THE COST TO THE CHRISTIANS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-28-56 7:30 p.m.
This message tonight concludes our preaching through the Book of Galatians. Next Lord’s Day we begin with the first verse of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. Now the sermon tonight is not a separate sermon. It is a part of the sermon delivered this morning. On account of the lack of time, I broke up the sermon into two parts. In such a little piece as a thirty or thirty-five or forty minute period, many, many times it is difficult to get into such a short period a message that you find writ large on the page of the Book. Such a message is the one from this text of Galatians 6:17.
This morning we begin speaking of the scars for the Lord inside in the body of the apostle Paul. Galatians 6:17, “For I bear in my body the brand marks of the Lord Jesus.” And we read for our Scripture the eleventh chapter of the second Corinthian letter, the part of it where Paul describes his suffering for Christ, “In stripes above measure, in prisons frequent, in deaths oft . . . Five times received I forty stripes save one” [2 Corinthians 11:23-24]. The Jewish law said no man could be beat more than forty stripes. So lest a mistake might ever be made, they made it one short, lest somebody might miscount. So they never beat more than thirty-nine. Five times was he beat by Jewish mobs; thirty-nine stripes; forty minus one.
“Thrice was I beaten with rods” [2 Corinthians 11:25]. That was a Roman scourging, a fascia bundle. “Thrice was I beaten with rods.” When they crucified a man, far more nearly did he die of the terrible scourging that preceded his nailing to the tree rather than from the wounds in his hands and his feet. “Thrice was I beaten with rods. Once was I stoned” [2 Corinthians 11:25]; at Lystra. They thought they had killed him. They dragged him outside of the city for dead [Acts 14:19]. Once stoned. “Thrice suffered shipwreck” [2 Corinthians 11:25]. We only know of once. “Thrice suffered shipwreck; a night and a day I have been in the deep” [2 Corinthians 11:25], out there clinging to some piece of the ship or some piece of flotsam or jetsam in the deep [Acts 27:42-44], a night and a day. “In journeyings, in perils, in weariness and painfulness, in watchings, in hunger and thirst, in fastings, in cold and in nakedness [2 Corinthians 11:26-27]; I bear in my body the brand marks of the Lord Jesus” [Galatians 6:17].
Then in the sermon this morning, we said that the thing that gives life and quickening power to the gospel message is the sacrifice that is in it [Galatians 6:17]. Take that away and there’s nothing left but dust and ashes, barrenness and sterility. The moving, quickening power of the preached message of the Son of God lies in the note of sacrifice that is in it [Galatians 6:17]. And the power of the appeal of the church is the power of the love, and tears, and toil, and care, and intercession that lies in the spirit and in the heart of the church [John 13:35].
Then we applied it to our burden for the lost [John 4:35-36]. When we are unconcerned, is it any unusual thing that the lost is unconcerned? Why should a man whose heart Satan has made calloused and whose eyes are veiled from the truth of God—why should he be burdened about his soul unless God’s people show a burden for it? [John 4:35-36]. He passes by the disinterested and the unconcerned and the indifferent—of a people who themselves are unconcerned and indifferent. Why should anybody come to the services here if they’re cold, and dead, and formal, and the people are removed and indifferent? Why should they?
There ought to be first here in us a flame and a fire, a care, a burden, an intercession, a great warmth and loving appeal. And if it isn’t here, why should we expect lost people to find God in this sacred place and in our midst? The burden of the lost is one of the burdens that the Christian heart ought always to bear [John 4:35-36]. We spoke of that this morning.
Now tonight I have one other thing; the message, the church, the lost. And one other thing and that is the sermon tonight. There ought to be, in the lives of the Christians, there ought to be the spirit of sacrifice in our giving and in our offering unto the Lord. We ought not to make offerings unto the Lord that cost us nothing [2 Samuel 24:24], but there ought to be in the dedication of what we bring to God, there ought to be that this cost—it is taken out of my life, and I feel it! This thing that I could have used for myself, this part that could so easily fall to a lot that I could prescribe, I have denied it of me. I have taken it from me. I have brought it to God at a cost and not a sacrifice. And all of our giving ought to be like that. We ought not to give unto God that which cost us nothing [2 Samuel 24:24].
And in the message tonight, I have taken it out of the Book. In 2 Samuel, in the twenty-fourth chapter, in the last chapter, God said to David through His prophet, Gad, God said, “Because of lack of faith in Me and because thou hast sinned in numbering the people, therefore, thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things. Choose one of them that I may do it unto thee. First, shall there be seven years of famine in the land? Or second, shall you flee three months before your enemies? Or third, shall there be three days of awful, wasting pestilence that decimates the land? Now advise and see what answer I shall return to God that sent me” [2 Samuel 24:10-13].
And David said unto Gad—can you imagine a choice like that? Seven years of famine, to flee before enemies who pursue with a sword, who trample down the cities and homes of the people, or to be wasted by a terrible pestilence? And David said to Gad, “I am in a great strait. I do not know how to choose. I do not know where to turn. I am in a great strait. But let us fall into the hand of the Lord. Maybe God will be merciful. But let us not fall into the hands of men” [2 Samuel 24:14].
By that he meant he cast himself on the mercies of God; God, to send the pestilence. And the pestilence ravaged the people, and there were seventy thousand men who were dead because of the ravaging plague [2 Samuel 24:15]. And the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it. And when David saw the angel—he was standing on Mt. Moriah above the threshing floor of Araunah—and when David saw the angel ready to smite the people, it was more than human heart could bear. And he cried unto God, “O God, stay Thy hand! Stay Thy hand! These sheep, what have they done? Let it fall upon me and my father’s house” [2 Samuel 24:16-17].
And God sent Gad the prophet again to David. And Gad went up and said to David, “David, up there on the threshing floor of Araunah, on that threshing floor, there build an altar and make a sacrifice unto God that the Lord may be entreated in behalf of His people” [2 Samuel 24:18]. So David and his servants made their way up Mt. Moriah, up to the threshing floor of Araunah, there to build an altar unto God that God might be entreated in behalf of the people. And when he came up, Araunah met him and said, “Behold, it is thine. I give it to you,” said Araunah. “This threshing floor is thine, and the oxen here are thine for the sacrifice; and the implements of threshing and the yoke and ox, there thine” [2 Samuel 24:18-23]—a gift.
And the king said unto an Araunah, “Nay, nay, not so! Nay, but I will surely buy of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing!” [2 Samuel 24:24]. So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and the instruments, and there on Mt. Moriah built an altar unto the Lord. And the Lord was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel [2 Samuel 24:24-25]. David had the true spirit of the prophet of God. “Nay, nay, shall I bring to God and offer to God that which cost me nothing at all, nothing at all?” [2 Samuel 24:24].
There ought to be in this dedication of my gift to God, there ought to be a sense that this that I bring and set apart for God, this is a part of my very life. I have traded my life. I have coined it. I have toiled and worked. I have traded my days and hours. I have traded it for this reward. And this thing that I bring to God is my very life itself. It’s my living.
That’s the reason that the Lord God commended that widow. Jesus sat over against the treasury—in the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of Mark—Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were well-to-do cast in, passed by, gave, but while the Lord watched, there came a poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing—worth hardly a penny. And He called unto Him His disciples, and said unto them, “Verily I say unto you, This poor widow hath cast in more than they all, for they out of their abundance did give.” Cost them nothing. “But she, out of her want, out of her need, out of her necessity, did cast in everything she had, even all of her living” [Mark 12:41-44]; just trusting God to feed her for the next day, trusting God for the bread to eat for that day.
What we bring, what we dedicate, ought to be felt by us! And if you don’t feel it, if it is nothing to you, you’ve just brought to God out of the surplus, out of the abundance, but not out of the necessity and not out of the need. It ought to represent toil and labor. This is me, I have changed it into coin, and I have brought it to God; an offering for His name’s sake.
How many of us are like the inveighing of the prophet Malachi? In the first chapter of the Book of Malachi, the Lord says through His messenger and His prophet to the people, He says, “You offer the blind for sacrifice, and you offer the lame and the sick” [Malachi 1:8]. Then in the thirteenth verse, “And you say, ‘What a burden this is! What a burden! What a weariness!’ And ye bring that which is torn and lame and sick; thus you brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand?” saith the Lord [Malachi 1:13].
“This, I don’t want. This, I don’t need. This is a superfluous thing for me. I’ll give that to God! But this which is better, this I will keep for myself!”
God says, “It is an evil. Is it not an evil, and shall I accept it?” saith the Lord [Malachi 1:13].
I’ve seen a whole lot of things like this, but I copied one down this week. This isn’t the dollar of the people out in the world. This is the church member’s dollar. This is a church member’s dollar: for living expenses, out of a dollar—twenty-four and a half cents; for luxuries, twenty-two cents; wasted, fourteen cents; for governmental taxes and things like that, twenty cents; for Christ’s church, three-fourths of a cent. That’s God’s people. That’s us. For luxuries, twenty-two cents out of every dollar we have; wasted, fourteen cents out of every dollar we have—and for Christ’s church, three-fourths of a cent out of every dollar we have!
How could God bless people like that? How could He look upon them and say, “I will open the windows of heaven and pour them out such gifts, such blessings as their hearts will not be able to receive it?” [Malachi 3:10]. How could we expect it from the hands of God? You know, it’s a strange thing, this thing of giving to God. God doesn’t need anything we have; nothing that we have, nothing. In the fiftieth Psalm, the Lord said, “I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor ram out of thy folds: Every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is Mine, and the fullness thereof” [Psalm 50:9-12]. He didn’t need anything. It’s all His already. We can’t give to God. It’s already His. All the silver, and the gold [Haggai 2:8], and the land, and the fields, and the beasts, and the birds, and the cattle, all the produce of this earth belongs to God [Psalm 50:10-11]. I can’t give it to Him; it’s His already.
Well then, what is this strange thing, this strange phenomenon of bringing gifts to God? I don’t have an answer for that. All I know is that when God put us together, that’s a part of our putting together. That’s the way God framed us. That’s the way God made us. And it has been that way from the beginning. There is on the inside of a man’s soul who is conscious of God, there is on the inside of him a desire, a wanting, to bring a gift and dedicate it unto God.
The story starts off with an altar on the east side of Eden, there where the cherubim who are the symbols of the mercy of God—there where the cherubim guards the way to the tree of life [Genesis 3:23-24]. And it says Abel was a keeper of the sheep, and Cain was a tiller of the ground [Genesis 4:1-2]:
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering, a gift to the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord looked down upon Abel and his offering, and the Lord accepted it and delighted in it
Where did those boys learn that? Who taught them that? It’s like all of the other great basic instincts of life. It came out of the fullness of their souls. It came out of how God’s image was created in them. And that’s been true with humanity in the story of the human race all these years through. Wherever men are conscious of God, there is on the inside of them an impulse to bring an offering and dedicate it to the Lord God. I can trace that, and just to make it brief, I can trace it all the way through.
In the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, you have the story of Abraham coming back with great spoils. And in Salem—that is, “peace”—he was met by Melchizedek, the king of righteousness—malkī-ṣeḏeq —Melchizedek, the king of righteousness. And he was the priest of the Most High God [Genesis 14:18]. Many times I think it is a pre-appearance of the Lord Jesus, that Melchizedek was the Lord Jesus before He was born of a virgin [Matthew 1:20-25]. Many, many times I’m almost persuaded of that. It was an Epiphany of God—the priest to the Most High God, “without father, without mother, without beginning, without ending, without descent” [Hebrews 7:3].
Abraham was met by Melchizedek, and in Salem—that is the city of peace—there did Abraham receive from the hands of Melchizedek bread and wine [Genesis 14:18-20]. And he worshiped there in the presence of the Most High God. And the last part of the sentence, “And he gave unto him tithes of all” [Genesis 14:20]. Where did Abraham learn that? Who taught him that? It came out of the depths of his soul!
Turn the leaf of the Bible. In the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Genesis, “And when Jacob awakened” [Genesis 28:16]; having seen that glorious vision of the angels ascending and descending [Genesis 28:12] Jacob said, “This is none other than the house of God…this is none other than the gate of heaven” [Genesis 28:17]. And Jacob vowed a vow saying, “Lord, if You be with me in this solitary pilgrimage that I make, and if You will bring me back to my home, Lord, the vow I make to Thee, of everything Thou shall give me, a tenth shall I dedicate unto Thee” [Genesis 28:20-22]. Where did he learn that? Who taught him that? It came out of the great depths of his soul!
In the beginning of the church, in the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts, “And they who had possessions sold them and brought them and laid them at the apostles’ feet” [Acts 4:34-35]. And in the sixteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, Paul writes to the people of Macedonia and of Achaia, “As I gave orders here to the churches of Galatia, so do ye. On the first day of the week let each one of you lay aside for God a proportionate part, as God has prospered each one” [1 Corinthians 16:1-2]. Then the sum of it together will make up the great offering for the saints of God and the work of the kingdom.
A final observation; I suppose—and I’m not answering the question; it lies in the depths of the wisdom of God, how God made us—but I suppose that the reason any man who ever knows God has that deep-seated impulse on the inside of his soul to bring an offering and dedicate it to Him, I suppose the reason is this; that it represents the dedication of the man’s life to God. “Lord, everything I have, I’ve come to know it’s a gift from Thee.” That I can see, God gave me my eyes; that I could hear; that I’m able to walk; all the gifts of God; food for the day; shelter for the night; all the gifts of God. “And Lord, this is a part; it is a token, dear God, that You might know that I realize these things come from Thee, here, Lord, is a part dedicated to Thee, laid at Thy blessed feet, placed in Thy precious hands, and it represents, Lord, the life that lies back of the gifts.”
I’d love to think that was true. That’s why; “Lord, this life of mine, for a while I have it, but it goes back unto God that gave it. What little God places in my hand, for a while it’s mine, then it goes back to God who gave it. And Lord, while I have strength, while I am able, such as I have, Lord, this token is a dedication of the fact that all of it belongs to Thee. My life, my soul, my breath, my living, what I am able to do, all of it, Lord, comes from Thee. And this is a recognition that I am a steward of the great God who laid it in my care and in my hands.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, wouldn’t it be glorious, if our people could achieve in their lives that holy dedication? “Lord, all of it is Thine.” I am to occupy “till He come” [Luke 19:13]. “I am a steward in the great household of God, and as such, this, Lord, out of the love of my heart, out of a thanksgiving, this, Lord, is for Thee.” I have supposed that was why, in the beautiful psalm, the sweet singers of Israel sang, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name: bring an offering, and come into His courts. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: reverentially bow before Him, all the earth” [Psalm 96:8-9].
May God grant to us that virtue: this that we bring to God but represents the dedication of our lives to Him, a part of what God hath given to us.
Now we sing our song of invitation. And while we sing it, somebody you give his heart to Jesus, would you come and stand by me? Somebody you put his life here in the church, would you come and stand by me? In the balcony around, coming down these stairwells, from side to side in this great auditorium, while we sing this appeal; into the aisle and down here to the front, would you come? Give me your hand, “Pastor, my heart I have given to God.” Would you come? Or into the fellowship of the church, as God should say the word and lead the way, would you come? While our people pray and while we sing this song of appeal, would you make it now? On the first note of the first stanza, would you come and stand by me? While all of us stand and sing the hymn together.