The Tears Of Paul
January 31st, 1954 @ 10:50 AM
THE TEARS OF PAUL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Acts 20: 31
1-31-54 10:50 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message. It is not the one that is announced. In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, in which chapter we have come as we preach through the Word, we have read for our Scripture lesson this morning the address of the apostle to the shepherds, to the pastors, to the elders of the church at Ephesus. And three times in that short passage there is a reference to the tears of Paul. And the sermon this morning is entitled The Tears of Paul.
In Acts 20, the nineteenth verse: “Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears” [Acts 20:19]. Acts 20:31: “Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” And then Acts 20:36: “And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him” [Acts 20:36-37]; they cried together.
Well, we don’t believe in that kind of religion, not anymore. But it was the kind that shaped America. It was the kind they knew in the old fashioned days, when they were not too proud to kneel in prayer, when their spirits were not so lifted up that they were ashamed to cry before the Lord. And it was the kind of religion that they had in the New Testament days. And it is the kind of religion that Jesus had [Luke 19:41; John 11:35; Hebrews 5:7]. “Serving the Lord with many tears . . . [Acts 20:19]. Warning every one night and day with tears . . . [Acts 20:31]. And he kneeled down and prayed, and they all wept sore”’ [Acts 20:36-37].
How long has it been since you have been in a prayer meeting where the heart was so moved and the spirit so full it could find no other outlet and no other utterance but in sobbing and in crying? The apostle Paul speaks more of himself than you could well think for; it’s almost a surprise as you read his epistle. The reason he did it was not in any sense vanity or boasting. He says he is pleading with those to whom he writes to be a follower of him, as he is a follower of Christ [1 Corinthians 11:1]. So in that pleading he bears his own heart, and bears his own soul. It’s as though his whole life were naked before our eyes, and we look into the innermost thoughts and feelings of his life. Consequently, we know more of Paul than we do of any other one in the Holy Scriptures.
He was a man composed of tremendously antipodal qualities and characteristics. He had an indomitable energy; yet he was tender like a woman. He had the drive, he had the drive of a reformer; and yet his heart was so full of feeling, most anything would bring him to tears. He had an uncompromising conviction; yet he was filled with all tenderness. He had a life that was strong, and durable, and tough, and hard to tear apart; and yet he was filled with human weakness and frailty—this man Paul—and he weeps, and he cries, and he sobs, and he laments, and the tears fall off of his face. You see, he’s a Christian, and not a Stoic. And he was like his Master, the Lord Jesus: he did not seek to hide away the feelings he could not help welling up in his heart. The Bible says three times the Lord cried: with strong crying and tears, He prayed in Gethsemane [Hebrews 5:7]; at the tomb of Lazarus, He burst into tears [John 11:35]; and over the city of Jerusalem, long He wept [Luke 19:41]. Three times here the apostle speaks of tears. First, the tears of his apostleship and his ministry: “Serving the Lord with humility of mind, with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews” [Acts 20:19]. Then his tears of a compassionate heart, a pastoral heart, a seeking heart: “By the space of three years, ceasing not to warn every one night and day with tears” [Acts 20:31]. Then the tears of a tenderest affection and remembrance and friendship: “And they all wept sore . . . and kissed Paul, sorrowing most of all for the words that he spake, that they should see his face no more” [Acts 20:37-38]. However Paul appeared triumphant, victorious, indubitable, however he may appear self-sufficient, and exultant, and rejoicing, you look at him, you watch him closely, you read the next sentence, you follow it on down, the following verse: and without exception, you’ll always find that just beyond in the background there are always the sorrows, and the sacrifices, and the tears of his life.
In the Philippian jail, the Book says that having been beat, put on the inside of the dungeon, in stocks and in chains, that at midnight he and Silas sang and prayed to God [Acts 16:23-25]. Why, it’s one of the most exultant sessions you could ever describe! On the inside of that jail, Paul lifting up his voice in the darkness of the night, and singing to God. But did you ever notice, when the Philippian jailer took him out, having been saved [Acts 16:30-31], the first thing that he saw was the blood drops on his body; and before he was baptized, before he did anything, the Book says that he washed Paul’s stripes [Acts 16:33]. Beyond that singing and beyond that exultation, just look in the background: there are the drops of blood.
In the Mamertine prison just before his execution, he wrote so bravely and so wonderfully, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” [2 Timothy 4:7]. But read the next verse: “Timothy, come quickly; and when you come, bring with you the cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus my friend” [2 Timothy 4:13]. What was the matter? He was in the dungeon, and he was cold; and the thing was damp. “And Timothy, when you come, remember to bring the cloak that I left at Troas.”
Watch him again. He’ll be preaching, he’ll be standing before a congregation, and he’ll be exhorting; he’ll say this: “Rejoice in the Lord; and again I say, Rejoice in the Lord” [Philippians 4:4]. Why, you’d think there was nothing in his life but sunshine, and laughter, and gladness, and victory, and triumph. “Rejoice in the Lord; and again I say, Rejoice.” Look at him; walk over there and look at him close: not way back there in the back, look at him real close [2 Corinthians 11:23-27]. “Paul, those scars in your face, where did they come from?” And he would have replied, “Once was I stoned at Lystra, and dragged out for dead [Acts 14:19]. They are the scars for the Lord.” Look at him closely: “Paul, those great vivid scars that cross and crisscross, where did they come from?” And he would have replied, “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one; and thrice was I beaten with Roman rods [2 Corinthians 11:24-25]. They are the scars for the Lord.” Look at him closely: “Paul, those calluses on your wrists and on your ankles, where did they come from?” And he would have replied, “In prisons above measure and in dungeons all in stocks and in chains [2 Corinthians 11:23]; scars for the Lord.” Did you ever sit down and put Paul’s life together? Most of it, most of it was spent in a dungeon, in a jail, and in a prison! This is the man: “Rejoice in the Lord: and again I say, Rejoice” [Philippians 4:4]. Look at him, look at him, just beyond the tears, the drops of blood, the sacrifice.
You would think he was self-sufficient and self-sustaining, and had need of nothing. He refused to be chargeable to strangers. He refused to let anybody take care of him. He refused to let anyone help him. “Yea, ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you how by working and supporting myself we ought to help and support the weak” [Acts 20:34-35]. “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content [Philippians 4:11]. I have need of nothing.” Again and again as he speaks, you would think that in his, that being by himself and working, that he had everything, and had need of nothing. You look at him closely. In the ninth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, and the fifth verse, it is this same man Paul who remarked on the fact that Cephas has a wife, that the brethren of the Lord, and that all of the apostles; but he abides alone by himself [1 Corinthians 9:5]. Why do you think he mentioned that? I’ll tell you why: he was lonely, and he felt it. He was by himself.
Look at him again. He is so busy healing, in the nineteenth chapter, his Ephesian ministry, why, even they took handkerchiefs from his body and healed the sick, and aprons [Acts 19:12]. Turn the page, here’s a lad, fell down and died: while Paul was preaching a long sermon that boy fell asleep, fell out of the third loft, took him up for dead; Paul raises that boy from the dead, gives him back to his people [Acts 20:9-12]. Turn the page, time and again Paul is ministering to the sick, and healing those with infirmities. Yet look at Paul himself. In the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the second Corinthian letter he cries to God, “There is an infirmity, there is a stake, there is a thorn in the flesh,” and he asks God to take it away, and God does not do it [2 Corinthians 12:7-10]. Paul heals others, but he can’t heal himself. Paul is able to help others, but he can’t help himself.
However exulted he may be, however full of rejoicing he may be, just beyond, you look just beyond, there are the tears, and the sorrows, and the heartaches, and the loneliness of his ministry: “Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews” [Acts 20:19]. So the tears that were wrung from his heart and from his soul were tears of the commission, of the dispensation that God had given him. In the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts, the Lord says of Paul, “For I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake” [Acts 9:16]. He had barely been converted when the Jews sought his life, and he escaped out of Damascus in a basket [Acts 9:25]. He had barely gone to Jerusalem to get acquainted with the apostles there [Acts 21:17-19], when he was laid in wait by the Jews to destroy his life [Acts 23:12-15]. And he was sent to Seleucia [Acts 13:4]; he had hardly started on his first missionary journey when in Pisidian Antioch they sought his life [Acts 13:50]; then in Iconium [Acts 14:1], then in Lystra they seized him, stoned him, and dragged him out for dead [Acts 14:19]. And thereafter the whole course of his life was one of suffering and of sorrow, in labors abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons frequent, in deaths oft [2 Corinthians 11:23]:
Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods . . . once did I suffer shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst . . . in cold and in nakedness. Beside those things that are without. . .the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I hurt not?
[2 Corinthians 11:24-29]
The whole course of his ministry, from the time he answered the call of Jesus until his head was laid on the headsman’s block, one of peril, and suffering, of sacrifice, and of tears.
“Well Paul, why didn’t you quit? Why didn’t you turn aside?” He thought of it, and he discussed it, and he writes of it in the ninth chapter of the first Corinthian letter:
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
[1 Corinthians 9:16-17]
If I have chosen this thing, and do it out of my own heart and of my own volition, of my own will, of my own choice, then the reward I get is my own. But if I do it out of necessity, then it arises out of a dispensation, a commission from God that is committed unto me; and woe is me, necessity is laid upon me, woe is me, necessity, woe is me. It is the call of God, it is the commission of the Lord, it is a dispensation of the Spirit of grace, and I have no other choice.
And he continued on through shipwreck, through prison, through dungeon, through flood, and through fire, and through many, many tears [2 Corinthians 11:24-29].
So in our ministry in Christ today; life comes out of the sowing of the regeneration of sacrifice and sorrow, tears, and death. And out of it there’s not any life, out of it there’s not any regeneration, out of it there’s not any dispensation of the grace of God; it lies in God’s will that God’s people do suffer and sacrifice, pouring into His ministry their lives and their blood.
My great grandfather came to this country, to Texas, in the 1820s; thereafter for four generations we have lived in the Southwest. My father, as a young man, went to Greer County, Texas; later became a part of Oklahoma. I grew up out there in the western part of that state, and the western part of Texas. And as I grew up and lived among those people, one of the things that sanctified and blessed our lives was the pioneer preacher. Now our churches are established, and they call pastors, and they do wonderfully well by them. But in the days of my father, and in the days of my grandfather, and in the days of my great grandfather there were no established churches, there was no recompense for the preaching of the gospel, and the men who laid the foundation for our schools, for our churches, and for our institutions were men who did so in peril, in nakedness, in hunger, in cold, in heat, in sacrifice, in humility, and in tears. Two of the men out there in the western part of Oklahoma, two missionaries called of God, who had given their lives to the ministry of Christ, without recompense and without compensation, two of them were named Hogan and Bradford Hayes—I have forgotten the name of the first name of Brother Hogan—Brother Hogan and Bradford Hayes. After they had suffered much in the heat of the summer, in the cold of the winter, one day after a blizzard had struck on the western plains of Oklahoma, there came to the heart of Brother Hogan, there came an impossible prospect, vista, to continue on, and a resolve to quit, to go back home. So the next morning after breakfast and after prayer, Brother Hogan turned to Bradford Hayes and said, “Brad, I’m quitting. I’m going back home. I’m not continuing any longer.” And Bradford Hayes said, “I don’t know how I’ll carry on without you.” Hogan said, “I’ll do anything in the world I can to help you, and I’ll do anything I can to encourage; but one thing, I’ll not stay. I’m going to leave. This life, it’s too hard. This work, it’s too difficult. This ministry, it’s too discouraging. I’m going home. I’m going to leave.” Bradford Hayes said, “All right, all right. I just have one request to make, just one: would you sing my favorite hymn before you go?” And Hogan said, “Why sure, Brad, why sure.” So he got his accordion, and he sang Bradford Hayes’s favorite hymn: Isaac Watts’ “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” So he started:
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His Name?
And he got through that stanza all right. Then he sang the second stanza:
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?
And he swallowed hard when he got through that stanza. Then he sang the third one:
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace
To help me on to God?
Then he staggered after that one. Then he sang the fourth one, and the last one:
Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
He took off his accordion and set it down. He walked over to Brad Hayes, and put his arms around him, and said, “Brad, I’ll never leave you, never. I’ll stay with you to the end.” And those two missionaries, Brother Hogan and Brother Hayes, laid the foundations for the glorious work that we have in my native state of Oklahoma. It has ever been such, it will ever be true: without the sacrifice and the toil and the tears and the suffering that enter into the ministry of Christ, it is no ministry, it has no message, no dispensation from God.
Standing by a missionary in Africa, asking about the things in the house there, “Where did this come from? And that? And that?” And the missionary said, “I do not know. I do not know. Some of those in the days past brought them, left them here when they returned home.” Well, I said, “There are a lot of missionaries who come out here to Africa and stay just a while, and then go home.” That was the thing that impressed me most of our African missionary: he goes and stays a while, then returns home. She said, “Yes, that’s right. Many, many come out; very few of us ever stay.” I said, “I went to see the graves of Francis Jones and Lucille Reagan this morning. And they’re staying.”
“Yes,” she said, “they were struck down by yellow fever, and buried side by side. They stayed.” And I said, “And you’re staying.” She had been there about eighteen or twenty years. “And you’re staying.” She said, “Yes, I’m staying. My life is here. But,” she added, “you do not know how many nights my pillow is wet with my tears.”
The tears of his apostleship and of his ministry [Acts 20:19, 31]. I haven’t time to speak of the tears of his soulwinning, his pastoral heart. He couldn’t preach—and people reject his message—without tears. It hurt him. When Paul preached a message, he expected people to be saved, and if they weren’t, it hurt his heart, hurt his soul, and he cried, and he cried [Acts 20:31].
Did you ever hear of B. B. Crimm? Rough, rough, cowpoke of a preacher, never changed. I went to hear him one time in Fort Worth, in a tabernacle with Charlie Matthews. And he preached his soul out. He’d just get drowned in perspiration when he preached. He preached his soul out, and not a soul was converted, not a one. Right at the back of the platform he had a little, a place where he could change out of his wet clothes and put on dry clothes. And some of us walked up the stairway into the building at the back, and just where the thing was raised you could look over into that little place. And B. B. Crimm, great, big, rough fellow, big, rough fellow, rugged, talked that way; looked over in there, he wasn’t changing his clothes. He wasn’t getting out of those wet garments; looked over there, he was lying down there on his face, crying his heart out, crying his heart out, God hadn’t given him any souls. That’s Paul! When they rejected his message, and nobody was saved, it hurt him, it hurt him, it hurt his soul, it hurt him way down where he felt it, and he cried, and he cried; that’s Paul [Acts 20:31].
And this last one, the tears of a kindred affection: “And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him; sorrowing most of all for the words he spake, that they should see his face no more” [Acts 20:37-38]. Do you feel that when you come down here to church, and right over there is a wonderful deacon and man of God, and sitting right back there so often, a wonderful deacon and man of God, and sitting right down here, waiting to receive the people in the church is a wonderful deacon and man of God, and over yonder, and there, then you come down here to church and they’re not here present anymore; they’ve been taken away, they’ve been taken away. Do you feel that? Do you feel that? The friendships that we make in the circle of this church are the most precious friendships in the world. “Sorrowing most of all that they would see his face no more” [Acts 20:38]. That’s Paul; and I think it’s the true Christian. This thing gets in your soul, it gets in your heart, it gets in your blood, it gets in your life, this thing, loving one another in the church.
That’s one of the reasons why ever since I’ve been a pastor we’ve always closed our communion service where the church gathers together to break bread, we’ve always closed it with the song:
Blessed be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
And when we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
That’s Paul. That’s you. That’s us. Would you sing it with me?
Blessed be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
And the second:
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
[“Blessed Be the Tie That Binds,” John Fawcett]
About ten minutes after twelve. I’ve just resolved: I’m not going to leave out all of my message when I come, we’re just going to take time, just going to take time. Now Mr. Souther, I want you to sing 100, number 100, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross,” let’s sing 100, our invitation hymn—number 100, number 100. And while we sing it, in that topmost balcony, anywhere, anywhere, somebody you give your heart to the Lord [Romans 10:9-13], put your faith in Him [Ephesians 2:8], put your trust in Him [Acts 16:30-31]. While we sing the song, would you come? Would you stand by my side, “Pastor, today I take the Lord as my Savior”? Would you come? Or, “Here’s my whole family, we’re coming into the church.” Or, “We want to give our lives anew to Christ.” While we sing the hymn and while we make appeal, today would you come? Would you make it now? Would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.