Necessity Is Laid Upon Me
April 21st, 1963 @ 7:30 PM
1 Corinthians 9:16-27
NECESSITY IS LAID UPON ME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 9:16-27
4-21-63 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, as with us in this great auditorium of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, take your Bible and turn to the first Corinthian letter. You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled Necessity Is Laid Upon Me. It is a text. It is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 9, and we are going to read beginning at verse 16 to the end of the chapter. All of us reading out loud together; about the middle of your New Testament, 1 Corinthians, chapter 9, beginning at verse 16 and reading to the end of the chapter. Now all of us, you on the radio and all of us here in this great auditorium, let us read it together, beginning at verse 16, chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians. Now together:
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without the law.
To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
[1 Corinthians 9:16-17]
This is one of the most dynamic descriptions of a man’s life and ministry that mind could imagine. It describes a pouring out of the life of the apostle Paul as he preached the gospel of the Son of God in the Mediterranean Roman civilized world. Now we are going to take the first two verses and expound them; verses 16 and 17 of the 1 Corinthian letter, chapter 9:
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, to glory in: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
[1 Corinthians 9:16-17]
And there’s far more in those words that we realize. And that’s why God calls the preacher to take the words of the Bible and to expound them, to open them up, that we might see what God hath said here to our souls. Now, he begins, "I preach the gospel" [1 Corinthians 9:16]; and how true that is. Nobody ever did it, not in two thousand years; nobody ever preached the gospel of Christ with the power and with the effectiveness of the apostle Paul. He literally sowed down the Roman Empire, the civilized world, with this blessed message from heaven. He says in the 1 Corinthian letter – this letter the fifteenth chapter – that he was blessed more and he wrought more fruitfully than all of the other apostles [1 Corinthians 15:9-10]; which is, which is unusually and realistically true. Paul preached the gospel in the unction and power of Almighty God; and the Lord blessed him with many, many churches and many souls. It was an indescribable ministry, the missionary ministry of the apostle Paul [Acts 13:1-28:31].
Yet, with all that he says, he has nothing to boast of, to glory of [1 Corinthians 9:16]. However God had blessed his life, and blessed his ministry, he organized churches in those great cities, he went everywhere making converts for Jesus, he literally laid the foundation for the Christian world as we know it today; yet for all that he did, he says, "I have nothing to glory of; I have nothing to boast of. It’s not anything that I can speak of," and he gives two reasons for it. First, "For anankē is epikeitai, "pressed upon me"; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel!" [1 Corinthians 9:16].
Now those words that Paul uses have tremendous significance. The Greek word anankē is the word the Greeks used for "fate"; anankē , fate. And to the Greek, for a man to fight against fate – a Mohammedan would call it kismet – for a man to fight against fate, against the will and providence of God, would be to break a man’s brains, and his head, and his soul, and his life against a solid wall. So Paul says here, "I have nothing to glory of [1 Corinthians 9:16], I have nothing to boast of: for it’s not something I chose to do; anankē , fate, is," now here’s his second word, epikeitai, "I didn’t choose to do it, epikeitai, I was pressed into it; I was made to do it." Paul is a pressed man. He’s a man who is driven. He never willingly did it, he says. He did not choose to do it, he says. He didn’t volunteer to do it, he says. He said, "Anankē , fate was epikeitai, pressed upon me."
Then he gives his second reason. "Yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" [1 Corinthians 9:16]. It’s something God has assigned me. It’s something God has commanded me. It’s something God has laid upon me. It’s that fate, it’s that fortune, it’s that elective purpose of God for my life; something far and beyond and above me. Not something I have chosen to do, but God pressed it upon me. Now he uses that same, that same imagery of anankē, and of fate, in this second verse: "For if I do this thing ekōn, willingly, I have a reward: but if akōn, unwillingly, against my will, an oikonomia is committed unto me" [1 Corinthians 9:17]. Now he’s following that same thought; you just don’t see it in the English language. "If I do this thing ekōn – willingly – why, I have a reward."
If I propose to be a preacher, and I am blessed in it, and I receive things for it, I have that reward. I chose to do it. If I am a teacher, and I choose to teach, and I ask to teach, and I’m hired to teach, and I’m paid to teach why, then the reward I have is something that I got. I did it, and here is what comes to me. "But if against my will – akōn, if I don’t choose to do it, if I don’t ask to do it, if I haven’t proposed to do it – if it is something God has placed on me, then an oikonomia," translated here, a dispensation, a stewardship, "is committed unto me anyway" [1 Corinthians 9:17].
An oikonomos was a slave who was assigned the keeping of a house; he – however exalted he might be as the keeper of the keys and as the steward of the properties – yet he was a slave, he did what his master told him to do. And Paul says here, "Whether I choose to do it, ekōn, or whether I do not choose to do it, akōn, God has committed to me an oikonomia, a stewardship; and as an oikonomos, as a slave, I have no other choice but to do what God has assigned me to do." Now that’s the background. That’s the exegesis of this text [1 Corinthians 9:16-17].
Now I want to take the thought and apply it to us today. We are exactly like that. That’s why the text, and that’s why the title of the sermon, "for necessity, for necessity is laid upon me" [1 Corinthians 9:16]. And by "me" I mean your pastor; and by "me" I mean our deacons; and by "me" I mean our church; and by "me" I mean all of the energy of our lives. "For necessity, anankē , fate, the providence of God is pressed upon us"; and these tasks that we are assigned to do, they’re not something we chose to do. They were our commandments, and they were our mandates, and they were our assignments, and they were our commissions before we were born [Ephesians 2:10]. And we were born into these things. Now, may I speak of them for the little moment that we have here, in three ways? First, we have an anankē , a necessity, an assignment about the evangelization of this whole world [Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8]. And second, we have an anankē , an assignment, a fate, a providence, a commission from God for the evangelization of our great city. And then third, we have an anankē , an assignment, a stewardship unto God for our families and for our people, for our children, our young, for all of our homes.
Now I speak of the first one. We have an anankē , we have a necessity, we have an assignment for the evangelization of this whole world. Dr. Truett used to say in this very pulpit I am told, "If a man is not missionary, he doesn’t belong to this church. And if a man is not missionary, he’s not invited to become a member of this First Baptist Church." I’ve been told that many times from the lips that Dr. Truett said those things. And I concur in that persuasion with all of my soul.
This is first, last, middle, and always a missionary church. We have no other choice in that. That’s not something what a deacon stood up and said, "I make a motion that we be a missionary church"; that’s something God assigned us. That’s a worldwide task the Lord gave us. To the east, to the west, to the north, to the south, there we are praying, and giving, and asking God’s blessings upon the witness of the gospel of the Son of God in this earth [Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8]. And God bless those great missionaries as they preach the gospel in Japan, and God bless our twenty-two members who are over there trying to encourage those missionaries and those native pastors in leading that vast archipelago that faces Communist China. God bless them as they win the world to Jesus over there.
When a man is an atheist, our missionaries try to point him to God. When a man is an infidel, our preachers try to point him to God. And when a man is a communist, our people try to point him to Jesus. And don’t ever think that we are not bound up in this world. These vast systems of communication and these vast systems of travel have made our world shrink up like a county! And what happens over there on the other side of this globe affects us in the morning. We’re all bound up together. That’s why this church and all of our people should give themselves with all we possess into the evangelization of the world! because to win them means the blessing of God upon us.
That’s the first anankē : missions, missions. God bless our church as Sunday by Sunday we bring our tithes and our offerings, and a portion of it always is divided for the evangelization of the world. And our Lord said here in that Great Commission, in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, He said, "You are to be My witnesses in Jerusalem," and we have a city mission program; "and in Judea," and we have a county and a state missionary program; "and in Samaria," and we have a national missionary program; "and to the uttermost parts of the earth," and we have a foreign mission program [Acts 1:8]. That’s our assignment and our task [Matthew 28:19-20].
Now, necessity, the will of God, anankē , providence, is pressed down upon us, we have a great assignment in our city for the evangelization of our city. "Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel!" [1 Corinthians 9:16]. The city, from the beginning of time, God seemingly has poured out His love and concern upon the great city. It was in behalf of those cities of Sodom and Gomorrah that Abraham stood before the Lord [Genesis 18:22-33]. And I think if Abraham had gone from fifty to forty to twenty to ten and kept on going to one, I think He would have saved Sodom and Gomorrah. "Lord, Lord, Lord, would You spare the city for twenty? Lord, would You spare the city if in it ten righteous could be found?" [Genesis 18:31-32].
What a tragedy. What a tragedy! Not ten righteous could be found. But Abraham pleaded and interceded with God for the great city [Genesis 18:22-32]. It was the same kind of a thing that moved God to send Jonah to Nineveh. That wicked and vile city, heathen, merciless, cruel, ruthless; they were the ones that wasted Israel. That’s why Jonah didn’t want to go. And when Jonah pouted before God, because when Nineveh repented God repented, when Nineveh turned God turned, and when Nineveh fell to her knees, God looked down in mercy and forgiveness [Jonah 3:4-10], and Jonah got mad: "Those vile heathen who have wasted Israel and destroyed us, O God! O God! You said You was going to destroy them; and now You are going to let them live" [Johan 4:1-4]. The Lord said, "Why Jonah, look, there are one hundred twenty thousand infants in that city. And look at them in tears and in repentance, looking unto Me. Why should not I have mercy upon Nineveh?" [Jonah 4:11]. Nineveh, that great city.
It was over a great city that Jesus wept. Jesus cried over Jerusalem [Luke 19:41]. And it was in a city that the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts describing this man Paul, it says, "As he stood in that great city, that his spirit stirred within him" [Acts 17:16]. And it was in behalf of a city that the Lord said to Paul, "This city of Corinth, I have much people in this city. Paul stay here and preach the gospel" [Acts 18:9-11]. Now it’s that kind of a necessity that is laid upon us.
These pagan and these heathen cities, and there’s not one that does not increasingly become more pagan, and more heathen, and more godless, and more full of desecration all of the time, not a one of them. I suppose the great cities of America are literally cesspools of iniquity and vice! Why, I am told that the capital city of the United States of America has become so filled with evil and iniquity that you wouldn’t dare walk through the streets at night. And I am told that the great New York City is increasingly, increasingly becoming a city given over to gangs and to violence and to iniquity, the powers of darkness – these cities, and how full of desecration they are.
I, just as you, I can never forget the throngs, and the throngs, and the throngs that walk down the streets of the great cities of the world on Sunday evening, on Sunday evening. No thought of God, none in the world! In Zurich, for example, the largest city in Switzerland, there is the great church, dark, like a mausoleum, dark, not a light, not even in the yard. And there’s a big skating rink and thousands gathered round, there’s a three ring circus and thousands watching the acts, there are accordion bands up and down the streets, there’s every kind of thing like that you can imagine, and nobody preaching the gospel of the Son of God! not one, not one. "Necessity is laid upon me; woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel!" [1 Corinthians 9:16].
And that’s why our attempt in the evangelization of this great and growing city. I don’t know of any agony, of any agony that is like the agony of wrestling with the difficult of the human depravity in a great city. That’s why the churches quit. They don’t want to agonize. That’s why these churches have no more revival meetings. It costs to have a revival. That’s why they don’t have services on Sunday night. It costs to have a service on Sunday night.
My impression of most churches is that they are parasites; they live off of what others do. And my impression of no small number of our denominations is that the denominations are parasites. They live off of what their forefathers have done. And increasingly, and increasingly, the great city becomes pagan and more pagan and more pagan. Oh, the heartache and the travail and the tears and the agony, trying to move a great city toward God!
But we’re going to try. We’re going to pray. We’re going to have revival meetings. We’re going to fail, I guess, and we’re going to fail lots of times; but we’re not going to stop! We’re going to stay before the Lord. We’re going to cry unto God. We’re going to try, and we’re going to try again, and we’re going to try again, and we’re going to try again, and we’re going to stay with it until the Lord repudiates His commission and changes His assignment for us. And until the Lord says there’s no more need to preach, and there’s no more need to try, and there’s no more need to make appeal, and there’s no more need to sing the songs and to announce the services, we’re going to stay with it, going to stay with it.
There’s nobody in the earth that is crushed more than I am when we make attempts and they’re not gloriously successful. I just die under the hand of the Lord. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to quit. We’re just going to announce it again, and we’re going to do better the next time, and we’re going to learn how to do it. And we’re going to stay with it until finally it isn’t just the pastor and a little handful of people in this church that are agonizing over this lost city.
We’re all going to begin praying, and we’re all going to begin interceding. And when I meet a church member some of these days, who says, "Well, I see you’re going down to the big auditorium and have a revival meeting; well, I think I’ll try to come one night," wouldn’t that thrill the preacher to death? Wouldn’t that encourage him in the faith? Wouldn’t that bless his soul? "Yes sir, I’m a member of the First Baptist Church, and I see you going down there and hold a revival meeting in that big auditorium, and I’m going to try to be there one night, yes I am."
We’re going to change that until that guy is going to be scarce as a hen’s tooth around here. Every time you meet a member of the First Baptist Church, he says, "I may be in Afghanistan, or I may be in New York City, or I may be down in Brazil, but I hear you’re going to have a revival meeting, and I’ll be there. I’m going to put it first, be praying for it, and agonizing over it." Instead of going to the revival meeting and sitting there like you’re looking at a vaudeville, there he is, up there doing, "Now let’s see what you’re doing this time." And there he is, "Now let’s see what’s going on now." Instead of going to a revival meeting like we’re going to a vaudeville, we’re going to go there with a burden on our hearts, and we’re going to go, having visited, and having brought lost people with us, and having tried to win them to Jesus, and go down the aisle with them.
Let me show you how far away we are from God. Suppose the preacher preaches a sermon, and he says, "Somebody here, give his life anew to Jesus," do you give your life anew to Jesus? Why no, you’re sitting there like you do to a vaudeville to see if somebody else does it. But it never occurs to you, never occurs to us that we could draw nigh to God. I wouldn’t have you hold your hand, but if I were to ask how many of you people have given your life in a new dedication to the Lord in the last forty years, there’d be a lot of you who could hold up your hand and say, "It’s been over forty years since I went down any aisle and dedicated my life to the Lord." Suppose I were to say, "How many of you have rededicated your life to the Lord in ten years?"
"Well, now that’s for somebody else, it’s not for me. I know people ought to get right with God, but not me. I know people ought to dedicate their lives to the Lord, but not me. I know people ought to draw nigh to God, but not me, you see I am in a class to myself. I belong to the Pharisees, and I walk and talk right next to God Himself." That’s what’s the matter with us; that’s what’s the matter with us. "The show’s for somebody else, but it’s not for us." That’s where the agony comes in. And finally if our people get down on their faces, "Lord, Lord," that’s revival, when people come to the burning. And it takes all of us.
A man said to me, "Well, why are you trembling before the great revival meeting at the auditorium, why? You got thirteen thousand members in the church. Why are you trembling before the Lord?" I said, "It’s a very simple reason why I’m trembling before the Lord. There are thirteen thousand members in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and nine thousand of them, nine thousand of them you’d never see at a revival where we are pouring out our hearts in intercession, and in agony, and in tears before God. That’s why I tremble. That’s why I tremble."
You don’t need to go out there to try to have revival among bartenders and whoremongers. You don’t have to go out to the distillers. That’s not where it starts. It starts in our souls, starts in our lives. It starts in this thing that Paul is talking about, anankē , "Necessity is laid upon me; woe is unto me, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel!" [1 Corinthians 9:16]. It’s an assignment from the Lord. It’s something God wants us to do.
We’re going to stay with the Lord until you come and walk by our sides. Our next great revival meeting is at the Southern Methodist University Coliseum. It has eight thousand seats out there. And I am praying that between now and then our people, our people will so draw nigh to God and so open their hearts to the appeal of Christ that our people will go out there and make it possible for God to have a great outpouring of His Spirit through us. Then we’re going out to the coliseum on the state fairgrounds, the last week in October. Then next year, we’ll go to the great auditorium down on Akard Street.
And so we sit there and watch the preacher traipse off by himself, with a little handful of his people, trying to win and to move a city toward God. "Now preacher, I’m told what you need to do is to have Roy Rogers. That’s the way to have it, have Roy Rogers. And you got, you got eleven thousand people there for Roy Rogers. And then of course you can preach to the people after they come for Roy Rogers." Oh, I say, "Yes, that’s right. That’s what we have to do"; but I die in my soul when I say it!
Our members are not interested enough to go down there with the preacher, preaching the gospel of the Son of God. "We’re not interested enough; but if you have Roy Rogers, why, we’d go down there. O God! You die, you die, your soul is killed on the inside of you.
Why do we need some spectacular personality in order to have people at a great appeal for souls? Why, when there are thousands of us and thousands of us in this church? And when we’re there, and then we bring our friends, and we go by and pick up others, and we pray by name for the lost, O God, why? Why? "Necessity is laid upon me; woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel!" [1 Corinthians 9:16].
We’ve gone beyond the time. I haven’t opportunity to speak of this third thing. "Necessity is laid upon us," the care for our families and for our children, for our homes and for our people. Oh, the Lord bless us! The Lord bless us. If there are two thousand of us who’ll take the burden of this city on our hearts, maybe in time God will give us another thousand of us. And maybe in time God will give us another thousand of us. And maybe in time God will give us another thousand of us. Maybe some of these days this preacher will stand here in this pulpit in this church before our people, and there’ll be thirteen thousand of us whose hearts are poured out unto God for the lost of this great city. God grant it. The Lord grant it.
Now we must sing our song. And while we sing the song, somebody you give his soul and heart and life to Jesus, come and stand by me. Somebody pour his heart out before God in repentance and confession, taking Jesus as Savior, you come and stand by me. Somebody to put his life with us in this church, to pray with us, and to walk and march to Zion by our sides, you come and stand by me. As the Spirit of the Lord shall open the way, God shall say the word, and the Lord shall, shall lead, make the decision tonight. Make it tonight, come and stand by me, "Preacher I give you my hand, I give my heart to the Lord; here I come, and here I am." Glory to God, down that aisle, or down that stairway, "And here I am," while we stand and while we sing.
NECESSITY IS LAID UPON ME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 9:16-27
A. Paul preached the gospel(1 Corinthians 9:16a)
1. Greatest missionary story in history
2. He himself avowed his labor to be more fruitful than all the other apostles
B. But no glory to Paul that he did it, nothing he could boast of(1 Corinthians 9:16b)
1. Anankeepikeitai – "fate was pressed upon me"
2. To resist call of God, his course onward would be miserable hopelessness
C. Same idea in other terms – to do it willingly brings a reward(1 Corinthians 9:17a)
1. Paul is an involuntary minister, with a stewardship entrusted to him(1 Corinthians 9:17b)
a. Oikonomos – slave assigned keeping of a house
II. The gospel imperative
A. Assignment for evangelization of whole world(Matthew 28:18-20)
1. This is a missionary church(Acts 1:8)
B. Assignment for evangelization of our city
1. From the beginning God seemingly has poured out His love and concern upon the great city (Genesis 18:32, Jonah 4:10-11, Luke 19:41, Acts 17:16, 18:9-11)
2. Our great cities so full of desecration
a. Sunday evening, the churches are dark
3. We’re going to stay with it
4. Revival starts in our souls
C. The care of our families and children