Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-12-54 10:50 a.m.
You’re listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message from the fifth chapter of the Book of Romans.
The message this morning is from the first few verses of that chapter. The message tonight, at the evening 7:30 hour, will be from the latter part of the fifth chapter of the Book of Romans.
In that chapter, you have answered some of the questions of time and eternity. Tonight, reading from the fifth chapter of Romans, we shall speak of the origin of evil: where and whence did it come. We shall speak why God permitted the transgression of Adam; how it is that little children and babies are saved – all of that in the fifth chapter of the Book of Romans. This morning, from the first two verses:
Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also. Tribulations work patience;
Patience, experience; experience, hope.
And hope never disappoints; because God and His love and His promise through the Holy Spirit is given without measure unto us.
If I could choose a subject: this grace, this hope, this persuasion in which we stand. Now, by way of summary, to pick up the thread where we left off a month ago: Paul lived in a day of the judgment of Almighty God. When he wrote this epistle, he addressed it to the church in the capital city of the Roman Empire [Romans 1:7]. In that letter, he begins, in the eighteenth verse of the first chapter, with this avowal: "The wrath of God – the judgment of God – is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" [Romans 1:18]. Then, the remainder of that chapter, he speaks of the day of wrath to come for the Graeco-Roman world, the civilized world in which he then lived [Romans 1:18-32].
In the second chapter, the first part, he speaks of the judgment and the wrath of God against the pagan and heathen world [Romans 2:1-16]. In the latter part of that chapter, he speaks of the revealed wrath and judgment of God against the Jew [Romans 2:17-29] who supposed because he possessed the oracles of the Almighty he was exempt from the visitations of heaven.
In the third chapter, he speaks of the conclusion that all the world is become guilty before God and all the world stands in the judgment day of Almighty God [Romans 3:1-31]. Then in the fourth chapter, he turns to the precious and blessed hope that we have in Christ Jesus [Romans 4:1-25] taking Abraham, their father, for an example of the faithful who against hope believed in hope [Romans 4:17-19] and who staggered not at the promise of God [Romans 4:20-21].
Then in the fifth chapter: a little summary there in which my text is found. In this hope and in this grace, we stand and rejoice in the promise of Almighty God.
So thus far in the Book of Romans, Paul has spoken of the judgment day and then of our deliverance in Christ. He has spoken of all of these tribulations through which this world inevitably does pass and then says that out of tribulation cometh our hope and a hope that will never disappoint.
Now, taking that as the day of Paul, may I, could I, draw a parallel between Paul’s day and ours? We also – in our day and in our generation – we also live in an hour and a day of the judgment of Almighty God. One cannot help but stand in awe before it.
I quote from a recent conversation of the Premier of Canada. "We have reached an hour," he says:
in the history of civilization, which I believe is one of the most crucial mankind has ever faced. We are living in an age in which we see the accumulative consequences of the defects in human nature coming to their climax. Today, when you talk to men in the business world, scientific world, the field of economics, politics, we find that most thinking, serious-minded people agree that present circumstances are such that they cannot continue very much longer without precipitating a crisis on the greatest scale humanity has ever known.
And another famous author, statesman, and world traveler: "We have crossed the threshold of a new era. An epochal milestone has been passed by the human race. The world is at the crossroads. We are on the verge of a titanic cataclysmic collapse unless, unless, God intervenes."
I say we stand in awe before the judgment of God upon the day and generation and world in which our lives have been cast. For one thing, the frightening success of the enemies who have sworn our utter annihilation and complete destruction could not but bring pause to any human heart. We have lost on the field of battle: a new thing, a new day, a new experience for the Stars and Stripes and for the power and might and glory that once was America.
Do you realize that our enemies in Korea have no navy? Do you realize that our enemies in Korea had no air force? We bomb them by day and by night. Our navy on both sides of the sea shelled our enemies. And yet, without navy, without air power, they pressed us back to the sea and finally won from us an inconclusive armistice.
Do you realize that one of the great defeats of all time has been our defeat in Indo-China? There are a few breadbaskets in the world: the center of America, the Midwest of America, and one of the few others is Indonesia – Indo-China. The breadbasket of the Orient is in the hands of our enemies.
And not only that, we have 700,000 more refugees. I’ve never heard an article in any paper refer to them. We are so calloused to the misery and inhumanity of these present days until 700,000 more homeless, hapless dying people are as nothing – not to us today.
Not only have we lost on the field of battle, but the success of our enemies in this war of words, the Cold War, is frightening beyond compare. The defection of those two illustrious members of the Adenaur [Konrad Adenaur] government in Western Germany is a colossal blow. The loss and the collapse of the European defense community has so set back the hopes of America until there’s not a statesman in the earth that knows what lies ahead. The internal weakness of France and of Italy are like straw men by our sides before an enemy.
England has been isolated. However in days past we may have been able to count upon the support and the help of Great Britain, Great Britain is now neutralized. She has no other choice. In any meeting when the door is shut, the leaders of Great Britain will always say: "But remember, within one hour – within one hour from our London, our Manchester, our Liverpool, our Glasgow – within one hour is an air force with those terrible atomic and hydrogen bombs that could destroy our Great Britain in a matter of minutes."
Japan is fast falling out of the sphere of the friendship of America, and America herself is being stripped of her allies one by one and that by an enemy and by a force and by a people whose leader one time said: "What does it matter if three-fourths of the population of the world be destroyed, if only the remaining one-fourth be Communist?"
And the instruments in our hands of warfare today are beyond compare. They frighten just to say them. There was a time – oh, two or three years ago – there was a time when the city of Dallas was to be taught how to take care of itself in the eventuality of an attack, and Fort Worth and all of the cities were being taught how to care for themselves in eventuality of an attack. All that’s gone now.
It’s foolish to teach a city how to take care of itself. Our new plan of defense is this: If Louisville is attacked, then Indianapolis and Cincinnati and Nashville and St. Louis are being taught how to care for a city upon whose heads a hydrogen bomb has been dropped – and so all the communities of the cities in America. If it happens to Chicago, then Detroit and St. Louis and Indianapolis and Milwaukee – all of those cities – will go to the aid of a stricken Chicago.
The frightening thing about that awful prospect is this: that the day is fast approaching when men with great scientific genius are being able to perfect guided missiles – pilotless missiles – that go through the air 70,000, a 100,000 feet up into the air into the vast stratosphere above, and then come down at a given point. And against that attack, there is no defense – none known to us, none known to them.
I heard in this conference in which I preached in North Carolina – I heard an army officer say, "We have in our hands a little instrument no bigger than a water pistol and as simply contrived in which if a man came into this audience" – and there were about three thousand of us there – "with that one little water pistol, he could destroy everyone immediately in this room." And he said, "Not only that, but we have in our possession now a little bomb not over eighteen inches long. It could be dropped in this valley, the Swannanoa Valley in which Asheville, North Carolina is located, and in just a matter of time every green thing and every living thing in this whole valley would be destroyed."
These weapons are not fantastic in the imagination and the scientific dreaming of men who used to write those articles of what might come in other worlds and in other spheres and in other civilizations. These things are here and now, and they represent the great judgment day of Almighty God.
Not only do we face that judgment day nationally, internationally, politically, economically, but we face a tremendous judgment day religiously. China was our greatest mission field. China is closed. One of the great missionaries of China is here with us today. She and her illustrious husband placed their life in that great country. To what end? To what avail? It is just a prayer and a hope now that beyond that terrible persecution those faithful Christians will be faithful unto death.
But it doesn’t stop there. When I was in India – when Dr. McCall and I were in India – one of the purposes of our going through the country was to ask for visas for our Southern Baptist missionaries. They were denied; and not only were they denied to us, but all of the missionaries are fast being closed out in the great country of India.
When I was in India, I looked at those little children who used to go English schools. They’re now studying Hindustani – studying the nationalism of India – and almost every Indian woman that you’ll see on the street, she’ll have that orange dot in the middle of her forehead. She’s been to the Brahman temple, the Hindu temple, and has worshiped. It’s a part of the nationalism: the new day for India. They are already anti-British. They’re becoming fast anti-American and everywhere anti-missionary and anti-Christ. India is fast being closed to the Christian appeal.
I don’t know whether you noticed it or not, but a few days ago, there met in Mecca – the sacred place of the Moslem world – there met in Mecca three heads of governments: Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. And those three heads of government pledged a new and tremendous Moslem missionary march to the vast continent of Africa.
When we were in Africa, for every one convert the Christian won, the Moslem wins ten. This new day in the march of Mohammedanism is beyond compare. In the interview he gave on his return from Mecca, Premier Nasser [Gamal Abdel Nasser] of Egypt said, "I hope the Western powers won’t take any untoward steps against us in this missionary campaign because the establishment of Islam in Africa will be a shield against Communism." Maybe so, maybe so, but who rejoices in seeing a great vast part of the world turned to the worship of Allah and Mohammed his prophet?
I haven’t time to speak of the future that lies ahead in America. America is becoming urbanized. We’re no longer rural people, a country people. We’re city people. What happens in the cities of America?
I was speaking two weeks ago with a friend of mine who is pastor not of a Baptist church but of a great evangelical church in one of the vast northeastern cities of the United States – in New England. That man has the only evangelical pulpit in that vast city that at all commands attention or respect. Our evangelical evangelistic witness has died in that great city. His pulpit alone remains; and to my amazement, as I talked to him, I found that he is preparing to resign and to leave. He is preparing to accept another work in another section of America, and when he goes – and when he goes – there will not be left one great, tremendous, outstanding evangelistic New Testament evangelical witness in that vast city of the North and of the East. And what is happening there is gradually happening in most of the great cities of America.
Well, what do you do? Where do you turn? How are you to feel? Against the day of Christ’s coming, and in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, the Lord Jesus said: "It’s not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father placed in his own hands" [Acts 1:7].
Against the day of the personal intervention of Almighty God, there are two ways that we can do. One: We can live in an escapist world of defeat and despair: give it up, give it up – no heart to try, no strength or will to resist. If it goes Communist, it goes Communist. If it goes Romanist, it goes Romanist. If it goes Islam, it goes Islam. However it turns, let it turn. And as for us, we shall live in an escapist world and forget it and let it go – can’t do anything about it, anyway – helpless, forget it. Or, we can rise to meet the storm. We, by God’s grace, can try to measure up in this awful and awesome day and hour.
Could I liken it facetiously to an oyster and an eagle? You know, that little oyster is an unusual little creation. God gave him a wonderful house in which to live. All he has to do is to open his house, and take in his food, and close his house and shut out his enemies; and there he is so perfectly secure in his escapist world on the inside of his little shell – right there he is. But I don’t know of any fish more easily caught and crushed and cooked than an oyster. If I could facetiously remark about him: he always ends up in the soup.
The eagle is an unusual creation of Almighty God. When the storm comes, like these tremendous hurricanes – and isn’t that strange they name them for women, those hurricanes? I wonder why. That eagle is an unusual creation of Almighty God. When the hurricane comes and the fierce storms blow, the eagle sets his pinions against the blow and he rises with it, and up and up is he carried until finally he soars in God’s blue sky above the hurricane and the storm. We can live like an oyster in our little house – in an escapist’s world – or we can rise to meet the storm.
And it’s this last of which now for a moment I want to speak: rising to meet the storm. The ultimate issue of this matter that we so solemnly and terribly face – the ultimate issue will never be decided by guns or by planes or by tanks. There was a day when whole civilizations and whole nations were taken captive by force of arms, but that day is gone forever. Men now are taken captive by ideals: by dreams, by visions, by devotions, by commitments, by persuasions, by great and fundamental beliefs.
I can illustrate that endlessly. England conquered India by a force of arms. Mahatma Gandhi preached a gospel of non-violence. Without the shooting of a shell, without the bursting of a bomb, Mahatma Gandhi wrested from England the liberty of India. How? By force of a great ideal and a vast commitment.
A few days ago, England gave up the Suez Canal. Why, to read that in the newspaper is unbelievable. The Suez Canal – the lifeline of the British Empire: England gave it up, gave it away. Why? Against the powerful ideas, commitments, spirits of the people, she had no opportunity but to acquiesce.
These people who fight on those fields in Korea, who ran that war to a successful conclusion in Indo-China and who stand like birds of prey over Europe today and finally over us – they are people who are given to a vast ideal.
Jesus said the field is the world. The field is the world [Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8]. "No man liveth unto himself; no man dieth unto himself" [Romans 14:7]. The field is the world. Across it moves the Communist with his gospel, the rationalist and the materialist with his philosophy. Across it moves the marching millions of modern Mohammedanism. Across it moves the Roman church. Across it moves all of those words and messages and appeals and commitments that are striving for the allegiance of mankind.
When Alexander the Great died, he had no heir, no child. His generals gathered around him and said, "Alexander, whose is the kingdom? Whose is the kingdom?" And Alexander the Great replied: "It is for him who can take it."
So in this vast world in which we live today, who shall ultimately win it? Barring the intervention of Almighty God, barring the return of the Lord Jesus Christ against the day of His personal appearing, who shall possess it? He shall possess it who has the devotion and the commitment to take it. Whether it be us – we or our enemies – whether it be our faith or somebody else’s faith, it is for him who will dare to take it. Not by bombs, you can’t. Not by guns, you can’t. Not by shrapnel and bullets, you can’t. He will take it – today, if he seizes it, he’ll take it by the appeal of a tremendous idea: a vast and illimitable commitment.
What does that mean for us? What does that mean for us? It means two things. It means first, it means first a missionary program, a preaching program, a gospelizing program beyond anything the Christian church has ever undertaken in its history. It means missions, missions, missions. It means missions here at home. It means missions in the city of Dallas. It means missions across the Southland. It means missions in continental America. It means missions across the sea. It means preaching the message and the hope and the blessing we have in this Book and in Christ Jesus. The man who believes in his faith and who believes in his message and who’s willing to die for it, to him belongs the kingdom! It means missions. It means missions.
It means one other thing. It means one other thing. It means a vast and illimitable and personal commitment to this task – serious, serious, in earnest, in dead earnest, beyond any seriousness or any earnestness by which any people ever assumed a task since Jesus faced the cross on Calvary. It means that today.
I do not know of a more emphatic exclamation point to add to that word than this newspaper report of the suicide and death of the president of Brazil, President Vargas [GetÃºlio Dornelles Vargas]. There’s something strange about that man’s death, and I suppose we’ll never know all of the background. But this much I read in the paper.
Suicide usually means that the man has lost his balance. Like you get sick in your body, the man is sick in his mind; and he’s not responsible, and he takes his life. That’s suicide. Driven by a great fear, driven by an illimitable and unhealable illness, driven by some great disaster or sorrow that breaks the reason of his mind, he takes his life. That’s usually the suicide.
When President Vargas died, somehow, he gave to his death a New Testament interpretation. He died for the sake of a great ideal. He wrote a letter. He closed that letter with these words: "I gave you, my people, my life. Now, I offer my death. Nothing remains." That they might know of the vast commitment of his life in behalf of the people that he says he was trying to help in a poor and dictatorship-ridden country, Vargus says, "I gave you the best of my life. I give you now my death. I have nothing else beside."
When I read that, I thought just an illustration again of the awful seriousness of these days and these hours in which you and I, under God, have cast our lives, our destiny and our fortune. How do we do? How do we do? How does God want us to do? If He lives in heaven, if there’s a God above, I believe He’s on our side; or, could I say better, if there’s a God that lives, we are on His side with this open Book, with this message of hope. And He’s a God that answers prayer, that blesses His people, that gives us final and certain and assured victory. The triumph could never fail in His hands. He just looks to us.
And the Lord God whispered
And said to me:
These things shall be.
These things shall be.
No help shall come
From the scarlet skies
Till my people rise.
Till my people rise,
My arm is weak.
I cannot speak
Till my people speak.
When men are dumb,
My voice is dumb.
I cannot come
Till my people come.
From over the flaming earth and sea,
The cry of My people
Must come to Me.
Not till death
Shall it break the curse,
May I claim My own
In the universe.
But if my people rise,
If my people rise,
I will answer them
From the swarming skies.
["God Prays; Answer, World!" Angela Morgan, 1916]
Out of judgment, our salvation [Romans 5:1]. Out of tribulation, our hope [Romans 5:3-5]. This is the grace wherein we stand [Romans 5:2].
All right, Billy, let’s sing our song; and while we sing it, while we sing it, somebody you, somebody you, give his heart to the Lord, give your life to the Lord, come in to the fellowship of this church, stand by our sides in this witness and this testimony. While we sing the song, today, make it now, make it now and come. In that balcony to the farthest row, in this vast group in this press of people below, somebody you, a family you: "Here we are, Pastor, and here we come." A child, give his heart to Jesus. As God shall make the appeal and press the call home to your heart, while we sing the song, would you step into that aisle and down here by my side? "I’ll make it now, Pastor. I’ll make it now, and here I am. Here I come." While we stand and while we sing.