If the Nations Have Any Hope
November 13th, 1955 @ 7:30 PM
IF NATIONS HAVE ANY HOPE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 12:2
11-13-55 7:30 p.m.
In our preaching through the Word, we’re in the twelfth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, and the sermon tonight is on the second verse: "You know that ye were heathen, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as you were led." That’s Paul’s introductory sentence as he begins to speak to the brethren in Corinth. "You know that you were Gentiles," you were heathen, "led astray, even as you followed these idols" that can’t hear, can’t speak, "even as ye were led by them" [1 Corinthians 12:2].
That was written long, long time ago – almost two thousand years ago – and the tragedy of the world today is that after these two thousand years, there are more people who are led astray by idol worship than there were in the days of the apostle Paul. There are more lost people today in the world than there were in the days of Jesus Christ. There are more people outside of the kingdom of God today than there were in the days of the apostles. And what Paul says there of the nations is true today of the vast numbers of races and families who inhabit this globe at this hour: "You know that ye were heathen, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led" [1 Corinthians 12:2].
One-half of the world is hungry every day, all the time. One-half of the world is sick every day and all the time. More than one-half of this world is never adequately clothed and never adequately housed. Is it because the earth is sterile? It does not produce? It cannot support the vast and increasing population of the globe? Not at all. This world, this globe, the fertility of its continental soil, the vast food resources of its oceans, is more than able to support many times the number of people who inhabit its surface.
Then why is it that the world is mostly hungry and mostly sick and mostly naked and mostly without any of the comforts of life? It is because they don’t have God in their hearts. Well, how could having God in a man’s heart feed his mouth and clothe his body and give him a shelter under which to abide?
Could I illustrate it in something that was said by Dr. Henry Bennett who was the president of A&M College, the son of a Baptist preacher, who was appointed by the government of the United States to administer Point Four – that technical assistance program to all of the underprivileged nations of the world? He was killed in an airplane accident beyond Tehran, the capital of Iran. Upon a day, reporting to his people, he said, Dr. Bennett said, "How is it that you can increase the production of beef when every cow is a god? How is it that you can increase the production of pork when every swine is a devil? How is it that you can increase the produce of the land when the use of a wooden plow is a matter of a sacred religious ceremony? What the world needs is a new God, a new faith. What the world needs is the Lord Jesus Christ."
I was talking to an intimate friend of the former President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And this man who worked in the government and who was a friend of the President said to me, he said, "It is never referred to and I’ve never heard it mentioned. But," he said, "the President of the United States in the fourth term of his residency in the White House said to me" – and this man said he thought it was brought on because of a vast disillusionment in Russia – President Roosevelt said, "I have come to the final conclusion that the only hope for this world lies in its rebirth. It lies in its new faith. It lies in the missionary program of the Lord Jesus Christ."
The world today is "heathen and carried away unto dumb idols, even as they are led" [1 Corinthians 12:2]. And the world today is a lost world, and it’s a hungry world, and it’s a sick world because it does not have the God, the faith, the Lord Jesus Christ that we have in our hearts and in our country.
What can I do, and where shall I turn? This is what we can do. Some of us God will call to go. The Lord God said to Moses, "I have heard the cry of My people, Israel. I have looked upon their bondage and oppression. Now come, and I will send thee that thou mightest bring out of bondage my people Israel" [from Exodus 3:7-10].
Somewhere, the Lord God said to His Son, Christ Jesus, "This vast, lost world – that is for You to save it." And in the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews and the seventh verse, the Lord Jesus replies: "And I said, ‘Lo, I come–in the roll of the Book it is written of Me–to do Thy will, O God’" [Hebrews 10:7]. The Lord God calls, and there are some who are sent. There are some who go.
Paul said in the first chapter of his Roman Epistle, Paul says: "For I am debtor to the Greek and to the barbarian, to the wise and to the unwise" [Romans 1:14]. Paul said in the next verse, "And I am ready, I am willing to preach the gospel unto you that are at Rome also" [Romans 1:15]. And Paul said in the next verse, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; it is the power of God unto salvation to anyone that believes . . ." [Romans 1:16]. "I am a debtor" [Romans 1:14]. Christ made him a debtor. "I am ready. I’m willing to go, for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ" [Romans 1:15-16].
In the ninth chapter of this first Corinthian letter, out of which I am preaching, the same Apostle said, "Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel!" [1 Corinthians 9:16]. There are some that God calls. There are some that God sends. There are some who are to respond to the great appeal of Christ to make known His truth and His message in the earth, and that’s what we can do. Some of us can go.
What can we do? Some of us can give. Some of us go, and some of us can hold the ropes while others of us go [Philippians 4:15-16].
One of the finest outlines that I ever heard of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is this [Luke 10:30-37]: The man is robbed and left for dead [Luke 10:30], and the priest goes by [Luke 10:31], and the Levite goes by [Luke 10:32], and the Samaritan stops and ministers to the need of that poor and fallen brother [Luke 10:33-35]. And so the outline is this: "And the robber comes by and he says, ‘What is thine is mine, and I’ll take it.’ Then the priest and the Levite go by, and they say, ‘What is mine is mine, and I’ll keep it.’ And the Good Samaritan comes by and he says, ‘What is mine is thine, and we’ll share it.’" I like that. That’s the Spirit of Christ, and it’s the truth of the message of the Lord Jesus. Some of us can give while others go [2 Corinthians 8:3-4].
When we bow our heads and pray, "Dear Lord, we thank Thee that we have bread to eat," do we mean by that "Lord, I thank Thee that I have bread to eat while half of the world starves?" No, we ought not to turn it nor mean it like that. This is how we ought to mean it when we pray: "Lord, I thank Thee that I have bread to eat that I may share it with those who are hungry [2 Corinthians 8:13-15]. Thank Thee, Lord, that I have blessings, not that others are in poverty and want, but that I may share what God hath given me with them." What I have is God’s. What I have is ours, and we’ll share it with the world. Some of us can give.
What is it that we can do? We can build here in America a bastion for the faith of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the last world war, the President of the United States called our country an "arsenal of democracy" [Radio speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt, December 29, 1940]. By that, he meant that nations that were poor and overwhelmed and overrun and could not find wherewith to resist in the battle, America would help them provide arms and weapons whereby they might defend their homes and their sacred soil.
Just such a thing do I envisage for our country of America. It can be a bastion for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. When you look around our world, all those nations around that globe, one-half of it is sealed off by Communism: the Soviet in Russia and the Red regime in China. One-half of this world’s population is already beyond the pale of the Christian faith: no missionary, no preacher, no Bible, no message, ever. They are sealed away, and they’re taught godlessness, and they’re taught materialism, and they’re taught everything that is antithetical and diabolical and antagonistic to everything that we believe in this Book and in the message of Christ. One-half of this world is sealed off away from the gospel of the Son of God.
There is at least a fourth of this world that is in the hollow hand – so depraved and so lost – of Islam. From the western shores of Africa clear until you come to the Philippine Islands, all that vast thousands and thousands of miles lies in the hands of Mohammedanism, and there has never been so fierce and an antagonistic of the faith of Christ as the antagonism of the Moslem world. Ishmael and Isaac [Genesis 25:21-26], the Arab and the Jew, the Moslem and the Christian, and that diabolical and bitter hatred has been there ever since the prophet Mohammed, and it is no less there today. One-fourth of this world is sealed off in the hands of the Moslem religion.
Of the rest, of the other fourth, it strikes any man’s heart that looks upon it. It strikes his heart with despair, with an illimitable hopelessness and helplessness. What is there in Spain for the evangelization of the world? Spain refused even to allow delegates, even one, to leave their shores to attend our Baptist World Alliance in London. Held in the hands of a cruel and merciless ecclesiastical dictatorship, what hope is there for a rebirth and a resurgence and the evangelization of the world in a Spain?
What could we hope for in a France? As unstable in government as it is in moral and economic life, there’s not in France anything – not the beginning of any hope any day for the evangelization of the world. England is barely dedicated, hardly dedicated. The churches of England are empty. Those beautiful, beautiful processions marching down those aisles and in those beautiful cathedrals will be witnessed by a little handful of shivering people – such a small, small minority, such a little, little percentage. There isn’t in England any of the dedication for the evangelization of the world.
Where would you turn? To whom would you appeal? Where would you find any hope anywhere, in any nation, in any language, in any family, in any country?
Dear people, if we fail – if somehow the light dies in us – this whole world is plunged into a vast and impenetrable darkness. The gospel lighthouse of Christ, if it burns at all, must burn in this continent. It must shine in this nation; and in this nation, it must shine most fiercely and brightly and gloriously here in our city and in this church. What an hour! What a responsibility! How much God hath laid upon us.
What can we do? One other thing we can do: we can join hands in a fellowship, in a prayer, in a common determination, in a vast, vast holy communion. We can join hands with brethren across the seas, across the world, in every continent and hemisphere. We can join hands and hearts and prayers with them in intercession for the saving of the peoples and the nations of the earth.
When I went to Japan, when I went to Kumamoto, I said, "I’d like to see Paul Kanamori. Is Paul Kanamori yet alive?" He was a tremendous preacher of the gospel; lived to be aged, aged, aged – an old, old man; had turned almost a nation to Christ. I wanted to see Paul Kanamori, and I asked in Kumamoto, "Is it such that I can see him? Is he still alive, and where could I visit him?" And I was told by Christian people in Kumamoto that about four or five years before that Paul Kanamori had withdrawn to a cave there to pray by himself, day and night, for a revival in the earth and that he had died there in that cave praying for the revival to come in the earth.
By that sainted preacher and by others like him in this world, we ought to join our hearts and our hands in intercession that somehow God will bear His arm to save the nations that they might hear the gospel, that our people might be revived, that our missionaries might be sent out in increasing numbers, and that they might have opportunity to make known the saving name of Jesus in every tongue and language under the sun [Matthew 18:18-20, Acts 1:8; Revelation 5:9, 7:9]. What dedication, what consecration, what commitment there ought to be in our hearts as we join hands with them in their commitment, in their consecration, and in their intercession.
This is one of the sacred Holy of Holies in all of my life and my ministry: the last place to which I went in a preaching ministry – a mission, a preaching mission in Japan. The last place to which I went was in the southernmost island at Kyushu. In a little city – about eighteen thousand people – by the name of Ijuin, down there was a Baptist church with a faithful and consecrated Baptist pastor and preacher of the gospel. That was my last assignment in that journey around the world.
And though I was tired beyond any way for me to describe it, my heart was filled with gratitude at the tremendous response, the unbelievable response, to the gospel message as I preached it to those Japanese people in Ijuin. And in the last night of the revival and after the services were done and the people were dismissed, the congregation of faithful Christians who had been there for many years gathered round me and wanted to know if I’d stay with them in a little Sunday School room at the back of the church house and talk to them.
So I went back there and we sat down, and the room filled with those faithful and consecrated people, and I talked to them way beyond midnight. They were so interested. They wanted to know how to run a Sunday School and how to build it, how to have a training union, how to have a WMU. They wanted to know how to have a revival campaign, how to have the Lord’s Supper – have the ordinances. There was everything you could think of in the church that they wanted to know about, to ask me about: how did I do it, how did we do it, and how did God bless us in it all.
I was so tired. I was so weary. I could hardly hold up my head. I thought about Paul who preached at Troas beyond midnight [Acts 20:5-12]. But it was the only and the last time that he’d be there, and he was faithful in answering the people and in telling them of the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ and the conduct, orderly and dignified, in the church of the Savior. So I sat there and I talked to them way beyond midnight about these things in the church.
Then when finally the thing was done and their last question had been discussed and answered the best that I could, the young man, the son of the first Christian family in Ijuin – his name is Odori – the young man, superintendent of their Sunday School, stood before me and made a most earnest, earnest talk to me in his Japanese. He never waited for the professor of English in the high school to interpret what he said. He just poured out his heart talking to me, and as he talked to me, he was so moved that he cried.
I had no idea what he was saying. So when he was done and sat down, the English professor in the high school stood up and interpreted what the young fellow had said. And briefly, it was this: The young boy was saying to me, he said, "During this last war, we had a tragic and terrible time." He said, "We were never looked upon with favor. We were not Shintoists. We were not Buddhists. We worshiped Jesus. We were Christians, and we were never looked upon with favor and our church was so little and our converts so few."
He said, "During the war, we suffered terrible persecution. The people looked upon us as foreign spies. The people thought we were not patriotic, that we were against our government, that we were pro-American, that we were seeking to betray our native land." He said, "We had a terrible time." But, he said, "We were true to Christ, and Christ helped us and the Lord saw us through."
Now, he said, "I think that the day will come when we shall have suffering and persecution again." He said, "I think the thing will come again in Japan, where to be a Christian will be to suffer persecution and maybe loss of property and life." But the young fellow said to me, "I want you to know when you go back to America that we will be true to Christ unto death. We will never forsake the faith. We’ll be true if it costs us our life. And while you preach the gospel there in America, we will be faithful trying to preach the gospel here in Japan. And while you’re working for Jesus there in America, we’ll be working for Jesus in Japan. And we ask", he said, "that you pray for us in Japan as we pray for you in America."
That is the true international. That is the hope of the nations of the world. If we have any destiny, if we have any future, it lies in the dedication and the consecration of our people to the great commitment that we have in the faith of our living Lord.
While we sleep tonight, the sun will be shining upon Odori in Japan. God bless him there as he works while we rest and sleep. Then in the morning, he’ll be resting in the night in Japan, and we shall rise to the tasks of our day and our new week. And may God give him rest while he sleeps in Japan as we rise to face the tasks of our day and our week here in America. This is of God. This is of Christ. This is the kingdom. This is the faith. It’s not some thing shut up. It’s as wide as the world is wide, as big as the heart of God. And when we’re in it, when we’re in it, we’re in the very plan, and purpose, and destiny that God hath chosen for the saving of the world.
Now, we’re going to sing our hymn, and while we sing it, somebody you, give your heart to the Lord. Somebody you, put your life in the church. While we sing the hymn, into the aisle and down here to the front, you come and stand by me. "Pastor, tonight, the best I know how, I take the Lord Jesus as my Savior, and here I come. And Pastor, here’s the whole family of us. We’re coming tonight to put our lives here in this church." By confession of faith, by baptism, by letter – however God shall say the Word and lead the way, while we make this appeal and while we sing, would you come tonight? And make it now: into the aisle, down to the front, "Here I am, Pastor." On the first note of the first stanza: "Here I am, and here I come." Would you? Would you make it now? Make it now while we stand and while we sing.
IF THE NATIONS HAVE ANY HOPE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 12:2
A. Tragedy of the world today is that there are more people led astray by idol worship than in the days of Paul
B. Half the world is hungry every day, half the world is sick, half the world is without adequate clothing, food or shelter – why?
1. Not because the earth does not produce, but because they do not have God in their hearts
C. How could having God in a man’s heart feed his mouth, clothe his body and give him a shelter under which to abide?
1. Dr. Henry Bennett
2. Close friend of FDR heard him say only hope for this world is in missionary program of the Lord Jesus Christ
A. Some of us can go
1. God to Moses(Exodus 3:7-10)
2. God to Jesus (Hebrews 10:7)
3. God to His servants(Romans 1:14-16, 1 Corinthians 9:16, Acts 13:2)
B. All of us can give, hold the ropes
1. Outline of the Good Samaritan
C. We can build a great bastion for the Lord right here
1. An arsenal of democracy
2. A bastion of hope
a. Half the world is sealed off away from gospel in communism
b. A fourth of the world is in the hollow hand, Islam
c. The rest strikes your heart with despair, hopelessness
D. We can join hands and hearts with brethren across the seas in one great intercession
1. The Odori boy