A Glorious Church
February 24th, 1957 @ 7:30 PM
A GLORIOUS CHURCH
Dr. W.A. Criswell
2-24-57 7:30 p.m.
The fifth chapter of Ephesians: let’s read from the twenty-second to the end of the chapter. The sermon tonight will be a continuation of the sermon this morning; "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church" [Ephesians 5:32]. And the text tonight is in the twenty-seventh verse: A Glorious Church. Now, do you have it? The fifth chapter of Ephesians beginning at the twenty-second verse to the end – Ephesians 5:22 and reading to the end. All right, all of us together – Ephesians 5:22:
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it,
That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word,
That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies; he that loveth his wife loveth himself.
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.
For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.
"For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh."
This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Nevertheless, let everyone of you in particular so love his wife
even as himself, and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
And the heart, the middle, of what we have read, is the text:
Even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it,
That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word,
That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.
A glorious church. In my text, there are two descriptions of it: one in the twenty-sixth verse and the other in the twenty-seventh. A glorious church is a church that is washed by the Word: "That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word" [Ephesians 5:26]. Our Lord Savior said to His disciples in John 15:3, "Now, ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." In the Book of Acts in the seventeenth chapter, there is described a congregation of Bereans, and God says they were noble because they searched daily the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, to see if those things that Paul had preached were so [Acts 17:10-12].
A glorious church is a Bible-loving church, a Bible-reading church. A glorious church is a church that is washed by the Word. There is a cleansing, cathartic power in the Word of God [Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:22]. This Word – to read it, to preach it, to study it, to love it, to meditate upon it, to share in the ministry of it – all of these things are a health-giving, moving, powerful dynamic in the life of God’s people "that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word" [Ephesians 5:26]. So a glorious church is a church that is committed to the revelation of the Word of God in the Book.
Now I’ve just chosen out of a multitude of things. I have just chosen some that when we read the Word that are revelations of God that we read in the Book – that a glorious church seeing on the page, in obedience to God, will seek to further and to emulate and to do and to be.
One of them is this: a church that loves God’s Word, and his heart is open to the message of the Book, will be always missionary zealous. It will be a missionary church, for the whole Bible is one great story of the unfolding purposes of God reaching out to all of the peoples and the nations of the world. "All authority is given unto Me," said our Lord in Matthew 28:18:
Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations of the earth,
baptizing them in the name of the Triune God,
Teaching them all the things that I have commanded you; and lo
– in that Sunday School class, and in that Training Union, and in that prayer meeting, and in that service, and in that preaching hour –
I’ll be with you unto the end of the way.
That’s the Word of the Lord. A glorious church: a Bible-reading, Bible-loving church is always a missionary-hearted church.
I went to Kettering, England just to see the place where William Carey [1761-1834] and Andrew Fuller [1754-1815] knelt down and, with a little handful of Baptist preachers, began this modern missionary movement. And when they rose from their knees, they made a subscription among themselves of all they were able to give, and it amounted to less than sixty dollars. But William Carey said, "And I’ll go," and Andrew Fuller said, "And I’ll hold the ropes." And with a subscription of less than sixty dollars, those Baptist preachers turned their faces to the evangelization of the world.
Until then, there were no missions. The churches had forgot the great commandment of Christ, and those men in modern times were the first to set their faces for the evangelization of the world. And William Carey had a little church, and Andrew Fuller had a little church; and they built on the inside of those little congregations a worldwide vision of Christ, and that’s where the modern missionary movement came from.
And over there in Calcutta, India where William Carey went to preach the gospel while Andrew Fuller held the ropes at home – over there, there is a church where William Carey preached, and in that church is a baptistery. And when I looked down into that baptistery, I remembered that here Adoniram Judson [1788-1850] was baptized, and Ann Hassletine Judson [1789-1826] was baptized, and Luther Rice [1783-1836] was baptized.
Luther Rice came back to America to place on the heart of those little, struggling Baptist congregations the worldwide missionary call of the Lord, and Adoniram Judson and his wife went to Burma and there preached the gospel to the people. A glorious church is a Bible-loving church, and reading the Word, God places in their hearts a great missionary vision and zeal and love and support.
Let me tell you something. You can take all of the civic clubs of Dallas and for years and years and years pour into west Dallas all that a civic club will do for that area of the city. And after they’ve poured their money over there and after they’ve worked over there for a hundred years, it’ll be just about the same as when those civic clubs began.
But I can go over there in west Dallas, or I can go over there in any other part of town that is degraded and wretched and poor, and I can build a little church there – a little mission church – and I can put a God-fearing man there with an open Bible in his hand, and it’ll not be long until the community’s changed, and the children are changed, and the people is changed. There’s more power in God’s church in its missionary zeal and prayer and intercession and outgoing of the gifts of the Spirit than in all other philanthropic and civic movements to which a man might ever devote his life or his time or his talents. The glorious church: a part of its glory is the power that God hath given it in the changing of the complexion of a people.
This man here, Pat Zondervan, has been over there in the Orient where, until almost recent years, the people have been benighted and darkened in heathenism and superstitious religion. But, oh, wherever you find a little congregation of people in Japan, or in China, or in the Philippines, or in the Fiji Islands, or in New Guinea – wherever you find a little congregation of people – there will you find "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus" [2 Corinthians 4:6], and it reflects in the lives of the people in their homes, in their children, in all of the ways and walks. God bless a glorious church washed in the Word with a great missionary zeal!
Another thing about a glorious church that reads God’s Book, that is washed by the Word: it is a church of prayer and intercession. We don’t go any further than we go on our knees. We can make all kinds of plans, and dream up all kinds of programs, and we can just have visions, and we can just have all kinds of meetings, but we don’t go any further. We don’t have any more power than what God gives us on our knees as we pray before the throne of grace.
Jesus said men ought always to pray and not to faint [Luke 18:1]. And they were instant in prayer: ". . . and Paul kneeled down and prayed with them all" [Acts 20:36]. And Paul wrote, "Pray without ceasing" [1 Thessalonians 5:17].
We don’t do any better, we don’t have any more power, and we don’t go any further than we do on our knees. God bless our prayer meetings on Saturday. From eight o’clock in the morning until eight o’clock in the evening, our people there on their knees. Come if you can. Come to any of the services of prayer. Pray much about the work. When you have your Training Union meetings, give a little time to ask in God’s presence and blessings upon it. When you prepare the Sunday School lesson, go through the whole thing on your knees or in silent prayer asking God to bless every part of the lesson that is brought and every syllable that you speak. And in the plans of your life, all of the things that confront you, make them matters of prayer [James 4:15]: "Pray without ceasing" [1 Thessalonians 5:17].
A glorious church is a praying church [Acts 1:14, 2:42, 4:31], and wherever you are, wherever you are, there are little islands of intercession around you and the people feel it. When I stand up here and preach, if the people are prayerful, I can feel it. If the people are not prayerful and indifferent, it makes it almost impossible for me to speak with any power or with any unction of heaven upon me.
Wherever you are, a little circle of prayer: "Lord, bless the service. Bless the reading of the Word. Bless the appeal of our pastor, and when he opens the doors of the kingdom and of the church, if there’s somebody next to me, Lord, touch his heart and maybe save tonight, and may God place him in the fellowship of our precious and glorious church." Reading the Word, a glorious church washed in the Word is a praying church.
May I take time for one other? A church that reads the Bible, that is washed in the Word, is a church of tremendous stewardship dedication. No matter where I go, churches have financial problems and difficulties, and they turn to all kinds of ways – all kinds of things, all kinds of methods – to meet the financial difficulties of the church. You know why they have them? I’ll tell you exactly why: ’cause they don’t read the Book, and they’re not a Bible-following congregation. You won’t have any difficulties, you won’t have any problems, you won’t have any troubles about supporting God’s kingdom when the people in God’s church read the Book and just try to do exactly what it says.
Here will be a passage in 1 Corinthians 16:-2:
As I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so do ye:
Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him, and store as God hath prospered him, that there be no collections when I come.
[1 Corinthians 16:1-2]
That the preacher isn’t up there wringing his hands about money, ding-donging to the people about finances, trying to screw blood out of a turnip, trying to get that thing going; that doesn’t honor God. That doesn’t make for a great preacher nor does it pour power into the pulpit and into the house of the Lord. That doesn’t honor God. "Let there be no collections when I come. Upon the first day of the week, let each one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him" [1 Corinthians 16:2].
And as I read in the Book in Leviticus [Leviticus 27:30-32], as I read in the Book in Genesis [Genesis 14:18-20, 28:22], as I read in the Book in Matthew [Matthew 23:23], as I read in the Book of Hebrews [Hebrews 7:1-10], I’ll do my best to make that proportion. A tithe – a tithe is the Lord’s the Bible says [Leviticus 27:30]. And on the first day of the week, as God has prospered me, I’ll bring to God’s storehouse for the use of His kingdom a tenth of all God hath given me [Malachi 3:10]. That’s a Bible church washed with the Word.
One of my fellow preachers was asked the other day, a fellow asked him, "How many members do you have?"
He said, "I have got nineteen hundred members."
"Oh, that’s fine," said the man. "How many tithers do you have in your church?"
And the pastor replied, "I have nineteen hundred tithers."
And the man was amazed. He was overwhelmed. "You’ve got nineteen hundred members? You have nineteen hundred tithers? Oh!" said that fellow. "What an amazing and astounding thing!"
"Yes," said the pastor, "I’ve got nineteen hundred members. I’ve got nineteen hundred tithers." He said, "About a hundred of my members bring the tithe to the church. They’re good stewards. And the rest of them, God has to collect it, but He does."
And He does [Haggai 1:6-7]. Oh, how foolish we are. God collects; He does. How infinitely better – how infinitely better – in faith and in trust, by God’s help – how infinitely better "on the first day of the week, laying by in store as God hath prospered him" [1 Corinthians 16:2] That’s a Bible-loving church washed by the Word – a glorious church.
Now, my second description here: "That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish" [Ephesians 5:27]. A glorious church is first a church washed by the Word – a Bible-loving, a Bible-obedient, Bible-obeying church – missionary-hearted, praying, dedicated in its stewardship like you read in the Word.
Now, the second: a glorious church is a church "not having spot or wrinkle . . . but holy and without blemish" [Ephesians 5:27]. A glorious church is a church that is committed, that is dedicated, that is consecrated.
I heard one of these preachers one time say that he thought an addition to the kingdom of God ought to be a subtraction from the world. Well, that thing stayed in my mind. When God adds a man to the kingdom of Christ, when God adds a man to the church, it ought to be a taking out and a subtraction from the world.
There’s not anything that I fear like worldliness, just worldliness – out in the world, interested in the world, the world in your heart, the world in your house, the world in the church, the world here among us. However it is out there, I don’t fear it and I’m not afraid of it; but, oh, when the world is in us. God says we ought to be in the world but not of it [John 17:15-16; Romans 12:2]. We live in this thing. We live in it, but it doesn’t live in us.
I say, I see that forked snake of worldliness crawl into that door back there. I see him crawl in and out of these pews. I see him stick his forked tongue up here in my face like that PA microphone there that I’m looking at tonight. Worldliness, worldliness: how do you fight against it? It’s everywhere; and it gets into your heart, and it gets into your life, gets into your soul, gets into your mind, gets into your vision and dreams and your desires. And the radio pours it into your ears, and the television pours it in the eyes, and you see and read it everywhere! But God’s glorious church doesn’t have that spot on it and it doesn’t have that wrinkle in it, but it’s holy and without blemish [Ephesians 5:27]. It’s a consecrated and committed people.
This glorious church without spot and wrinkle is one that is filled with a devoted enthusiasm to the work of the Lord and to the things of Christ. In attendance: "Not forsaking," like the Book says, "Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together" [Hebrews 10:25].
You’re going to business Monday, aren’t you?
Well, then why can’t you come to church on Sunday?
Here’s a man that’s got an engagement and they’re going to have a social dinner, and they’ll be there. Oh, to be thus dedicated to the kingdom of Christ and to the church services of the Lord:
"I’ll be at the office. I’ll be there at the Sunday school."
"I’ll be down there to the business. I’ll be here at the Training Union."
"They’ll be looking for me down there at the shop, or the store, or the office. I’ll be right there at church."
"Just like I try to be faithful to an engagement, I’ll try to be faithful to God’s engagement here at the church."
A devoted people and with enthusiasm and with interest and with zeal – not like dumb, driven cattle: "Here I am, oh! Ooh, if I could just – oh! What a good time I’d have out there or over there. And I’d like to be . . . " No. No!
Fellow stand out there in front of our church; another guy pass him by and say, "Are you sick?"
"No, no, I’m not sick. I just comin’ here to church."
Isn’t that terrible? Isn’t that awful? Look like you were taking medicine! Look like you were in the last place in the world where you’d like to be – just all down at the knees and down at the mouth and just down. No! Don’t be like that. A glorious church with enthusiasm and interest and zeal: "I like to be there. I’d rather be there than anywhere that I know of. It’s a privilege to me – a happy one, a glad one."
"I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord’" [Psalm 122:1]. A wonderful congregation.
You know, this week I looked up that word "enthusiasm" – enthusiasm. It’s a Greek word – actually Greek spelled in English. The Greek word is enthousiasmos; and you spell it out in English, leave off the mos end of it which is the Greek, and then it’s "enthousiasm" – enthusiasm. And it’s made up of two Greek words: en theos. En is "in;" theos is "God." And looking that thing up in the dictionary, I found out there is an English word "entheos" – entheos, entheos. Means "God in you," divinely inspired: entheos.
That’s what we ought to have in the church: looking around here, people that are glad, people that are happy, people that show the light of the glory of God in their faces – happy in the Lord, glad in the Savior, rather be here than anywhere, loving one another, loving God – just glad in Christ, happy in Him. Hallelujah, amen!
Foxe said – that great old Christian who wrote the Book of Martyrs  – Foxe said God’s people ought to have such enthusiasm that it’d be like a light shining for miles and miles around. I like that. When you sing, sing! Sing! And Billy, speed it up a little bit! Put a little more life in it, push it along – sing! Everybody sing. Can’t sing – pat your foot or whistle or do anything you want to, but join in the thing: a zeal, an interest, alive, a quickening, anything except to die!
You go by a stadium. There’ll be seventy thousand people there. Why? Something’s going on. Go by a stadium and see if there’s nothing going on. Same way about a church: oh, to be quickened, to be alive! And when you are, young people like it, your children like it, and everybody like it. And brother, I like it. Ooh, man! Just to be alive! Just to be quickened! Just to be interested – to be all here! God give us a church like that: a glorious church, not having the spot of lethargy and phlegmatic and indifference, but quickened and zealous and alive to God and to one another.
And it’s a united church: "And they were all with one accord in one place" [Acts 2:1]. In the sixth chapter of the Book of Acts, they fell out with one another, and it was a great concern to the apostles, and that’s where they appointed those men of God in order to get those Grecian widows and those Hebrew widows to be at one in the Lord [Acts 6:1-6]. It doesn’t honor God when we fall out [Philippians 4:2-3]. It doesn’t honor God when we criticize one another [James 3:10]. It doesn’t honor God when we’re factious [1 Corinthians 1:25, 12:10]. It doesn’t honor God when we’re splintering in our attitudes [1 Corinthians 1:10-13]. That doesn’t honor God! It honors God when we’re all together [John 13:35, 17:20-22]. We’re pulling and we’re praying and we’re working: "God, help us!" My little bit and your little bit, my presence and yours, my gifts and yours, my prayers and yours – all that we can do together, what a glorious thing! But when we’re apart and separated and divided, that doesn’t honor God.
I don’t know anything better to say about this church, Brother Zondervan, than that everything I can ever find that for the years and the years past, our people have been in one glorious fellowship loving one another and loving the Lord: a glorious church. Well, you can go on and on and on.
May I just mention one other? A glorious church "without spot, without wrinkle" [Ephesians 5:27], a glorious church is a warm-hearted, friendly, loving, welcoming congregation of people that honors God in my humble judgment. And I’ll tell you why it honors God. The Lord says in the Book, "Love one another even as Christ loved you," loved us [John 13:34; Ephesians 5:2]. And you don’t love one another and be cold and removed and indifferent [James 2:15-16]. Love is warm and open-hearted and interested, and that’s the kind of people that we ought to be with one another. A warm-hearted church is a church where everybody is somebody [1 Corinthians 12:22-25]. "That guy or that fellow or those people or" – no, not that. We are all welcome, and we all are loved of the Lord. "And it’s good to see you, and it’s fine to have you." And thank the Lord, our congregation is like that.
You’ll have some fine, highly-educated people in the congregation. There are people here tonight who have their doctor’s degrees in different subjects: some of them in education like that glorious Christian that led our prayer this morning – a doctor’s degree in education. Some of them have a doctor’s degree in medicine; some of them have a doctor’s degree in chemistry and engineering and some of them in theology and philosophy. There are people like that in this congregation.
There are people in this congregation that haven’t been to school. There are people in this congregation that can hardly read, maybe can’t read at all. But when you stand here and look at ’em, and when you come to church here, you wouldn’t know the difference.
There are some people here in our church that are extremely wealthy – not very many, but some. Some of the richest people in the state of Texas belong to this congregation, but you’d hardly realize it and you’d hardly know it. And some of the poorest such as me – I belong here. I belong here, but I can’t tell the difference, and I can’t see that people make any difference. For the life of me, I can’t. As I see them mingle, shake hands and speak and smile and love each other, I don’t see any difference. It’s a glorious church without spot or wrinkle [Ephesians 5:27], and that makes it so.
And this final thing: that’s the kind of a matrix into which souls can be born. I never heard of a baby being born in an icebox or in a refrigerator. Did you? Be a funny thing to me, funny thing to me.
A fellow told me the craziest story the other day. Wanted to know where the mother was, and she was so-and-so, and father was, so-and-so – it was a preacher knockin’ at the door of the home – and sister, and where she was, and brother. They’d all gone some other place. And the preacher said, "Son, are you here by yourself?" He said, "Yes, sir." Well, the preacher said, "What’re you doing?" And the little boy replied, "Well, sir, I got the tomcat in the refrigerator makin’ a polar bear out of him."
I repeat: I never saw nor did I ever hear of a baby being born in an icebox or a refrigerator. No. But God made it where the baby is born in a mother’s womb: soft and warm and sheltered and bathed with mother’s blood.
And the good Book says when Zion travails – use that same imagery – when Zion travails, sons and daughters were born into the kingdom of God [Isaiah 66:8], and that’s true in any church. Cold, removed, aloofness, and indifference – no; but a church that prays, that is warm-hearted, that is interested – in that kind of a church somebody will find Jesus, somebody’ll be saved, somebody’ll move, somebody’ll come down to the front, somebody’ll take the preacher’s hand: "Preacher, in this place I found the Lord. In the prayers and love of these people, I found Jesus as my Savior. And, Pastor, I just felt at home in this place when I walked in the house, and I felt the Spirit of God here when I walked in the door, and I’d love to belong to this glorious church." Oh, heaven bless us; heaven bless us.
May I tell you something? Maybe you already know it. May I tell you something that always moves me when I think of it here with us? I was preaching here one time – it was Sunday morning – I was preaching here one time, and a great group of people came clear across the front here, and among them was a girl about sixteen or seventeen or eighteen years old. And she sat down right there where Henry’s sitting, right there. And you know, these boys, they give them the cards to fill out. And as I pressed the appeal standing down there on that lower platform, I noticed she began to cry. She began to cry more and more, so I turned to Billy, and I said, "Billy, you just keep on with the service, just keep with on the service. I’m goin’ down here and sit down by that girl."
And I sat down by that girl, and I said, "Girl, what’re you crying for?" And she took that card, you know, that we give to the people – she took that card, and she held it up and she said, "See?" And I looked at her name there. She said, "I’ve written ‘Mrs.’ in front of my name." She said, "I’m no ‘Mrs.’ I’ve never been married. I put ‘Mrs.’ in front of my name on account of my little baby boy. He’s in your nursery back here."
She said, "When my little boy was born, I thought I’d bring him to Sunday School, and so I brought him here to your church. And I attended the services, and, oh" she said, "I just think it’s so wonderful! And while I was here," she said, "listening to you preach, I felt that I wanted to be a Christian. And so I came down this aisle and gave you my hand. I wanted to give my heart to Jesus. But," she said, "while I was sitting here, I began to think maybe you wouldn’t like such as me, such as me." And that’s why she was crying.
Oh! I’ve thought of that girl. I wonder if she’s here tonight. I’ve thought of that girl as she said, "And when my little boy was born, I brought him here to your Sunday School and he’s in the nursery. And I thought, ‘I want to raise my boy in this glorious church,’ but after I’ve come, I thought maybe you wouldn’t like such as me."
Don’t you wish you had had the opportunity to sit right down there next to her and tell her about the Lord? "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners" of whom that poor child was chief? No. "Of whom I am chief." [1 Timothy 1:15]. Oh, to have a church like that – a glorious church.
And welcome, all of us sinners saved by grace [Ephesians 2:8], and welcome. Here, child, you come and welcome. Here, young fellow, come and welcome. Here, blessed family, come and welcome. God love you. The church loves you; the Spirit loves you. "And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’" [Revelation 22:17].
Come, come. Would you so tonight, somebody you? "Pastor, trusting Jesus as my Savior, here I am, and here I come." "Pastor, here’s our whole family. We’re coming into the church tonight." One somebody you, as God shall open the door and say the word, would you make it now? Would you come now? In this balcony around, down those stairwells, come and stand by me – anybody you. As the choir sings, as you sing, as they pray, as you pray, as all of us wait, would you make it now? Take Jesus as your Savior or come into the fellowship of this church. While we make this appeal, on the first stanza, into the aisle, down here to the front, would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?