EDITORS’ NOTE: This sermon was preached on May 29, 1977, and is among 1,600 sermons posted at the Criswell Sermon Legacy Project, www.wacriswell.com. Used by permission.
DALLAS (BP)–The title of the message is: “Books and the Book.” And if you would, all of the thousands of you who are listening to this service on KRLD and on KCBI, would you turn in your Bible to Second Timothy.
This is the last letter that Paul wrote just before he was executed. Second Timothy chapter 4, and we shall read the first five verses. My text is in verse 13, but we shall read out loud together the first five verses of Second Timothy chapter 4.
Toward the end of your Bible, Second Timothy chapter 4, the first five verses. Now with the pastor, all of us read it out loud together: “I charge you therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears to the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
And then this is my text: “The cloak, the wrap, the coat that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.”
And the title of the message is this: “When thou comest, bring with thee the books.” Biblia, books. But especially the membrana — that’s a Latin word. We took it bodily into our language and called it a membrane.
Referring to [the] skin upon which the writing of a treasured volume was inscribed. But especially the membrana, but especially the Bible, the scrolls of the Bible. Bring with thee the Biblia, the books, but especially the membrana, the Bible.
Malista. Mala is the word for very. Malista is the adverbial form of the superlative degree, most particularly above all, especially, malista membrana. Bring the books. But especially the Bible. And that gave the title to the message: “Books and the Book.”
There was something unusual about the first Christian preachers. It was a noticeable thing. So noticeable that those who in those first Christian centuries sought to destroy and decimate the Christian faith. They made their attack against the Book.
Well, what do you mean by the Book? You see, those first Christian preachers had scrolls, scrolls, scrolls. There was a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. There would be a scroll of Deuteronomy. There would be a scroll of Jeremiah. There would be a scroll of the Psalms. And literally you’d have to carry around a wheelbarrow full of scrolls if you carried around the whole Bible.
What those first Christian preachers did was this: They took the scrolls, and they cut them up into leaves, and they bound the leaves at the back. And when the Christian preacher stood up to preach the gospel of Christ, he would refer to Deuteronomy. He would refer to Isaiah. He would refer to the Psalms. He would refer to Zechariah. And he would open the book to that passage out of which he was quoting the Word of God.
And it was called a kodex, K-O-D-E-X. A kodex. That was the first time that the world ever saw what you call a book. For a biblia, for the biblia. Biblion singular, biblia plural referred to scrolls.
And that was all that the world had ever seen until the Christian preachers stood up before the people and, having cut the scroll up into leaves and bound it together at the back, turned to it in what [we] call a book. The Book.
You cannot imagine what vast and deep and lasting impression that made upon the Greco-Roman world. A man standing with that strangest innovation in his hand. First time the world had ever seen it and expounding the word and message of God out of the Book.
That’s why a moment ago I referred to the fact that those learned philosophers who first encountered the Christian preachers and sought to destroy the message that he preached, they attacked the Book.
For example, the last great effort of Hellenic philosophy is called Neoplatonism. It is represented by Plotinus of Alexandria, the seat of learning next to Athens itself.
And Plotinus saw in the year about two hundred a great threat to Hellenic culture by this new sect, this new religion called Christianity, and he encouraged his brilliant pupil Parphare to study the Christian faith and to inveigh vigorously against it.
What did Parphare do, who is one of the most brilliant philosophers who ever lived, what did Parphare do when he attacked the Christian faith? What he did he attacked the Book, for he saw that he could destroy the foundation upon which the faith rests.
He could destroy forever the faith itself. And Parphare, that brilliant philosopher, neoplatonist, was correct. Destroy the Book, and you will destroy the faith. Destroy the Book, and you will destroy the witness for Christ.
Destroy the Book, and you will destroy the church. Destroy the Book, and you will destroy our hope in a better world that is yet to come. Books and the Book.
Now just briefly, first, the Book is God’s revelation to us how we can be saved.
You know, I used to wonder back there in the beginning when God began to reveal his holy Word and when finally Moses wrote it down in about 1400 BC, why didn’t God reveal in that word these things that we know today? Things that concern the atom and atomic energy. Things that concern biology and all the secrets of the cells and the enzymes and the anatomical system. And why didn’t God reveal to us the secrets of chemistry and astronomy? A thousand things in the scientific world that we are introduced to today, that God knew all about. He made them.
These things we’re just now beginning to discover, like penicillin, like nylon, like the atom, like a thousand other wonderful things, such as propelling our airplanes through the sky with jet propulsion. God made all that.
Why didn’t He reveal it to us from the beginning? Why is it that the Lord [would] rather reveal to us things that concern the soul and our life in fellowship with Him? Now, as I begin to think about that, the reason is very obvious.
The most vital and fundamental and important of all of the knowledge to which we could ever be introduced in this world lies in the things of God. The soul, our relationship to Him, and the rest could come in their time and in their order.
First of all, is the knowledge of the revelation of God. And that’s what God did in His Book. He revealed to us first of all the things concerning Himself and our relationship with Him, and how we are to live and to walk in His presence, how we can be redeemed, how we can have fellowship with God and see His face someday and live.
And that above all, and the rest followed in its order. This is the summation of the whole marvelous truth of God [in] this world. I copied [this poem] from John Greenleaf Whittier, America’s beautiful Quaker poet:
We call the good,
The pure, the beautiful.
From graven tombs and written scroll,
From all old flower fields
Of the soil,
And weary seekers of the best.
We come laden back
From our quest
And find that all the sages said
Is in the Book,
Our mothers read.
How true is that beautiful poem of Whittier? The great truth is always the truth of God. Other things come in their time and in their order, but first is the foundational knowledge of God.
The beginning of wisdom is the knowledge of the Lord, and this is life eternal that we might know Thee, the only true and living God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. And may I make a corollary there before I leave that part.
Number, and always one, if my first knowledge is of God, and if my first commitment is to the Lord, all the other things will follow in perfect order. But if I leave out that knowledge and that keystone, everything that follows after is chaotic [and will] bring finally the ultimate ruin and chaos. First is the knowledge of God, and that’s why God revealed it first in the Book.
Second, books and the Book. This is the Book that guides us through the pilgrimage of this life. It is a light unto our feet and a lamp unto our path. What a compass is to a mariner. What a radar screen is to a jet pilot. What a blueprint is to a builder.
So this Book is to us who make the journey through this world. All the paths of the world are a crooked maze, and we are woefully lost, for the road to Him in the paths of men is faith and hidden and crossed.
How can I know the way? What is a sure and assured life that I can follow? There are a thousand voices that press upon my heart saying, this is the way, and that is the way, but God says, thou shalt hear a voice behind Me saying, this is the way, walk thou in it.
And I find that sure guide in the infallible Word of God in the Book. Thank God for the Bible whose clear shining ray has brightened our path and turned night into day.
Its wonderful treasures have never been told more precious than rubies set round with pure gold. Thank God for the Bible. How dark is the night when no ray from its pages shed forth its pure light?
No Jesus, no Bible, no Heaven of rest. Oh how could we live where our lives [are] so unblessed? Books and the Book. It is our guide to the pilgrimage of this world.
Last, books and the Book. It is our hope and our promise of the better world that it is yet to come. Tell me, when the hour comes for us to die, and that hour, if he delays His return, will inevitably arrive.
When that hour comes for us to die, tell me, what would you say? Would you say bring me my book of chemistry for I’m facing a long journey and an eternity yet to come. Bring me my book of chemistry.
Would you say, I am facing this inevitable and final hour, bring me my book of economics. Or would you say, I am facing death, bring my book of biology. Turn over there and read to me again how I was descended from an ape and a monkey and marsupial, now read all that to me again.
Tell me honestly, fairly, truthfully, when time comes to die and we’re facing that final and ultimate journey to the other world, wouldn’t it be apropos and appropriate and all things beautiful and precious to turn to a love friend, or a love member of the family, or to a pastor or to a Sunday school teacher and say, bring me the Book.
Read to me: “In My Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.”
Read me from the Book. Wouldn’t you? Ecclesiastes closes, written by the wisest man who ever lived, of making books there is no end and but study is a weariness of the flesh.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God, love God, keep His commandments, this is the whole duty of man, bring me the Book. Let me tell you in closing the story I love best in English literature.
I majored in English when I was in college. I’ve said many times if I had an extra life to live, I would love to be a teacher of English literature. I’d love to be a professor of English.
May I share with you again my favorite story of all the great literary figures in English literature. It concerns Sir Walter Scott. That Scottish bard and incomparable novelist, after a lifetime of labor and work, came to the end of the way, and dying turned to his son-in-law Lockhart and said, “Son, bring me the Book.”
The son-in-law replied, “My father, there are thousands of books in your library. Which book?”
And the dying bard replied, “Son, there’s just one Book.”
And Lockhart went into the library and brought to Sir Walter Scott the Bible.
And the great Scottish bard died with the Book in his hand. There’s just one Book cried the dying saints, read me the old, old story. And the words that can never fade winged his soul to glory. There’s just one Book.
This is God’s message to you tonight. Pointing to Jesus, pointing to the Cross, pointing to resurrection, pointing to the coming again, pointing to our hope in the sky. Opening wide the doors of redemption and salvation. Come and welcome.
In a moment we stand and sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family, you, a couple, you, or just one, somebody, you. “Tonight I have decided for God and here I am, Pastor. I’m on the way.” Coming to confess faith in Jesus. Coming to be baptized. Coming to place your life in the fellowship of our dear church.
As God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand answering with your life walking down that stairway, walking down this aisle.
“Here I am, Pastor. I have made the decision for God. I’m on the way.” May angels attend you as you come. While we stand and while we sing.