Christ, The Power Of God
March 13th, 1955 @ 10:50 AM
1 Corinthians 1:18-20
CHRIST THE POWER OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 1:18-20
3-13-55 10:50 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message. The text and the title are the same; Christ the Power of God. In our preaching throughout Word, we are in the first Corinthian letter and the first chapter. And Sunday night, when I last preached here, we closed at the seventeenth verse. So this morning we begin at the eighteenth verse in the first chapter of the first Corinthian letter:
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God . . .
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
But we, we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, unto the Greeks foolishness;
But unto them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
[1 Corinthians 1:18, 21-24]
You could hardly find a more accurate or succinct summary of the reception of the Christian message in the Roman Empire than Paul writes here in that twenty-third verse. We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a, and the Greek word is skandalon, unto the Jews a skandalon [1 Corinthians 1:23]. And we have an English word taken bodily into our language from that word, a scandal, unto the Jews a skandalon, a scandal. To lift up as the hope and the Savior of the world a man who died on a gibbet, as though in our day and in our language and in our customs we bowed before the electric chair. This is the sign of the salvation of the world, Christ crucified, unto the Jews a skandalon [1 Corinthians 1:23].
Unto the Greeks, and the Greek word is mōrian, and in English you transfer that word into our language, too, “a moron, moronic, idiocy, foolishness” [1 Corinthians 1:23]. Unto the sophisticated, the cultured, the learned, the educated Greek, the preaching of the cross of Christ was an idiocy, a foolishness; it was moronic.
But unto us who are called, the chosen of God, unto us who are saved whether Jew or Greek, Christ the, and the Greek word again is dunamis. And we transferred that word bodily into our language, dynamite, dynamo, dynamic, Christ, the power, the dynamite of God [1 Corinthians 1:24]. Isn’t that a marvelous, miraculous thing that came to pass? To us, the cross is a symbol of everything noble, and virtuous, and sacrificial, and godly, and Christian. We adorn it.
When I think of the cross, I never think of a bloody, bloody tree raised up on a hill. I think of it, you wear it on your lapel, around your neck. It is high on the top of church pointing to God. It is embellished. It is made out of gold, at least silver or certainly it is plated. All of that is ours. But to them, the Roman cross had the same significance and connotation of an electric chair or a hangman’s noose. It was the symbol of execution, capital punishment. And when they preached Christ on the cross, as the Savior of the world, to the Jew it was an astounding gospel, and to the learned Greek it was concentrated foolishness and idiocy [1 Corinthians 1:23]. And yet within a comparatively short time those evangelists and apostles and preachers won the civilized world to the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. I say, “That is one of the greatest, wondrous developments in all time and in all of the annals of the story of humanity.” I marvel at it. And you couldn’t read history yourself and not stand in amazement before that fact.
Did you know greater than any miracle He ever performed, and greater than any miracle recorded in the Holy Word, is the wonder of Jesus Himself? Against the rock of the reality and the presence of the living Christ, the Satanic hosts of all ages like pounding waves of the sea have beat: atheism, agnosticism, infidelity, materialism, false philosophy, false ideology, false religion, pseudoscience. And yet, after the passing of the ages, there He stands: lofty, towering, quickened, more alive, mightier, greater than He ever was before; Christ, Christ the gift of God [John 3:16], the love of God [1 John 4:10], the way to God [John 14:6], the Word of God [John 1:1], Christ the dynamite, Christ the power of God [1 Corinthians 1:24].
Now the message this morning, rarely ever do I make one homiletical, but I have today; it is a homiletical sermon. I am to speak first of the magnetic Christ; Christ, the power of God to draw men unto Himself. Then I am to speak of the transforming Christ; Christ the power of God to change men’s hearts. Then I am to speak of the saving Christ; the Christ out of whom virtue went and goes to save the human soul.
Now first, the magnetic Christ; Christ, the power of God to draw men unto Himself [1 Corinthians 1:18]. I am to speak of this miraculous thing of the testimony of the Lord Jesus. The magnetism of the spoken word of the Lord Jesus, or if I can read it as Paul wrote it, this thing of the foolishness of preaching that saves them that believe. I think anybody that had any intelligence would wonder at that, the foolishness of preaching. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” [1 Corinthians 1:21]. Of all of the ways and methods in the world for the saving of the soul and the conversion of a lost humanity, who would ever have thought that the genius of it, and the power of it, and the mediation of it lies in the preaching of the Word?
I would say most anybody would reconsider that and look at it. Paul did. Paul did. In the next chapter, after he was laughed at and scorned and ridiculed at the university city of Athens, leaving, leaving discouraged and greatly disappointed; on that trek that he made down across the Isthmus to the city of Corinth, he had a whole lot of things thinking over in his mind about this thing of the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God. And he writes about it. “And I, brethren, when I came to you, I came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I had made up my mind, I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” [1 Corinthians 2:1-2]. Is that how a man who serves God, who is a minister of the Word of God, is that his message, and is that his ministry? “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” [1 Corinthians 1:21]. I say, every minister of any intelligence, I would be persuaded, has reconsidered that thing and thought it through.
For example, how about psychiatry? How about that in the church? Why, I can point to you world-famous churches. You know them. And their staff of ministers are psychiatrists. How about that? How about that? How about social work? Why, some of the greatest political leaders in America like Norman Thomas, for example, they are ministers of the gospel of Christ, they are preachers. But they are not preaching. They are out in social work, the amelioration of the slums and the masses that live therein. How about that? How about all of these things that we bring into the church? How about those things, travelogues, book reviews, motion pictures, current events, the new thought, and a new theology? How about that?
A wonderful and close friend of mine writes about a great church in one of the vast cities of America. And the letters, and I hear regularly, and the letters are like this: “I don’t understand our church. I don’t understand our church. We don’t have people saved. We don’t have people come. We had a revival meeting and nobody paid any attention. Everybody passed it by. I don’t understand. I don’t understand.”
Yesterday, through the mail, I received from the church that beautiful brochure. That’s a Baptist church, and a tremendous one. And it is located indeed in a great city. And I just wonder as I go through this with you, I just wonder if, in this brochure advertising the program of the church, I just wonder if in this brochure there is not a reason why my friend says to me, “I can’t understand. There is nobody saved. And the people don’t come. And we have no power.” Look at it: Sunday night, “Feature week color film of the life of Jim Voss.” Next Sunday night, “Testimony from the members of the United States champion football team.” Next Sunday night, “From the director of community redevelopment.” Next Sunday night, “‘The Gift,’ a drama by the Davidson Players.” The next Sunday night, “‘The King of Kings,’ a motion picture by Cecil B. DeMille.” The next Sunday night, “A sacred concert by the college choir,” and names the university.
Then I pick up my Book. “And it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” [1 Corinthians 1:21]. I say, I suppose every intelligent minister in this earth has reviewed that thing. What shall I do to minister to the people, and to reach their hearts, and to save their souls? What shall I do? What shall I do? Isn’t it a miraculous thing? Isn’t it a wondrous thing that in the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God there should be latent in the message that power of God [1 Corinthians 1:18], that reaches the heart and transforms the soul? [1 Corinthians 1:21].
Men are divided by many demarcations. Some are rich, some are poor; some are old, some are young; some are learned, some are unlearned; some are black, and some are white, but there is no division in the ableness and the power of the preached message of the Son of God to appeal. The university professor in Cambridge or the Hottentot in Africa; the soldier boy on the battlefield or the anxious mother at home; the mountaineer in his cabin or the plainsman on his pony; the little child in the kindergarten class, the tottering old man toward the grave; to all alike there is a strange unaccountable, miraculous, wondrous appeal in the simple story of Him who died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and who the third day was raised again for our justification [1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 4:25].
I cannot explain it nor can I account for it. You had a pastor here that preached to you the same message seven and forty years. And since I have come, I have been preaching that same story and that same gospel for ten and a half years. And the people are here this morning. They will be back again tonight. Next Lord’s Day, here again and the following Lord’s night, back again, the same message and the same story, talking about the gospel of the Son of God. I cannot explain it. I cannot explain it.
If I had to listen to the same comedian all of the time, or the same entertaining group, I would be just like all of the rest of the world, after a while, you weary of it, some new things, some new way, and some new method and some new show, change the set up; change the props; change the thoughts; change everything. We are so sick and weary; we are filled with ennui with the whole thing. We are satiated. Yet the same people come back day after day, year after year, to hear a man preach the story of the Son of God. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” [1 Corinthians 1:21], Christ the power of God, the magnetic Christ [1 Corinthians 1:18].
How to reach the masses, men of every birth? For an answer, Jesus gave the key, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” [John 12:32]. It is still true. “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” [Revelation 19:10], the magnetic Christ, Christ, the power of God [1 Corinthians 1:18], to draw unto Himself [John 12:32]; the foolishness of preaching that saves them that believe [1 Corinthians 1:21].
My second word: He is the transforming Christ, Christ the power of God to change the human heart. Our world has received and known many wonderful men, great statesmen who have changed the governments of the world, but the human heart continued on unchanged. Wonderful military strategists and leaders and logicians who led their armies in victory and in triumph up and down the earth, and changed the maps of the globe, but the human heart continued on unchanged. We have received and known many great poets, many philosophers, marvelous teachers, and they have enlightened our minds and heightened our aesthetic sensibilities, but the human heart continued on unchanged. But somehow, in the miracle of God, in the power of God, somehow, any time, anywhere that a man meets the Lord Jesus Chris, face to face, somehow it is never the same again. He cannot continue on unchanged. Something happens on the inside. The apostle Paul breathing out threatening and slaughter against the disciples with a high hand making his way to Damascus [Acts 9:1], when finally he arrived at the gates of the city, he was led by the hand, humbled, changed [Acts 9:2-8]. He had met the Lord Jesus in the way [Acts 22:6-16].
We are like that. Going down some self-chosen path, following some selfish ambition, given to some dream we have conjured for ourselves. And then meet the Lord Jesus, and somehow it is never the same again.
I had walked life’s way with an easy tread
And followed where pleasures and comforts led
Until one day in a quiet place,
I met the Master face to face.
With station and wealth and rank for my goal,
Much thought for my body but none for my soul,
I had entered to win in life’s mad race,
When I met the Master face to face.
I had built my castles and reared them high,
Until they pierced the blue of the sky.
I had sworn to rule with an iron mace
When I met the Master face to face.
I met Him and knew Him and blushed to see
That His eyes filled with sorrow were fixed on me.
I faltered and fell at His feet that day,
While my castles melted and vanished away.
Melted and vanished, and in their place,
Naught could I see but the Master’s face.
I cried aloud, “Oh, make me meet
To follow the steps of Thy wounded feet.”
My thought is now for the souls of men.
I lost my life to find it again.
E’er since one day in a quiet place,
I met the Master face to face.
[“Rabboni,” S. T. Carter, Jr., 1899]
Christ the power of God [1 Corinthians 1:18], the transforming Christ [2 Corinthians 5:17]; He is the saving Christ [Luke 2:11]. But unto them who are called, both Jew and Greek, Christ the power of God [1 Corinthians 1:24]; He is the saving Christ [1 Timothy 1:15]. Virtue, out of our Savior [Luke 8:46], He was always that way. In the days of His flesh, He was that way. There was saving power in Him. Thronged and pressed on every side, a woman afflicted came up behind Him, and meekly, shyly, humbly, gently, prayerfully, touched the hem of His garment, for she had said in her heart, “If I but touch the hem of His garment, I will be saved” [Matthew 9:20-21].
And the Lord said, “Who touched Me?” [Luke 8:45].
And Simon Peter, who always had an answer and always ready to speak it out, Simon Peter said, “Why, Lord, they throng Thee and jostle Thee and press Thee on every hand and yet Thou says,”’Who touched Me? Who touched Me?’” [Luke 8:45].
But the Lord Jesus replied, “Yea, but somebody touched Me, for I perceive that virtue, saving power, has gone out of Me” [Luke 8:4-6].
And the woman seeing that she was discovered, fell at His feet and said, “I touched the hem of Your garment, for I have been afflicted lo, these years, and no one could heal me. And I said in my heart, ‘If I but touch the hem of His garment, I will be saved’” [Matthew 9:20-21; Luke 8:47-48]. Virtue went out of Him [Luke 8:46]. That is the Lord Jesus, the power of God, God’s Christ.
And behold a leper, and the Lord Jesus put forth His hand and touched him, and the leper was immediately cleansed [Matthew 8:2-3; Mark 1:40-42]. The woman of the street, bathing His feet, with the tears of her eyes, drying them with the hair of her head, “Rise, thy faith hath saved thee, thy sins forgiven thee” [Luke 7:37, 48]. In the days of His flesh, Christ the power of God to save, to heal, to make whole again [1 Corinthians 1:18].
And the story continues through the years. In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, Philip the deacon went down to Samaria and preached the cross unto them, and there was great joy in the city. The whole city learned of the Lord [Acts 8:5-8]. And the Holy Spirit said go down to Gaza. And the eunuch passed by, and he preached Jesus to him. And he went on his way rejoicing [Acts 8:26-39]. Around the whole civilized world did the apostle Paul and the evangelists go, speaking the word of the Lord Jesus. And multitudes turning to the new faith, and the new Christ and the wonderful Messiah, and they were saved, gloriously converted, Christ the power of God [1 Corinthians 1:18]. And you can’t keep it from happening. You couldn’t.
I read for example, a preacher who was no-count and dumb and didn’t know what to do, but had given his life to God to be a preacher. He took Charles G. Finney’s sermons. The man couldn’t make a sermon of his own. He wasn’t wise enough or smart enough to make a sermon of his own. He took Charles G. Finney’s sermons and stood up there in the pulpit of his church and read verbatim Finney’s sermons. And while he stood there in the pulpit and read to the congregation Finney’s sermons, the people begin to weep before the Lord in great conviction and began to cry out, “And what must we do to be saved?”
You can’t stop it. Give me one man anywhere. He can be a layman. He can be a preacher. She can be a laywoman. He can be anything that has a voice, a record, a radio, a television, a printed page, anything that will proclaim the message of Christ, and as surely as God lives, somebody will hear the word; somebody will be convicted, and somebody will be saved. Not everybody. When the Lord comes again, some will still be lost, but somebody will be saved. Somebody will find the Christ [Jeremiah 29:13]. Faithfully preached, lift Him up, and somebody will be converted.
They asked me upon a time, they asked me to hold a meeting when I was in school. They asked me to hold a meeting way out, it was in southern Indiana in the eastern part of the state, a part of the state where that word hoosier comes from. Very, very rough country, very rough, hills and trees and rivers and valleys and way back out there. I have asked people from Indiana if they knew where that was, people that were born and reared and have lived all their lives in Indiana, they have no idea where I was preaching the gospel. It was so way out. In a little church, Union Rock Baptist Church, and I preached the gospel in that little church to those farmers that gathered there for the hearing of the Word. And while I was there in those days preaching the gospel the best that a boy knew how, while I was there, there came out of one of the cities of Indiana, a hunter. And there in that rough country, with his gun, hunting on a farmer’s place, the farmer saw him and walked up to him and introduced himself, and as they conversed, the farmer said, “Sir, we are having a revival meeting down at our little church. We would love to have you come and attend the revival.
The man replied, “Why sir, I am not dressed to go to church. These are all of the clothes that I have, just these old hunting clothes.”
Said the farmer, “That doesn’t matter. That doesn’t matter. We’re just farming people out here. We don’t have to dress up to go to church, you come and welcome.”
And the hunter finally replied, he said, “Friend, just to tell you the truth, I don’t ever go to church any time; even when I am home, I don’t go to church.
Well, the evening came. And unknown to anybody and least of all to me, while that hunter was seated around his campfire that evening, he changed his mind and decided to accept the farmer’s invitation and come to church. And without anyone knowing it, he stayed outside and listened to the gospel message through a window in the church. A little while thereafter, a few weeks thereafter, there came down the aisle of one of the great city churches in Indiana, there came a fine young businessman, and he gave the pastor his hand saying that he had been saved and he wanted to join the church.
Now they don’t accept them up north like we do down here. When a man goes down the aisle and wants to join the church in a northern church, he has to appear before the deacons and tell them his experience of grace. Then the deacons recommend his being baptized of the church. So the young businessman appeared before the deacons, and they asked him his experience of grace. How he was saved. And this was his story.
He said, “Upon a day, I was hunting in the southeastern part of Indiana. And while I was there, a farmer met me on whose place I was hunting and he asked me to go to church.”
I said, “No, I am not dressed to go.
He said, “We are just plain farming people. Come anyway.”
And I confessed to him, even at home, I never go to church. “But,” said the man, “that night, around my campfire, I changed my mind. I decided to go. I stood outside the church and listened to a young man through the window. I do not know his name. I do not know who he was, but that night, that night, I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus Christ. And God saved me. And I want to be baptized and be a member of this church.”
The city pastor told the country pastor, and the country pastor told me. It never fails. It never fails.
Down the aisle, down the aisle in the church that I pastored, came a boy about twelve years old, gave me his hand.
“Son,” I said, “you?”
“Well,” I said, “this was it.”
His daddy, not a Christian, and died without the Lord. His mother, a faithful Christian came to me saying, “Pastor, won’t you talk to my husband?”
“Yes,” I said, “I will go see your husband.”
And in the evening, in the evening, kind of later in the evening, I went to his house, and there was the mother and the father and that boy. And the mother knowing why I had come, the mother as soon as she could, sent the boy to bed. And then as soon as she could, as well, she dismissed herself, and so I talked to the man a long time, just he and I there in the living room, to no end, to no avail. He was hard-like, adamant, and he wouldn’t yield his heart to Christ. And I left discouraged; discouraged and kind of blue and disappointed.
It was that following Sunday morning, the boy came down and took my hand and said, “I have given my heart to Christ. I have been saved.”
And I said, “When son?”
And he said, he said, “Last Thursday night when you came out to our house, and you were talking to my dad,” he said to me, “you thought I was asleep, that I had gone to bed and gone to sleep. He said, “I left the door open in my room. I left the door open and while you told my dad about how to be saved, I listened to you myself and my dad did not give his heart to Christ, but I did. That night, Thursday night, in my bed while you were telling him about the Lord, I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus.”
It never fails. It never will. Our testimony sometimes may be very feeble and very poor. It may stammer in its delivery and we may stutter in its sentence, but faithfully, earnestly, if we preach the gospel of the Son of God, it has in it that miracle from above. He is Christ the power of God [1 Corinthians 1:18].
It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them who believe [1 Corinthians 1:21], to the Jew a scandal, to the Greek moronic foolishness [1 Corinthians 1:23], but to us who are called, Christ, the power of God, the wisdom of God, the love of God, our hope in God, our way to glory and to home [1 Corinthians 1: 24, 30].
And by that radio, if you have listened, would you give your heart to Christ today? Would you so? Right where you sit, would you bow your head? Would you give your heart to Christ? Would you?
In this vast throng of people that press into this auditorium today, in that topmost balcony to the last seat up there, somebody you, would you step into that aisle and down here to the front and by my side, “Pastor, this day, this day, I do give my heart and my life to the Lord Jesus Christ. And here I am. Here I am.”
Anybody you, anywhere, “Here I come, pastor, and here I am.” A family to put your life in the church, somebody to come by letter, any way God says the word and makes the appeal, while we sing the song, make it now, if God calls. But unto us who are called [1 Corinthians 1:24], if God calls, He is Christ the power of God, our saving Lord [1 Corinthians 1:18]. Would you come? While we stand and while we sing.
CHRIST THE POWER OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 1:18-24
A. The reception of the Christian message in the Roman world
1. To the Jews, a scandal
2. To the Greeks, idiocy and foolishness
3. To us who are called, saved, the power of God
B. To us the symbol of the cross is noble, virtuous, godly
C. One of the greatest developments in all humanity – early apostles won civilized world to Christ
D. Of all the miracles, the greatest is that of Christ Himself
1. Against the reality of the living Christ, the evil of the centuries has beat
2. Yet there He stands, lives, and reignsII. The magnetic Christ(John 12:32, Revelation 19:10)
A. The magnetism of the testimony of Jesus
1. The “foolishness of preaching”(1 Corinthians 1:21)
2. Most anybody would reconsider ministry of preaching (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)
3. Great church in vast city – no on being saved, people passing by
a. Brochure from them showed no one preaching gospel
B. Men are divided by many demarcations
1. But there is no division in the power of Christ to appeal(1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
a. You had same pastor and message 47 yearsIII. The transforming Christ
A. The world has received, known many amazing men, but the human heart continued unchanged
B. To meet Jesus you are never the same again (Acts 9:1-9)IV. Saving power
A. In the days of His flesh(Matthew 14:34-35, Mark 5:25-34)
B. In the story of the Acts
C. Continues today
1. Preaching in Union Flat Rock Baptist Church
2. Boy who got saved while I was appealing to his father