Ready to Preach the Gospel
June 27th, 1954 @ 7:30 PM
READY TO PREACH THE GOSPEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-27-54 7:30 p.m.
About the time that I have it in my mind and steamed up in my heart to make a crack at Ralph Baker, then he does something sweet like bringing Frinetta out here to sing for us; then I can’t say what I want to say. I sort of feel sacrilegious, you know, having had those thoughts over there, and all getting ready to say them, then he brings a beautiful number out like that, then I have to bow my head and say, "Lord, forgive me for those thoughts." There is nobody like Ralph Baker, absolutely nobody. You think that is a compliment, don’t you? But Margie loves him, and his children love him. And we love you too, boy.
It is just remarkable to sit here and look out over an audience so full of the good heart, and spirit, and message, and blessed interest, and enthusiasm of the Lord as is in this congregation. Oh, your attendance on Sunday night is spoken of throughout the world. I hear it everywhere. You know you expect to have a crowd Sunday morning; everybody goes to church Sunday morning. I suppose even the devil dresses up and goes to church Sunday morning. But I wonder where he is tonight? He is not here, is he? Because this house is too full of the love of the Lord to make room for him; he’s some other place. But you’re here, and your presence in such vast numbers is spoken of, I say, throughout the world. We have many visitors who come by, and they come to church on Sunday night like they do on Sunday morning, because they’re interested. And when they see this house filled like you fill it every Sunday night, they’re encouraged. And anybody would be encouraged, anybody would. And to preach to you Sunday morning and to know you’ll be here again Sunday night, would challenge the heart of any pastor. Did you know I’m getting in the habit, whether I succeed in it or not, I’m getting in the habit of preparing my Sunday evening sermon first? I pour into it my best heart and my best thought. I’d like to magnify in this ministry its Sunday evening appeal. I believe the Lord will bless it as He has; and your presence here tonight is an answer and a seal of the Spirit upon that ministry.
Do you have your Bible? In the first chapter of the Book of Romans, Romans 1, first chapter of the Book of Romans; the sermon tonight is a companion to the sermon this morning. They’re really together, they’re really one sermon, but there’s no opportunity to preach both of them in a thirty or forty minute,so the sermon tonight is a conclusion of the thesis of the whole book. Paul writes it in the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth verses. Let’s start at the thirteen; Romans 1:13:
Now I would not have you without knowledge, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was hindered hitherto,) I wanted to come, that I might in my heart remember that I had some souls saved in your midst, that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to anybody, to everybody that believeth; to the Jew first – because the oracles of God were given unto him – to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
That’s the introduction to the epistle; then the rest of the letter is an unfolding of that thesis.
This morning we preached, "I am debtor, both to the Greeks, to the barbarians, to the wise, to the unwise" [Romans 1:14]. And now tonight, the next two: "So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ" [Romans 15:16]. Evidently, some were. "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ." As we go back to that day when Paul wrote that letter, were any ashamed of the Lord, any ashamed of the gospel, any ashamed of the message of Christ, any ashamed of the Lord Jesus Himself? Were there? Well, as I go back through the pages of that story, I remember the night that He was arrested. The story says that "All forsook Him, and fled" [Matthew 26:56]. And it speaks of His arrest, it speaks of His evil and vile treatment in the house of Annas and in the house of Caiaphas [Matthew 26:57-68]. Where were His friends then? He was by Himself; there wasn’t anybody standing with Him. Then the story continues, as He is tried before the Sanhedrin. And on the inside of the courtyard, there’s a friend; we think it’s the disciple John [John 18:15]. Says he was known to the high priest, and through that acquaintance, went inside where Jesus was being tried. And he knew that his friend Simon Peter was on the outside of the court. The house built in a square, and an open courtyard; and so this disciple, whom we think was John, went to the doorkeeper and asked that his friend Simon Peter might be invited on the inside of the court. So Simon Peter came on the inside of the court, and he was standing there warming himself by a fire on the inside of the court. And while he was standing there, a little girl came, looked at him, and said, "You are one of His disciples." And Simon said, "You do not know what you are talking about. I do not even know who He is" [John 18:16-18]. And in a little while somebody else came by and said, "Yes sir, I have seen you with Him. You are one of His disciples."
"No," said Simon Peter, "I never heard of Him. I do not even know, I do not even know who He is. I never, I never saw Him before." And in the space of an hour, as he talked to the group there, another came by and said, "You talk like a Galilean, you have the accent of the province. We certainly know that you are one of His disciples, you are." And that story says, as I remember it, that Simon Peter says, "You think I talk like Him? You think I talk like Him? Well listen to this," and the story says that he cursed, and he swore, and he used oaths, "I never saw Him, I never heard of Him, I do not know who He is" [Matthew 26:69-74]; ashamed of the Lord Jesus. I remember reading that.
In the last letter that Paul ever wrote, in 2 Timothy, the first chapter, there are three times that he refers to being ashamed of the Lord and of the testimony of the gospel and of Christ. In the eighth verse, speaking to Timothy, he says, "But be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor of me His prisoner" [2 Timothy 1:8]. Then in the twelfth verse, he says, "For I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day" [2 Timothy 1:12]. And then in the sixteenth verse:
The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:
But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.
The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
[2 Timothy 1:16-18; Romans 1:16]
Have you ever been ashamed of the Lord Jesus? Have you ever been ashamed that you are a member of His church? Have you ever been ashamed that you were a Christian? Have there been times when purposely you didn’t let it be known that you were on the Lord’s side? Have there been times when purposely, volitionally, you hid away your testimony for the Lord? Somehow in that particular crowd, in that particular group, you just didn’t say, you just didn’t let it be known. They all laughed at that thing, and you didn’t want to be funny and peculiar, so you just, ha, ha, ha, ha; and you made as though it was funny to you too, when in your heart, it wasn’t funny at all, it was nasty and dirty and unbecoming and unseemly. But you laughed; you didn’t want to be different from the crowd. And when they told that thing, why, you just laughed; because you were ashamed to let it be known that a nasty, dirty, ill-spoken thing like that was an affront to God and to men. Have you ever walked along and somehow the thing turned around, and it wasn’t popular to say the word for God, and it wasn’t just the happy thing to say the word for the Lord Jesus, and you just didn’t say it at all? After all, you didn’t want to offend, you didn’t want to hurt, you didn’t want to make anybody uncomfortable or uneasy, so you just didn’t say; you just hid out of sight any great committal of your life, ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
I think all of us fall into those ways; all of us fall into those things. It’s a human weakness. You want to be liked, and you want to be popular, and you want to be acceptable, and you don’t want to be a wet blanket, you don’t want to be a drip, and you don’t want to be a wallflower, and you don’t want to be ostracized, and you don’t want to be passed by; you want to be in the crowd, and everybody like you. So when it comes to a choice between standing up for the Lord and just hiding Him away, why, sometimes out of our shame to own Him, we just never stand true to what He means. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ" [Romans 1:16]. That’s Paul, that’s Paul.
For the most part, in America it’s all right to say, "I’m a Christian. I’m a believer in the Son of God, and I belong to that church. I am not ashamed, I am not ashamed to say I’m in Sunday school, and I’ve been baptized, and I attend the services, and I’m not ashamed of the Book, and I’m not ashamed of the message, and I’m not ashamed of the people. And I’m proud to say that I belong to the household of God."
For the most part that’s all right in America. I know vast areas of this world, like you, vast areas of this world where sometimes it means a man’s life to confess that he’s a Christian. We have here, seated there, the president of our Baptist work in Korea. In the southern part of that unhappy little country, a Christian is a man of God, and the churches are flourishing, and God blesses the preaching of His Word. But you go right across that [38th] parallel, just go north just a little ways, and that man there could tell you because he came from the north, he’s not a South Korean, he’s a North Korean, if we had opportunity for him to stand here tonight, he could tell you of uncounted and unnumbered thousands and thousands and thousands who have been liquidated because they were not ashamed to confess that they were followers of the Lamb, believers in Jesus the Son of God.
When I was in Hong Kong, I listened to those refugees as they would tell the story of the tragic, desperate persecution of their churches. And all that it took to escape it was just to say, "I’m not one of them, I’m not one of them. I’m not a Christian. Me no Christian; I’m not a member of that church! I’m not a follower of Jesus. Me? I’m a follower of Mao Tse-tung. Me? I’m a Soviet. Me? I’m a communist. Me? I belong to the enlightened. I belong to the forces of advance and the new day and the new age. Me? I’m a communist. That’s all it would take, that’s all it would take. But by the thousands, by the thousands, when it means to be dispossessed of property, and dispossessed of home, and sometimes to be imprisoned, and many times to be shot – by the thousands and the thousands in this world today and in this moment of this hour, there are those who like Paul are saying, "I am not ashamed that I belong to those who believe in the Son of God. I’ve been saved. I’m a Christian. I belong to the church. I am not ashamed. I am not ashamed."
You know, the Christian faith was born in an hour of trouble, bathed in blood, watered in tears. It’s not a fair-weather philosophy. It’s not a utopia that a man thought up, seated in an armchair. The Christian faith was born in an hour of trouble; and its sign is a rude, crude, rugged cross, silhouetted against the sky. It ever remains and abides as the eternal emblem of the Christian faith. Never was an easy thing, it isn’t today, never will be. "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ" [Romans 1:16]. It was born, I say, in an hour of trouble; and it brings it’s brightest most glorious light in the day of death and crisis. For it’s not centered in man, it’s centered in God [Romans 9:16, Philippians 4:13]. It’s not centered in earth, it’s centered in heaven. And its citizenship is not in this world, it’s in the world to come [Philippians 3:20]. The gospel of the Son of God:
For it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation, the power of God unto salvation, to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
The power of God unto salvation; to the Jew first – witness the change in the life of the apostle Paul – I think God teaches that the Jews as a race are not going to turn to God in our day.
[sound quality deteriorates at 20:20]
READY TO PREACH THE GOSPEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Ashamed – why mention such a thing?
A. Were any ever ashamed?
1. When Jesus was arrested, His disciples forsook Him and fled(Matthew 26:56)
2. Peter denied Him, cursing (John 18:15-17, Matthew 27:69-74)
3. Early apostolic story – fierce persecutions, imprisonment, chains
a. Paul’s appeal to Timothy(2 Timothy 1:8, 12, 15-18, Romans 1:16)
B. Are we ever ashamed?
1. Purposely hiding testimony for the Lord
2. Laughing at dirty jokes
D. In America today, for the most part Christians have no cause for shame
1. In vast areas of the world, it means a man’s life to confess he’s a Christian
2. In Hong Kong, refugees tell the story of the desperate persecution of their churches
II. The power of God unto salvation
A. Christian faith born in an hour of trouble; it’s sign a crude, rugged cross
1. Not centered in man, but centered in God; not in earth, but in heaven
2. Citizenship not in this world, but in the world to come (Philippians 3:20)
B. Power of God unto salvation – to the Jew first(Romans 1:16)
1. Paul’s changed life
2. Young man converted in church at Jerusalem
C. To the Greek-Roman
1. The terrible decay, decadence of Rome (Romans 1:18-32)
b. The silent witness of the ruins
2. Yet in Rome there was a Christian congregation (Romans 1:8)
D. The power of the gospel