WHAT DO THE SCRIPTURES SAY?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-7-87 10:50 a.m.
Once again we welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now a part of our wonderful First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing 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 of the thirty-ninth verse; John 5:39. Our Lord says to the Jewish people who were seeking the Messiah, waiting for His coming, He says, “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.” What do the Scriptures say? “Search the Scriptures … in them ye have eternal life.” What do they say? They testify of the Lord Jesus. From Genesis to Malachi, the prophecies are centered in Him.
In the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation, an angel from heaven says, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” [Revelation 19:10]. In the Book of Acts, Simon Peter says “To Him give all the prophets witness” [Acts 10:43]. In the last chapter of the Book of Luke, our Lord to the two on the way to Emmaus: “Beginning at Moses and the Prophets, He expounded unto them all the things concerning Himself in the Holy Scriptures” [Luke 24:27]. What do the Scriptures say? They reveal to us the Lord Jesus. They speak about Him. They point to Him.
In a beautiful church in Europe, in the center of the high altar was a beautifully carved statue of the Lord Jesus, like Thorvaldsen’s The Pleading Christ [Christus, in the Vor Frue Kirke] in Copenhagen. And around were the prophets and the apostles, all pointing to Him. And as I stood there looking at that sacred scene, I could easily picture in my heart and mind their testimony to the Lord.
Here would stand Moses: “God will raise up a Prophet like unto me; and to Him shall you hearken” [Deuteronomy 18:15].
Next to him stands David: “He hath ascended on high and taken captivity captive” [Psalm 68:18].
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 stands Micah: “He is the Ruler of Israel” [Micah 5:2-3]; “And 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, standing, Malachi: “The Sun of Righteousness hath risen 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, the apostle Thomas: “My Lord and my God” [John 20:28].
And next to him, Simon Peter: “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12].
And next to him, the apostle Paul: “God hath 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, and power forever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6].
What do the Scriptures say? They testify of the Lord Jesus. They point to Him. What do the Scriptures say? They reveal the glory and majesty and deity of our Lord: “And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” [Isaiah 9:6]. What do the Scriptures say? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made” [John 1:1-3]. What do the Scriptures say? “He is the image of the invisible God” [Colossians 1:15]. What do the Scriptures say? “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” [1 Timothy 3:16].
What do the Scriptures say? When John on Patmos saw the vision of the glorified Christ [Revelation 1:9-16], he heard Him say, “I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, who was, and is, and is to come, the Lord God pantokratōr, the Lord God Almighty” [Revelation 1:8, 22:13]. Of whom else could the author of Hebrews say, “Let all of the angels adore Him” [Hebrews 1:6], or “This day have I begotten Thee” [Hebrews 1:5]; or “His throne shall abide forever and ever”? [Hebrews 1:8].
What do the Scriptures say? They exalt our glorious Lord Jesus; they point to Him. “Search the Scriptures . . . for they are they which testify of Me” [John 5:39], and they bring to us eternal life. What do the Scriptures say? They show us how to be saved. They reveal to us the way of salvation. They open for us the doors of heaven.
Paul begins his incomparable fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, “My brethren, I make known unto you the gospel wherein you are saved” [1 Corinthians 15:1-2]. How does he make it known?
- He was born, and He lived, and He died, and was raised again according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3].
- According to the Scriptures, He came born of a virgin [Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 1:26-35].
- According to the Scriptures, He taught the way of life on the shores of Galilee [Mark 4:1-2].
- According to the Scriptures, He was crucified on Golgotha’s hill [Matthew 27:33-35; John 19:16-18].
- According to the Scriptures, He was buried [Matthew 27:57-61] and He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7].
- And according to the Scriptures, He is at session in the right hand of God, waiting until this earth becomes His footstool and all the tribes, and families, and peoples of creation fall down and worship Him [Hebrews 10:12-13].
Could it be? Could it be that God the omnipotent, the great Creator of this whole world and universe and all God’s vast handiwork [Genesis 1:31; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16], could it be that God cares for me, that He knows me, that He calls my name? [John 10:3]. Inconsequential and insignificant, does God care for me?
When I stand below the firmament and look up into His heavens and think of those vast rushing worlds above us and beyond us, the sidereal spheres in their courses; when I stand in the presence of the majestic mountains with all of their mystery; when I stand by the restless and sobbing sea and think of the omnipotence of God, could it be that He knows me and cares for me?
When I open God’s Book, and stand by the manger of Bethlehem, and stand by the Lord in His humble peasant form, teaching the way of life; and when I look at my Lord in the sacred pages, bowing in Gethsemane [Matthew 26:36-44; Mark 14:32-38]; and when I stand by the cross and look up into His atoning face, and the crimson flood pouring from His side [John 19:28-34]; and when I see Him buried [Matthew 27:57-61], and then rise from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7]; and at the right hand of God [Hebrews 12:2], promise to be my Savior and my atoning Lord [Mark 10:45], I have my answer in the Book. God loves me, and cares for me, and sent His only begotten Son to die for me [John 3:16]. And this is His appeal to my heart: that I find life and salvation in Him [John 10:10].
“As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his evil way and live: turn ye, turn ye; for why will you die?” [Ezekiel 33:11]. God says, “I rejoice not in these who are perishing, but will that all men come to repentance” [2 Peter 3:9]. When the message of God from the Holy Scriptures falls upon hardened hearts and deaf ears; when it is drowned in the noise of this bustling world; and when it is forsaken and denied by the abstractions of human mind and spirit and soul, it breaks the heart of God. The Lord opens to us the fountain of cleansing, and the way of salvation, and the gate to heaven, and He rejoices when we turn, and believe, and accept, and are saved.
It is a wondrous thing, a marvelous thing, how God extends to us in His Word the promise of eternal life, always accompanied by marvels and miracles from heaven. One of the most dramatic that we find in all the Holy Scriptures is in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, when God’s word comes to Abraham, calling him to be the father of the faithful [Genesis 15:1-8; Galatians 3:7]. God commands him thus to sacrifice: a heifer is divided in twain—one side, the other side. God commands a goat, divided in twain—one side and the other side. God commands a ram to be sacrificed, divided in twain—one side and the other side; and God demands a pigeon and a turtledove [Genesis 15:9]. In keeping with the most solemn and sacred covenant that could be thought for among men, when thus the sacrifice is divided, the two men walk together between the twain, in blood covenant forever and ever. But when that sacrifice was divided, the blood shed, and the offering divided on either side [Genesis 15:9-11], a deep sleep came over Abraham [Genesis 15:12]. And in that vision, he saw passing through the sacrifices a burning furnace and a smoking lamp. God alone passed through that sacrifice [Genesis 15:17]. The Word of God is initiated, and substantiated, and affirmed, and forever endures by the omnipotence of God alone.
That’s why I had you read the passage in 2 Peter 1:21: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the spirit of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” The word comes from God and God alone. It is not invented by man. It is not initiated by man. It comes from God. God does it. And when the Lord does it, He does it wonderfully, such as, when He sent the word to Manoah: the Angel did wondrously that brought it; he ascended up in the fire of the sacrificial altar [Judges 13:19-20]; such as, when it came to Isaiah: a seraph took a burning coal from off the altar and touched his lips, that he might speak God’s word to the people [Isaiah 6:6-8]; such as, when He appeared above the brightness of the Syrian sun to the apostle Paul: “You are a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My Word, the gospel, to the Gentiles” [Acts 9:3, 15]. Such as, the Word of God that came to the sainted apostle John on Patmos: “I fell at His feet as dead. And He touched me with His right hand, saying, Fear not. Write; write what you have seen”; the vision of the glorious Christ; what is this present day of the church, and what is to come—the glorious return and triumph of our marvelous Lord [Revelation 1:17-19]. Always the Word of God comes from Him, and it is accompanied by the marvel of the glory of His presence.
What do the Scriptures say? And that word 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 the distillation of the divine wisdom. It is the offering of the holy and heavenly mind. It is the power of God, and it is the effectual ministry unto our salvation. What do the Scriptures say? They bring us the heart, and the revelation, and the wisdom, and the glory, and the power, and the salvation of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. What do the Scriptures say? They bring to us the answer to all of our human hearts and our human needs.
Voltaire was one of the most brilliant philosophers of all time. He was an infidel. He was a sardonic, sarcastic cynic. And one time, he said—he died in 1788—one time, he said, “One hundred years from now, the Bible and its Christ will be forgotten.” One hundred years to the day, from the time Voltaire avowed that, in the very place that he spoke it, there is a center for the distribution of the Word of God. When we face the exigencies of life and the sorrows that overwhelm us, do we read Voltaire? The only one I know who would seek out that French philosopher would be a cynic himself, who seeks to polish his arrows against the Word and will of our great God and Savior.
But for us, but for us, we who have found refuge in Him, the sacred Word, the Holy Scriptures are our guide and our answer to all of the problems and vicissitudes of this human pilgrimage. Like our Lord when He was assailed by Satan, He quoted the infallible and inerrant Word of the Lord. In all three temptations, He answered Satan with the sacred Word of Holy Scripture [Matthew 4:3-10]. It is our guide through the days of our pilgrimage. How am I to be, and how am I to walk, and how am I to talk, and how am I to live? Our answer lies in the Holy Word: “Search the Scriptures; for in them you have eternal life” [John 5:39].
And finally, when I come to the hour of my death, and I face that dark and uncharted sea, who will guide me through those narrows, and those maelstroms, and those rapids, and those dark expanses? Who has been there? And what awaits me on the other side? O God! What shall I do when I come to that ultimate and final hour? Henry Van Dyke wrote it like this:
O Maker of the Mighty Deep
Whereon our vessels fare,
Above our life’s adventure keep
Thy faithful watch and care.
We trust in Thee whate’er befall;
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.
We trust in Thee whate’er befall;
Thy sea so great, and our boats so small.
When outward bound we boldly sail
And leave this 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 port in Thee;
O bring us home at last.
We trust in Thee, whate’er befall;
Thy sea so great, and our boats so small.
[“Voyagers,” by Henry van Dyke]
This is our chart and compass. This is our promise and hope: the revelation of Jesus our Lord in these Holy Scriptures. What do the Scriptures say? They bring us to the Lord Jesus.
When Sir Walter Scott lay dying he said to his son-in-law Lockhart: “Son, bring me the Book. Bring me the Book.” And in that vast library of Sir Walter Scott, his son-in-law said, “Father, what book, which book?” And the great Scottish bard replied, “My son, there’s just one Book. Bring me the Book.” And Lockhart brought to Sir Walter Scott the Bible. And he died with that Bible in his hands.
“There’s just one Book!” cried the dying sage;
“Read me the old, old story.”
And the winged words that can never fail
Wafted his soul to glory.
There’s just one Book! And that is our invitation to your heart, this solemn, sacred, and Sabbath day. “Pastor, this day I stand before men and angels avowing my faith in the Christ of the Scriptures. I take Him as my personal Savior, and in token thereof, this commitment to Him, I stand with you before men and angels.” Or a family you, coming into the fellowship of our wonderful church; or just one somebody you, answering God’s call in your heart. “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand.” Make that decision now in your heart, and after the prayer, and in our singing the appeal, down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, I’m on the way, I’m coming. This is God’s day for me.” May we pray for it?
Our Lord, bless Thou the witness to the sublime and infallible and inerrant Word of God, pointing us to Jesus, the Savior of the world. And may it be not only in syllable and sentence, in verbs and in language; may it be, Lord, in heart and in life. “God has spoken to me through His Word, and I’m standing confessing my faith in the grace and love and atoning sacrifice of Jesus my Lord.” Bless Thou the appeal. Please God, honor Thy word with a harvest, answer the prayers of our people, and we will praise Thee and love Thee for those who come. In Thy dear, saving, and keeping name, amen.
In this moment when we stand to sing our song, God honor His word with a gracious harvest. Come and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.