Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”
I’m not attacking the Catholic church tonight. I’m not a Catholic. Maybe you noticed the sign out in front of our church that says, “First Baptist.” I never think I’m being unkind if I have the same thing on the inside that we have on the outside. I want you to listen carefully. I’m going to state some facts about the Catholic church. They are facts; they are not railing accusations. They are facts, and any Catholic who is honest will tell you that what I’m going to say is true about the Catholic church. It is not a matter of my making false accusations; it’s a matter of record. I am also going to say some things about the charismatics tonight. I’m more Catholic than I am charismatic. I’ve got more respect for the pope than I do the P.T.L. Club, and I mean that. However, my respect for the pope is not really soaring! Don’t get mad now. I want to help you. I’m simply saying that I’m going to give you some facts. I’m going to give some facts about the charismatics, and if a charismatic is honest, he will agree with the facts I’m going to give. There will be no accusations, no gossip and no slander; I will just give facts that any charismatic would give. Also, I’m going to say some things tonight about Protestantism. In fact, I may not miss anybody tonight. Everything I say will be factual. I will be the kind of thing with which even the people about whom I speak will agree. So I want you to listen.
With the battle raging as it is about the King James Bible, I think that any pastor ought to alert his people. When I was a boy, from the time I remember– I remember back when I was two and three years of age– until I went into the paratroopers in World War II when I was 18, my mother would read to me for 30 minutes every night from the Bible. Then she would hold it up and say, “This is the Word of God!” She did not say, “The manuscripts from which we got this are the Word of God.” My mom didn’t even know what a manuscript was. She just knew she had a Book that was the Word of God. That’s all she knew. So, she said, “This is the Word of God.” I would look at it, and I would have to say three times, “Mama, the Bible is the Word of God. The Bible is the Word of God. The Bible is the Word of God.” I have Mama’s Bible– the same one she read– in my office. I’ve had it there for years. I don’t know how old it is, but I suspect it is 55 or 60 years old. It is the same Bible she used to hold up. I was thumbing through it the other day. On the inside, it says on the title page, “King James Bible.” That’s what it says. You know it worked. It’s amazing how well Mama did before she found out that it wasn’t the Word of God.
I’ve been going to Baptist churches for 51 years. Every pastor I’ve ever had preached from the King James Bible.
He always said to the crowd, “Open your Bibles and let’s hear what the Lord says.” These pastors were not unfortunate enough to have sat at the feet of those with lower education– which calls itself “higher education.” It is amazing how well this nation did when we didn’t know how ignorant we were. (Are you listening?) This is my fifth pastorate. I’ve seen miracles in my pastorates. I’ve preached over 41,000 times, and I’ve never yet preached a sermon that wasn’t preached from the King James Bible. I really don’t know what I’ve missed. To be quite frank with you, I’ve seen fellows who preach from other Bibles, and I somehow get the idea THEY are missing something. Dr. Evans, I’ve never seen a fellow really whoop it up about any other Bible. I’ve never heard a fellow say, “Blessed be God, let’s look in the Book. Let’s look in the Douay Version.” Did you ever go to mass and have the priest get up and say, “Hallelujah for the Word of God!” Don’t get mad at me! I’m telling the truth. If you don’t believe it, go next Sunday and see. He will usually use that prayer book and not a Bible. Follow me. I’ve taught you about the textus receptus, Wescott and Hort, those manuscripts from which came the Douay Version that the Catholics use and the American Standard Version, which is highly overrated. The Wescott and Hort manuscripts came from the Vatican manuscripts that were hidden in the Vatican for years– from whence came the Catholic Bible. The textus receptus manuscripts are those from which we have gotten the King James, and they have been the evangelistic manuscripts, if you please. I won’t go into that. I’m a textus receptus man. I haven’t got a bit of patience with Wescott and Hort. Not a bit! In fact, I really have a hard time not being bitter against my Greek professors in college who taught me from Wescott and Hort Greek manuscripts. It upsets me greatly.
This is the message. The question at hand is this: Where is the final authority for church building and for Christian living? There are four different final authorities in American Christendom. I’m not talking about Mormonism and those who have other books. I’m talking about Christendom. There are four basic final authorities.
1. SOME VIEW THE CHURCH AS THE FINAL AUTHORITY.
This is fact. Any honest Catholic priest will tell you that the Catholic position on the final authority is that the church has final authority. If you want to go a little farther than that, if the pope speaks ex cathedra, he is the final authority. Ask any Catholic or read any Catholic doctrine, and both will tell you that. I’m not trying to be critical. I’m telling you the truth. If a Catholic priest were standing here, he’d tell you the same thing. Our Catholic friends believe that the church is the final authority. If the pope speaks ex cathedra, that’s God speaking. I’m not being critical; I’m being factual. There is a second final authority.
2. SOME VIEW EXPERIENCE AS THE FINAL AUTHORITY.
In other words, “It happened to me, so it’s true. I was there when it happened, and I ought to know. I had an experience. I saw Jesus. I saw a vision. I have a word of knowledge.” This is the charismatic position. Ask them. They will say, “I have a message from God, so this is God talking. God gave me a message.” (The foolish thing about that is, if that is true, you had better start writing more Bible.) When this happens, people believe the final authority comes from experience. God has supposedly given someone a message. Someone talks in tongues, and somebody else interprets what God said. However, the truth is, all that God has ever said to man is right here in this Book. This is it. This is God’s complete revelation to man! By the way, that is the basis of the whole thing: What is the final authority? There has to be some place, ladies and gentlemen, where we can say, “This is it, and what this says is the final word.” So, our Catholic friends say the church is the final authority. Our charismatic friends go beyond the Bible and say human experience is the final authority.
3. SOME VIEW HUMAN REASONING AS THE FINAL AUTHORITY.
That’s what liberal people say. “Every man is searching for the truth, and every man gets a portion of it; so, nobody is wrong, and nobody is right. We are all searching, so it doesn’t seem to me that God would make a Hell; therefore, there is no Hell. It doesn’t make sense to me that God would let anybody go to Hell, so God wouldn’t let anybody go to Hell. It doesn’t make sense to me that God would regenerate anybody, so there is no such thing as regeneration.” That’s what most of our Protestant friends believe, and all the humanist crowd believes it. That’s what the liberal believes. That’s what 95% of all the people in the seminaries in America believe. That’s what 95% of all the faculty and students in religious colleges in America believe– the final authority is the human mind or human reasoning. The average Protestant church in Hammond believes that. “I don’t see how there could be a place with golden streets. If I don’t see how there could be, there isn’t one.” That is idolatry in its most pagan form. “My mind is my God. What I can’t conceive of, I won’t believe. What I can’t understand, I won’t accept. So, I’ll trim the Bible down to fit what I can believe. I just can’t believe there is a God of wrath, so there is no God of wrath.” All right, we have the first three answers to the question, “What is the final authority?” The church is, according to our Catholic friends. Human experience is, according to our charismatic friends. Human reasoning is, according to our liberal and Protestant friends.
4. SOME VIEW THE BIBLE AS THE FINAL AUTHORITY.
Every church in America in Christendom who had services this morning had a preacher who stood up and preached what he believed. He either preached that he believed that the final authority is the church, or that the final authority is human experience, or that the final authority is human reasoning, or that the final authority is the Bible. The only authority that we as independent Baptists believe is the Bible. There was a day when I could say Baptists, but the truth is, most of the Southern Baptist colleges and seminaries are staffed by professors who don’t believe that the Bible is the final authority. I may as well say it all. There’s not a single Southern Baptist college or seminary to which I’d recommend anybody to go any more. None! I went to a Southern Baptist college and seminary. Thirty-five years ago, I heard a professor in my seminary say that he didn’t believe the resurrection. He said that the resurrection was a bunch of blindfolded spirits in a vacuum. He said it. I was there. Think what they are saying now! Consequently, independent Baptists believe that the only final authority for practice and doctrine of the Christian and the church is the Bible. I cannot speak ex cathedra. I cannot speak and say, “This is truth.” All I can say is, “The Bible is truth.” You see, I can’t say, “I’m going to speak now, and this is God speaking through me.” I don’t much like people to pray, “Dear God, put the words in the mouth of our preacher.” I think you can say, “Lead our preacher”; but if God puts the words in my mouth, we’d have more Bible. See, I have no power in this church but the power of influence. Sometimes I wish I had more.
Sometimes I wish I had power to make you ladies dress like I think you ought to dress. Sometimes I wish I had the power to make you adults have rules about your teenagers that I think you ought to have, but all I can do is influence you. I have no power. Officially, I have one vote in this church; that’s all. I have no vote at deacon’s meeting and one vote as a member of this church. The only power I have is my vote and the power of influence. It was a good day for me when I decided that I was going to make my final authority the Word of God.
I was taught in Southern Baptist schools to believe that the Southern Baptist program was it. One day I decided to just read my Bible and reorganize my church. I did. I decided to get the book of Acts and read it word for word to see what the New Testament church was all about. I cast aside all the tradition I had been taught, all the jargon I had been taught, all the catechisms to which I had been taught to swear allegiance, and I decided I was going to try to find out what kind of church the New Testament church really was. Dr. Curtis Hutson gave the best compliment to First Baptist Church of Hammond that has ever been given in the SWORD OF THE LORD. He said that he was here for Pastors’ School. He told how many conversions and baptisms we had the Sunday before. Then he said, “If God were writing the book of Acts today, He would write about the First Baptist Church of Hammond.” That’s the ultimate compliment. You see, I decided that I was going to get my Bible down and decide what I thought the New Testament church was scripturally; then, that’s what I was going to have in my church. I believe with all of my soul that the First Baptist Church of Hammond is as near as is humanly possible to being what the church in Jerusalem was 2,000 years ago. Where did I get that? I got it from the Bible. Do you know why we are scattered abroad winning souls all over this area? It’s because the church in Jerusalem was “scattered abroad,” and they “went everywhere preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4) Do you know why we go house to house, knocking on doors? We do it because it says in Acts 5:42, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” We do it because that’s what they did in the Bible.
Somebody says, “Well, we have different kinds of churches. You have a soul-winning church, and we have a deeper-life church.” In the first place, it’s a lie. There’s no life as deep as a soul-winning life. However, they say, “We just have different kinds of churches.” No, we don’t. WE have a church, and you don’t! Brother, the Bible is our charter to exist. If the Bible is not your final authority in practice and doctrine, then you are not a church. You might have the word “church” on the outside, but you are not a church.
Since the Word of God is our authority,– hear me carefully– we simply must have it.
That’s a profound statement. We’ve got to have it! I mean, shall we have an authority we can’t find? Would God tell us His Word is the final authority and leave us without His Word? We must have a copy or we may as well join our Catholic friends and let the church be the basis for truth. If we have no Word of God, and if the Bible is not the Word of God, then we have only three other alternatives. We’ve got to say the final authority will be the church, or human experience, or human reasoning. I’m saying, if we have no Bible that is the Word of God, then we have no way to go to the Book for the final authority. If one word in this Bible is not true, we don’t know which one it is; so, once again, the mind of man or experience or the church is going to have to decide which one is true and which one is not true. If we are going to believe that the Word of God is the final authority, we’ve got to have a copy of it.
Let me ask you a question. Would God call a man to preach His Word and not give it to him? God calls a man and says, “I’m calling you. Spend you life preaching the Gospel. Preach the Word!” So, wouldn’t He give him a copy of His Word? I’ve said this so often, and I’ll say it again and again. I would step down from behind this pulpit tonight and never walk in it again to preach if I didn’t have the Word of God in my hand. I would not waste your time nor take your money unless I could say to you, “You have the Word of God. I have it, and it is preached here.” I’m an honest man. This is what I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again. If I did not believe that the Book I hold in my hand tonight was God’s Word, I’d find out where it was. I’d go there and get a copy, print some copies for you and give you a copy. I mean, brother, if we don’t have the Word of God in our hands, we have no place to go except to the human mind, human experience or the collective human mind which is the church. God would not reach down and give a divine call to a man and say, “I call you to preach My Word, but there is no copy of it any more.”
I don’t like a statement of faith that says, “We believe the Bible is the Word of God in the original manuscripts.” In the first place, there are no original manuscripts anywhere in the world tonight. None! If the Word of God was only the original manuscripts, there is no Word of God available for mankind today. If I did not believe the Bible I hold in my hand was the Word of God, and I believed there were some manuscripts, I’d get on an airplane, fly to where they were, break in the building if I had to, get the original manuscripts, make copies of them and give you a copy. I’m not going to stand here as an imposter preaching a Book that is not the Word of God and giving you instructions on how to live from a Book that is not the Word of God! I’m not going to do it! I’m just not going to do it!. Would God tell His people to live by the Word and not give it to them? Let me say this. Of all the nations on the face of this earth, America is the center of world evangelization. America is the only hope for the world to have the Gospel. Do you think that God would not give His Word to America? The countries of this world look to America for missionaries. They look to America for preachers. Every great movement of God in the world today was founded by a ministry or movement that was propelled by American evangelization. The mission movement was founded basically, by Hudson Taylor. Now, wait a minute. Of all the nations on the face of this earth, it just seems to me that God would give the key nation the Word of God. Check the history of Christianity in America, and see how well we’ve done without all these extra Bibles.
Check the history of the church in America from 1950 back, before every little preacher had the misfortune to sit at the feet of a college theologian. Do you know what? We won’t have people who are just theologians teaching Bible at Hyles-Anderson College. Every teacher of Bible at Hyles-Anderson College is a preacher. We won’t hire a theologian. No way! You say, “Are you opposed to theologians?” No, I’m just leery and wary of them. I am wary of those who dare to sit in judgment on the Bible. Brother, it seems to me if there is any place in the world where you ought to have your faith in the Bible stabilized, it’s a Christian college or Christian seminary. However, the truth is, that’s where you get your faith shaken. That’s one reason why some things bother me. It bothers me when people say, “We believe that the Bible, in the original manuscripts, is the Word of God.” If that’s true, we have no Bible. Did you hear what I said? We have no Bible. One day they did, but WE don’t. Dr. Ed Hindson of Liberty Baptist College said concerning I John 5:7, “Thus, according to John’s account here, ‘there are three that bear record in heaven.’ The rest of verse 7 and the first nine words of verse 8 are not in the original and are not to be considered as part of the Word of God.” I’d like to ask Mr. Hindson a question: “When did you see the original?” How does he know they are not in the original? Look at me now. How does he know? The only way an honest man can say they are not in the original manuscripts is to have seen them, and they are not available. Now, he could say they are not in some of the manuscripts that are considered the most ancient. I personally think he was saying that they are not in the Wescott and Hort. I can’t prove that. Before I get too rough on him, look at your Scofield Bible in I John 5:7, the verse Dr. Hindson quoted. Folks, I have no axes to grind. I have nobody’s feelings to hurt. I’ve just got to have the Word of God; that’s all. I’ve got to have it! The Bible says the Word of God is what we are supposed to preach. The Bible says, “Preach the Word.” Now, look at your Scofield Bible– I John 5:7, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” Now look at that little “o” there in front of verse 7. Look in the center reference, and find the “o”. Mr. Scofield says, “It is generally agreed that v. 7 has no real authority, and has been inserted.” I’d like to ask Mr. Scofield when he saw the original. He never saw it. Somebody who thought he was intellectual told that to somebody who thought he was intellectual who told somebody who thought he was intellectual. Listen, we don’t want the intellectual community to think of us as being nincompoops, but I’d rather have a nincompoop with a revelation from God than to have an intellectual without a revelation from God. We’ve got to have a final authority! If this Book is not true, then the church or human reasoning or human experience is the final authority. Listen! There are only two– God and man. If God is not the final authority, man is the final authority. If we have no final authority in a book, then man has got to discern what God says; if man discerns what God says, then man becomes the final authority instead of God. So, Mr. Scofield had problems the day he came to this verse. How does he know? Pray tell me, what in the world he could have ever seen that would make him say that? He didn’t see anything. He sat in somebody’s Bible class and some Dr. Mess-’em-Up or Dr. McFuddle or Dr. Broad Stomach stood up and said, “Well, in the original manuscript…” which sounds scholarly; but nobody in our generation has seen them. Dr. So-and-So hasn’t seen them, the professor in the seminary hasn’t seen them and the college Bible professor hasn’t seen them.
Either what I hold in my hand is the Word of God, or we don’t have any Word of God.
I don’t believe God would leave us without His Word. I don’t believe that. I JUST DON’T BELIEVE IT! We need a Bible that we can understand and a Bible that is God’s Word. It looks like anybody would agree that if God gives us the command to preach the Word, He would give us the Word to preach. That’s logical. If God wants to say to a nation, “You are the custodian of world evangelization for a generation or two or three or four,” it looks like God would give that nation the Word of God. What is it? I would say it ought to be the one that has worked. Which one has worked? The one I hold in my hand right now. I has worked! It will work! I’d like to say the same to our friends in the charismatic movement. You say, “Why do you stress it?” I stress it because the charismatic crowd is trying to teach our crowd every day that they’ve got something we don’t have.
Tonight, before I walked into this pulpit, one of our fine ladies came and told me of one of our men who has been swept aside. One of our good faithful men has been swept aside by the charismatic crowd. As pastor of this church, it is my job to warn you of wolves who are dressed like sheep. If we don’t have a Bible that’s the Word of God, we’ve got to go to human reasoning. If God says to a church, “Build your church on My Word,” God’s got to give us His Word. Listen, God wouldn’t be God is He told us to do something we couldn’t do. Everything that God has ever commanded us to do, He has given us the wherewithal to obey that commandment. God has never commanded man to do anything that was unreasonable or impossible for man to do. When God calls a man to preach and says, “Preach the Word,” God would have to give him a Word to preach. If God says to a church, “Build your church on My Word,” to be God, He’s got to give that church the Word of God. Our Methodists seminaries say, “It’s not verbally inspired.” There was a day when John Wesley started that movement. He said the Bible was inspired, and they had the fire back in those days! The Presbyterian seminaries say, “The Bible is not the Word of God,” but John Calvin believed it, and they had the fire! John Knox and others believed it!
I’m saying that we’ve either go to admit this is the Word of God or we have to flee to the church, or to human reasoning or human experience as being the final authority. If there is no Word of God today, we have no other recourse. If God has not given us His Word, we have to decide what is God’s Word. That’s human reasoning. By the way, basing a doctrine on human experience is idolatry. Basing a doctrine on the church being the final authority is idolatry. The church is the idol. Letting the pope speak ex cathedra and saying that it is God Who is speaking is idolatry. You’re making him as God. Human reasoning says that what we can reason, we’ll believe. That’s idolatry. So the truth is, you’ve got one choice of two. Either this Bible is the Word of God or we have no other place to turn but to idolatry. Did you hear me? Either this is the Word of God, or there is no place to turn but idolatry.
Our three choices are human reasoning, human experience or the church, and they are each a form of idolatry. They are all three the same because making the church the final authority is done so by human reasoning. That means Catholicism is humanism, and the charismatic movement is humanism. It is man saying, “I was there. I felt it. God spoke, and here’s what He said.” That’s human reasoning. It’s humanism. So either this is the Word of God, or there is nothing left but humanism. I’ll tell you this. To whatever degree this Book is not believed, that society has the exact proportionate belief in humanism because there are only two choices available: God and man. If God hasn’t told us what to do, man has got to tell us what to do. When a country does not believe this Book, it is totally humanistic. When a country leans away from this Book, it leans toward humanism. When a country is divided about this Book, it is divided about humanism.
I just don’t believe that God would say, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” (Mark 16:15) and not give us His Word to take with us. I just don’t believe that God would say, “Train up a child in the way he should go,” (Proverbs 22:6) and write the words of God “upon the door posts of thine house,” (Deuteronomy 11:20) and “teach them your children,” (Deuteronomy 11:19) unless there were a Word of God. I don’t think God would say, “Start a Bible college. Send out young men to proclaim the truth,” unless God had given us the truth. I just don’t believe that God would send young men to the mission fields without the Word of God. I don’t think God would send Rick Martin halfway around the world to proclaim His Word without giving him a copy of it. I don’t think God would send young men out from this church to build soul-winning churches without giving them His Word.
With all of my soul, I believe that the final authority for faith and practice for a church and for a life is the Word of God.
I do not believe that I’m the final authority; nor the bishops or the cardinals– nor are the Cubs or the White Sox! Not long ago, then there was no pope, a fellow said, “I think Ernie Banks ought to be the next pope.” “Why?” “Well, the Cardinals have had it long enough. It’s time the Cubs got to have a pope!” I’m not the final authority. “El papa” is not the final authority. He can wave his magic wand all he wants to. He can rustle his skirts all over the country. I’m simply saying, the Bible is the final authority, not man. I don’t care what he is called, it is not man! You say, “You’re criticizing the pope.” Whatever I’ve said about pope, I’ve said about me. FIRST I said, I’M NOT the final authority. THEN I said, “HE’S NOT the final authority.” So our people have as much right to get mad as you Catholics do. Mr. Oral Roberts is not the final authority. The Bible is the final authority. I just don’t believe God would leave us down here without a copy of His Word. How can we know which is the real Bible? Well, you can scratch off the Revised Standard Version because the liberals put that one together. You can scratch off any Bible that came from Wescott and Hort because that comes from the Vatican manuscripts. I’d suggest you find the one that has worked. Find the one that widows have read; find the one over which they’ve wept and prayed for their children. Find the one that dear mothers in the history of our country have read, loved and taught. Find the one for which faithful evangelists have given their lives and for which missionaries have circled the globe. Find the one that has caused people to leave home, family and friends to carry its message. Find it! Find the one Dwight Moody used. Find out which one Billy Sunday used. Find the one the great soul-winning churches in America use. Find the one tested by time. Find the one that Adolph Hitler said he would destroy, but couldn’t! Find the one about which Thomas Paine spoke when he said, “Within one generation, the Bible will not be printed anymore.” However, as soon as he died, the same printing press on which he printed that garbage was used to print more Bibles. Find the one they can’t destroy. Find the one that has stood the test of time. Find the one that liberals have tried to destroy, Hitlers have tried to burn, Mussolinis have tried to outlaw and Khrushchevs and Stalins have tried to burn! Find it!
The Bible says, “My words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35) Find the one that has stood the test of time! Don’t find one that has a hippie on the outside of it and bunch of hippie jargon on the inside of it. Find the one that has stood the test of time! You say, “I don’t understand those ‘thees’ and ‘thous.'” “Thee” means “you.” “Thou” means “you.” “I” means “me.” “We” means “us.” You know it, and you know you know it! Not only that, but the Holy Spirit of God lives inside of you, and He’s the author of this Book. If you can’t understand a part of it, ask Him to teach you, and He will do it. He wrote it!
We’ve got to have a Bible! We have got to have a Bible! You say, “Boy, that’s right. I’ll tell you what, I believe it from cover to cover.” Try OPENING the covers. “Boy, I believe every word of it.” QUOTE a few of them! If we had Scripture quoting tonight, we’ve got Sunday school teachers here who know only, “Jesus wept,” and if somebody said that verse before your turn came, you’d say, “He got mine.” Read it! Memorize it! Study it! Love it! Teach it! Preach it! Live in it! It’s the Word of God! You can depend on it. Every jot and every tittle shall come to pass. Not one comma and not one punctuation mark shall pass away. Matthew 5:18, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” I checked those words, “pass away,” a little bit; a synonym for that phrase would be, “My word will always be alive.” There never will be a day when somebody says, “Beloved, we are gathered here in the presence of ‘Gawd’ and these witnesses to remember the word of ‘Gawd’ that died.” We never will! It will always be there. It always will. I can’t believe that God would give us a great commission and tell us to teach it, preach it and spread it, and not give us the truth to teach and preach and spread. It was good for our fathers; It was good for our fathers; It was good for our fathers; And it’s good enough for me; It was good for my mama; It was good for my mama; It was good for my mama; And it’s good enough for me. Let us pray.