Books and THE Book
September 21st, 1980 @ 8:15 AM
2 Timothy 4:13
BOOKS AND THE BOOK
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 4:13
9-21-80 8:15 a.m.
In the morning hours, this hour, the sermons concern the "Great Doctrines of the Bible"; and the last two sermons have been introductory. And the long series is divided into fifteen sections. And the first section concerns the doctrine of the Bible, bibliology, and the first message is delivered this morning entitled Books and THE Book.
As a background text for that, from whence the title of the message has come, is 2 Timothy 4:13. Paul, writing to his son in the ministry who was pastor of the church at Ephesus, whom he is asking that he come to Rome, to the Mamertine prison, before Paul is executed. And as he writes to Timothy at Ephesus from Rome, he says in 2 Timothy 4:13, "The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments." "The books," biblia, the books, "but especially," there’s a Greek adverb mala, the superlative of the adverb is malista, most of all, especially, above all, "but especially the parchments." He uses a Latin word there membrana – our word "membranes" come from it – vellums, the skins upon which the most important documents were written. Biblia, for the most part, would refer to scrolls made out of papyri, from whence come our word "paper." But membrana, parchments, animal skins, were those most vital and significant and important books upon which were written the words that are classical, and to be remembered forever. So, almost certainly – in my humble opinion certainly – when Paul writes to Timothy, "When you come, bring the biblia, the books," I’m sure those were Talmudic commentaries, and rabbinical studies of the Holy Scriptures, of the Mosaic legislation, "bring those books, but especially the membrana, the membranes, the parchments," that is the Holy Scriptures themselves, the Bible [2 Timothy 4:13].
In Ecclesiastes 12:12 the smartest man who ever lived said, "Of making books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh." When he wrote that, they laboriously made books by writing on scrolls, for the most part, I suppose; then, maybe papyri and vellums. If he thought that then, "Of making books there is no end," and each scroll laboriously copied and made by the author, if he thought that then, how much more would he think that now, with our modern printing presses publishing books, manufacturing books, printing books by the millions and the millions? There is so much known in any division of science, such as chemistry, that there’s no man in the world that now can encompass it; even the professor who gives his life to the study and teaching of one of the divisions of science, he can’t know it all. That’s why the age of the computer is so vastly vital to modern culture and modern civilization. It’s only the computer that is able to contain the vast illimitable store of knowledge that is now being presented in professional papers and scientific studies and endless books.
But there is the Book. "When you come, bring the books, but especially the membrana, the Book, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible" [2 Timothy 4:13]. And that is our beginning study and presentation of these doctrinal messages on the Word of God; books, millions of them, but the Book, the one that I hold in my hand.
It is unique, it is separate, it is apart; it is the great unlike, unrivaled, because – and I have three reasons for that avowal this morning – first: only here, only here do we find the true revelation of the real things that really matter, only here. The things that I really want to know are answered for me only in this Book; in none other, in the Book. The question of where did I come from, and the whole universe around me; the question of what is the meaning and purpose of my existence; how am I any different from an autumnal leaf that falls to the ground? There were billions of those leaves who fell last fall; there are billions of them preparing to fall now. How is my life of any more worth or significance than one of those leaves falling to the ground? Is there meaning and purpose in existence? I can find the answer only in the Book. And the ultimate and final question: Where am I going? What is the future that lies ahead for me? Beyond the gates of death, into what kind of an existence or world do I enter? I can find the answer only in the Book. All of the other questions that I seek for in life are immaterial or ephemeral or extraneous. But the dynamic and central and meaningful questions that I want to know are found only in answer in the Book.
To me, this explains why in the Book God did not reveal at first to us all of these secrets of modern scientific discovery, the secret of the atom, or of the stars, or of chemistry, or of physics, or of all the other sciences: we can learn those things in their time. They are not ultimately and vitally important. What is important is that I know God, and the meaning of life, and the way I ought to live, and the hope for tomorrow; these are the things that are most important, and that’s why God revealed them to us in this Book. This Book is to us what a compass is to a mariner, what a radar screen is to an airplane pilot, what a blueprint is to a builder: it shows us the way and the meaning and the substance of life, and the ultimate destiny that lies before us. As Isaiah wrote it in the thirtieth chapter of his prophecy, "Thine ears shall hear a voice behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it" [Isaiah 30:21]. So, God has spoken to us in His Word, that we might know the revelation of Himself, and of ourselves, and the meaning of life, and the destiny of our souls. God hath spoken to us in the Book, the Book!
It’s a marvelous thing when you look at something like this: in that Book, phrases such as, "Thus saith the Lord," and, "God spake," and, "The word of the Lord came," those phrases are used more than two thousand five hundred times in the Book. God speaks to us in the Book. That is, the Book contains the direct word and messages of the Lord; objective and propositional truth, truth that comes from the mouth of God Himself. I mean by that, that the truth that we find in the Bible is not subjective, it’s not introverted, it’s not psychological, it hasn’t been spun out of the metaphysics or the speculations of men; but in this Book God speaks directly the truth of the self-revelation of the Almighty. And as such the words of God in this marvelous volume bring to us the truth of the Lord Himself, and the meaning of all life and existence.
In Psalm 119:89, the psalmist says, "For ever, O God, Thy word is fixed in heaven." It is established in heaven. But we’re not in heaven; we’re down here in the earth. And this Book has brought down from heaven to earth that eternal word of God. The apostle Paul, writing in the tenth chapter of Romans, verses  and 8 and then 9 and 10, he says, "Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend up into heaven to bring God’s word down to us from heaven? For," he says, "the word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thine heart: that is the word of faith, which we preach, namely," and then he describes to us how a man can be saved [Romans 10:6, 8-10]. God brought it down from its established status in heaven to earth, to us, and the Word of God is the Book. That’s why, any time you think of those first century Christian preachers, they all spoke with a Book in their hand. Now, what do you mean "a book in their hand"? Why, I mean this: the only kind of books the world had ever seen before, the only kind of books there were before, were scrolls. And when a man read or spoke, why, he took a scroll, and he turned those rods on either side as he read from the scroll. But the Christian preacher didn’t have time to carry around with him a wheelbarrow full of scrolls, and to take time to turn those rods to find the place in the Psalms or in the Mosaic Law or in the Prophets what he was declaring to the people the Word of God. So the Christian preacher in the first Christian centuries took those scrolls and cut them up into leaves, and bound them together in the back. It was called a codex. We call it a book. That’s where "the Book" came from. Those Christian preachers standing in the Roman Empire, in its Greek and Latin civilization, proclaiming the Word of God did it with the scrolls cut up into leaves, and bound at the back, so he could turn to it immediately, thus declaring the Word of God in the Book! This is unique, I say; it is separate, it is apart, it is the Book because it reveals to us the truth of God concerning all the matters that really are vital to us. They are found only in the Book.
Second: only here, only here, do we find the full revelation of Jesus, the Word of God, in all His redemptive glory; only here. It’s a strange thing about our Lord Jesus: outside of the Book the only reference you’ll ever find in secular profane history to Jesus, the only reference, are these. One: Josephus, writing from about 80 to 90 AD, has a short paragraph about Christ; and practically all of the critics say it is spurious. Well anyway, that’s one; just a little brief paragraph. Number two: Tacitus, Publius Tacitus, the Latin historian, writing around 100 AD in his annals, had to explain, tried to explain why Nero laid the blame of the burning of Rome on the Christians. Well, he had to explain who the Christians were, and he has one sentence about Christ. He says, "He was a felon, he was a malefactor, crucified under Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea"; and that’s all. In about 150 AD Suetonius, another Latin historian, refers to Christ in the same way as Tacitus did, in one sentence explaining the felon crucified under Pontius Pilate for whom these Christians got their name. That’s all. There’s nothing more. That’s the sum and substance of the whole knowledge we have of Christ in profane and secular history. The Book! Only here do I find the Word of God revealed in all of His glory and redemptive beauty, and how marvelously is it written on the sacred pages of the Book!
Let me show you. Erasmus wrote in the preface to his Textus Receptus – that is the first published Greek New Testament, and of course, as you know, is the basis for the translation of the King James Version that I hold in my hand – Erasmus wrote, this tremendously gifted Greek scholar, wrote in the preface of his first Greek New Testament, the Textus Receptus, these are the words that he wrote in the preface, quote, "These holy pages will summon up the living image of His mind. They will give you Christ Himself, talking, healing, dying, rising, the whole Christ in a word. They will give Him to you in an intimacy so close that He would be less visible to you if He stood before your very eyes."
What a magnificent thing for that scholar to say. Here on the pages of this blessed Book you’ll find the Christ, fuller, richer, deeper, and more fully revealed than if He stood before your very eyes, and how true! Christ is identified with His Word. The spoken word, the written Word, the incarnate Word, all three alike are called the Word of God. John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Revelation 19, verses 11 through 13, "I saw 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" [Revelation 19:11-13]. Christ and His Word are identified: "Forever, O God, Thy Word is fixed in heaven" [Psalm 119:89]. "The same yesterday, and today, and forever" [Hebrews 13:8]. When we discount or impugn the written Word, we dishonor the living incarnate Word. But when we magnify the written Word, we glorify the incarnate Word! Christ is identified with His Word. When I know the Word of God, I know Jesus. When spiritually I give myself to the Word of the Lord, I give myself to the Lord Jesus. When I preach the Word, I’m preaching the Lord Jesus. What an usual thing, this unique and significant, the Book!
And in this Book, in this Book, the whole story of the redemptive purpose of God in Christ Jesus is marvelously revealed; all of it from beginning to end, to the final apocalyptic consummation. The whole Book reveals that purpose of God in Christ Jesus, that we might belong to the family of the redeemed, that we might be adopted into the home of our great God and Savior [Galatians 4:5]. The whole Book is about that; divided into three parts, you could say. The first part announcing and heralding, "He is coming, He is coming!" The middle part, "He is here! Look at Him; this is the Word of God." And the third part of it, "He is coming again!" That’s the whole substance of that divine revelation. "He is coming," said the prophet; "He is here," said the apostle; "He is coming again," the great apocalyptic heraldic announcement. And the story is the unveiling of that marvelous redemptive love of God in Christ Jesus [John 3:16]. In the garden of Eden, the promised Seed of the woman shall someday crush Satan’s head [Genesis 3:15]. In the days of the Deluge [Genesis 6-7], the Seed, the promise of God is preserved in Noah, who found grace in the sight of the Lord [Genesis 6:8]. In the days of universal idolatry, in the Seed as of one [Galatians 3:16], of Abraham, should all the earth be blessed [Genesis 22:18], which promise was given to Isaac, and to Jacob, whose name was Israel [Genesis 35:10-12]; and was given to David: he should have a Son who should reign on the throne forever and forever [2 Samuel 7:12-16]. It is the theme of the psalmists and the singers: "Thou will not suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption [Psalm 16:10]; God shall raise Him from the dead." It’s the tremendous theme of the prophets:
Who hath believed our report . . . Growing up before Him as a tender plant . . . Despised of men, rejected, and we esteemed Him not, hiding our faces from Him . . . Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him. He hath made His soul an offering, an atonement for sin. All we like sheep have gone astray; and the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
And then the apostles, "He is here." "These things," said John, "these signs have I written that ye might believe that He is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life in His name" [John 20:31]. And the marvelous preaching of those first ambassadors of Christ, "We pray you, be ye reconciled to God. For God hath made Him to be sin for us, Him who knew no sin: that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" [2 Corinthians 5:20-21]. And the marvelous concluding, climactic apocalyptic announcement, "For the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of ours Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever" [Revelation 11:15]. "And I heard ten thousands and thousands of thousands of angels crying, saying, Worthy is the Lamb to receive honor and glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen" [Revelation 5:11-12].
That’s the Book! That’s the Book!
Now when I read these rationalists, and these German critics, and all of these higher critical studies, and they say, "Look, this is a fraud," they turn the page and say, "Look, that is a fake"; they turn the page and say, "Look, this is fraudulent"; and they turn the page and say, "This is spurious"; and when I get through with the Bible as they destroy it, full of fraud and fraudulent and spurious and fakery, that’s what they say. Then I’d like to know something: if all of that is spurious, and all of this is fraudulent, and all of this is fake, and all of that is manufactured by men who were seeking to pawn it off in deception on others, then what I want to know is this: how is it that in the very warp and woof of the Word of God is woven like a continuing scarlet thread this purpose of redemption? It’s in every piece of it. It’s in every part of it. It’s in every syllable of it. It’s in every sentence, it’s in every paragraph, it’s in every verse and every chapter! It’s all the way through the Book! If these were spurious and fraudulent documents, how did that get in there? I can tell you how it got in there: God put it there. The Holy Spirit wrote it and inbreathed it [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21], and that great purpose of redemption, God’s gift of His Son and love, is all through the Bible. It’s the Book!
Last, third: here only, here only you have the phenomenon of prophecy; the unveiling, that’s the word "apocalypse," the unveiling, the unfolding of the future, the revelation of the future, only in the Book, nowhere else in the earth, that strange phenomenon of prophecy. Out of all of the religious books of the world, the Bhagavad Gita, the Vedic hymns, sayings of Confucius, endlessly, out of all of the books of the earth, including the Koran, out of all of the religious books of the earth, there’s only one Book that has in it prophecy: this Book, the Book. And the reason is very obvious. Mohammed, Mahavira, Gautama the Buddha, Confucius, they dare not write of the future because it would be very evident that they didn’t know, and their ignorance would discount their supposed prophetic excellence. Only in this Book do you find the phenomenon of prophecy, the unveiling of the future.
And how fully does God speak of the times and the times to the end time. Why, He will predict something thousands and thousands and thousands of years yet to come, such as the Seed of the woman, not of the man, the Seed of the woman shall crush Satan’s head [Genesis 3:15]. We don’t know how back, thousands of years back that is. Or, Isaiah 7:14, "A virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son; and they will call His name God is with us, Immanuel" [Matthew 1:23], seven hundred fifty years before Matthew wrote, "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying [Matthew 1:22], A virgin shall bear a Son, and call His name Immanuel, Iēsous, Savior, Jesus" [Matthew 1:23]. It’s marvelous. It’s unbelievable. And in that prophetic revelation we have the meaning of the awesome events we see in modern history. Is there purpose in what we see? Is there reason in those headlines black and dark that cover the front pages of our newspapers? What of these events? And what of their future? And what of us? How do you find an answer? Only in the prophetic revelation of this Book. God speaks in this Book about the Middle East; all about it. God speaks in this Book about the countdown to Armageddon; all about it. God speaks in this Book about Russia; all about it. God speaks in this Book about the confederacy of the West, to which we belong; all about us. God speaks in this Book about the Jew; all about them. God speaks in this Book about the church; all about it. It is unfolding before us in this Book. And the things that happen do not happen adventitiously or by accident: they’re in His elective purpose and will.
His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour
The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower
[from "God Moves in Mysterious Ways," William Cowper, 1774]
Moving toward that great and ultimate consummation that is revealed to us in the Book.
And that’s why it is so precious to us as we come to the last and concluding days of our own lives. What of the tomorrow? And what lies ahead? And beyond the darkness of death and the grave, is there a light that shines? Is there a word of comfort and hope, is there? Tell me. When a man comes to the last hour of his life, and he faces that vast and eternal unknown, what does he say? Does he say, "Bring me my book of anthropology, and read me again how we descended from the apes and the anthropoids and the marsupials. Read all that to me again, because I’m dying and facing the great unknown. Bring me my book of anthropology"? Does he say that? Did you ever hear that? And as he lies dying and facing the vast eternity that lies ahead, does he say, "Bring me my book of chemistry that I might once again read all those formulae and equations and valances of all of the chemical elements. Read it to me again"? Or does he say, "Bring me my book of physics," or, "Bring me my book of economics"? Does he say anything that approaches that? I never heard of it, not in all of my life did I ever hear of it. I’ll tell you what I have heard: I have heard men without number say, "Bring me the Book, and read to me once again the sweet promises of God; for I am facing this long and ultimate journey." Like Sir Walter Scott said to his son-in-law, "Son, bring me the Book." And the son-in-law said, "Father, what book?" Sir Walter Scott had a vast library, "What book?" The dying poet and novelist said, "Son, there’s just one Book; bring me the Book." And Lockhart brought him the Bible. Sir Walter Scott died with that Bible in his hands.
"There is just one Book!" cried the dying sage,
"Read me the old, old story."
And the winged words that can never fade
Wafted his soul to glory.
There’s just one Book: the Book, the Word, sure and certain, the promises of God.
Now may we stand together?
Our Lord in heaven, what a deep and abiding and eternal assurance to know that our faith is not built upon the sand, or upon the ephemeralities of introverted psychological speculations of men; but our hope is built upon, "Thus saith the Lord God."
"The flower fadeth, the grass withereth, but the word of God shall stand forever" [Isaiah 40:8]. And in that assurance, Lord, may we live and work and die. God will not fail; He will keep every promise. We praise Thee, Lord, for all of that marvelous revelation God hath given unto us.
And in this moment that our people pray, and no one leaving, no one moving except coming down to the front, and in a moment we’ll be dismissed for our Sunday school hour. But right now, this most pivotal of all moments, the Holy Spirit inviting you, a family coming into the church, a couple walking this aisle for Jesus, or just one somebody you, "Pastor, today I’ve made that decision for God, and I’m coming." And our Lord, make it so now, and give us the harvest, in Thy saving and keeping name, amen. And in this moment that we wait, down that stairway, down this aisle, "Pastor, I’ve decided for God, and here I am." May angels attend you as you come, while we pray, while we wait, and while we sing; while we sing, "Here I am, Pastor . . . "
– adverb meaning "very"; malista – "especially, above all"
biblia – "the books"
– Latin word for "parchments"
of the books of the world and the Bible(Ecclesiastes
1. The Book is unique,
set apart – the great unlike and incomparable
II. Only here is a true revelation of all
that really matters
to what I really want to know
did I come from? What is the meaning of my existence?
lies ahead? Is there life beyond the dark river?
a. Plato’s heart cry
vital that God reveal the modern scientific secrets, but it was all important
that He show us Himself(Isaiah 30:21)
Here the revealed will of God for us – He speaks to us in Scripture
phrase "thus saith the Lord" used more than 2,500 times
a. God speaks directly;
mighty weight and meaning of the Word is significant and vital in our lives (Psalm 119:89, Romans 10:6-9, 1 Thessalonians 2:13)
First time world ever saw a book was when Christian preachers cut up scrolls
and bound them
III. Only here do you find the full
revelation of Christ, the Word of God
the Scriptures only three references to Him in first 150 years AD
wrote one sentence in his Annals
wrote one sentence
published TextusReceptus – says you will see Jesus more fully in the
Book than if He stood before you
1. Christ is identified
with His Word(John 1:1, Revelation 19:11-13)
Scripture presents our glorious Savior
Divided into three parts: "He is coming", "He is here", "He is coming again"
unfolding of the redemptive story(Genesis 3:15,
6:7-8, 22:18, 26:4, 35:11-12, 2 Samuel 7:12, Psalm 16:10, Isaiah 53:2-11, John
20:31, 2 Corinthians 5:20-21, Revelation 5:11-13, 11:15)
a. The destructive
rationalist critic(Jeremiah 36:23)
IV. Here alone you find prophecy
no other religion or religious book do you find phenomenon of prophecy
sees the end from the beginning
directive omnipotence is guiding the destiny of the nations
There is a great purpose toward which all history is ultimately moving
1. William Cowper’s
"Olney Hymn 35"
V. Here alone do we find promises that
sustain us in the ultimate and final hour
Walter Scott – "Bring me the Book!"