Additional Chapters to Book of Acts
September 23rd, 1962 @ 8:15 AM
ADDITIONAL CHAPTERS TO THE BOOK OF ACTS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-23-62 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled Additional Chapters to the Book of Acts. We read it together just now. And as you notice, there is no end to the Book of Acts. All of these other Scriptures have a formal consummation. They lead up to a great and a climactic end. One of the most glorious, of course, is found in some of the doxologies by which the authors praise God even through tears, and trial, and heartache, and blood, and death. The exception to that is the Book of Acts. It has no ending. It leaves Paul in prison. How it comes out we do not know. There is no further word in the Book of God. And the reason for that, to me, is most apparent. The Book of Acts of the Holy Spirit of Jesus never ends, not until our Lord comes again.
But there is another chapter written by Timothy, and there is another chapter written by Polycarp, and there is another chapter written by Ignatius. There is another chapter written by Irenaeus. There is another chapter written by Augustine. There is another chapter written by Savonarola. There are other chapters written by Hübmaier, by John Huss, by Wycliffe. There are other chapters written by John Wesley and Charles Haddon Spurgeon. There are other chapters written by L. R. Scarborough and George W. Truett. And there are still other chapters being written today; the Acts of the Holy Spirit of God as He works in convicting and converting power in the earth.
And the same miraculous things that happened back there in the days of the apostles, those same miraculous things are happening today. And the same prices paid for the mediation of the truth of God in the life and blood of those first apostles is found paid today in the life and blood of God’s believing children in the earth. I speak first of persecution.
I spoke at a Wednesday evening gathering of the missionaries in one of those Central Latin American countries. And before I stood up to speak they had a brief testimony meeting in which the missionary could ask for prayer. One of those missionaries stood up, and he said, “I ask for prayer for my people. Their church has just been burned.” Another missionary stood up and said, “Among my people, fourteen believers have had their homes burned down. I ask prayer for them.” And another missionary stood up and said, “Among my people, seven of our believers have been murdered. I ask prayer for them.”
This thing goes on all the time. It’s going on now. Our First Baptist Church in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, is also the home of our little Baptist Bible Institute. The day that I was there that church was rocked, and the preacher and I went to look at it. There were three large panes of glass that were broken out, and glass is very expensive to buy and to replace in that country. One of the doors of the church was black and charred. An attempt had been made to burn the building. And when I preached that night, the last young fellow that I shook hands with was a young preacher. And I asked him why he was tarrying so long, and he replied that he slept there in the church for the purpose of protecting the building from destruction.
This thing goes on all the time. There is no area where there is intense opposition to the work and ministry of Christ that the missionary does not see believing Christians pay for their faith with their life, with their blood, with their confiscated property, with the hatred and division to be found in the community against them where they live. These are the acts of God’s apostles today.
The election of the present president of the United States greatly stiffened the persecution against all evangelical Christians south of the border. The tax money that we pay into the federal government and which is turned over to those governments in the Alliance of Progress Fund for Education, they are turned over to the archbishops of the Roman church in those countries, and the archbishops of the Roman church in those countries uses those tax funds from the United States to further that opposition.
When I was on the island of Ailigandi in the Atlantic Ocean between Panama and Colombia—where we have a great and a flourishing work that I hope God will let me describe—I was in the pastor’s home. His name is “Peter Miller” in our language, pastor of a wonderful Baptist church of San Blas Indians. Seated at his home with him and his wife and his boy, and the missionary and I, I saw a teenage girl there. And I said, “Who is she?” And the boy said, “She’s my cousin.” I said, “What is she doing here?” He said, “She has come to go to school.” I said, “What’s the matter with the school on the island where she lives?” He replied, “She cannot attend school unless she also attends mass. She refuses to attend mass. She will not be able therefore to attend school.” So she has come to live with her cousin and his father and mother in order to attend school.
Those institutions of the Roman church are used to enforce a coercive decree on the part of the hierarchy. And speaking of it in order to lighten our hearts, one of the missionaries said this: “There was a colored woman who was hurt seriously in an accident, and she was taken to a Romanist hospital. When she regained her consciousness, she looked at herself, and she had a rosary in one hand and a crucifix in the other hand. She looked up to heaven and said, ‘O Lord, don’t You be fooled by these here gadgets ‘cause I still a Baptist.’”
Some of the miracles of grace that God hath wrought in those countries—I visited seven of them—is a remarkable chapter in itself in the acts of the missionaries of God. If we had hours we would follow the course and the story of the San Blas Indian. On the Atlantic side, beginning at the Panama, the Atlantic side of Panama just beyond the canal and extending down for something like three hundred eighty miles, is a series of islands that are inhabited by the nose-gold-ring wearing San Blas Indians; used to be the most savage known, today are still the most colorful.
By the way, I heard of a missionary who had come back here to this country and was talking about those San Blas Indians. And when he got through describing them, how they wear rings in their noses, one of the women got up and said, “Missionary, when they become Christians, do they still wear rings in their noses?” And the missionary thought a moment. And he pretended to be in deep perplexity and finally he answered. He said, “You know, I just can’t rightly answer.” He said, “When a woman in America becomes a Christian, does she still continue to wear rings in her ears?” You just don’t change purposely the cultural habits of a people by the gospel message of Christ. I don’t think there is any spiritual equation in whether you wear the ring in your nose or wear the ring in your ears. Sometimes we get off on a tangent on some of these peripheral matters. Those San Blas Indians with rings in their noses and with the most colorful garments that you could imagine, they are a miracle of grace as you look upon them today. They’re Baptist people, and how they came to be Baptist is a remarkable story in itself.
The work was begun on the San Blas Islands by people who belonged to no particular church and no denomination. They went there and just began to teach the Bible, and as the years passed, the people reading the Bible read about the church, and reading about the church, they read about the ordinances. So they said, “We want a church like the church here in the Bible.” And as they read the Book and as they read of the ordinances they finally sent a commission to one of our Baptist preachers, pastor in Panama, who took it to the head of our Baptist Mission. And they said, “We want to be baptized, and we want to belong to the church.” So our missionary gathered his people together, and they went down to the San Blas Islands, and they baptized those people and organized them into those separated Baptist churches.
I ate dinner by the side of Dr. Lonnie Iglesias, one of their illustrious preachers and teachers who led in that Baptist movement. And he said to me, he said, “Pastor, I had an experience not long ago exactly like that in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts in the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch” [Acts 8:26-39]. He said, “I was out on the shores of the island of Ailigandi, baptizing my converts. And while I was in the act of baptizing them, there came a girl eighteen years old, and she said, ‘What does hinder me to be baptized?’” And Dr. Iglesias said, “Do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?” And she replied, “I believe Jesus Christ as my Savior.” And he said he turned to his fellow brethren and said, “Is there any hindrance for her being baptized?” There was none. So he said, “There in that very place I also baptized that eighteen year old girl, just exactly as it happened in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts” [Acts 8:26-39].
As I listened to him tell about that, I thought about my visit to Caracas, Venezuela. This is the way our Baptist work started in Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela. There was a Venezuelan there, who lived in that city, and he bought some soap, and the soap was wrapped in a paper, and that paper advertised the Bible. He sent for one. He read it and he found the Lord in the Bible, and he found the church, and he found the ordinances, and he wanted to belong to a church like the church in the Bible, so he went to this denomination, and he went to this missionary, and he went to that group and was unsatisfied, until finally he found a Baptist missionary. And when he found him, he said, “That’s what it is here in the Bible,” and was baptized. And that was the beginning of our Baptist work in Venezuela.
Now how God did in beginning that work in the San Blas is a miracle, another chapter in the Book of Acts. Back yonder at the turn of the century, the San Blas Indians were savage. There was an Englishwoman who went to the president of Panama and asked privilege and permission to enter into that San Blas area. He replied—and before 1915, Panama had no jurisdiction over the San Blas—he replied, the president of Panama, “I cannot prevent your going because I have no jurisdiction, but you do not have my permission to go. They are savage and you cannot live among them.” She replied, “I have just one life to offer to God, and if God would bless it by being a meal for a cannibal, may God’s will be done.” So she went to the San Blas Islands and came to the first one up there to the north named Nargana.
Now to show you how God prepares the way. There was a boy from Nargana, the island of the San Blas to the north, who had gone to Jamaica, a British-English speaking black colony, and he would learn to speak English there. And after being taught English in Jamaica, he entered the service of the United States Navy as a sailor. After his years as a sailor, he had gone back home to his native island of Nargana and was elected tribal chief. It was that island to which this English woman came, and the tribal chief received her in welcome and in gladness, and he became her interpreter. And she gathered together a class of two hundred of those children and taught them the Word of God in English. One of those little boys in that class was Lonnie Iglesias and another one was Claudia Iglesias.
Claudia sought to bring Christ and the message of the Lord to the people when he became of age, and they slaughtered him with machete knives. Lonnie Iglesias grew up in the Lord there before that English woman and was sent to America to be educated. And he came back to the islands, and God gave him a wonderful astuteness and a marvelous wisdom. And he built there, on the southern island named Ailigandi, he built there one of the finest Baptist schools and one of the finest Baptist churches in this earth. And I was interested, sitting there by Lonnie Iglesias, I was interested in what he said about learning the Word of God. He said, “Back yonder in the class of that English teacher, I learned Scripture after Scripture after Scripture in the English language, and I had no idea what it meant. I just parroted the words. I learned the entire Gospel of John.” He is a brilliant man. He said, “I got a star for learning a psalm, and when I learned Psalm 119, I’ll never forget, she gave me two stars.”
He said, “In later life when I was a young man and when I was sorely tempted, those Scriptures came back to me, and they helped me, and they steadied me, and they kept me true to the Lord.” I could not help but think about that when I listen to these modern pedagogic teachers who say that to learn the Scripture is meaningless to a child. When Iglesias says to me, “Even though I parroted the words in a language I did not know, in later years those Scriptures held me up in the faith and kept me true to Christ,” I still believe that one of the finest things we can do in our Sunday school, and in our Training Union, and in our Vacation Bible School, and in our church camp, and in all we do, I still say one of the finest things we can do is to teach children the Word of God, to memorize the Holy Scriptures of the Bible!
Now, another chapter in that miraculous Book of Acts; our missionary in Tegucigalpa is an unusually able, and capable, and marvelous leader, and how the Lord has blessed him! There was a village to which in Honduras it took twelve and a half hours by jeep and nine hours by mule to get to it. The name of the village is Alhambra. And the people in that village were vicious toward the gospel and vicious toward the missionary. But he felt called of God to preach the gospel unto them. So he went to a member of the Missionary Aviation Fellowship. They’re the fellows that have the little crates. And when you can’t get anywhere, you go to a Missionary Aviation Fellowship man and tell him you want to fly across the jungle and land in such and such river and in such and such spot. There is no place there in Alhambra for even a crate to land. So he said, “I’m going over there by jeep and then by mule. And you fly over after two or three days, and if I have cut out, been able to cut out, nearby, a landing strip, then you come down.” So missionary Hurst went over there and with his machete knife he cut out a little landing strip in the jungle. And after a day or so, the Missionary Aviation pilot flew over, and he saw that little landing strip, and he landed there. When he did so and the villagers found out why they had come, there was a vicious uproar! And they had to leave. Yet the missionary said, “I felt that God wanted me to preach the gospel there. Couldn’t help it, though.”
So he said, “I got with my Missionary Aviation Fellowship pilot. I got in the crate and we took off on the landing strip.” He said, “When we got up about sixty feet in the air, there came a violent gust of wind down out of the mountains and pushed that plane down into the jungle, and fragmentized it, atomized it into pieces.” He said, “To the amazement of us who were in it, when we brushed off the dirt, and brushed off the leaves, and crawled out from the debris, not a one of us, neither one of us was hurt.”
He said, “We knelt down there in the landing strip, and we praised God in prayer. Then we stood up and we sang songs, the two of us, praising God for such a deliverance.” And the missionary said the people in the village who had watched the plane fall and had seen them crawl out of the debris, and the dirt, and the leaves, and the trees, they had run to the spot and gathered round, all of them. And when the people saw them kneel down and thank God and stand up and sing hymns of praise, they were overwhelmed. So he said, “Standing there in the midst of all of those villagers, he announced services for that night, saying that God wanted them there, God would not let them leave; that God had sent them to preach the gospel to Alhambra.” He said, “That night, more than a hundred heads of families were there with their people.” And when he gave the invitation there were three men who were converted that night. He said, “Now we have a little Baptist church in Alhambra with twenty-seven members, and I have ten awaiting baptism.” Why, it is a marvelous thing what God is doing today.
Now I have just a moment or two left. Out of the hours and hours of things that our eyes have looked upon and our hearts have felt, may I speak of the work and the reward of the missionary? One of the most beautiful and gracious and sweetest of all of the experiences of life is to stay in a missionary home. We kind are sort of perfunctory in our religious expressions, but, oh, they are so meaningful, it seems to me, with them. For example, I stayed in a missionary home where there was a father and a mother and six children. One of their children is in the United States. That’s why I want to send a gift to him. When we sat down to eat, we all joined hands and we sang a hymn. Then we had prayer. Then read the Bible.
In another missionary home in which I stayed, first we had grace, then after we ate we joined hands and sang a song. Then we read the Bible and had prayer again. In another missionary home that I stayed, we joined hands and had prayer. Then after the meal we gathered in the living room with any neighbor that would like to come in, and we had morning worship. Every morning they do that: the devotion, the looking to God, the depending upon Christ, the reality of His presence. I wish I had time to describe a service that I held among a Cakchiquel Indian tribe and in which I felt so foolish over so holy an experience. The meeting was held in what we’d call a city municipal auditorium. The name of the town is P-a-n-t-z-u-n, Pantzún. And that auditorium, I presume that normally it would hold about eight hundred people. When I got there and we drove in the night, when I got there to preach, they not only jammed that building, they were out in the yard. They were in the windows. We couldn’t get in. So we went around to the back, to the stage, and there the same thing; packed clear out into the yard. Well, they let us in the back door of the stage.
I will never in this earth forget the looks of the choir as they were seated there on that stage. Those Indian girls with hair clear down to their knees, it was braided with colored ribbon and from one braid to the other, from back to back across there, they tied beautiful colored ribbons. And I saw the choir from the back coming in from the back stage. And all of those Indian girls with black hair and those beautiful ribbons braided through their hair and then the big bow, from ribbon to ribbon, from braid to braid at the back, man, it overwhelmed me! I’m just accustomed to these dull, weary ways that women in America do their hair. Oh, it was something! The entire floor everywhere was covered with pine needles, and the fresh smell of those pine needles, and everywhere were flowers the Indians had gathered. Well, we sang and we sang and we sang, and then I stood up to preach. And I preached first sentence by sentence, and then it was interpreted into Spanish. Then, after the interpreter in Spanish and I had sat down, then a Cakchiquel Indian stood up and preached the entire sermon in Cakchiquel.
I remember something like that in the Cherokee Indian nation when we dedicated that encampment ground by Tahlequah on the Illinois River. They were a group from Virginia there at the Southern Baptist Convention in Oklahoma City that wanted to see what their missionary dollars had done in the Cherokee Nation. And they had me preach that night under the tabernacle on the grounds. And when I got through, Jim Taka, the full-blood Cherokee Indian preacher, preached the whole sermon in Cherokee. I could tell he was doing it because when I came to a place and did so and so, he came to that place and he did so and so. This Cakchiquel Indian did the same thing.
Well, when I was seated—that choir, everything jammed—I had to sit in the choir. And while that Cakchiquel Indian preacher was up there proclaiming the Word of God, the choir members on either side of me bowed their heads in prayer while the Cakchiquel preacher was proclaiming the message God had given me for that night. And then I did, I don’t know what in the world, and I don’t know why I should think it so foolish, and why I felt so foolish, but I want you to know that unconsciously I lifted up my eyes to look at Jesus! And I expected to see Him with my naked physical eyes, I so felt His presence! And then I caught myself just like that, and I thought, “Well, how foolish, how foolish, lifting up my eyes expecting to see Jesus,” yet I just knew He was there! What a marvelous experience; so to feel the presence of the Lord that you surprise yourself when you lift up your physical eyes to look upon Him.
I have to close. With one of those God blessed missionaries, head of our work in one of those seven nations, I went over the country. And as we walked along together, and as we drove along together and visited the towns and the cities, he’d say, “Oh, that God would give us a pastor here!” Then we’d come to another large town, and he’d say, “There is no Baptist witness here at all.” Then we’d come to another place, and he’d say, “There is no Christian witness here at all.” Then we’d go to another one, and he’d say, “Oh, that God would send us somebody here!” He was that way all day long for two days. Out in the bush, out in the jungle, down those ways, and in a cabin we knelt down to pray.
And the missionary prayed like this: “O God,” and he’d call the name of that village, “O Lord,” and he’d call the name of that town, “O Lord,” and he’d call the name of another place, and he’d say, “O God, for helpers.” And finally he couldn’t say anything at all. The missionary, just kneeling there, began to cry and to sob.
For the first time in my life, I felt I knew what that passage of Scripture meant in Matthew 9:37: “The fields are ripe unto the harvest, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore, to the Lord of the souls of men that He will send forth laborers into His harvest” [Matthew 9:37-38]. As I thought that night, lying in bed, oh, what a task, what an illimitable assignment! But I guess that’s the way Moses felt as he looked on the slaves of Egypt, I suppose that’s the way Elijah felt as he looked upon an apostate Israel, and I suppose that’s the way Peter, James, John, and Paul felt as they faced the darkness of the Roman Empire: we so few and the work so great, but God was with them, and God is with us today.
While we sing this song, on the first note of the first stanza, somebody to give his heart to Jesus, somebody to put his life in the fellowship of the church, one somebody you, or a family you, while we sing the song, while we make the appeal, on the first note of that first stanza, you come and give the pastor your hand and stand by me. And the Lord sanctify and bless the decision you make for Jesus this morning, while we stand and while we sing.
CHAPTERS TO THE BOOK OF ACTS
A. The Book of Acts has
no ending; chapters are being written today
things that happened in days of apostles are happening today
meeting in Latin America – churches and houses burned, believers murdered
Baptist Church Tegucigalpa – building rocked
election of our President, persecution increased
Peter Miller’s home in Ailigandi – teenage girl refuses to attend mass
III. Miracles of grace
A. San Blas Indians are
1. Work began by
no particular denomination, just teaching of the Bible
2. People read
about the church and wanted to be baptized
B. Lonnie Iglesias –
baptism of young girl happened just like in Acts 8
C. Beginning of Baptist
work in Venezuela
D. How God began the
work among the San Blas
1. Lonnie and
Claudia among first converts
missionary in Tegucigalpa – plane crash in Alhambra resulted in converts
IV. The missionary work and life
A. Staying in a
B. The services – Pantzun
C. The burden – the cry
for workers, pastors (Matthew 9:37)