Hold Fast and Hold Forth
A sermon preached at The Moody Church by Dr. Walter L. Wilson
The Apostle Paul writing to a young man said, “Holding fast the faithful word” (Titus 1:9). What a lovely name to give the precious Book. Writing to a young church, the church at Philippi, he said, “Holding forth the word of life (Philippians 2:16). “Holding fast the faithful Word—holding forth the word of life.” Why? Because we need it for ourselves and because there are enemies trying to take it away from us. Hold it fast, hold it tight, hold it close, cherish it, love it, embrace it, keep it close to your heart for it is God’s revelation of Himself to our souls. Hold it fast; hold on to it!
I stood in front of a cage one day and that verse sprang into my soul as I watched a mother monkey. A wee baby monkey was over on the side of the cage playing with its tail. The mother sat munching an apple. Putting up my hand I pretended to start after the baby. I wish you could have seen that mother; she gave a little squeak and that baby was on her bosom in a minute as she gnashed her teeth at me. She looked at me and seemed to say, “You dare touch that baby!” and I remembered that verse, “Holding fast the faithful word.” Beloved, that is our precious heritage.
I want you to notice with me three things that we are to hold fast in that Word. We are to hold fast what that Word says about “CREATION,” what it says about “salvation,” and what it says about the “CONSUMMATION,” the end. That precious Book says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) and I believe it, absolutely. There are two wonderful confirmations of that statement in the Scripture, one on the Mount of Transfiguration, recorded in the ninth chapter of Luke, the other in the sixteenth chapter of Luke, when the Lord drew aside the veil for a moment and gave us a glimpse of eternity. On the Mount of Transfiguration Peter, James and John saw the man that wrote those words, for Moses was there talking with Christ. What a wonderful opportunity for Peter and James and John to say, “Say, Mr. Moses, we are surely glad to see you. The critics in our universities say that you did not write that book. Did you? We have some highbrows who say that God did not make the world but that it sprang up, just how they don’t know. Did you tell us the truth?” Why did they not ask him? Because they knew he did tell the truth, they did not have to ask him. Moses told us the truth and I say, “Hallelujah!”
God made ninety-two elements. Chemists have discovered ninety-two elements and everything in the world is made of them. You have sixteen of them in you—72 per cent of them is gas. I have in my Bible a report put out by the Chemical Department at Washington, D.C. on the analysis of the human body and there are sixteen of the ninety-two elements in that, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and a few more. Our Lord made those ninety-two elements and though our chemists have analyzed the human body and tell us just what is there, have given us both a quantitative and qualitative analysis, yet I have never seen those chemists put those elements together and make a pretty blue-eyed boy. We have air in this room and our Lord Jesus made it. You and I are living by infinite grace, grace alone, because air is twenty-one per cent oxygen and seventy-nine per cent nitrogen, and the strange thing is that those two gases combine in five forms and four of them are deadly poison, and the only one you and I can live in is the one God has given us. It does not change, because God loves us. We live by the grace of God. Over in the sixteenth chapter of Luke in that wonderful story of the rich man and Lazarus, do you remember what Abraham said to the rich man? He said, “Your five brothers have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.” How did Abraham know there was any Moses? He was dead four hundred years before Moses was born. Abraham said, “They have Moses” and by this, he put his stamp of approval on the fact that God made the things that are made.
God made the fish in the sea. Notice how lovely He did these things. First He made the air, then the birds to fly in it; He made the water, then the fish to live in it; the grass, then cows to eat the grass. He did things wisely and well. When my boy, Walter, was at school, about nine years old, the teacher said, “Nobody knows what the moon or stars are made of. For all we know, the moon may be made of green cheese.” Walter got up and said, “Please Ma’am, I am quite sure it isn’t, because the moon was made before the cows were.” I hope every one of you can say on the subject of creation, “I believe God.” He made that caterpillar with its fourteen legs, an upholstered worm, that crawls into a homemade coffin. He made the elephant with four legs all bending the same way, the only quadruped that has all four legs bending forward. He put the colors in the peacock’s tail so that when it raises up, the colors will be in a circle. He did it, our blessed Lord made the peacock. Never let go of that Word, not even the first of Genesis. Hold on to it, hold it close to your heart, hold it close to your bosom. He made the stars also, Hallelujah for a God who can do it! and beloved, He is our Saviour. We trust in this God who made things, who put instinct into animals, who gave coverings to everything born into the world except man, feathers or fur or hair or scales or something on everything but us. Why did He not give us something? Because He expects us to go where He sends us and put on the stuff that suits that place. What a lovely Lord!
I watch His creation in the birth of animals. The canary bird’s eggs hatch on the seventh day of the second week, hen eggs on the seventh day of the third week, duck eggs on the seventh day of the fourth week, the wild mallard on the seventh day of the fifth week, and you cannot cross them or mix them or change them because everything He does is done accurately. He made it all, He is the Creator. The bear is born on the seventh day of the twenty-seventh week, the deer on the seventh day of the twenty-ninth week, the whale on the seventh day of the forty-third week, the possum on the seventh day of the fourth week. Everything that is born comes on the seventh day. The other day I was looking up potato bugs and found that they are born on the seventh day of the first week. The Apostle Paul stood on the ship and said, “Sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe God” (Acts 27:25). What a joy it is to believe God! Wipe out all those fogs and isms and ideas and put your faith in what Scripture says. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God” (Hebrews 11:3).
And then we are to hold fast what this Word says about salvation. “Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). I believe it, He does it; He does not help you and me to do it, but He does it. Notice the story of Isaac. The Scripture is not clear as to his age when he appeared on the scene to be taken as a sacrifice, but one night God said to his father, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest…and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains that I will tell thee of” (Genesis 22:2). I rather believe he was about twenty or twenty-one years of age when that happened. Notice, not one word uttered by that boy during the first twenty years of his life is recorded in this Book, until he said, “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb?” (Genesis 22:7) and God wrote it down! That was worth putting down. Whenever God sees a man or woman looking for the Lamb, He puts it down. One day there were some wise men, the Scripture says, who came from the East. They came from Babylonia or Persia or somewhere over there where they had magnificent things; they had culture, refinement, music, paintings, libraries, the finest things the world afforded. They came from the East, but not a word those men had said in all their lives was worth writing down for us to remember until they said, “Where is He?” And God wrote that down in the Book. They were looking for Christ and God wrote it down. That is one of the seven reasons why they were called wise men. Did they not have enough over East? No, the world has not anything that will satisfy the heart but Jesus Christ. “Where is he?” And they found Him. Everyone does, who is looking for Him, for He loves to be found. One night I was playing hide and seek with my little Caffie Jean; she was about four years old, and I shut my eyes and I heard her little feet climbing the stairs. The light was burning so she thought she would hide where Daddy couldn’t find her. I waited until she called that I could “tum up” and when I made lots of noise going up the stairs. I went into a bedroom and looked under the doily on the bureau, behind the steam radiator, behind the looking glass, and she wasn’t there and then I looked in one of the vases and I said out loud, “Well, I expect my Caffie has gone down stairs, I think I had better go back down stairs,” and so I stamped over to the door and pretty soon her little curly head stuck out from under the bed and she said, “Here I is!” She wanted to be found. So does He! He wants you to find Him. In the twelfth chapter of John we read of certain Greeks who came up to Jerusalem and they said to one of the disciples, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” Those Greeks had lived a long time but they had never said anything worth putting down until then. They had learned many things in Greece but they had not seen or heard a thing that was worth recording until they left Greece, came to Jerusalem and said, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” Beloved, He is the answer to whatever question is in your heart.
I love the word of Job when he was sitting over there on the pile of ashes—a wonderful place to sing, “Hallelujah!” I really believe that in the pile were not only the ashes of his magnificent home, but also those of his ten children. This man, who believed God, sat on that pile of ashes because he had a disease we know today as elephantiasis and potash is the remedy for it. This patriarch sang “Hallelujah” as he sat there, and added, “I know that my redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25). Do you know it? One would hardly think Job needed a redeemer, for he was a perfect man, an upright man, nobody like him on the earth; did he need a Redeemer? Yes, beloved, and so do you. “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” Hallelujah! My Redeemer! Oh what beauties in that lovely name appear. Hold fast to the Word, let nobody take it from you. I love those words of the Apostle Paul, “There is one God.” There is! There is! There is no doubt about it, no question about it. There are those who say there is not, but God’s Word says “There is one God and one mediator,” not a dozen mediators. I am glad the Scripture does not say, “There is one God and no mediator.” What would we mortals do, sinners, wicked, fallen, vile; what would we do if we did not have the revelation from this precious Book that “There is one God, and one mediator—or one umpire—between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Hold on to it, never doubt it, never question it, never let anybody tell you it is not so. He says it is so and we can write beneath it, “Sir, I believe God.” Oh the joy and the peace that come through believing God.
And then we hold fast His word to us about the consummation. Four words describe the future of the unbeliever: “In hell, in torment.” We find these words in the sixteenth chapter of Luke and they were spoken by our Lord Jesus—“in hell, in torment.” Four words describe the future of the saint: “With Christ, far better.” God did not have to write thirteen volumes to make you and me singing saints. When God says in Psalm 9:17, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” beloved, you write beneath it, “I believe God.” When John, that lovely man, was out yonder on the Isle of Patmos, he was writing a book that the devil has very strangely and peculiarly bamboozled us about, a book that is named Revelation, and do you know what that rascal does? He persuades folks that the word means mystery, the very opposite of what it is. John did not tell us how hard the rocks were that he had to sleep on; he does not talk about his troubles, his sorrows, his griefs and how he ought to be a great evangelist in Philippi, nor did he say, “Poor me, here I am a prisoner on this island and all my talents wasted.” Why did he not tell us about that? John was so infatuated with Christ Jesus that he did not have any time for rocks or troubles and there is not one word in that whole book about his troubles, it is all about Him. In this same book he said, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). Take your pen and write beneath that verse, “Sir, I believe God.” Do not let anybody fool you. Other men have written books; some have told us God will not punish sinners, that He is too sweet and too kind and gracious to do that.
Speaking of one of our fine citizens in Kansas City, a splendid man, somebody said to me, “Walter, do you know that So and So has thrown away the faith of his father and mother and embraced the doctrine that God is love and will not punish sinners?”
“What?” I said, “You don’t mean to tell me he has done that? I will go to see him today.”
I went into his fine office and he said, “What brings you out today?”
I said, “You. I didn’t come for an order. I came for you.”
Up on the mantelpiece in his office was a picture of his dear little girl, Helen, about ten years old, his only child, with large brown eyes, long pretty brown curls, a beautiful little thing. I said, “Charlie, do you love that little queen you have on the mantle?”
“Do I love her? I would die for her,” said he.
“Sure nuff? Do you mean that?”
“Don’t you know I live for that little girl?”
“Are you a loving father? Can I go back to my office and tell my associates that you are a loving father and love with an intense devotion?”
“Yes sir, you can tell them all you want to, spread it on as much as you please and it will all be true.”
“All right, now suppose when you go home tonight and as you start down the long walk through those great, beautiful, natural oak trees you hear a piercing shriek at the side of the house; you recognize it is Helen’s voice and you see a brute of a man killing her. What would you do?”
I saw the froth come out of that man’s mouth and he said, “Walter, that man would not need an undertaker when I got through with him.”
“But I thought you were a loving father.”
“How could I better prove my love for my little girl than by crushing the man who would dare to touch her?”
“Hallelujah, Charlie,” I said. “God has an only Son and every man that crushes His Son is going to the lake of fire. How can He prove His love except by punishing those that are enemies of Jesus Christ and of the people of God?”
“Thank you,” he said, “that trash goes in my furnace tonight.”
“Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire,” and I believe it! And again we read, “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me…into everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41). Take out your pencil and write beneath it, “Sir, I believe God.”
Hold fast to that precious Book. It tells us another thing. “I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23). Paul never said he wanted to go to heaven, he always wanted to go and see his Lord. “Where Jesus is, ‘tis heaven there.”
And then we read about the return of our blessed Lord. “And so shall we ever be”—in heaven? Is that what it says? No it does not. “And so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Hold fast to that Book and let it hold fast to you. And then writing to the Church he said, “Holding forth the Word of life.” Hold it forth! Did you ever notice that everything worth while in nature has to be cultivated but all the weeds are self-propagating? Let a cow go through a garden where there are radishes, onions, lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, and all the rest of the things we eat and the cow will come out with only what is inside. But let her walk through a weed patch and after that every time she knocks off one fly she will plant forty-nine cockleburs. The dandelion comes up; God know you would never plant it. It has a sail on the top of the seed so that the wind will carry it off and every time the wind blows on a flower, you have about forty-nine hundred of them scattered all over the place. On the bottom of the seed is a little hook to make it stick. The Scotch thistle is the same type. But the things that are worth while have to be cultivated and watched. The devil is scattering his malicious literature everywhere, on the radio and by the printed page, and in beautiful printing too. I went into a home the other day where there was a sick baby. Just inside the door was a little bookstand and on top of it there were five beautiful books. I said to the mother, “Well, you surely spent some money on those books.”
“I did,” she said, “I paid ten dollars for them.”
“What did you buy them for?”
“For my little girl; they’re all about the Bible.”
When I looked at the cover, I said, “Get them into the stove or else give your child strychnine. Far better to poison your child’s body than to allow her to read these things and have them poison her.”
“Holding forth the word of life.” It is medicine for the sick, it is bread for the hungry; it is light for those that sit in the dark; it is the traveler’s guide to glory; it is the answer to every heart throb; and it tells the story of a Savior who is able to save to the uttermost, who washes and makes us whiter than snow. “Hold it forth,” said Paul to that church; hold forth the Word of Life because it is life.
“The words that I speak unto you,” said the Savior, “they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63) and it is wonderful how simple God has made His Word. He says in one place, “Look unto me, and be ye saved” (Isaiah 45:22). Just look, look and live. What a simple, sweet thing it is to look to Him! I remember when I looked to a man. I was caught in the quicksand in the Missouri River and it was sucking me down to a certain death and my companion was running up and down the bank of the river to find something, anything to get out to me for he could not come where I was. How I watched him, as I cried to God to help him find something to get me out. I was looking to him. A farmer came out in the field dragging a long limb of a tree and they pushed it to the sand bank where I was sinking and I wrapped my arms around it and they pulled me out. I did not do it, they did it. He does it—“Look unto me.” Everything around you is sinking sand, you cannot hold on to a thing but there is One who will hold on to you if you will give Him a chance.
But in case you are blind and cannot look, He says, “Incline your ear.” That is a strange thing to say, for a man cannot incline his ear. Dogs and horses can turn their ears, but men cannot. I will tell you how you can. Whenever you incline your ear, you have to turn your face with it and He wants you to turn your face toward Him. “Hear and your soul shall live.” Hear what? Oh hear Him say, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Hear Him say, “Son, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace” (Luke 8:48). Oh the joy of it! But you may be deaf and cannot hear a thing, or you may be blind and cannot look, and so He says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Did you ever try to describe the taste of an orange? After you have been at it half an hour, your friend will say, “Give me one and I will know all about it.” “Taste and see,” make the Lord Jesus Christ yours. The Word tells you how to taste and we hold out His Word to you. But it may be that oranges and tomatoes taste alike to you; your taste may be gone. The Lord knew you might get to that place so says, “If haply they might feel after him, and find him” (Acts 17:27). You will know Him when you touch Him. I came home one night rather late and somebody had taken the bulb out of the entrance light so I rang the bell and my sweetheart said, “Who is it?”
I said, “It’s me.”
“Well, who is me?”
I said, “Me.”
“Well, I don’t know who me is but I am going to open this door and I will feel you and see who it is.”
And so I stuck my nose in and she felt it and said, “Come in, you’re the fellow.”
What a wonderful thing it is to “Feel after him if haply you might find him.” But you might not be able to feel, you might be paralyzed, and so He speaks that marvelously precious word, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved (Acts 16:31). If you can neither look nor hear nor taste nor feel, nor come, then believe on Him; trust your soul to Him and He will never let you go; He will give you eternal life, that wonderful gift, and He will give it to you now. And then again we hold out to you this precious word. “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). If you had a toothache, you would look for somebody whose name was Dentist and when you found him, you would go with that aching, throbbing tooth to him. But if the back axle of your car were broken, you would not want some one whose name was Dentist, you would want a man whose name was Auto Mechanic and you would get him to fix that back axle. If you broke your glasses, you would want some one whose name was Optometrist or Optician, somebody who could fix glasses. If you were hungry, you would want somebody whose name was Groceryman or Restaurantman. When I see you go in under one of those names, I know what kind of trouble you have. His name is Savior and when I see you running to Him, I say, “There is somebody who wants to be saved, somebody who believes in His name.” In John 3:16 it is different: He does not talk there about believing in His name, it says, “That whosoever believeth in him,” not the title that He wars, but the blessed Son who wears the title, the Man himself, the Son of God. You see in Him one that can do it.
I stood on a crowded street in Kansas City and saw a little girl sobbing and weeping. I leaned over and said, “Little girlie, did you lose your mamma?” I looked all around and saw a woman across the street with several other children, and she was looking around her frantically and I knew she was this little girl’s mother. I said to the little one, “I see your mother, will you let me take you over to her?” She looked me up and down and then nodded her head. She didn’t care anything about my name but she felt she could trust me, and so I picked her up, put her on my shoulder, walked across the street and gave her to her mother. She trusted me. For God so loved the world, that He gave you the loveliest Man that human eyes have ever seen, that whosoever—whosoever—whosoever believeth in Him—in Him, that lovely Man, that one with mighty power, that one with tender heart, that one with the wounded hands and torn feet and pierced side—should not perish, but have everlasting life. But in John 5:24 He changes it a little bit, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment; but is passed from death unto life.” Did you get those words, “Shall not come into judgment but is passed out of death into life?” Here the Lord Jesus asks you to believe that God sent Him to save you, that He is God’s official Saviour, that He is the One in whom God wants you, expects you, invites you to trust.
And then in John 8:46 the Lord Jesus said, “If I tell you the truth, why do ye not believe me?” Believe the words that he speaks; believe that He tells you the truth; take Him at His Word and say, “I thank you, Lord Jesus, I believe what you say.”
Then in John 10:38 He says, “Though ye believe not me, believe the works.” See what He did there; see what He did with this Christian, this sinner, this drunkard, that washerwoman, that railroad engineer; look at his samples and let Him do it for you. Beloved, we hold forth to you this Word of life in which there is this marvelous story of the Son of God who gives life to the dead, pardon to the guilty, cleansing for the defiled, peace to the troubled, light to those that sit in darkness—the eternal Saviour mighty, lovely Son of God, and we hold forth this Word to you. It is His Word. Believe Him and write beneath it, “Sir, I believe God.”