The Truth of the Faith
July 26th, 1987 @ 8:15 AM
THE TRUTH OF THE FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-26-87 8:15 a.m.
Linda Almond not only sang that glorious song, she wrote it; that is one out of many that she has authored. Didn’t I say the most gifted people in the world are right here? God be praised for them!
Once again, welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. You are listening to the service, early morning, of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Truth of the Faith. It is a presentation of a background text in John 6:66 and 67:
From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, You, humeis, you, thelō, you wish also to go away? And Simon Peter answered, Lord, if we turn from Thee, to whom, to what, and to where do we turn?
That is our background text.
The throngs that followed our Lord were multitudinous. In the tenth verse of this sixth chapter, “There were five thousand hēs andrēs”; not hoi anthropoi, “people,” humanity, but hēs andrēs, “men” in distinction from the women [John 6:10]. So if you had five thousand men, think of the thousands and thousands multitudinously thronging Him in northern Galilee.
As the days passed and our Lord opened to the people the truth of God: a spiritual kingdom—not a political, economic, material one—and one that called for commitment and dedication, not an endowment from what they would get out of it. The receding crowd and the retreating throng left only the twelve [John 6:66-67]. And apparently they also were offended by what the Lord said, and in their unspoken minds were also planning, thinking, meditating about leaving our Lord.
It was then that Simon Peter replied, “Our Lord, having considered it, thought about it, weighed it, Lord, if we leave You, to whom do we turn? What do we believe? Where shall we go?” [John 6:68]. And that is the substance of our message today: turning aside from Christ in unbelief and rejection, to what, to whom do we turn? [John 6:68]. Unbelieving, rejecting, I therefore embrace materiality, atheism, agnosticism, infidelity; refusing Him, this is what I face. I am avowing to you this day that however much it may be that Christ demands of us a commitment in faith and trust and belief, my avowal today and the sermon is this: that it takes greater faith and greater commitment and greater trust to believe in the alternative, to believe in infidelity, and agnosticism, and atheism, and materialism than it does to believe in Jesus our Lord. So let’s begin.
When I turn aside from Christ and turn to materialism and agnosticism and atheism, what am I forced to believe? Number one: I’m forced to believe that the world and the universe and everything that I see around me just happened. There’s no Creator, there’s no God, there’s no great omnipotent hand that spoke it into existence [Genesis 1:3-19]; but it just happened of itself, it made itself. I have to believe that. Rejecting God, everything I see just happened.
There was a teacher of a group of junior boys who was illustrating the point. And he put his watch on the table before that little junior group, and he said, he said, “Boys, you see this watch? Nobody made it.” He said, “Upon a day, there came a case rolling down, and it plopped down. And then upon another day there came a whole lot of little springs and little wheels, and they plopped in. And then upon a day there came along a face and it plopped on. And then on another day there came along a couple of hands and they fell in place.” And one of the little boys looked at him, and said, “Say, mister, ain’t you crazy?” How is it that I am not crazy when I think, and am forced to believe, that everything that I look at around me just happened? Nobody made it. There is intelligence in this universe beyond description, a depth and a height of it. All of these great planetary motions follow patterns of law. And the sciences of biology, and zoology, and botany, and anthropology, and the whole world of materialism around us, how did it come to be? Who made it?
By the edict of the Supreme Court in the last few months, we are forced to teach in school that all that I see came about by happenstance. By law it is ruled out that we can say to our children, “God did it.” The most amazing of all of the edicts of the Supreme Court of the United States I ever heard of in my life—by law, in every public school in America, the child has to be taught that God did not do it, God did not create it, it just happened. So I look in the science books and I try to find out what is the latest science, what is the latest teaching? Where did this world come from? And the latest scientific teaching is the “Big Bang Theory” that there was a big bang, and out of that big bang all of the marvelous things that we witness in this world came to pass; out of that big bang. That is exactly as if I walked through my library and I looked at the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia—if you’ve got any sense you’ve got that in your library. You’ve got it? You’ve got two of them? I pass through my library and there’s the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. How did it get there? Well, there was a big bang in a printing factory and it just happened; all of those words and all of those articles got together. And then I walked by, and there is my Encyclopedia Britannica. How’d it get there? There was another big bang in a printing factory; and out of that big bang came that Encyclopedia Britannica. And I walk through my library, and there’s bang, bang, bang, bang, bang and bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. That’s the latest science, the latest. Can you believe that we are by law forced to teach that to our children? That’s why the First Baptist Academy and God bless every other Christian school and academy in the earth!
If I turn aside from Christ and turn to what I’m forced to turn, to unbelief and agnosticism and atheism that means there’s no meaning to life. Eat, drink, be merry; tomorrow you die. You’re no more than an animal, and you count no more in all of the scales and balances of humanity than just a dog; that you’re forced to believe. Not only that, but you’re forced to believe that there’s no foundational undergirding for goodness, for righteousness.
An atheist is as good a risk as a devout Christian. Did you know, I talked to a banker who refused to hire an atheist in his bank? And I said, “Well, how come?” And he said, “I told the young man, ‘Your idea of righteousness and honesty is just what you say it is. Its situational ethics, they call it. It’s relative; and how do I know,’” said the banker as he talked to that atheist, “‘how do I know but that you might change your mind? And I don’t want you.’”
Not only that, but when I refuse our Lord and turn to atheism and agnosticism and to the infidel, I lose my basis for a triumphant behavioral pattern. How am I going to find a system of behavior in skepticism? How am I going to face all the exigencies of life in an answer that means nothing, just whatever someone might suppose, or think, or imagine, or discus, or present? When I face the reality of death, what is materialism going to say to me? When I face the tragic reality of human sin and weakness, what is all that atheism could teach me, what is it going to bring to my heart? And when I face inevitable troubles and sorrow, what are all of the answers of agnosticism mean to me? I am pushed away from truth and hope into blank despair.
Not only that, but when I turn aside from Christ and our Lord, and turn to atheism and agnosticism and unbelief, they scoff at the Bible. “This is nothing but a piece of antique literature.” What an amazing appraisal. Did you know, in that Book are prophecies, prophecies, prophecies, prophecies that come to pass hundreds and sometimes thousands of years after the say, the prophet, or after the apostle wrote it down? I can hardly believe such a thing.
Listen, people, let me tell you how to be a billionaire. Would you like to be a billionaire, a billionaire? Any one of you, I can tell you just like that how to be a billionaire: if you can prophesy the future three minutes, three minutes, I can tell you just like that how to be a billionaire. Not a millionaire, a billionaire. If you can discern the future three minutes, just three minutes, it’ll be as simple as falling off a log. All you’ve got to do is, before a stock goes up on the New York Exchange, buy it. Three minutes, that’s all, three minutes before it goes up, buy it. Then having accumulated an enormous number, one minute before it goes down, sell it. That’s all. There’s nothing to it at all. Three minutes before it goes up, buy it; one minute before it goes down, sell it. And you’ll be the richest man in God’s created earth. Well, why aren’t we all rich like that? Because there’s no man that lives, however bright or brilliant he may be, that can discern the face of the future even three minutes. He can’t do it. Yet this Book that I hold in my hand speaks of the prophetic future hundreds and sometimes thousands of years before it comes to pass. What a marvelous thing!
One other thing about that Book, it presents the character of Jesus our Lord. No man of any age, of any generation, of any literary abilities, no man in God’s anthropological society can create a Lord Jesus. He’d have to be Jesus Himself to do it. Read Homer: is any character in Homer like Jesus? Read Dante, read Milton, read Shakespeare, read any of them: you can’t create the Lord Jesus. But Jesus and the Bible are inexorably and indissolubly linked together. It’s God.
Not only that, but when I turn from the belief in Christ and turn to unbelief, and atheism, and infidelity, and agnosticism, and materialism, I have to be persuaded that they can create as beautiful a life as that under the hands and love and grace of our Lord Jesus. And that’s hard to believe.
We’ve had here in our church Dr. H. A. Ironsides, who was pastor for a generation of the Moody Church in Chicago; sat right out there. As I looked at him, I remembered something in his life. With the Salvation Army, he was on the streets of San Francisco; he was preaching out there. And while he was preaching the Lord Jesus, an infidel came up—and San Francisco is full of them—an infidel came up and challenged him to a debate. And Dr. Ironsides acquiesced graciously: he said, “I would love to debate you.” And he said, “In this exact place where I now stand, at this exact hour tomorrow, you come here and meet me, and we’ll have our debate.”
“Fine,” said the infidel, “I’ll meet you right here at this same hour the next day.” Then Dr. Ironsides said to the infidel, “And when I come, I’m going to bring one hundred men and women who have been lifted out of the gutter, and have been wonderfully and graciously and gloriously saved, one hundred of them.” And he turned to the head of the Salvation Army band playing there and said, “Will we have a hundred?” And the Salvation Army leader said, “Sir, I’ll bring five hundred.” Then Dr. Ironsides said to the infidel, “And you bring one hundred who have been saved out of depravity by the doctrine and teaching of infidelity.” Did they have the debate? Why, it’d be unthinkable! Where would you find a hundred people in the earth who have been lifted out of the gutter and out of depravity and out of the darkness of a lost soul and life by the gospel of infidelity? Isn’t that a strange thing? I do not know of a hymn praising the infidel. I do not know of literature that lives that exalts unbelief. When I was a youth, I read that there were four hundred thirty thousand hymns glorifying the Lord Jesus. I would suppose by now I could say there were eight hundred or nine hundred thousand of them. Dear me! what a glory there is in our Lord.
And can infidelity, I say, build a beautiful life? Look at it. There is a system of political religion that is called communism. It is the religion of atheism; it’s the doctrine of unbelief. Who are the men who founded it? One of them is Karl Marx, the father of it. He was the most unworthy critter that ever walked across human history. He had a large family, and he let every one of his children slowly starve to death. Who is the great apostle of Karl Marx, of communism? It is Nikolai Lenin. I went to Moscow, as many of you have, and through that line walked into Lenin’s tomb before the Kremlin wall, this way, that way, that way, and then out. And as I looked on the dead face of that dead atheist, I remembered how he died: he died at the age of fifty-four, of a venereal disease called syphilis. He did.
Compare those men with the beautiful life of our living, glorified Lord Jesus. Compare the lives of those men with the sainted apostles and these who preach the gospel of the kingdom of God.
My brother, my sister, when I turn aside from Christ, to whom shall I go? I say it takes greater faith and commitment to believe in the gospel of atheism, and infidelity, and agnosticism, and materialism than it does to accept the simple faith of the blessed Jesus.
Now I’m halfway through the sermon. I want to go to the other side. If I do accept the Lord, if I do accept the Lord, how is it when I bow before the great God and my Savior? Just briefly—when I do accept the Lord, God becomes my heavenly Father [Galatians 4:4-5]. What an amazing revelation! He whose omnipotent hands flung these planets and universes into space [Genesis 1:14-19], He is my Father, and loves me [1 John 3:1]. And Jesus His Son is a great Mediator and revelation of the heart and love and care of that heavenly Father: “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” [John 14:9]. Colossians, “He is the image of the invisible God” [Colossians 1:15]. John 12: “He is the Angel of the presence, the Jehovah Jesus of the Bible [John 12:38-41]. John 1: “He is the Logos of all eternity” [John 1:1]. Can you believe that the great God of the universe is our Friend?
The golden sun, the silvery moon,
And all the stars that shine,
Were made by His omnipotent hands,
And He is a Friend of mine.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
To head the conquering line,
The whole creation shall bow at His feet,
And He is a Friend of mine.
[“Jesus is a Friend of Mine”; John H. Sammis]
Jesus, my Lord, the great Mediator between God and man [1 Timothy 2:5]: with one hand holding the hand of God the Father, and with the other hand holding me. He gives eternal life [John 10:27-28].
We are citizens of two worlds: this world and the world to come—but in both worlds, terror. In our world, this present world, the king of terrors stalks in our midst: death [1 Corinthians 15:26]. I think of that tragedy of a week ago, when ten of those darling children were swept away by death. We live in that kind of a world. And the world to come we shall stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God [2 Corinthians 5:10]: “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment” [Hebrews 9:27]. Lord God, who could help us? Jesus stands at the gateway of both worlds. He stands at the gate of this world, and He says, “Come unto Me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28]. And He stands at the gate of the other world, saying, “To die is a gain [Philippians 1:21], and heaven is My Father’s house” [John 14:2-3].
Sweet friends, I’m just avowing, trying to, that there’s no comparison between loving the Lord Jesus, giving your heart to the Lord Jesus, following the Lord Jesus, and turning aside from Him into the faith of atheism and materialism and rejection.
How infinitely sweeter to follow in the way, in the love and grace of our blessed Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], and that’s our invitation to you this solemn and holy hour. “Pastor, this is God’s day for me. I have decided [Ephesians 2:8], and I’m standing here with the people and the family of God” [Romans 10:9-10]. On the first note of the first stanza, welcome; accepting the Lord as your Savior, “I’m coming”; bringing the family into the fellowship of our dear church, “Here we are, pastor,” God bless; or answering the call of the Holy Spirit in your heart. Make the decision now, and upon the first note of the first stanza, come. And a thousand blessings attend your way and the angels rejoice with us in this dear church, come, while we stand and while we sing.