WHAT DO THE SCRIPTURES SAY?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-7-87 8:15 a.m.
We welcome once again the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. Welcome to the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor delivering the message entitled What Do the Scriptures Say? In our preaching through the Gospel of John, we are in chapter 5; and the message is an exposition and an interpretation and a presentation of verse 39: “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me” [John 5:39].
“Search the Scriptures”; this is the word of our Lord in this passage to the unbelieving throngs who challenged Him when He came as the promised Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world. “Search the Scriptures: for they testify of Me” [John 5:39]. The first avowal then is that the Scriptures affirm the saviorhood and the deity of our Lord. From Genesis to Malachi, the Scriptures point to Jesus; they tell about Jesus. In the nineteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, the Lord avows through an angel, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” [Revelation 19:10]. Peter, in the tremendous message that he was bringing to his people in Jerusalem, said, “To Him give all the prophets witness” [Acts 10:43]. In the last chapter of the Book of Luke, our Lord speaking to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus [Luke 24:13-15], “Beginning at Moses and the Prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” [Luke 24:27]. What do the Scriptures say? They tell about Jesus; they affirm the saviorhood and deity of our Lord.
In a church in Europe, in the sanctuary in the middle of the high altar was a beautiful statue of our Lord, like Thorvaldsen’s The Pleading Christ. Then around were those of the Old Testament and the New Testament who were affirming the saviorhood of our Lord. And I can so well imagine such an affirmation on the part of those whom God used to write these Holy Scriptures. Here would stand Moses, “God will raise up a Prophet like unto me, and to Him will you hearken” [Deuteronomy 18:15], and point to Jesus. And next to him, David: “He hath ascended on high and led captivity captive” [Psalm 68:18], and point to Jesus. And next to him, Isaiah, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6]. And next to him standing Micah, “He is the Ruler of Israel; whose beginnings were from the foundation of the world, even from everlasting” [Micah 5:2]. And next to him, Zechariah, “His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” [Zechariah 9:10]. And next to him, Malachi, “He shall arise with healing in His wings” [Malachi 4:2]. And next to him, John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. And next to him, Peter, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. And next to him, the apostle Paul, “God made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” [2 Corinthians 5:21]. And next to him, the sainted apostle John, “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . to Him be glory and honor and majesty for ever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6]. What do the Scriptures say? They tell us about Jesus, “They testify of Me” [John 5:39].
What do the Scriptures say? They present the Lord to us in all of His glory and His majesty. Isaiah, “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” [Isaiah 9:6]. John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” [John 1:1]. The apostle Paul, “He is the image of the invisible God [Colossians 1:15] . . . “Great is the mystery of righteousness, godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” [1 Timothy 3:16]. And the apostle John in the first of the Revelation, looking upon the Lord and hearing Him say, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, who was, and is, and is to come, the Lord God pantokrator, the Lord God Almighty” [Revelation 1:8].
What do the Scriptures say? They teach us the way of salvation, how to be saved; they open the doors for us to glory and to heaven. The apostle Paul begins the incomparable fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, “I make known unto you, my brethren, the Holy Scriptures, the gospel of Christ, wherein ye are saved; how that Christ lived, died, and rose again according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:1-4]. According to the Scriptures was He born [Matthew 1:20-25]; according to the Scriptures did He minister [Matthew 20:28; Acts 10:38]; according to the Scriptures did He die [Matthew 27:32-50]; and according to the Scriptures was He raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7]. What do the Scriptures say? They show us Jesus our Lord and our Savior and open for us the door into heaven.
I cannot but marvel and wonder at that. When I look into the heavens and think of those rushing mighty worlds above us, when I stand in the midst of the mystery of the mountains and think of these ages past, when I stand by the restless and sobbing sea, or when I think of the omnipotence of God, could it be that He remembers somebody so insignificant and inconsequential, could it be that God cares for me? Then I open God’s Holy Book, and I stand at the manger of Bethlehem [Luke 2:11-16], and I sit with the throng by the Sea of Galilee listening to our Lord break open the bread of life [Mark 4:1-33], and I stand silently in Gethsemane, listening to the intercessions of my Lord [Matthew 26:36-39], and finally I stand on Golgotha’s hill, watching Him die [Matthew 27:32-50]; all for me, for me—God’s care for me.
And what do the Scriptures say? Only that we respond to the love and grace of our Lord in our hearts. “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked would turn from his evil way and live: turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die?” [Ezekiel 33:11]. Or again, “It is the will of God that none perish, but that all come into repentance” [2 Peter 3:9]. The love and the extended invitation of our Lord in Holy Scriptures finds its consummation in the response of our hearts to the love and grace of God in Christ Jesus [Ephesians 10:9-10].
When the message of appeal falls upon deaf ears and hardened hearts, when it is drowned in the noise of a worldly life, or when it is met with the abstractions of human frailty, the heart of God is broken. God revealed His love and grace through His Son in these holy pages [John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8]; and God is honored and Christ is magnified when I respond with my heart and life [Romans 10:9-10]. But when I turn aside, God Himself is heartbroken [2 Peter 3:9].
What do the Scriptures say? They reveal to us the word and will of God in the most miraculous and amazing and marvelous way. In the passage we just read, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:21]. The Word did not find its initiation in us, in man; but it found its beginning and its consummation in God Himself. God did it; God alone. God did it [2 Timothy 3:16].
A traumatic and dramatic illustration of that is found in the marvelous fifteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis. There under the aegis and direction of the Almighty, a covenant sacrifice was prepared. A heifer was slain and divided in twain; one part on either side. Then a goat was slain and divided one part on either side. Then a ram was slain and divided, one part on either side. Then on one side was a pigeon, and on the other side was a turtledove. That was the preparation for two men who were to walk between those sacrifices, blood and life poured out, to walk between them in a sacred and binding covenant. But when the sacrifices were slain and the parts laid on either side, preparing for God and Abraham to walk through, Abraham was plunged into a deep sleep. And he saw in his vision a smoking furnace and a burning lamp passing through that sacred sacrifice: not a man and God, but God alone [Genesis 15:9-17]. The word of God comes in the initiation and in the affirmation of God Himself, not by man; by God alone. God does it by Himself, wondrously. God does it [Genesis 15:17].
When the Angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah, he did marvelously, rising to the skies in the flame of fire [Judges 13:20]. When the Lord’s word came to Isaiah, a seraph took a live coal from off the altar and placed it on his lips that he might be clean in delivering the word of the Lord [Isaiah 6:6-7]. When Jeremiah said, “I will not speak His name nevermore,” the word of God was in his bones as a burning fire [Jeremiah 20:9]. When the apostle Paul met Jesus on the way to Damascus, the Lord said, “You are My chosen vessel to deliver the word of salvation and the gospel to the Gentiles of the world” [Acts 9:15]. And when God appeared to the apostle John on the isle of Patmos, “He fell at His feet as dead. And the Lord put His right hand upon him and said, Write the things you have seen, and the things that are, and the things that shall be hereafter” [Revelation 1:17, 19], the marvelous Word of God coming to man, separated from him, but initiated by the Lord Himself. And it is addressed to the whole creation. Isaiah begins, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken” [Isaiah 1:2]. It is a distillation of the divine mind. It is a summation of the holy purposes and will of God. It has in it the power of regeneration and the effectual salvation of our souls. It is the Holy Scriptures.
What do the Scriptures say? They bring to us God’s will for our lives. “Search the Scriptures. . .and they are they that testify of Me” [John 5:39]. They bring to us God’s holy will for our lives. Voltaire, the tremendously gifted and famous French philosopher, died in 1788, Voltaire said, “One hundred years from now, the Bible and its Christ will be forgotten.” One hundred years to the day, in the exact place where Voltaire said that, there is and was a center for the distribution of the Bible. Why do we read the Bible and not Voltaire? I grant you, some cynic might read Voltaire to sharpen his arrows of disdain and disbelief; but if a man seeks an answer for his life and for the life to come, he’ll not read Voltaire: he’ll read God’s Holy Word.
It’s the answer for every need in our human pilgrimage. When the Lord was assailed by Satan, He answered in all three temptations by the Word of God [Matthew 4:1-11]. And when we face our ultimate and final journey across the eternal sea, we do so in the love and grace of God. How do we cross that uncharted vast beyond? Someone must guide us.
O Maker of the mighty deep
Whereon our vessels fare,
Above our life’s adventure keep
Thy faithful watch and care
In Thee we trust, whate’er betide;
Thy sea so great, and our boats so small.
We know not where the secret tides
Will help us or delay,
Nor where the lurking tempest hides,
Nor where the fogs are gray.
But we trust in Thee, whate’er befall;
Thy sea so great, and our boats so small.
When outward bound we boldly sail
And leave the friendly shore,
Let not our hearts or courage fail
Until the voyage is o’er.
Beyond the circle of the sea,
When voyaging is past,
We seek our final trust in Thee;
Oh bring us home at last.
We trust in Thee whate’er befall;
Thy sea so great, our boats so small
[“O Maker of the Mighty Deep,” Henry J. van Dyke]
Our chart and our compass, our guide and our way is the revealed grace and mercy of God in this Holy Book. “Search the Scriptures . . . they tell about Me” [John 5:39]. They open the door of heaven for thee, and they are our assurance that God is with us now and forever.
And in that loving grace of our Lord, and in that beautiful and precious revelation, we extend to you too, also, the door open into heaven [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8]. Walk through it. Come and join our pilgrim throng. We’re marching to Zion. We’re on the way to glory. In that encompassing love, rear your children, live your life, build your home, face every exigency of every day; and when time comes for that eternal confrontation that all of us face in the hour of our death, put your hand in the hand of Jesus and let Him lead the way into life everlasting. Do it. Do it. Make it now. “Pastor, today accepting the Lord as my personal Savior, and here I stand.” Or bringing the sweet family into the circle of the church, or answering the call of God in your heart, on the first note of the first stanza come, and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
THE SCRIPTURES SAY
I. They tell about Jesus
the Jews seeking the Messiah: “They testify of Me.”
Genesis to Malachi, prophecies centered in Him (Revelation 19:10, Acts 10:43,
of prophets and apostles to the Lord (Deuteronomy 18:1-3, Psalm 68:18, Isaiah
53:6, Micah 5:2, Malachi 4:2, John 1:29, 20:25, Acts 4:12, 2 Corinthians 5:21,
describe His glorious deity (Isaiah 9:6, John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15, 1 Timothy
3:16, Revelation 1:8, Hebrews 1:6)
II. They show us how to be saved
A. The saving, atoning
life and death of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:4)
B. The marvelous,
sustaining care of God
C. Encouraged to
repent, believe, accept (Ezekiel 33:11)
III. The awesome experience of those who received
A. It comes from God
alone (2 Peter 1:21)
2. Other examples
(Isaiah 6:1, Acts 9:15, Revelation 1:17-19)
B. Addressed to the
whole creation (Isaiah 1:2, 40:8)
IV. Their meaning to us
A. Our guide through
problems of this pilgrimage
2. The temptation
of Jesus (Matthew 4)