Holy Men and a Holy Mount

by Charles J. Woodbridge

Evangelism is the heartthrob of the Christian enterprise, the proclamation of the changeless Gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth. To this task the Church of the Son of God needs constantly and prayerfully to dedicate herself. She must "evangelize or fossilize." She must press onward with the good news of salvation, or slip backward into powerlessness and frustration. War or no war, the glad tidings of the grace of God must be sounded forth with clarion voice to a lost and dying world.

Before the Lord Jesus ascended to be with the Father, He stamped indelibly upon the wills of His apostles the supreme duty of preaching the Word relentlessly, continuously, uninterruptedly, and fearlessly. He kindled their spiritual ardor with the fire of God; He sharpened their vision of the world's need of a Savior; He quickened the pulse of their determination; He steeled their souls against the hour of testing; He bequeathed to them their heritage of Spirit-driven evangelism.

The contagion of their testimony has carried through the years. Consecrated souls of the twentieth century are being caught by that contagion and swept onward to spread it among the children of men.

But before the first-century witnesses ventured forth upon their world-changing program, they had to have a message that was clear and compelling. Centuries of Greek philosophy and Roman institutionalism demanded that the new message be divinely accredited. The first-century atmosphere was surcharged with conflicting views and discordant voices. This fresh evangelism needed a firm, solid, and enduring basis.

The apostles were constantly warning of false teachers, unbelievers who would seek to undermine the Christian faith. It was necessary for Paul to remind the Ephesian elders that after his departure "grievous wolves" would enter in among them, rending the flock with the cruel fangs of their infidelity (Acts 20:29). And even the beloved disciple John felt constrained to tell his "little children" to be on the alert against deniers of the faith (1 John 2:18-19).

But if a solid basis for evangelism was needed in the first century, how much more is such a basis needed today when the tower of religious Babel has risen to spectacular heights and flaunts its confused pinnacles against the sky. Today as never before the two supreme facts of our faith are being questioned: the inspiration of the Scriptures and the person and work of the Lord Jesus. Today as never before we need a firm foundation for the superstructure of our witness.

Such a foundation the Holy Spirit has given us in the Word—an adequate, soul-satisfying foundation. This foundation is the grand and changeless reality which we might call holy men and a holy mount. We get these phrases from 2 Peter 1:18, 21. They are God's answer to the cavilings of unbelief. The apostle Peter wanted Christians to have a deathless assurance, for the whole structure of our message is founded on the truths of the inspiration of the Word and the deity of the Son.

Holy Men

Read verses 20 and 21 carefully. Rest in their reality. Thank God for their finality. Respose in their security. Then brandish them as the very sword of the Spirit in the battle for the truth.

"The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man." The Bible is not a purely human document, full of myths and allegories and shrewdly devised fables, to deceive even the elect. Man is a rational creature. He can produce amazing works of literary beauty and skill. His intellectual resources are enormous. He may even be used of God in the production of the Scriptures. But man's reason is powerless in the presence of the stupendous facts of the creation and the fall, of sin and salvation.

This Book we call the Bible is not an achievement of man's will alone; rather it is God-breathed. As the Spirit of God brooded over the face of the deep when order was brought out of physical chaos, so He moved upon holy men, prepared men, separated men, chosen, taught, inspired men. And when He moved upon these men they spoke, and a golden chain of holy testimony was forged at the anvils of God. For it was the Holy Ghost who moved holy men to produce a holy book through which man could discover the pathway of holiness to the holy city, where down through the ages the blessed chorus will be heard in honor of the Trinity, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come" (Rev. 4:8).

The Scriptures are like a beautiful cathedral, every chapter and every verse a properly fitted element of the whole, lending to the structure their strength and beauty. And, if flying buttresses are needed, we have also a word of prophecy "made more sure" (2 Pet. 1:19), established by the glorious reality of fulfillment. No other book ever written can make the stupendous claims in this regard that the Bible can make. Literally hundreds of predictions of Old Testament days were fulfilled in the days of the New Testament.

In a dark and dismal place these prophetic fulfillments shine with all the luster of a bright and radiant light. Into the dark and dreary shadows of skepticism and agnosticism, the "word of prophecy" sends its brightening rays of heavenly truth, piercing the gloom and banishing the blackness. And this light will continue to shed its effulgent beams "until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts."

The inspired writings of the holy men will continue to satisfy and strengthen the hearts of believers until the "phosphorus" of God arise in our hearts. That is the meaning of "the day star"—phosphorus, which shines from within, with independent brightness. What is this phosphorus but a lovely picture of the One who is the eternal Light of light, who will appear in all His splendor as the bright and morning star, the Lord Jesus Christ. When He appears, all doubts and confusion will forever be dispelled. But until that blessed day, praise God for the testimony of the holy men—a sure and Spirit-sealed testimony, worthy of all confidence, the bulwark of our faith, the basis of our evangelism.

But the holy men wrote of One who is the center and object of all evangelism. The good news of redemption relates to the person and work of the Lord of glory, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The apostle Peter, prompted by the Holy Spirit, felt constrained to announce to all who would believe and propagate the Gospel that here, too, there was a solid and unshakable basis for evangelism.

Holy Mount

The holy men were paralleled by the holy mount. Simon Peter wanted to be perfectly sure that after his decease the people of God would be squarely established in their faith in Christ.

Again he starts off with a negative statement: Don't lose your grip, child of God! Don't be led astray by those who would question the incarnation of the Son of God. For "we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:16). Let every skeptic take heed. Let every evangelist rejoice. Our faith is not a fable. Our Master is not a myth. The birth of Immanuel is not an allegory.

On the contrary, the apostles "were eyewitnesses of His majesty." This is a powerful statement. Here is reliable evidence. Here is credible testimony. Here is divine stability. Here is trustworthy truth.

Eyewitnesses—men who saw and heard and understood before they recorded the blessed news of a majestic Savior. Law courts value such testimony. So should we. Luke, the beloved physician, appreciated this fact. He wrote that the things "most surely believed among us" were transmitted by those "which from the beginning were eyewitnesses" (Luke 1:1-2). John prefaced his first epistle with these words: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our etes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life ... declare we unto you" (1 John 1:1, 3).

The disciples saw our Lord in the flesh. More precisely, they were physically present when He was revealed in all the sublimity of His glory, in that matchless preview of splendor which He vouchsafed to Peter and James and John at the commencement of the closing period of His earthly ministry.

They witnessed His majesty when they were with Him "in the holy mount" (2 Pet. 1:18). They were actually present on this Mount of Transfiguration when He received from God the Father honor and glory. They heard the voice from the excellent glory, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." They beheld with the eyes of the flesh the face of Christ shining as the sun, and His raiment white and glistening. On Mount Hermon's rugged slopes they caught a vision of the ultimate finality and transcendent, cosmic meaning of the mission of the Lord to a benighted world. In all His purity and holiness, the Savior stood revealed to mortal eyes. His very presence transformed the hillside into a holy mount, and transformed the eyewitnesses into flaming evangelists of the faith. Nevermore could they doubt that this Jesus was God incarnate. They had henceforth a reason for their hope. They had seen and heard. They could not but testify.

Upon the solid rock of the twin facts of holy men and a holy mount the Church of Jesus Christ has arisen. The inspiration of the Word of God and the deity and saving grace of the Son of God have never changed. For nearly two thousand years the superstructure of a heavenly message has been erected upon this solid foundation. And today the call sounds forth for more and more consecrated believers who will count their lives as nothing that they might take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

We have a sure testimony; let us spread it. We have a reliable Book; let us master its contents and share them. We have a glorious message; let us proclaim it. We have an adorable Savior; let us make Him known. We have our gifts and talents, our energies and capacities, our time and money, our faith and vision; let us lay these in glad consecration upon the altar of a clear-sighted, eager evangelism—"until the day dawn, and the day star arise" in our hearts.

— A sermon preached by Dr. Charles Woodbridge in 1944 at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL.