The Foundation for the Faith
September 28th, 1980 @ 8:15 AM
THE FOUNDATION FOR THE FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-28-80 8:15 a.m.
It is a joy to welcome the thousands of you on radio who are sharing with us the glorious communion of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message. We have two series of messages being delivered during these present years. In the evening, "The Problems of Human Life"; and the title of the sermon tonight is Achan, the Sin We Are Afraid to Confess, at seven o’clock. And this morning is the third in the,no, it is the second in the series on bibliology, the doctrine of the Bible; it is entitled The Foundation for the Faith. We are going to follow three texts to begin with. The first is in Isaiah 8, Isaiah chapter 8; in this message entitled The Foundation for the Faith, a message on bibliology, on the Word of God. Isaiah chapter 8, verses 19 and 20:
And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that 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, in behalf of 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.
What a remarkable observation. Ever since there has been humanity, in times of trouble, and trial, and distress, and crisis people have turned to astrologers and necromancers, that is, people who can communicate with the dead, and with fortunetellers, and with diviners, all of which is interdicted by the Word and the law of God. The Lord says here in this passage that, in the day of our crisis and need, we are to turn to the law and to the testimony; we are to find our answers in the Word of God, not in astrologers, and diviners, and necromancers, and wizards that peep and all of the fortunetellers that live. We’re to ask God for the reason, and God will speak to us and tell us why. Now isn’t that a remarkable thing? The Lord has promised in His Word to speak to us the solution to all of our problems and the strength in all of our need.
Now our second text is in Isaiah 55, beginning at verse 10; 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 of God is delivered to us with purpose. There is plan for all of our lives, and that includes the destiny of the whole world. And God’s word is sent forth to accomplish that heavenly and elective purpose. And He says that God’s word is able to do it, and does do it: "It accomplishes that for which I have sent it, and it shall prosper that for which I have elected" [Isaiah 55:10-11].
Isn’t that a remarkable thing about God’s word? And He gives a wonderful illustration of it: the rain that God sends down from heaven, it accomplishes the purpose of God. And he uses that as an illustration of the accomplishment of God’s word that is sent to the human heart, to the human family, to the human race. God’s word is able to do it, and He uses that illustration of the rain Every day somewhere in this earth the rain, God’s rain, is turning into flowers; God’s rain is turning farmland into wheat fields. God’s rain is turning orchards into luscious and ripening fruit. God’s rain is turning barren and dry pastures into green meadows. God does that. We don’t do that; God does that. And He uses that as an illustration of what His word does: it brings life and light and hope and answers to the people.
In the forty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel is one of the most moving of all of the illustrations and stories in the Bible. Ezekiel sees a river of life pouring out of the throne of God in the sanctuary in the temple area of Jerusalem. And it flows down to the Dead Sea. And as he watches it, he says, "Everything lives wither the river cometh" [Ezekiel 47:9]. That’s God’s word: it brings life wherever it touches, and it accomplishes the purpose for which God has sent it [Isaiah 55:11].
Now, you don’t need to turn to this one. This is just a question in Jeremiah 37:17. The last king of Judah was Zedekiah. And being shut up in Jerusalem by the conquering and all-encompassing Babylonians, he sends to Jeremiah and asks Jeremiah, "Is there any word from the Lord?" And Jeremiah answered, "There is." Does God speak to us? Does God have anything to say to us? Is there a word from the Lord? And Jeremiah says, "There is" [Jeremiah 37:17]. And there is; it is a blind man that refuses to see, it’s a deaf man that refuses to hear, it’s a calloused heart who is not sensitive to the words of God spoken everywhere. Is there a word from the Lord? There is. God speaks to us. God speaks to us in the creation around us. The psalmist said, "Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge" [Psalm 19:2]. The heavens declare, the very stars are eloquent; the world around us speaks to us in the language of God.
A haze on the far horizon,
The infinite, tender sky,
The rich ripe, tint of the corn fields,
And the wild geese sailing high;
And all over lowland and upland,
The charm of the golden-rod –
Some people say, Well that’s autumn;
But some of us say, That’s God.
A picket frozen on duty,
A mother starved for her brood,
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood;
And millions who, humble and nameless,
The straight, hard pathway plod –
Some people say that’s consecration
but some of us say that’s God.
[from "Each in His Own Tongue," William Herbert Carruth]
The Lord speaks to us, above us, around us, in us, everywhere. "Is there a word from the Lord?" [Jeremiah 37:17].
God speaks to us in human history. Especially and particularly do we see that in the judgments of God upon the nations. When Isaiah asked of the Lord of the coming of the Assyrian that had wasted Judah and carried Israel into captivity, destroyed Samaria, God answered Isaiah, saying, "Assyria is the rod of Mine anger, and the staff of Mine indignation" [Isaiah 10:5]. When Habakkuk asked God about the Babylonians, these Chaldeans who came and ultimately destroyed Judah, and the holy temple, and the nation into captivity, the Lord answered Habakkuk and said, "I have established them for judgment, and ordained them for correction" [Habakkuk 1:6, 12]. God speaks in history. It is remarkable to me that after the twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, when the Lord denounces the leadership and the people of Judah [Matthew 23:1-39], immediately following that is the great apocalyptic discourse in chapter 24, when the blessed Lord announces the ultimate destruction of Jerusalem and the destruction of the nation [Matthew 24:1-28]. God speaks to us in history.
God speaks to us in our conscience. In the second chapter of Romans and the fifteenth verse, the Lord says His law is written in every heart [Romans 2:15]. There is no man ever made in the likeness and image of God [Genesis 1:27], but that doesn’t have that moral sensitivity inside of him. I could not help but be impressed in something in the life of Charles Darwin, who founded and promulgated this theory of evolution. In his trip around the world in the Beagle, a little English ship, down there at the southern tip of South America in a little country called Tierra del Fuego, at the very tip, there he saw people so depraved, they were so low that Charles Darwin says, "I have found the missing link between the animal and the man. These people are subhuman. They are without conscience and moral sensitivity." That’s what Charles Darwin said. And when the people of London heard that, the Church Mission Society of London sent missionaries down to the Tierra del Fuegans; and they won them to Christ! And they became a marvelous and upstanding people, so much so that in the amazement of Charles Darwin, he became a regular contributor to the Church Mission Society that had won those people to Christ. The law of God is in our hearts, and God speaks to us. There is no tribe or family to whom God does not speak in the heart, in the inner soul, in the conscience.
And God speaks to us in the providences of life. When a baby is born, God is speaking to that family. When illness comes, God is speaking to us in our sicknesses. And when death comes, God is speaking to us. I heard of a rich man whose only little boy died. And thereafter every night he went into his library, shut the door, and was reading the Bible. And while he was at work, his wife, curious to see what he was reading, picked up his Bible; and every place on those sacred pages where God said something about heaven, he had underscored it with a red pencil. God speaks to us in the Holy Word. And this is the heart of the testimony of our Lord: He speaks to us in the Bible, the foundation for the faith.
The wonderful, incomparable Book of the Hebrews, the letter to the Hebrews, starts off like this: "God, God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers,Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son" [Hebrews 1:1-2]. God spoke to us by the prophets; and God speaks to us by the Son. And the record of the testimony of God’s address, in the prophets and in the Son, I hold here in my hand, in the infallible and inerrant record called The Holy Bible. God speaks to us in His Word. To me there is an eternal picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is this: our Lord with a Bible in His hand. When He came to Nazareth, in the fourth chapter of Luke, to begin His public ministry, they gave unto Him a scroll, a roll of the prophet Isaiah, and He read from God’s Holy Word [Luke 4:16-19]. That’s our Lord. His victorious ministry was founded upon the inerrant, infallible Word of God. He overcame Satan with, "It is written," and quoted God’s Word [Matthew 4:4-10]. He spoke to the Pharisees unafraid, "What saith the Scriptures?" [Matthew 12:2-3]. He faced the awesome atoning death on the cross with the explanation that, "How else could the Scriptures be fulfilled?" [Matthew 26:54]. And when He knew the inevitability of His death, He explained it to His disciples, saying, "And on the third day, the Son of Man shall be raised again" [Luke 18:33]. There is a wondrous prophecy in Hosea 6, verse 2, that is on His lips, ringing in His ears, when He faces the death of the cross: "And the third day, He shall rise again" [Hosea 6:2]. What a comfort and what a strength was found in our Lord in His victorious life, in His marvelous death [Romans 5:10], and in His assurance that the third day He would rise again [Luke 24:1-8]. Why? Because the prophets said so [Hosea 6:2, Psalm 16:10 with Acts 13:33-35].
And the most astonishing to me, of all of the things I read in the life of our Lord, is this: in the twenty-fourth chapter of Luke, the last chapter of the Third Gospel, beginning at verse 25. Renan called this the most beautiful story in literature: the walking of our Lord with those two unnamed – with those two disciples, Cleopas and one unnamed, on the way to Emmaus [Luke 24:13-17]. And they’re explaining to the stranger – their eyes were holden, they did not recognize Him [Luke 24:16] – they are explaining to the stranger the things about the Lord Jesus, and how they had such great hope for Him and in Him, and how He had been crucified, and how some had said He was raised from the dead [Luke 24:18-24]. But they didn’t know, and they didn’t know what to think of it, and brokenhearted and sad they’re making their way to Emmaus. Now you look, verse 25: "Then Jesus said unto them" [Luke 24:25], they didn’t know He was Jesus, He was a stranger unrevealed [Luke 24:15-16], "Then Jesus said unto them," you have it translated, "O fools, and slow of heart," anoetos, O not understanding ones, O not thinking ones; a, alpha privative, anoetos:
O not understanding ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, then entered into glory?
And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
You look at that. Look at it closely: "O not understanding ones, and slow of heart to believe all" [Luke 24:25], all of what? All that the angel had said at the tomb [Matthew 28:5-7]? No! Slow of heart to believe what the women had testified when they said the tomb was empty? [Matthew 28:9-10]. No! Slow of heart to believe all, all of what? All that Simon Peter had testified and John had said when they went into the empty tomb? [John 20:1-9]. No! "O slow of heart, and not understanding ones, to believe all," what? "That the prophets have said!" [Luke 24:25]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? Before the angels whispered, "He is not here; He is risen from the dead. Come see the place where He has laid" [Mark 16:6]; before the women said, "We have seen Him! We worshiped at His feet" [Matthew 28:7-10]; before the disciples exclaimed to the world, "He is alive! He is risen indeed" [Acts 2:24, 30-32]; the prophets had said, "The third day He will rise again" [Hosea 6:2, Psalm 16:10 with Acts 13:33-35]. What a remarkable thing. It is the testimony of the Word of God that is the ultimate confirmation of the resurrection of our Lord, and the living gospel of our Savior.
Now, look again, in this twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Beginning at verse 36, He appears unto His apostles. He is standing in the midst of them and says:
Shalom, Peace be unto you. They were terrified and affrighted, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said unto them, Why are you troubled? and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold, look at My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have . . . And He showed them His hands and His feet. And when they looked upon Him in joy, and almost unbelief, and wonder, and had eaten, He immediately says, These are the things that were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms. And He opened 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.
That is unthinkable to me and almost impossible to believe! The Lord is standing there, and He is showing them the scars in His hands and in His feet, and in John, the scar in His side [John 10:33-34]; and He says to them, "Handle Me and see that it is I Myself" [Luke 24:39]. And then immediately, immediately He says, "Thus it is written," and He shows them and opens their understanding, that in the Law, the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Writings [Luke 24:44], the whole Bible, "Thus it is written that He must suffer, that He must be raised from the dead" [Luke 24:46]; the great confirmation is the testimony of the Word of God, the foundation for the faith.
A man’s eyes might deceive him. A man’s touch might mislead him. A man’s hearing might be elusive and illusionary. But the sure Word and testimony of God shall stand forever! [Isaiah 40:8]. The foundation of the faith is not what a man sees, and not what a man hears, and not what a man touches; but the foundation of the faith is the forever assurance of the testimony and the Word of God [Psalm 19:7, Isaiah 8:20].
When Paul stood before Agrippa pleading the cause of Christ, remember what he said? "O King Agrippa, believest thou the Prophets? Believest thou the Prophets, the Word of God, the testimony of the Holy Scriptures?" [Acts 26:27]. And in defining the gospel, in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, these are the words: "My brethren, I declare unto you, I define for you the gospel, wherein ye are saved, wherein you stand" [1 Corinthians 15:1-2]. What is it? Listen to it: "How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; that He was buried, and the third day He was raised again according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. By the Scriptures, Paul avows Jesus lived. By the Scriptures, Paul says Jesus died. By the Scriptures, Paul says Jesus was raised from the dead. The assurance and the foundation of the faith is found in the immutable and unchanging Word of God. And the whole presentation of the truth is just like that; that’s the reason I had you read the passage in  Peter a moment ago. Peter says, "We stood with Him on the holy mount, and saw His deity shining through" [2 Peter 1:17-18]; the transfiguration of our Lord [Matthew 17:1-5], glorious, God, just as John saw Him in the first chapter of the Revelation, "His face above the shining of the sun" [Revelation 1:16].
"We saw Him," says Simon Peter, "and we heard the voice of God, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased [2 Peter 1:17]. We stood in the mount, we looked at Him, we saw Him, we heard the voice of the testimony of God with our ears" [2 Peter 1:17-18]. And then the next verse says, "But we have a more sure word of prophecy" [2 Peter 1:19]. Beyond what his eyes had seen, beyond what his ears had heard, Simon Peter says the surest foundation of our persuasion and our faith is the immutable word of God [2 Peter 1:19]. All of these things astonish me. It’s the word of God, ultimately, that provides the great basic foundation upon which our faith is built. God said it; unchangeable and true forever.
If I had another hour, I would speak of the fact that this is the assurance of our salvation; not some marvelous experience that we might have had. God bless any man that has had a marvelous experience. Not some esoteric understanding that has intuitively entered our hearts or life, not anything except, "God said if I trust Him, He will save me," the foundation for the faith [Hebrews 11:1, 6].
I want to close with a beautiful thing that moved my heart. Long time ago, in the days when the Bible was destroyed, and burned, and the people who possessed the Word of God were themselves burned at the stake, in those days there was a Waldensian merchant in the palace of a beautiful woman, a lady; and he is exhibiting before her his jewels and his silks and his satins. Maybe one of the reasons this appealed to me so much in the far away little town where I lived, where we never had any stores of any merit, we called them "drummers"; drummers would come by, and they’d come into our home, and he would undo, open, that big, big, big case, and he would show my mother all of those cottons, and ginghams, and calicos, and silks, and all the rest, and she would buy things from him, and she made clothes with her hands. Now this is what this is about. There is a Waldensian drummer, and he is in the palace showing his jewels and his silks and his satins to that beautiful woman. And then Whittier, the poet, says – after the drummer has exhibited his beautiful things, he says:
"O lady fair, I have yet a gem, which purer luster flings,
Than the diamond flash from the jeweled crown on the lofty brow of kings:
A wonderful pearl of exceeding price, whose virtue will not decay,
Whose light shall be a spell to thee and a blessing on thy way!"
The cloud went off from the pilgrim’s brow, as a small, meager book,
Unchaste with gold or gem of cost, from his flowing 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]
This is the foundation of the faith. The Lord said it [2 Timothy 3:16], I believe it, and in that assurance, I rest my soul, live my life, come to the hour of my death, and lift up my face to the beautiful and golden city God hath prepared for those who love Him [Revelation 22:10-27]. It’s a wonderful assurance; it’s an incomparable comfort [Romans 15:4]. It’s a preciousness God hath given into our hands; the foundation for the faith.
Now we’re going to sing us a song. And while we sing that song, all of us remain here praying, just for a moment longer. In the balcony round, on this lower floor, a family, a couple, or just somebody you, down one of these aisles, down one of these stairways; we’ll wait for you. If you’re on the last row in the top balcony, there’s time and to spare. Make the decision now in your heart. And when we sing this hymn of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, take that first step. Angels will strengthen and increase your commitment in the way if you will just respond. God bless you as you come, accepting Jesus, coming to be baptized, coming to put your life with us in this dear church. God bless you as you come; while we stand and while we sing.