THE CASE FOR CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-12-89 10:50 a.m.
And once again welcome to the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Case for Christ.
In our preaching through the Gospel of John, we are in the last days of His earthly ministry, and we are in the midst of His trial. And in John 19:7: “The Jews answered Pilate saying, We have a law, and by our law He ought to die.” In this long trial, not one lifted up voice in His behalf. Derided, denounced, denied, beat and buffeted, a bloody, forsaken figure [Isaiah 53:2-5], not even out of sympathy was a voice lifted in His behalf: not one.
I stood upon a day in Hyde Park in London, England. As you know, they gather there from the ends of the earth and by the throngs and the throngs. Anyone can speak his part. In that multitude was a pastor: a devout, humble, sweet man of God. By his side stood a devout man, I presume his deacon. And he was preaching the gospel of Christ so beautifully and so preciously. And in the midst of his sermon he said, “What would you do if Jesus were to come here today?” And when he raised that question, there came into the circle in front of him—the open area in front of him—there came a brutish man with a heavy, Irish brogue. And he said, “If Jesus were to come here today, I’d spit in His face! I’d pluck out His beard. I’d kill Him with my own hands. I’d crucify Him—liar and deceiver!” The sweet pastor just kept on preaching.
I thought of that a thousand times since. Why didn’t I stand by that preacher? Why didn’t I walk across that little icy circle and say, “Sir, I am a believer; I love the Lord Jesus and I have given Him my heart and life, and He is my hope now and in the world to come”? Why didn’t I do that? I never said a word. I just stood there and heard His name defamed. Thus it is, and has been against our Lord through all of the passing centuries; the case against Him.
Luke, in the fourth chapter of his Gospel, introduces our Lord Jesus as His ministry began in Nazareth. And in the sermon that our Lord preached in His home city of Nazareth, He is cited speaking of the great abounding love of the Lord Jesus, of God the Father in heaven, of the wooing of the Spirit; speaking of the immeasurable love of our Lord for all humanity [Luke 4:16-27]. Our Lord used an illustration of Elisha. And He said there were many lepers in Israel in the days of Elisha but only one was cleansed, and that was Naaman, a heathen Syrian general [Luke 4:27; 2 Kings 5:1-14].
Then He used another illustration. He said there were many poor widows in Israel in the days of Elijah the prophet, but to none of them was he sent except to Sidon, to Sarepta, to a heathen widow [Luke 4:25-26; 1 Kings 17:8-24].
The love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind; and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
[from “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy,” Frederick W. Faber, 1862]
But when the people heard the Lord Jesus speak of the abounding grace and love of God [Luke 4:16-27], they seized Him and took Him to the brow of the hill on which their city is built to cast Him headlong and down to death [Luke 4:28-29]; the case against Jesus.
When He fed the multitudes, the five thousand, on the other side of the sea [John 6:1-14], they followed Him to Capernaum [John 6:22-24]. They had been fed with loaves and fishes in a miraculous way [John 6:5-11], and when the Lord spoke to them about the bread of life [John 6:31-65], they all forsook Him and fled [John 6:66]—all of them. Why follow a man who does not give us food, pay for our way? And Jesus turned to the twelve and said, “Will you also go away?” [John 6:66-67]; the case against Jesus.
When He healed that demoniac in Gadara, they lost their hogs [Luke 8:26-33]. They lost their pigs. And they came to the Lord Jesus and begged Him to leave their coasts [Luke 8:37]. To have Him cost pigs— and they would rather have pigs than have Jesus; the case against our Lord.
And in this last ministry in Jerusalem before He was crucified, there accosted Him the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the doctors of the scribes. And then they took council against Him how they might destroy Him [Matthew 12:14]; the case against Jesus.
And in the story of the New Testament, the unfolding day of grace that followed after His crucifixion; at Pentecost they were placed in jail who preached His name [Acts 4:1-4]. In Lystra, Paul was dragged out for dead after they had stoned Him [Acts 14:19]. In Ephesus, there was a throng crying, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians” [Acts 19:34], and they drove the missionaries of Jesus out of the city [Acts 20:1]. And in the days that followed, in the story of the Roman Empire, the Neronian persecution, Paul was beheaded in that outrage against the followers of Jesus. Then the Domitian persecution; John was sentenced in exile to die of exposure [Revelation 1:9]. The Decian persecution, the Diocletian persecution—laying down their lives; the case against Jesus.
And we come to our own modern day and hour, it is no different. The great vast communist world builds its case in diabolical hatred of the Lord Jesus. First time I was in Leningrad, walking down the street, main street, here was a beautiful church turned into a granary; here a beautiful house of God turned into a warehouse. These other houses of the Lord padlocked and falling into ruins, and the people passing by indifferent. I wanted to cry out with Jeremiah, “Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by?” [Lamentations 1:12]; the case against Christ.
From West Africa clear to the Philippines, one half-way around the world, the sword of Mohammed and the stronghold of Islam; and in our Western world, the materialist and the hedonist, worshipping at the shrine of money and power and pleasure. And the pseudo-intellectual, the pseudoscientist, who looks upon us in contempt; we are the unenlightened, we are the simple-minded; the case against Christ.
Pastor, is there something to be said for Him? The case for Him. Number one: what He has done for the peoples of the world. Matthew 11:5, “Tell John the Baptist the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them”; what Jesus has done for the world.
In my Greek class, the professor placed a Greek letter in my hand for me to translate. And the letter was this: it was from a father to his wife who had borne—who was about to bear a child. And in the letter he says to her, “If the child is a male, if it is a little boy, then you keep it and rear it, and we will rear it. But if the child is a girl, expose it”; that is, place it out where the dogs can eat it and the wild animals destroy it. Or, worse still, an unscrupulous family: take it and break its bones, and rear it, and set it out on a city street to beg. When Jesus came into this world that was universal, the exposure of children; let the dogs eat it.
Before Jesus came—before Jesus came, there was not a hospital in the world. Before Jesus came, there was not an orphan’s home in the world, not one. These eleemosynary institutions and these great hospitals and medical centers, and these orphans homes; all of them are the fruit of the heart and love of our Lord Jesus; the case for Christ.
Womanhood was chattel property when Jesus came. She had no rights and no status and no standing. And when Jesus came into this world, three men out of every five that you met were bondslaves. What a difference Jesus made! When Paul wrote to Philemon, he said to him: “I am sending back to you your slave Onesimus, who ran away. Only this time, receive him not as a slave but as a brother beloved” [Philemon 1:15-16]. In Christ, the slave is my brother. What a world into which Jesus came, and what He has done for the peoples of this creation; the case for Christ.
What He has done for those held captive by Satan. Behold, a woman in the city, a prostitute; when she knew that Jesus was in the house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, stood at His feet weeping, and washed His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed Him with the anointment [Luke 7:37-38]. And when the Pharisee saw it, he spake within himself: “This man, if He were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him: for she is a prostitute, she is a woman of the street. She is an outcast” [Luke 7:39]. Then the story of the Lord Jesus; that’s He. That’s Jesus. The more vile we are, seemingly, the more He loves us, pities us—came to save us and deliver us [John 3:17; Luke 19:10].
Over there in West Dallas, in the days when I first came here to the city, Clyde Barrow, Bonnie Parker grew up. They were killed in an ambush by the police in Louisiana. And their accomplice and friend, Raymond Hamilton, was executed. He was electrocuted in Huntsville. And sweet Mrs. Moore, Hattie Rankin Moore in our dear church, stayed up with the mother of Raymond Hamilton the night he was executed—stayed with her all night long. Raymond had a brother named Floyd who, instead of being electrocuted, was remanded to the federal penitentiary in Alcatraz for life. And sweet Mrs. Moore came to me and said, “Would you go to Alcatraz and win Floyd Hamilton to the Lord?”
I said, “Yes.” I went out to San Francisco. Then on the ferry to that little rocky island in the middle of the bay, the warden greeted me graciously, turned me over to a guard. And he led me through one iron gate and one fierce enclosure after another. And finally in the heart of that prison, he left me with Floyd Hamilton in an iron cage in a steel cell. I thought nothing of that at the time; but since then I have been told by those who know that nobody was ever received like that. When you go to Alcatraz, there is an iron wall and a bullet proof window and you speak through a little aperture. Yet the warden had the guard take me into the heart of the prison and left me there in that iron cell with Floyd Hamilton.
I talked to him about the Lord Jesus, about Hattie Rankin Moore and her love for the family, and I talked to him about giving his heart to the Lord, and asked him to kneel with me in prayer. And after I prayed, I extended my hand and said, “Floyd, if you’ll give your heart to the Lord, your life to Him, take me by the hand.” And he squeezed my hand hard. And he said to me, “Pastor, I suppose I’ll never be out of the prison. But if I ever am, the first thing I will do, I will walk down that aisle in your church, and I will confess my faith in the Lord Jesus, and I will be baptized, and be a follower of Christ.”
In the gracious goodness of God, he was remanded from Alcatraz to the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. And after the years in Leavenworth, Kansas, he was pardoned. And in keeping with his promise, when he was set free, the first thing he did was to come down that aisle right there, stand before this congregation, and confess his faith in Jesus. And I baptized him in that baptistery right there. And for the years of his life thereafter, he gave himself to speaking to boys in clubs and schools—depicting them the terror of serving Satan. What God can do with these who are helplessly, hopelessly bound in sin.
It is no secret what Christ can do.
What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you.
With arms wide open, He’ll welcome you.
It is no secret what God can do.
[“It Is No Secret,” Stuart Hamblen]
The case for Christ.
I have one other: what He has done for me. In John 9:25, “The man answered and said, Whether Christ be a sinner or no, I know not; but one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” Whatever may ever be said against Him, this I know: what He has done for me. What He has done for me savingly. When I was ten years old, in a morning service, I happened to be seated by my old mother. She turned in the invitation, and with tears said, “Son, today would you give your heart to Jesus? Would you take the Lord as your Savior?” I said, “Yes, mother. Yes.” And that began the days of my pilgrimage. I am like old Polycarp, the martyr of Smyrna. He said, when they offered him liberty if he would deny the Lord, Polycarp answered, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and I will not deny Him now.” It has been a sweet and precious pilgrimage, walking with the Lord; what He has done for me.
What he has done for me intellectually: like you, always introduced to that pseudoscientist, to that infidel, that agnostic, that unbeliever. They look at this glorious world all around us and they do not see God. They read God out of it. They say to us, “This world created itself out of nothing. There is no intelligence in it. There is no design in it. There is no purpose in it. It created itself out of nothing.” That is what they say to us. “God is not in it.” And, when I look at you—intelligence made and formed and created in the image of God [Genesis 1:27], with a soul and a heart to respond, they say we are the product of an evolutionary cycle. We once were an amoeba, then a paramecium, then a tadpole, then a fish, then a marsupial, then a monkey, then an ape—and finally you. And if you read the papers, by law they are having to teach that to our children in every school. What Jesus has done for me.
I say to that pseudoscientist, “You say something created itself out of nothing. Just show me; just one time, just demonstrate it one time. Let me see something created out of nothing.” Or, “you say we came from paramecium and amoebas. Just let me see. Just one instance where one species ever changes or evolved into another.” All kinds of dogs and all kinds of cats—but you will never see a dog turn into a cat. And you will never see a cat turn into a dog. And you will never see either one of them turn into a cow. Just one time. Just one time.
What Jesus has done for me: I read those two first chapters of Genesis; God did it. And my heart exclaims with the psalmist: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His lace work, His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge” [Psalm 19:1, 2]. God did it. And I think of that great tribute in the first chapter of John: “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made” [John 1:3]. What Jesus has done for me; to bow at His feet and praise His name for the great majesty of His glory that fills the earth and my heart; what Jesus has done for me.
Looking ahead into age, and into death, and into the grave, and into the dark, O God, what of the hopelessness and the helplessness of that inevitable day? Sweet people, in these last few days, I have conducted five funerals—five. I conducted one yesterday afternoon. What of that grave, and what of that death, and what of that darkness? O God! O God! With what triumph the Christian can say with Paul in Philippians 1:21: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is a gain.”
If for me to live is this world, to die is a loss.
If for me to live is wealth, to die is a loss.
If for me to live is money, to die is a loss.
If for me to live is sin, to die is a loss.
If for me to live is pleasure, to die is a loss.
If for me to live is ambition, to die is a loss.
If for me to live is fame, to die is a loss.
If for me to live is self, to die is a loss.
But, if for me to live is Christ, to die is a gain.
Gain a better body, a resurrected body.
Gain a better home, my home in heaven.
Gain a better communion, where there is no
more death and no more sorrow
and no more pain and no more crying.
Great God! What Jesus has done for us.
In these years gone by, George Beverly Shea stood here in this sacred pulpit, and he sang a song that he had just written. It went like this:
I had rather have Jesus than silver and gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand:
Than to be rich in houses and lands.
Than to be a king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway!
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
[“I’d Rather Have Jesus,” George Beverly Shea]
That’s what Jesus has done for me. And that’s what Jesus has done for us.
Stand by me in the hour of my death; open for me the gates into heaven [John 14:1-3], where I will wait for you; and we will love each other and Him, world without end, forever and ever, amen.
And to you who have listened on television, what a beautiful moment this moment is, to give your heart and your life in faith and love to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]. Do this. Confess to the Savior, “Lord, I am a sinner and I face the judgment of death; that dark day and hour is coming for me. And Lord Jesus, when it comes, stand by me. I receive You as my Savior now into my heart and life [Romans 10:8-13]. I worship You as my Lord, and when I die, I will look forward to seeing You, and being with You, and with God’s dear people forever and ever.” Pray that prayer. Give your heart to the Lord and let Him bless you every step of this pilgrim way. He says, “If thou wilt confess Me before men, I will confess You in heaven” [Matthew 10:32]. Come down the aisle at church and openly give your heart to Christ. Or, on this television screen, you will see our number. Call us, and say to the one who answers the phone, “I have given my heart to the Lord Jesus. Pray for me.”
And in the throng in God’s house this morning, a family you, a couple you, or a one somebody you, coming into the fellowship of our church [Hebrews 10:24-25], or giving your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], or reconsecrating your life to Him, on the first note of the first stanza come, and may angels attend you in the way. God bless you as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.