While Apollos Was At Corinth


While Apollos Was At Corinth

January 17th, 1954

And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
Print Sermon

Related Topics

Downloadable Media

sorry, there are no downloads available

Share This Sermon
Show References:


Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 19:1

1-17-54    10:50 a.m.


In our preaching through the Word, we have come to the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Acts.  And for the last several Sundays, we have been preaching through the verses in this chapter; we have now come to the last part.  If I were to entitle the sermon, I’d call it God’s Eloquent Preacher, or taking the text, While Apollos Was at Corinth.  Now let us read the passage.  In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, the twenty-fourth verse:

And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.

This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.

And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of the Lord more perfectly.

And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, Greece, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:

For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul…

[Acts 18:24-19:1]

Then you pick up the story again.

You have here mentioned three friends who were closely associated with Paul in the work of the ministry.  The first two are Aquila and Priscilla.  The eighteenth chapter of Acts begins with our introduction to them.   Claudius Caesar, in about 47 AD, had passed an edict expelling all Jews out of Rome [Acts 18:1-2].  The historian Suetonius said that there was a riot in Rome over one “Crestus”; and Claudius, not bothering to find out why, summarily, peremptorily expelled the whole colony of Jews out of the city of Rome.  And two of them who were sent away were Aquila and Priscilla.  They came to Corinth and settled in the great commercial city of Corinth.  And in the destiny and providence of God, as they were coming from the west, Paul was coming from the east; and they met there in that city.  Paul having no other means of support made his way, earned his bread by making tents.  So naturally he was drawn to that circle among the Jewish people who were of the same trade.  So he came to know as fellow tentmakers Aquila and Priscilla; and he lived in their home [Acts 18:3].

I notice here—you who listen on the radio, I went to get a program this morning—I notice here in your program there is a passage, 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”; orthotomounta ton logon tēs alētheias, “rightly dividing the word of truth.”  That word orthotomounta ton alētheias, that word orthotomounta is a tentmaker’s word.  And the literal Greek translation of it is “cutting with scissors, cutting a straight line.”  When they made tents, the panels out of which they cut into the coarse, black, goat canvas had to be cut just so, or else the tent wouldn’t hang right, wouldn’t shed water, wouldn’t be good.  Well, Paul was a tentmaker, and they had to cut that canvas just so, so the tent would be beautifully shaped.  That’s the word he uses there in that passage, which is your Training Union watchword: “rightly dividing,” correctly cutting, straight with scissors, “the word of truth.”

I can see those dear people as they lived together and as Paul began to talk to them about Jesus: the Jesus of Bethlehem, and of Galilee, and of Calvary, and of Olivet, and of heaven, and who is coming again [Acts 18:5].  I can just see them as they were sewing those tents together.  But the needles are still and silent as Paul tells the story to Aquila and Priscilla.  They became Christians there under the ministry of Paul [Acts 18:1-4].  Then when Paul left Corinth, he took Aquila and Priscilla with him; they went to Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia.  And then Paul went on to Caesarea, to Judea, and to Antioch; and he left Aquila and Priscilla in the capital city of Ephesus [Acts 18:18-19].  Now while Paul was gone, while Aquila and Priscilla were in Ephesus—and between the time that Paul was at Ephesus and left on that second missionary journey [Acts 18:18-23], and until the time that he returned to Ephesus on his third missionary journey [Acts 19:1] in that hiatus of time in there, there came to Ephesus a brilliant, learnéd man.  He was an eloquent man.  He was a tremendous orator.  And his name was Apollos.  He was an Alexandrian [Acts 18:24].

Of all of the men who have ever preached in the world, first I would have loved to have heard Isaiah.  Isaiah lived seven hundred fifty years before Christ, but he preached the cross of Jesus as though he stood there looking at the Savior die.  “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him,” as though he stood there looking at Jesus die, “and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all [Isaiah 53:6].  He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” [Isaiah 53:5].  You’d think he was standing there, but he lived seven hundred fifty years before Jesus died for our sins.  I would have loved, out of all of the preachers of all time, I would have loved to have heard Isaiah, first.

Who would I like to hear second?  You’re going to be surprised: out of all the preachers of all time and of all the generations, the second man I would have loved to have heard, after Isaiah, is this eloquent Alexandrian Apollos.  “Well preacher, now isn’t that strange?  Do you have any specimen of his sermons?  Do you have any, do you have any, any remains of his work?  Is there anything by which you could judge the kind of a preacher that he was?”  I think so.  Why, you see, I think Apollos delivered that matchless, incomparable sermon that you call the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament.  The Book of Hebrews is a sermon.  It is gloriously, beautifully, meticulously, scholarly, homiletically arranged.  And it rises to heights and flights of oratory beyond which you have ever found or seen in the world, outside of Isaiah.  And in any study of systematic theology, there is always a special book and a special chapter on the theology of the Book of Hebrews.

Now, when we get to Hebrews, I’ll preach more about that.  But in passing let me say this word: if Apollos did not write the Book of Hebrews, then another man wrote it who was exactly like Apollos, exactly.  Whoever wrote the Book of Hebrews was a literary Hellenist, learned in the philosophy of Alexandria; and he was practiced in the casuistry and the disputations and the arguments of the Greek Septuagint; and he used the Alexandrian text of the Greek Scriptures; and he was familiar and used them as though he’d handled them since youth; all of the philosophical ideas in the great intellectual city of Alexandria.  If Apollos did not write the Book of Hebrews, a man wrote it exactly like Apollos.

Well, why not Apollos?  Apollos is described here in the Bible as born in Alexandria, trained and educated in Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures [Acts 18:24].  And he mightily convinced his hearers, proving by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ [Acts 18:28].  Ah, could we but have heard that man preach!

Let’s look at him.  He was born and reared and educated in Alexandria.  Alexandria, in the days of the Roman Empire, was what Athens was in the days of the Greek Empire.  Alexandria was the university city and the intellectual center of the world.  It was founded by Alexander the Great, and so situated at the mouth of the Nile that he thought by means of that city he could bring to bear upon Egypt the thought, and the philosophy, and the language, and the culture, and the learning of the Greek people.  And Alexander the Great succeeded in that desire beyond his fondest dreams.  Alexandria, in size, was the second city of the Roman Empire, next to Rome it was the largest.  And it certainly was without rival in the ancient world in its great learning and erudition and scholarship.  Any great scholar, any man of letters would find his way some time to the intellectual center of Alexandria.

They had there the greatest library the world has ever known: the library of the Ptolemies in Alexandria.  If we had that library today, there were multiplied questions about the Bible, and about the apostles, and about Jesus, and about the early days of the church that would be like an open book.  But the tragedy of all tragedies that has ever happened is this: that the Mohammedan Caliph Omar, when they fought for and won Alexandria, Omar said, “If there’s anything in that great library that’s not in the Koran, it’s not needed.  If there’s anything in that great library that is in the Koran, it’s not needed.  So burn it down.”  And they destroyed the intellectual university library center of incomparable and glorious Alexandria.  It’s a loss that can never be repaired.

In that city, this man Apollos was born, and he was reared, and he was educated [Acts 18:24].  We don’t know just when Philo lived.  Anytime you see a history or a story of Philo, the greatest Jewish philosopher who ever lived, anytime you read a story of Philo, they will say he was born and lived somewhere in the first century BC, in the first century AD.  Now I’m talking this morning about that period of time.  That’s the period of time in which Apollos lived.  Apollos either sat at the feet of Philo, or had Philo died, Apollos was trained in the school of Philo, the great Alexandrian Greek Jewish philosopher.

I want to pause here to make a distinction between the education of Paul and the education of Apollos.  Paul was educated in the Talmudic rabbinical schools in Jerusalem.  Paul sat, he himself said, at the feet of Gamaliel [Acts 22:3], the first rabban, the highest title the Jewish people can give a famous rabbi.  And Paul was thought to be in every respect a strict Pharisee.  He was trained in the casuistry and the disputations of the Sadducees and the Pharisees, and the schools of Hillel and Shammai.  He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews [Philippians 3:5].  He read the Hebrew, he studied the Hebrew text, he himself spoke Hebrew, Aramaic, and he was a party to all of the scholasticism and all of the theological hairsplitting by which they gave themselves to Hebrew learning and tradition.  Now that is the education of the apostle Paul.

The education of Apollos was as different as night is from day.  Apollos lived in Alexandria [Acts 18:24], and he was taught Greek learning, Greek rhetoric, Greek oratory, Greek astronomy, Greek mathematics, Greek science, and he was taught that under the guidance of this great Jewish philosopher Philo.  Philo was a Greek, was a Jewish philosopher who took the Holy Scriptures, and by allegory, by spiritualizing, made the Old Testament Scriptures, translated now into Greek, called the Septuagint, he took those Greek Scriptures of the Old Testament, and he made them tell, teach the story of Greek philosophy.  Now when I tell you that, it doesn’t mean a thing in the world to you; I’ll give you an illustration.

By the time the Philonian Jewish Greek philosophers of Alexandria brought to bear astronomy, and philosophy, and drama, and poetry, and literature of the Greeks upon say, the first chapter of Genesis, they made the story of the creation read like a leaf out of a Timaeus of Plato.  Like this: the garden of Eden [Genesis 2:8-17, 3:1-13]; the paradise, is no longer a paradise on earth, but it represents the highest element of the soul; and the trees in the garden, of which it was full, are no longer trees, but they represent the ten thousand thoughts that fill the mind of man.  And the tree of life is not a tree of life, but it represents godliness.  And the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not a tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but it is a symbol for that, quote, “mutual understanding,” end quote, that lies, that hovers on the borderline of vice and virtue.  And the serpent is not a serpent, but he is a symbol of pleasure and lust that grovels and eats dust.  And the four rivers in the garden of Eden were not four rivers at all, but they represented the four great cardinal Greek virtues.  There’s not a schoolboy that isn’t taught from the days of your classroom those four great cardinal Greek virtues: prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice.  Now that’s what they did.  That’s Alexandria.  That’s Philonian.  And this man Apollos was brought up in that learning; flights of oratory, flights of imagination, flights of philosophy, flights of poetic fancy.  And being a dedicated man, and knowing the Scriptures, and fervent in spirit, when he came to Ephesus and began to preach, they never heard a man preach like that [Acts 18:24-26].  The poetry of it, the eloquence of it, the oratory of it, the fervency of it, the movement of it, the glory of it; why, it had never been seen in the earth, when this man Apollos stood up to preach in Ephesus.

Now, there was just one thing wrong: as he preached, he knew the way of the Lord perfectly, up until the crucifixion [Matthew 27:32-50], up until the resurrection [Matthew 28:5-7], up until Pentecost [Acts 2:1-47], up until the ascension [Acts 1:9-10].  He knew the Lord Jesus this side of the cross and this side of the resurrection.  “He knew the way of the Lord perfectly, knowing only the baptism of John” [Acts 18:25].  Now that means this—I think it’s because that’s all he knew; that was as far as the story had been told Apollos—but it means this: when Apollos preached the Lord Jesus, he preached the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29], he preached an ethical Jesus, he preached a spiritualized, glorified Judaism.  That’s the reason he had such great flights of liberty.  He knew the Lord Jesus as a prophet, but he didn’t know Him as a priest, as a Savior, as an atoning Lord, and as a coming King.  He preached this side, the other side, the pre-crucifixion, the pre-resurrection, the pre-pentecostal story of the Lord Jesus.

Now that gives me opportunity to define the true Christian message.  The true Christian message is never just the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29], or just an ethical Jesus, or just a moral Christ.  Apollos had a great buzzword, “repentance,” and had a great sign, immersion; but those things are not the Christian message.  The Christian message is post-crucifixion, post-resurrection, post-Pentecostal.  When a man preaches the true gospel of Christ, he preaches that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3]; that He was buried, and He rose the third day again according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:4]; and that according to the blessed hope [Titus 2:13], He is coming again to judge the quick and the dead [2 Timothy 4:1].  Now that is the preaching of the gospel message.

So when Aquila and Priscilla sat there and listened to the matchless oratory, and the glorious eloquence of this man Apollos as he preached, as he thundered, as he turned into a passion concerning repentance and morality and the ethical sermon of Jesus as He preached it on the mount, there was a defect in his preaching: he needed something else; he didn’t know the consummation of the story of the Lord—His crucifixion [Matthew 27:32-50] and His resurrection [Matthew 28:5-7].  So Aquila and Priscilla, as they listened to him, saw that tremendous need in his heart, and in his life, and in his message [Acts 18:26].

Now how do you convert a preacher?  How do you do it?  And an eloquent one, like Apollos, how do you do it?  E. F. Hallock, who is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Norman, Oklahoma, has been up there in that university city for about thirty years.  E. F. Hallock was pastor; we call him Preacher Hallock; he was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Pittsburg, Kansas, and he was preaching, and he was preaching that kind of a Christ: an ethical Christ, a social Christ, the Christ of the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29].  And to the amazement of his congregation, one day he stepped out of the pulpit, called up the chairman of the board of deacons, gave him his hand and said, “I’ve been saved.  I’ve been converted.  I’ve been a liberal, I’ve been a modernist,  I’ve been preaching a social gospel.  I’ve been preaching an ethical Christ, but I have found Him as my personal Savior in the forgiveness of my sin, and I believe Him now as my own Lord and Savior” [Romans 10:9-13].  And he was baptized in the First Baptist Church of Pittsburg, Kansas.  Talk about a sensation!  It created one, and does today.

That’s what needed to be done with Apollos.  How do you do it?  You know that would be a delicate thing, to go up to a mighty, eloquent man like Apollos, and say, “There’s something defective in your message.  There’s something lacking in your sermon.”  How do you do it?  All right, I’ll tell you how to do it: invite him to dinner, invite him to dinner, invite him to dinner.  When Aquila and Priscilla heard that man preach, they took him unto them [Acts 18:26]; took him home with them.  And this woman Priscilla, she cooked hog jowl and turnip greens, she had cornbread and buttermilk, she had, she had country ham and sorghum molasses and hot biscuits; she had every good thing that you can think of.  None of this stuff you know like you get down there at the delicatessen on which a guy could eat forever and starve to death, she had a real dinner for him; a good old country dinner for him, one like you used to eat out there where we were fetched up.  That’s the kind she had; not this stuff in the city, not down there at the club.  She made the best dinner Apollos ever ate.  And then as Apollos began to eat and to break bread, and the warm friendship between them began to grow, then Aquila and Priscilla began to talk to Apollos about the Savior’s death [Matthew 27:32-50], about His atoning blood [Matthew 26:28; Romans 5:11; Hebrews 9:22], about His resurrection [Matthew 28:5-7], about His ascension in glory [Acts 1:9-10], about His ministry of intercession [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25], and about the blessed hope coming again [Titus 2:13].  They began to teach Apollos the true meaning of the life, and message, and ministry, and preaching of the Lord Jesus [Acts 18:26].

What happened?  Didn’t I tell you I’d rather hear Apollos than any man that ever preached, outside of Isaiah?  What happened?  This could have happened: fresh from the university of Alexandria, just come from sitting at the feet of the incomparable Philo, the greatest Jew, outside of maybe some of those in the Old Testament, who ever lived, learned and eloquent, “These tentmakers telling me what to preach”; could have been that way.  But Apollos, as he sat there, he listened to the humble message of those humble people who worked with their hands.  There was no pride of intellect in him.

My Hebrew teacher, Dr. John R. Sampey, president of the seminary, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, my Hebrew teacher, Dr. Sampey, born on a poor farm in Alabama, and grew up down there among those Negroes who lived in those little cabins, Dr. Sampey used to say to us as he’d teach us from the Hebrew Scriptures, he’d say, “Fellas, when you get stale in your heart, and when your mind gets clogged with all of these things that you’re reading about and studying about,” he said, “go down there to some old Negro cabin, and sit down by the side of some old sainted Negro woman or Negro man, and talk, and listen, and get your heart warm once again.”  Ah, I loved him.  I like him.  This great scholar, one of the greatest in the world, yet sit at the feet of an old Negro man, in a slave cabin, getting his heart warm, learning the spirit of the Lord Jesus.

That’s Apollos.  That’s Apollos: eloquent, learned, mighty, a great Greek orator, sitting there by those humble tentmakers, learning the true message and meaning of the Lord Jesus [Acts 18:26].  Well, you ought to have heard Apollos then.  When he stood up, having been taught by Aquila and Priscilla, and having learned the true message of the cross [Matthew 28:32-50], and of the resurrection [Matthew 28:5-7], say, you ought to have heard Apollos then.  My soul!  My soul, how he preached, how he preached!

How did he preach?  Turn to Hebrews and read.  Is there anything in all literature like the flight of Apollos, as he sweeps into that eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the faith chapter?  “By faith Abraham” [Hebrews 11:8], and “by faith Moses” [Hebrews 11:23], and “by faith,” the rest of the saints of God [Hebrews 11:24-40]:

Wherefore seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Amen.

[Hebrews 12:1-2]

Brother, that’s how to preach!  That’s Apollos.  That’s Apollos.

And if you want to know the spiritual significance of the sacrifices and of the temple, read the Book of Hebrews.  Alexandrian, Greek philosophical, but oh, the inspired message of God; that’s Apollos.

They went over there to Corinth, and in Corinth, in the city of Corinth, having left Ephesus, he went to Corinth [Acts 19:1], and over there in Corinth, he had an ideal space in which to practice his glorious ministry and preach his gospel.  And the inevitable happened—always happens—the inevitable happened: over there in Corinth, some of them said, as they listened to Apollos, they said, “This man Paul is a great preacher, but he can’t preach like Apollos.  This man Paul is a great missionary and a great founder, but he’s not the sermonizer and the eloquent genius that Apollos is.”  And so over there in the city of Corinth, why, they split up into factions [1 Corinthians 1:10-11].  In the letter that Paul writes to Corinth, in the first chapter and the twelfth verse, he says, “Now this I say, that some of you say, I am of Paul; and some of you say, I am of Apollos” [1 Corinthians 1:12].  And then you turn to the third chapter:

For are ye not carnal: for witnesses there are among you.  For whereas there is envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal?  For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos . . .

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man the power to believe?

I have planted, Apollos watered; it is God that gave the increase.

So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither is he that watereth any thing; but God that giveth the increase.

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward. . .

For we are laborers together with God.

[1 Corinthians 3:3-9]

And so all he talks about him and Apollos—isn’t that just as normal and isn’t that just as natural as it could be?  There were people all over that great church at Corinth, when Apollos got through preaching to them, they’d come up to him and they’d say, “Listen here, listen here, this man Paul is plain of speech, but oh, your glorious oratory!  This man Paul is very blunt and very much to the point, but say, the great learning by which you teach is the way of God!”

Now let me tell you something that I think is true: Paul had tremendous mental equipment, and he made tremendous, wrought tremendous mental achievements; he was a giant in his mind.  And he had a great knowledge of the literature of the Old Testament; but he was not the superior of Apollos in those things.  And in the ability to impress an educated Greek audience, Paul did not begin to compare with this eloquent man Apollos.  When Apollos went over there to that church at Corinth where Paul had preached, that he founded, where he’d been pastor several years, those people said, “This man Apollos, he’s our man.  He’s our man.”  And they had an Apollos faction in there; Apollosites, or whatever you’d call them [1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:4].  Why, I’ve heard preachers called “-ites,” you know, people following them; you know, oh, this and this and this, and then they compare them.  Isn’t that just as normal as it can be?

All right, what kind of a man is Apollos?  Didn’t I tell you I liked him?  I loved him, I admired him?  What kind of a man was this man Apollos?  He could have fed that, couldn’t he?  “That’s right, that’s right, oh that sounds like music to my ears; greater than Paul, more learned than Paul, more oratorical than Paul, more eloquent than Paul.”  He could have fed that thing, and he could have rejoiced in it; measuring himself against Paul and listening to the plaudits of the people.  How did Apollos do?  This is Apollos: he left.  When he found that he was being made a party to faction and to strife in the church there in Corinth, he left and where did he go?  He went to Ephesus, where Paul was preaching; and he associated himself with his brother Paul.  As, listen to Paul as he writes to the church at Corinth:

As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren; but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have a more convenient opportunity.

 [1 Corinthians 16:12]

Can’t you see those two men, Apollos and Paul, as they stand side by side there in the city of Ephesus?  Can’t you see them?  Paul says to Apollos, “Apollos, put aside your fears; go back to the church, go back to the church.”  And Apollos says, “Not so, Paul, I’m staying loyal and true to you.  Paul, they’ve made me a party to a faction there in the church, and I refuse to be a party of a factious element in any church.  And I’m not going back because if I do it would just re-create that old comparison by which some of them pull away from you and want to follow me.  And I’m staying by you, Paul.  I am your yokefellow.”  And look at Paul as he writes, “He that planteth and he that watereth are one [1 Corinthians 3:8].  I planted, Apollos watered [1 Corinthians 3:6]; but we are one in heart, in mind, in soul, and in spirit.  For we are laborers together with God, Apollos and I” [1 Corinthians 3:9].  I can just see those two men as each one of them pays deference to the other.  When Apollos introduced Paul, he did it gloriously.  And when Paul introduced Apollos, he did it no less wonderfully.  Those two men of God, together yokefellows in the ministry of the Lord.

Now I come to my application.  There is a sin above all other sins in the ministry.  There is a sin above all other sins in the church and among the people of God.  And do you know what that sin is?  The sin above all other sins in the ministry and in the service of God and in the church is this: it is the sin of ambition, spiritually, ecclesiastically ambitious; it’s the sin of envy and of jealousy.  “I want to shine.  I want the leading place.  I want to be chairman of the deacons.  I want to be leader in the church.  I want to stand out.  I want my name known.”  And the higher up you get in the church, the more vicious is that thing, until like a snake it sticks its forked tongue into the face of the very leader and patriarch and pastor and bishop of the church.

This week, this week, and I’ve cut it out, this week this little passage here: they are recounting the trial of Bishop Helander in the Swedish church in Sweden.  And the court has dethroned him; they’ve taken away his office of bishop, and have taken away his bishopric because they found that he got that office by a vain, unspeakable ambition.  He wrote anonymous letters and mimeographed them and sent them out about his fellow ministers, in order that he might be elected.  All right, this is the comment upon that trial in Sweden: “But the destruction caused by ambition is not confined to episcopally organized churches like the national Swedish church: it plays havoc in every kind of church, including those that boast of their democratic and egalitarian features.  There is no conceivable kind of church organization ranging all the way from the tight discipline of monastic orders and the Salvation Army, to the looser association of Full Gospel tabernacles, where the corrosion of ambition is not a constant threat.  Nor as long as the Christian ministry remains in mortal and therefore sinning hands, can the destruction caused by these seductions of ambition be wholly escaped.”  And if I were brazen enough, I’d just stand here in this pulpit and repeat to you just what I see as I walk around among the ministry.

I had a young fellow from California, he was holding a big revival meeting here in Dallas for the whole city, he came to see me in my study there.  And the first thing he did, for the first thirty minutes, he just took Billy Graham down the line.  And as I listened to him, as I listened to him, what do you think I thought about him?  I knew exactly what was the matter with him: he was envy, he was jealousy, he was eaten up because some other brother in the faith had the publicity, and the headline, and the acclaim, and the plaudits of the people; and he was barely known, and he was about to die.  And he found every fault he could find with Billy Graham.  He was envious; he was jealous of his brother preaching the gospel of the faith of the Son of God.  As I walk around among my fellow pastors, I have felt the sting of it myself and the brunt of it myself. I felt it, God only knows how many times, for no other reason than that in the providence of God, they happened to call a poor, unknown, unnamed, unheard of boy from the red dirt of Oklahoma to be pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  Therefore, pass you by, and spurn you, and not look at you, or speak to you.  And if they had an opportunity, do everything they could to push you down, push you down, push you down.

I say, whether it is in me as a minister, or in they as a minister, or in them as a minister, or in you as a deacon, or in you as a member of the church, or in you as a follower of God, the most despicable, unholy, satanic, corrosive, terrible thing if it ever comes into your life as a servant of the Lord Jesus: to be envious, to be jealous, “Oh, I ought to be there, I ought to be there, instead of him.”

How ought we to be?  Listen just for a moment, and I’m through.  There was a great pulpiteer and a marvelous preacher in London by the name of F. B. Meyer.  If you’ve studied anything of the history of the church of our Baptist people at all or read any Christian literature, you’ve read F. B. Meyer.  Dr. Truett, for a generation, every time anybody married he gave them a little book by F. B. Meyer.  That’s the man I’m talking about, F. B. Meyer; a glorious minister of the gospel, one of God’s true servants.  Right in the middle, right in the heart of the ministry of F. B. Meyer there came to London a star, I mean a star: the greatest star that has ever appeared in our Baptist galaxy, in our firmament.  There came a star.  The young fellow’s name—he was just about nineteen years old—the young fellow’s name was Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and he was just a boy.  And in the very heart and in the very ministry of F. B. Meyer, there came to London that star, that preacher, that other Apollos, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  And the people began to crowd into Spurgeon’s church, they began to listen to Spurgeon preach, and by the thousands every Sunday morning, and every Sunday night, at one time in the week, those people were there listening to the matchless Spurgeon as he preached.  And F. B. Meyer nearly died.  Ah, it precipitated a conflict in his heart and in his life that nearly ruined his ministry.  That young fellow, with the marvelous crowd, and the glorious oratory, and his name on every lip, everybody’s lips, and F. B. Meyer—you know what F. B. Meyer said he did?  Meyer said, “I got down on my knees before God, and I said, ‘Lord, I am going to love that young fellow.  I’m going to love him.  And I’m going to take him into my heart, and I’m going to pray for him.  And I’m going to rejoice over every victory that You give him, O God.’”  F. B. Meyer said he took Spurgeon into his heart, and he loved him, and he prayed for him, and he asked God’s blessings upon him.  And he said, “As the years passed, I rejoiced in the favor and the advancement and the worldwide fame of the young man Spurgeon, as though every sermon he preached, and every soul that he won, and every victory that he gained, as though I had done it myself.”  Oh! the spirit of loving one another in the ministry, in the church, in the work of the Lord, paying deference to one another: “When you do good and the people acclaim it, I acclaim it too.  God bless you.”  And when you do good, and when you do good, and when you do good, when any man does good, ah, rejoice in it, “Lord, we’re grateful for it.  Look at that boy preach.  Listen to him preach.  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  Let him preach.  Let him preach.”  Don’t go to his back and say all this and all that and all the other: all nothing.  Hallelujah, listen to him preach; listen to him preach.  Look at that women build her Sunday school class.  Look at that young man teach.  Look how that man pours his life into his work and ministry.  Hallelujah!  Thank God for them.  Thank God for them.  The spirit of Apollos and of Paul: Paul says to Apollos, “I’m for you Apollos.”  And Apollos says to Paul, “Paul, I’m for you Paul,  God bless you.”

If the wide world stood row on row

And stones at you began to throw,

I’d boldly out with them to fight,

Saying they were wrong and you were right.

If every bird on every tree,

With note as loud as loud could be,

Sang endlessly in your dispraise,

One graceless thought it would not raise.

If all the great, and wise and good,

Upon your sins in judgment stood—

They’d simply waste their valued breath,

For I’m your friend through Life and Death.

If I were wrong, and they were right,

I’d not believe (for all their might),

Not even if all they said were true,

For you love me and I love you.

[from “The Hills of Hell,” D. Mountjoy]

So just try to split us up.  Just try to pull us apart.  Just try to tear asunder, just try.  I’m for you, and you’re for me.  And all of us are like that: together in God.

Man a’livin’, my soul, my soul! If you had preachers like that who loved one another, and teachers like that, and a staff like that, and members like that–plenty to find fault with among us all, plenty, plenty–but we’re together with the Lord.  Bless His name.  Hallelujah, amen!

Well, I better quit so you can come back tonight and hear me again, don’t you think?  Don’t you think?  I don’t know what you’re going to do with me if I keep preaching longer every time.  Billy Souther, we’ll have to cut out all the singing, just let me come in here and preach.  Oh, I love to preach—if just somebody will listen to me, just somebody listen to me.  Oh, bless your heart, bless your heart!

Well, we sing our song, sing our song.  In that topmost balcony, way up there, anywhere, anywhere around, somebody give his heart to the Lord [Romans 10:9-13].  “I’ll take the Lord, your Lord, as my Savior.  I’ll do it today” [Ephesians 2:8].  To come into the fellowship of the church, “Preacher, I have heard you love one another down there; the warmth, the appeal, I’d like to be with you.  Here’s my whole family”; or one somebody you, as God shall open the door and say the word, anywhere, somebody you, “Today, I make it now.  I’ll make it now,” while we stand and while we sing.