Believing What the Scriptures Say
June 17th, 1979 @ 8:15 AM
BELIEVING WHAT THE SCRIPTURES SAY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-17-79 8:15 a.m.
In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we are in chapter 26. And the subject of the message is Believing What The Scriptures Say. It is a sermon built upon the question of the apostle Paul to King Herod Agrippa II. In Acts 26:27, as the apostle recounts his conversion and speaks of his calling from heaven, and the content of the message that he delivered, turning to the king he asks, "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest."
So the subject, Believing What The Scriptures Say: the message will be an overview, a summation of the entire plan of redemption as it is revealed to us in the Bible. Believing What The Scriptures Say.
It begins with; the Bible begins with the creation and the fall of the universe. "In the beginning God created substance and matter," the visible world [Genesis 1:1-23]. And since that day of creation, there has never been anything added to it, nor anything taken from it. The creation of God is indestructible and everlasting. Matter may change its form: it may be solid like ice, it may be liquid like water, it may be vapor like steam, but matter is unchangeable and indestructible in its essence and substance. No one ever adds to it, nor can anyone take away from it. What God created in the beginning is all there is, all there was, and all there ever shall be. It is a forever creative act of God.
In the same creation, God brought into being life; a miracle in itself [Genesis 1:24-31]. And five times in the first chapter of Genesis is it said that each kind produces after its kind [Genesis 1:9-25]. And there is no breaking of that creative order of God. Thistles don’t turn into orange trees, and hippopotami don’t turn into elephants. Each one produces after its kind. That is a creative mandate of God. And finally, the Lord God created the man in His own image [Genesis 1:27]. We are not primates, we are not simians, we are not anthropoids, we are not apes, we are not monkeys; we are created in the image of God. If we were primates, if we were apes, we would look to our brute ancestry for answers; but God created us in His image, therefore we lift our eyes to heaven for answers to the human heart. In that same Holy Scriptures, believing the Bible, there came a time in God’s order that the universe fell; all of it fell, the whole creation of God fell because there was sin found in heaven. Sin did not begin here in this earth, it began in heaven [Ezekiel 28:15-18]. There was war in heaven [Revelation 12:3-4, 7-9]. At the heart of this universe, there is contradiction, and conflict, and confrontation. Wherever sin is found, it destroys, it decimates. And when sin was found in heaven, the whole universe fell [Romans 8:19-22]. The stars fell. The universes fell. The planets fell. The earth fell. All God’s creation fell. There are burned-out stars. There are exhausted planets. This earth is cursed with desert, and with wind, and violence, and cold, and searing heat; the whole universe fell when sin was found in heaven [Isaiah 14:12-17].
In that fall, God re-created a little place in that vast infinitude around us, in a little planet called Earth [Genesis 1:2-25]. And yet when God re-created the beauty and the Edenic perfection of that little planet Earth, there was sin at the door [Genesis 2:8-9]. Sin in subtlety waited at the gate [Genesis 3:1]. And in the story of the Scriptures, the first holy beautiful pair that God had made to be like Him, to think His thoughts, to be in fellowship with Him, to talk to Him; it was a creation of a couple like Him, made in His image, to speak His language, to follow after Him [Genesis 1:26-27]. When God created that first couple, there was sin at the gate. The beast more subtle than any in the field was taken by the evil power that had confronted God, and in his subtlety he encompassed the fall of the woman and she of the man [Genesis 3:1-6]. So, all of God’s universe fell into disarray and disorder, disjointed, out of the fellowship and communion with God; lost in chaos and in darkness [Romans 8:19-22].
Believing the Scriptures, the Bible reveals to us that all of this was in the ultimate purpose and plan of the omnipotent Almighty [Isaiah 46:9-10]. It is hard for us to realize that no thing ever happens that surprises God. In ordering the universe, the Lord is never taken unawares. He sees the end from the beginning, and as such before the foundation of the world, God had in His heart a plan of redemption [1 Peter 1:18-20]. It was His purpose that the universe should be redeemed [Ephesians 1:10-12]. And in that purpose, God wrought out through the years and through the ages and through the centuries that ultimate good by which He brings to highest blessing the man that He created and ultimately the restoration and the re-creation of all of the work of His hands [Romans 8:19-22].
He began this purpose in the garden of Eden, and He continued it in the unfolding of the Scriptures through all of the ages that followed after. The Lamb was slain from before the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8]. In the garden of Eden, the Lord began to unfold His great plan of redemptive grace. He that should redeem us, bring us back to God, re-create us in His image, He that should come is to be of the woman [Genesis 3:15]. She encompassed the fall; the subtlety of the Satan deceived her [Genesis 3:1-6]. But in God’s goodness and grace, the redemptive plan is of her and not of the man. He who is to be the Savior of the world is to be of a woman [Genesis 3:15]. Then as the plan unfolded, the great Savior who is promised and yet to come is to be of Seth, of the family of Seth; He is to be a Sethite [Luke 3:38]. Then as the plan unfolds, He is to be of Noah and Shem; He is to be Semitic, He is to be a Semite [Luke 3:36]. Then as the plan unfolds, He is to be of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, of Israel [Luke 3:34]. And as the plan unfolds, He is to be of Judah [Luke 3:33], and finally of the house of David [Luke 3:31], and finally from the little town called Bethlehem [Luke 2:4, 11]. And thus is presented for us in the Holy Scriptures He who is to be the Savior of the world.
In the fullness of time, the Word was made flesh [John 1:14]. God became man. And the consummation of all of those great prophetic utterances found their realization in Jesus, born to save us from our sins [Matthew 1:21]. He lived an obedient life [Philippians 2:8]. He was crucified for our transgressions [Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. The crimson of His life was poured out into this earth for our sins [John 19:28-34]. He was buried [Matthew 27:57-61], and the third day He was raised again for our justification [1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 4:25], to be our great Champion, and Intercessor, and Advocate and Lord. After His resurrection [Matthew 28:1-7], He was ascended up into heaven [Acts 1:9-10], and there in session at the right hand of Almighty God, He pleads for us [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25]. He takes care of us. He watches over us. He answers our prayers. And He is our living Lord and redeeming Savior [Revelation 1:17-18].
It is the ultimate purpose of God, as we follow through the Holy Scriptures; it is the ultimate purpose of God that the whole universe is to be redeemed [Romans 8:19-22]. And in that redemption God does not forget these who have, in the ages past and through the centuries, been faithful to Him, and through whom God has wrought His great purpose of grace [1 Peter 1:18-20]. With all of the unbelief of some in Israel, and with all of the hardness of heart by which God condemned them, and with all of the tragedies that has overwhelmed Israel because of their apostasy and unbelief, yet God does not forget His chosen people in this great redemptive program of the ages. The Lord God has promised, and He will not change, that Israel shall be settled in her land, and that she shall be there forever and ever and ever:
God hath remembered His covenant forever, the word He commanded to a thousand generations. Which covenant He made with Abraham and His oath unto Isaac; And confirmed the same unto Jacob . . . and to Israel for an everlasting covenant: Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance.
God hath promised to Israel that that land shall be their home forever and ever. And that is a recurring theme in the Prophets as they look forward to the glorious and final visitation from heaven.
For example, Amos closes his prophecy with the word of the Lord that, "Israel shall be planted in the land of Palestine, in the land of Israel; and they shall never be uprooted again" [Amos 9:15]. To me, one of the miracles of modern history is to see that love of Israel for the Holy Land wherever a Jew is found. Look at this poem by Yehuda Halevi:
With 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 bonds,
While Zion’s in Edom’s boundary and I’m in Arabia bound? –
Now you look at this closing –
I would easily leave all the bounties of Spain
For one glimpse of the dust at the temple ruins.
["My Heart is in the East," Yehuda Halevi]
Whatever the whole world offers me I would exchange it for one glimpse of the dust where the temple of Solomon once stood.
Can you imagine that? We’re not like that. I wouldn’t give everything that I have in the world for a glimpse of New York or a glimpse of Chicago. I might discuss it with you about whether I’d do it for a glimpse of Dallas or not, but I’m not like that. I don’t have that feeling about any part of any city in America.
Here is a letter that I received from Dr. Larry Walker, professor of Hebrew at Southwestern Seminary. When the conclusion of the Six Day War, he wrote me this, and here is a paragraph in it: "During the Six Day War of last June, I was in Philadelphia graduating from a Jewish graduate school"; he’s professor of Hebrew over there, and one of our great friends and a professor in our Bible Institute.
It is impossible to relate the emotions of my Jewish professors. Our commencement speaker, a most distinguished and articulate Jewish scholar, repeatedly broke down and wept during his commencement address. The Jewish editor of the Philadelphia newspaper personally gave $500,000 out of his own pocket to aid his fellow Jews in Israel.
It is a modern miracle what is happening in the Holy Land and among those Jewish people!
Now, it is the purpose of God that they go through a judgment. It is described in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel and in other prophets [Ezekiel 20:3-]. They will go through a judgment; and then Israel shall enter the millennium in their own land, in the God of their fathers. The Lord hath purposed that in His great plan of redemption.
In that same marvelous infinite purpose of God, the church, the bride of Christ, shall have a beautiful and meaningful and significant place. All of God’s children in His church shall be gathered at the bema, the judgment seat of Christ. And there each one shall be assigned his reward [2 Corinthians 5:10]. Then we shall sit down with our Savior in the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-10]. And then we too shall enter the millennial kingdom [Revelation 20:1-9]. And finally, in the purpose of God there shall be created for us a new heaven and a new earth [Revelation 21:1]. It shall be renovated, it shall be redeemed, it shall be regenerated, it shall be rejuvenated; it will be cleansed and washed, and righteousness shall cover the face of the earth as the waters cover the sea [Habakkuk 2:14]. And there’ll be no more burned-out stars, and no more deserts, and there’ll be no more cemeteries, and there’ll be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying; for these things are all passed away, in God’s great redemptive purpose [Revelation 21:4]. And we who were created a little lower than the angels [Psalm 8:4-5], in the redemptive purpose of God we shall be fellow heirs with Christ the Lord God Himself, exalted and raised and blessed [Romans 8:17]. This is that better thing God hath in store for us [Hebrews 11:40].
Now, in conclusion, may I point out to you what happens to a man’s heart when he believes what the Scriptures say? Just a little summary of which I’ve sought to make just now; what happens to a man when he believes the Scriptures? First, there is born in that man, in that heart, there is born a godly expectancy. I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know when I say that the whole world is increasingly filled with despair. Our statesmen don’t know the answers. Our great men of literature don’t know the answers. Our teachers and professors don’t know the answers. Our world is increasingly plunged into the abysmal despair of not knowing. And not knowing, it is increasingly filled with dread and foreboding – what the future may hold. That’s the world. But when one reads the Holy Scriptures and believes in the promise of God, out of the chaos is creation; out of the darkness is light; out of the fall is redemption; and out of our despair is hope and assurance. That is the Christian. This thing is in God’s hands; it’s not in anyone else’s hands, it’s in the Almighty hand. And God is able to bring out of the darkness and the despair all of the glorious things He has promised for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9].
George W. Truett, who was the pastor of this church for forty-seven years, was the greatest Baptist preacher, a towering giant, the greatest Baptist preacher our Baptist people in America has ever produced. He had a brother named Jim Truett. And Jim Truett was the son that mother Truett particularly loved. When anyone would see humble, bonnet-wearing mother Truett, they’d always remark about her great preacher son, George W. Truett. And she would acquiesce, but say, "But have you heard my son Jim?" Jim Truett lived at Whitewright. And in his old age, you know what he did? In his age, every morning, every morning he would arise and raise the shade on the window toward the east of his house. And standing there, seeing the dawn and the sun rise, he would say, "Perhaps today He will come." That’s a beautiful thing and a marvelous expression of the Christian faith and the Christian assurance. "Perhaps today He will come," living in the expectancy of the intervention of God in human history. Never discouraged, never losing faith, never losing hope; tomorrow will be a better day because God is in it.
Number two: believing the Scriptures. Not only is there born in our hearts a godly expectancy, an assurance of an ultimate and final victory, but there is also born with it a beautiful and holy commitment in our work. This is God’s world! This is God’s purpose, this is God’s plan, and I in it am a part of whatever God purposes for good.
On a pastor’s desk I saw a little motto, "Occupy till I come"; made an impression upon me that he had placed that little Scripture on his desk, "Occupy till I come" [Luke 19:13]. This is God’s pulpit, and I just use it until He comes. It belongs to Him, and I just occupy this sacred place until He comes. It belongs to Him. This church is God’s church, and we rejoice in fellowship with one another, waiting till He comes; just here together, with our faces lifted upward waiting for the coming of our Lord. This is God’s church and we are just blessed by the special privilege and wonderful opportunity to be a part of it. It belongs to God; it’s His church.
This is God’s world. He owns it [Psalm 50:12]. He possesses it. He sits above the circle of the earth [Isaiah 40:22], and all things ultimately are in His order and in His elective choice. This is God’s world, and we are here waiting till He comes, it belongs to Him. And everything that I have, I have just for a moment, because it belongs to Him. And I just occupy till He comes. I don’t possess it. I can’t keep it. I just occupy until He comes. That is a great and hallowed truth. And instead of looking upon life and all of its definitions as being ultimately ending in despair, in death, and in the grave, just turn it in the revelation of God: these are the things God hath given us and placed in our hands, and we’re to use them for His glory until He comes, until He comes [Luke 19:12-18].
Last week, I stumbled into one of the dear members of our church who has a company over here in the Cotton Exchange building. He’s in some kind of accounting work and works a great deal with cotton men. So as I began talking to him, I found out how much he gives to the church. And I was amazed; I was astonished! It is a large sum that he gives to the church every year. I was amazed at it! And I exclaimed about it; I couldn’t help but be surprised at how much that young fellow gives to the church. You know what he did? He took out his wallet, he took out his billfold, and on one side of the billfold was a large placard in large letters. And this is what it read: "He is no fool who gives away what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose." And I . . . "He is no fool who gives away what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose." Oh! If I could just remember that in all of the things that God has given me. This house in which I live, this body, He created it; it belongs to Him, and I’m to use it for the while ’til He comes. And all the things that I possess, whatever they are, they’re just mine for the while until He comes. And all of the things in which we share in our lives, all of them, they belong to Him, and I just use them as a steward until He comes. And when our hearts are filled with that persuasion and that belief and that assurance, there’s a hallowedness about everything in our lives; what we are, what we possess, the church to which we are joined, the fellowship we have with each other, our opportunities and open doors to serve Jesus, all of it is sanctified and hallowed when we remember that we belong to Him, and we’re just pilgrims and sojourners [Hebrews 11:3], and we just use for a while what God placed in our hands. And someday standing in His presence, we shall give account how we have been a steward, how we have used what God has given us [1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10]. O Lord! May He find us faithful [1 Corinthians 4:2]. And may our lives be filled with rejoicing, and every step of the way be one of victory and triumph. What God hath purposed for us.
And that is our appeal to you this holy morning hour – to give yourself to the Lord Jesus, to belong to the congregation of His chosen people, and to walk in the pilgrim way by our sides, singing songs of gladness, our hearts filled with praise, our faces toward heaven. On the first note of the first stanza, as we sing this hymn of appeal – all of our people quietly remaining in the service during this invitation – down one of these stairways from the balcony, down one of these aisles from side to side; coming into the kingdom of God, or coming into the fellowship of His church, make the decision now in your heart, and when we stand to sing the appeal, be the first down that aisle, down that stairway. A family you, a couple, a one somebody you, while we pray, while we wait before God, while we sing and while we stand, make it now.