The Law of Life
January 30th, 1955 @ 7:30 PM
THE LAW OF LIFE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-30-55 7:30 p.m.
In the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Romans, if you have your Bibles, turn to it tonight, in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Romans, the message this morning, [is] out of the fifth and out of the sixth verses.
Paul is speaking in the fourteenth chapter mostly about eating. Eating is always been a problem of one kind or another. Those that are fat, they have trouble about eating. Those that are skinny, they have trouble about eating. We just always having trouble about eating. But we have not got any troubles today about eating like they had back there, because back there, those people had been taught that certain things, if they ate them in a certain way, were violations of the moral commandments of God.
So some of them said, “Why, we are free to eat anything. It does not matter what we eat.” And others said, “You will be damned if you eat, too.” And they meant it! They weren’t just talking. They meant that they would lose their souls forever in perdition and in damnation if they did not eat according to certain prescribed rules.
All right, not only that, but you have never seen a bloody sacrifice. You will not unless you go to a pagan world; Christianity has taken it from the earth. But in the day of the apostle Paul, blood sacrifices were universal. There was not any temple, either pagan or Jehovah, without a blood sacrifice.
Now a sacrifice almost always was a shared communal meal. They took an animal—a lamb, a goat, an ox—they took an animal, and they slew it before whatever God it was, Juno, Jove, Venus, Thor, Jehovah. And there on the altar its flesh was boiled or it was barbecued, and the priest took so much and the family took so much [Leviticus 7:15-34]. Then the family took what was their share, and they called in their friends and their immediate relatives, and they would eat it. And that was the sacrifice.
Now many, many times a man would offer a sacrifice, and when the priest had his part and the part given back to the family, the part for the family was so big, they could not begin to consume it. They did not have refrigeration in those days, so what if you had taken a bullock, taken a steer—maybe weighed eight hundred pounds—what if you had taken that up to the temple and offered it? Well, the priest took his part and gave you five hundred pounds back. What would you do with five hundred pounds of meat on your hands? What would you do? Well, in that day, the people, for the most part, would take it after they shared it with all of the family and friends and relatives—like you do when you go fishing and you catch fish—and you give to all of your friends and relatives. Include me in that, by the way, if you ever come back with more than you can eat. They shared what they had with friends, people, and relatives, and then they took it to the marketplace and sold it.
“Well,” said somebody. “Well,” said somebody, “you eat meat there, that meat has been sacrificed to idols!” That meant you were communing with the idols; that is what the sacrifice was. When people say today, “We object to eating in the church house,” to me that is one of the funniest aberrations that I ever heard. From the beginning of time, the way you worship God was to eat with Him and with one another. Sacrifice was a communal meal and in the Christian religion they broke their bread from house to house, and they ate together all of the time [Acts 2:42, 46]. That was the way the faith followed; that was the channel in which it flowed.
Now when they ate meat that was offered to the idols, they were communing with an idol. And they said, “Look at you, you eat that meat. It has been sacrificed to an idol. You are worshiping Juno or Venus or Adonis or Artemis or Diana. Look at you, you are an idol worshiper.”
“Oh,” said this Christian, “I am not an idol worshiper—doesn’t matter to me where this meat came from, it is just meat to me, and I just eat.”
Well, that was the controversy and the discussion, and it was a bitter one. We just meet it here for the first time in the Book of Romans. But when we get over there in the Book of Corinthians Sunday week, we are really going to find what it is, this discussion over meat offered to idols.
So Paul says—now look at it: in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Romans where we are, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations” [Romans 14:1]. One believeth that he may eat all things, does not matter what it is, he can eat anything. Another who is weak, he would not touch meat; it might have been offered to idols for all he knows; so he is a vegetarian, he just eateth herbs [Romans 14:2]. “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him” [Romans 14:3].
Now on down, “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live, whether we die, whether we eat, whether we do not eat, whether we are carnivorous, whether we are herbivorous and vegetarian, it does not make any difference; we are just all the Lord’s” [Romans 14:7-8].
“Why doest thy judge thy brother? Or why doest thou set at nought thy brother? We [each] are all going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of himself [Romans 14:10, 12]. And God is not going to ask you whether you are a vegetarian or whether you are carnivorous or herbivorous, or what did you eat or what did you not eat? Did you eat ham? Did you eat pork? Did you? Did you not? God is not going to ask you that.
I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, there is nothing unclean of itself”: but to him that deem it unclean, to him it is unclean.
Now, if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably.
Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
Don’t try to jam pork down his throat if he says, “If I eat pork I am going to hell. I am a sinner in God’s sight. I am going to be damned if I eat pork.” Then don’t try to poke it down his throat. Don’t do it:
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit . . .
Let us therefore follow after those things which make for peace . . . and for meat destroy not the work of God.
All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offense.
It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
Hast thou faith? Then you can eat anything. Well, have it before God.
Because that man that you are leading into this thing who doubteth about that thing, he is damned if he eats, because he eateth not of faith: for what is not of faith is sin.
Now to us that is foolishness. That is just so much of boiled down idiocy. To us today, who have been liberated in Christ and are free, to us all of that is so long ago it has no pertinency. When we eat, we just eat; that is almost all of us. There may be a few persuaded vegetarians, but they are screwballs and crackpots and nitwits, and nobody pays any attention to them. And if you are one here tonight, why, I beg your pardon, you go right ahead and just eat vegetables. It is just funny to me; that’s all. It is just funny to me.
Now, I say all of that is in the past. We don’t have any such moral scruples today in which we just fight and war about shall we eat or shall we not. We just eat. That is one thing Christ did for us. But, out of that grew a tremendous law of life. Out of it, Paul drew a tremendous principle. And it is concerning that principle that I want to speak for a few minutes tonight, “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself” [Romans 14:7]. What you do affects somebody else. Therefore, says Paul, be careful what you do. And by thy liberty and by thy meat and by thy drink, destroy not this brother for whom Christ died [Romans 14:15]. For you cannot help but having an influence. “None of us liveth unto himself, and no man dieth to himself” [Romans 14:7]. What you do affects somebody else. It touches somebody else. All humanity is bound up together in one great bundle before God.
Like the ocean, we say the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic, the Indian, the Arctic, the Antarctic; that is just convenient. There is one ocean, just one, and there’s not any limitations, and there’s not any boundary around which the ocean does not flow. They pour from one body into another. And their current runs from one great body into the other. There is one great ocean in this world, and they all join. So it is with humanity. We are one vast family, and we are intermingled and we are interrelated. And what somebody does there affects us all. Drop a pebble in the ocean, and the scientists will say that it will echo and reverberate and ripple to the farthest shores. So with all of life, it is interconnected. “There is no man that liveth to himself, and there is no man that dieth to himself” [Romans 14:7]. We affect somebody else. What they are plotting over there in the middle of Asia tonight, what they are thinking about in the heart of the Kremlin tonight, and that is ten thousand miles away, what they are doing over there tonight finally affects us, and our men, and our soldiers, and our boys, and our future, and our destiny, and our country. There is no such thing as “they liveth unto themselves, and we liveth unto ourselves.” We vitally affect one another. These great masses of people who live in these cities, all of us are intermingled and interrelated, and we cannot escape the influence that we have on one another.
In the city of Chicago, Poles—Polish people began to pour into the city—and the city wouldn’t have anything to do with them, and they lived in a ghetto. They live to themselves; they live ostracized. Nobody wanted to be with a Polock, and the day came, the day came in the city of Chicago when the city of Chicago spent more on crime every year than they spent on their public school system. They forgot them, they isolated them. But you don’t isolate people; they are un-isolatable!
In the city of Amarillo—where I grew up as a boy, where I went to high school—in the city of Amarillo in the 1920s, they had the biggest boom there; when you, Mrs. Godbolt, lived there. Those buildings, practically all of those buildings that are there today were built there back there in those 1920s. Amarillo had a tremendous oil boom—that was an enormous field up there in the Panhandle they discovered—and Amarillo was booming, and it was growing, and those buildings were being built.
Across the Santa Fe Railroad tracks in Amarillo lived a little group, a little city of Mexicans. Who paid any attention to the Mexicans? Who spit on him? Who wiped his feet on him, much less who spoke to him or inquired about him and his estate, and his fortune, and his health, and his soul, and his church, and his life? They lived across the Santa Fe Railroad tracks.
Upon a day while I lived in Amarillo, upon the day the United States government put an interdiction on the city of Amarillo. There was no train that would go into it. They would not allow any automobile into it. Nobody could get in the city and nobody could leave the city, for over there, across the Santa Fe Railroad tracks, there had broke out a plague of smallpox, and it swept that entire city. And the government said in order to spare the health and the life of the people of all this country, they interdicted Amarillo. And when that band was lifted off of the city, there was not another building built, nor another house, nor anybody else moved in. It killed that boom as dead as it could be. Why? Because of the forgotten people on the other side of the Santa Fe Railroad tracks. We don’t isolate anybody, “No man liveth unto himself, and no man dieth unto himself” [Romans 14:7]; we are a people altogether.
These vast social groups, the decisions they make have tremendous repercussions. In your bulletin, I entitled this speech tonight, this message, this sermon; I entitled it, Who Pays the Price? In the day of the terrible war and time of war, who pays the price? Who pays the price? Or with the glory, and with the conquest, and with the honor and a place in the sun, and who pays the price? And I got that from a little picture. It wasn’t big at all, about that big size; about that big size. In the Metropolitan Art Museum, wandering around through those many, many, many rooms there in New York City, that little picture there arrested my attention.
In some European town, it looked to me like a French town, in some little European town, there was a squad of soldiers marching another soldier, an enemy soldier out to death. The man was blindfolded, and the men behind him were marching him through the streets, to the outside where he was to be executed before the firing squad. And the lines and the streets of the little town were lined with the villagers on either side, here and there, all the way through, as that soldier was being marched out, blindfolded, to be executed by the firing squad.
And the artist had painted in the immediate foreground there, he had painted a woman with a little baby in her arms. And as that man was being marched through the streets out to be executed, that woman seeing him was trying to get to him with a baby in her arms. And the villagers were constraining her and holding her back. He was the father of the child and her husband. And underneath was that caption I say that stayed in my head through these years, “Who pays the price?” Who pays the price?
We don’t fight wars; you don’t make decisions in government by yourself, no legislature, and no senate, no Kremlin, and no army chief of staff. It reaches down and down and down until every home and life is affected. That’s humanity. That’s the law of life. “For none of us liveth unto himself, and no man dieth unto himself” [Romans 14:7]. And all of our social groups have repercussions among all of our people.
And in passing could I say that’s the reason, that’s the reason that I think that it is morally wrong for the public school system to have dances in its public school system. I think it is morally wrong. Why? Because there goes to that school a Nazarene child. There goes to that school a Pentecostal child. There goes to that school a Holiness child. There goes to that school many of our Baptist people. There goes to that school many of the most devout children raised in our Christian homes. And they go to that public school; they have to go to a public school. And to many of our people, dancing is a moral issue. And to ostracize a child, and to make a girl and make a boy feel inferior and set aside because all the rest of the crowd—under the patronage of a PTA or a dance club or the public school system itself—will ostracize that child and make the child hurt and bleed in heart, I say it is morally wrong! I don’t care whether anybody dances or not. They can do as they please. I just don’t please. To me and my family, to me and this church, to me and many of us, I say, in this church, to us, there is a moral question about it. And we don’t countenance it.
Why, if you were to have a dance in this church sponsored by the church, the next day you will get you another pastor. I would not pastor a church that has dances in it. You will get you another preacher. I wouldn’t be here. They look at this beautiful building over here and the beautiful building over there, and they say some of these days you will have dances in that. Well, maybe so, but I will be dead and gone, and I will be glad I am dead. I will be glad I am not here. I don’t want it, I don’t want any part of it.
And I am telling you, for us to send our children to the public school and for them to have programs that hurt and isolate some of our children is morally wrong. I don’t care if the superintendent and the principal and everybody else says it is all right. It is not all right. It is not all right.
And could I say in passing one other word about our school system: I’m glad for our school system to teach reading and writing and arithmetic. And I’m happy for our school system to do anything they want to in athletics, but when it comes to the social life of our children, it belongs to the family first! It belongs to the church next, and it has no right to enter that area. The school system ought to stay where it ought to stay. And the social life of a child ought to be guided and trained by the family and by the church!
And that’s why we are trying to build a program here to include all of our young people and our children, to build their social life here in the church and in the home where it ought to be. Outside, I don’t believe in it. I don’t believe in it anymore in the school system than I do in the honky-tonk or the nightclub or the Baker Hotel. Anywhere outside of the home and of the church that the social life of our children is centered is wrong to me! I don’t care who defends it or how fine the man who stands up for it. “None of us liveth unto himself, and no man dieth to himself” [Romans 14:7]. And the decisions they make in those days sometimes cut to the heart, and they bleed the soul. And Dr. Irving, you would be the first one to say, “Preacher, that’s right, that’s right.”
Now let me get going again. So it is with a man’s individual life. What you do, you don’t do just for yourself. You don’t do just by yourself. What you do affects somebody else.
I was in a hotel long, long way from here in the heart of a big city. Late at night I went upstairs to my hotel room on the eleventh floor, went up there to change my clothes. I had been speaking that night at a late hour and was just as hot and wet as I could be, about like you would throw a fellow in the creek. And I had to go out and eat dinner that night, midnight with a group.
So I, I went to the room and changed my clothes and then came out and stood there on the eleventh floor—one of those modern, new electric elevators, and I punched the button. The elevator came up, and as it came up the door opened and there fell out a man at my feet. Oh, what a marvelous plot for a detective story! When the elevator door opened, there fell a man at my feet. The only thing he said when I pushed the button and the elevator came up and the door opened and the man fell out there at my feet—there was a gang of men and women on either side laughing; that was the funniest thing they had ever seen. The guy that fell out at my feet was dead drunk. And all of the men and the women on the inside of the elevator were dead drunk! And when the elevator door suddenly opened and that fellow fell out there at my feet, they just laughed uproariously. Well, one of them held the elevator door back while another one came out and got the guy by the nape of the neck and lifted him up and set him back in the elevator. And they went back on up to the top of the hotel. Ah, ah, that sight!
The week before last, in the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, they were having the lumberman’s retail convention there. And all fourteen floors of that hotel, up and down, were jammed full of lumbermen. I don’t know whether the lumbermen are any worse than anybody else, but I tell you that lumbermen’s convention in Kentucky is one drinking crowd. I don’t see how in my life or anybody’s lifetime, a man could imbibe as much as I saw wheeled into those rooms. They leave the door open—they kind of like it I suppose—leave the door open and those bottles, bottles, bottles, bottles everywhere, drinking! And some of my finest men who go to these cities tell me, “Pastor, you meet it just here and there, but you don’t know what, you don’t have any committee meetings, you don’t have any FCC meetings. You don’t have any legislative meeting; you don’t have a political meeting; you don’t have a business meeting; you don’t have a meeting anywhere—social, business, political, or whatnot—at which liquor is not served.”
Well, what about that? What about that? All right, same principle here, same principle here: what about your drinking? One of the richest men in Dallas, one of the biggest businessmen we have here in the city, and I were talking about that. He drinks and I said, “It’s not right for you to drink.” “ He says, “I have never got drunk. I don’t get drunk.” I said, “It’s not right for you to drink.”
Well, he says, “Why isn’t it right for me to drink? I don’t get drunk.”
I said, “Because there are many, many, many young men who look upon you as a great executive. You are a successful businessman. And you drink, and that boy sees you drink. And he says to his father and his mother, “But Mr. So and So drinks, and I don’t see why I can’t. He is successful. He is a multi-millionaire. He makes money. He is a big executive, and he drinks!”
“Most of them do drink, and therefore, I drink.” And this is what happens: one out of every ten of those who drink can’t refuse it; they become alcoholics, they become habitual users. And whenever you start on that road, it worsens and worsens and worsens. I’d like for a man to stand up and tell me this: can you cite any instance, at any age, and any history, and any time where alcohol ever blessed anybody? Did it ever? Did it ever? Did it ever?
The money that you spend for it, what could it do if you take it to the missionary, give it to the church, buy shoes for the poor, buy something for the home, bring something to the child? All of the money that is spent for liquor, every bit of it, could have been spent for something better, altogether better. And when you drink, when you drink, you don’t drink by yourself; you affect somebody! There is somebody that knows you do it. There is somebody cognizant of it. There is somebody influenced by it. I may not know it. I don’t, but maybe your wife does, or your child will find out, or your business associate—there is somebody who will find it out. And you don’t drink by yourself, there is somebody affected by what you do.
“Oh, preacher, to eat is just as bad. To overeat is just as bad as to over drink.” Listen here, I never saw a man beat up his wife because he over ate. But they beat them up all the time and their children too, because they have over drunk. I don’t see a man go down the highway destroying somebody’s life, because he over ate? But I have seen them terribly mangled and destroyed and slain because they over drank.
You just can’t get by without that influence; somebody is affected by what you do. Somebody is. “None of us liveth unto himself, and no man dieth unto himself” [Romans 14:7]. There is a siren; there is a siren. Ah, that wail and that wail, there is a siren! There is a man taken to the hospital, there is a telephone call to a home. There is a wife that rushes down to the emergency ward. There on the emergency table in the hospital is her husband, bathed in blood. And she falls down by his side and says, “Husband, what, what happened, what happened?” And he says, “Wife, I, I, I, I was driving home late from work and a man on the wrong side of the road”…and he died, he died, and that is as far as he said. And when the policemen did the report, he was driving home from work, and a man on the wrong side of the road, he was drunk, the man on the wrong side of the road. Who paid the price? Who paid the price? But I would never do that. Maybe you wouldn’t. Maybe you wouldn’t get drunk and drive on the wrong side of the road and take a man’s life, but somebody who sees you, he may do it, for one out of the ten become alcoholics. You don’t live for yourself. You don’t die by yourself. There is somebody affected by what you do. And for their sakes, for their sakes, leave it alone.
A doctor came to me, and he said, “I want to talk to you.”
“Fine,” I said, “what do you want?”
He said, “I want you to show me how to be a Christian, and how to be saved, and what I ought to do.”
I said, “That is wonderful, Doctor, but man, you ought to have done that long time ago. What are you thinking about it for now?”
He said, “I was out in the car the other day with my boy, and I stopped, and the fellow said, ‘What do you want to drink?” And I told him, and then he turned to my boy and said, ‘Son, do you want anything?” And he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will take what daddy takes.‘” That is repeated in many and many a man’s life. Many and many a man goes through that experience. Why, certainly the boy wants to do what his daddy does! Certainly he does. “I will take what he takes. I want to go where he goes. I want to be just like him! That is what I want to do.” None of us liveth to himself, and none of us dieth to himself [Romans 14:7]. There is always somebody just behind you. Just behind you.
May I close with this earnest admonition? Oh, think what it is when you give your life to God. Give it to God. Give it to God. And then look around you. Give it to God, and see behind you. Give your life to God—no man liveth to himself, no man dieth to himself—give your life to God and see the repercussion, see the repercussion. See what happens. See what happens.
A man came down the aisle to me and gave me his hand, deeply moved like some of those this morning. And he said, “Today, I want to give my life to the Lord Jesus. And I want to be baptized, and I want to be a member of the church.” And right behind him was a boy oh, twelve, ten, eleven years old, and the boy was crying just like his daddy was. He was standing close to the man. I did not know the man. I did not know the boy. Standing close to the boy, I wondered if he even belonged to the man.
And so I said, “Sir, I want you to turn around. Who is that boy?”
And the man turned around and looked down, and he said, “Why,” and called the boy’s name. “Why, son, what are you doing here? What are you doing here?”
And the little boy said, “Daddy, when I saw you come, I wanted to come too. And I just followed you. I just followed you.”
Well, I said, “Dad, if you give your heart to the Lord Jesus, may I ask this boy, son, will you give your heart to the Lord Jesus.”
He said, “Sure, ask him.”
And so I said, “Son, will you give your heart to the Lord Jesus, just like your daddy is doing today?”
And the boy said, “Yes, sir. I will give the Lord Jesus my heart.” And I baptized both of them together. Well, that would be a common experience in life; that is the way God put it together. That’s the way it comes out, that’s the way it is. That’s the way it is. That’s the way it is.
“No man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself” [Romans 14:7]. When you give you life to God, it echoes forever. In the eleventh chapter and the [fourth] verse of the Hebrew letter, God testifies of righteous Abel: “And by it he being dead yet speaketh” [Hebrews 11:4]. How long ago was that? My soul, when did Abel live? When did Able live? Thousands of years ago, maybe millions of years ago, when did Abel live? But he still speaks, he still speaks! [Hebrews 11:4]. He still speaks though he has been dead thousands and thousands of years [Genesis 4:1-9]. And that is the reason our rewards are not given to us when we die. Our rewards are given to us at the end of time [1 Corinthians 3:13-14; 2 Corinthians 5:10]; for when a man dies his influence lives on and on and on; they echo through the centuries and through all time!
Young Baylor people, when I was in school down there, I went from Amarillo with a fine boy. He graduated with me in my class from the Amarillo high school. We went down there to Baylor. And I don’t know why, just some fellows, it was not because of the school, it was just one of those things by which a boy turns in a wrong direction, and he became a blatant outspoken infidel, to my amazement, to my surprise. We were in the same church together, same Sunday school class, and I went to see the boy to try to talk to him about the Lord Jesus. And I went up to his room, and knocked at his door, and went inside of his room . And there that boy sat at his study desk, and open before him was the book that he was reading.
It was Tom Paine; it was infidel Tom Paine’s Age of Reason. Do you think Tom Paine died back yonder after the 1700s? No! No! He still lives, and there that young fellow from my town reading Tom Paine, the infidel, and saying, “I am an infidel!” Through all these years his influence still reaching out and continues; and that’s the reason God gives us our rewards at the end of time; not when you die because you are still living; you are still affecting people. What you did is affecting that boy, and that girl, and that friend, and those lives of those people. It goes on and on forever! How glorious it is when it is given to God.
This righteous Abel by his being dead yet speaketh, blessing the name of Christ [Hebrews 11:4]. Why, I can call to mind now the familiar faces of saintly and godly men and women who I knew in the days of boyhood and the days of youth, and they have gone to glory. But the deposit of love and assurance and Christian faith they made in my life shall live as long as I live. And I could pray in some humble measure might be poured into your heart and into your life and bless you to the end of time. That’s the way God put it together. “No man liveth to himself, no man dieth to himself” [Romans 14:7]. What we do affects somebody else, therefore, therefore, give your life, says Paul, to God that it counts for the most for Him [Romans 14:17-22].
Now we must sing our song, and while we sing it, in the great host of people gathered here in this church tonight, while we sing our song, while we sing our song, give your heart to the Lord, come down here and stand by me. Give your life to the Lord, come and stand by me. Put your life in the fellowship of this church, come and stand by me. A whole family of you, or one somebody of you, young people, a child, anybody you; while we sing this song, while we make appeal, anywhere, into this aisle, down to the front, stand by me. “Here I come, preacher. Here I am, I give you my hand, I give my heart to God,” while we sing this song, while we stand and while we sing.