In Defense of the Faith
May 20th, 1984 @ 7:30 PM
IN DEFENSE OF THE FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 3:15-17
5-20-84 7:30 p.m.
And now to the great throngs of you who are sharing this hour with us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas, this is the pastor delivering the evening sermon entitled In Defense of the Faith. And it is based on a text in 1 Peter chapter 3, verse 15; chapter 3, verse 15, 1 Peter, toward the end of your Bible; chapter 3, verse 15. I thought we might read 15, 16, and 17. If you found it, 1 Peter, chapter 3, reading these three verses, 15, 16, and 17. Are you ready? First Peter 3:15, 16, and 17, out loud and together:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
[1 Peter 3:15-17]
And the background text, 1 Peter 3:15: "Be ready always to give an answer to every one that asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you."
There is no doubt but that any Christian faces tremendous antagonists as he pilgrimages through this weary world. As the hymn says, "This world is no friend to grace, to carry us on to God." That’s why Pilgrim’s Progress has been the greatest and most read book outside of the Bible. When he became a Christian, he faced giants, and ten thousand foes all through the days of his life, until the trumpets blew on the other side of the river, and the great Christian went home. You’re going to face fierce frontal antagonists to the Christian faith. If you go to a Christian school, there are many of our Christian church related schools that openly make fun of the Bible. Some of them are in our part of the world. If you go to a secular school, there will be professors who openly avow their disbelief in the very existence of God. We look to Christ for help:
Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
Chart and compass come from Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.
["Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me"; Edward Hopper]
And that’s the message tonight.
First of all, it is reasonable, it is reasonable to believe in God. It is reasonable to believe in God. The Book of Ecclesiastes says, in Ecclesiastes 3:11, "God hath set eternity in our hearts." And I think one of the common denominators of all mankind is this: we can never escape the conviction that somehow, somewhere there is a God to whom we are answerable. The evidence of the presence of God is everywhere, and we’re going to look at it in two areas: in the visible, and second, in the invisible world.
First: in the visible world. The atheist says – and he amazes me when he says it – he says, "I see a creation, but no Creator. I see a vast design, but no Designer. I see a universe without purpose. I see life without meaning and death without hope." Could that be, could it possibly be that our world just happened to be, just accidently came into existence, and no omnipotent hand created it, there’s no God back of it? Could such a thing be?
There are ten thousand physical phenomena that make possible our world. For example, our planet is tilted twenty-three degrees: that makes our seasons. For example, at the equator of the earth, the earth spins a thousand miles an hour: that makes our days and our nights. For example, we’re ninety-three million miles from the sun. If we were any closer, we’d burn up; if we were any further away, we’d freeze to death. The temperature of the sun is ten thousand degrees Fahrenheit. If it were twenty thousand degrees, it’d burn us up. We are from the moon 238,000 miles. If we were, say, 50,000 miles from the moon, the tide of the Atlantic would go over our continent this way, and then the tide of the Pacific would go over our continent the other way. But it is just balanced by a great Designer that makes possible our world.
If you were to take fifteen pennies and number them from one to fifteen, and put them in a piggy bank, and shake them up, and then shake them out one at a time, the chances are that number one would come out first is one in fifteen. The chances are that one and two would come out in sequence is two hundred ten. The chances are that one, two, and three would come out in sequence is one chance in 2,730. And the chances are that all fifteen would come out in sequence is one chance in ten hundred billion, namely, a trillion. And yet our world is thousands and thousands and thousands of facets that if they weren’t obtaining the world wouldn’t exist.
Is that just by accident? Or did a great Designer create it and fling it out into space?
And look at you: the most amazing, omnipotent creation of the Almighty God is you. I see people, almost every day there will be some who come here, and want to take a picture of me holding the baby, or with the young married couple, or with the dear mother. And they stand out there, and they have to work that camera, and they get it just so, and the aperture just right, and the clicking just right, and all the, just work on it and work on it; and yet my eye can do that a thousand times all around, just look around, and my eye immediately accommodates to the whole thing because there are 238,000 telephone wires from the retina of my eye back to my brain. It’s a miracle of God.
Over there in that piano that you just heard that girl play there are eighty-eight notes. But my ear has 1,500 separate notes in it; and it can just pick them up all the time, play them all the time, listen to them all the time. My heart beats one hundred thousand times every day; and pumps blood through one hundred thousand miles of circulatory system in my anatomy: does it every day; I don’t even pay any attention to it. It’s a miracle. It’s a miracle.
But however may be the astonishing, amazing creation of God in the visible world, by far the most amazing of God’s design is in the invisible world. Did you know, in Hebrews 11, verse 3, there is the finest, in Greek, there is the finest outline of the atomic creation, substance, of this world that you will find in literature? "The things that we see are made out of things that do not appear" [Hebrews 11:3].
When you look at this church, come up here look at all of that stonework and this brick: looks solid to me. And when I stand here behind this pulpit, this thing looks solid to me. But actually, this whole solid church structure, and this pulpit desk around which I’m hammering now, the thing is made out of ten billion times billions moving electrons and neutrons whirling around a central nucleus. The whole thing is in motion. It’s an amazing thing, the invisible world. And this air in which I’m waving my arms, my ear can pick up a sound up to twenty thousand vibrations a second; but this air is full of music. I just need a radio to pull it out and make it heard by my ear. And as I wave my arms, there are all kinds of drama and all kinds of pictures, this atmosphere is full of them; but my eye can only see a certain image at a certain distance. I need a TV set to pull it out. If I were to say that to a man, say, who lived a hundred years ago, he would think I had lost my mind – the invisible world. But the truest and greatest and most substantive of the facets of God’s invisible world is the heart and the soul that lies back of it.
For example, a mother’s tears. A physicist and a chemist can analyze it and say, "This is H₂O, that part. This is NaCl, this is sodium chloride, that part." Or an anatomist can get a hold of it and say, "See this mother’s tear, this is the gland, and it works so and so; and this is the duct, and it works so and so." But the reality of life is in a different world! When I think of mother’s tears, to speak to me in terms of the chemist or the physicist or the anatomist is ridiculous and unthinkable! Mother’s tears represent prayer, and love, and sometimes heartache and intercession before God. There’s a world back of the world that we see. And especially do you find that in the moral sensitivity of the human soul, made in the image of God [Genesis 1:27].
I was reading in my devotional this week, in the Book of Genesis, those brothers of Joseph who had sold him into slavery are now in distress and in Egypt. And in their hurt and in their agony, they say to one another, not knowing that Joseph could understand their language, they’re saying to one another, "This has come upon us because we did not hear the cries and the anguish of our brother when we sold him as a slave to the Ishmaelites" [Genesis 42:21]. Why, my brother, that happened years and years, it happened a generation before; but it is just as sensitive and present in their lives as though it had happened yesterday. Same thing about Judas: Judas had his money, and Jesus was put out of the way, what’s the matter with Judas? His heart kills him; his soul slays him, and he commits suicide [Matthew 27:3-5].
Don’t you read that in the beautiful literature you study in school? Duncan, King of Scots, is slain. And Macbeth the Thane has accomplished his nefarious and murderous deed. What’s the matter with him? He holds up his hand and sees it stained with blood, and he cries,
Will all Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, rather this my hand will
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.
["Macbeth"; William Shakespeare]
What’s the matter with him? Or Lady Macbeth, as she walks in the nighttime, and cries with a spot of blood on her hand, "Out, out, damned spot! out, I say!" And then cries and cries, "Will all the perfumes of Arabia sweeten this little hand?" What’s the matter? What’s the matter? What’s the matter?
You know, some of the things that happened to me when I was just a teenage, and a pastor: often stayed in the home of a godly old man, beautiful Christian. And as I sat by his side one day, he turned to me and asked, "Young pastor, do you think God, do you think God would ever forgive a man who killed his best friend?" Well, I said, "God forgives us anything. But why in the world would you ask that?" And then he recounted the story in the days of his youth: put a flask of whiskey in one pocket, put his gun in the other, go to a Saturday night party, and in an altercation, and in a drunken brawl, he shot and killed his best friend. That was years, and years, and years before; but it was as vivid in his life after sixty years as the day that he pulled the trigger. What’s the matter? What’s the matter?
I read an article last week on abortion. So much in the political life and the ecclesiastical life of today on abortion, and the man that was writing the abortion, the subject of abortion, writing on it, he didn’t have any moral presentation prejudice, bias, one way or another. He was just writing about abortion. And they had made a study of thousands of young women who had abortions. And the conclusion of the article was this: there’s no such thing as any girl anywhere, anytime, in any level or culture of life that ever has an abortion that ever gets over it, never, never. It’s a scar in their memory as long as they live: that baby that could have been. What’s the matter?
It’s because we are morally sensitive. There is a world behind and over the world that you see, and it’s on the inside of your soul, and you live with it, and you can’t escape it. The Greeks had a goddess they called Nemesis. And the goddess never forsook following after those who found retribution in an inexorable experience in life.
I can’t escape God; I don’t care who I am. I believe it is reasonable to avow God is, He exists.
Number two: it is reasonable to believe in the Bible. That beautiful verse in the sixth chapter of the Book of Proverbs: "It," the Word of God, "will go before you when you walk in the way; and it will watch over you when you sleep at night; and it will lead you when you walk" [Proverbs 6:22]; the Word of God.
This Book that I hold in my hand is made out of the authorship of about forty different men, writing over sixteen hundred years, from about 1500 BC to about 100 AD. And it is as viable today as when it first began to be written. Can you imagine, tell me, can you imagine a book of science written 1500 BC to 100 AD being a great textbook today? Why, it would be filled with idiocies. Can you imagine a great book of, say, anatomy, or medicine? It’d be ridiculous to think about it. And yet this Book that I hold in my hand is as regnant and viable and full of the truth of God today as it was when the Lord first penned it by the Holy Spirit [2 Peter 1:20-21].
The scientific accuracy of the Book is an astonishment. It’s a miracle to me, the accuracy of the Book. For example, in Leviticus 17:11, the author writes, Moses said, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood." But it was not until 1615, when William Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood in the body, that such a truth as that became known. Or look at the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Job: Job says, that, "God hangeth the world upon nothing" [Job 26:7]. Why, there’s not a one of you kids that don’t know that in Greeks – and they were the leaders of Western civilization – the Greeks believed that the world was held up on the back of a giant named Atlas. God’s Book said, "He hangs the world on nothing"; He just flung it out into space. Or look again, in Isaiah 40:22, "God sits above the circle of the world." Why, it’s just comparatively recent that we have been taught that the world is round. There are no scientific mistakes in this Book. That’s God. That’s God.
And half of the Book is prophecy, either in type or in statement or in symbol. There’s no other religion and there’s no other book in the world that has prophecy in it, because it’d be manifest that the man was a nincompoop who wrote it, because he doesn’t know the future: only God knows the future. But half of this Book is prophecy, what’s going to come to pass.
But all of this is incidental compared to the big part: what the Book does to the human heart, to the human life, to culture, to civilization. There was a trilogy of novels that were written back there in the 1930s. The first one was called Mutiny on the Bounty; the second one was called Men against the Sea; and the third one was called Pitcairn Island. It’s a true story. In 1787, there sailed from Britain a ship of His Majesty’s Navy called the "Bounty." And after ten months of sailing, they finally came to the South Sea Islands, their destination; they were going to help build the colony there. And after the building of the colony and after the assignment was done, all of the sailors got on board of the Bounty, and sailed away. But on the ship there were sailors that rebelled against Captain Bligh and some of the men loyal to him, and they won. And they put Captain Bligh in a launch, an open boat; and put him and the men loyal to him out to sea. And they finally landed in a little island in the South Pacific called Pitcairn. The men landed on that island with the women and the children that were there, and the other men that were there; and having discovered a plant on the island out of which they could distill whiskey, they became the most degraded society and colony that mind could imagine or word could describe. They killed one another. The thing was racked with crime. It was filled with violence, and disease; and all of the men were killed, or died of disease, except one man named Alexander Smith.
Digging around among the effects of a dead sailor, he found a Bible. It was new to him; he’d never seen one before. And he began to read it. And as he read it, he began to follow its precepts. And he called all of the women and all the children of Pitcairn Island around him, and he taught them the Word of God. Twenty years later, about twenty years later, a ship touched Pitcairn island for the first time in that period of time, about twenty years. And when the ship stopped there, it found a utopia. There was no drunkenness, there was no crime, there was no wrong, and the people were living in the love and grace of the Lord. That’s what this Book will do to a culture, to a civilization, to a people: it’s God; the Word of the Lord.
Number three – number one was it is reasonable to believe in God; number two, it is reasonable to believe in the Bible – number three; it is reasonable for somebody you to give your heart to Jesus, to espouse the cause of our Lord. And when the atheist or the secularist says, "That is something that you don’t see, this Lord Jesus; and that’s something that you give yourself to by faith and by trust," my young friend, we don’t live except by faith and by trust. The farmer plows his field in faith that God will give him a harvest. The surgeon cuts the flesh in the faith that God will heal the wound. A man takes out an insurance policy, believing by faith that somebody will pay the policy after he’s dead. By faith, if you sit in an airplane you have to trust that pilot and all of those multitudinous instruments. When you marry, you give your heart and life to somebody; you do it by faith, by trust. There’s no life without it.
My young friend, why should it be strange or unusual if by faith and trust I give my heart to the Lord Jesus? He will talk to me. More than three hundred times in the Bible does it say, "God answers prayer"; talking to Him. And above all, it ennobles and enriches my life to give my heart to a cause of Christ. I need it. I need it.
May I illustrate that, and then I’m through; our time is done!
There was a woman in India, the wife of a doctor, a physician; and she saw her husband die. She was devastated! Her life died also in the ebbing life of her husband. And in deepest despair, in unspeakable sorrow, she boarded a ship back to America. It just happened to be that on that same ship, in the Second World War, there was a little boy, a little fellow, hardly six or seven years old. His parents, missionaries, had been killed in Burma, and he was on that ship coming back to America. The little fellow came up to the woman, and said to her, "Did you know, we are the only two Americans on this boat?" She paid no attention to him. She ignored him. She wanted to be left alone in her sorrow and despair.
The little fellow was so hurt; he wanted to be friendly, and she ignored him. In the providence of God, in the South Atlantic a torpedo hit that boat and broke it to pieces. And the woman thought, "I will drown in this sea, and with me I will drown my sorrow." And as she prepared to die, that little boy, that little thing, trembling like a frightened bird ran to her and clung to her. And as the ship went down, the little fellow clung to that woman. On a piece of the debris of the broken vessel, she pulled herself up, and reached out in the water and pulled up the little six-year-old lad. And on that piece of a broken ship, they floated in the Atlantic until a passing ship rescued them, and saved them. It is hard for me to say whether the woman saved the boy or the boy saved the woman. She gave her life to the rearing and caring of that little orphan boy. Who saved whom?
And that’s exactly what the Lord said: "He that would save his life must lose it; and he that will lose his life for My sake, shall save it everlasting" [Luke 9:24]. I need to give myself to my Lord. I need to give myself to the cause of Christ. I need to open my heart to the needs of those all around me, the lost, the untaught. I live when I live in Him and for Him.
And that’s our appeal to your heart tonight. Give your life to the blessed Jesus. Open your soul heavenward and Christ-ward and God-ward. And see, taste and see that the Lord is good [Psalm 34:8]. It’s the life everlasting; it never fails.
May we bow our heads in the prayer?
Our Lord, such an abounding goodness has the Lord offered to us, just for us to take it, to receive it, to give our lives to it. And our Savior, we’re praying here tonight that there will be some who will say to Thee and to us this night, "God helping me, I offer my life in faith and in trust to the blessed Lord Jesus." And our Lord, some to come into the fellowship of our dear church, some to give themselves to a special ministry to which the Lord hath called them, as the Lord’s Spirit shall make appeal, may it be in our hearts to answer with our lives. Then bless us, Lord, as we walk with Thee, pray to Thee, talk to Thee, be friends with Thee; and may that companionship in this pilgrimage be the sweetest continuing experience we ever know. And some day, Lord, when we come to the end of the way, may it be our joy unspeakable for the Lord to say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Heaven is prepared for you." Give us that harvest tonight, dear Lord, in Thy precious and saving name, amen.
In a moment we’ll stand, and as we stand to sing our appeal, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, I have decided for God tonight, and here I am, here I stand." By letter, a family; in conviction and consecration of life, taking Jesus as Savior; or answering a call of the Lord; or giving your life anew to Him, as He makes the invitation say yes to God. May angels attend you and the Lord bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.