Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-18-86 8:15 a.m.
And no less welcome to the great multitudes of you who share this hour on radio. This is the pastor, this is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and in these morning hours we have begun to preach through the Gospel of John; a thing in my heart for years that I would love to do. We are in the prologue. In all literature there is nothing comparable to the first fourteen verses of the Gospel of John: not in Aristotle, not in Plato, not in any of the great philosophers of the medieval ages, not in literature, not even in Shakespeare is there anything comparable to this prologue. Let us read the first five verses. The title of the message is The Christ of Creation. And if your neighbor does not have a Bible, share it; and let us read out loud the first five verses of John, John chapter 1, verses 1 through 5, now together:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
And our message is based on the third verse, The Christ of Creation: “All things, the whole creation, were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made” [John 1:3].
The nature, the character of that creation is found in a nuance, in an overtone, in a word that John uses in this text. Do you see three times in that little verse, that one little sentence, three times is it repeated, the word translated “made”? “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made” [John 1:3]. Do you notice in the fourteenth verse he will use that same word again? “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” [John 1:14]. Made.
In order for us to see the overtone—I call it a nuance—of that word he uses, let me contrast it with the word that Paul will use to describe the same great creative act of God. Paul will describe the creation of the world like this: “Christ, who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation: For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, that are in earth, visible, invisible: all things were created by Him, and for Him: And in Him all things sunistēmi, hold together, subsist, consist” [Colossians 1:15-17]. He would say—if I drop my Bible, do you see it, see it fall? That’s gravity. There’s no man, no scientist that could even approach to know what gravity is. Paul says that’s the power of Christ. Hebrews 1:3 says, “Upholding all things by the word of His power . . . in Him all things hold together, sunistēmi” [Colossians 1:17]. And the word that he uses for the evident, material universe around us is ktizō: “For by Him were all things ktizō, and all things were ktizō by Him” [Colossians 1:16]. Now that’s Paul. Ktizō is a definite historical creative act.
John doesn’t even approach the presentation of this physical universe, in which we live, like that. He uses a word translated here “made,” he uses a word ginomai. I took my concordance: not one time does John use the word ktizō, “create,” not once. I counted the times he uses the word ginomai. He uses it ninety-one times. “For by Him were all things ginomai” [John 1:3]. Now the nuance, the overtone: John says that it was divine love, divine mercy, divine grace that created this universe [John 1:3,14]. I want you to look at that for a moment. There are two things that arise out of such an avowal as John makes; and they are tremendous. The first is this: according to John, there is no possibility of the truth of the philosophy that matter is inherently evil. Yet that was the philosophy that laid back of practically everything that the Greeks taught, and it’s a philosophy that continued through the medieval ages and even to this age, that evil is inherent in the universe, it’s inherent in matter, it is inherent in substance. John is just the opposite of that: ginomai, “He brought into being,” a literal translation of the word. He brought into being all that we see in this universe out of grace and love and truth” [John 1:3, 14].
I think that what John is saying is but a reflection of the whole revelation of God. What God did in creation was good. Doesn’t it say that? There is a refrain in the first chapter of Genesis: “And God saw that it was good” [Genesis 1:12]. That’s in the twelfth verse. Or look at it again, the eighteenth verse, “And God saw that it was good” [Genesis 1:18], creating in those six days. Look at it in the twenty-fifth verse: “And God saw that it was good” [Genesis 1:25]. And finally, when He had finished, “And God saw that everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good” [Genesis 1:31]. The basic teaching of the Word of God reflected here in the words used by John, the Lord God made this created world in love and truth, in mercy and in goodness. “O Lord our God, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth! [Psalm 8:1]. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork, His lacework” [Psalm 19:1]. It is all beautiful and made according to the goodness of God.
Now the second deduction from that avowal: the first one, matter is not, the universe is not, the world is not inherently evil; God made it in divine grace and love [John 1:14]. All right, the second avowal: in that universe, that substance, materiality, God could tabernacle, could dwell. “And the Word was made flesh,” and skenoō, pitched His tent among us, tabernacled among us—translated in the King James Version “dwelt among us,” and we beheld His glory, as the only begotten of the Father” [John 1:14]. Not only is matter substance, the world, the universe, not only is it not inherently evil, but God could tabernacle in it. He could become incarnate in it. He could dwell in it. God made it in love and mercy, in truth, in divine grace, the world in which we live.
The Maker of the universe,
As Man for man was made a curse.
The claims of Law which He had made,
Unto the uttermost He paid.
The holy fingers made the bough,
Where grew the thorns that crowned His brow.
The nails that pierced His hands were mined
In secret places He designed.
He made the forests from whence sprung
The tree on which His body hung.
He died upon a cross of wood,
Yet made the hill on which it stood.
The sky which darkened o’er His head,
By Him above the earth was spread.
The sun which hid from Him its face
By His decree was poised in space.
The spear which spilt His precious blood
Was tempered in the fires of God.
The grave in which His form was laid,
Was hewn in rocks His hands had made.
The throne on which He now appears
Was His from everlasting years.
But a new glory crowns His brow
And every knee to Him shall bow.
[“Maker of the Universe,” Phil Keaggy]
The universe, what you see, of which we are an inevitable, inextricable part, the universe, everything you see, in the purpose of God is an act of divine love and grace [John 1:14]. That’s John. That’s the apostle. And I love to think of it like that.
Sin is an intrusion. The presence of Satan is an interloper. The universe is God’s. We are God’s. And God made us and this whole universe in divine grace, and love, and truth.
E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream,
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
and shall be till I die.
Then in a nobler, sweeter tongue,
I’ll sing Thy power to praise,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
lies silent in the grave.
[adapted from “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” William Cowper]
This is God’s world, and He made it in His love and grace; and He made it good [Genesis 1:31].
Now a second thing, and a final thing, out of the nuance, out of the overtone of what the apostle writes: “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made [John 1:3]. And the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us, and we saw His grace, abounding and full” [John 1:14]. That’s the creative work of God. Now He continues that creative work; John says so.
“Well, pastor, how could John say that in the face of the inexorable fact that nothing can ever be added to creation, not an item, not an atom, not a nuclear cell?” The whole thing was created in the beginning [Genesis 1:1], and it is impossible to add to it or to take away from it. Matter is indestructible; it can be changed, like burning something can be changed into gas and into ash, but you don’t destroy the matter.
“Well, pastor, what do you mean when you say God continues to create?” The apostle will describe it in terms of soul and spirit. God creates soul, spirit, or we would use the word “birth,” birth, a new birth. God is still creating [John 3:3, 7].
I don’t know whether you are sensitive to it or not when I pray a dedicatory prayer for these children that are brought here to the front. Sometimes, or maybe every time, as I kneel down and pray with the father and mother, as the dad will hold the little baby in his arms, I will pray, “Dear God, what a miracle! What a miracle, the creative hand of God and this baby!” That is a continuing creation of the loving God: the soul, the spirit of that child. That is a new creation. God breathed into the little infant the breath of life. It is a work of almightiness. It is a work of omnipotence. It’d almost be blasphemy for me to suggest that a man could do that. That’s God! And it is the creative hand of God that does it!
Now, John says that there is also a “new birth.” He uses the word in chapter 3, [John 3:3, 7], of being “born again.” That is a creative work of God. The first birth, the creation of the soul of that child, that’s a creation of God today. And John says the new birth, when we are born anew, when we are born into the kingdom, John says that also is a creation of God. God does it [John 3:3, 7]. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation.” God’s doing it today; continuing His creative work in our hearts, in our souls; a beautiful, loving, merciful intervention of God in our lives.
And I have one other thing that according to the Book God is still doing: not creating matter, that’s eternal; we don’t add to it, we don’t take away from it, it is indestructible; it can be changed, but it cannot be destroyed. But God is still creating not only a new soul, a new birth, a new creation [John 3:3, 7], but God is also creating a new fellowship, a new institution, a new corporality. He calls it His ekklēsia, His church— creating, making a new fellowship, a new comradeship in this world [Matthew 16:18].
It is a wonderful thing, what God is doing, this new creation. In the forty-third chapter of Isaiah, Isaiah quotes the Lord God as saying, “I will do a new thing; I will make a new thing” [Isaiah 43:19]. And when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He said, “This is My blood of the new covenant, of the new testament” [Matthew 26:28]. In the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation, God says, “And I make all things new” [Revelation 21:5]. And this ekklēsia, this fellowship of God’s people is a new creation, and it is characterized by a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Now I want you to notice, I’m not going to turn the page, nor am I going to read consecutively; I’m just going to read without turning the page, I’m going to read the nature and the characteristic of this new thing that God has created. Listen to it:
This is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
[1 John 3:11]
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
[1 John 3:16]
My little children, let us not love in word, or in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
[1 John 3:18]
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
[1 John 4:7]
God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us.
[1 John 4:12]
We know and believe the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
[1 John 4:16]
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
[1 John 4:18]
This commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
[1 John 4:21]
It’s a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17].
And when I read in the paper the violence, and the hatred, and the terror, and the preparations for war in this world, what a beautiful, precious, glorious thing God hath wrought in our midst: this fellowship of love, of grace, of caring. O God, that there might be more of Thy grace and goodness in the world, and less of the hatred and warmongering.
It was the Lord Jesus who told us the story of the Good Samaritan; He did that. A despised, hated, outcast Samaritan; He told that story, Jesus did [Luke 10:30-37]. It was the Lord Jesus who spoke in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the great judgment day.
Lord, when did we ever see Thee naked, and clothe Thee? Or hungry, and fed Thee?
Or sick, and ministered unto Thee?
Or helpless and in prison, and came unto Thee? When, Lord?
And the Lord replied, Inasmuch as you did it unto one of the least of these, you did it unto Me.
That is the new creation, the new fellowship, the new ekklēsia God is building in this world.
My time has gone. I don’t know whether any of you are here long enough to remember, because the church just almost went out of existence at Christmastime; when I came forty-two years ago, I asked them here in this sanctuary, I asked them on the Sunday night before Christmas to have a beautiful, beautiful presentation of the meaning of the faith, of the Christian love. So, they did; they presented a play, a Christmas play based upon a poem by our great American poet who died a few years ago, Edwin Markham [“How the Great Guest Came”]. The whole spirit of it is just godly, wonderful. Let me call it to your attention, and then I must close. The poem, and of course the play, the poem was about a poor cobbler. Edwin Markham calls his name Conrad, a poor cobbler. And in the night he has a vision; and in the vision, Jesus says to him, “Tomorrow, I am visiting you in your shop, in your cobbler shop. I am coming to see you tomorrow.” Well, when Conrad the shoe cobbler awakens in the morning from his vision, immediately he begins to make his shop ready for the great Guest. That’s the title Edwin Markham gives to his poem. He makes it ready for Jesus: cleans it, decorates it, and is waiting for the Lord.
Well, while he’s waiting for the Lord, a poor, poor, poor, beggar walks by in front of his cobbler shop. His shoes are worn through, and he is walking on the cold ground and sidewalk in the snow. And Conrad the cobbler invites that poor street man into his shop, and fits him with a pair of shoes, and sends him on his way. And while he is waiting for his guest, an old woman bent under a heavy load of fagots passes by, cold. He invites her in. And he shares with her some of the food that he has prepared for his great Guest. Then he waits.
He lived all the moments o’er and o’er,
When the Lord should enter the lowly door—
The knock, the call, the latch pulled up,
The lighted face, the offered cup.
He would wash the feet where the spikes had been,
He would kiss the hands where the nails went in,
And then at the last would sit with Him
And break the bread as the day grew dim.
[“How the Great Guest Came” Edwin Markham]
So he waits for the great Guest. And while he’s waiting, he hears the cry of a child outside. And there that little thing weeping, having lost her way, he asked where the child lives. It’s on the other side of the city. “Oh dear!” But he closes his shop, and takes that weeping child to the other side of the city, and places the youngster in the arms of the father and mother, who rejoice with tears of gladness to have their little child back.
Then Conrad returns to his shop, waiting for the great Guest to come. And finally, he cries:
“Why is it, Lord, that Your feet delay?
Did You forget that this is the day?”
Then came the reply:
Then soft in the silence a Voice he heard:
“Lift up your heart, for I kept My word.
Three times I came to your friendly door;
Three times My shadow was on your floor.
I was the beggar with the bruised feet;
I was the woman you gave to eat;
And I was the child on the homeless street!”
That’s God! That’s the Lord. And that is the fellowship, the ekklēsia, the loving comradeship of this new creation in the world.
And oh, to find that among our people, love, and sympathy, and understanding, and fellowship, and grace, and truth, and peace, the fruit of the Spirit! [Galatians 5:22]. This is the presence of God.
We’re going to stand in a minute and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing the song, a family you to put your life with us in this dear church, a couple you, or just one somebody you, “Pastor, today I open my heart God-ward and Christ-ward, and here I stand. Here I come. I want to belong to the family of God, and I’m coming.” Or as the Lord shall place any appeal or any call in your heart to answer with your life, make the decision now. And in this moment when we sing our hymn of invitation, out of the balcony round, down a stairway, in the press of people, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand.” A thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
THE CHRIST OF CREATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The mighty creator
1. Done in love, sympathy, grace and kindness
2. God was made flesh in this world
II. His continuing work
1. Human soul
2. New creation of fellowship among believers