October 16th, 1955 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
10/16/55 10:50 a.m.
Now, last Sunday we left off at the eighteenth verse of the ninth chapter of 1 Corinthians. So, this Lord’s Day, we begin at the nineteenth verse and our text is through the twenty-third verse. And, then, tonight, we begin at the twenty-fourth verse and go through the twenty-seventh, the end of the chapter. Now, in your Bible, turn to 1 Corinthians, the ninth chapter. And, the message today is from the nineteenth through the twenty-third verses:
For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself slave unto all, that I might gain the more.
Unto the Jews, I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law of Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you
– that I might have a part of this gospel saving message in you.
Now, that’s the passage. Paul says that, for the good of those who listen to him, he accommodates himself and his message to their understanding, to their way of life. He said: "Unto the Jews, I become as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews." When he met the Jews, he did not rail at their ceremonies, nor did he mock or belittle their holy days or their feast day. But, what Paul did, so he says – he tried to show them that the fulfillment of all the types and prophecies of the ancient Jewish religion, all of it is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. They have their spiritual meaning in the Messiah, the Lord Jesus.
Then, he says to them that are without law, that is, to the Gentiles, to the heathen, to the pagan, "I become as a Gentile. I talk to them in terms of their paganism, of their religions, of their false understandings." He becomes as a Gentile, talking to Gentiles.
You could not find a more beautifully eloquent, a more brilliantly adapted, illustration of that than in Paul’s message to the Gentiles, to the pagans, on Mars Hill, in the city of Athens. In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts, Luke writes: "Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill" – that’s the translation of the Areopagus, the meeting place of their Supreme Court – "And he said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious."
Now, wouldn’t that be a marvelous way to begin an address to the Athenians. Way back yonder, they had reasons for translating that like that. But, I don’t know what they are. What that word deisdaimonesterous means is, "Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are most reverent. In all things you are very religious. I perceive that in all things ye are God-fearing. For," he says, "as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD, whom therefore you ignorantly worship?" [Acts 17:22, 23] Why, those Athenians prided themselves upon being the intellectual superiors of all mankind; "ye ignorantly worship? No. "Whom therefore you worship agnoountes," not knowing, for he had just said, as I pass by, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE AGNOUNTO THEOU, AGNOUNTO THEOU, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. "Therefore, whom ye worship agnoountes, without knowing, Him I declare unto you." Then, as he preaches, he says: "For in this God, we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also, of your poets have said," then he quotes half of a hexameter – And, that line is in Aratus and Cleanthes, both of them Stoic philosophers, poets who lived about 300 years before Paul was speaking: "As your own poets have said, For we also are his offspring." [Acts 17:28]
Now, do you think, if Paul were preaching to Jews, do you think he would have chosen as his text a heathen author? And, would he have quoted from heathen Greek poets? No, not at all. Paul’s intense love for his hearers made him unconsciously know how to adapt his message to those who are listening to him. When he spoke to a Jew, he spoke in terms of the Passover lamb: "Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us." He spoke in terms of atonement: Jesus is our atoning sacrifice. When he spoke to a Jew, he was a Jew. But, when he spoke to the Athenians, he spoke as a Greek intellectual.
Paul loved the people; the souls of the people to whom God raised him up to preach the gospel. And, he accommodated his message to those who listened. To those who were weak, as being one weak with them. To those who were aged, as being aged with them. To those who were young, as being young with them. His heart taught him how to do that.
Love is the finest teacher in the world. Love will always find its way. And, the answer of a loving heart is always almost omniscient, inspired, the wisdom of God. So, the Apostle says to them under the law, "I am like a man under the law."
"To those without the law as without the law. To the weak as being one weak. "I am made all things to all men, that I might save some." [1 Corinthians 9:21, 22] Now, that’s an unusual thing: "That I might save some. I do all things that I might save some."
Well, I thought the Lord did the saving. Well, He does. The Lord does the saving. From the Alpha to the Omega does God do the saving. Yet, Paul says: "That I might save some." Well, that’s not a different kind of a presentation of that. You will find it frequently in the Bible. For example, 1 Timothy 4:16: Paul, writing to his young minister in the gospel, says to him: "Timothy, take heed unto thyself and to the doctrine; continue therein; for in so doing, thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."
Well, how is it – how is it that we save the lost? It all depends on how you look at it. So, I thought of an illustration like this. And, if the illustration isn’t quite true, we aren’t getting at the truth here. Suppose you were walking along the Needle Horn just this side of the Jungfrau, and the thing just goes along and it’s a big cow pasture and there are cows everywhere. And, you just walk along, and, right there, with no knowledge or clear warning at all, why, that thing just lops off down there, about 80 or 90 miles – however far it is down there. It looks like an awful thing down there. And, you are walking along there and you see that friend of yours. And, he is walking along and he is not paying any attention. And, you notice that abysmal, yawning cavern there. And, you lift your voice and say to him, "Friend, look out!"
And, just that time that you said that warning, why, he stops. And, just as he stops, why, the earth caves underneath his feet. And, he began to fall into that great yawning chasm there. And, just as he did so why, he grabs a little shrub, a little piece of a cedar bush up there. And, he hangs on for dear life. And, then, you come and pull him back up to safety. Isn’t that a dramatic event?
All right. You look at that a minute. That man, when he got up and on his feet, he shakes hands with you, or you he puts his arms around you, and he says, "Oh, God be praised for you! You saved my life, you saved my life."
And, then, you say to him, "Oh, not at all, my brother, not at all. Had you not clung to that little bush, you would have been gone."
And, then, in after years – he is an old man now, and he is talking to his grandchildren. And, they’re on lap and around his neck, and all around his chair. And, he is telling his grandchildren what happened. And, he says, "I tell you, children, had it not been for the overruling mercies of God, I wouldn’t have been here." And, though, the kids would not understand it, they would not have been here either.
All right. It’s just how you look at it. It’s just how you look at it. "You saved my life. You saved my life. Had you not called – Had you not called – Had you not reached down and pulled me to safety as I clung to that little, trembling shrub, I would have been lost. You saved my life."
Now, I say, you can’t illustrate a thing exactly. A comparison never quite fits. But, you can see the truth I am trying to describe. There is a weight that, when Paul says he does this: "That by all means he might save some." God has committed the saving of souls in that way to us. We preach the gospel. We are the heralds of the kingdom. We pluck the branch from the burning. We preach the message of salvation. We take care of God’s sheep and His lambs. We save souls. God has committed that to us. It is our prerogative, our responsibility, our opportunity under heaven.
God could have done some other thing. A voice out of the excellent glory could have spoken to most men and deterred them from the way of wrath and damnation. They could have been saved by a voice from heaven.
They could have been saved by the angels. God could have commissioned angels to go through the length and breadth of the land and to proclaim the message of salvation. But, He didn’t do it that way. It is the glory of the gospel that it is preached by feeble men and women. And, it is the glory of God that men and women are saved by other feeble instruments, the mouth that witnesses and the heart that loves, the soul that gives testimony.
Did you ever think about that? God pits against Satan feeble people, you, I, on one side, are all but the darknesses of destruction Satan and his hosts. And, on the other side are dying men and women. And, I say, it is the glory of God that, in this warfare for the souls of men, God pits against Satan just plain, ordinary men and women.
And how Satan tries them: Job, in the hands of Satan, sitting in sackcloth and ashes and suffering at the hands of Satan: Simon Peter, weeping, having been sifted by Satan; ah, the Apostle Paul, with "a thorn from Satan," as he says, beseeching the Lord to remove it. How Satan antagonizes God’s people. How by day and night, he is like a wolf, ravenously devouring, doing all that he can to discourage and to hurt and to destroy.
And, yet – and, yet, it is not by a seen angel that the Lord smites him. Nor is it by the hosts of heaven and earth that the Lord God would gain a victory over him. God fights Satan by eyes that weep and hearts that burn and knees that bend and heads that bow. These are the artillery of God. And, by their hands, by the hands of feeble men and women, province after province is pulled away from the kingdom of Satan. Men who are fettered are unbound. Souls that are imprisoned, the doors are thrown wide open. This is done because God has placed into the hearts of His children a passion for souls.
"I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." [1 Corinthians 9:22] Now, I do not propose to defend the ways of God to men. But, as I prepared this message, I have four things that I think are a part of the wisdom of God in committing the saving of the lost to us, and not to the angels, and not to the moving Spirit of God alone, and not just to a voice that might speak from heaven – Four reasons why I think God chose to commit the saving of souls to us, that we do it.
The first one is this: it makes a family out of us, the fact that we save men. We save souls. That fact, I say, makes a family out of us. It would be the same way as with your family.
Suppose you could go to the Woolworth store and buy your children. Well, upon a day, you decide you want a child. So, you call in your husband, and say, "Now, husband, when you get off from work this afternoon, why, you go by the store and get a loaf of bread and you get some bacon and you pick up one or two other little things. And, then go by the Woolworth store and let’s get us a redhead baby. You pick up the baby."
So, he goes by the store. And, he picks up the little red-headed baby. And, the wife looks it over. And, she makes up their mind and she says, "Listen, we don’t like this red-headed baby. When you go back to work in the morning, you take this red-headed baby back to the Woolworth store. And, you pick out a little flaxen-haired baby. And, you bring that one home this afternoon. And, then, six months later, let’s see if we wouldn’t like a deep, dark brunette."
But, they don’t come that way. Whether they have red hair or black hair or flaxen hair, or no hair at all, it doesn’t make any difference at all. By the time that little fellow gets there – and, just one little cry and one little smile and one little look out of his innocent eyes, no matter what the color or anything about it, you’re just so glad to have that little baby – been waiting for him, been waiting for her.
And, oh, it’s a member of the family: cost blood, cost tears, cost lots of trouble and lots of care. And, when they come, you wouldn’t trade them for the whole world, not for all the money in creation. They are yours. They are a part of your family.
I say that’s the same thing about us, in the wisdom of God. We are a family. And, we gain our children by spiritual birth. God says so. God says we are born into the kingdom of God. And, it is traveled – it is labored in Zion. It is prayer. It is love. It is tears. These are our children. They are our spiritual children. These are our folks. These are our family.
When we gather here in God’s house, it’s not like a bunch of strangers that you pick up along the way. Why, this one and that one and that one and the friends of this one were all found here, found together in bonds of Christian love. And, I say, God did it that way to make us one in Him.
And, that leads me to my second avowal: The wisdom of God in committing to us the saving of the soul. It makes us God-like, Christ-like, in His image. Do you yearn over somebody that’s lost, that he might be saved? God does that. Do you look with fear and trepidation upon the death of the wicked? God does that. "As I live," said the Lord, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." [Ezekiel 18:32]
Did you ever cry over the lost? Did you ever intercede, so that the tears came in your eyes? Did you ever so plead with God over somebody – that they might be God’s – that you couldn’t keep back the tears? Did you ever? Jesus did that. He wept over a lost city. Did you ever expend yourselves that somebody might be won to God? Did you ever pour yourself into a ministry for Christ that the lost might be saved? Jesus did that. He gave Himself that we might be saved. I say, by doing that, we become like God.
This week, if I have it here – This week, I read something Spurgeon said about himself. He was testifying about himself. He was converted when he was 16 years old – a layman was testifying for the Lord, and he heard him. And, he was saved. And, this is what he said about himself when he was 16 years old: "I was restless for others. I did not know that I could speak to assemblies."
Isn’t that the most eloquent man who ever lived, and our greatest preacher? "I did not know that I could speak to assemblies. I was timid in conversing upon religious matters. Therefore, I wrote little notes to different persons, setting forth the way of salvation. I mailed them with tracts, or I slipped them under the doors of homes. My heart would have burst, if I had not found some way." That’s God-like. That’s like Christ. That’s in His image. That’s the yearning of the Spirit of God. And, I say, when we do that, we become like our Savior. That’s the second reason, I say, why God hath committed to us the saving of the lost.
I have a third reason. And, the third reason is this: I think God committed to us the saving of the lost in order that we might be one in this church and in our working together, that we might not be divisive in our spirit, that we might not be critical of one another, that we might not be all divided up in our spiritual fellowship, but that we all might be one great working group.
You listen to me. When a church turns aside from its great, soul-winning ministry, the first thing that happens to it, it begins to divide on the inside. They begin to find fault. They begin to be critical. They begin to pull apart. And, this one has got his eye on that one. And, this one has got his eye on that one. And, their little petty jealousies and their little likes and dislikes and differences of opinion rise and multiply.
Soon, the church is eaten at its heart by cancer. And, the church grows cold and indifferent. Nobody is born in it. They are not thinking about that. They are thinking about themselves. They are thinking about all these divisive opinions and interests.
But you let a church place all of its energies and all of its heart and all of its souls and all of its prayers in carrying out the great commission of the Son of God. Then, you watch them, as they pray together for the lost, as they visit for the lost, as they teach the Word of God for the lost, as they send out leaflet sounders and our missionaries for the lost, as they bring to God’s house support for these who proclaim the heralding news to the lost.
You see that church grow close, bound together by a common love and a common interest. They don’t have time to fight one another. Who would be interested in it, when we are in a great battle for God? Who wants to come down here to the church and have a first class church fight when, the whole city of Dallas, God hath committed to us, and the whole world the Lord hath laid on our hearts? We haven’t time for it. We have no inclination for it. We are too busy about the things of the kingdom. When we have a deacon’s meeting, we are not there, fussing and fighting. What we are trying to do is find God’s answer to these things that He has committed to our care.
And, there are big things. When we meet down here at the church, we are not calling the church in conference to settle some outlandish, unbelievable, God-dishonoring things that’s come up in our church. When we gather down here, we are preaching the gospel, or having a prayer meeting, or getting ready to do something for Jesus here or abroad.
That’s what it does for you. It puts us together. It binds us in one, in one great common determination. God committed it to us for that reason, I think. And, if we do it, there will always be a spirit of unanimity. When people come in the door, you just feel it around this place. Prayer does that: "They were all with one accord and in one place and the Spirit of the Lord came upon them." [Acts 2:1]
And, then, I have one other reason. I have another reason. Why is it that God committed to us the saving of the lost? I have one other reason. The last reason is it makes for revival. That is revival. By "revival" I mean, it makes for the quickening of the Spirit of God in the hearts of His children. It just does.
Well, what do you mean? This is what I mean. When somebody comes down that aisle and gives the pastor his hand, and he says, "I am a poor penitent. I want to know the way. I want to be saved. I want to be a Christian" – it brings back to our hearts that day when we sought the Lord, when we were an inquirer, maybe when we tugged at mother’s dress, or pulled a daddy’s sleeve and said, "Dad, I want to be Christian. I want to be saved. How is it that a little boy can be saved? I want to give my heart to Jesus." When somebody comes down that aisle and takes the pastor by the hand, and he says, "I take the Lord as my Savior today," it brings back that hour and that time when the minister asks us, "Do you believe in the Lord Jesus as your Savior?" And, you answered, with a full heart: "With all of my soul and all my life, I do believe in the Lord Jesus."
It does that to you. There is a quickening of the Spirit of God in us, when other people are saved. How much more is that true when somebody comes down that aisle, and you look and see – why, that’s somebody whom I prayed for? That’s somebody whom I visited. That’s somebody whom I sought. That’s one of my spiritual children.
That’s revival. That’s the quickening. That’s the moving of the Spirit of God. And, when it happens, you can feel it all over the house.
We are too prone, in our lives, far too prone in our lives, to push them away – to push them away. I haven’t time for this ministry. I am too busy. I am too busy. And, we neglect this greatest of all our opportunities. And, we let somebody else do it. We let the preacher do that. We let the Sunday School teacher do that. We let these deacons do that.
And, the deacons say, "We are too busy. We are running this business and I’ve got this task and I am too busy."
And, so much of that is that of us. We are like the disciples who go to the Lord Jesus and say: "That great host, that multitude, just send them away. Send them away. Send them away. We know they are weary, and it is painful to see them faint. But, it is easier to forget them. Send them away. Send them away."
But, the Lord Jesus says: "No. Feed them. Minister to them. Take care of them." And, that is the reason for this message this morning that I might exhort your minds in the Lord Jesus to be diligent in this thing; that I might remind myself to place some of these things first.
I don’t preach to you and not to me. Last Monday morning, I placed on my desk this week: I am going to see this man. I am going to talk to this little family. They need the Lord and I am going to talk to them.
Did you know Monday, I was too busy? And, Tuesday was not any different. And, Wednesday and Thursday and Friday were just like it. And, Saturday, I was engrossed. And, I haven’t done it. And, I meant to do it Monday.
That’s us. That’s the way we are. And, the day is passed and we never say that word and we never make that call and we never do this most precious of all ministries. Ah, Paul, that we could have a little more of thy spirit: "I am made all things to all men that I might by all means, save some."
If it’s a boy that works for me, and I am his boss, I will forget, for a little bit, that I am his boss. And, I will talk to the boy, just like I was reckoned with him by side. I’ll talk to him about the Lord Jesus: "Son, are you saved? Is it all right? Is it all right?"
Yesterday afternoon late, Victor Curtis introduced me to a boy, a young fellow, over there in the drug store. And, I was just going, and I thought: "I already missed one great opportunity this week. I am just going to stop. I am not going to pass this one up."
I got acquainted with him. He has got a wife and a brand new little baby; little baby boy. I said, "Fellow, do you have a minute?"
"Yeah," he said, "I’ve got a minute."
Well, I said, "Let’s go over here."
And, I took him over to Bertha Mills’ nurseries and all back there. And, I said, "This is the way you need to raise your little boy. Here is the place for him: right there." Then I said, "Right up here when he gets a little bigger, this is where he will be."
Then, I took him over there to that building, and said, "And, when the little boy grows up, that’s where he will be, over there with those young people in that building."
Then, I took him up there into that recreational building, and I said, "And, as the little boy grows up, we don’t want him making his friends out in the alley and be a gangster. We want him to come here, where he can find Christian boys and girls and grow up with them."
Then I said – then I said, "Fellow, you are going to do that, aren’t you?"
And, then, he took me by the hand, and said, "Yes, sir, preacher. That is what I am going to do. That is what I am going to do – just taking a little time out."
That’s the appeal of the apostle. "I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some." God hath committed to us – according to the Book, God hath committed to us the saving of the lost. Ah, that its admonition might be precious in our sight and that we might be busy about the work of the Lord as we go about our daily tasks.
Now, if the Lord has honored this witness today, would you seal it in your own soul and spirit? Somebody – you, come down here by my side. "Pastor, today I take the Lord as my Savior. I give my heart and my life to Jesus, and here I am. Pastor, here is my whole family. We are all coming today, and here we are." One somebody you, anywhere, to the last row of that top balcony, anywhere, somebody you and we are still on the radio for this little minute. If where you are, as you listen, If today you give your heart to God, would you kneel by your chair? Would you say, "O God, today, I take Jesus as my Savior?" Would you so? Tell Him then come and tell us. And, in this great auditorium, in this holy hour, somebody you, "Today, I make my choice, I cast my lot. It’s Christ. It’s in Him." Would you come and stand by me, while our people stand and sing together?