SEVEN MIGHTY MIRACLES OF ALL TIME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-29-80 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled The Seven Mightiest Miracles of All Time. This is in a series of four. One has been delivered, The Seven Mighty Miracles of the Old Testament. The second has been delivered, The Seven Mighty Miracles of Calvary. The fourth one will be The Seven Mighty Miracles at the End of the World, and today, The Seven Mightiest Miracles of All Time. Six of them are observable before us now. We shall look at them. The seventh one we receive by faith in the promise and assurance of God.
Number one: The Seven Mightiest Miracles of All Time, namely, the creation of existence—of matter, of substance, of time, of space, of the universe, of the world—Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” It is a product and a fruit of the hand of God’s creative almightiness, the world that we see around us.
Now in all of these generations past, the infidel and the atheist and the secular, materialistic scientist, without exception, they have avowed that the world, the universe, matter has been eternal. No one created it, it has been here forever and ever. But in these last few years, learned scientists have come to see that there was a time and a place when all of creation came into existence. It had a definite origin in time and in place. And these latest discoveries have thrown the atheist, and the infidel, and the secular scientist into abysmal turmoil.
For example, Dr. Steven Weinberg, who is professor of physics at Harvard University, has recently written a book entitled The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe. This distinguished scientist was recently awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. In that book on the origin of the universe, he avows three things. Number one; that the universe had a beginning, a point of origin both in time and in space. Number two, he avows in that volume that the universe is governed by a cosmological principle, meaning there are definite and observable laws throughout the universe which are uniform and universal. The universe, he says, is isotropic and homogenous. By saying it is isotropic; we mean that it appears the same in all directions. Saying that it is homogenous, we mean that it appears the same to all observers. It is the same throughout the whole created substance.
The cosmological principle is a foundation for all scientific research. When we sent our men to the moon, we did so believing that on the moon, the same laws prevail and obtain as prevail and obtain here on earth. And when Neil Armstrong spoke into his microphone on the moon, we could hear his words and see his lips move. The laws throughout the universe are uniform and universal. They are the same wherever substance and matter are.
The third great avowal of Dr. Weinberg in that marvelous, marvelous book is this: the universe is a unity. It is more than a huge conglomeration of atoms and molecules, widely gyrating and randomly colliding with each other. It has cohesion, and therefore it has meaning and purpose. This is the latest science, and it is an abysmal rebuke to the infidel, and the atheist, and the secular materialist, who says matter has been here from eternity. God created it, God made it, God fashioned it, and we see in the work of His hands design and intelligence, the hand of Almighty God. That is the first great mighty miracle of all time.
The second mightiest miracle of all time is the creation of life. In this same chapter of Genesis:
- number 1, verse 11, “God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, herbs, trees, fruit after his kind,” the creation of vegetables [Genesis 1:11].
- Verse 20, “God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly after their kind,” the creation of the fish of the sea, then every winged fowl after his kind, the creation of the birds in the heavens [Genesis 1:20-22].
- Then verse 24, “God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, the beast of the earth,” and God made the beast of the earth after his kind, cattle after his kind, everything after his kind [Genesis 1:24-25].
- Then verse 26, “And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness . . . [Genesis 1:26].
- So God created man in His own image; in the likeness of God, created He him; male and female created He them” [Genesis 1:27].
God made it. God created life.
Contrary to what the atheistic evolutionist and the materialist scientists avow, life did not create itself. It is not the product of an adventitious concourse of atoms and molecules that just happen to get together and form the universe, that happened to get together and form the world, and happened to get together and form life; it is a creation of God. Now to look at the wonder and the miracle of that: there are thousands of conditions that make possible the living creature in this world. Not one, but thousands of factors, and all of those factors had to come in sequence and in order for life to exist.
Just for a brief example, the earth turns over; it rotates on its axis at a thousand miles an hour. Suppose it rotated at a hundred miles an hour? You’d have days ten times as long and nights ten times as long. And if the day were ten times as long, we’d burn up; we’re burning up now when it’s just twelve hours! [If] it were ten times as long, we’d scorch; and if the night were ten times as long, we’d freeze to death. The earth has to turn just right for life to exist.
Take another factor: if the moon were just a little closer, say fifty thousand miles away, great tides would sweep over our continent and inundate the great land masses of the earth twice every day. Those thousands of factors have to be just right for life to exist—the creation of God. Now you look at how unlikely all of those factors should happenstance be together.
If I have in my pocket ten pennies—ten—and I number them one to ten, and I put them in my pocket and I put my hand in my pocket and draw out the first penny, there is one chance in ten that I’d draw out number one. I put it back in my pocket and shake it. And then I draw out two more. And there’s one chance in a hundred that I’d draw out the sequence number one and number two. I put them back in my pocket and I shake them and then I pull them out again. There is one chance in a thousand that I’d pull out the sequence one, two, three. I put those three back in my pocket, and there is one chance in ten billion that I would pull out in sequence one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, just ten! But we’re talking about thousands of factors! And for all those factors to conspire to create life is unimaginable if it is adventitious and by chance. God created life, and that is the second mighty miracle of all time.
The third mighty miracle of all time is the creation of the Bible. Second Peter, first chapter, verses 20 and 21, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” [2 Peter 1:20-21].
We don’t get the depth of the meaning of this apostle, so let’s look at it word at a time. “Private, private,” idios, that refers to one’s own. It refers to something personal, individual, and private; something of a man himself. All right, the word “interpretation,” epilusis, “an unloosing,” so a disclosure, a releasing. The verb is ginetai, “comes into being.” And that verb “moved by the Holy Spirit; pherō, “borne along.” Now let me put it together. A literal translation of what the apostle Peter wrote in that verse, “No prophecy—no Scripture ever comes into being out of one’s own personal, private releasing or disclosure [2 Peter 1:20], for,” then he gives the reason for the avowal, “the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were borne along by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:21]. He is avowing that the Scriptures did not come into being because of a man’s thinking, or his rationalization, or his speculization, or his observation, or of his own personal thinking, or persuasion, or judgment. The Scriptures came, he says, as the Holy Spirit of God bore the men along, and they wrote down these prophecies that sometimes spoke of events that were thousands of years in advance. They did it by the moving of the Holy Spirit of God [2 Peter 1:20-21].
There are three words that characterize the Holy Scriptures which I say is the third of the mightiest miracle of all time. The first is apokalupsis. That is “the unveiling, the revelation.” That refers to the content of the Bible, what God has done in self-disclosure of Himself and what God has written of all of the ages that are yet to come. The content of the Scripture is apokalupsis, the revelation of God. The transmission of the Scripture is theopneustos, God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16]. It was the Spirit of God that guided that prophet and that apostle to write it down and to do it inerrantly, infallibly, correctly, that we might know the true mind of the Lord. And the third is tērēsis: that is the preservation of the Word of God. That it is today in our possession; it’s not burned, it’s not destroyed, but it is scattered over the face of the earth. These are miracles; mightiest miracles of all time!
Look at this. Voltaire, the atheist, infidel philosopher, Voltaire said, “A hundred years from now,” when he was speaking, “the Bible will be a piece of antique literature, a curiosity in a museum.” A hundred years later where Voltaire said that, the Bible Society had placed a printing press for the distribution of the Bibles over the face of the earth. And a hundred years later from the time Voltaire said that, the British government paid the Czar of Russia five hundred thousand dollars for a Codex Sinaiticus. You can go see it in the British Museum now, Codex Aleph. And that same hundred years later when the British government paid five hundred thousand dollars for a copy of the Bible, a first edition of Voltaire sold on the streets of Paris for seventeen cents! This is a miracle of God; the miracle of the creation of the holy, heavenly Scriptures that I hold in my hand.
The fourth great and astonishing, mightiest miracle of all time is the creation of the body of Christ; the entrance of God into human flesh and human history. In the tenth chapter of the Book of [Hebrews], beginning in verse 4:
It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldst not, but a body hast Thou prepared for Me:
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast no pleasure.
Then said I—
this is before the foundation of the world when the second Person of the Godhead, the Son of glory volunteered for our redemption—
Then said I, Lo, I come (In the roll of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God.
In a sacrifice for sin, a spirit—and God is Spirit [John 4:24]—a spirit could not make sacrifice. “A spirit hath not flesh and bone” [Luke 24:39], and blood,” and “It is blood that makes atonement for the soul” [Leviticus 17:11]; so a body had to be prepared for the Son of God when He entered human life and offered Himself a sacrifice for our sins. And the creation of that body of Christ for the atonement of our sins is, to me, the fourth greatest miracle of all time. The Holy Spirit of God fashioned that body in the womb of a virgin Jewess girl named Mary [Luke 1:26-35], and He was born in the love and redemptive purpose of God for us. His life was marvelous beyond description.
But it is in His death that we are saved; not by His perfect life and not by His beautiful words, but by His stripes, by His suffering we are healed [Isaiah 53:5]. And now may I show you the marvel of that and the miracle of that? Every man who has ever lived in this earth, who has won anything—or any glory, or any exaltation—has done it by his life. It’s the things he has done in life; that’s a truism. But in Christ, but in Christ, the glory of Jesus, it is in His death! In the synoptic Gospels, a third of each one is dedicated to the last few days of His life, His passion. And in the Gospel of John, the Fourth Gospel, one half of the Gospel of John is devoted to the death of our Lord. John said, “There are so many things that Jesus did that if they were all written out, the world itself could not contain the works, the books that should be written” [John 21:25]. And yet out of all the marvelous things that Jesus said and did, John passes them by in order to devote one-half of his Gospel to the death of our Lord!
It is a miracle; God formed the body of Jesus in order that He might make sacrifice, atonement, expiation for our sins [Hebrews 10:5-14]. And the glory of that message of redemption from Christ has been the astonishment and the salvation of the world! Jean Paul Richter wrote, “He,” this is a great German author—literary giant, Richter; lived in the eighteenth century—born in 1763, “He, the holiest among the mighty and the mightiest among the holy, has lifted with His pierced hands empires off their hinges; has turned the stream of centuries out of its channel and still governs the ages.” There’s no one comparable to Jesus our Lord.
Mark Hopkins, born in 1802, the greatest educator America has ever produced—I one time heard a man say his idea of a university is a log with a student on one end and Mark Hopkins on the other—Mark Hopkins wrote:
Christ was placed mid-most in the world’s history, and in that central position, He towers like some vast mountain to heaven; the farthest slope stretching backward toward the creation; the hither slope toward the consummation of all things. The ages before looked to Him with prophetic gaze, the ages since behold Him by historic faith. By both He is seen in common as the brightness of the Father’s glory and the unspeakable gift of God to the human race.
And I couldn’t help but be interested in a poem that Robert Browning wrote. His title is “Death in the Desert.” It is a fictitious one that comes out of his heart, an account of the death of John—the sainted, beloved disciple, pastor of the church at Ephesus. It’s a poet, speaking at his death and what he said; but the poem was written to combat the radical rationalism and anti-supernaturalism of the German theologian, David Friedrich Strauss, one of the fathers of German rationalism that has destroyed the Christian faith. This was written in contradiction and in combat with that rationalistic, antinaturalistic testimony of David Friedrich Strauss. Now just these four little verses,
writes Robert Browning—
The acknowledgment of God in Christ,
Accepted by thy reason, solves for thee
All questions in the earth and out of it,
And has so far advanced thee, to make thee wise.
[adapted from “A Death in the Desert,” Robert Browning
If you look for answers in this earth, in this life and in the life to come, we find them in Jesus Christ, the miracle of all miracles of the ages.
Number [five], the mightiest miracle of all time: the creation of the church. In the second chapter of the Book of Acts:
When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly—
there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind. It filled all the house.
And there appeared unto them parting tongues of fire, and it sat upon each one. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
Verse 41, and after the marvelous testimony of Simon Peter:
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized—
just as you saw a moment ago—
and the same day there were added unto [them] about three thousand souls…
And the last verse in the chapter—
praising God…and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
[Acts 2:41, 47]
The miracle of the church: the fifth greatest miracle of all time. These are Jewish people, every one of them is Jewish—they’re priests, they’re Pharisees—they belong to the household of God’s chosen family, the people of Abraham. And the church began with those devout and godly Jews, all of them Jews in Jerusalem, the Holy City, the capital of Israel. And that church, when it began, is a miracle body.
The disciples themselves are miracles. Just a few days before, Simon Peter cowered before a little maid who pointed her finger at him and said, “You, you are one of His disciples!” And Simon Peter cursed and swore and said, “I never saw Him. I do not know Him. Never knew Him” [Matthew 26:69-74]. Now that same Simon Peter is standing up there like a lion, like a lion of the tribe of Judah [Acts 2:14-40]. He’s standing like an impregnable, an invincible rock! And that’s his name, Cephas, “a stone” [John 1:42], and fearlessly he’s proclaiming Jesus as the Lord and Christ. And the whole company of God’s redeemed are just like him. All over the entire Roman Empire, they stand there like a bulwark of martyrs, giving witness to the truth of God in Christ Jesus. Can you imagine that? Facing the whole power of the greatest empire the world ever knew and refusing to bow and challenging its great, fundamental precepts and tenets.
Let me tell you, the Roman Empire was of all the empires in history, lenient and sympathetic, pantheistic. Agrippa, the friend of Julius Caesar, built one of the great temples of the world. It’s the best-preserved temple of antiquity, you can see it in Rome—I’ve stood there, you have, and looked at it—the Pantheon. Rome was lenient and patronizing toward all the religions of the empire. When they conquered Egypt, they took the gods of Egypt, Isis and Osiris, and brought them there to the Pantheon and worshipped them. When they conquered Greece, they brought Jupiter, and Juno, and Zeus, and all the rest of their gods and put them in the Pantheon and worshipped them. When they conquered Ephesus, they brought Artemis—Diana—put her in the Pantheon and they worshipped her. That was Rome.
Why did Rome persecute the Christians? For a very simple reason; those Caesars saw that they needed one religion to make cohesive the entire, stretched-out, multi-province members of the great community of the Roman government. So they invented emperor worship; the one common denominator of the Roman Empire was to be emperor worship, worship the emperor. And it had two things: it was the way to worship what they called god, Augustus Caesar, “God Caesar.” And of course, it was a manner of binding an empire together and to worship the emperor was also a matter of patriotism.
When the Christian was asked to take Jesus and put Him in the pantheon along with Jupiter, and Zeus, and Artemis, and Cyrus, and Osi, and all the rest of them, the Christian said, “No!” Well, why not? All the Christian had to do was to take a little piece of incense and put it on the fire that burned before the effigy, the image of the emperor, and that’s all. All that he had to do was to say kaisar kurion,” Caesar is Lord,” and not kurion Iēsous, “Jesus is Lord.”
Well, what did the Christian do and what did the church do? It faced the entire power of the Roman Empire and refused to bow! Polycarp, the pastor of the church at Smyrna, the disciple of the sainted apostle John, said, “Eighty-six years have I served Him, and He has never done me wrong, and shall I deny my Lord who has cared and loved me?” All Polycarp had to do was to say kurion kaisar, that’s all. But when he was pressed, he always replied, kurion Iēsous, “Jesus is Lord,” and they fed him to the lions or they burned him at the stake.
And when you go to the Coliseum, that’s part of why it was built, for the, for the people on those tiers and tiers, seated on those seats, to watch the Christians as they paid for their faith with their blood and with their life! But they won the day! They changed the course of human history, and they unseated the Caesars, and they made Jesus Lord! This is the miracle of all time; the power and the witnessing of the Christian church.
The sixth greatest miracle of all time is the re-creation of the human soul today, the regeneration of the life. Second Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 17, “Therefore if anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” [2 Corinthians 5:17]. A man who has been wonderfully converted and was accosted and ridiculed by those who said—who heard him say that he had been saved, he’d been born again, he replied, “I am a new creation, or else the whole world is altered, for to me, everything has changed.” That’s God and that’s God in the human soul today, changing lives.
One of the most remarkable of all of the regenerating experiences we could ever read about is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus [Acts 9:1-18], and he that once persecuted the faith now declares and preaches the gospel that he once condemned [Galatians 1:23]. And God has been doing that ever since. From that day until this, men have been marvelously and gloriously saved! One of the brethren wrote a book entitled Twice-Born Men. He had taken men who were violent anti-God and anti-Christ and anti-church; he had taken those men and followed their lives as they had become Christians and now glorious witnesses of the blessed Savior, twice born men. And He is doing it today. He has done it in your life. He has done it in mine. He has done it everywhere around the earth, all over, in every tongue and language under the sun; the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit of God.
If you’re ever in St. Paul’s, one of the great cathedrals of the world, if you’re ever in St. Paul’s in London, and after you look at that massive, marvelous, glory of God, written in stone and window and architecture—he’s buried in the cathedral that he built—and up above his sepulcher there in the cathedral are these words: Lector, si monumentum requires, circumspice, “Reader, if you seek a monument, look around you.”
The same thing is true with us today! Man, if you want to see the power of the Holy Spirit of God changing lives, look around you! Right by your side may be seated a man who was vile and depraved and now he’s a child of the King! Right by your side may be seated a woman who was far away from God, in the depths of sin, and now she’s a saint, worshiping at the blessed feet of the Lord Jesus. All around you, upstairs, downstairs, in the choir, in the pulpit, everywhere; monuments to the grace of God: circumspice, “look around you.” Look around you; the power of God to save and to change today; no man is ever beyond the reach of the hand of God, however vile and wicked he may be. It’s the sixth miracle of miracles of all the ages and of all time.
The last one, I say, we receive by faith. All six of the others we can look at, do: the seventh one is by faith. Revelation chapter 10:
I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire . . . he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth . . . And he lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by Him that liveth forever and ever, that time should be no longer—
there will be no longer a delay—
But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as He hath declared to His servants the prophets
[Revelation 10:1-2, 5-7]
That word “declare” is euaggelizō. As God hath announced through the centuries and through the ages, through the prophets and through the apostles, some glorious day there shall be an intervention of God in human history when God comes down to this vile and darkened and sin-cursed earth. Not forever will sin, and death, and the grave, and wrong, and war reign in this earth, someday God shall personally, visibly, openly intervene. “In the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, the mystery of God shall be finished” [Revelation 10:7], don’t understand ten thousand things in this wrong world now, but someday God shall intervene.
Lo! He comes on clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
[Swell] the triumph of His train:.
God comes down on earth to reign.
[“Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending,” John Cennick, 1752]
The seventh and final mightiest miracle and wonder of Almighty God. Now may we stand together?
Our Lord in heaven, if You give us six of the mighty miracles of God that we can see and observe and experience with our own eyes and in our own souls, then, Lord, why can we not trust Thee for the seventh one? If God has wrought these mighty miracles and we see them, then, Lord, the one that we yet haven’t seen, give us faith to trust Thee for it. There will be a new day and a new house; there will be a new home in a new city; there will be a new heaven and a new earth [Revelation 21:1]. “And there will be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying; neither shall there be any more tears: for these things have all passed away. For He that sits upon the throne says, Behold, look, I make all things new” [Revelation 21:4-5]. A new heart, a new life, a new hope, a new day, a new vision; O God, what a glory! What a triumph! What God hath euaggelizō—hath announced, hath evangelized, hath declared—the good news through all of the ages: God reigns, God wins! And we who love Thee, God, help us to believe. We also shall be raised in a new body, given a new life, live in a new home, look in the face of Jesus and live [2 Corinthians 4:6]. O God, what a glory! What better thing God has promised to us who love Thee [1 Corinthians 2:9; Hebrews 11:40]. And now, Lord, having delivered the message, may God honor it today with souls.
In a moment, in a moment we’ll sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing that invitation hymn, the throng of us stand before God in prayer, praying for you; a couple you, a family you, or just one somebody you. Today, giving your heart to Jesus; today, putting your life with us in the fellowship of the church, bowing before our great God and Savior, “Lord, Lord, Lord, this day I answer with my life.”
Our Lord, bless the appeal as our people pray and as our choir sings, in Thy saving name, amen. Come.