How Shall They Hear Without a Preacher?
December 12th, 1954
HOW SHALL THEY HEAR WITHOUT PREACHER?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12/12/54 10:50 a.m.
In our preaching through the Word, we are in the great parenthesis, Romans 9, 10 and 11. And, the message this morning is taken out of the middle chapter, the tenth chapter, beginning at the twelfth, through the fifteenth verses.
And, the reading of the Word is this – Romans 10:12 through 15:
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
The largest legation of the United States government is in the Philippine Islands, located in Manila. All of our diplomatic work of the Far East and the Orient is channeled to that legation in Manila. When Dr. McCall and I were in the Philippines, the illustrious ambassador and representative of the United States, Myron M. Cowan, sent for us. And, we ate lunch with him and his wife in the embassy.
He had a special reason for inviting us to come. As he began to speak to us, he said, "Except there be a moral and a spiritual rebirth among these people of the Orient, all of our mission – all of our military and economic missions will fall to the ground." He said, "We need a preaching. We need a spiritual rebirth. We need a great moral revival, not only in the Philippine islands, but all through the East."
Now, he said, "I called in the archbishop. There are more than 16,000,000 Catholic people," he said, "in the Philippine islands. And, I called in the archbishop," and he said, "I said to the archbishop, ‘These people do not understand Latin. They don’t understand those foreign tongues. Will you not preach to these people? They need preaching to.’"
Now, he said, "I’d like to make the same appeal to you as representatives of Southern Baptists. How many missionaries are you sending out?"
And, we said.
"And, how much money do you give for their support?"
And, we said.
And, he said, "It’s not enough. It’s not enough. We need preachers. Send us preachers. We need preachers. How shall they hear without a preacher?"
John R. Mott, great missionary statesman of former years, said before the Second World War, "We must send a thousand missionaries to Japan or else we shall send a million bayonets."
We sent a million bayonets instead.
Somehow, in the economy and in the wisdom of God, all of the means of conversion and salvation and regeneration have been committed to human hands – "And the word of the Lord came to Elijah," "and the word of the Lord came to Jonah." "And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah." And, the Lord said, "Thus shall you speak to the children of Israel," and thus shall you speak to the lost of the world – The instrument and the means of salvation and conversion and revival have been committed to human hands.
"How shall they hear without a preacher?" In the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts, there is recorded a story of the conversion of the Apostle Paul: how he met the Lord Jesus on the way to Damascus. And, the Lord, above the brightness of a Syrian midday sun, spoke to the apostle and said, "Arise. Stand on thy feet and go into Damascus and there shall be told thee what thou must do.’"
Why didn’t Jesus tell him what to do? Because no man and no people ever come into the knowledge of the will of God except through the mediation of human voice, of a human man, of some other man.
In the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, there is recorded the marvelous story of the conversion of Cornelius. And, the angel of the Lord appeared to Cornelius and said, "Cornelius, send down to Joppa and ask for one Simon Peter, who shall come and tell thee words whereby thou and thy house may be saved." [Acts 10:3-5]
Why didn’t the angel tell him the words whereby Cornelius and his house could be saved? Because no man is ever saved except through the mediation of another man. The preaching of the gospel: "How shall they hear without a preacher? The responsibility for the conversion of the world, for the remaking of our nation, for any hope we may have in our destiny, of any future, lies in human hands. God has committed that sacred responsibility unto us.
In the thirty-third chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, God, speaking to the prophet, says, if a watchman is on the wall and the sword comes and destroys the city, if he does not speak to warn the people, the blood of the city is on his hands. If he seeks to warn and they give no heeding, then he’s delivered his soul. [Ezekiel 33:1-6]
So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; herefore, thou shall hear the word at My mouth, and warn them from Me.
When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hands.
Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way, to turn from it; if he do not turn from his ways, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou has delivered thy soul.
The care of all of the souls of the world, their nations and their peoples has been committed unto us. That is the answer of Cain’s ancient question, "Am I my brother’s keeper?" If I have a brother who is starving and I have bread to eat, if he is thirsty and I have water to drink, if he is lost and I know the way, or if he dies without God and I have the words of salvation, God says that his life is chargeable to me and his blood will God require at my hand.
This means a missionary obligation for all of the tribes and language and people and nations of the world. In a little town where I once pastored way, way back and away, there was a little group of people on a porch of a little cracker box of a post office. And, they were talking about foreign missions and they were much against it. And while they were talking, the postmaster, one of the fine men in my little church, went inside of the post office, got his Bible, came out, turned to this passage and read it:
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach except they be sent?
Too often, and too much, has the attitude of Christendom and of all of our churches – too often has it been like the disciples in the presence of the hungry multitude when they said, "Go away. Go away. Keep back. We have barely enough for ourselves. We can barely manage to keep the life in us with these five little loaves and these two small fishes. There’s nothing for you. Go away. Keep away. What we have, we must keep for ourselves."
I saw a cartoon that a man had drawn for a newspaper. On the inside of a great sea was an island. And, on the inside of the island, a group of people with their faces turned inward and their backs to the sea. And, that was all: Nothing written, nothing else.
But, when you looked at it more closely, the sea around the island was the sea of humanity. And, the little inlets of the ocean that reached up to the island in the midst of the sea were long, bony human hands, empty and hungry, emaciated and poor, reaching out, reaching up to that little group on the inside of the isle.
But, they had their backs turned. They were looking inward, at themselves. They didn’t dare turn, it seemed, to look at the hungry faces of the vast sea all around them and those long, lean, empty and bony hands reaching out and reaching up. That is a picture of the vast needs of the world.
Some time ago, several years ago, the budget at a First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City was something like sixty or seventy thousand dollars: a mere pittance. And, they called a new pastor. And, the pastor went to the First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, and he began to lay upon the hearts of the people of that church the tremendous need of a vast, vast world: "How shall they hear without a preacher?"
And, the people shook their heads and murmured against it and the deacons opposed it. And, the church turned it down. And, one of the men said, "He’s speaking of a vast budget, a tremendous giving program. We have enough already. What would you do with all that money?"
And, they turned it down and passed it by, to the heartbreak of the pastor.
But, during the course of the year, he began to speak to the people from the pulpit, saying things like this, "If we had a hundred thousand times as much as we’re able to give, it would be practically nothing compared to the vast needs of the world." And, he began to lay upon their hearts the missionary causes of all the nations and tribes and peoples of this earth.
And, when the time came for the new budget and the new year, the deacons came to him, one by one, and said, "Pastor, we’ve been mistaken, and we regret our last decision." And, the church said, "We’ve been misled. We haven’t followed the will of the Lord, nor have we seen the vision of a lost, weary world." They made a new budget.
I have a habit now of sending a telegram to the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City about our budget. And, they send me a telegram about theirs.
And, then, about two weeks ago, they oversubscribed their budget in one day, like we did. And, their budget today is more than $460,000.
No longer are our churches saying to the call of the world, "We have nothing for you." We’ve changed. We’ve changed. There’s a new spirit. There’s a new heart. There’s a new zeal. There’s a new missionary vision among our people.
And, we’re saying to the nations – we’re saying to them, "Come back. Come back. We have come upon great supplies. O India, you need not go away. And, China – O China, we have made a great mistake. China, come back. Come back. And, little Africa, you need not go away empty-handed. We have plenty enough and to spare."
Isn’t it always true that, so long as the church keeps just everything for itself, it lives in some kind of a half-famishing state, just barely enough to get by?
But, when the church begins to scatter abroad, when it begins to divide, when it begins to send out its missionaries, when it begins to open its heart to the vast, hungry appeal in the world, somehow God multiplies the loaves and the fishes in our hands. As the ancient Proverb writer said, "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth. But there is also that withholdeth and it tendeth to poverty." [Proverbs 11:24]
How grateful I am for the great missionary passion of this incomparable church! Now, our giving program totals, in a year, about $750,000 – just our giving program, not our building fund, just our giving program. And, we divide it, about 51 percent for missions and about percent for ourselves. Some of the men have said to me, "Pastor, the day is coming, the day is coming when the – when the giving program of this glorious church will be over a $1,000,000 every year."
I said, "I think it comes. The day will come, the hour will come, when the missionary program in this church with our local work will go beyond $1,000,000 every year. And, when that day comes, I’m looking forward to the time when we will divide that 60 percent for the world and 40 percent for us, or 70 percent for the world and 30 percent for us."
You need not go away. You need not go away. We have bread enough and to spare: Our answer to the missionary call of God, "How shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?"
And, this passage also lays upon our souls our obligation to our Jerusalem, our city, the Dallas in which we live: the preaching of the gospel to the lost of our people. It is the glory of the Christian faith that it cares for the poor of the earth. In the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew:
It came to pass that
When John heard in prison the works of the Christ, that he sent two of His disciples,
And said to the Lord, Art Thou He that should come, or we look for another?
Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John those things which he hear and see;
The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and – and there’s one more – and the poor have the gospel preached unto them.’
The glory of the Christian faith is this: "and the poor have the gospel preached unto them." That does not mean that the Christian faith overlooks or forgets or circumvents those who are rich and mighty, the titans of industry, the magnates of business, the kings of finance. In the ninth chapter of that same Book of Acts in which is described the conversion of the Apostle Paul, the Lord said of him, "He is a chosen vessel of mine, to bear My name before, the kings of the earth." In 1 Timothy, second chapter, second verse, Paul says that, "I exhort that intercessions and prayers be made for the kings of the earth." In Revelation 1:5, Jesus is described as "the prince of the kings of the earth." In the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation and the twenty-fourth verse, it is said, "And the kings of the earth do bring into that glorious city their honor and their glory." They’re not forgotten. They’re not forgotten.
But, through all of the centuries, and through all the generations, it is a part of the earth that had been oppressed and driven and downtrodden. They live without hope. They live without – without a start, without a song, without joy, without any future, without any destiny.
But, the Lord Jesus came and He was the friend of the poor. The Lord Jesus came with a new message and a new gospel and a new way. He brought hope to the downtrodden and the famished and the weary and the forgotten of all the lost millions, multitudinous, of this earth.
It was a new day. It was a different day when Paul, the apostle of Christ, wrote a letter to Philemon, saying, "I’m sending you back your slave, Onesimus; but you receive him not as a slave, but as a brother beloved." [Philemon 10, 15-16] "And the poor – and the poor have the gospel preached unto them": That’s the glory of the Christian faith.
I appointed two men from our board of deacons to go look at our Good Shepherd department and to bring a report back to me. I asked Bruce Graham and Fred Shepherd. I sent them down and said, "Look at that Good Shepherd department" – which is a ministry to the poor of our city – "look at that Good Shepherd department and bring me back a report."
So, about a week or so ago, they came back, after two or three months, with their first report. And, this is what they said. They said, "Pastor, the Good Shepherd ministry cannot continue except it be a mission endeavor of our people. That is, they must have food and they must have clothing and they must – they must have medicines and they must be supported. If the work is to continue, it must be a missionary-supported work of our church."
Now, what shall we do? Shall we continue it or shall we not?
And, I said, "I cannot tell you why – I cannot explain it, but in my heart and in my soul, the Christian faith is somehow bound up with that kind of a ministry.
Wherever people have need, wherever they’re poor, wherever they’re hungry, wherever they lack, wherever they’re downtrodden, wherever their misfortune, wherever they fall into circumstances and exigencies beyond their control, somehow, to me, a part of the fabric of the Christian faith is a response from us."
I said, "When you feel the substance of the Christian faith – what it is, that’s it. That’s it. And, if you take that away, you take the whole message away. You take the substance of it away. You take the thing away itself."
It’s like a boy, a teenage boy, the son of an illustrious theological professor. He taught theology in the seminary. Upon a day in the evening, the boy was seated by his father and his mother in the home. And the boy, the teenage boy, turned to his dad and said, "Dad, do you know what? I saw the real thing today. I saw the real thing today."
And, the dad said, "Son, what do you mean?"
And, the boy said, "Dad, I went down to the mission today. I was at the mission today." And, he said, "I saw men and women converted, remade, reborn today." He said, "Dad, that’s the real thing." And, he said, "Dad, why didn’t you ever tell me about it before?"
You see, the boy had grown up in a Christian home. He had a devout mother and his father was a professor of theology in the seminary. But, he never saw the Christian faith, and the real meaning of its marvelous message, until he saw it reaching down into the thing of humanity up and up and up.
And, that’s the difference between Communism and Christianity. Communism reaches up and pulls everybody down. But, Christianity reaches down and lifts everybody up. That’s the hope of the world is the Christian message of the Lord Jesus Christ: "And the poor – and the poor have the gospel preached unto them."
If I were to demonstrate – make exhibit, "This is the Christian faith. This is the faith," what would you say? What would you say? Oh, I know. We’ll go to the great Southern Baptist Convention, where — where 30,000 churches are represented and where thousands and thousands of messengers sit. And, in that vast convention, in their assembled sessions, we’ll look at it. Surely, this is the faith.
Well, it may be. Jesus never mentioned it. He never referred to it. What is the faith? Oh, a man magnificent, trained, scholastic, academic, oratorical. He stands up, and in one great peroration after another, he rises to new and glorious heights. And, we listen to him and say, "Truly, this is the faith. This is the faith."
Isn’t it strange? Jesus never referred to it. He never mentioned it.
What is the faith? Oh, a marvelous cathedral with its Gothic vaults, with its rising architecture, with its glorious services. That’s the faith. That’s the faith.
Jesus never referred to it. He never mentioned it.
This is the faith, surely: the surplice minister, standing in dignity, in glory, with all of his beautiful robes, carrying on a gorgeous, ritualistic service, that’s the faith. The Lord never referred to it. He never mentioned it.
But, He did have something to say about a cup of cold water given to a man thirsty, in the name of a disciple. He did have something to say about knocking at the door, visiting the sick and the needy and the hungry and the stranger and the forlorn. He did have something to say about the one lost sheep: seeking it, finding it. That is the faith. And, I see it in you.
I see it here. Sunday School class: knocking at the door, outside of itself, beyond these walls, up and down the streets of this city, seeking the little babe in the home, seeking the father and mother in the home, seeking those children in the home. That’s the faith. That’s the faith.
This is the faith: Visiting these missions of ours, four of five of them over the city, preaching the gospel to the people. That’s the faith.
This is the faith: Go out to the Buckner Orphans’ Home, climb up into that balcony, watch those poor, orphaned children eat. And, they eat so ravenously and vigorously – does you good to look down upon them. That’s the faith.
This is the faith. Standing here in this pulpit, opening this Book, Sunday by Sunday, taking our passage out of the Word of God and pleading with the lost and the unenlisted and the unchurched of the people of Dallas, lifting up the cross, preaching Jesus. This is the faith.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how should they believe in Him of whom they haven’t heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
And, that’s our message to your heart this morning. Somebody you, trusting the Lord; somebody you, putting your life in the fellowship of the church; somebody you, dedicating all you have and are to our glorious Savior; a family of you, "Here we are, Preacher, and here we come." A youth; as God shall lay the appeal upon your heart, anywhere, will you make it now in this glorious enterprise, in this missionary endeavor, mediating the message of Jesus, all through this earth? "We’re by your side, preacher, to pray, to give, to support. Here we come and here we are."
In that top balcony, from side to side, anywhere, while we sing the song and while we make this appeal today, today, would you come? "I’m doing it now, pastor. And, here I am, taking the Lord." Taking the Lord as your Savior, or putting your life into the fellowship of the church by baptism, by letter, by statement, by promise of letter, however God shall say the word and make the way, while we make appeal, while we prayerfully sing, would you come? Would you come, while we stand and while we sing?