The Christ Life in an Evil World
September 25th, 1955
1 Corinthians 5:1-13
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 5:1-13
9-25-55 10:50 a.m.
Now in our preaching through the Word, the last sermon was from the fourth chapter of the first Corinthian letter and the twentieth verse: the last part of the first Corinthian [letter], fourth chapter. Now today, beginning this year’s church year that lies ahead, we begin in the fifth chapter, and the message this morning is out of the fifth chapter of the first Corinthian letter. And in your Bible, turn to it; and as I preach, open it and look at it: the fifth chapter of 1 Corinthians:
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication is not so much as named among the Gentiles – that one should have his father’s wife!
And ye are puffed up
– you’re still proud of yourselves –
and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
For I verily, as absent in body but present in spirit, have judged already (as though I were present) concerning him that hath done this deed.
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh
– to consign him to the iniquities and its penalties in the flesh that always and inevitably follow –
that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Your being proud is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us.
Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I wrote unto you in an epistle
– which is lost, his first epistle –
I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators.
Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters, for then must ye needs go out of the world.
But now I have written unto you not to keep company if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner – with such an one no not to eat.
For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within?
But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore "put away from among yourselves that wicked person."
[1 Corinthians 5:1-13]
That’s the fifth chapter of the first Corinthian letter.
Now, Paul says in the letter that he wrote to the church at Corinth, which letter has been lost, Paul says, "I wrote to you that ye were not to keep company with fornicators, covetous, extortioners, idolaters, drunkards, railers, covetous. I wrote to you, you were not to mingle with them. You were not to mix with them. You were not to touch them. I did not mean by that," he says, "that ye were to have no intercourse with them whatsoever. I meant by my writing unto you that you were not to have in your company in the church, in the fellowship of your church, you were not to have those worldly, evil-minded, villainous and wicked people. In the church, you are to be separate. You are to be withdrawn. You are to be a company consecrated, dedicated, separated unto God. But I did not mean in that letter," says Paul, "that you were not to touch or mingle with the fornicator, the covetous, the extortioner, the idolater, the drunkard at all, for then if you were never to have any commerce or intercourse with them, ye must needs go out of the world, which is a thing impossible" [1 Corinthians 5:9-11].
The high priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ that we read a moment ago says the same thing: "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world," [John 17:15]. The only way to escape intercourse with, commerce with, company with, intermingling with all of these people of the world – the only way to escape it would be to die, to leave the world, to get out of it. "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" [John 17:15-16]. And that is the thesis of the message this morning: living the life of Christ in an evil world. For however the Christian turns the set of his sail, his life is enmeshed in a society ruled over by "the prince of the power of this world" [John 12:31, 16:11; Ephesians 2:2, 6:12; 1 John 5:19]. He belongs to an unmoral, non-moral, sometimes immoral social order, and wherever he turns, he meets it. What shall he do, and how shall he live his life?
There are two things that Paul says here in his letter, one of them in the high priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus [John 17:1-26]. First, we are in the world, but not of it [1 Corinthians 5:9-11]. We mingle with these people, but we are not of them. There is a gulf between us and the iniquitous and the villainous of this life. We belong to God, to Christ, and to the church. We are separate and apart [2 Corinthians 6:17]. That’s one.
The other, he says, is this: at the same time that we separate ourselves from the drunkard, and the extortioner, and the fornicator, and the covetous, and the idolatrous – at the same time that we separate ourselves from them, we are not therein to be sour, or bitter, or censorious, or to sit in judgment because, Paul says, those people: "Them that are without God judgeth" [1 Corinthians 5:13].
It is not for us to sit in judgment. It is not for us to be bitter or censorious or critical; and least of all are we ever to develop a "holier than thou" attitude – to gather our skirts about us as though they were unholy and outcast and we were the chosen and the elite and the favored of God [James 4:6]. In all humility, we cast ourselves upon the grace of God as sinners saved by His blood [1 Timothy 1:15]. But the judging of the world and the judging of our neighbor and the judging of the people of this world belongs not to us, but it belongs to God [1 Corinthians 5:13].
Our spirit and our attitude is ever to be one of love, of intercession, of prayer. In humility, we deny our lives some things. We do not share in them. In humility, we do not go some places. In humility, we pull back and separate ourselves from some indulgences [1 Corinthians 10:23-30]. But we do not thereby lift ourselves up as paragons of excellence for others to look upon. We, too, are sinners saved by grace, and the judgment belongs to God and not to us. Now, that’s what Paul says in the chapter.
Now, may I speak of this thing – of the tension under which the Christian lives in this present evil world? You would have to die, as Paul says – to leave the world – not to find yourself face-to-face with all of the iniquity of our social life and our social order. For example, any father or any mother of children has an earnest desire to shield the child from those things that dirty his mind and make filthy his heart and unclean his life. The father himself may have been an old reprobate and the mother herself may have been indescribably evil, but almost always, there is an earnest desire on the part of any father or any mother – and it is greatly heightened if the parents are Christian – to shield the child from the dirt, and the dark, and the iniquitous of this world.
All right, we’re Christians, and we have a Christian home; and it is our fervent prayer that our children shall be reared in the Christian faith. Then what happens? Right on the inside of your house, right in the heart of the living room where you live, there are those children whom we love glued to a picture there on a television set. And poured into their little hearts and into their little minds every day and every night as they look entranced and enthralled at that television set are all of those things that, by the grace of God, you try to shield them from all of your life.
You say to the children, "Children, don’t drink. It’s an evil habit. It wastes the body. It destroys the life. Don’t drink." And there by day and by night is that thing going, and they’re saying, "Look, look, look! Drink, drink, guggle, guggle, bubble, bubble," endless, endless.
And you say, you say to your children, "Children, it is a vile habit and a nasty one, and it impairs your growth and your health. It isn’t good for a child to smoke." And then he looks at that thing, and by day and by night these filters we put on our king size – oh, they do the miraculous. "There’s no cool smoke like our cool smoke. There’s no satisfaction like ours" – poured into their heads by day and by night. And then you say, "These children, they pick up such things out in the street! They pick up such things on the playground. They learn such things when they’re gone to school." But they look at that thing there in your living room, and there’s not any criminal scene, there’s not any astute maneuvering of dramatic portrayal by which all of the sordidness and seaminess of every underworld city in the earth but is portrayed there before those children.
What do you do? What do you do? The only way that your child could escape would be for your child to die and go out of the world. They’ll see it there on that screen. They’ll listen to it on the radio. They’ll see it in the newspaper. They will listen to it on the street. They will hear it from their playmates. Your child is going to live under tension in this world, and the more earnestly and fervently you try to make that child a Christian, the greater the conflict he’s going to meet in his soul and in his life [2 Timothy 3:12]. That is being Christian in an evil world, and the only way to escape it, I say, as Paul says, would be to go out of the world altogether – would be to die. But as long as you live, you’re going to face those tremendous compromises, and the Christian has a battle to face [Galatians 5:17].
All right, another thing about us in this world: all of us who are committed to the revelation of God, we have certain great religious persuasions that are as deep as life itself. We read the Book, and we believe the Spirit of God speaks to us out of the world. What kind of a world is it in which we live? You’re in a minority. Even though you are a Christian and would say, "I belong to Christendom," you’re in a minority. Living on this globe are other millions of people just like we are. They live, they breathe, they eat, they sleep, they are God’s creatures. And millions of them belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Millions of them belong to the Roman church. Millions of them are Hindus; other millions of them are Moslems; other millions of them are Buddhists; and other millions among them are animists, or they are nothing at all; and many of them are liberals and infidels. What do you do? What do you do? In all sweetness and in all love, you have to learn to preach the truth in love [2 Timothy 2:24-26]. We have to live with these people.
Those Moslems over there, those Hindus over yonder, these Romans here, those Eastern Orthodox there, these multitudes of denominations in which Protestantism has broken up: you have to live with those people. You can’t be bitter or censorious. You can’t be caustic and critical. You have to be true to the Word of God the best you know how and to present it in love and in truth praying that God will bless the message as, under heaven, we try to deliver it to the world. But you live in a world of religious tension, and it is everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. You don’t go down any street, you don’t visit any nation, you don’t talk to any people but that that great cleavage is always there. We’re on one side of a great faith, and they are on another side [Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23].
All right, another area in which we live under vast tension: we live under vast tension who are fellow citizens of the United States of America. I would love to be able – when you go abroad and you preach to a people – I’d love to be able to say the United States of America is an aggregate of millions of devout, holy Christian people; but you can’t say that. Even in America, there are social practices and there are cultural acquiescences that, to me, hurt my soul and grieve my heart.
Could I take one little incidence – just one? When you come back from Europe, the chances are, almost always, no matter what airport you leave from – from Rome, from Paris, from Frankfurt, from the Netherlands, from Berlin, from anywhere in England – the chances are before you start the long lap across the Atlantic, you will land, you will stop – if for no other reason than for refueling the plane – you will stop at the Shannon Airport in southwestern Ireland. When you leave the Shannon Airport, then you’re out over the great, broad expanse of the North Atlantic.
Now about two weeks ago, our plane touched down for refueling at the Shannon Airport. And when we were there, there were, oh, I’d say, at least half a dozen other planes that also had landed and were getting ready for the big jump across the Atlantic Ocean. So when we went inside the Shannon Airport, why the place was jammed and crowded with literally hundreds of American tourists who were returning back to the United States.
Now, when you go in the Shannon Airport, there’s a long opening there where you can sit down and visit and where they will serve you things to eat or to drink as you will. Then, when you go through – the back has a T toward the back part of it and in that is a large merchandising area. Well, I went in there and walked around.
Here is a place where they sell Donegal piece goods: hand-woven, beautiful, beautiful goods out of which a man could make a wonderful suit or a woman could make a beautiful suit. The material is very fine and very beautiful and I stop and I look at that – oh many, many bolts of it there. And I’m the only one there; not a soul looking at all that beautiful material.
Then right to the right of it is a place where they have wool blankets and wool lap robes – very, very beautiful, very wonderful; and I’m the only one standing there looking at that. Then in the large area there is one of the most beautiful displays of Irish linen you’ll see in this world: beautiful, beautiful handwork – beautiful tablecloths, beautiful luncheon sets, gorgeous, gorgeous napkins and handkerchiefs and things you put on your dresser sets, and just beautiful, beautiful work.
And I go around and look at all that, just stacks of it, and then in the display counters beautifully exhibited. And I walk around and look at that beautiful work. And I just – it does something to my heart to see something wonderfully and beautifully done. I like to see it, and I’m about the only one walking around there looking at that – maybe one or two others. Maybe one somebody buys a luncheon set or something, but I’m about the only one.
Then over here is a counter where they sell perfume, and it is cheaper there than it is in Paris. The same perfume, French, you buy in Paris is sold cheaper there at the Shannon Airport, and it is beautifully displayed: any kind of those luxurious, exquisite French perfumes that you would like. And I look at that, and I’m about the only one there looking at those beautiful displayed perfumes.
Then over there – one other – there are the Swiss watches, and I go over there. And having drooled and looked over those Swiss watches, I go over there and compare the prices. And they’re cheaper there at the Shannon Airport. And I look at that, and I think, "Oh, isn’t that just? Oh, to – if I just had one of those there!" And I’m about the only one that is there.
But a long counter here to the side – long counter there to the side. Of the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of American tourists that are stopping at the Shannon Airport, there won’t be any of them at the piece goods. There won’t be any of them there at the wool blankets. There may be two of them looking at that beautiful display of Irish linen. There might be one of them buying a little perfume. Maybe one in a hundred of them will saunter over there and look at the watches, but you can’t get near this counter. You would have to elbow your way; you would have to fight your way to it. What are they selling at that counter? You know. I don’t need to tell you. They have the most gorgeous display of liquors there you ever saw, and the American tourist is loading up, loading up, loading up – getting ready to go back home to America just as socked as he can be and loaded down with all kinds of Scotch, and all kinds of wines, and all kinds of liquors! That is America! And it’s America anywhere you find them over the earth: drinking like a fish, acting like a fool, bringing defamation and dishonor upon the Christian name of America. There are exceptions to that, but most of it is just about like that.
Then what do you do? Then what do you do? All right, that’s my sermon. My land, is it five ’til twelve? That was my introduction. You don’t mind listening for a moment. So forget it, let’s go on.
What do you do as a Christian? This is what you do – and what I’m saying now is not a thing brought out of the ethereal and the celestial: this is what we do. And it’s not something just in a sermon: this is what we do. We’ll take it out of Christian life. This is what we do.
This year, I was preaching through the State Evangelistic Conference in Florida, and Dr. John McGuire who is the executive leader of the state of Florida said to me – he said, "My wife and I would like to take you to the finest restaurant on the Atlantic seaboard, and the most popular place to eat on United States Highway Number One. Would you come and go with us?" Well, that was a redundant, rhetorical question. Sure, I’d go with him. So we go out there to a restaurant on the edge of Jacksonville, and there’s a sign on it. "Howard Biser – Howard Biser’s Restaurant," the finest place to eat, they say, on the Atlantic seaboard. So I go into Howard Biser’s Restaurant, and when I go in, there to the left above the cashier is a large beautiful portrait of a fine-looking old lady: a sweet, blessed mother. While we’re seated there, Dr. McGuire says, "You see that picture there of that sweet old lady?"
"Well," he said, "that’s Howard Biser’s mother."
Well I said, "That’s a sweet thing for the boy to do – to put his mother’s picture there."
"Yes, but," he says, "that picture means a lot more than that." He said, "Howard Biser and his mother came to Jacksonville long time ago, and they started a little place downtown; and the mother was a great, godly Christian woman. And the mother died as they were prospering; and Howard Biser came out here, and he built this beautiful restaurant. And he’s flourishing – most affluent in that business." And he said, "When he came out here, he put the picture of his mother there where everybody could see it."
He said, "Upon a day, right after he built this restaurant, there came out to him the beer man, and the whiskey man, and the wine man, and the liquor man. And they said, ‘Mr. Biser, you can’t succeed in this restaurant business unless you serve liquor, and we’re out here to help you put the wine list and the beer list and the whiskey list on all of these tables because you can’t succeed without it.’"
And Dr. McGuire said to me, he said, "That boy, Howard Biser, stood up, and he said, ‘You men come with me.’ And he took those liquor men over there in front of that picture and pointed up to that picture, and he said, he said, ‘Gentlemen, before my mother died, she said, "Son, I want you to promise me that in your restaurant, you’ll never sell intoxicating beverages."’ And he said, ‘Gentlemen, I have kept my promise to that dear old mother, and when the day comes that I can’t do business without selling liquors, I’ll go back to the old farm in Georgia.’"
That’s what a Christian can do. And does he lose? He is prospered of the Almighty God. Lord doesn’t let you down. He doesn’t do it. He doesn’t do it. I had a whole series of instances that I have seen in my life where men have lived the Christian life in an evil world, and God has been with them and the favor of the Lord has been upon them [Genesis 39:1-23, 41:1-57].
"In it, but not of it," [John 15:19; Romans 12:2] dedicated to God no matter what environment the Lord has cast your life or no matter in what circle God has placed your living [Daniel 1:1-21]. May I mention just one and then I’ll stop? For a good many years, I was a trustee of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky, and the president of our Louisville Board of Trustees was a layman by the name of James H. Anderson – Jim Anderson. Jim Anderson founded and owned the Anderson Department Store in Knoxville, Tennessee. Sunday by Sunday in that little envelope that you use here to give to God, he placed in it twelve hundred dollars undesignated every Sunday. Then finally, as God prospered him, he made it fifteen hundred dollars every Sunday – every Sunday, undesignated. And it was a grief to his heart when the taxation structure made it impossible for him to continue that giving. But he was that kind of a man.
Fred Brown, the pastor of the church, every Saturday preached down there on the street corner by the Post Office like I used to do for three years before I came to Dallas. Every Saturday, I preached out on the street corner. Dr. Fred Brown did that; and somebody came by and said, "Why, look!" and then went away and said, "The pastor of the First Baptist Church preaching down there on the street corner!" And Dr. Brown said, "Yes, sir! And come next Saturday, and I’ll have some of my deacons with me!"
And he went to Jim Anderson and said, "Won’t you come down with me on the street corner next Saturday and give your testimony?"
Humble, quiet man: "Oh," he said, "Pastor, down there on the street corner? Oh, Pastor, I couldn’t do that!"
"Oh, but you must ’cause I promised those people that next Saturday I’d have my deacons down here with me."
And the great, good man went down there on the street corner, and the pastor said, "Now, Jim Anderson will stand up and tell us his experience of grace." He stood down there on the street corner and started back there in Hopkinsville, Kentucky where he was saved as a boy and where he was baptized in the Baptist church and spoke of the grace of God and the goodness of Jesus upon him through the years.
Then the years passed, and while I was on the Board and watched him why he grew visibly older and feeble. And upon a day, the doctor said to him, he said, "Jim" – the doctor was a fellow member of the First Baptist Church there – he said, "Jim, you’ve got to go to bed, and you’ve got to stay in bed all day long. And if you will do that, why then you can go for a few hours to your office in the days of the week." And so the doctor says, "Now, Jim, when Sunday comes, all day long you spend in bed on Sunday; and then in the weekday, you can go to the office a few hours."
And Mr. Anderson looked at his friend, the physician, and said, "Doctor, would you mind repeating that? Would you mind saying that again?" And the doctor repeated it. He said, "Jim, you stay in bed all day Sunday and rest and then you’ll be able to go to the office a few days, a few hours, in the days of the week." And Mr. Anderson looked at his friend and said, "Doctor, I’m surprised at you. I’m disappointed in you." He said, "Doctor, if there’s any staying in bed all day long, it’ll be during the days of the week; for when the Lord’s day comes, if I’m able to get out and stand on my feet, I’ll be making my way up to the house of the Lord, sitting down in my accustomed place in my First Baptist Church."
That’s the stuff great churches are made out of! I was at the Board when he resigned because of age, and I wish I could quote that poem. I’ve tried to find it, but I’ve never been able to. In the sweet, sweet way that he resigned because of his age, he quoted that poem "Growing Graceful, Growing Old." Oh, the Christian people have a light in their face and a glory in their souls that’s not matched nor seen in earth or in heaven! [Acts 6:15; 2 Corinthians 3:18] We don’t lose by living an uncompromised life. God doesn’t let down a young man who resolves to give himself to the work and the way and the will of the Lord Jesus [Matthew 16:24-28; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-26].
I’m not saying it’s not tense. I am not saying it’s not without its difficulties. I am not saying it’s without its cost and sacrifices. You live in a world like that [John 16:33]. But I am saying that there’s a glory and a hallowedness and a blessedness that goes with the Christian who lives in the will of God in the midst of an evil and adulterous generation. So may His favor rest upon us as in this dark world we walk in the light [1 John 1:7] of the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us [Ephesians 5:2].
Now, let’s sing our song. Let’s sing our song. While we sing our song, in that great group in that top balcony, is there somebody up there give his life to the Lord Jesus? Come down that stairwell and come and stand by me. You have time to come. Just get out of your seat and come down here: "Pastor, today I’m giving my life in faith and trust to the Lord," or "Today, I’m putting my life in the fellowship of this glorious church." And in that vast horseshoe balcony around and on this lower floor, wherever God should say the word and make an appeal, while we sing the song, you come and stand by me. You come and stand by me: "Today, it’s all out for God. It’s the Lord for me and for my house. This is my family. We’re all coming." Or just one somebody you, while we prayerfully sing this song and make this appeal, make it now. Make it now while we stand and while we sing.
THE CHRIST LIFE IN AN EVIL WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 5:1-13
I. We cannot leave this world except in death
A. We are in the world, but not of it; we mingle with those in the world, but are not of them
B. Keeping humble attitude – never bitter, sour, caustic, "holier-than-thou"
II. Living in a world of tension
A. Children in front of the TV
B. Conflicting religious faiths
C. Our own social orders
1. Shannon airport
III. We do not have to conform to the world
A. Dr. and Mrs. John McGuire take me to Howard Biser’s restaurant
B. James H. Anderson – his offerings
1. Fred Brown brought him to preach, testify, on street corner