Believing What the Scriptures Say
June 17th, 1979 @ 10:50 AM
BELIEVING WHAT THE SCRIPTURES SAY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-17-79 10:50 a.m.
It is a gladness to welcome the uncounted thousands of you who are sharing with us this hour on radio and on television. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled Believing What the Scriptures Say. In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we are coming to the concluding verses of chapter 26.
As Paul the apostle stands in the Praetorium in Caesarea, the Roman provincial capital of Judea, he is being heard by Festus, the Roman procurator and by his guests, Herod Agrippa II, king of Lebanon and his sister Bernice. Herod Agrippa is a Jew and, on the basis of his being Jewish, Paul makes an appeal to him regarding the Word of God. Having recounted his conversion and his call to preach the gospel, addressing the king he says in verse 27, "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?" – the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures – "I know that thou believest" [Acts 26:27]. And thus the message, Believing What the Scriptures Say; the sermon is a summary, an overview, of the entire redemptive plan and purpose of God as it is revealed to us in the Bible.
In the beginning, how it all started – in the beginning God created this world, and universe, and infinitude of matter in which we live [Genesis 1:1-31]. He did it in two categories: number one, He created substance; He created reality; He created matter and when He created it; since that day, nothing has been added and nothing has been taken away. Matter may take form and shape in different categories. It may be solid like ice, it may be liquid and fluid like water, it may be vapor like cloud or steam, but matter is indestructible. It is the same yesterday, and today, and forever; nothing is added and nothing is taken away. It is a miracle created by the hand of God; substance, reality, the universe, matter.
The second great miracle of creation wrought by the hand of God is life. God spoke life into existence; it is a creation of the hand of God. No one adds to it, no one. The creation of life is a miracle of the Almighty. Five times in the first chapter of Genesis is it said that God created each one after his kind. The chain cannot be broken; it cannot be deviated, each after his kind. Hippopotami don’t give birth to elephants, and thistles do not grow orange trees; each after his kind. That is a creation of Almighty God, and in that kind, in that creation, God made man in His own likeness and in His own image [Genesis 1:27]. Were we the descendants of primates, and were we apes, and simians, and monkeys, then we could go to the brutes to find answers that plunge us in difficulty and frustration. But we were created in the image of Almighty God, and it is to God that we must turn to find all of the answers for human life. This is the creation of the Almighty Father in heaven.
In the providence of God, sin entered into the world and destroyed all of the beauty and proportion of God’s creation. First, it entered heaven, sin began in heaven [Isaiah 14:13-14; Ezekiel 28:15]. There was war in heaven [Revelation 12:7-9]. Wherever sin enters there is destruction and judgment [James 1:15], unfailingly. Sin is followed by darkness, by decimation. And when sin was found in God’s universe, the whole universe fell, all of it. There are blasted and blackened stars. There are planets that are barren and sterile; and the earth itself became in chaotic form, shapeless, dark, without habitation [Genesis 1:2]. Then, in the creative goodness of God, out of all of the fallen infinitude, the Lord chose this little planet in a redemptive purpose and plan. He recreated this planet and called it Eden [Genesis 2:8].
And in the midst of a garden in Eden, the Lord created a dear, beautiful couple, that they might have fellowship with Him; that they might talk to Him; might think His thoughts; might walk in His ways [Genesis 1:27]. But outside of the gate of the garden, there is a sinister and subtle beast. He is the same one that brought sin into heaven and destroyed the whole creation of God [Ezekiel 28:14-18]. He also entered into the beautiful garden and through the woman – deceived her, and through her wrought the destruction and fall of the man [Genesis 3:1-6]. And the earth itself became cursed like the rest of God’s infinite universe; the ground was cursed and brought forth thorns and thistles [Genesis 3:17-18]. The couple were cursed, and in travail and sorrow she brings birth [Genesis 3:16]. And he, by the sweat of his brow, toils all of the days of his life, and finally both fall into death and into the grave [Genesis 3:17-19]. And for as much as all have sinned, death passed upon all men [Romans 5:12]. This is the beginning.
Then in the infinite purpose of God, in His goodness and grace, the Lord planned some better thing for us. Nothing catches God unawares. He sees the end from the beginning, and He saw the fall of the universe, He saw the curse of the earth, and He saw the fall of the man. And in God’s goodness and grace, He planned a purpose-filled redemption to bring us to heights of glory that otherwise we could never have known. He made us a little lower than the angels [Psalms 8:5]; but when God’s infinite purpose is wrought through us, we shall be joint-heirs, fellow heirs with God the Son [Romans 8:17]. We shall reign and rule with Him on His throne [Revelation 3:2] – like Him – God having greatly elevated us and lifted us up, in the grace of His purpose through His Son. And that plan of redemption, that purpose of redemption, is revealed fully and marvelously in what we call the Holy Scriptures. God saw the whole program from before the foundation of the earth. The Lamb was slain from before the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8]. And God wrought out His purpose of redemption for us and for His creation through the centuries, and the ages, and the eons.
Thus it is in the beginning, in the garden of Eden, it is the choice of God that the redemptive Savior of the world should be of a woman, not of the man; of the woman. Redemption is brought to the world through woman and the first great protevangelium is spoken to her – it will be of her seed. A woman does not have Seed; a man has seed. The old rabbi’s pored over that promise not understanding it; we do today; redemption and the Lord Messiah Christ will be of a woman. It begins in the promise, "He will be of a woman" [Genesis 3:15]. As it continues, "He will be a Sethite" – He will be of the family of Seth [Genesis 4:25-26]. As the revelation continues, "He will be of Noah." And of Noah, "He will be of the sons of Shem" – He will be a "Semitic"; He will be a "Shemite." And of the Semitics, "He will be of Abraham." And of Abraham, "He will be of Isaac." And of Isaac, "He will be of Israel" – He will be of Jacob [Luke 3:23-38]. And of Israel, "He will be of Judah" [Genesis :10]. And of Judah, "He will be of David" [Jeremiah 23:5]. And of David, "He will be born in the little town called Bethlehem" [Micah 5:2]. This is the revelation of God – of His redemptive purpose through the ages and through the years.
Then the day finally came "in the fullness of time" [Galatians 4:4] when the Word was clothed with flesh, when God became incarnate [John 1:14]; when He came down from the heights of glory to be numbered with the children of men [Hebrews 10:4-14], and made "in fashion as a man, He became obedient unto death" [Philippians 2:6-8]. On the cross He paid the atonement price for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]. The price of sin is death, "the wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23]; "the soul that sins shall die" [Ezekiel 18:4]. And on the cross, Jesus died for every man [1 John 2:2]. He tasted death for us all, and the atonement for our sins in blood was made on the cross [Hebrews 2:9]. He was buried; the third day He was raised from among the dead [1 Corinthians 15:4]. He ascended into heaven [Acts 1:9-10] and there, in session at the right hand of God, He intercedes for us [Hebrews 7:25]. He is our great mediator, and lawyer, and defender, and pleader [Hebrews 7:25] – waiting until that consummation when His enemies shall be made His footstool [Hebrews 10:13]; when He shall come in power visibly, openly [Mark 13:26] to claim and to redeem His own and to take us in triumph and victory back to heaven [John 14:3]. "O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" [1 Corinthians 15:55-57].
And thus, as the Holy Scripture unfolds the purpose and plan of God through the ages, we come to the ultimate and final consummation. What does God do as He brings us to the denouement of the age and the final consummation of history? God does not forget these who in His purpose and will have been used of the Lord to bring us to that final triumph. First of all, He does not forget His chosen people, Israel [Romans 11:2]. God has through the years, and the centuries, and the ages wrought out that holy purpose in Israel. And God does not forget His chosen people. In the one hundred-fifth Psalm, verses 8 through 11, God says the land of Palestine is theirs for ever:
God hath remembered His covenant, the word which He commanded. . .
Which covenant He made with Abraham, and His oath unto Isaac;
And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant:
Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance.
The land of Palestine, the Holy Land, is theirs forever and God has promised through all of the prophets; for example, Amos. The last verses in the ninth chapter of Amos, God has said, "I will plant them there, I will return them there and they will never be plucked up again" [Amos 9:15]. In the goodness of God, the Lord hath promised that Israel shall dwell in the land of their promise forever and ever.
Let me turn aside to point out to you what I think is a modern miracle: that is the deep love of a Jew, an Israelite, for the homeland wherever he is in the world. I read a little poem by Yehuda Halevi:
My heart in the East,
and I in the remote West,
How can I relish what I eat, how savor its taste,
How can I keep all my vows and my bonds,
While Zion is in Edom’s territory, and I am in Arabia bound?
I would easily leave all the bounties of Spain
For one glimpse of the dust of the Temple’s ruins.
[from "My Heart Is In the East,"Yehuda Halevi]
That is unbelievable! "Everything that the whole nation of Spain could offer me, I would give it all just for one glimpse of the dust at the Temple’s ruins"; written in a day when the Jew was not allowed into Palestine. Do you feel that way about New York? You would give everything in this world for one glimpse of the garbage in New York? Would you do that? Would you do that about Chicago, would you? Do you feel that way about Chicago? We love Dallas. Would you give up everything in your life and everything in the world for a glimpse of a piece of mud on the banks of the Trinity ditch? Would you do that? We are just not like that; we do not think like that, we are not made that way. God never put us together like that, but He did the Jew!
Wherever there is an Israelite, you will find borne in his heart a love for, and a longing for, and a blessing upon the Holy Land. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let me right hand forget her cunning. If I do not prefer thee above my chief joy, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth" [Psalm 137:5-6]. We are not like that, we are not like about any town or any city, but the Jew is about the Holy Land. That’s God, that is how God does. You do not have to marvel at whether the Lord moves in the earth, just look! Just be sensitive and you will see His mighty hand in a thousand manifestations. That is one of them; that is one of them.
And then the Holy Scriptures say, according to the twentieth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, and many other prophetic passages, the Jew will go through a judgment. He shall, as Ezekiel calls it, "pass under the rod" [Ezekiel 20:35-37], and the Lord is going to judge every Jew. And those that are chosen and those that are faithful, they shall enter into the blessed millennium, in their land, in their home. And their capital will be the city of God, Jerusalem [Zechariah 14:16-17].
The second group is the church, called the bride of our Lord. At the consummation of the world, we shall gather in the presence of His glory, called the bema, the judgment seat, and there we shall be given our rewards [2 Corinthians 5:10]. Then we shall sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-9]. And then we also shall enter that beautiful kingdom called the millennium [Revelation 20:1-9]. And finally, in the purpose and grace of God, there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, cleansed and purged [Revelation 21:1]. There will be no more unrighteousness; there will be no more sin. There will be no more graves; there will be no cemeteries there – there will be no more funeral processions down those golden streets. And they will not put funeral wreaths on the mansions in the sky. "There will be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying. . . . for these things are all passed away" [Revelation 21:4]. God will purge His universe and there will be no more burned-out stars, and there will be no more black cinders [Revelation 21:5]. And there will be no more searing deserts, but the world will be filled with the righteousness and blessing of God as the waters cover the sea [Isaiah 11:9]. And everything in the universe will be perfect and in order just as God originally created it [Genesis 1:31]; the purpose of God unfolding through the ages and the ages.
I conclude. What kind of an impression does that make upon the heart of a man who believes the Scriptures? "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?" [Acts 26:27]. Believest thou the Holy Scriptures? Believest thou the promises of God? What kind of people are they who receive that revelation of the Lord and who treasure it in heart? There are two kinds; there are two reactions. Number one: it immediately, it immediately fills the heart with godly expectancy. My brother, there is not a one of you that reads – that can read – there is not a one of you but that is sensitive to the fact that the whole world is groping for an answer. Our politicians do not know what to say; our governments do not know where to turn; our economists are lost. Our great literary men write as though they were children. The whole earth is filled with dread and foreboding. But a child of God who receives the word and promise of the Lord, there is not anything for us but something better, "God having prepared some better thing for us," [Hebrews 11:40]. For us there is triumph, and glory, and victory, and joy. Sighing may be for the moment and the night, but gladness and joy come with the morning" [Psalm 30:5].
All of you old-timers remember that Mother Truett had two preachers. She was a plain, simple mountain woman who always wore a little bonnet, and when people would see her they would remark to her about her far-famed preacher, George W. Truett, the greatest preacher our Baptist people have ever produced. But Mother Truett would always reply, "Yes, yes, but have you heard my son, Jim?" She loved Jim, and Jim Truett retired in Whitewright, a little town northeast of Dallas near Sherman. Did you know in the years of his life, living there in a little cottage in Whitewright, every morning, every morning he would go to the window facing the east, raise the shades, and as the sun would rise, he would say, "Perhaps, perhaps my Lord will come today."
That is the assurance of the child of God! We are not defined by, hedged in, crushed by circumstances, or history, or human developments, or governments. We believe in the omnipotent ableness of God to triumph. And in His day and in His time, and in His elective purpose, He will come and set all things right. He will be King of the earth [Zechariah 14:9]. Our dead will be raised from the dust of the ground [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. We shall be transformed in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, and we all shall be changed [1 Corinthians 15:51-52]. That is the effect believing the Scriptures has upon the child of the Lord. He is filled with optimism, with hope and with Christian assurance.
And the second effect it has upon the human heart. There is godly meaning in all of our lives – all of it. This is God’s world, and we are His people, and what God hath given us is a stewardship that we keep for Him. I saw a pastor one time; I was visiting in his office, and he had a little motto, a little verse on his desk, and it said: "Occupy till I come." Taken out of the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, "Occupy till I come" [Luke 19:13]. That is exactly how the Christian reacts to the revelation of the purpose of God in these Holy Scriptures, "Occupy till I come."
You see this pulpit desk? It’s His, it’s His; this belongs to the blessed Jesus. This is His pulpit and I just occupy it until He comes, or a successor, until He comes. [It’s] just for the day, and the elective purpose and choice of God; but it belongs to Him. See this wonderful church? I facetiously say, and I am just half-way joking, "You know we are going to heaven from this place, right here! And if you are not here in this church, you are going to miss it." That’s what I tell them. Now, that’s not true, but that’s the way I feel, I love this place. This is God’s house and we just use it for Him until He comes. It’s God’s church, and we occupy it and worship His name until He comes. This is God’s world, it’s His world and we just occupy, we just have a portion and an assignment in it until He comes. And our whole life is like that, anything we have, it’s His and we just use it for the moment. And our breath is His, and our physical frame is His, and our days are His, and everything belongs to Him; and we just use it until He comes. Ah, how beautiful, and how precious, to turn over to God all of the issues of our lives. He reigns; He lives, and He is our friend. God is for us, not against us, and He is working through the ages to bring to pass that better thing for us.
And that is our invitation to you. To give your life to the wonderful Savior; to walk with us as a fellow pilgrim in this earth; to be a member of the family of God; to belong to the household of faith, "Today I accept Jesus as my Savior and I am on the way." Or, "I am bringing my family into the circle of this dear church, and here I sit, and here I come. Here I stand." A family, maybe a couple, or maybe just one somebody you, in a moment we will stand and sing our hymn of appeal and while we sing it, making that decision for Christ, on the first note of the first stanza take that first step down that stairway, down this aisle. "Look pastor, here I stand giving my heart to God, placing my life in the circumference, and fellowship, and communion of this wonderful church." Do it now. Make it now. When you stand up in a moment, stand up coming down that aisle. And the Lord’s angels attend you in the way as you respond, as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.
BELIEVING WHAT THE SCRIPTURES SAY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Creation and fall of the universe
A. The creation of God
a. Each after his own kind(Genesis 1:11-12, 21, 24-25)
b. Man in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7)
B. The fall
1. In heaven
2. On earth
II. The plan of redemption
A. Thepurpose of God from before foundation of the world(Revelation 13:8)
1. Revealed fully in the Scriptures
2. God wrought His purpose of redemption through the ages
a. Beginning in Eden, through the prophets(Genesis 3:15, 4:25-26, :10, Luke 3:23-28, Jeremiah 23:5, Micah 5:2)
B. Realized in the Word made flesh(Galatians 4:4, John 1:14, Philippians 2:6-8, Romans 6:23, Ezekiel 18:4, 1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
III. The new creation
A. God does not forget His chosen people, Israel
1. Their land(Psalm 105:8-11, Amos 9:14-15)
2. Their love for their land(Psalm 137:5-6)
3. Their judgment and entrance into the millennium(Ezekiel 20:33-44)
B. God does not forget His bride, the church
C. The new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:4)
IV. What do we see among those who believe?
A. Godly expectancy(Hebrews 11:40, Psalm 30:5)
1. Jim Truett
B. Godly accountability and living