Christ: The Word of God
June 1st, 1986 @ 10:50 AM
CHRIST, THE WORD OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-1-86 10:50 a.m.
Where do you get those arrangements? Do you do that? No? Then your wife must do it. They are just beautiful; they are wonderful. Makes me want to join the choir. And did you know, in God’s good grace, we are going to have such a big choir here? We are going to divide it; and the choir, Adult Choir, will sing beginning in September at the 8:15 service. The other half will sing at this service. And our young people are going to sing on Wednesday night, so that they can stay in bed longer and not have to get up so early, and everybody is going to be happy. Oh, I just praise God with you and for you!
And we no less thank the Lord for the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Christ, the Word of God. It is a message on the exaltation of God’s Word. It is based on the beginning verse of the greatest piece of literature ever written in human speech. There is nothing, ever penned by man, comparable to the Gospel of John. There is nothing in the revelation of the personality and presence of God comparable to the Gospel of John. And the Gospel begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” [John 1:1]. The spoken Word and the written Word and the incarnate Word all are called the Word of God, and they are one. A man and his word may be two different things; but not God and His word. The word of God is like God Himself: “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” [Hebrews 13:8]. As the psalmist cried in 119:89, “Thy word, O God, is fixed in heaven” [Psalm 119:89].
When I preach the Word, I’m preaching the Lord God. When you receive the Word, you are receiving the Lord Christ. When you believe the Word, you believe God. When you give your life to the Word, you are giving your life to God. When you are saved by the Word, you are saved by the Lord God. God is identified with His Word. This universe is sustained by the word of God: Hebrews 1:3, “Upholding all things by the word of His power.” We are convicted by the word of God: Hebrews 4:12-13, “For the word of God is quick, living, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the [joints] and marrow, and is a revealer of the intents of the soul. For all things are opened and naked before Him with whom we have to do.” We are converted, we are born again, we are saved by the word of God: 1 Peter 1:23-25, “Born again . . . by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
We are kept from sin by the word of God: Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” We are to walk by the word of God: Psalm 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” We are to live by the word of God: Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” We are to die by the word of God: Revelation 3:10, “Because thou hast kept My word, I also will keep thee in the trial that shall come over all the earth.” And we are to preach the Word of God: 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2, “All Scripture is theopneustos, God-breathed; all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom, Preach the word.” And our assurance of salvation, our hope of heaven, is the word of God: John 5:24, “Verily, verily, truly, truly,” the Greek of it is amen, amen—that’s an unusual thing: in Hebrew, in Greek, in every language of the Word, that word is the same “amen, amen”—“Verily, verily, truly, truly, I say unto you, he that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed out of death into life.”
I was converted, I became a Christian, I became a child of God, I was regenerated, I was saved when I was ten years old. In a little town of about three hundred people, in a white crackerbox of a church house, a preacher was holding a revival meeting, and he stayed in our home at night. He loved to drink a glass of buttermilk, and when he got through preaching and came to our home, he sat down at the table in the kitchen, and my mother had for him a pitcher of buttermilk. It was churned, like this, and guess who did the churning? These youngsters today don’t even know what a churn looks like. They’ve never seen churned buttermilk. He loved to drink a glass of buttermilk. And I would sit every evening at that kitchen table, and he would talk to me about the Lord.
In the days and in the course of the revival, several of those evening services, being drawn by the Holy Spirit of God, I would move, I would go to the edge of the pew, planning to go forward and confess my faith in the Lord Jesus, and would not do it. I have thought of that for the years and the decades since. Why would I hesitate? Why would I be timid? Why would I be reluctant? Why when I got to the edge of the pew didn’t I just walk up to the pastor and say, “Tonight I give my heart in faith to the Lord Jesus”? I cannot explain that. I just know it is true in the lives of practically everyone; timidity, hesitancy, sometimes planning to respond to the invitation, and go through the benediction and home without responding. I don’t understand; it’s just one of those inexplicables of human nature. Maybe it is the interference of Satan himself—come to the edge of the pew, and hesitate and not respond.
On a weekday morning in the course of the revival, my mother sent through me a little note to the teacher saying that it was her pleasure that I be excused from the class and attend the ten o’clock service of the revival. When I went to the revival from the school, I happened to be seated back of my mother. And when the preacher had done his sermon and made the appeal, and the people were standing singing the invitation, my sainted mother turned to me, and was crying. I guess that’s where I have inherited my propensity to weep: she often cried. She was crying and said to me, “Son, today will you give your heart to the Lord? Will you accept Jesus as your Savior?” I burst into tears and said, “Yes, Mother, yes. Today I will accept Christ as my Savior. I will receive Him and give my heart to Him.” And out into the aisle and to the front, I couldn’t see the preacher for crying.
I began preaching when I was seventeen years old. And for the first ten years of my work as a preacher, I was pastor of little country churches. I held revival meetings in those summertimes; they were under tabernacles, they were under brush arbors, and they were largely attended by the whole countryside. There was hardly anything, I suppose, by which people who lived out in those country places could gather together, so the annual revival meeting was a tremendously inviting and interesting convocation. Everybody attended; everyone came. We had camp meetings. People would come, camp there on the grounds, stay there all during the days, live there, and go to church. They had in those meetings what they’d call grove prayer meetings. Under a group of trees over here the men would meet for prayer; and the women usually would remain in the tabernacle or under the arbor for their prayer meeting. So I attended the grove prayer meetings with the men. And as I attended those prayer meetings where the men testified, told their experience of grace, recounted how they were wonderfully converted, as a young fellow, I sat there and listened to those men recount those miraculous experiences. They were beyond anything I had ever seen or ever been introduced to in my life. They would describe the angels who came to speak to them. They would describe the visions of the doors into heaven. One man I particularly remember pointing to a place, saying, “I had mourned over my sins and had been convicted and burdened for my lost condition for years. And I was standing right there when suddenly, out of heaven came a great ball of fire, and it burst over my head and struck me to the ground. How long,” he said, “I lay in that condition, I do not know. But when I awakened from the awesomeness of that heavenly fire, the burden of sin had rolled away.” Then he described how the birds sang, and how the trees looked, and how the mules were as he plowed in the field.
The summation of all of that was a disastrous repercussion in my soul. I came to the conclusion that I was not saved, I was not born again, I was not a Christian. I had had no experience comparable to any of that: I had never seen an angel, no ball of fire had ever broken over my head, I had never looked through the gate and the door into heaven. The agony of the days was doubly poignant to me because I was preaching on Sunday to those country congregations, then bowing down before my bed and before the Lord every night, crying to God that I was not saved, I was not converted, I was not born again, I was not a Christian. And the war in my soul, preaching on Sunday and bowing every night crying to God that I was not a Christian, was beyond any, any sorrow of soul you could ever imagine. “Lord God,” I prayed, “dear God in heaven, please, Lord send an angel to me. Let me see an angel, please, God. Let him confirm that I am saved, that my name is in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. Dear God, let a ball of fire burst over my head, please, God. When we have these grove revival meetings, and these men speak of their marvelous experiences, I have nothing to say. I have no great experience to relate: just as a ten year old boy giving my heart to the Lord at the invitation of the tears and voice of my mother. Lord God, please give me a great experience that I also can share and describe when we have our camp revival meetings.”
In the days that passed, that multiplied into weeks and months, and finally into years, there gradually came to my heart an answer, a crystallized, clear-cut answer from God; and it took a certain shape. And the shape was this: in the day when I stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God [2 Timothy 4:1], and the saints of the Lord are marching in, and I assay to join their number, and the Lord God stops me, and He says, “By what right, by what privilege, do you enter My beautiful city and walk on My golden streets?” And I answer to the Lord God, “Lord God, I know I’m a Christian. I know I’m saved. I know I’m born again. I saw an angel from heaven.” And Satan laughs, “Ha, ha, ha! He saw an angel from heaven! I was that angel.” According to 2 Corinthians chapter 11, he turns himself, he transforms himself into an angel of light just to deceive us [2 Corinthians 11:14]. And how could I stand? What could I say? What defense could I make? I based my salvation upon a vision of an angel from heaven, and he says, “I was that angel, just to deceive you.” What would I do? Or in the great assize, when the throngs are judged before God’s throne and the saints of God are marching in, and I propose to join their number and the Lord God stops me, and He says, “By what right and by what prerogative do you join My sainted throng, enter My city, and walk on My golden streets?” And I say, “Lord God, I know that I’m a Christian, I know I’ve been born again; I’m saved. Lord God, a great ball of fire burst over my head, and I know that I’ve been saved!” And Satan laughs, “Ha, ha, ha! He saw a ball of fire burst over his head.” And according to the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 13:13-14], Satan sends fire from heaven to deceive them that are upon the earth. And I based my salvation upon the experience of a ball of fire breaking over my head. And Satan drags me down to hell. What could I say and what could I do?
Then the Lord brought it in poignant words to my soul. When I stand at the great judgment bar of Almighty God [2 Timothy 4:1], and the saints of the Lord are marching in, and I propose to join their number, and the Lord God stops me and says, “By what right and by what prerogative do you enter My beautiful city and walk on My golden streets?” What I will do: I will take the infallible Word of God, and I will say to the Lord God, “Lord, here in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, verse 11, ‘He came unto His own, and His own received Him not’ [John 1:11]; but verse 12, ‘As many as received Him, to them gave He the prerogative, the authority, the privilege to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name’ [John 1:12]. And Lord God, when I was ten years old, in a revival meeting, in a little white crackerbox of a church house, the preacher gave the invitation, and my sainted mother who stands right there, my sainted mother turned, and said to me, ‘Son, today, will you receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior?’ and I said, ‘Mother, I will. I do.’ And I made my way to the pastor, and gave him my hand, and my heart to the Lord. Now, Lord, it’s just up to You, whether You keep Your Word and Your promise or not. You said, ‘As many as receive Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God.’ And the best that a ten-year-old boy could do it, I received the Lord Jesus, You, as my Savior; and I’m just depending upon Your keeping Your promise.”
Then I defy Satan! I defy Satan to challenge the word and the promise of Almighty God! The Lord would zap him! My salvation is not a matter between me and Satan, not at all; my salvation is a matter between me and God’s word, whether God would keep His word and His promise or not.
Sweet people, if I were to see an angel today, after these years and years and years, if I were to see an angel today, I’d thank the Lord for the vision: it would never occur to me to connect it with my salvation, never. If I were to see a ball of fire fall from heaven, I’d thank God for the privilege of the glorious vision of the power of the Lord; but it would never occur to me to connect it with my salvation. I base my salvation solely upon the Word of God that liveth and abideth forever [1 Peter 1:23]. And I need no other affirmation: it is enough. He said it, I believe it, and that settles it forever and ever and ever.
So I go my way, preaching the infallible Word [2 Timothy 4:2], calling men to trust Him, assured that what He has promised, He will faithfully perform [Romans 4:21]. He will faithfully perform. I give Him my heart in trust [Romans 10:9]. He said, “I will see you through.” I believe in His holy and heavenly word and promise, and I rest my soul in that infinite, priceless, heavenly promise of my Lord. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [John 1:1] . . . He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God” [Revelation 19:13]. And when I can trust in His promise, I have found peace and salvation for my soul.
Now may we bow our heads in the prayer?
Our Lord, precious Savior, what a beautiful thing You have done for us. Not up there in the sky is the word of God, not at the ends of the earth is the word of God, but, “It is nigh thee, even in thy heart: the word of faith, which we preach” [Romans 10:8]; namely, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that He liveth, that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” [Romans 10:8-9]. And our Lord, our hearts are opened heavenward and God-ward to receive the Word of the Lord, the spoken Word, the written Word, the incarnate Word, Jesus, the Word of God [John 1:1; Revelation 19:30]. And our Lord, in that commitment may we find peace and rest and salvation all the days of our lives, and someday stand before Thee on the infallible, eternal, infinitely precious Word of God [Jude 1:24].
And in this moment, when we stand to sing our appeal, to give your heart to Christ, to receive the Word of the Lord, to open your home and family to the teaching of Jesus, to listen to the voice of the Spirit, to open the Book and to follow its message, to answer with your life, down that aisle, down that stairway, would you come? “Pastor, this is God’s day for me. The Lord has spoken to me, and here I stand.” A family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you—God give us you today in response to the appeal of the Spirit. And our Lord, when we sing this hymn, may it please Thee to give us a gracious harvest, honoring Thy infallible and saving Word, our hope in this life and our assurance in the life to come, in the name of Him who is called the Word of God [Revelation 19:30], amen. Now Brother Denny, let’s all stand together. And while we sing the hymn, on the first note of the first stanza, “Pastor, here I am, and here I come,” welcome, a thousand times, while we wait, while we sing.