We Preach Christ
March 13th, 1955 @ 7:30 PM
1 Corinthians 1:21-24
WE PREACH CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 1:21-24
3-13-55 7:30 p.m.
In your program, it is announced that the sermon tonight is in the latter part of the first chapter of the first Corinthian letter, and next Lord’s Day we shall turn to that passage. But tonight, I wanted to continue in the Word that we read this morning. In the first Corinthian letter and the first chapter, from the twenty-first verse to the twenty-fourth – 1 Corinthians 1:21-24:
For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
The Jews require a sign, the Greeks seek after wisdom;
But we, we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, unto the Greeks foolishness;
But unto them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
I could think that would be a wonderful motto to engrave over the portals of any church: "We preach Christ!" That would be a good thing to place on the stationery when we send out letters from the church – The First Baptist Church in Dallas: we preach Christ.
Mr. Willis sometimes will come to me and say the United States Government and the Post Office department gives us the privilege, in the little stamp machine we have, to place on that little stamp machine a motto – anything that we might choose. It’d be good for that: we preach Christ. And how fine for a church and its ministry to dedicate itself to just that. This is what we do. This is it. Next Lord’s Day morning, you’ll know what the service will be. Next Lord’s Day evening, and the following Sunday, and every time we gather, it’s going to be a message on the Lord Jesus: We Preach Christ.
Now, it isn’t a theological conception that we’re preaching. It isn’t some metaphysical, philosophical, historical personality that we’re preaching. It isn’t some removed and strange and esoteric religious revelation that we’re preaching. We’re preaching a present, a living, a delivering, a transforming, a regenerating, a resurrected, a listening, a helping, a comforting, a glorious Lord Jesus, Savior, Christ – right now, this moment, as much alive as He ever was, more so. We preach Christ a living presence.
It was a tragic and a cruel day, the day of the cross. There, lifted between the earth and the sky, the Son of God nailed to the cross; and at three o’clock on a Friday afternoon, He died [Matthew 27:45-51; Mark 15:33-38; Luke 23:44-46]. His eyes were set and glazed. The spirit had left His body. He was dead. The mob who looked at Him die said, "He’s dead. He’s dead." The Pharisees and the elders and the Sadducees and all of the people who encompassed that tragic hour, they looked at Him and said, "He’s dead. He’s dead" [Luke 23:47-48]. The Roman soldiers that came to break the bones of the thieves on either side, when they came to Jesus, they said, "He’s already dead." They didn’t break His bones [John 19:32-33]. One of them, just to make doubly sure, thrust a spear into His heart [John 19:34]. "He is dead. He’s dead."
When Pontius Pilate asked the Roman centurion who supervised the crucifixion, gave the official verdict, "He is dead. He’s dead" [Mark 15:43-45]. When they took Him down from the cross, they rolled Him in a winding sheet, placed Him in a tomb and sealed that tomb [Matthew 27:59-60, 62-66; Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53]. "He is dead!" The poor, broken-hearted women who ministered to Him from Galilee, they came to weep at the tomb, saying to one another, "He is dead. He is dead" [Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:40-41, 47; Luke 23:, 55-56; John 19:25]. And the disciples, eleven of them, crawled into eleven shadows, and they whispered to one another in absolute and ultimate despair, "He is dead. He is dead" [Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50; John 16:32].
Could we imagine then the flame that leaped from heart to heart and lip to lip when the electric announcement was made: "He’s no longer dead. He’s risen! He’s not in the grave. He’s alive! He’s alive! He’s alive!" [Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-50; John 20:1-21:25] They didn’t know when He might appear – there or there or there. In the garden, there He was alive, resurrected, raised from the dead [Matthew 28:9-10; John 20:11-18]. Walking along the road, there He was by their side, raised from the dead, talking with them as they walked [Luke 24:13-35]. In the upper room where the doors were shut, suddenly there He was, alive, resurrected, raised from the dead [Luke 24:36-; John 20:19-29]. Fishing in the gray mist of the morning hour, there He stood on the shore, alive, raised from the dead [John 21:1-14]. For forty days, He appeared to them [Acts 1:3]. Then finally, they didn’t need to look upon Him with their physical eye. They knew Him by His presence working with them [Acts 2:1-47; 3:1-26; 4:1-37; 5:12-16, 27-32, 40-42; 6:8-15; 7:1-60; 8:4-40; 9:32-43; 10:9-48; 11:1-18; 12:1-19; 15:1-35]. He’s alive. He’s alive! The Lord Jesus: quickened and living and alive today!
The most powerful figure in our history, our present history, the most powerful personality in this world today is not the prime minister of the British Empire. It is not the president of the United States. It is not the dictator of Soviet Russia; but the greatest living, moving presence in this world today is the living, quickened, moving presence of Jesus Christ, the Son of God! He is our living Lord.
In 1924, Lenin died, who brought Communism to Russia. He’s buried in the Red Square. Every picture you’ll ever see of the Kremlin will have right there in one corner of it, or in the foreground of it, it’ll have the tomb of Lenin. His death came suddenly. He was a comparatively young man. He was in the prime of his life. He held the Soviet government in his hand. He established international Communism. He took the doctrine of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and he brought it to a reality in the terrible, fearful government of Soviet Russia.
He died, I said, in 1924. Day after day, every day of the year, thousands and thousands and thousands go marching by Lenin’s tomb. He’s in a glass casket. His body is beautifully preserved; and they look upon the dead and silent face of their founder of Russian Communism passing by the thousands and thousands. When Lenin died in 1924, the Grand Council of the Socialistic Soviet Republics of Russia made an announcement to the world, and they inscribed it above that tomb; and that announcement was this: "No man ever wrought as Lenin. He was the greatest leader of men. He was the greatest teacher of all time. He was the author of a new social order. He was the lord of a new humanity. He was the savior of the world."
Unknown to the Grand Council of the Socialistic Soviet Republics of Russia, they spelled their defeat and their doom in the text of the verb that they used. He "was" the greatest leader among men. He "was" the greatest teacher of all time. He "was" the author of a new social order. He "was" the lord of a new humanity. He "was" the savior of the world. But they pass by – the thousands and the thousands and the thousands – and look upon his dead, cold face.
With what triumph, with what victory, and with what glory does the follower of the Lord Jesus Christ change the tense of that verb! No one works in history, in time, in the soul, in human hearts like the Lord Jesus. He is! He is the greatest leader among men. He is the greatest teacher of all time. He is the author of a new social order. He is the Lord of a new humanity. He is the Savior of the world. We preach Christ: a living Savior, a living Lord, a living Presence.
In the young people’s department of our Sunday School Wednesday night, they had a lesson on prayer; and my wife who teaches that group of teachers, when I came back last week, said to me, "We were thinking and talking in that group about the conception of God when we pray." Then she said to me, "What do you have in your mind when you pray? What is God like, and what do you have in your mind when you pray? What is Jesus like?"
Well, I have a ready answer. If you ask me that question, I can tell you exactly. When I pray to God, God our Father, I have no physical conception. He is – what He would be like, I cannot fathom because God is Spirit [John 4:24]. I cannot enter into the mystery of God. That’s the reason for the incarnation of Jesus Christ – that we might have a knowledge of God that we could know and enter into fellowship with [John 14:5-11]. As long as God just remains the Creator of the world, flinging stars out into space, making all the marvelous things we see in the land and in the sea, then it’d be just like my conception of God is now. I have no conception at all.
God who lives, who holds the universe in His hand, who created all things, I cannot enter into it. I do not know. I do not try. God has no body. God has no form. God has no flesh. He has no bones. God is Spirit [John 4:24]. I cannot enter into that. It is beyond me. When a man dies, his spirit leaves him. What leaves him? I cannot enter into it. I have no conception. His spirit leaves. I don’t know. I don’t know, but I know what a man is like. I know what his body is like. I know what his voice is like. I know what his presence is like. I know what his personality is like. I know how he looks out of his eyes. I know somewhat of the throb and the feel of his inner soul and heart expressed in the gesture of his hand, in the tone of his voice, in the look of his face; I know him.
And it’s the same way about the Lord Jesus, and I think of the Lord Jesus in two ways. One: I think of Him when I pray. I think of the Lord Jesus bending down His ear from heaven and listening when we pray. And that Lord Jesus that I have in my mind, who’s here tonight and looks down tonight, that Lord Jesus has flesh and He has bones [John 20:20, 27-28; 1 John 1:1]. "Handle Me and see. Handle Me and see," says the Lord, "that it is I Myself, for a spirit hath not flesh and bone such as ye see Me have" [Luke 24:39].
He’s a man: glorified, immortalized, transcendent, transfigured; but He’s a man, and the most glorious of all of the men who have ever lived. His eyes, His hair, His stature, His figure: if you were to combine in one all of the glorious conceptions of all of the artists of the world, that’d be the Lord Jesus; and the half had not been portrayed.
Then I think of Him sometimes as Paul saw Him on the road to Damascus [Acts 9:1-6]. I think of Him sometime as John saw Him on the Isle of Patmos [Revelation 1:9-20]. Were He to appear, He brought out the sun, the very sun itself would look like night and dark and black compared to the glory effulgence of His countenance. It’d just be all light and all glory and all wonder and all heaven [Revelation 21:10, 23-26]. That’s the Lord Jesus. He’s like a man: a glorious man, a triumphant man, the victorious man – the living, reigning, risen, glorified, immortalized Lord Jesus! When I pray, I pray in the Name and sometimes to a glorious, incarnate God-Man.
He lives, our Savior: we preach Christ alive, present, listening. We preach Christ an abiding Savior. By that I mean, could I quote it? In the Gospel of John, I was reading it in Greek the other night for my devotional and the word there stayed in my heart, doubly so: "I will not leave you orphanous" [John 14:18]. The word orphans are that. "I will not leave you orphans, ‘orphanous.’ I will not leave you alone. I will not leave you by yourself. I will not forsake you [Hebrews 13:5-6]." Our Lord and our Savior: an abiding Lord, an abiding Savior [John 15:1-11].
A woman came to see me this morning. She came to see me over there in the study. Her husband has left her, has married again. She has two children. She is in the most, she’s in the ultimate of despair. She’s in the prime of womanhood. She’s a glorious woman. But oh, oh, oh – and the purpose of her coming to me was just out of the dejection and the despair of her life. And her persuasion had finally come to this: she was in so much of the tears and of the night and of the dark and of the distress and of the hopelessness of life that she seemed forsaken of God.
It was my glorious privilege and opportunity as a pastor to say to her this morning, "My dear, it is in the depths of our lives, it is in the agonies and the despairs of our lives, that Christ most comes – that He is most near [Psalm 27:10; 2 Timothy 4:16-18]; or like you sing in the songs, ‘He is most precious.’"
If He is just a fair-weathered God, if He is just the friend of the summer days, if He’s here just when things are happy, and the song is lilting and light, and the day is fair and warm, if He’s just that, oh, my soul, what of the day when the hour of great tragedy strikes? What of the day in senility and death? What of the cold and the dark of the night and the grave? Is He just that? Just that?
Ah, no! All of the promises that are written in this Book are to assure us when our father and our mother forsake us, then the Lord will pick us up [Psalm 27:10]. For He hath said, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee [Hebrews 13:5]. I will not leave you comfortless [John 14:16, 26, 15:26, 16:7; 2 Corinthians 1:2-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17]. I will come to you." These and a thousand other assurances are our strength, our refuge. In these inevitable hours and these certain days that lie ahead, there’s not any life but that shall be plunged into the night. There’s not any path but that runs through a valley. There’s not any soul but that shall know the agony and the distress of this life. That is a part of this world. In the world, ye shall have tribulation [John 16:33]. Age lies ahead. Illness lies ahead. Death lies ahead. For some, agony and unutterable despair. He is our abiding Savior.
Take it to the Lord. Make it a matter of prayer. Talk it over with Jesus. "Just when I need Him most, Jesus is near to comfort and cheer" ["Just When I Need Him Most," by William C. Poole, 1907]. We preach Christ. We preach Christ; a delivering, a transforming, a regenerating Spirit.
"Preacher," you say, "a whole lot of this Jesus religion and so much of this sermon, so much of this thing, is just so much out there. It’s so far away. It’s so removed. It’s so intangible these things of sermons and these things of the pulpit. They’re just sound and sentence, and they’re pipe dreams and wishful thinking, and they’re the stuff that cobwebs are made out of. But, ah, this downright hard reality, where is Jesus? Where is He? And what would He be? I don’t – it doesn’t touch me. You just don’t know, and you don’t realize."
Example: Suppose in a strange city, big, big, strange city – well I’ve had the feeling – suppose in a strange city, walking along a dark street, somebody get in step with you, behind you. And the way you have to go leads in straits and places you don’t know anything about. It’s dark, and it’s alley-like; and there’s somebody following you. Wonder what matters as you think it? "That man following me there, when I turn the corner, he turns the corner; and I go down that dark street, he’s behind me. When I turn, he turns. When I stop, he stops. Well, is he rich, or is he poor?" Man, how impertinent. "Is he black, or is he white?" How much beside the point. But oh, how anxiously to know: is he a good man, or a bad man? If you knew he was a Christian, a wonderful Christian, how much does it settle?
Suppose your girl goes traipsing off to school. She’s just a little doll. She’s eight years old, and she’s off to school. She’s ten years old; she’s off to school. She’s twelve years old; she’s off to school. Somehow, you forgot to tell her, "Honey, don’t ever get in a car with a strange man. Don’t ever." You just forgot. You just never thought about it. And about three blocks down the way, beyond the sound of your voice, that little doll walking along the street, going to school, and a man stops in a car, and he opens the door and he says to her, "You going to school? Get in the car. I’ll take you. I’m going right up the way." And you see the little girl get in the car with a strange man, and he closes the door and he drives away. Is he a rich man, or a poor man? What kind of a man? There’s only one thing you’d like to know! Is he a good man, or a bad one? That’s all. Is he a good Christian man? How pertinent. How pertinent.
I stood at a bank door, biggest thing I ever saw, and I said to the man there who was supervising all of that – you know they sold them – I said to that man, "You know, your money sure would be safe behind a door like that, wouldn’t it?" He said, "Listen to me, fellow, you don’t ever lose your money on account of your bank door. You lose your money on account of bad bankers!" What is this thing out here at Lewisville? I don’t know, but, brother, they’ve got a padlock on the First National Bank out there. And the thing arises not because anybody broke in the bank door; it arises because something went wrong with the men on the inside of the bank.
There’s not an institution in the world – an insurance company, a great bank – there’s no company in the world but that is built upon the character and the integrity of the men who compose it. If they’re great Christians, what a difference.
You don’t need to worry about the governor of your state if he’s a man of God. If he’s not a man of God, behind every deal there’ll be a crooked thing; and all of the laws of the land and all of the legislatures of the earth couldn’t keep your government straight if the man that heads it is a crook. But if he’s a great man of God, you can entrust him with the laws of government and the destiny of a people.
That’s the reason you can’t do business with Russia. That’s the reason you can’t do business with China. A treaty they sign would not be worth the paper that it’s written on. Why? Because their people, their rulers, and their government is not built upon the persuasion that there is a God; and outside of God, there’s not any morality; and outside of God, there’s not any character; and outside of God, there’s not any ultimate. You can never find peace with a nation and a government and a people who are dedicated to monstrous materialism and flagrant infidelity and atheism. You say these things don’t matter. They are the warp and the woof of our life. They are the foundation of all that we build upon. We preach Christ.
I have to close. I never read anything that to me was finer. I just exulted in it. I never read anything that, I say, to me was finer than in a newspaper report about something that happened over there in the South Pacific when our Navy and our Air Force was island stepping to the Philippines. [General Douglas] MacArthur had said, "I will return." We had promised deliverance to our compatriots on the other side of the sea; and our men in the Air Force, in the Marines, and in the Navy were resolutely setting their faces to the liberation of the Philippines.
In the line of attack while they were island hopping – winning here, then there, and then there – in the line of attack, there was an atoll that was inhabited by a chief and his tribe. In order to spare the chief and his tribe, the natives of that South Sea island, in order to spare the little group the horrors of a devastating attack, word was sent to them that a warship would be dispatched and they all would be evacuated to some other atoll in order to find safety in the hour of battle. So the big warship was sent, anchored out there in the deep water; and then the other little boats were sent to the atoll to gather together the chief and all of his tribe and all the natives, put them in those boats, and took them out to the deep water to get on the big warship to be carried away to safety.
So in compliance with the request of the chief of the natives of the island, they all were to be presented to the captain of the ship. So when they were all brought on the little boats to the big man of war, they were all taken up. Why, they made a promenade of the deck of the United States battleship. All the sailors, the marines, all the men were lined up on either side, standing at attention; and at the far end of the battleship was the captain. And the chief of the island, and his prime minister, and the men in his government, and all their families and their children – they all marched up the length of the battleship to be presented to the captain.
But what stayed in my mind was this: in front of the chieftain and in front of the ministers of the government of this little island, in front of all of them as they marched the length of the battleship to be presented to the captain, in front of all of them, was a native with a big open Bible in his hand. And as they marched up to be presented to the captain of the ship, the fellow that walked in front had a big, open Bible in his hand. It was the chieftain’s way of saying to the men of the American Navy and to the captain of the battleship: "We are a people of the Book. We are a Christian people. We’re not a heathen tribe. We’re not a pagan at all. We’re not heathen. We’re Christians. We worship and adore the Lord Jesus Christ. We are a people of the Book."
I don’t know their names. I’ve forgotten the name of the little island from whence they were taken, but you could do business with that chief. You could do business on that island. They are a people built upon the endurable, unchanging rock of the revelation of Jesus Christ the Son of God. We preach Christ.
Now, we’re going to sing our song, and while we sing it, while we sing it, somebody give his heart to the Lord. You come. Somebody put his life and his letter in the church – you come. Somebody rededicate his life to the Lord Jesus; you come. However God shall say the word, open the way, make an appeal – you come. In the balcony around, anywhere, while we sing, while we pray, while we wait for you, you come. "Pastor, tonight, I take the Lord as my Savior," or "Tonight, I’m putting my life in the fellowship of His church." As God shall say the word and open the way, you come. You come while we stand and while we sing.
I. A living presence
day of the cross – "He is dead"
electric announcement – "He is alive"
1. Never knew when they
might see Him
2. Then finally no need
for physical eyes to see Him
The most powerful figure in our history and in the world today
Lenin died – "He was the greatest leaderâ€¦"
With what glory does follower of Christ change the tense of that verb
you pray, what picture is in your mind?
no physical conception of God the Father
a man, glorious, like Paul and John saw(Luke
II. An abiding Savior(John 14:18)
the times of despair and agony that He is most near
III. A regenerating, delivering,
"Just theology" you say
1. You do not realize
how vitally affected is daily reality
2. National life