The Foundation for the Faith
September 28th, 1980 @ 10:50 AM
THE FOUNDATION FOR FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Isaiah 8:19, 20
9-28-80 10:50 a.m.
During these days – many, many days; over three years of days – the morning hour we are preaching the long series on "The Great Doctrines of the Faith," the doctrines of the Bible; and in the evening, preaching on "The Problems of Human Life"; the "Problems of Human Life" series will continue until Christmastime. And the sermon tonight is Achan: The Sin We Are Afraid to Confess. And in my study and preparation for that message, I was overwhelmed by the things that I have learned; so tonight at 7:00 o’clock, The Sin We Are Afraid to Confess.
And this morning is the second in the series on bibliology, the doctrine of the Bible. The message is entitled The Foundation for the Faith. Our first text will be in Isaiah 8, verse 19 and verse 20. The prophet Isaiah, chapter 8, verses 19 and 20:
And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them which have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
You could not find a stranger phenomenon in all history than this: that when trouble and crisis comes, so many people, from the beginning, have sought for answers in astrology, and necromancy, and divination, and fortunetelling. It is just one of the aberrations of our fallen human nature, all of which is absolutely and entirely interdicted by the Word of God.
We are not to go to fortunetellers and necromancers – people who talk with the dead, they say – and diviners and astrologers. It is an insult to God, he says – he says that in a time of crisis, of need, we are to go to the law and to the testimony; that is, to the Word of the Lord, to the Holy Scriptures. I turn now to Isaiah 55, and I read verses 10 and 11 – Isaiah 55, verses 10 and 11:
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, it shall accomplish that for which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it
The Word originates in the divine and infinite mind of God, and it is sent to us in the elective purpose and plan of our Lord. There is a purpose, a plan for every life, and for all of our corporate life as a nation, and God’s Word is sent in keeping with that heavenly, divine intelligence and purpose. And He says, "It shall accomplish what I please and prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it" [Isaiah 55:11]. And the dear Lord gives an illustration of that and a poignant one: "As the rain cometh down, watereth the earth, maketh it to bring forth so that the sower may have seeds and the eater may have bread, so shall My word accomplish the powerful purpose for which I have ordained it" [Isaiah 55:10]. The power of God’s Word is like God Himself; infinite.
Every day, using the illustration here of the falling rain, every day, somewhere, God is turning raindrops into flowers. He is turning farm land into wheat fields. He is turning dry, barren, parched pastures into verdant green meadows. He is turning sunshine into orchards with ripening fruit. And the same Lord God who writes this in the Bible is the same Lord God that sends forth the word of testimony from His mouth. And He says it shall accomplish that whereunto He has purposed it.
Another unusual exclamation, in Jeremiah 37, chapter 37, verse 17. Jeremiah 37:17: "Then Zedekiah the king sent, and asked Jeremiah, Is there any word from the Lord? And Jeremiah said, There is." Does God speak? Does God say anything? The prophet answers to the last king of Judah, Zedekiah: "God speaks; God has something to say." And this is the universal history of God through all of the Scriptures. God speaks. God has something to say. God speaks. And to those that have eyes to see, and ears to hear, and hearts to respond, we can see and hear and be sensitive to the testimony of God everywhere.
God speaks in the creation around us, above us, beneath us, in us. "Day unto day uttereth speech, night unto night showeth knowledge" [Psalm 19:2]. The heavens declare Him and the firmaments show up His creative genius. God speaks to us everywhere.
A haze on the far horizon,
The infinite, tender sky,
The rich ripe tint of the cornfields,
And the wild geese sailing high;
And all over upland and lowland
The charm of the golden-rod –
Some people say why, it’s autumn,
But some of us say, this is God.
A picket frozen on duty,
A mother starved for her brood,
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
Or Jesus on the rood;
And millions who, humble and nameless,
The plain, hard pathway trod, –
Some people, That’s Consecration,
But some of us, that’s God.
[from "Each in His Own Tongue"; William Herbert Carruth]
To those who have ears to hear, hearts to respond, God speaks everywhere. God speaks in history. God speaks in the judgments upon nations. When Assyria came bitter and hasty, shut up Judah and Jerusalem, destroyed Samaria and took away the ten northern tribes, Isaiah asked God, "What?" And the Lord replied, "Assyria is the rod of Mine anger, and the staff of Mine indignation" [Isaiah 10:5]. God speaks in history.
When the bitter and hasty Chaldeans came to destroy Judah and to burn Jerusalem and the holy temple with fire, Habakkuk the prophet asked God how these who are more wicked than they should be sent. And God replied, "These Chaldeans, these Babylonians, I have ordained them for judgment and established them for correction" [Habakkuk 1:12-13].
The twenty-third chapter of the First Gospel of Matthew depicts the bitter denunciation of our Lord against the leadership in Jerusalem and in Judah. And the twenty-third chapter is followed by the twenty-fourth chapter, which is the great apocalyptic discourse, which announces, from the Word of our Lord, the destruction of the temple, and the destruction of the city, and the destruction of the nation.
God speaks in history. And there is no escaping the voice of the judgment of God. Any nation – including America – that violates the commandments and the ordinances of the Almighty shall face an inevitable day of retribution and judgment.
God speaks in history; sometimes, in awesome and tragic ways. That’s the reason that our people live in constant dread and foreboding for tomorrow, because we are a wicked people, and increasingly disorganized and disgraceful in our lives – public, private, social, individual, domestic – in every way, America is becoming increasingly anti-God and pro-secular. And there is a judgment day coming, and we feel it. That is the voice of God. God speaks in history.
God speaks in conscience. "His law," Romans 2:15, "His law," the Bible says, "is written on our hearts." And he says these who do not even have a Bible, and they do not know these words of salvation, these who are outside of the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, these also have the conscience that speaks to them the voice of God.
I cannot help but be deeply interested in an incident in the life of Charles Darwin who promulgated the theory of evolution. In the little English ship Beagle he went around the world. And when he got down to the tip of South America, in a country called Tierra del Fuego, Charles Darwin saw a people there on the tip end of South America so degraded, so subhuman, that he said, "They have no soul, and no conscience, and no sensitivity to right and wrong, and they are the missing link between the animal and Homo sapiens."
That is what Charles Darwin said. When that word came back to London, the London Missionary Society sent missionaries down to the Tierra del Fuegans and preached the gospel to them. And they were converted and turned, and became a beautiful and model Christian people. There are no souls, there are no humanities outside of the conscience in which God speaks to mankind. The Lord speaks in the conscience.
God speaks in the providences of life. Is there a word from the Lord? Jeremiah says there is. God speaks in the providences of life. God is saying something to us when a baby is born in the home. God is saying something to us in illness and in distress. Those are the words of God, listen to Him. God speaks to us in death. This is the voice of the Lord, God speaks in death.
A wealthy man had one little boy who died, and every night he shut himself up in his library reading the Bible, and his wife, while he was away at work, his wife went in the library and took down his Bible and turned those pages to see what it was that he so intently read every night. And it was this: wherever in God’s Book God said something about heaven, that fine businessman had underscored it with a red pencil.
God speaks to us in His Bible and this is the foundation for the faith. The Book of Hebrews begins, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these latter days, in this time, spoken unto us by His Son" [Hebrews 1:1, 2]. God speaks to us in the Old Testament prophets; God speaks to us in His Son, and in the apostolic ministry of the New Covenant. God speaks to us in His Bible, the foundation for the faith.
To me, the eternal picture of our Lord Jesus Christ is with a Bible in His hand. When He began His public ministry in Nazareth – where He had been brought up as a child, from which He went into His public ministry, baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan – beginning His open, public ministry in Nazareth, there was given unto Him a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. And He began with a sermon, an announcement from the Word of God [Luke 4:16-21]. The victorious life of our Lord was founded upon the Word of God.
Thus did He defeat Satan in the threefold temptation with this sentence: "It is written," and quoting a word from God, the Holy Book [Matthew 4:4, 7, 10]. And thus did He answer His critics, the Pharisees, "What do the Scriptures say?" And thus did He face His agonizing death on the cross. When Simon Peter drew out his sword to defend the Lord, God said, "Put it up. Put it back in its scabbard. How else shall the Scriptures be fulfilled except I thus die?" [Matthew 26:51-54]. And when our Lord faces, in triumph and assurance, that awful death on the cross, He announces a word from the prophets – Hosea 6, verse 2: "The third day I shall rise again." [Matthew 20:19]. Ringing in His ears and spoken from His lips is the glorious promise from the prophet: "The third day I shall rise from the dead." The foundation of the faith, and the assurance that our Lord lives – that He was raised from the dead – is to be found in the prophetic, scriptural witness to that marvelous triumph over sin, death, and the grave.
Now we are going to expound the latter part of the twenty-fourth chapter of Luke, which to me is one of the most amazing of all of the presentations, of the affirmations, of the Word of God to be found in all the Scriptures. I just cannot imagine some of these things that we are going to look at now: the Bible as the foundation for the faith.
The twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke – the French critic, Renan, says is the most beautiful story in the world – it is the story, as you know, of two disciples of the Lord: Cleopas and an unnamed disciple, who are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and they are sad [Luke 24:17]. The Lord, whom they had hoped would be the Messiah to deliver Israel, the Lord has been slain and all of their hopes are abysmally dashed to the ground. But there were those who came to them saying that He is risen from the dead. But they cannot believe such a thing.
Now, verse 25: "Then Jesus said unto them," He was unknown, they did not know who this stranger was. He revealed Himself in the breaking of bread at suppertime [Luke 24:30-31], but walking along, they didn’t know who He was. But it was the Lord Jesus, and the Lord Jesus said unto them, and you have it translated here, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe," The Greek word is an alpha privative, "a," "a," noetos, "mind, understanding"; anoetos, "O not-understanding-ones, not-thinking-ones."
O not-understanding-ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them all things in the Scriptures concerning Himself.
Do you see that? Look at it carefully. Did He say unto them, "O not-understanding-ones, and slow of heart to believe," what? "O slow of heart to believe what the angels said at the tomb?" Did He say that? No. "O slow of heart to believe what the women said when they were at the tomb and saw it empty," is that,? No. "O slow of heart to believe what Peter said and John said when they ran to the tomb and found that Jesus was no longer there?" No.
"O anoetos, O not-understanding-ones, and slow of heart to believe" what? To beleive "All that the prophets have spoken" [Luke 24:25]. Before the angels said, "He is not here: He is risen from the dead, come see the place where He lay" [Matthew 28:6]; before the women announced, "We have seen Him and worshiped at His feet" [Luke 24:9-10]; before the disciples proclaimed to the world, "He is risen indeed!" [Acts 2:32]; before them all, the great, confirming testimony of the Holy Scriptures said, "On the third day, He shall rise again" [Hosea 6:2]. The tremendous affirmation of the resurrection of our Lord is the testimony of the Bible, the Holy Scriptures.
Now, I want you to look at the same thing in the same chapter, Luke 24, beginning at verse 36: And while they were there, these disciples, in the upper room, Jesus just suddenly stood in the midst. One of the miracles of our resurrection bodies, go through a wall, go through a door. I have often thought that in the world that is to come, in our resurrection bodies, we can speed from place to place with the alacrity and rapidity of thought. I can think, "I’m now in London, I am now in Hong Kong, I am now in Johannesburg, Africa, I am now in Bangkok." And in the resurrection body, we can be that rapidly from place to place. All the things beyond imagination God hath prepared for us who love Him.
And the resurrected body of Jesus, suddenly He was there,
and said unto them, Shalom – Peace be unto you.
And they were terrified and affrighted, and thought that they were looking at a spirit.
And He said, Why are you troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
Behold, My hands and My feet, that it is I, Myself: handle Me – touch Me – and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have.
And then He asked them for something to eat, and He ate before them. Now you look at what He says:
And He said unto them: Are not these the words that I told you? That all things must be fulfilled which are written in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, in the Psalms, concerning Me.
[Luke 24: 44]
Those are the three Hebrew divisions of the Hebrew Bible, in other words, Christ is the subject of the Law of Moses. Christ is the great subject of the Prophets, and Christ is the great subject of the Psalms and the Writings. The whole Book points to Him!
Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures,
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.
[Luke 24:45, 46]
Now, look at that a moment. The Lord Himself is standing there in the presence of those disciples. They are looking at Him, raised from the dead, and He points out to them His hands and the nail prints, and His feet and the nail scars [Luke 24:39-40]. And John says, the great scar in His side [John 20:27]. And He says, "Handle Me and see that it is I Myself."
And yet having said that, the Lord says, "The great confirmation of the resurrection of My body from the dead, from the grave is, "Thus it is written in the Bible" [Luke 24:46]. It is beyond – it is beyond my thinking such a thing, but the meaning is very apparent. Our eyes might deceive us. My touch might mislead me, and my ears, the sound of His voice, might be an illusion, but the Word of God is sure and certain forever. The tremendous confirmation of the resurrection of our Lord, of our living Christ, is not that the disciples saw Him, or heard Him, or touched Him. But the great assurance is that the Holy Scriptures, the prophets said He shall rise from the dead.
That is why, a moment ago, I had you read this passage from 2 Peter, the first chapter. I just can hardly believe what I read when I look at this blessed book. In the passage you just read, Simon Peter said, "We were on the holy mount" [2 Peter 1:18]. And we saw: "we were eyewitnesses" [2 Peter 1:16] – we saw His glorious deity shining through."
The Bible says that the flesh covered the deity of our Lord [John 1:14]. And it was in the tearing of His flesh that His deity came through. The flesh incarnated, covered over the deity of Christ. He just looked like a man, walked like a man, talked and ate and lived, slept, grew tired, grew weary just like a man. But – but the flesh veiled the deity of our Lord. And Simon Peter says that, "We saw Him on top of the mount glorified, the deity of our Lord shone through. And we saw the parousia; the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in glory and in majesty. And not only did we see – were we there – but we heard the voice of the heavenly Father saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’" [2 Peter 1:17].
Now Simon Peter writes that, that you have just read, "We were there. We saw Him. We heard the voice of God! This is the deity of the Godhead, Jesus, and this is the parousia; the promise of His ultimate and final coming. I saw it" he says. "We saw it," Peter, James, and John, "and we heard it" [2 Peter 1:18].
Now, you look at the next verse that you read, "But we have a more sure word of prophecy" [2 Peter 1:19]. The great witness to the deity of Christ and to His coming in majesty and in glory is not because our eyes saw it, or our hands handled it, or our ears heard it, but the great witness and testimony is the infallible and inerrant Word of God.
It amazes me and astonishes me what God presents concerning His Book – the foundation for the faith. And the reason is, and I repeat it, maybe what I saw was a deception, maybe what I felt was misleading, and maybe what I heard was an illusion. But the Word of God never fails, never misleads, never deceives. It abides in truth forever. This is the Word which, by the gospel is our prayer; this Word which by the gospel is preached unto you, the foundation for the faith.
Just one other apostle: when Paul stands before King Agrippa – in the twenty-sixth chapter of Acts – he stands before the king and all of the royal retinue, and he asked the king, "King Agrippa," being a Jew, he asks, "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?" [Acts 26:27]. Why didn’t he say, "Believest thou the testimony of Simon Peter? Believest thou the testimony of John? Believest thou the testimony of James? I myself saw Him! Believest thou the testimony of this prisoner Paul?" No. What he says is, "Believest thou the prophets?" – the witness of the Bible to the truth of God.
And he spells it out, does this apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15 – those first four verses – he defines the gospel: "Brethren, I declare to you – I make known unto you – the gospel,in which you are saved, in which you stand" [1 Corinthians 15:1]. What? "How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures: He was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3, 4]. And someday, He is coming again according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:23] – the foundation of the faith, the Word of God.
I want to close with what to me is one of the most moving pieces of literature that I ever read. The reason that – maybe psychological – the reason that had such a moving appeal to me; the poem concerns a Waldensian drummer, a merchantman. When I was a boy growing up in such a faraway place, so very far away, why, once in a while there would come what we would call a "drummer." And he would come and knock at the door. Mother was always so delighted to see such a man, a "drummer." And he would open a big, big suitcase. It had a top to it, you know, and we would lift the top off, and it was bound together by two big straps around it. Well, he would lift off that top, and he would show my mother all kinds of rolls of cloth. There would be calico, and gingham, and cottons, and silks, and all kinds of things. And mother would buy it by the yard.
And then she was wonderfully gifted with her hands, and she would make clothes out of it, and make little shirts for me, and dresses for her, and other things. The drummer – it was a marvel for me, a little boy, to stand there and see all of that going on.
Well, this is a drummer. He is a Waldensian merchant, and he lived back yonder in the Middle Ages when the Bible was burned and when those who had it were martyred at the stake. This is a Waldensian merchant. And he is in the home of a palace, and he is showing his jewels, and his silks, and his satins before a queenly lady, a royal lady. So as the poem progresses, this is the end of it. Whittier writes that the Waldensian merchant says, after he shows his wares, all of his jewels and his silks and his satins, then he adds,
And then she was wonderfully gifted with her hands, and she would make clothes out of it, and make little shirts for me, and dresses for her, and other things.
Well, this is a drummer.
O lady fair, I have yet a gem
Which purer lustre flings,
Than the diamond flash of the jewelled crown
On the lofty brow of kings,
A wonderful pearl of exceeding price,
Whose virtue shall not decay,
Whose light shall be as a spell to thee
And a blessing on thy way!"
As a small and meagre Book,
Unchased with gold or gem of cost,
From his folding robe he took!
“Here, lady fair, is the pearl of price,
May it prove as much to thee!
Nay, keep thy gold, I ask it not,
For the Word of God is free!”
["The Vaudois Teacher"; John Greenleaf Whittier,]
What a beautiful thing! All the jewels in the world, all the robes of silk and satin in the earth, all the palaces in which kings and queens ever lived, all the treasures that men have ever possessed, the most precious is the Word of God – the foundation of the faith.
And if I had another hour, or two hours, or two days, I would try to preach the assurance of our salvation is the Word of God. The assurance of heaven is the Word of God. The assurance of our resurrection is the Word of God. The assurance that we shall Jesus some day is the Word and promise of God. The assurance of God’s help in time of need is this immutable and unfailing Word – the foundation of the faith – "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever" [Isaiah 40:8].
Now may we rise for the prayer? Our Lord in heaven, that’s Your name, the Word of God. And that’s our assurance, the Word and promise of God. Sooner could the stars fall out of their places in the sky, sooner could the throne of heaven be crushed and vanquished, sooner could God abdicate from being God than that God should mislead us in His testimony and in His Book. And when God promises, He will keep that word forever. And I treasure the promise that if I will accept Jesus as my Savior, He will write my name in the Book of Life, and keep me through all of the pilgrim journey in this world, and take me to Himself in the world to come [1 Peter 1:5].
Dear God, bless Thou the testimony of Thy servant this holy hour; speak to human hearts. And in a moment when we sing our appeal, dear God, may there be many come to the Lord and to us. O, we thank Thee for it! And while our people pray, a family you, to come into the fellowship of our wonderful church; a couple you, or just one somebody you, "Today, I take Jesus as my Savior." Or, "Today, we are answering with our lives, the called invitation of God." Do it now. And our Lord, we’ll thank Thee for the sweet harvest, in Thy saving name, amen.
And while we wait for this moment, and while we pray, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, and there is time and to spare, come. In the throng and press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, God bless you as you answer with your life. Our ministers are here. Our deacons are here, the Holy Spirit is here. Angels bless you as you come, while we wait, and while we pray, and while we sing.
FOR THE FAITH
I. The text
A. In crisis many seek
answers from astrologers, necromancers, diviners
B. The Word of God has
meaning and purpose for our lives
C. Is there a word from
1. In the
creation around us
2. In history
3. In our
4. In the
providences of life
II. The assurance of the testimony of the
Word of God
A. God speaks through
B. Jesus’ ministry
founded upon the Word
1. Began His
public ministry reading from Isaiah
2. Overcame Satan
in the temptation
3. Found comfort
in prophecies concerning His resurrection