A Glorious Church
January 17th, 1965 @ 8:15 AM
A GLORIOUS CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Ephesians 5: 27
1-17-65 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled, A Glorious Church. In the fifth chapter of the Book of Ephesians, there are some of the most preciously beautiful of all the words in the New Testament. He is talking about Christ’s love for His church and how the church ought to be toward her Lord. And he begins in the twenty-fifth verse:
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.
The glorious church – first, it is a church that is bathed in the word of God. "Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the lutron, with the laver, of water by the word."
All of you who attended those series of expositions by Dr. Sidlow Baxter; upon one of those evenings, he described the tabernacle. And when you go through the gate into the tabernacle; first, is the brazen altar of sacrifice; then, the laver; then, the door into the sanctuary. And the Greek word for laver is lutron. And that’s the word that Paul uses here.
And it is a beautiful and a marvelous figure. Our Lord would bathe His church in the laver of His Word, baptize our souls in the truth of the Book. And ah, what a wonderful church that thus is sanctified, and cleansed, and washed in the laver of the Word of God!
I was talking to a young minister in Florida last week, as I preached through the State evangelistic conference there. And I was encouraging him to preach the Word of God. And I said to him – I said, "Young fellow, if you’ll do that – if you’ll do that faithfully, prayerfully, zealously – if you’ll do that, things will happen to your congregation that you hadn’t thought for or planned for. God will do it. The Holy Spirit will do it. You’ll develop in them a hunger and a thirsting for more of the truth of God. And after you have been there forty years, or however a lifetime of service and ministry would be – at the end of your forty or fifty years, if God lets you live that long, your people would be more eagerly anxious to listen to you preach than when they first knew you."
And you brethren who work in these churches know so tragically well, my impression of the average pastor is that he wants to move, anywhere – anywhere. Get out. Get out. Get out anywhere. You know why? Because in about a year or two he’s dry. He doesn’t have anything else to say. He doesn’t have anything to add.
Oh! I pled with that young fellow. I said, "Young fellow, give yourself to the breaking of the bread of life, mediating the truth of the Word of God. And you can stay in that church as long as God gives you breath, and the people will love you and delight to come to the services and to listen to your message.
Ah! "Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify it, and cleanse it with the laver of His word," bathing us in the Word of God [Ephesians 5:25-26]. Now this is the kind of a sermon that you could just preach on and on, and on, and on, and on. I want to take some of the things that will happen to a people as they read the Word, and listen to the Word, and bathe, baptize their souls in the Book.
You will have a praying people. You just will; for so much will you find in the Book encouraging us to pray. "My house," said the Lord, "shall be called an house of prayer" [Matthew 21:13], a praying people. "And the Lord spake a parable unto them to this end that men ought always to pray, and not to faint" [Luke 18:1]. "And the disciples continued in the doctrine, and in the breaking of bread, and in their prayers" [Acts 2:42]. "And Paul kneeled down and prayed with them all" [Acts 20:36]. "Brethren, pray without ceasing" [1 Thessalonians 5:17].
Ah! The words, and the examples, and the encouragements in that blessed Book! You’ll have a praying people. It is so natural for us to kneel down in this church and bare our supplications and requests and intercessions unto God. It’s become second nature. So much so, that at one of those meetings in the evangelistic conference when the leader said, "Let us go to God in prayer" – did you know, I wasn’t aware of it until I was down on my knees? I was the only one in that vast throng down on his knees. I just automatically got down on my knees there in the pulpit, when he said, "Let’s make it a matter of prayer." That is in God’s Book, and the people will reflect it when they are baptized in the laver – when they are sanctified and cleansed with the washing – the laver of the Word.
Another thing that will happen to them: they will find an outgoing – you can’t help it, you will find an outgoing in the spirit, and in the interest, and in the intercession, and in the work, and in the assignment of the church. You just will. You just will. In a dead and sterile congregation, you will find them very amenable to meeting with themselves; speaking to one another; then going their separate ways.
But in a church bathed in the Word of God, you will find among the people a divine restlessness. "O Lord, we must have help to get this message out! We must take this Book over there and tell the Chinese about the love of Jesus. We must take this Book down to South Africa and tell the folks over there about the love of Jesus. We have great assignments over there, and responsibilities in West Dallas." You’ll just find a whole heart and spirit of the people beginning to spread abroad the wondrous good news of the love of God in our blessed Savior.
Winston Churchill, as you know, is lingering at the very brink of death. One of the phrases that he used: "Our finest hour." Our finest hour – as a Baptist people, without exception, it’s connected to great commitments to evangelism and missionary dedication.
Kettering, where William Carey and Andrew Fuller organized the first modern missionary movement: our finest hour. Calcutta, where Adoniram Judson, and Anne Hasseltine Judson, and Luther Rice were baptized, and gave themselves as missionaries to our Baptist people, for the spreading abroad of the gospel of the grace of God in India, and then Burma: our finest hour.
When you walk in Westminster Abbey, where the great of the English-speaking world are buried, the first three in the floor – in the nave of the Abbey – the first grave is to England’s Unknown Soldier, guarded there by a representative of the English armed forces. And the next one is the grave of David Livingstone: "Brought by faithful hands, o’er land and sea, here lies the body of David Livingstone, God’s missionary."
And when you look at the pulpit in Westminster Abbey, it is dedicated to William Carey, God’s missionary: our finest hour – the dedication of our lives to the evangelization of the world, here and abroad.
And when you read the Book, and the congregation is washed in the laver of the Word, you will find a happy, generous, committed, gloriously loving people in the work of the Lord. Ah! I have seen and heard preachers stand up and ding-dong, and pound, and beg, and plead for money, and for the support of God’s work: hard and difficult, and always behind in their payments, and always seeking some way to get the church to support the work of Jesus in the earth. My impression of most churches again is, that’s the way they are.
Time and over again have I heard some of our finest deacons speaking of our beloved church to other people. And I have heard them say, oh, so many times: "You know, our pastor stands up there Sunday after Sunday, preaches the Word of God, preaches the Word of God. And those marvelous dedications, those unbelievable summations, Sunday by Sunday, of the tithes and offerings we offer to Jesus, he’s not up there ding-donging about that. He’s not up there pounding the pulpit about that. In fact, preaching through the Bible, there were large eras of time when the pastor never even mentioned it."
Well, why is it that the people respond so, and give so? It’s in the Book. It’s in the Book, and our spirits bathed in the Word, it is a natural response. You just do it. You do it. You just can’t help it. It’s something in your soul. And even our little children reared in these godly homes are taught, coming to God’s house, to bring an offering in their hands. That’s the Lord.
Look at it.
Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it,
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.
"That He might present it to Himself. . . ." The Lord never said, "My home," or "My family," or "My business," or, "My farm," never even said, "My wife," or, "My child." But He did say, "My church [Matthew 16:18] – My church," that He might present it to Himself.
"And I saw heaven opened and the New Jerusalem coming down," prepared – adorned, embellished – as a bride for her husband [Revelation 21:1-2], that He might present it to Himself, a glorious church – holy. The word "holy" has a very simple meaning, dedicated to God, dedicated for sacred purposes: holy, His church, His people – holy.
An addition to the Lord means a subtraction from the world, and people of the Book are just not worldly people. Our hearts are not out there. Our interests are not out there. The love of our souls is not out there. It’s here. It’s here, holy, dedicated unto the Lord with gladness, and cheerfulness, and enthusiasm, loving it, liking it, exalting in it, triumphing in everything about it!
One of these too-strict families was lecturing a teenager. He had been a little ebullient, and a little happy, and a little young in his attitude and behavior down at the church. And after the reprimand, why, he went out and happened to see the old donkey there, with his long face, and just hanging down. And he went over there and patted that old donkey on the forehead, and said, "Oh! but you’d be a marvelous member of the church."
I remember, and could I apply a little story I picked up from one of my MC’s here? A guy coming by said, "Are you a member of the First Baptist Church?"
"No. No," said the guy. "I’ve just been sick. I’ve just been sick." [laughter]
Ah! To do it – gloriously and happily; Sunday is a golden day, the gladdest day of the week. It’s our ekklÃ©sia day. It’s our assembly day. It’s our church day. Enthusiasmos – isn’t that a fine Greek word? Enthusiasmos. You could almost spell the Greek word in the English: enthusiasmos: en, in; theos, God; entheos, in God, belonging to God; enthusiasmos, God in us.
Isn’t that a magnificent thing? God in us. And you are happy. That’s right. That’s right. That’s where enthusiasm comes from. The Lord is in us. Hallelujah! Amen. Glory to God. Just going to stand up and praise the Lord if that preacher doesn’t quit talking about it. Just feeling, oh, how marvelous! How marvelous, all of us with one heart and with one spirit, appearing before our blessed Jesus. And they were all with one accord in one place [Acts 2:1]. Ah! How sweet.
There’s not a more beautiful psalm than the one hundred thrity-third Psalm.
Behold, behold, how good and how pleasant it is for
brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the ointment upon the head, that ran down upon
the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that ran down to the
hem of his garment.
Just overflowing with the perfume of the happiness, and the goodness, and the gladness, and the presence of the Holy Spirit of God. Ah! How beautiful! It’s like the two columns that Solomon built in front of his beautiful temple. One of them, he named Jachin, and the other one he named Boaz [1 Kings 7:21]. There’s not a mason in the world that couldn’t preach you a little sermon about those two columns: Jachin, "beauty," beauty; not disrupted and torn asunder by divisive differences. Beauty: the sweetest beauty in the world, that of brotherhood and communion. And strength, Boaz. Oh! A church together in the presence of Jesus is unbeatable, and unsinkable, and undefeatable.
An old and wise father called his seven sons around him. And he had seven sticks, and he took each one of the sticks and broke it easily over his knee – one through the seven. Then he took seven sticks and tied them in a bundle and challenged each one of those strong sons to break it now. Strength: all of us of a heart and of a soul together, in the love and worship and ministry of our blessed Lord.
He loved the church, and gave Himself for it,
That He might present it to Himself glorious,
not having spot or wrinkle; but that
it be holy and without blemish.
And the gladness of this fellowship is beyond any word I have to describe it. Dear people, to me, to bring our children to this holy place is God’s sweetest blessing for our children. Dear people, to bring and to invite friend and neighbor and business associate to this holy place is the finest offering I could make to any man I would ever know. And finally, to bring our beloved dead to this holy place: here, we worshiped God; here, we called on His name; here, we trusted in His grace; here, we told Him of our love and affection; and from here, if I die here in the city of Dallas, I want you to bury me from this place, right there, where I’ve kneeled so many times – right here. I’d love to go out to meet God from this dear place.
"Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it. . . .that He might present it to Himself a glorious church," as a bride, adorned for her husband. Oh! My soul magnifies the Lord. I am just happy today in Jesus. God is so good to us. May He bless us all and forever.
Now we must sing our song. On the first note of the first stanza, somebody you put your life in the fellowship of the church, somebody you, to take our Lord as your Savior, as the Spirit of Jesus shall open the door, shall whisper the word of appeal, come. On the first note of the first line, come, while we stand and while we sing.
I. Washed by the Word(Ephesians 5:26)
– the laver, where the priests washed themselves before entering presence of
the great High God
Washing, cleansing in the laver of the Word
encouragement to young pastors – bathe your soul and mind with the Book
B. Prayer(Matthew 21:13, Luke 18:1, Acts 2:42, 20:36, 1 Thessalonians
Missionary zeal(Matthew 28:18-20)
Our finest hour – Kettering, England with Andrew Fuller, William Carey
II. The Bride of Christ – without spot or
wrinkle(Ephesians 5:27, Revelation 21:2)
A. Holy, devoted to God
B. Devoted, quickened,
– God in us; spelled out in English, "enthusiasm"
2. India – no
C. United(Psalm 133:1-2)
columns of Solomon’s temple
a. Jachin – how
beautiful when God’s people together serve Him
b. Boaz – together we
III. My personal request