numbers 21:9, John 3:14-15,
Come to Him in act of faith and commitment (Acts
16:34, 2 Timothy 1:12)