The Witness of Christ to the Word
November 16th, 1980 @ 8:15 AM
THE WITNESS OF CHRIST TO THE WORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-16-80 8:15 a.m.
And the Lord bless the great throng present at this early morning hour, and God open the hearts and the ears of all of us and you who listen on radio, sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Witness of Christ to the Word.
As a background text and as typical of our Lord, we read from the twenty-fourth chapter, the last chapter of Luke, beginning at verse 25. Speaking to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, Luke 24:25,
Then Jesus said unto them, anoetos –
O not understanding ones, O not thinking 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 in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself –
now verse 44 of that same twenty-fourth chapter of Luke –
And Jesus said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses,
The Torah, that’s the first division of the Old Testament Bible; "written in the Law of Moses," the Torah, "and in the Prophets," the Nevi’im, that’s the second great division of the Old Testament Jewish Scriptures, "and in the Psalms." The third tremendous section of the Jewish Hebrew Bible is the Ketuvim, the Hagiographa, the Writings, and the most prominent book in the Writings, in the Ketuvim, is the Psalms. So for the third section of the Hebrew Bible, they use the word "Psalms." "All things must be fulfilled, written in the Torah, in the Nevi’im, in the Ketuvim [Luke 24:44]. Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures" [Luke 24:45], so the title of the message, The Witness of Christ to the Word.
It is almost a holy thing to observe the reverence of the Orthodox Jew for the Holy Bible, the Hebrew Old Testament. I was in Jerusalem shortly after the War of 1948 that ensued in the declaration of the modern state of Israel. And they had just captured Mt. Zion and the traditional tomb of David. They had turned the tomb into a synagogue. And when I was there, it was filled with Orthodox Jewish rabbis and worshipers. And as I stood there rather at length, just looking, moved by the scene in which I found myself, they came to the conclusion of the reading of the Torah, a scroll of the books of Moses. And when they came to the reading of the Torah, the scroll, the rabbis kissed every word on the page. Then they folded it up, and then they kissed the scroll from the top to the bottom. Then they kissed the tassels into which they placed the scroll. Then they kissed all of it from top to bottom, and tenderly, lovingly, reverently placed the scroll inside the ark. And that holy reverence toward the Word of God on the part of the Jewish people is reflected precisely and exactly in the attitude and the spirit of our Lord. The same Bible they had, we have. The same Scriptures that that Jewish congregation revered are the same Scriptures our Lord read and that we read today in the Old Covenant.
The attitude of our Lord and the spirit of our Lord toward the Bible is so manifestly seen and poignantly demonstrated when you compare His spirit and His attitude against the background of practically all of the academic, theological world today. We, in this church, are so accustomed to listening to this pastor and as they say, in five years any congregation will exactly reflect the attitude, and spirit, and persuasions of the pastor. In our church we are so accustomed, I say, to the spirit and attitude of the pastor toward the Word of God that it is hard for us to believe that beyond our church in the great, vast extent of the academic community theological, that their spirit and attitude toward the Word of God is almost diametrically opposite of that of us and of our dear Lord.
Look at the Lord Jesus as He will speak of Adam and Eve. To the whole liberal world, Adam and Eve are mythological characters; there never lived any couple like that, nor was there any garden of Eden. And for the most part, they are evolutionists who believe that we came up from some primordial ooze and that our ancestors were chimpanzees and anthropoids and simians. That’s the academic world. But what was the attitude of our Lord toward the beginning story of mankind? In the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, our Lord speaks of the hallowedness, and the sacredness, and the elective purpose of God in marriage; and He uses for His great doctrinal statement that God made them "a man for a woman," Adam for Eve, and Eve for Adam; and on the basis of the historical reality of the beginning story, He concludes the great doctrinal basis for marriage, the man and the woman [Matthew 19:3-9]. That’s the Lord Jesus.
Take again, and we’ll not belabor this beyond several instances; but you can take the whole gamut, the whole spectrum, and it’ll be exactly like that. To the academic community – all of it – to the whole liberal world, Deuteronomy is a forgery. The fifth book of the Law of Moses – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy – Deuteronomy is a forgery. All of them believe that is was a spurious document that was perpetrated upon the people, upon the nation, in the days of Josiah, a thousand years after Moses is supposed to have written it. The whole academic community, liberal, believes that Deuteronomy is a spurious document. What is the attitude of our Lord? The attitude of our Lord toward Deuteronomy is He quotes from it more than any other book in the Old Testament, more than any other book; and He always quotes it as from the pen of Moses. That’s the Lord.
Take again, Daniel, the Book of Daniel: in all of the liberal academic community, the Book of Daniel is also a spurious document – a forgery, a fraud – and instead of being written as it purports to be, in say 600 BC, it was actually written in 165 BC. And all of those prophetic revelations in Daniel, according to the liberal community, all of it is history written back as though it were prophecy. The whole liberal world believes that. What is the attitude of our Lord toward Daniel? In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the Lord refers by specific name, "Daniel the prophet, the prophet" [Matthew 24:15], he spoke those things by revelation from God; not a forgery, not a spurious document but a statesman-prophet who spake by the Spirit of the Lord. That’s Jesus; that’s the Lord!
Take again, Jonah: I suppose that in the liberal academic community there is more scoffing and more ridiculing of the Book of Jonah than any other one piece of literature in the world. "Jonah? Ha, ha, ha!" But what was the attitude of our Lord toward Jonah? In the spirit of Jesus, as you would read in the twelfth chapter of Matthew, He used Jonah as a sign, and an illustration, and a harbinger, and an earnest of His own death, burial, and resurrection [Matthew 12:40]. That’s the Lord.
I remember one time, L. R. Scarborough, God’s wonderful evangelist preacher and theologian, Lee Scarborough was speaking, preaching, and I was out there listening to him. And I remember one thing that he said: his little boy came in from Sunday school and said, "Dad, I just heard the most unbelievable story at Sunday school this morning about Jonah, a man named Jonah, and he was swallowed by a big fish. And he stayed in the belly of that fish three days, and the fish vomited him up. Now that’s what I heard in Sunday school this morning. And Dad" the little fellow said, "I just don’t believe anything like that."
So Dr. Scarborough said he took his little boy, and he set him down by his side, and he said, "Now son, tell me again, what is your problem with Jonah?"
And the little boy said, "Well, at Sunday school we were told that a big fish swallowed him, that he stayed in the belly of the fish three days, and after three days the fish vomited him up, and he was still alive. And Daddy, I just don’t believe a thing like that."
And Dr. Scarborough said, and what an impression it made on me, he said to his little boy, he said, "Son, you know I also have had a great deal of problems with that same story; I’ve had it too. The only thing, son," he replied, "my problem is not quite like yours. I have never been able to understand – the great man said – I’ve never been able to understand how God could make a man. And I have never been able to understand how God could make a big fish. And son, if I could ever be able to understand how God could make a man, and how God could make a fish, I think it would be easy for me to understand how God could put them together!"
That’s the spirit and the attitude of our Lord. This is something in the prerogative of God; His name is miracle and wherever you find His handiwork, there will you find the amazing, astonishing, supernatural ableness of Almighty God. That’s the Lord. That’s the Lord.
The Lord said in the fifth chapter of Matthew, "There will not be a dot, a yod, there will not be a tittle," a little horn on the alphabetical word for teth, the "t," "There will not be a jot, there will not be a tittle fail from the law." And then He used an illustration: "Sooner will the creation cease to exist than that one jot," a little yod, "or one tittle," the little horn on the teth, "shall fail of fulfillment" [Matthew 5:18]. That is the attitude and the spirit of the Lord toward these Holy Scriptures. When we read through the life of our blessed Savior, the Book was constantly in His hands. With a Book in His hand, the Holy Scriptures in His hand and in His heart, and in His word of testimony, did the Lord go forth in His public ministry.
In the passage that you just read, in the fourth chapter of the Book of Luke, He is in the synagogue, and apparently as the custom was they delivered into His hand the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. And turning the scroll to the sixty-first chapter, there the Lord expounded the Scriptures. With a Bible in His hand, in His preaching, He preached the Word of God [Luke 4:16-20]. That’s the Lord Jesus. And He used the Word of God for illustration constantly. Whenever He told a story, it would be out of, or illustrative of, the spirit of the Word of God. For example, in the twelfth chapter of Matthew, He will speak of the queen of Sheba, coming so far to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, "And behold," He would say, then the application, "A greater than Solomon is here" [Matthew 12:42]. That’s the Lord Jesus.
In the fourth chapter of the Book of Luke, just beyond the passage that we read, as He expounds on the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah, He is speaking of the great love of God for the whole world. And He illustrates it, "In the days of Elijah, in the awful famine, it was to a widow in Zarephath, in Sidon, that the prophet was sent, to a pagan woman" [Luke 4:25-26]. He uses another illustration for that same doctrinal truth, the love of God for all mankind: He speaks of Elisha. And who was healed in the days of Elisha? A leper by the name of Naaman, who was from Damascus, from Syria, a pagan [Luke 4:27]. That’s the Lord. He will constantly use illustrations out of the Bible in His preaching, in His teaching.
He will use the Word of God for warning. As in the tenth chapter of Luke, He will speak of Sodom, Gomorrah; of Tyre and Sidon [Luke 10:12-14]. In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Luke, He will speak of Noah and the judgment of God in the days of the flood; and of [Lot] and the judgment of God that fell upon the cities of the plain [Luke 17:26-30]. And constantly the Lord uses the Bible as weaponry in defense of the truth of God. In the temptation, each one of the temptations, our Lord used the Bible as the arrows by which He slew the wicked one; using the Bible [Matthew 4:3-11].
Let me show you how oft that is in the life of our Lord. This will be one place that the Bible is open here in this Criswell Study Bible. I have opened it to the twelfth chapter of the Book of Mark. And if you want to open your Bible at the twelfth chapter of the Book of Mark, just look at this one page, this one page, and see how often it is that the Lord will use the Bible in the defense of the faith. He starts off chapter 12 with the parable of the wicked husbandmen who took the servants and finally the son that was sent to the vineyard to find the fruit that was due him, and they had mistreated the servants and killing some of them, and finally killed the son [Mark 12:1-8]. Now you look at our Lord as He used the Bible: verse 10, "Have ye not read this Scripture"; then He quotes Psalm 118:23 [Mark 12:10-12]. All right, look again: beginning at verse 18, there is a question about the resurrection [Mark 12:18-23]. Now come down to verse 26 [Mark 12:26], "And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying," then He quotes Exodus 3:6. All right, look again: when He is asked about the great first commandment, Jesus answers him, and He says, "This is the first of all of the commandments" [Mark 12:29-31], and the Lord quotes Deuteronomy 6:5. Then He says, "The second commandment is like unto the first, namely" [Mark 12:31], then He quotes Leviticus 19:18. All right, come on down to verse 35: "And He then turns and answers the rulers of the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David?" [Mark 12:35], then He quotes Psalm 110:1 [Mark 12:36]. That’s the Lord; the Bible was constantly in His hands. The Word of the Lord was constantly upon His lips. And to Him the great doctrinal basic assurance of all the things that we know and hope for in God are found on these holy pages. That is the Lord Jesus.
Now our last great avowal, looking at the life of our Lord and His attitude and spirit toward the Holy Scriptures: the tremendous incontrovertible authentication of His messianic ministry, that He was sent from God to be the Savior of the Lord, that great everlasting fundamental authentication of the truth of His mission was found in the Word of God, based upon the Word of the Lord. And you find that marvelously illustrated in the background text: "Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself" [Luke 24:27]. And then that forty-fourth verse:
These are the things that I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, things written in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, in the Ketuvim, in the Writings, concerning Me. Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.
To me, that is absolutely one of the most amazingly astonishing, surprising things that I have ever read or seen or observed in my life! This is the risen Lord who is standing before these disciples so disheartened and discouraged; it’s the risen Lord raised from the dead. What are the authentications of His ministry, His messianic mission? What are they?
Here He stands before them resurrected. Wouldn’t you think He might perform a miracle that they might believe? That’s what the world all seeks after, some sign. Wouldn’t you think He would perform a miracle? He was capable. When they watched the ministry of our Lord, His marvelous works, they said, "It was never so seen in Israel" [Matthew 9:33]. Couldn’t He have brought to pass a miracle before their eyes for authentication? Couldn’t He have referred to His great discourses? When they listened to Him, they said, "Never a man spake like that Man" [John 7:46]. And that’s the truth. In all the history of literature, there’s nothing like the words of our Lord, nothing. Couldn’t He have referred to His tremendous discourses? No! Well, what does He refer to? He refers, as the tremendous basis for the authentication of His messianic ministry; He refers to the Word of God! That’s what it says: "Beginning at the Scriptures in Moses, in the Prophets, in the Writings, He showed them the things concerning Himself" [Luke 24:27]. "And He opened their minds that they might understand the Scriptures" [Luke 24:45]. The great authentication that Jesus is what He said He was, that He is the Lord, that He is the Savior of the world; the authentication is found in the witness and testimony of the Scriptures.
Now that brings us to an observation concerning the Word of God that is miraculous. It is this: there are no sacred literatures, books, of any religion in the world that has prophecy in it except the Judeo-Christian faith, this Book; it is unique and peculiar to our religion. You wouldn’t find prophecy in any book of Mohammed or Gautama the Buddha, or Krishna, or Confucius. Why? Because it would immediately become apparent that they were ridiculous in their inability to describe the future. The revelation, the opening of the future, is a prerogative of God Almighty and of Him alone. And in the Scriptures, only in this Book, only here do you find prophecy, the unveiling of the future.
Look again at the miracle of this: if one man at one time in the centuries past were to describe somebody like Jesus, it would be a miracle; if he could prophesy, one man at one time, the coming of somebody like Jesus, it would be a miracle! But what do we find in the Holy Word? Many, many men through many, many centuries describe the coming of our Lord. It is a marvel; it’s a miracle of God! Look just once again at those prophecies written in the Bible concerning Christ. They were largely contradictory. The first chapter of Simon Peter, the first chapter of 1 Peter, says that "The prophets themselves could not understand the Scriptures, the Writings, the messages that they brought" [1 Peter 1:10-11]. The prophets looked at those prophecies delivered by them, and they couldn’t understand them; they were contradictory. The old rabbis studied those prophecies of the Coming One, and they couldn’t understand them; they were contradictory. John the Baptist could not understand them. He even sent to the Lord, wanting to know if there was One or several Messiahs [Matthew 11:2-3]. He couldn’t understand. The apostles could not understand. And that passage in the first chapter of 1 Peter says, "And the angels could not understand" [1 Peter 1:12]. The angels read those prophecies, and they couldn’t understand; they were so self-contradictory.
One instance, in one breath, the Coming One, the Messiah, the Savior, the Christ of the world, He was described as a great Conqueror [Isaiah 52:13], that’d be one breath; and in the next breath, He is lowly and despised and rejected of men [Isaiah 53:3]; right together. In one breath, He is a King, He is a King, and in the next breath the prophecy would say, "He is meek, riding upon the foal of an ass [Zechariah 9:9]; and His countenance was such that we,the visage was such [Isaiah 52:14], root out of the dry ground [Isaiah 53:2], we esteemed Him not" [Isaiah 53:4]; in the same breath. In the same breath, He is described as "the great mighty Wonderful One of God" [Isaiah 9:6], and in the next breath He is pierced [John 19:34], and He is crucified, and He dies the death of a felon [Matthew 27:38-50]. They couldn’t understand. That’s the Holy Scriptures of God. How marvelously do they authenticate the ministry of our blessed Jesus.
I must conclude; our time is gone. Just one other thing: when we look at the Bible and we read these marvelous prophecies, all of us would say they point to the Lord Jesus. They describe Him in terms more beautifully accurate than if they were standing in His presence, describing Him, though they’re talking about Someone who is coming 1,500 years, 1,000 years, 750 years, 500 years in advance, yet they describe Him in prophecy as though they were looking at Him. Now the unbeliever and the infidel, he says, "Now you just wait a minute. Before you say that all of those prophecies of the Old Testament, before you say that they pertain and describe the Lord Jesus, I have three objections. Number one: the disciples made the life of our Lord conform to those prophecies, and that’s why you read it as it is."
"But my brother, it was not the disciples that conformed the life of Jesus to those prophecies; most of those prophecies were fulfilled by His enemies who hated Him!"
"Second objection: before you say those prophecies are fulfilled in the Lord Jesus, the disciples wrote those prophecies in the documents."
"Why, my brother, those documents, the Old Testament Scriptures, were finished after the days of Ezra, hundreds of years before the Lord Jesus. And they were as finished and sealed in Jesus’ day, the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, as they are in our day, just as fully finished. You couldn’t tamper with them. Read something, place something, write something spurious in it; just you couldn’t do it today, you couldn’t then."
"A third objection: those prophecies are speaking about somebody else."
"Well, who somebody else? Are those prophecies talking about Caesar? Unthinkable. Charlemagne? Beyond imagination could you make them. Napoleon? Churchill? Name the greatest men of the earth, they are specks and Pygmies in the dust compared to the glory of the stature, of the wonder of Jesus our Lord, of whom those prophecies spake in these centuries past. His name is literally, "Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" [Isaiah 9:6]; there is none like Him.
And that’s why it is a sin for us, and if persisted in, the unpardonable sin [Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30; Luke 12:10], for us to reject the witness of God and God’s Word to the deity and the saviorhood and the messianic ministry of our Lord. "He that believeth is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already," so said John in John 3:16. And then he concluded the chapter, in John 3:, "He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son hath not life, but the wrath of God abideth upon him."
So fully and so completely has God authenticated the saviorhood of His Son, that if I reject it and refuse it, I face no other alternative but rejection and judgment. Lord, give me the spirit of acceptance, and of reverential worship, and of belief. None like Him: so said Moses, so said the prophets, so said the apostles, so said the divine Holy Spirit, and so have said the saints and martyrs through the centuries since. He, He is the Lamb of God and the Savior of the world, and our Savior [John 1:29]. Now may we stand together?
Our wonderful, wonderful Lord, what a basis for the faith hast Thou written in the Word. How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, in the Word of God. And we can hold it in our hands, we can read it; it speaks to our souls, and we see the face of Jesus on its sacred pages more fully and completely than if He stood in the flesh before us. And in that assurance, Lord, may we offer ourselves unto Thee in obedience, in reverential worship. And in the goodness and grace of Him who died to save us [Romans 5:8-10; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21], may we find the forgiveness of our sins [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5], and the assurance of eternal life [John 3:16, 10:27-30].
And in this quiet moment that our people pray, wait before God, somebody you give himself to Jesus, a family you coming into the fellowship of the church, a couple you, as God shall place the appeal of invitation on your heart, answer with your life. And thank Thee, Lord, for the sweet harvest You will give us; in Thy precious name, amen.
Now, while we wait, and while we pray, down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles, "Here I am, pastor, we’re coming today." Or, "I’m coming today accepting Jesus as my Savior into my heart." Or putting my life in the fellowship of this dear church, or answering an appeal from the Spirit of God, on the first note of the first stanza, make it now; while we wait and while we sing. "Here I am, here I am."
I. Jewish reverence for the Holy
Scriptures (Psalm 119:89, Isaiah 40:8, Matthew
A. Tomb of David at Mt.
Zion, after 1948 war
II. Jesus reflects Jewish reverence for
A. Contrast to modern
1. Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-6, Genesis 1:27, 2:24)
The Book of Deuteronomy
3. Prophet Daniel
of Jonah (Matthew 12:39-40)
the jots, tittles inspired (Matthew 5:18, Isaiah
III. Christ’s use of the Scriptures
A. For preaching (Luke 4:14-22, Isaiah 61:1-2)
illustration (Matthew 12:42, 2 Chronicles 9,
Luke 4:24-27, I Kings 17, 2 Kings 5, John 3:14, Numbers 21:4-9, John 6:32-35)
For warnings (Luke 10:12-14, 17:26-32)
the weapon of warfare opposing Satan and His enemies (Matthew 4, Deuteronomy 8:3, Deuteronomy 6:13, 16, Mark 12:10-11, Psalm
118:32-33, Exodus 3:5-6, 15, Mark 12:26-27, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Leviticus 19:18,
Mark 12:28-34, Psalm 110:1, Mark 12:35-37)
IV. The incontrovertible authentication of
His mission (John 7:46, Luke 24:27, 44-45)
A. No other religion
B. He alone fulfills
them (1 Peter 1:10-12, Isaiah 53:1-3)
C. The unbeliever’s
D. God has done all He
could do in pointing to Jesus as Savior (John