State Evangelism Conference – The Pattern of Pentecost
February 1st, 1962
State Evangelism Conference
THE PATTERN OF PENTECOST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I am looking for somebody somewhere sometime who will give me a little bit of credit for the growth of the First Baptist Church and its ministry. People come around and they listen to Leroy’s choir sing and they say, "Why anybody can preach after a choir singing like that." Martha Brannam get up here and sing, "Anybody can preach after a song like that." Just looking for somebody who’d say, "Man, what a preacher in himself, Martha Brannam or no Martha Brannam, Leroy or no Leroy, choir or no choir." God bless them. They do their part in making possible the mediation of the truth and wonder of the Word of God.
They have asked me to speak on The Pattern of Pentecost. And a more blessed, a more favorable, a more happy and felicitous subject, a more meaningful one and significant for this hour, I could not imagine.
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard.
And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.
That’s a remarkable and an unusual experience. But that’s not the first time we’ve met it. In the second chapter of the Book of Acts, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come,they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other languages, other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."
Then I turn the page, "And Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said," then I look on the other side of the page, "And after they had prayed, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the Word of God with boldness." Then I turn the page, "And he Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God." Then I turn the page, "And they laid their hands on them," Philip’s converts in Samaria, "and they received the Holy Spirit." And I turn the page, and I turn the page, and that is the record of the moving Spirit of God throughout the Book of the Acts of His servants, "And they being filled with the Holy Spirit."
Now I realize that the day of Pentecost was a day, a date set in heaven. It was foretold by the prophets. It came in answer to the prayer of our blessed Lord Jesus. It is the beginning, the introduction of the new age, the new era of grace and the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God. But Pentecost is also a demonstrable fact. It can be repeated and it pleases God for it to be repeated again and again.
A demonstrable fact in science is a phenomenon that can be illustrated. It can be demonstrated. It can be reiterated under the same conditions. The same results always ensue and follow. Pentecost is a spiritual fact. It is a demonstrable fact. It can be. It has been. It will be repeated again and again.
The Book of the Acts has no formal conclusion. It is an open end book. By that God meant and God intended that the story that began at Pentecost is never to stop until the Lord comes again. But the marvelous visitations, and endowments, and enduements of the holy moving Spirit of God is to be repeated in the lives of His people again and again.
God never started a magnificent thing and then elected in His grace for it finally to dwindle into inconsequential minutiae. God never built a magnificent marble portico and then finished the edifice with mud brick. God never gave us an experience in Pentecost that He could not or would not bestow again.
The experience of the in filling, and the enduement, and the visitation, and the endowment of the Holy Spirit of God is a record in every century, in every generation, in every place since the days of the apostles in the Acts by their name and following their example. There is no generation without its full and glorious witness of the power of God. It may be dark in some places. It may be discouraging in some eras. There may be failure, and hesitation, and faltering in some days but there is always concomitant and at the same time the glorious light of the saving presence of God in the same generation in the same age at the same time.
When the church at Jerusalem was lost in Judaistic legalism, there was revival at Ephesus and at Rome. When the waning piety of Antioch destroyed that church, there was glory and power in the church at Milan. When the churches of Carthage, and of Alexandria, and of North Africa were destroyed by empty ceremonialism, the churches of Gall were battling the vices of imperialism and were winning converts from the rude barbarians. When the church at Rome became an empty pretense, all Ireland was turning to the beauty and grace of the Lord Jesus. When Mohammed was the avenger of God, destroying idolatries and wasting the churches of Egypt, and of Syria, and of Asia Minor, the scholars in Iona were studying the Word and their preachers were evangelizing our ancestors, the Anglo Saxons of Great Britain.
When the papal court of Avignon was disgracing religion in luxury and in vice, devout and holy men in the cities of Germany were writing books, preaching sermons, and living godly lives. When papal superstition and despotism was darkening the night of France, the morning star of the Reformation was rising in England. When the fields of Italy were rotten with stubble of waste, the harvest was white unto the gathering in Bohemia.
When the Unitarian defection emptied the churches of New England, the pioneer preacher was pressing beyond the Alleghenies, through the wildernesses of Kentucky on the broad prairies of the heartland of America and built here an empire for God that blesses us today. When a thousand voices in the churches are saying that the day of mass evangelism is passed, Billy Graham is having the most colossal crowds the world has ever seen. And when liberalism and the denial of the Word of God is emptying some of the churches of our Southern Baptist Convention, there is revival in the First Baptist Church in Dallas and we are baptizing our converts every Sunday night.
Always God has His burning, and His witness, and His unction, and His power, and His saving grace in the earth. There is always revival. This is because of the presence and power of the Spirit of God.
Anyone can have Him. Anyone can ask for Him. Anyone can open his heart to Him. Anyone can have his church endowed and endued with the moving grace of the Son of God, "For God giveth not His Spirit by measure." And every time a great work of God is done, it is done in the power and under the aegis of the moving, sanctifying Spirit of God.
There is no great work possible without His presence, without His enduement and endowment, without His help. And it is our part to ask and to receive by faith, O God that the breath might become a mighty wind; O God that the reel might become a torrent; O God that a gracious influence might become the moving presence of the third person of the Trinity; O God, for a visitation from above!
To be a child of God is not enough. To be saved is not enough. To be a Christian is not enough. We must also have the enduement and the endowment of the moving Spirit of God in our souls, in our lives, in our ministry, in our work, and in our churches.
Remember Elisha was a child of God before Elijah met him. But before he was prepared for the sacred prophetic office, first he must be baptized with the Holy Spirit from above. And Elijah said to Elisha, "God sent me from Gilgal, to Bethel, to Jericho across the Jordan." And Elijah said, "What shall I do for thee before I be taken from thee?" And Elisha replied, "O my father that a double portion of thy spirit might fall upon me." And Elijah said, "If you see when I am taken away, the prayer is granted."
And as they walked along and conversed, there appeared a chariot of fire and the horseman of fire and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. And Elisha cried, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horseman thereof." He had his request. When he crossed over the Jordan and the sons of the prophets came out to meet him from Jericho, they looked at him and said, "The spirit of Elijah doth rest upon Elisha." How do you know? How do you know? How do you know?
Remember the disciples were Christians before Pentecost. But the Lord said, "Tarry in Jerusalem, tarry in Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high. It is expedient for you that I go away. If I go not away, He will not come; but if I go away, I will send the Paraclete unto you. Tarry in Jerusalem."
And after Pentecost, brave as lions with words like running fire they witnessed to the grace of the Son of God. The Lord Jesus Christ was the perfect Son of heaven, spotless in purity, a beautiful childhood, boyhood, manhood. But before He was ready for His great prophetic ministry, He first must be baptized from heaven.
And it came upon Him at His baptism. And then thereafter read the Word, "And Jesus moved with the Spirit…And Jesus driven by the Spirit…And Jesus in the power of the Spirit…And the book was given to Him and He opened it where it said, And the Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me."
Thus with the apostle Paul converted on the road to Damascus, blind and seeking God’s will, Ananias came and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me that thou mightest receive thy sight, and that thou mightest be filled with the Holy Spirit." Without the enduement, and the endowment, and the visitation of the Holy Spirit of God in a man’s soul, and in his heart, and in his life, and in his ministry, and in his church; however intellectual he may be, however learned he may be, however polished he may be, however ingenious he may be, his words are sounding brass and a clanging cymbal unless they have the presence of the power of God in his ministry, in his preaching, in his delivery, in his appeal, in his invitation, in his work. And the tragedy of our modern day is that we have come to discount the work, and the unction, and the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
In these over refined times with our cheap cultural veneer the ordinary minister is afraid to plead in agony for the moving presence of the Spirit of God lest he portray intellectual weakness or emotional instability. And reading the power of God out of his services and the unction and the presence of the power of God in his appeal and in his invitation, our services become matters of empty decorum. And the minister is there dressed just so, effeminate, effete, deliciously nice and well mannered, wouldn’t offend anybody, not even the devil.
Good preaching has been described as being that of a mild mannered man speaking to a mild mannered congregation on how to be more mild mannered. I wonder how Robert G. Lee’s John the Baptist with his grasshopper salad, would fit in one of the modern pulpits of our modern world? I think of Leo Edelman as he said after listening to one of those dilettantes, he shook hands with him at the door and asked him what was his maiden name?
So many of them are what I describe like the man that swallowed an egg. There he stands in the pulpit or there he sits. He’s afraid to bend. Afraid it’ll break and afraid to sit still. Afraid it’ll hatch. So he sits and so he stands in beautiful style, and manner, and acceptable decorum.
I think of Henry Thoreau out there at Walden Pond. He said, "I’d rather sit on a pumpkin listening to the chickadee-dees than on those pews in Boston listening to those dry dee-dees," reading out the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Then empty decorum, and ritual, and ceremony, and beautiful gesture, and genuflection come in.
Then of course, reading out the power of the Spirit of God the preacher inevitably becomes a victim of personal ambition, and advancement, and preferment. Why not? That’s the way the world is run. Man, you got to get up. You got to get on. You got to get forward. You got to move up. And if you don’t you’re a failure.
Whether God wanted a man out here in this little place or not, that’s not the problem. That’s not to be considered. Whether a man would call a fellow to a small and insignificant ministry, that is not the thing. The thing is man get along. You got to be called to a bigger church, and a bigger salary, and a bigger place. And you got to go up, and up, and up. If you don’t, you’re a failure.
That thing stares our people in the face, our young ministers all of the time. Reading the Spirit of God out, he becomes a natural prey of personal ambition and advancement. Funny thing, it’s a funny thing how we designate and mathematically graduate our churches and our preachers. This is a big shot. And there’s a big shot but that little guy and that little fellow, how inconsequential and insignificant.
I heard them say that when the Southern Baptist Convention met many years ago in a town over there, in a city over there in eastern Tennessee like Knoxville, some such place as that, that there attended the Southern Baptist Convention for the first time an old hillbilly Baptist preacher from the head of the holler. And he never had been out of the county. And he went down there to the city in order to attend the Southern Baptist Convention.
And he went up to one of those hotels and they stuck a register according to that day in his face. And he said, "What’s that?" The fellow there at the hotel said, "You got to write your name in there if you’re going to stay here." So he put his specs on the end of his nose and he looked at the register. And there they were, such and such big shot PhD., such and such big shot LLD, such and such big shot DD. And he wet the end of his pencil and wrote his name and put thereafter, "RFD number 1;" moving along, moving up, getting on in the world and reading out the call of the Holy Spirit for our lives.
Then another thing, not only do we become preys of empty decorum and not only do we become prey to false ambition and empty personal preferment but inevitably and always and it is the story of the development of every denomination in the earth. We become slaves and devotees of a false cheap intellectualism.
I am overwhelmed at the theological world of my day. And I suppose every minister of Christ has been thus overwhelmed by the theological world, and compunction, and atmosphere of his own day but I know I certainly am in mine. The whole theological world from one side of it to the other is consumed in discussions concerning these German theologians.
There’s Bart, and there’s Bruner, and there’s Bultmann, and there’s Tillich, and they go through the whole ramified set of them. And their time, and learning, and teaching is consumed in what those half infidels have to say. And I tell you as far as the saving of this world is concerned, they don’t amount to the ping of a tinker’s hammer what they say one way or another. That’s the Lord’s truth if it were ever said in this earth.
All you have to do, all you have to do is to watch the Harvard Divinity School. Watch it. It has been given over for years to the Unitarians. And under their noses, and while they are looking, and where they live, their city has become almost solidly Roman Catholic. All you have to do is to watch Union Theological Seminary in New York City. While they are debating about Bultmann, and Bart, and Tillich, and Bruner, the whole vast city becomes pagan, and lost, and facing the inevitable day of the judgment of almighty God.
You could put in my living room all the converts those theological schools make in a solid year. The whole world lost while they’re trying to be intellectual. Oh my soul! And that same paragon, and that same paradigm, and that same example is more and more coming to be the standard and the pattern of the intellectual ministry of our Southern Baptist Convention; panting after, panting after the cheap, half infidel interpretations and theories of these German theologians.
I have no grief for ignorance. I’m not talking about that a man is holy because he knows nothing. Man, I’m just talking about this. Do you ever wonder how did the apostle Paul preach? He was a graduate of the University of Tarsus. He was a graduate of the greatest school of theology in his day, that of Gamaliel in Jerusalem. He could stand before the Heiropolis on Mars’ Hill, the highest tribunal of the Athenian state and speak to those men as equals, quoting their own illustrious poets. But how did he preach? And what was the content of his message? First Corinthians 2:1-5,
And my brethren, when I came to you, I came not with excellency of wisdom, or of man’s speech, declaring unto you the oracles of God.
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in trembling.
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of Almighty God.
That’s the way he preached. That’s the way he preached.
I could not but be interested some years ago in London. We sat right in front of two aged men at a service in Spurgeon’s tabernacle. We were there early and so this conversation was carried on right back of us by those two old men. One of them who was a lot older than the other, one of them seated there was listening to what the old man who was young than he, trying to say.
And the old man said to the ancient man, he said, "Did you ever hear Spurgeon preach?" And the ancient man put his hand to his ear and said, "Heh? What did you say?" And the old man replied, "I said, did you ever hear Spurgeon preach?" And the ancient man said, "Oh yes, many times. He was my pastor." And the old man said, "How did he preach?" And the ancient man said, "Heh? What did you say?" And the old guy shouted and said, "I said, how did he preach?"
And the ancient fellow said, "Well, well," he said, "I, it’s hard to say." He said, "I love my pastor and I listen to these modern preachers, and," he said, "the only thing I can reply is this," he says, "it seems to me that when my pastor stands up, he kind of lectures, he just says words. But," he said, "when Spurgeon stood up to preach, say, man, there was fire in it."
Ooh! I thought, "That’s it! That’s it; there was fire in it." Spurgeon’s a man that stood up. His tabernacle, before it burned would seat six thousand people. With a gesture of his hand one time he said, "There’s not a seat of these six thousand from which somebody has not stood up to accept Christ as his Savior." That is Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
I love to hear a man preach with the fire of God in his soul and the Spirit of heaven burning in his bones. Whether he’s learned or not, I love to hear him preach if the power of God rests upon him. One time they said, "Would you like to go to this colored associational meeting?" It was on the line of Kentucky and Tennessee.
"Why," I said, "I haven’t anything to do. So I’ll just go along." Well, I never saw anything like that in my life. They were there by the thousands. For miles it seemed to me they had hot dog stands, and they had soda pop stands, and they were selling things there, and just having the most unusual, and remarkable, and interesting convocation of humanity – black – I ever saw in my life.
Well, when I went up to the church I could hardly look at the thing. They were so jammed on the outside. But I determined I was going to hear one of those preachers so I started at the edge and I elbowed my way little, by little, by little, by little until finally I got to the window. And I put my elbows on the window sill and propped my chin on my hands, and listened.
Man, I never saw anything like that before. I wasn’t reared where some of you were. Where I lived there were no colored people. And I hadn’t seen anything like that. They sang, for example, seventy stanzas to every song, and nobody had a book, nobody. They just sang, just sang. I’ve been trying to get my singer Leroy Till to sing like that but he got to have a book. They just sang.
Then the fellow stood up to preach. You should have seen him. He was a tall Negro and his hair was white like wool. And on that hot August day he was dressed in a Prince Albert coat buttoned at the top, went clear down to his shoes. And he started a’preachin’ and it was a revelation to me. I could tell he didn’t know how to read by some of the things that he said in his sermon.
And when he got in a weavin’ way, he looked at his congregation out there and all of his fellow preacher brethren were there in a half circle around him on the stage. And he lifted up his voice and looking at the congregation he said, "My brethren and my sisteren," he said, "Where was the Lord afore the world was made? Hmm? Where was He?" And all the brethren and sisteren looked back at the preacher and they say, "Hmm, preacher, we don’t know where He was. Where was He?" Then he turned and looked all of his fellow brethren and he said, "My brethren, where was the Lord afore the world was made?"
"Hmm," the preachers all shook their heads, and they said, "Preacher, we don’t know. Where was he?" I was the only white fellow there. He looked over there at me looking in that window and he said, "White man, where was the Lord afore the world was made?" Ooh, oh! That fellow stood up to his greatest height and looking triumphantly over his congregation he repeated his question, "Where was the Lord afore the world was made? The Lord was in His glory. Oh boy!" and all the people out there said, "Amen brother, that’s right. The Lord was in His glory." And all the brethren here when he turned around, said, "Amen, preacher, that’s right. The Lord was in His glory." Then he looked over at me, and I thought, "Idiot me, why didn’t I think of that?" Preaching, preaching, not in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Now listen to me my brethren, listen. John Wesley, precise Oxford don, methodical, Methodist, methodical, devout, learned, brilliant, educated, prepared, so loving Jesus he came to America to win the American Indian to Jesus. In failure, and frustration, and defeat, returned to England, wrote in his diary, "I went to Georgia to convert the American Indian but oh, who will convert this heart of mine?"
Then he went to the little Alder’s Gate Chapel and had the experience of God in power coming into his soul. Then Wesley stood up to preach. He wrote in his sermon. He wrote in his diary, "I preached and they didn’t come. I preach now and they come; the same sermon, the same text, the same appeal but God in it, the presence and power of the Lord."
Dwight L. Moody, 1871, a critical year in his life, there were two old women always seated down there at the front. And when Moody stood up to preach, they’d bow their heads and pray all the time he was preaching. Upon a day, he went down there and said, "What you praying for?" They said, "We’re praying for you."
"Why," he said, "I’m preaching to more people than any man in Chicago. Why don’t you pray for the lost?"
"No," they said, "we’re praying for you, that you might receive the enduement, the endowment, the enablement from above." They called it "the baptism of the Holy Spirit." Thereafter when Moody stood up, those two old women down there with their heads bowed, bothered him, worried him, angered him.
He finally decided he’d seek. He went to them, "What is this thing?" And they told him from the Book. He began to long, and to agonize, and to pray for that visitation from above. Walking down Wall Street in New York City one day, God came in such power upon him going to a friend’s room. He shut the door and so great was the Spirit of God upon him he said, "Lord, stay your hand, lest I die, lest I die." Then I came across that same sentence as I read in the life of Wesley. Moody preaching the same sermons, the same text, the same appeal, and the thousands responded; the presence and the power of the Spirit of God upon his ministry.
Every minister, I think, ought to read Charles G. Finney’s autobiography. All of us should. When he had those visitations from heaven in 1810, on the tenth day of March, when those visitations came, then he stood up to preach and he said, "My words fashioned like barbed arrows in the soul." He said, "They broke the hardest heart as with a hammer and they cut through as with a sword."
In one day of my reading, I read a testimony of a businessman who happened to be in Rochester, New York; fifty thousand in Rochester, Finney had over a hundred thousand conversions in that one revival meeting. He said, "I sat there and it seemed to me my hair would stand straight up on my head as I heard Finney speak."
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, I copied this from one of his messages:
Let the preacher always confess before he preaches, that he relies upon the Holy Spirit. Let him burn his manuscript. Let him burn his manuscript and depend upon the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit does not come to help him, let him be still, and let the people go home and pray that the Spirit will help him next Sunday.
I’ve often wondered what would happen if a man did that; stand up and say to the people, "My brethren, the Spirit of prophecy has left me. We’re going to have our prayer of benediction and go home. And we’re going to pray that the unction and the presence of God will fall upon your preacher next Sunday." I’ve often wondered what would happen.
Well, bless you, I read a few weeks ago in the life of Evan Roberts, I read what happened. Evan Roberts had an experience and in that experience, praying before he went out to preach, Evan Roberts – you know who he is. He had a six months revival in Wales and 152,000 people asked for membership in the churches in that one mighty outpouring of the Spirit of God – Evan Roberts was praying, and the place was filled with light, and a great trembling came to his soul. Then he began to pray for the light, and for the trembling, and he lost his power.
And searching the mind of God, the Lord whispered in his heart, "You’re not to depend on feelings. You’re not to depend on the light from heaven. But you’re to depend upon my Holy Spirit. Depend on my Holy Spirit." And Evan Roberts got up in the middle of the revival meeting and walked out of the pulpit, and into his room, and shut himself up for seven days. And seven days and nights he agonized and he prayed unto God.
I’ve never been anything like that. O God, I wish I could. But the historian says whose book I have, writing the story of that great Welsh revival in this century – it’s not a long time ago; he never died until just a little while ago – the historian says that after seven days of prayer and agonizing he said, "When Evan Roberts came out and stood before the people," he said, "the services were indescribable." He said, "His words were like the fire of Almighty God."
Let the preacher always confess before he preaches that he relies upon the Holy Spirit. Let him burn his manuscript and depend upon the Holy Spirit. And if the Spirit does not come to help him, let him be still, and let the people go home, and pray that the Spirit will help him next Sunday.
Just looking to God, agonizing before the Lord, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. O God, O God.
I stood one time where Simon Peter preached his Pentecostal sermon. And I said in my heart, "O God, do it again! Do it again." I stood on the hill of Samaria, where Philip preached the great revival in Samaria, and cried in my soul, "O God, do it again! Do it again." I stood in Corinth at the bema where the apostle Paul witnessed to the grace of the Son of God, and cried in my soul, "O God, do it again! Do it again." I stood in the vast duomo in Florence, where Savonarola brought the great Florentine city to its knees, and I cried, "O God, do it again! Do it again."
I stood at the place of the Alder’s Gate Chapel, where the heart of Wesley opened to the moving Spirit of Almighty God, and cried in my soul, "O Lord, do it again! Do it again." I stood in the pulpit of the Moody church in Chicago, and cried, "O Lord, do it again! Do it again."
And I stand and I stand in the pulpit of the matchless George W. Truett under whose preaching the Lord came down, our souls to greet and mercy fills the glory seat and I cry to the Lord every time I stand there. O Lord, do it again! Do it again. Do it again. This service Lord, fill with the moving Spirit of the power of God. This day Lord, bless the testimony of Thy Word. This service Lord, send us again a gracious and wonderful harvest. Lord, move among our people. O God, empower the preacher! Lord, set his words afire.
Lord, Lord, for the old time power, the old time power.
Thy floodgates of mercy, throw open wide.
Lord, for the old time power, the Pentecostal power,
That sinners be converted, and Thy name glorified.
Lord, Lord, Lord, do it again. Do it again. Do it again.
This is the purpose of God in the pattern of Pentecost. Where you’re preaching man, ask God to repeat it. Where you’re holding revival man, ask God to baptize it. Where is your church? Ask God to infill it. What is the sermon you’re going to preach? O Lord, set it afire! And what is the soul and the heart you’re going to offer to Jesus? O Lord, let me flame. Let me burn. Let me shine for Thee, O Lord, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and the power of God.