Adorning the Doctrine of God
September 7th, 1980 @ 8:15 AM
ADORNING THE DOCTRINE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-7-80 8:15 a.m.
It is an infinite gladness to welcome the uncounted thousands of you that are listening to this hour on the two radio stations that bear it. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled Adorning the Doctrine of God. Today begins the two tremendous series of sermons that, first in the morning hour, will last over three years: The Great Doctrines of the Bible. And beginning tonight at 7:00, the series that will carry us to the Christmas time, delivered at 7:00 tonight: the title of the message tonight is Noah: Drugs, Drunkenness, and Nakedness. It is a sermon that will burn your ears. And if you are inclined to be shocked, do not come tonight, Noah: Drugs, Drunkenness, and Nakedness. It will be an exposition of the Word of God, but one that is as pertinent as the headlines that are now being made in the newspapers.
And today at this hour, at the morning hour, we begin the long series on The Great Doctrines of the Bible. There are two introductory messages: the one this morning, Adorning the Doctrine of God, and the one next Sunday morning, How God Teaches His Doctrinal Truth. This one this morning on epistemology; the next one, next Sunday morning, on hermeneutics.
In Titus 2, verse 10 is the biblical phrase that gives rise to the message of the morning. Titus 2:10, "That we may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things." First we shall speak of the definition of "doctrine." There are two words in that text. Kosmeo, translated "adorn": kosmeo means "to beautify, to glorify." The Greeks called the universe a "cosmos" because it seemed to them so beautifully well ordered. A woman beautifying her face will use a Greek word describing the effort that she’s making, she "cosmetizes," she uses cosmetics to make her face beautiful. So the word kosmeo: to beautify, to adorn, to make attractive and lovely. Then the second word, "adorning the doctrine of God our Savior," the Greek word is didaskalia, translated "doctrine." Actually, it’s the common, ordinary word of "teaching." The Greek word for "to teach" is didasko . Our word "didactic" comes from it, didasko – to teach – didaskalia is what is taught; the teaching. So it is also translated, "doctrine," the teaching, the doctrine, the summation of what is known and what is revealed. Forty-eight times in the New Testament is that word used: the doctrine, the teaching, the didaskalia. The church in Jerusalem continued steadfastly and faithfully in the apostles’ "doctrine" [Acts 2:42].
You have a good instance of the much use of that word in Paul’s pastoral epistles to Timothy and to Titus. Paul will write in 1 Timothy 4:13:
Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation – to didaskalia – to doctrine,
He closes the chapter:
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the didaskalia – the doctrine – continue in them: for in doing this you will save yourself, and them that hear thee.
[1 Timothy 4:16].
In chapter 6 of 1 Timothy, "Teach the didaskalia which is according to godliness," 6:3. In 2 Timothy, he will write, in 3:16, "All Scripture, all of it is theopneustos, given by inspiration, God-breathed, and is profitable for didaskalia, for doctrine. The next chapter, chapter 4, "I charge thee before God: preach the word, exhort with all longsuffering and didaskalia – doctrine" [2 Timothy 4:1-2]. And in Titus, the second chapter begins, "Speak thou the things which become sound didaskalia." And then my text: "Adorn the didaskalia of God our Savior in all things" [Titus 2:10].
Most evidently therefore, a sure and certain deduction in reading the Holy Scriptures: the doctrine, "the doctrine" is a body, a summation, a group, a collection of teachings – a body: revealed truth, a definitive, definite body of truth, revealed to us from the mind and heart of God. You have a magnificent presentation, an illustration of that, in an exhortation that Jude makes in the third verse: he says, "We should earnestly contend for," the Greek word is epagonizomai. Epi would be an intensive, prepositional particle; epi – agonizomai, our "agonize" comes from it – epagonizomai, translated "earnestly contend for." Now look how he writes that in the Greek ",for the once-for-all, delivered unto the saints, faith; the once-for-all, delivered unto the saints, faith,contend earnestly for, agonize for the faith." Not just any system or any body of truth or any doctrine but "the once-for-all, delivered unto the saints, faith." It is a definite, definitive body of truth, "the doctrine," or, "the faith."
In the first chapter of the Book of Galatians, Paul says he received that body of truth "not from flesh and blood, not from men, but from Jesus Christ Himself"; by direct revelation, the doctrine, "the faith" [Galatians 1:11-12]. He kept that true to martyrdom and to death. In the fourth chapter of 2 Timothy, just before he was beheaded by Nero, he wrote, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" [2 Timothy 4:7]. Earnestly contend for "the once-for-all, delivered unto the saints, faith" [Jude 3].
It is final; it is complete; it is once-for-all, forever, delivered unto the saints – unto us. The Book of the Revelation, chapter 22 closes with a word, and a threatening one: we are not to add to it, we are not to take away from it [Revelation 22:19]. No true preacher has the right to express his own judgments and opinions against it. The preacher is to be a voice, he is to be an echo, he is to deliver the faith, the truth of God as it is revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. It is a definite body of truth.
Again, that definitive faith – the doctrine of God – is revealed to us in the mind and heart and the self-revelation of God Himself. That’s where it comes from. In philosophy, there is a branch of that philosophical teaching called "epistemology." Epistemology refers to how we know, our knowing. Epistemology is a study of the origin, and the methods, and the validity, and the limits of knowledge.
Now in that philosophical branch – the study of knowing, how we know – the ancient Greeks struggled with the question. And Plato said that the source of true knowledge is to be found in the mind; it’s to be found in ideas; it’s to be found in reasoning. Plato would say, for example, "The chair isn’t real, that’s not the real thing. That will soon be destroyed. And that’s a chair over there, that’s not the real thing. There’s a chair there; that’s not the real thing, that’s temporary. The real thing," Plato would say, "is the idea of "chair," and that abides forever." Plato taught that real true, final, knowledge is in the mind; it’s in the idea; it’s in the reasoning. And all of your idealists through the ages trace their beginning back to Plato.
Aristotle, on the other hand, taught that the source of true knowledge is found in our senses – it’s in factual observation; it’s looking and seeing and feeling and testing – it comes to us through our senses, Aristotle said. Consequently all of your empiricists, and pragmatists, and humanists, and secularists, and materialists trace their beginning back to Aristotle.
Now, in our epistemological discussions, the Christian is taught that in neither one of those areas is the final, true knowledge to be gained. We do not know ultimate truth by the reasoning of our minds. Job said, "Who by searching could find out God?" [Job 11:7]. The knowledge is higher than the heavens, it is deeper than hell, it is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. No man by reasoning can find out God.
The same book would say to us that no man comes into the final and ultimate knowledge by his senses, by factual observation. You can look at the earth and all of its phenomenon forever and never come to the knowledge that we want to know: where did we come from? And what is the meaning of life? And where are we going?
So the Christian faith in its epistemological conceptions say that we cannot know the ultimate and final truth by the reasoning of our mind or by the use of our senses; the Christian faith avows that we can only come into the true and ultimate knowledge through a self-revelation of God. And that self-revelation of God is called "the doctrine" – the didaskalia or "the faith" – and that we preach from this Holy Word.
Now having discussed the definition of doctrine – that it is the self-revelation, the self-disclosure of God – we now discuss the significance and the importance of the doctrine, the faith. First: it is the foundation of Christian life and Christian living. If the foundation is strong and correct, then the superstructure above it can be likewise strong and correct. But if the foundation be weak and untrue, then the walls of the life built upon it will surely collapse. And that is the tragedy that has overtaken modern civilization and modern culture. We have turned aside from the sure foundations of God, and we are building our civilization upon the sand.
The psalmist cried, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" [Psalm 11:3]. There are millions and millions who have been misled by the rosy promises of humanism, and secularism, and materialism – pseudoscience and false philosophy – and they have fallen into existential despair, and in awesome fear of the frightful monster, a Frankenstein they have created. There are other millions and millions who have found themselves in the darkening hopelessness of human speculation, having turned aside from the great foundations of the truth of Almighty God.
Thomas Hardy, who died in 1928, was the greatest literary genius of the English-speaking world in our times. He was a typical modernistic man. And I have here, copied from his works, one of the most wistful utterances that a man could ever write. Thomas Hardy stands in a church, watching the people at worship, and he says,
Since heart of mine knows not that ease
Which they know; since it be
That He who breathes All’s Well to them
Breathes no All’s Well to me,
My lack might move their sympathies
And Christian charity!
I am like a gazer who should mark
An inland company
Standing upfingered, with "Hark! hark!
The distant sea!"
But I feel, "Alas, ’tis but yon dark
And wind-swept water to me!"
[adapted from "The Impercipient"; Thomas Hardy]
It is the pity and the soaring tragedy of modern civilization that has lost the great spiritual foundations it once knew. That is first: the foundation of the Christian life is the great doctrinal truths of the Revelation.
Second: these doctrinal truths, this didaskalia, forms and shapes the church as a dipper forms and molds and shapes the water. If the doctrine, if the teaching is heretical and deviational, the church will be heretical and deviational. If the doctrine, if the teaching is true and reflects the mind and heart of God, the church will be true and will reflect the self-revelation of God in Holy Scripture.
During those years that approached 300 AD, there appeared a heretic, a gifted and mighty genius of a man named Arias. And he taught that Jesus was not God. He swept the whole world by his tremendous oratorical and forensic abilities. So much so that one said to Athanasius, who believed in the deity of Christ, that the whole world was against him. And Athanasius made that famous reply, "Then it is I, Athanasius, against the whole world!"
Arias said, discussing the nature of Christ, Arias said that, "He homoiousios." He is "like" God; not God, but He is "like" God – homoiousios. He is like the essence of God, like the substance of God. Athanasius said, "Jesus is homoousios – of the same substance and of the same essence of God – God our very God, the deity of our Lord." It was settled, as you know, in Nicaea, in the first tremendous council in 325 AD. And you have out of it the Nicene Creed, depicting and declaring the deity of our Lord, the Godhead of Christ. You have it in my text here: "Adorn the doctrine of God our Savior, God the Lord Jesus" [Titus 2:10].
Now Edward Gibbon, in his tremendous, the greatest historical work of all time, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon – who was an agnostic at least, and maybe an atheist – Edward Gibbon, sarcastically writing of that tremendous rupture in the Roman Empire, he said, "They tore the empire apart over a Greek iota": the difference between homoiousios and homoousios.
Thomas Carlyle picked that up, and one time he used it as an illustration of the forensic, impertinent, caustic, debating differences of the clergy; that they’re always quarreling over some inconsequential, insignificant matter. But Thomas Carlyle in his later years, in his age, made an apology for that observation. He said, "I have come to see that in some of these tremendous declarations of the faith lie the very existence of the faith of our Lord." And that is true!
There is not a mathematician, there is not a chemistry major who works with chemical formulae, there’s not an astronomer, there’s not a banker, there’s not a man in the world who would say it is immaterial where that decimal point is placed. There’s not a man in the world who would say it does not matter which one of those digits you use and which ones might be transferred. For us to have the truth in chemistry, or in mathematics, or in banking, or in economics, or in astronomy, that decimal point and that digit is absolutely vital! And it is so in the doctrines of the faith, once-for-all, delivered to the saints, that it be true and correct according to the self-revelation of God.
Number three, talking about the all significance of the faith, it is the foundation of the Christian life, that’s one. It molds and forms and makes the church, that’s two. Number three: rigidity of belief has marked the course and destiny of Christian history; that’s what gave it life in the first place!
When the Christian faith was launched out of that insignificant, inconsequential Roman province of Judea, and was launched into the Mediterranean, Roman, Greek world, it faced a world of idolatry. It faced a world where patriotism was identified with bowing before the image of the emperor, emperor worship. But the Christian was unbending in his faith and in his doctrine. To him it was Kurios Iēsous, Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord." But to the world it was, Kurios Kaiser, "Caesar is Lord." And because of their unbendingness, you have the story of the Roman Coliseum, and the Christians fed to the lions or burned at the stake. It is a rigidity of doctrine that gave it primacy in the days of the Roman Empire; they refused to compromise or to bow before the image of Caesar. The whole course of Christian history is the story of that rigidity of doctrine, the unbendingness of the faith.
Our Christian America was founded upon the commitment of our Puritan and Pilgrim fathers to a free church in a free state. The little Baptist congregation in England, persecuted under King James I, fled to Holland. But while they were in Holland, their consciences struck them, and they said, "It is not right for us to remain in Holland to avoid persecution." So the little band of Baptists returned to England at the peril of their lives. And their pastor, Thomas Helwys, wrote a treatise – a tract, on religious liberty and sent it with a letter to King James I. And in the letter, these are the words that he wrote, quote:
The king is a mortal man, and not God. Therefore hath no power over ye, immortal souls of his subjects, to make laws and ordinances for them, and to set spiritual lords over them. If the king has authority to make spiritual lords and laws, then he is an immortal God and not a mortal man.
And as they closed in their Amsterdam Confession, "For Christ is the only King and lawgiver of the church and of conscience."
The king never read words like that, nor did any monarch in the history of the world. And they flung Thomas Helwys into prison and kept him there until he died. But it is the rigidity of faith, of belief, of didaskalia, of the doctrine, that has shaped the course of human history and is the foundation of our Christian America.
I come now to the second part of that tremendous verse: we are to kosmeo – to beautify, to adorn – the doctrine of our great God and Savior [Titus 2:10]. The doctrine, the teaching, the didaskalia of the faith is like a skeleton in itself. In the wisdom of God, on the skeleton, God built the body. By that skeleton and frame, we move, we work, we walk, we exist. Without that skeleton, we would be queer blobs and heaps of flesh, with no meaning and no locomotion, no ability.
It was a marvelous thing what God did in His wisdom in creating our skeletal structure. It’s a miracle in itself. The skull, the cranium, the cranial capacity to hold and protect our brain; the vertebrae and the rib cage; the thoracic cavity to protect our heart and lungs and our vital organs; the femurs for locomotion; the tarsals and metatarsals for walking; the carpals and metacarpals and phalanges for handling. Engineers say it is a miracle of God – the skeleton – for strength, and mobility, and utility, and malleability; it’s something God did, and it’s a marvel! But the skeleton in itself is unattractive, bleached, dry, awkward; it must be beautifully adorned. It must be covered over with flesh, and it must be in-breathed with the Spirit of life.
One of the most poignant and striking and dramatic of all of the visions in the Bible is in Ezekiel 37: And he looks on that valley of dry bones, very dry. And then – do you remember the Negro spiritual? – and he stands there over that valley. And in the power of God, the foot bone is joined to the ankle bone, and the ankle bone is joined to the knee bone, and the knee bone joined to the thigh bone, and the thigh bone joined to the neck bone, and the neck bone joined to the head bone; and there they are, a great valley of all of those skeletons. Then it was that God said to Ezekiel, "Pray" [Ezekiel 37:4]. And the skeletons had to be clothed and made beautiful, and the breath of life poured into their souls; "and they stood up, a great army for the Lord" [Ezekiel 37:10].
That is exactly what Paul means when he says, "Kosmeo the didaskalia" – adorning, beautifying the doctrines of God [Titus 2:10]. They must be incarnate in flesh and blood. They must live, they must breathe, they must be beautifully presented if they are to have the power of the Lord upon them. The doctrines must be adorned in a beautiful Christian life.
I read of a famous atheist, and he said, "I can argue with these Christian apologists, but in our home is a little servant maid who is a disciple of Jesus, and the purity of life and the honesty and virtue of that little maid in our home staggers me, pulverizes me!"
How do you argue with a godly mother? How do you gainsay a consecrated father? How do you put down the witness of a beautiful Christian life? The unbelieving world may not read the fine print of our systematic theology, but they read the bold type of our Christian living:
We are the only Bible
The careless world will read;
We are the sinner’s gospel,
We are the scoffer’s creed;
We are the Lord’s last message,
Given in deed and word;
What if the print be crooked?
What if the type be blurred?
["The World’s Bible; Annie Johnson Flint]
Adorning the gospel of God: I have seen it in these last, critical days in such poignant ways. Inflation has swept us aside; the cost of these utilities are approaching seven hundred thousand dollars a year; just the utilities. The inflationary spiral that accompanied the building of our beautiful parking building has nearly sunk us. And one of our sweet members, hearing of the distress and the need of our church, wrote me a little note about a few weeks ago, about a month ago. And in the letter she said, "I have heard of the need of the church, and here I enclose a check for $50,000 to help a little bit"; adorning the doctrine of God our Savior.
And about three Sundays ago, down this aisle came a little maiden lady in our church. And she said to me, "Today I want to give myself, everything of me, to the Lord." So I called Lanny Elmore, our minister of Outreach and Missions, and we’ve made arrangements for her to work and to play the piano and to teach in our Good Shepherd Chapel.
And Wednesday night, this last week; Wednesday night she came to see me, and she placed in my hand a check for $10,000. It is her life’s savings, and a relative said to her, "What will you do?" And she replied, "I will trust in God to take care of me. I have given everything," she says, "of me to the Lord and that includes what I have." And she laid in my hands that check for $10,000.
Had I been a young minister, I would have refused it. I’ve learned you hurt people when you do that. Had I been a young minister, I would have said, "You can’t give that to me." One time somebody said, "I’m not giving that to you, I’m giving it to God." So I took it and gave it to God: adorning the doctrine of our great God and Savior. Lord, Lord, I have never felt more rebuked in my life than I have been since last Wednesday night:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Were all the realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
["When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"; Isaac Watts]
Adorning the doctrine of our God and Savior; let it live, let it find incarnation – flesh and blood – let it be beautified in us.
Now may we stand together? Our Lord in heaven, into what strange ways does the Lord sometime lead us.
Some through the fire,
Some through the flood,
Some through deep waters,
But all through the blood.
[from "God Leads Us Along"; G.A. Young]
Dear Lord, You are teaching us things these present days we never saw or felt or heard before. Grant us, Lord, faith as we walk with Thee, trusting God for what is best; adorning in our lives the doctrine of our great God and Savior the Lord Jesus.
And in that grace and faith, may we grow to the full stature of the knowledge of Christ. And our Lord, in this holy and precious moment, may the Holy Spirit speak to some, giving heart in faith to Thee, trusting Thee as Savior; to some placing their lives, their families with us in this dear church; and however the Spirit shall lead others, that we answer with our lives. And for the harvest God will surely bestow upon us, we shall love Thee and praise Thee through Christ our redeeming Lord, amen.
While we wait for this moment, and while we pray, and while we look to God as we sing our hymn of appeal, to give your heart to Jesus, to come into the fellowship of the church, a whole family of you, or just one somebody you, answering God’s call, while we wait, while we pray, and while we sing this song, on the first note of the first stanza, come; while we sing.owH