THE SEVEN MIGHTY MIRACLES OF ALL TIME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-5-91 10:50 a.m.
Wonderful! Beautiful, glorious! We praise God for our choir and orchestra, and for the Savior they so marvelously and beautifully magnify. Welcome to the uncounted multitudes of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now a worshiping part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the senior pastor bringing the message entitled The Seven Mighty Miracles of All Time.
It is a conclusion of five messages prepared on the creation of the world. In keeping with the glorious choir’s rendition of Haydn’s "Creation," they asked me to preach four sermons on the creation during the month of April. But May left me with one other and I just thought we would take advantage of this Lord’s Day and conclude it – the seven marvelous, majestic miracles of all time.
The Bible begins with the first one: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" [Genesis 1:1]. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament exhibits, show,s His handiwork" [Psalm 19:1]. The word could be translated His lacework. "Day unto day uttereth speech. Night unto night showeth knowledge." There is no language, there is no ends of the earth where the line of God does not reach [Psalm 19:2-4].
The pseudoscientist and the sophisticated, self-appointed interpreters of our creation, scoffed and laughed at this opening avowal of the Bible; that matter, substance, universe, creation had a beginning. They said, "Substance, creation, the universe all are eternal. They never had a beginning." Second Peter, chapter 3: "Knowing this, there shall come in the last days" – our days – "scoffers saying: Since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" [2 Peter 3:3-4]. It had no beginning. It is eternal. Then to the embarrassment and the consternation of the pseudoscientist, beginning with Albert Einstein and continuing through these days, the scientists have come to a uniform and definite avowal that the creation had a beginning in time and in space.
I quote; I’ve copied this from Dr. Steven Weinberg, who’s the professor of physics at Harvard University. He has written a book called The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe. He was recently awarded the Noble Prize in physics. And he makes three avowals in this marvelous book. Avowal number one: the universe had a beginning, a point of origin both in time and in space.
Avowal number two: the universe is governed by a cosmological principle, meaning there are definite and observable laws throughout the universe which are uniform and universal. Quoting: "The universe is isotropic and homogeneous. By saying it is isotropic, we mean that it appears the same in all directions. Saying that it is homogeneous, we mean that it appears the same to all observers. When we sent our men to the moon, we did so believing that on the moon the same laws prevail that we find on earth. The laws throughout the universe are uniform and universal."
Avowal number three: the universal is a unity. It is more than a huge conglomeration of atoms and molecules wildly gyrating and randomly colliding with each other. It has cohesion and therefore it has meaning.
Then one other: concerning these latest discoveries as they affect the secular atheistic scientists, Dr. Robert Jastrow, a professed agnostic whose textbook on astronomy is so widely used, wrote: "For the scientist who has lived by his faith and the power of reason; the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance. He is about to conquer its highest peak. As he pulled himself over the highest rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries." The first great, mighty miracle of God: the creation of substance, of matter, of this universe, and of our planet.
The second mighty miracle of God: the creation of life. Out of all of the universes that swing in their orbits above us and around us, and out of all of the planets that God has made, there’s only one that sustains life, where life is found, and that is where we live. And the atheistic evolutionist says, "There is no creator of life. It is adventitiously a phenomenon of chance. It just happened to be. And all of these atoms and molecules that enter into the creation of life just happened to get together. They just happened to produce what we call living existence." That is absolutely one of the most astonishing far-out avowals that mind could think for: that it just happened to be; that by chance it came to pass; that all of the thousands of factors that enter into the making of life just happened to be together.
I want to show you that. Suppose I pick out one of you and say, "I want you to take these ten pennies and number them one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. I want you to put them in your pocket. Now, having numbered those ten pennies you put in your pocket, I want you to reach in there and get out number one." The chance of your getting number one is one in ten. Put it back and shake it up in your pocket and I say, "Now I want you to get out two in sequence, one and two." So you put your hand in your pocket and there is one chance in a hundred that you’ll get one and two.
"I want you to put them back in your pocket and shake them up. Now I want you to get out of your pocket the sequence of one, two, and three." You put your hands in your pocket and there’s one chance in a thousand that you’ll get one, two, three. "Now, I want you to put them back in your pocket and I want you to shake them up. This time, I want you to get the entire sequence: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten." There is one chance in ten billion that you’ll get them one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten.
"Well," you say, "one chance in ten billion." I want you to show you the difference between a million and a billion. A million dollars will be a stack of one thousand dollar bills six inches high. That’s a million. A billion is that same stack of thousand dollar bills one hundred twenty-seven feet higher than the Washington Monument – the difference between a million and a billion. I bet you didn’t know that. You didn’t know that. The chances of life coming into existence just by adventitious circumstance is so astronomically beyond possibility as to be unthinkable. It is a creation of Almighty God.
The third mighty miracle at the hand of the Lord is the creation of the Bible. I want to take little moment here for a Greek lesson. That won’t hurt us. Second Peter – this same epistle – the apostle writes at the last of his first chapter: "We have a sure word of prophecy," he avows. . ."for no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation, 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 1:19-21].
Now, it won’t hurt you to listen to a little Greek lesson – do your heart good. No Scripture is of any private idios – of yourself, coming out of you, you, private; "interpretation," epilusis, an unloosing, an origination and a starting in you, invented by you, thought up by you, originating in you; "is," gennētai, came into being, came into existence; "moved," phero, borne along. No word in this Book ever came into being by the author’s own origination, "but holy men of God spake as they were borne along by the Holy Spirit of God" [2 Peter 1:20-21].
And that is no less a miracle than the universe I see about me. These authors of this Holy Book, more than forty in number, living sixteen hundred years apart, one thousand six hundred years, their writings make a glorious and marvelous unified revelation. And it’s a miracle; the unity of the apocalyptic revelation of this glorious Book of this mind and heart of God. It’s unbelievable!
If you’re old enough you can remember, I made an announcement here one time that since New Year’s Eve falls on Sunday, I was going to start and preach through the Bible until midnight. When I stood here, right here, to deliver that message, preaching through the Bible, I called it The Scarlet Thread through the Bible. When I stood here, I was dumbfounded. Throngs filled the house, standing around this lower floor around the walls, standing around the walls upstairs. And when I got through, four hours later, they were still standing around the walls downstairs, standing around the walls upstairs, the greatest homiletical preaching experience I ever had in my life. Can you believe any other book in this earth that would command attention and continuing interest like that? It is a miracle, the Word of God!
Before they could reach him, John Wycliffe died. This was in the 1300s. They dug up his body, and they burned it and cast the ashes of John Wycliffe on the bosom of the River Swift. But the River Swift runs into the Avon, and the River Avon runs into the Severn. And the Severn runs into the sea and the seven seas lave the shores of the continents of the world. That is this Book. It’s a miracle of God, revealing the presence and personality and heart and love of our blessed Savior.
The fourth mighty miracle of God is the incarnation of Christ Jesus our Lord – God in human flesh. As the author of Hebrews avows, "A body hast thou prepared for Me" [Hebrews 10:5]. God made like us, living our life, bearing our sorrows, knowing every facet of our pilgrim way. And there are two marvelous things about our living Lord, God incarnate. Jean Paul Richter, German literary genius; "He the holiest among the mighty, the mightiest among the holy, has lifted with His pierced hands empires off their hinges, has turned the streams of centuries out of its channel, and still governs the ages" – Jesus our Lord.
Mark Hopkins, of this last century, an American educator and college president; "Christ was placed midmost in the world’s history. And in that central position, He towers like some vast mountain to heaven; the farther slope stretching backward toward the creation, the hither slope toward the consummation of all things. The ages before looked to Him with prophetic gaze, the ages since behold Him by historic faith. By both, He is seen in common as the brightness of the Father’s glory and the unspeakable gift of God to the human race"; none like him.
Robert Browning of this last century wrote his great poem "A Death in the Desert." It was written to combat the rationalistic anti-supernatural teachings of Friedrich Strauss, the radical German theologian.
I say –
Robert Browning writes in that poem –
[the] acknowledgment of God in Christ,
Accepted by thy reason, solves [for thee]
All questions in the earth and out of it,
And has so far advanced thee to [become] wise;
none like Him – the great, incomparable, the blessed Lord Jesus in His human life.
And may I make one other observation before I leave this mighty miracle. All other biographies and all other stories of human beings exhibit their life – what they said, what they did. The life of Christ – only His – is magnified in His death. The apostle Paul wrote: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the death, in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" [Galatians 6:14]. And you will see that in the Gospel of John. One-half, one-half of the Fourth Gospel is consumed with the last few days and hours of our Lord’s life! There’s none like our blessed Savior, the glory of the presence of God Himself.
Mighty miracle number five: it is the glorious, marvelous conquest of the church. Who could believe such a thing? That little band, tiny in number, facing the entire Greco-Roman world and their worship of the Caesar; and yet, in the comparatively few centuries, three in number, they subverted the entire civilized world and made Jesus King.
I think of the martyrdom of Polycarp, pastor of the church at Smyrna. When John was aged in Ephesus, pastor of that church at Ephesus, Polycarp was pastor of the church in Smyrna; of the seven churches in Asia – Ephesus, Smyrna. They seized Polycarp and built a burning stake in His presence, and said to him, "You say, ‘kurios kaisar, Caesar is Lord,’ and we’ll give you your life." Just that one avowal; and Polycarp answered, "Kurios Iēsous, Jesus is Lord!" and they burned him at the stake. That was the story of the Christian witness for the first three centuries. But that witness in the churches subverted the empire, swung it off its hinges, rewrote human history, and made Jesus King and Lord.
I never heard of anybody who ever saw anybody who ever avowed the deity of a Roman Caesar. I never saw anybody who ever heard anybody who worshiped at the feet of those Greek gods and goddesses. It is a miracle, the preaching of the gospel by those first mighty apostles and disciples of Jesus our Lord.
The sixth mighty miracle of all time: you – the miracle of being born again. Like a man said, "I can’t explain it. All I know is, either the world has changed or I have changed. One of us has changed." It’s a miracle what happens in the conversion of human life.
Last Friday night, Friday night, Dr. Patterson and I, at Criswell College, had an annual banquet there at the school. And some of those young fellows gave their testimony. And one of them stood up there and said, "I was a bartender, selling liquor, running a nightclub. I was a bartender. And in my car drunk, I was driving down the highway at a furious speed and failed to negotiate a corner and ran head on into another car." Out of the tragedy of that awful accident in the hospital, where he was supposed to die, a policeman said to him, "It is a miracle that you are alive. It must be for some purpose." God took that observation of that policeman, and in his hospital bed and facing death itself, he said he found the Lord and gave himself to Jesus and was called into the ministry, and so came to our Criswell College.
"Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice." Christopher Wren, the great architect of St. Paul’s in London – buried there – had that placed on his sarcophagus, on his tomb. Lector, reader; si monumentum requiris, if you seek a monument; circumspice, look around you. You seek a miracle of God? Look at the man next to you. Look at the woman next to you. Look at these godly men on this platform, touched by the hand of God. And if we had the days and the hours and the time, each one, and the one seated next to you, would stand up and testify of a marvelous intervention of God in heaven: "I was saved. I found the Lord. I was born again. I’ve been made new. I am a child of the King." It’s a marvel. It’s a miracle. And it continues through the days and the days, until this seventh and last mighty miracle of God.
The Bible closes: "I saw a new heaven and a new earth [Revelation 21:1]. For the old first heaven and the old first earth, with its sorrow and tears and death, were all passed away [Revelation 21:4]. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven appareled like a bride for her husband" [Revelation 21:2]. This seventh and the mightiest of the mighty miracles of God: our new home, our new earth, our new firmament, our new heaven, our new life with God in Christ Jesus.
Oh, sweet people, no wonder the Bible stumbles in its language! Impossible to describe what God has prepared for those who love Him. Eye has never seen it, ear has never heard it, nor hath entered into the heart of a man beyond his thinking and imagination, those good things – wonderful things – that God has prepared for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9]. And it will be brought to us in the personal return of our Savior from heaven. And we’re looking forward to and living toward that ultimate and triumphant day.
Lo! He comes on clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain.
Thousands, thousands saints attending,
Swell the triumph of his train.
– Can you believe it? –
God comes down on earth to reign.
[Charles Wesley, "Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending"]
And we’ll be His fellow servants, inheriting God’s creation, there to live in His presence, world without end forever and ever. O blessed Lord! O blessed hope! Oh, blessed assignment God hath prepared for us who love Him!
And to the throng in God’s sanctuary this hour, in the balcony round, down a stairway, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me. The Lord has spoken to my heart and I am answering with my life." On the first note of the first stanza, come, and may angels attend you in the way, while we stand and while we sing. "This is God’s day, this is God’s time for me."