THE BIBLE REVEALS THE PURPOSE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-17-89 10:50 a.m.
And once again welcome, the throngs of you who share the hour on television and on radio. You are now part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Bible Reveals the Purpose of God.
The service, the sermon, is prepared in keeping with a request on the part of our church staff. You saw a while ago a recognition of those who have read through the Bible this year of ’89. And they wanted me to preach a message on the Word of God to encourage our people to read through the Bible in the new decade of 1990. And it is a high privilege for me thus to try to do so.
A background text is in Galatians 4:4, "When the pleroma of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." That we might be adopted, we who are lost sinners, adopted into the family of God. "When the pleroma of time was come"; I recognized that word, having read it in Romans 11:25, "I would not, brethren, that ye should be without knowledge of this secret that God kept in His heart, this mystery, that blindness in part is happened to Israel until the" – and there’s that word again – "until the pleroma of the Gentiles be come in. And so, all Israel shall be saved" [Romans 11:25-26].
"The pleroma of the Gentiles." God has a book, the Book of Life [Revelation 20:15]. And in that Book of Life are written the names of all of those who are going to be saved. And when that last Gentile comes down this aisle and gives his heart in trust and faith to the Lord Jesus – the pleroma, the last one in that number; when that last Gentile comes down this aisle, and accepts Jesus as his Savior, then the consummation of Gentile history shall have been achieved, and God will turn again to His chosen people [Romans 11:25-26]. And thus lead them into a marvelous conversion experience, the pleroma, the purpose of God worked out in human history.
Life for the most part – apart from God – life is so meaningless and purposeless. It amounts to no more than an insect. How many insects died last year? How many Homo sapiens died last year? And what is a man’s life more than a marsupial? Is there purpose or meaning in it? When we look at it, it’s kind of like a secret wrapped up in an enigma buried in a conundrum. Apparently, there’s no purpose in life at all. You live, you die, and are forever forgotten. Shakespeare referred to life as strutting across a stage. And the sounds and furor and gestations are without meaning and purposeless. And all life seems to be like that.
Do you remember the text of the Book of Ecclesiastes? Ecclesiastes 1:2, hebel hebalim, hebel, translated in the King James Version, "vanity." Hebel hebalim, vanity of vanities. All is hebel, vanity. You could translate that hebel, "emptiness, emptiness of emptiness." Everything is empty. You could translate it "purposelessness, purposeless of purposelessness." Everything is purposeless. It has no meaning. It has no outreach. It is in itself purposeless. That is until I pick up the Word of God, and when I open the pages of this sacred Book, immediately the hand of God is seen and felt in all human life, in all existence, in all being.
For example, the Bible presents a great consummation toward which human history inevitably and inextricably moves. You have those glorious prophecies in Isaiah chapter 9, in Isaiah chapter 11, in Isaiah chapters 40-66. You have those glorious consummations toward which all human destiny moves in Micah chapter 4, in Malachi chapters 2 and 4, and in the tremendous vision of the prophet Daniel recorded in chapter 2. He sees there a gigantic image. The head is of gold. And the breast is of silver and the brass thigh, and below, the two iron legs [Daniel 2:31-33]. And he is told that this is human history. The head of gold is the kingdom of Babylon. And the breast with the two arms is the Medo-Persian Empire. And the thighs of brass are the Greek empire. And the two legs of iron are the Eastern and Western Roman Empire. And then many kingdoms represented by the toes [Daniel 2:38-42].
Then this marvelous consummation:
And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, it shall break in pieces and consume all those kingdoms, and it will stand forever.
As you saw the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, and it brake in pieces the iron and the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: And the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
[Daniel 2:44, 45]
All history moves toward a great final consummation under the aegis of Almighty God. And that tremendous consummation is not only represented in the pages of the Old Testament, but it is throughout the pages of the New Testament, the new dispensation.
In the apocalyptic discourses of Jesus, such as in Matthew 24 and 25 – with all of the concourses and turbulences of history, they reach toward a great final consummation: the purpose of God in existence. Then you have the incomparable fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, and the consummation of life and the resurrection from the dead, then, of course, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and the coming of our Lord. And finally, the Apocalypse itself that describes in minute outline the great final kingdom of Christ when He comes to reign over heaven and over earth. According to the Word of God, there is meaning and purpose in all life and in all history. And I see that when the Bible unfolds through the generations and through the millennia the great meaning of the Lord as He directs human history toward a final and consummating end.
For example, the choice of God, the sovereign purpose of God worked out in the preparation of a family – among all of the children of Adam. And let me turn aside here to make a remark. The Bible says Adam lived nine hundred thirty years and that he begat sons and daughter [Genesis 5:4-5]. And when some nitwit, crazy inane screwball comes along and says, "Where did Cain get his wife?" – my brother, there is a man who sat down and worked out that Cain could have chosen among thirty-seven thousand women for any wife that he chose! Now, that would be enough even for you, don’t you think?
Out of all of the thousands of Adam, God chose Seth. And out of the thousands of the Sethites, God chose Noah. And out of the sons of Noah, God chose Shem. And out of the Semitic tribes, God chose Abraham. And out of the loins of Abraham, God chose Isaac and not Ishmael. And out of the loins of Isaac, God chose Israel and not Esau. And out of the loins of the great man of God, Israel, God chose his fourth son, Judah. And out of Judah, God chose David, the king. And out of David, He chose Nathan and Solomon. And out of the captivity, He chose the remnant. And the remnant back in the Holy Land, God chooses a virgin Jewess by the name of Mary and her husband, Joseph, of the seed of David. And upon a day of days, the Child is born [Matthew 1:20-25].
God’s purpose, the meaning of life through all unfolding history; God works in it and through it. Not only that – in the choice of a family – but in a preparation of the world, getting ready for the coming of the Lord Messiah, the Savior of humanity. When He was crucified, above His cross: "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews" – written in Greek, and in Latin, and in Hebrew [Luke 23:38]; written in Greek – God preparing the whole civilized world for the coming of His Son.
Alexander the Great, who founded the Greek Empire, had no conception of the beginning of an introduction of an idea that he was preparing the world for the coming of the Savior. But he made Greek universal. When Paul wrote his letter to the interior church of Asia Minor, to Colosse, he wrote in Greek. When Paul wrote a letter to the capital of the Roman Empire, in Rome, he wrote it in Greek. The whole world spoke one language, Greek.
Written in Latin; the Roman soldiers laced the Roman Empire with Roman roads. You could walk anywhere. You could go anywhere from one side of the civilized world to the other; God’s preparation in human history for the missionary as he preaches the gospel of the Son of God. And written in Hebrew, throughout the diaspora, the Jew was everywhere. And wherever he went, there was the synagogue and in the synagogue, the reading of this holy and inspired Book of God; the Lord’s preparation for the whole world; meaning and purpose in history.
Then of all of the apparent tragedies that mankind has ever looked upon, the coming of the Savior into the world ended in the tragedy of crucifixion. He was nailed to a tree. And He died an ignominious death [Matthew 27:32-50]. How Satan must have exulted when Israel had slain her own Son. The chosen people are in unbelief! Death shall reign forever! There will be no kingdom ever! And Satan must have gloated and exulted in the triumph of the day of the cross, when Jesus died.
But there is purpose in human history. There is meaning under the hand and aegis of Almighty God. Out of that tragedy, out of that sorrow, God introduced a mustērion, a secret He kept in His heart until He revealed it to His holy apostles [Ephesians 3:4-13]. Out of that cross was born the era of love and grace in which we live – the preaching of the gospel of the Savior of the world.
"And when they were come together, they asked Him saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom at Israel? And He said, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power" [Acts 1:6-7]. There will be a consummation. There will be a great and ultimate triumph when our Lord comes to establish His kingdom in heaven and in earth [Revelation 19:11-16]. But of that day and of that time, God’s kept it a secret in His heart. He hasn’t revealed that time to us. It will certainly come. All history moves toward that consummation – the second coming of Christ, the establishment of His kingdom in the earth. But we’re not to know when. What we are to do is – "ye shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you. And ye shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth" [Acts 1:8]. And in the purpose of God, He has given to us this era, this dispensation of grace in which the gospel is preached and men are called unto faith and unto salvation in Him. And oh, what an incomparable blessing the preaching of the gospel is to this weary darkened world!
May I take for example, our own nation, our own America? In reading the story of my family – my great-grandfather was a slave owner, a slave owner. He bought chattel property, human beings. And in America were thousands and thousands and thousands of human beings sold on an auction block. They were slaves. Then the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God – this era, this dispensation, this age of grace and of the love of Jesus. And my sweet people, to us it would be unthinkable and indescribable that we would go to an auction block down here on Main Street and buy a human being. That’s the gospel of the Son of God – what it has done to America, our own beloved country.
Take again in these generations past, political differences were settled by dueling. For example, Alexander Hamilton was slain in a duel by Aaron Burr in 1804. And not only that, but in the same place, in the same spot where Alexander Hamilton was slain by Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton’s eldest son, twenty years of age, was slain in a duel in 1801. That is America; then the preaching of the gospel. If you heard of a duel in America today over political differences, you could not imagine such a catastrophe, such a tragedy. The preaching of the gospel – this era of grace that God purposed in the death of Jesus our Lord.
I haven’t time to speak of the debtors. In America, debtors were placed in prison. And they rotted there until they died if they were not able to pay their debts. Or take again the insane. These that are aberrated in mind – they were treated like animals. But the preaching of the gospel has brought to our beloved America a glorious freedom in soul and heart and conversion of life; the purpose of God worked out in human history, even in the cross.
I do not think of anything more moving or more typical of the kingdom of the grace of Jesus than when I think of William Borden. There comes to the parsonage every week a representative from the Borden Milk Company. I live on milk. I would not miss any other food at all. I could live on milk. So, there comes to the parsonage a representative of the Borden Milk Company – so welcome. There was a scion of the Borden Milk Company. His mother devoted her life to him. He was the darling of her heart, this multi-multi-millionaire named William Borden. What kind of a boy was William Borden? Even in school, down there in the slums of the city, reading God’s Word to those wretches – William Borden, multi-multi-millionaire; went away, as you know, to be a foreign missionary and died on the foreign field in his early twenties.
An Englishman came to America. And he was asked, "What in America impressed you more than anything else?" And that sensitive Englishman replied, "The thing that impressed me more than anything else in America was seeing that multi-millionaire boy, William Borden, down on his knees with his arm around a wretched bum, teaching him how to be saved, the key to God." The purpose of God in human history and human life is the most glorious thing that mind could imagine! The grace of God reaching down toward us.
And I think of it in my own life as you think of it in your life. You know, recounting my own experience and reading the Word of God, it is hard for me to realize when I was five years old I started reading through the Bible. When I was five years of age, reading God’s Book. I so well remember when I was about eight years of age, right down there, right within a block of where we live, George Abbot lived. And he got angry at me. And to insult me, he said, "You little Bible reader." And I tore into him with all of my fists and all of my might. Called me a Bible reader – little Bible reader. Now, if you were to call me a Bible reader, I’d say it’s a compliment. It’s a compliment. Yeah. Oh, dear! And then when I was seventeen years of age, I began my pastoral work. And going from house to house, kneeling down with those families and reading that blessed Book, and praying with those dear people.
You know, I have only one objection to being pastor of a big church. When I was a country preacher and a village preacher, I went into everybody’s home and I read the Bible with them. And I prayed with them on my knees. I miss that. Goodness! If I had my way about it, I’d spend my time in your house, from house to house, reading that blessed Book and bowing in prayer before the Lord. There’s no strength and there’s no comfort like comes to us from the Word of God. And we find the ultimate meaning and purpose of our lives from the revelations on this sacred page.
Thou truest friend man ever knew.
Thy constancy I’ve tried.
When all were false I found thee true.
My counselor and guide.
The mines of earth no treasures give
That could this volume buy
In teaching me the way to live
It taught me how to die.
["My Mother’s Bible" by Henry Russell]
God’s Book, revealing to us meaning and purpose in our lives. And we are rich because of His love and grace and His abounding presence in the pilgrimage of our days.
We are going to sing us a song now. And while we sing the song of appeal, in the balcony round, somebody you; in the throng on this lower floor, a family you; coming forward to place life and heart and ministry with us, to accept the Jesus as your Savior; died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3], raised for our justification according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:4; Romans 4:25], God’s purpose of grace in Jesus, to accept Him for all that He promised to be for and with us, coming into the fellowship of our dear church, or answering any call of the Spirit in your heart; on the first note of the first stanza, come, and a thousand times welcome. May angels attend in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
THE BIBLE REVEALS THE PURPOSE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Pleroma – the last one in that number(Galatians 4:4, Romans 11:25)
B. Life is meaningless, purposeless(Ecclesiastes 1:2)
C. In the Bible, the hand of God is seen and felt in all human life, in all existence, in all being
II. A consummation toward which all history is being moved
A. Old Testament prophets(Isaiah 9:6-7, 11:6-9; 40 – 66; Micah 4:1-3, Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45, Malachi 3:2, 4:1-2, 5)
B. New Testament age no less one of expectancy(Matthew 24, 25, 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, Revelation)
III. Purpose of God working him human history
A. Preparation of a family
B. Preparation of the world
1. Above His cross was written in Greek, Latin and Hebrew
a. Alexander the Great’s Greek Empire
b. Roman Empire
c. The Hebrew, the Jew, was everywhere – the diaspora
IV. Purpose of God in the cross
A. A devastating crisis – the coming of the Savior ended in crucifixion
B. Out of that tragedy God introduced this age of grace, the preaching of the gospel of salvation(Acts 1:6-8)
C. The blessing of the gospel to a darkened world
1. Our America
b. Dueling to settle political differences
c. Debtors prison
d. William Borden, missionary
2. My own soul