That Ye Might Believe
July 30th, 1989 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-30-89 10:50 a.m.
We welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You have just listened to one of the finest paeans of praise to our blessed Lord you will ever hear in your life. A wonderful man and his wife joined our church from the North up there, you know, where all those infidels live way up north; came down here to the South to live with us, with God’s people. And he came from one of the largest churches in the world. And he said to me, "Not in that church nor in any other church have I ever heard such marvelous singing and playing as our orchestra and choir in the First Baptist Church of Dallas." That’s just as it ought to be. You all are the best. Everything around here is the best. I don’t know anything that isn’t. And we love you. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled That You Might Believe.
In our preaching through the fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, we are in the addendum that John added to the climactic story and avowal of his Gospel message. Chapter 20; chapter 21 in John’s Gospel is an addendum. It’s an after tribute. John’s Gospel closes with the twentieth chapter. What happened was his old friend, Simon Peter, crucified, they say, upside down. And I suppose that Simon Peter had been dead thirty years after John concluded writing this Gospel, closing it with the twentieth chapter. And then after the years passed, he wrote this tribute to Simon Peter in loving memory of his old friend and fellow disciple. Next time I preach here, doubtless I will follow that wonderful word that John writes about his friend of the other days, Simon Peter. But this morning we are going to speak of the addendum that John writes after he closes, in a climactic way, this story of the days of the flesh of our Lord.
In the twentieth chapter, he concludes with Thomas, one of the twelve called Didymus, called a twin; Didymus, twin. Thomas was a twin. And when the Lord had appeared to the disciples raised from the dead on a Sunday evening, why, Thomas was not with them [John 20:19-24]. He didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead like thousands and millions of others. "When you die, you die; when you return to the dust of the ground that is the end of all life." That’s Thomas.
So when the disciples came to Him and said, "We have seen the Lord. He is risen. He is alive." Thomas said, "You fanatics. How deceived you are. Dead people do not rise. And when you tell me the Lord is risen, I will not believe. I will not believe until I put my finger in the print of the nails in His hand, and thrust my hand into His side" [John 20:24-25]. And the next Sunday night His disciples were within, and Thomas with them [John 20:26]. And the Lord had heard every word that he said. And He turned to Thomas and said,
Reach hither thy finger, and place it in the print of the nails in My hand; and thrust your hand into My side: and be not faithless, but believing –
And this is the climax of the book –
And Thomas answered, and said unto Him, My Lord and my God.
Then the Lord said, Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed: blessed are they – makarios
That’s our beatitude, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" [John 20:27-29].
Now, the apostle John writes a little addendum:
Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book:
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life in His name.
That’s the purpose of John’s recounting the life of our Lord: that we might believe in Jesus: and believing have life everlasting in His name [John 20:31].
All four of the presentations of the life of our Lord; all four of the Gospels had a purpose that the author had in mind when he wrote it. For example, the first one, Matthew; over and over in time and again repeated, Matthew says, "This was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Old Testament prophet" [Matthew 1:22]. He was writing for the Jews. And he presents Jesus as the Messiah for us Gentiles, the Christ, as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament Scriptures. And he wrote his Gospel for the Jews that they might believe. Now, Mark wrote his message in an altogether different framework. He presents Jesus as – and over and over again you’ll find that word straightway, straightway [Mark 1:20, 21, 6:45, 8:10] – He presents Jesus as a man of movement and action and strategy. And he writes for the Romans. Luke, the beloved physician, is a great humanitarian. And he presents our Savior as just that. For all of hurting mankind, Jesus is moved with compassion. For example, Luke is the only one that will tell the parable of the good Samaritan [Luke 10:30-36]. That’s the Lord for humanity. That’s Luke.
Now, John moves in an altogether different direction. This Fourth Gospel is entirely different from the other three. And John writes to present Jesus as the Son of God:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . .
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only Son of God begotten of the Father).
[John 1:1, 14]
He writes that we might believe that Jesus is the Son of God; and that believing we may have life in His name [John 20:31].
Now, there’s an unusual thing that characterizes this Gospel as the disciple John presents it. He says here, "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of disciples"; sign, semeion, plural semeia, semeia, plural [John 20:30]. The King James Version translates that exactly correctly here, "And many other semeia, plural, signs." Everywhere else in John’s Gospel it’s translated miracle. But John never uses the word miracle one time. In his entire story of the life of the Lord, he never uses the word miracle.
The other disciples, the other evangelists, the other authors of the – of the gospel message use the word miracle over and over again watching the Lord Jesus, just the miraculous ableness and power and glory that resided in the very hands of our Lord. Dunamis, an example of the power of God translated miracle. Dunamis, teras – translated miracle, a wonder of God. They used those words, dunamis and teras over and over again; John, not one time, not one. Always he uses the word semeion, sign. And the wonder of the work of our Lord was that these are signs from heaven, confirmations from heaven that He is the Son of God. "And believing we might have life in His name" [John 20:31].
So let’s begin now with the Gospel. First, he writes that we might believe that Jesus is deity, He is God; and that in believing we might have life in His name. And the Gospel of John is made up, it is written around seven of those semeia, seven of those signs. He picks out seven of the things that were wondrous in the life of our Lord. We would call them miracles. He picks out seven of them, and he weaves his whole Gospel around them.
The first one is in chapter 2, the turning of the water into wine at the marriage in Cana of Galilee [John 2:1-11]. And what happened there is a wonder. He says, "There were six waterpots there of stone that would hold two or three firkins" [John 2:6]. Now, a firkin is about ten to twelve gallons of water. So those big stone pots there – six of them – were for the washing of their hands and the ceremonial washing of their feet as they come into the marriage feast. And there are six of them holding, say, thirty to thirty-five gallons of water.
And when they run out of wine – evidently they had a, really a response to the invitations to come. When they ran out of wine, oinos – you remember that word now. When they ran out of oinos, why, the Lord said to the servants now, "Now you draw out and fill these waterpots, six of them – six of them. You draw out from the well. Fill these waterpots." And after they had filled the waterpots overflowing to the brim, then the Lord said, "Now draw out, and carry to the governor of the feast" [John 2:7-8]. And when they drew that water out bearing it to the governor of the feast, on the way it turned into the crimson crushed fruit of the vine, oinos. And when the governor tasted it, he said, "I have never tasted anything like this in my life" [John 2:9-10]. Now, that is what we’re going to drink at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-9; Matthew 26:29]. And you don’t get drunk in heaven. Oinos, oinos can refer to alcoholic beverages, wine that would make you drunk. Oinos also can refer to the crushed fruit of the vine. You call it grape juice. And the Lord made that wonderful thing before the eyes of those guests there in Cana of Galilee [John 2:1-10].
Now, the sign. He says this is a sign, "This beginning of" – you have it translated miracles – "This beginning of semeia did Jesus in Galilee" [John 2:11]. That is filling up those six big basins, filling up all of the laws and rituals and rites of the Old Testament, filling them up, fulfilling them in the wonderful life of our Lord. And now the new oinos we have in the love and grace and liberty of Jesus our Savior. All of those rights and all of those rituals and all of those things that are written back there in the Law of the Old Testament, all of it is fulfilled. And in Christ we have a new life, a new taste, a new beverage, a new grace, a new love; everything new.
As He says in the Book of the Revelation, "Behold, I make all things new" [Revelation 21:5]. That’s our Lord. And if you want to have a new life, and a new house, and a new home, and a new beginning, and a new hope, and a new everything dear, open your heart to the Lord Jesus, and let Him come in. It’ll be a marvel for you. That’s the sign. Good night alive. We’ve got to go. That’s just one of them. That’s just one of them.
Number two: Jesus heals the nobleman’s son. That is, we are to believe in the word of our Lord. The nobleman lived in Capernaum in another city, and Jesus said to him, "Your son is alive." The boy was dying. The nobleman believed the Lord, went back home, and his son was healed that moment that Jesus said it [John 4:43-54].
All right. The third sign in chapter 5. The third sign: He heals a man lame thirty-eight years at the pool of Bethesda [John 5:5-9]. Our Lord came to undo the works of Satan. Satan had bound him thirty-eight years, and the Lord liberated him and made him well.
The fourth sign, He feeds the five thousand [John 6:1-14]; Jesus is the bread of life [John 6:35, 48].
The fifth sign: Jesus walks on the water [John 6:15-21]. He is the Lord of creation and of all nature. He did it. He made it [John 1:3]. And He walks on the water.
Now, the sixth sign – sign number six, Jesus heals a man blind from his birth [John 9:1-7]. That is, our Lord is the light of the world [John 8:12, 9:5].
And the seventh and the last sign, He raises Lazarus from the dead [John 11:1-43]. "I am the resurrection, and the life" [John 11:25]. We don’t die in the Lord. We just go to heaven. We just change this mortal body for an immortal; someday a resurrected, glorified body [1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17]. He says openly here, "He that believeth in Me shall never, ever die" [John 11:25-26]. That’s our Lord.
The testimony to our Savior along the way was just incomparable. John the Baptist introduced Him as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world [John 1:29]. And Andrew and Philip and Nathanael, "Lord, Thou art the King of Israel, the Messiah of God." [John 1:44-] That Samaritan woman and her fellow Samaritans, He is the Savior of the world [John 4:28, 42]. That man, born blind, all the castigation against our Lord – the bitterness by which finally they crucified Him – but his testimony, "Whatever you say about Him, this one thing I know, whereas I was blind, now I can see" [John 9:25].
We are like that. Whatever anybody else may think about our Savior, I know this: He lives in my heart, and He is the hope of heaven. God bless Him forever. You know, it’s a remarkable thing about our Lord Jesus. Whatever anybody else may say or think, to us He is dear and precious, a fellow pilgrim every step of the way.
Number two: these things are written, that you might believe that Jesus is our atonement for our sins [John 20:31; Romans 5:11; 1 John 2:2]. It’s a remarkable thing to me that John is the only one that writes about that spear thrust into the heart of our Lord [John 19:33-34]. Isn’t that unusual? It’s never mentioned anywhere else. But John says he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he writes, that you might believe [John 19:35]. The spear thrust in His side, the iron was followed out by blood and water [John 19:34]. And John expatiates upon that almost endlessly. When you read 1 John, over and over again there is Jesus, the propitiation, the atonement for our sins [1 John 1:7, 9, 2:2, 3:5]
And in the Apocalypse, in the Revelation, written by John, he starts it off, "Unto Him that loved us, and gave Himself for us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . to Him be glory and honor world without end for ever and ever and ever" [Revelation 1:5, 6]. And then he continues on, "And I saw a Lamb as it had been slain" [Revelation 5:6]. And the myriads and the myriads in the angel host and the host of the world, they sing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive honor, and glory, and power, and dominion" [Revelation 5:12]. And then when he sees us in heaven, "These are they who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" [Revelation 7:14].
I want to take just a minute, as he writes in his First Epistle, God loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. "And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world" [1 John 2:2]. And again, "The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin" [1 John 1:7]. God sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, to be atonement for our sins, to wash our sins away. God did it.
The crucifixion of our Lord was not by human choice or hands, though to them who did it apparently that’s true, but no back of it was the purpose of God. God sent His Son into the world, and God offered Him a sacrifice for us [John 3:16]. God did it.
In the days of the garden of Eden, God shed that first blood [Genesis 3:21]. God did it. Can you imagine Adam and Eve when they looked upon that red crimson of life being drunken up by the soil and dirt of the ground? The Lord made for them skins – coats of skins to cover their nakedness. God shed blood to cover the nakedness of our first parents [Genesis 3:21] who transgressed [Genesis 3:1-6]. It was God who ordained that Passover lamb. The lamb is slain and the blood is to be sprinkled in the form of a cross on the lintel at the top, on the doorpost on either side [Exodus 12:3-7]. God did it.
Abraham, when he was instructed to offer up sacrifice on Mt. Moriah, his own son Isaac [Genesis 22:1-2], Abraham says to his boy, "God somehow will provide for himself a lamb. God will do it. God will do it" [Genesis 22:8-13]. This is the work of the Lord. As the [ninth] chapter of Hebrews avows, "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins" [Hebrews 9:22].
What can wash away my sins?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
["Nothing but the Blood"; Robert Lowry]
That’s God’s provision for the washing away of our sins. These things John writes that we might believe in the atoning grace of our blessed Lord Jesus [John 20:31].
One other; these things the sainted apostle writes in order that we might find everlasting life in Him. He is the Lord of life [John 20:31]. Our Lord says in the fourth chapter of John:
Whoever drinks of the water of this life shall thirst again:
But whoever shall drink of the water that I give him shall never thirst; for the water that I give him shall be in him a fount of water flowing up – rising up unto eternal life.
[John 4: 13-14]
In the tenth chapter – in the tenth chapter, "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish" [John 10:28]. In the fourteenth chapter, "Peace I leave with you, My peace give I unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid" [John 14:27]. And he closes that incomparable passage in chapter 16, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" [John 16:33].
To live in Christ is to move into an altogether kingdom than to live in the world. In the world is sorrow and tribulation, pain, disappointment, dissolution,death. Do you remember Lord Byron’s word?
My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
The worm, the canker, and the grief
Are mine alone!
["On Reaching My Thirty-Sixth Birthday," Alfred, Lord Byron]
Do you remember the title of that poem? "On Reaching My Thirty-Sixth Birthday." And he died dissolute of the world. That wonderful poem, Lord Byron.
Bobby Burns – Bobby Burns,
Pleasures are like poppies spread:
You seize the flower, the bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls on the river,
A moment white – then gone for ever;
Or like the Borealis rays,
That flit ‘ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.
["Tam O’Shanter"; Robert Burns]
A life dissolute, and he died, likewise, at thirty-six years of age.
O God in heaven, if pleasure is my life, to be satiated and joyous is to be miserable. If popularity is my life, to be ignored is to be miserable. If success is my life, to be a failure is miserable. If fame is my life, to be unknown is to be miserable. If wealth or money is my life, to be poor is to be miserable. If health is my life, to be sick is to be miserable. If power is my life, to be weak is to be miserable. Even if liberty is my life, to be imprisoned is to be miserable. But, my sweet brother and sister in Christ, whether I’m sick or poor or imprisoned, I can be happy in Him. It’s a wonder what God has done for us.
I entered once a home of care;
And penury and want were there.
But joy and peace withal;
I asked the aging mother whence
Her helpless widowhood’s defense;
She answered, "Christ is all."
I saw the martyr at the stake.
The flames could not his courage shake,
Nor death his soul appall;
I asked him whence his strength was given;
He looked triumphantly to Heaven
And answered, "Christ is all."
I stood beside the dying bed
Where lay a child with aching head
"Waiting Jesus call. I saw him smile
To his sweetest maid,
And as the spirit passed away,
He whispered, "Christ is all."
I dreamed that hoary time had fled,
The earth and sea gave up their dead,
A fire dissolved this ball;
I saw the church’s ransomed throng,
And I caught the burden of their song,
‘Twas this, "Our Lord Christ is all in all."
["Christ is All," W. A. Williams]
Brother, there’s nothing in this earth comparable to loving Jesus, giving your heart, living and dying in His blessed name. And that is our appeal to you. The thousands of you who have listened to this message on television, what a wonderful moment in your life if you would call us and say, "Today, this moment, I open my heart to the Lord Jesus." You will find a number on your television screen. There will be godly, consecrated leaders and counselors here to answer your telephone call, and they will show you how to accept Christ as your Savior. It will be the most precious and the most enduring and the most blessed changing of anything you will ever do in your life. Call us. Accept the Lord. And someday, I’ll see you in heaven.
And to the great throng in the sanctuary this solemn hour, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, and in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, I have decided for Christ, and I’m standing with you. I’m coming today." A family you, coming into the fellowship of the church or answering the call of Christ in your heart, make the decision now. And in this moment when we sing, on the first note of the first stanza, come. And may the angels in heaven attend you in the way. Welcome, while we stand and while we sing.