The Truth Of The Faith
July 26th, 1987 @ 10:50 AM
THE TRUTH OF THE FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-26-87 10:50 a.m.
Welcome, the throngs of you who share the hour on radio and on television. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, delivering the message in the sixth chapter of the Book of John. It is a presentation from an incident in the life of our Lord, and from the text in John 6:66-69:
From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, You—humeis—you, will you—thelō—choose, wish, decide—also, to go away?
And Simon Peter answered, Lord, to whom shall we go? If we turn from You, to whom, to where, to what do we turn? Thou hast the words of eternal life.
And we believe and are persuaded that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
That comes out of a traumatic experience in the life of our Lord. I can hardly think how He must have responded to that sad situation. In the tenth verse of this sixth chapter of the Gospel, it says that there were five thousand hoi andres; not hoi anthropoi, not hoi anthropoi—people, humanity, men women and children—but hoi andres. There were five thousand men that were thronging our Lord; and if there were five thousand men [John 6:10], can you imagine the thousands added when you include the women and the children? It was a triumphant scene. Not only that, but in this same chapter, they sought to make Him king [John 6:15]: “Here is a man who can feed throngs with just a little food [John 6:8-13]. Think what that would do for an army. And here is a man who can raise the dead [John 11:43-44]. Think what that would do for the slain soldiers.” And of course, being Jewish, they could march against Caesar and build that kingdom back as it was in the glory days of David and Solomon. There was everything up, a glorious prospect: Jesus, King Jesus.
When you read through the rest of the chapter, when our Lord finished His exposition, explanation, presentation of the true kingdom of God [John 6:26-58]—that it is spiritual, that it is of the heart, that it is a commitment of the soul to God, it was not material, and it was not something that came for the materiality of the affluence of life—when they found that, they all left [John 6:66].
I can see that receding, retreating throng just turning their backs on the Lord Jesus. And from the way that question is framed, “You, do you also choose to go away?” [John 6:67]. Just a little handful of twelve men remaining, out of those thousands and thousands that pressed Him on every side [John 6:5]. “Do you also wish to leave?” [John 6:67]. And Simon Peter rose to his finest once again: “Lord, Lord, to whom shall we go? If we leave You, what do we face?” [John 6:68].
And that is the sermon: if we reject our Lord, we turn our backs on Him, to what do we turn, and what do we accept, what do we believe? If we don’t believe in Him, we reject Him, what do we believe, what do we accept? When you turn your back on the Lord, you turn your face to unbelief, to atheism, to agnosticism, to the life and creed and faith of the rejecter, the infidel. Now what I am saying in the message today is that, however much it takes to believe and accept and to have faith in the Lord Jesus, it takes far more credulity and faith and acceptance to believe in agnosticism and atheism, the creed of the infidel.
So let’s begin. We turn our backs on the Lord Jesus. We refuse Him and we turn our faces to the creed, and faith, and life, and acceptance of an unbeliever, of an atheist, of an infidel. First thing you have to believe is: when you read God out of a life, out of the universe, then you are compelled to find some kind of an explanation, or faith, or persuasion about what you see. This vast creation, these universes and this earth, where did it come from? Having rejected the idea and the faith and belief that God did it, that it’s a creation of His omnipotent hands, then you have to believe it just happened, that it just came of itself. Nobody created it; it’s just here.
I one time heard of a teacher of a little junior class in Sunday school. And illustrating his point, he took his watch and he laid it on the table there, and he says, “Fellows, do you see this watch? Nobody made it. It just happened of itself. Upon a day,” he said, “there came rolling by a case and it plopped down. And upon another day, there came rolling by a whole lot of little wheels and springs and they plopped in. And upon another day, there came rolling by a face and it plopped on. And upon another day, there came walking by two hands and they got their places on the face of that watch. It just happened. Nobody made it.” And one of the little boys looked at him and said, “Mister, tell me, ain’t you crazy?”
I feel that way about people who reject God. How did this universe come to be? Where did it arise from? And if nobody created it, and when I turn my back on God, then I have to believe that it just happened of itself. And you think of the intelligence that lies back of everything you see. All of these planets and systems obey laws. And think of the world of botany, and zoology, and biology, and anthropology, and chemistry, and the whole earth of creation. Where did it come from?
Did you know, surely you know, by law, by law, by the edict of the Supreme Court of the United States of America in the last few weeks, by law you cannot teach the child in America in any public school that God did it? Creationism is by law outlawed in America! So, not being able to teach the child in the public school, that’s why we have this academy; we’re teaching that child God. By law, in a public school, not being able to teach that God created it, you have to teach what the scientists say, so-called science.
Well, the latest science that you know is the “big bang” theory. The “big bang” created all this you see in the universe. They say, “This is the latest science. This is the finest teaching of our great universities and our public school system.” Back yonder, somewhere in the dim and ageless past, there was a great big bang! And out of the big bang, everything you see came to pass—everything, the whole gamut and spectrum of creation.
That is exactly as if, when I walk through my library, there is the Standard Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Where did it come from? They had a bang in a printing plant, and there it is! Same thing exactly as if I walk through my library, and there is the Encyclopedia Britannica. Where did it come from? Bang in a printing plant and there it is. And so, I walk through my library and bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang! It is inane. It is ridiculous. It is the multiplied quintessence of stupidity. But by law, you are to teach that. It is an amazing thing!
I am just saying, that when you turn your back on our dear Lord, and when you turn your face toward atheism and materialism, that is what you have to believe. It is more of faith, I am saying, it is more of credulity to accept the creation of the atheist and the unbeliever than it is to accept the faith of our Lord. You have to believe that there is no meaning or purpose in life at all. You are a dog. You are an animal. You are a rat. You are a bat. Life is no more than that that you see in the animal world around you; it has no purpose, it has no meaning. “Therefore,” says the Epicurean, and we repeat it, “Eat, drink, be merry, tomorrow you are going to die like a dog. Life has no purpose; it has no meaning.” That’s what you have to believe when you turn your back on Christ and accept the faith and belief of an infidel.
What do you have to believe when you turn your back on Christ? You have to believe that there is no foundational undergirding for goodness, or righteousness, or morality. All of it is situational. That is where you get your word “situation ethics.” All of it is relative. It’s just however you may be at that time and the place.
They say, and you have to believe, that you can trust an atheist just as well as you can trust a devout Christian. I talked to a banker one time who told me why he refused to hire a young man who said he was an atheist, and the banker said to me, “I refused him because I said to him, ‘Goodness and honesty, to you, is a matter of what you choose and what you think. And how do I know but that one day you might change your mind. Without any basis for goodness, or righteousness, or honesty, you can do anything as you please.’” That’s the faith you have to accept when you turn your back upon God and upon our Lord.
What do you have to believe when you turn aside from our Savior and face the faith of an infidel? You have to believe that you are able to create a system of triumphant behavior out of skepticism. What an amazing persuasion! When the reality of death comes, what does materialism have to say? When the reality of sin is present, what does agnosticism have to say? When the reality of trouble and sorrow comes, what does all the unbelief in this earth have to say? It pushes us away, literally, from our hope and our truth and our God.
When you turn your back upon Christ and you turn your face to unbelief, what do you have to believe? You have to believe that this Bible is a piece of antique literature and that’s all; somebody wrote it back there years and years ago, and it has no relevancy for us today. There is no commandment in it. There is no personality presented in it to change our lives or bring us a Savior. It is just a piece of literature written long ago.
And that is an amazing avowal in the face of two great truths. Number one: the Bible and the Christian religion is the only faith in the world that has in it what you call prophecy. But in that Bible, from beginning to end, there are prophecies; prophecies, things that God says are coming to pass, and they come to pass.
Let me tell you something: I can give you a little formula that will make you a billionaire almost overnight. Would you like to be a multi-multimillionaire? Would you like to be a billionaire? Would you? Oh, boy—would you? “Yes, indeed. Yeah, I would love to have billions of dollars.” I can tell you how to have billions of dollars almost overnight. All you would have to do to be a multibillionaire—not a multimillionaire, but a multibillionaire—would be this: to know the future three minutes, that’s all—three minutes.
All you would have to do is go down here to the broker, and three minutes before a stock on the New York exchange goes up, buy it. And one minute before the stock goes down, sell it. That’s all you would have to do. Don’t you think that would be simple? Bob, wouldn’t you like to do that? Just think of it. All you’ve got to do: three minutes before it goes up, buy it; and just one minute before it goes down, sell it.
Well, why don’t you do that? Because no man knows the future three minutes, and no man knows the future one minute. But this Book I hold in my hand will tell things that are going to happen hundreds and hundreds and sometimes thousands of years in advance. It is God-breathed, theopneustos; all Scripture is theopneustos, God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21]. God is in it. Not only that, but when I turn my face away from Christ and look upon that Book as just a piece of antique literature, how am I going to account for the personality of Jesus the Lord? You would have to be Jesus Himself to create Him.
Do you ever think through the literature of the world? Homer, all the characters of Homer; Dante, the characters in Dante; Milton, the characters in Milton; Shakespeare, the multitudinous characters on those stages. Is one of them even the approach of the personality of Jesus of Nazareth? You would have to be He to create Him. There is nothing approaching Him, and He is the Bible. The Bible and Jesus are inextricably and indivisibly linked together. When I turn my back on the Lord, I turn my face to the belief that this Holy Book is just a piece of antique literature.
A last thing: When I turn my back upon the Lord and turn my face to unbelief, I have to be persuaded that atheism, unbelief, can create as beautiful a life as the devoted Christian, as the Christian faith.
We have had here as a visitor in our congregation in days past, before he died, Dr. H. A. Ironside, pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago. As I looked at him out there, I remembered something that he did. He was in San Francisco, on the streets preaching with the Salvation Army band. And while he was preaching on the streets of San Francisco, that town full of infidels, one of them came up to him, broke into his message, and challenged him to a debate.
And Dr. Ironside, God’s wonderful preacher, said, “I would be happy to debate with you. This time. This hour. This place. Tomorrow, I will meet you here.”
“Fine,” said the infidel, “I’ll debate with you.”
And Ironside said, “I just have one thing that I want us to do. This time, this place, this day, tomorrow, this very hour, I am going to bring with me one hundred men and women who have been saved out of the gutter and out of the darkness and despair of life, who have been lifted up into the brightness of God. I am going to bring one hundred of them, and they will be here standing by my side tomorrow; this place, this time tomorrow. And you, you bring one hundred men and women who have been saved out of the gutter and out of the darkness of life by the gospel of infidelity. You bring them.”
Where would you find a somebody anywhere that was lifted out of the despair of life and set his feet on a rock of hope by the gospel of the infidel? Where would you find him? Did you ever hear a hymn or a song praising unbelief? Did you ever hear any kind of a wonderful piece of literature praising the creed of the infidel? But on the other hand, think of the literature and think of the music that exalts our Lord Jesus. When I was a youth, I read that at that time there were four hundred fifty thousand songs about Jesus. I would suppose since that day, now there would be toward one million of those songs, praising the Lord Jesus.
If you turn your back upon our Savior and turn your face in unbelief to the infidel and the atheist, who will present to the world the more beautiful life? The doctrine and the religion of atheism is expressed in communism. It is a doctrine of unbelief, of God rejection: communism. Who founded it? One of the most despicable characters that ever crawled out of the gutter into human history: Karl Marx. Karl Marx had a large family, and he let every one of his children starve to death, every one of them. And his great disciple was Nikolai Lenin. If you go to Moscow today, there before the Kremlin wall is Lenin’s tomb. And you walk in that tomb, and this way and that way and that way, and as you walk you look upon the dead face and dead body of Nikolai Lenin. He died when he was fifty-four years of age of a venereal disease called syphilis!
Can you imagine a contrast between a Karl Marx, who watches his own children starve to death purposely, and Nikolai Lenin, who died of syphilis? Can you compare them? God, forgive me the words. Can you compare them, these creatures of the gutter—can you compare them with the wonderful, lovely Lord Jesus? Compare them with the sainted apostles? Compare them with John?
Great God, how does a man who has any judgment, who can think—how does a man turn his back on Jesus and turn his face to the infidel? “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we are persuaded You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” [John 6:68-69]. So I accept the Lord. Like Peter, I stay with Him. Then what?
Ah, the richness of the faith in Christ Jesus! He tells me of His Father God, who is our Father in heaven, that all of the omnipotent ableness of God is also at our disposal. God is our Father, we are His children, and He cares for us.
And when I accept the faith of Jesus our Lord, He brings to us the reality of our great, mighty God. “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” He says [John 14:9]. In Colossians, He is the image of the invisible God [Colossians 1:15], God in the flesh. In the twelfth chapter of John, He is the Angel of the presence, the Jehovah Jesus of the Bible [John 12:41; Isaiah 6:13]. In the first chapter of John, He is the Logos of all eternity [John 1:1-2]. I can hardly realize such a thing. But, the great, and mighty, and omnipotent God of all creation is Christ [John 1:13]. And He loves me, He knows me, He is my Friend and my Savior [Luke 2:11].
The golden sun
And the silvery moon
And all the stars that shine
Were made by
His omnipotent hand
And He is a friend of mine.
When He shall come
With trumpets sound
To head the conquering line,
The whole creation will bow
At His feet
And He is a friend of mine.
[“Jesus is a Friend of Mine,” John H. Sammis]
Could it be, this great Mediator between God and fallen humanity [1 Timothy 2:5], with one hand touching God and the with other hand touching me, a prodigal, a lost sheep, unholy, sinful; but in His love [John 3:16] and grace [Ephesians 2:7-8], and in His atoning death [Romans 5:11], paid the penalty for my wrong and made it possible for me to come back into the family of God? Sweet people, that is what we mean when we read in the Bible He was offered for our sins, sacrificed for our sins, and He was raised for our justification [Romans 4:25].
“Preacher, what do you mean He was raised for our justification?”
He died that we might be saved. He was raised that He might keep us saved, that we might make it to heaven [Romans 4:25].
Lord, Lord, I was saved when I was a child. How is it that I would have any assurance that, between that time when I was a child and now that I am an old man, how is it that I might not fall by the way? How is it that I would know that I would make it to heaven?
He died for my sins, that I might be saved. He was raised for our justification [Romans 4:25], that I might be saved, that I might keep being saved, that I might go to heaven someday, that I would be there. That is why He lives. He is my Mediator and Intercessor and great High Priest and Leader in heaven. That is what it means: “He was raised for our justification” [Romans 4:25]. “We have not a High Priest,” as the Book of Hebrews states,
who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities;
but in all points was tried as we are, though He without sin.
Wherefore come boldly to the throne of grace,
that you might find help in time of need
[Hebrews 4:15, 16].
He is our living Lord. He lives, and He hears His people when they pray, and He helps us along our pilgrim way. Nobody but He can be healing for a broken heart. No one but He can be the cure for a cruel conscience. No one but He could ever mend, bring balm, to a grieving spirit. No one but He can be a pillow to a dying bed. And no one but He can be a light in the darkening grave. It is Jesus. And when I lift up my heart toward Him, that is the assurance He brings to me. He lives for my justification, that I might be righteous in God’s sight; that I might be saved into heaven someday [Romans 4:25].
O blessed, wonderful God! He brings to us eternal life [John 3:16]. All of us are citizens of two worlds—the world to come and the world in which we now live. And in both of those worlds, it is filled with the king of terrors. This life, this life, every day, every hour, any tragedy could overwhelm any one of us. We live in that kind of a world. You are sensitive. It has not been but ten days ago or less when that tragedy—think of those grieving families in that Baptist church, ten of their children swept away like that. We live in that kind of a world.
Great God in heaven, like sheeted storms, troubles sweep through our life! Beside the inevitableness of age and sickness and death, not only in this world but the world to come: “It is appointed unto men once to die; and after that the judgment” [Hebrews 9:27]. Great God, what shall happen to me when I stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God? [1 Peter 4:5]. Jesus is my Friend. He stands at the gateway of this life, and He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28]. And He stands at the gateway of the life to come. He says, “I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, was dead and now I live. And I, I have the keys of Hell and of Death” [Revelation 1:17, 18, 22:13]. And He is my friend and my Savior. Could it be? Could it be? Heaven is His Father’s house, and dying is a home-going. That’s our Lord. And when I accept Him, all of the riches of His grace are bestowed upon me. He sees us through, stands by us, will be our great Mediator and Intercessor forever and ever, amen [1 Timothy 2:5].
And that’s our appeal to your heart this solemn and holy hour. “Pastor, today, this day, I open my heart to the Lord Jesus, and here I stand” [Romans 10:8-13]. A family you, coming into the fellowship of our dear church, “Pastor, God has spoken to us, and we are on the way” [Hebrews 10:24-25]. Or to answer the call of the Spirit in your heart, as God shall make the appeal, as the Spirit shall press it to your soul and life and heart, answer, “This day, pastor, is God’s day for me, and here I stand.” And now may we pray?
Our Lord in heaven, would God that we had the voice of an angel to proclaim the wonder of the riches of the salvation we have in Christ Jesus [Ephesians 1:6]. Having Thee, we have God in this world and our Savior in the world to come [John 16:7-15]. We cannot lose with Thee, Lord. You made us, and You have in store for us an infinite and precious life and reward in heaven [1 Peter 1:3-4]. It is just for our taking. Lord, how could a man refuse the grace [Ephesians 2:8] and mercy [Titus 3:5] of the Lord Jesus? Turning from Thee, to whom, to what, to where shall we turn? Lord, like Simon Peter, we are coming to Thee [John 6:68-69]. So bless Thou, dear God in heaven, this appeal with many souls, many to come, many to say, “Lord Jesus, this day, I choose Thee.” Do it, Lord, for the sake of the people, for the sake of the families, for the sake of the children, for the sake of the lost, for the sake of us who so desperately need Thee. Do it, Lord, in Thy saving name, amen.
Now while we stand and while we sing, on the first note of the first stanza, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I am coming.”