In The Wisdom of God
January 31st, 1965 @ 7:30 PM
IN THE WISDOM OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-31-65 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, you are invited to open your Bible to the Second Gospel, the Gospel of Mark; and we shall read the first six verses of the third chapter. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled In The Wisdom Of God. It is a message concerning the Lord’s reaction to the evil opposition that He faced in the earth. What did He do? And what He did is what I have called the wisdom of God.
And what Lord did then, history has verified His infinite intuition, the divine plan in which we share, and which we work, and to which we belong today. Now this passage that we read is just an illustration of the opposition that the Lord faced. And in the verses that followed, that we shall not read now, I want to point it out to you how it developed and how the Lord did it. And what we read now is an illustration of the opposition that He met. In the third chapter of the Gospel of Mark, reading the first six verses, now, sharing our Bibles, we all read it outloud together:
And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.
And they watched Him, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath day; that they might accuse Him.
And He saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.
And He saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.
And when He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.
Did you ever read anything like that in your life? And did you ever see such a commentary on human nature in all literature, in any history, or book, or story, that so presents the depravity of human life as that? Here was a man whose hand was withered, and the Lord saw him, and in the Lord’s compassion, He said to Him, “Stretch forth thy hand” [Mark 3:5]. And that withered, misshapen piece of an arm was stretched forth, and it became whole and sound as the other [Mark 3:5]. Wouldn’t you have thought—wouldn’t you have thought that they would have been rejoicing, and singing, and gladness that such was able to be done here in our presence? Wouldn’t you have thought, “such marvelous goodness?” What does the Book say? “And they went forth, and took counsel against Him, how they might kill Him” [Mark 3:6]. How they might destroy Him. That is depraved human nature, and that is the story, morbid and black, of our humanity.
In the twelfth chapter of the Revelation, the vision begins with a radiant woman, clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and her head crowned with twelve stars. And the woman—radiant, glorious—was in travail, giving birth to a Manchild who is the Son of God, destined to rule the earth and all God’s creation [Revelation 12:1-2]. Now, the next vision: “And he saw a dragon,” red, vicious, vile, waiting, with wide-open devouring, voracious maw, to eat up the Manchild that should be born of that glorious and radiant woman [Revelation 12:3-4]. That is humanity.
Now here in the Bible, if you want to look at it, I want you to follow the course of that gradual build-up of bitter opposition and enmity and finally the counsel of death against our Lord [Mark 3:6]. Now you look at it here. In the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark, just turn over one page, in the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark, they began to reason in their hearts. “Now there were certain of the scribes sitting there, reasoning in their hearts” [Mark 2:6]. Their first opposition was on the inside of their hearts. And they said to themselves on the inside, “Why does this Man blaspheme, for no man can forgive sins but God?” [Mark 2:7].
Now first, it is in their hearts [Mark 2:6]. Now look in that same chapter. In the sixteenth verse then they attack His disciples: “And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto His disciples ….” [Mark 2:16]. First, it is in their hearts [Mark 2:6]; then they attack His disciples [Mark 2:16].
Now you come on down to the eighteenth verse. The third thing they did was to attack the Lord Himself. “And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees … came and said unto Him ….” [Mark 2:18]. This is a confrontation with the Lord Himself.
Now turn the page to the third chapter, and in the passage that you read: “And they went forth and took counsel how they might slay Him—how they might destroy Him” [Mark 3:6]. First, it’s in their hearts [Mark 2:6]; then they attack the disciples [Mark 2:16]; then they attack the Lord Himself; then they take counsel how they can slay Him [Mark 3:6]. And then finally in this same third chapter, “And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He is filled with the devil. He has Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils He casts out devils” [Mark 3:22]. And when they said that, the Lord replied:
Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:
But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:
Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.
Finally they were confirmed in their sin and in their rejection [Mark 3:29-30]. And when the preacher preaches on that passage, it’s always called the unpardonable sin [Mark 3:28-30; Matthew 12:31-32; Luke 12:10]. Now, that’s the development of the opposition to the Lord in the world. And that’s a reflection—and a good one, a faithful one, a true one, a myriad one—of the depravity of human nature [Romans 5:12].
Now the Lord lived in this world, and He came to minister to this world, and to save our souls from the sin of this world [Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45]. Now what did He do? When the Lord met opposition in His ministry, and when He saw the darkened hearts, and finally the unpardonable, unforgiveable sin in their souls, what did the Lord do? Now this is what He did, and this gives rise to the message tonight, The Wisdom of God: “And Jesus withdrew …”Now this is the verse immediately following the one where they take counsel how to kill Him [Mark 3:6].
But Jesus withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea … And He goeth up unto a mountain, and He calleth unto Him
whom He would: and they came unto Him.
And He ordained twelve—
He commissioned twelve—
that they should be with Him, and He might send them forth to preach.
And to have power to heal sickness, and to cast out devils:
And Simon He surnamed Peter;
And James … and John … and Andrew … and Philip … and Matthew and Thomas—and all the rest of the twelve disciples.
[Mark 3:7, 13-19]
What the Lord did when He met that opposition in the world, what He did was, He called out a faithful band. And He organized them, and put them together, and commissioned them, and finally poured out the Spirit of God upon them [Acts 1:8, 2:1-4]; and set them as the light that couldn’t fail and didn’t die in this world. For it is the organization, it is the institution, it is the koinōnia, it is the church, it is the fellowship that holds the truth [2 Timothy 4:1-3], as a dipper holds the water. As the pigments in the paint will hold the picture, as the ordinances, baptism [Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 6:3-5], and the Lord’s Supper [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26], hold the truth of the gospel, so the institution, the organization, the church, the koinōnia, the fellowship, holds the truth of God in the earth [John 17:17-19]. Individually, it would die. Separated, it would die. But together in the fellowship, in the community, it lives forever. That’s what the Lord said about His church when He founded it in the earth. “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” [Matthew 16:18]. It’ll be here until the Lord Jesus raptures God’s saints up to glory [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17].
“And for this cause,” said Paul, “have I left you, Titus, in Crete, that you might ordain elders in every church” [Titus 1:5]. “And you, Timothy, there in the church of Ephesus, the things that I have committed unto thee you commit unto faithful men, who in that church shall be able to teach others also” [2 Timothy 2:2]. In the wisdom of God, the only way to keep alive His witness in the earth is in the fellowship. It’s in the koinōnia. It’s in His church. It’s in the community of His people. And individually it would die, but together it becomes a powerful witness and testimony to the truth of our Lord.
Now I want to show you how history verifies that wisdom of Jesus: the organization, the pulling together of His people, the gathering together of the assembly of the Lord; the fellowshipping of the Lord’s anointed, God’s saints. Now, I want to show you in history the wisdom of that; that individually we would die but collectively, together, we are powerful unto the saving of the lost, and the preaching of the gospel, and the keeping alive of the truth of our Savior.
There was a marvelous, gifted missionary, a Jesuit missionary by the name of Francis Xavier. Some people call it X-avier, “Zavier,” or X-avier, whichever way you want to call his name; X-A-V-I-E-R. And he was an incomparable missionary. I don’t suppose in the annals of history there was ever anybody so successful as Xavier. He went through India, and then through Ceylon, and then through Japan—now this is in the 1500s—and he turned multitudes to Christ by the millions. So much so, that they lined the banks of the rivers in India and in Ceylon and in Japan. And he baptized them according to the Jesuit faith; he baptized them by sprinkling. And he took branches of water and would dip them in the river, and sprinkle those thousands, and thousands, and thousands, and thousands of people lining the banks of the rivers. And he went from community to community, and from city to city, and from country to country, and testified to the grace of the Lord, and turned those people to Christ by the uncounted thousands! And it died; nothing followed, nothing happened. And not a vestige—not a vestigial remnant of that ministry of Francis Xavier can you find. It vanished from the earth.
Now I want to take another great man of God, John Wesley. John Wesley was not the beginning of the marvelous missionary. He came over here to Georgia to convert the American Indian. Finally, in despair, he returned back to England and said, “I went to Georgia to convert the Indian, but who is going to convert this hard heart of mine?” And while he was there, he had his Aldersgate experience, when his heart was strangely warmed and God set his soul afire. And what Wesley did was this. All over this earth he either organized himself or he sent out laymen and ministers of Christ to organize little chapels, and little congregations, and little churches, and little lighthouses for Jesus. And to this day, you will find the Methodist denomination all over this world. I am pointing out to you the wisdom of God in encasing the truth in a fellowship, in a koinōnia, in a community, in a gathering together of the saints.
All right, let’s take an instance here at the United States. There never lived in all history, there never lived a more brilliant, or oratorical, or effective minister of Christ than T. DeWitt Talmage. He’s the only man who ever lived that every Monday, after he preached a sermon on Sunday, the great newspapers of the world printed the full text of his sermon. He had a message that was timely and apropos, and he couched it in a language like the world had never seen. He was a Milton and a Shakespeare all in one as he preached the gospel. And he built a marvelous church, the Brooklyn Tabernacle, in New York City. And people hung on his word by the thousands and the thousands. And T. DeWitt Talmage died, and not a vestigial remnant remains of his work, or of his congregation, or of his people, or of his preaching—none. It all disappeared.
All right, in his day there was Dwight L. Moody, and Dwight L. Moody had the genius of God in his soul. And he went up there to Northfield and he organized those Northfield schools. And he went to Chicago and he organized the Moody Bible Institute. And he stood up—isn’t a shame how they’ve departed from it? And he helped organized the YMCA, which was an instrument to win souls to Jesus. That’s why the “Y” was organized to get young men to God. All through this land you will see the effects of the wisdom of the organizational genius of Dwight L. Moody; you see nothing of T. DeWitt Talmage—the wisdom of God; the community, the collecting, the gathering together of God’s children.
Let’s take an instance in our own denomination, the Primitive Baptists—the foot-washing Baptists. They didn’t believe in schools. They didn’t believe in missions. They didn’t believe in the denomination. They didn’t believe in organization. They didn’t believe in education. They didn’t believe in anything. The minister just stood up, opened his mouth, and believed that God would fill his mouth with words. Now I could say things about that, but I don’t have time. And the Primitive Baptist used to be practically the only Baptists that were in this earth.
But there rose up another part of that Baptist denomination called the Missionary Baptists. And they believed in combining, and eliciting, and soliciting the entire genius, and abilities, and talents, and gifts of all of their people. And they built colleges and seminaries and schools, and they organized mission societies. And they founded churches. And they sent out of this to preach the gospel of the Son of God. And there are not enough Primitive Baptists in the world even to mention. But there are millions and millions of Missionary Baptists, of which this beloved church is one. The genius of God has been verified in history.
And when the Lord met that opposition in this vile and evil world, He withdrew. And He called unto Him those whom He would, and He ordained them and began that ministry of building the koinōnia, the fellowship, the church in the earth [Mark 3:7, 13-19]. Now the strength of our witness, the power of our testimony lies in that togetherness. It lies in that fellowship. It lies in that thrust and that march of all of our combined people. There is power in it, and without it we’d die. Individually we are so weak that we perish.
There was a guard or two guiding in a long march the inmates of an insane asylum. All fifteen hundred or two thousand of those inmates were being marched to a certain place. And there were only about two, three, or four guards guiding them all the way through from one part of that ironed enclosure to another part. And then while those two or three guides were guiding those fifteen hundred or two thousand inmates into another area behind that iron fence, why, a fellow watching it said, “Why—why, man, this is a dangerous thing! This is fraught with peril. Why, if they were to get together, they could overwhelm you few guards, and no limit what they might do.”
And the guard said, “Why, there’s no possibility. There’s no problem, no danger at all, for if they could get together, they wouldn’t be in here. Isn’t that a comment on folks that can’t get together? You know where you belong? You belong on the funny farm. That’s where you belong.
Or you could speak of an army. You could speak of an army. Individually, a soldier by himself: weak, unable. But put them together into the genius of a combined thrust, and they may turn the whole map of the world upside-down or right-side over. Now that’s true in every area of life; the wisdom of God in planning and launching and building His koinōnia, His fellowship, His church, His assembly of the saints. Individually, we die, but together we are strong to the overwhelming of principalities and powers of the darkness of Satan.
You know, this afternoon it came into my mind, and I can’t remember just exactly, but in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book there are some lines:
Now this is the law of the jungle,
As old and as true as the sky.
The wolf that shall keep it may prosper,
But the wolf that shall break it must die.
Now, my children, listen intently
And learn it forward and back.
The strength of the pack is the wolf,
And the strength of the wolf is the pack.
Now that’s a true reflection in a rhyme for children, and that’s true in every area of life. It is true in education. Well, why do you assemble these students together? Why don’t you put one under a tree there, and one on a log there, and one on a hill there, and one at the head of hollow there, and in an alley there, and one in the house over yonder? Why don’t you do that? No small part of their education lies in their fellowship in the community of the intellectual. And they learn as much by the association with the teacher, and with one another, and in the university campus as they do by looking at a book! Because you could send them the book and mail it, but the better way is the community of teaching. Isn’t that right, Dr. White? That’s why you’ve got us all down there at Baylor University, hoping for good for us in the community—hoping; can’t ever tell, can’t ever tell. Education.
Government is like that. Government is like that. Individually, that’s anarchy, that’s lawlessness. But collectively, abiding by laws, and electing representatives, and all of the processes of court and life, this makes a nation powerful—the togetherness of a great company of citizens.
Now I must hasten. Now that same thing is in the truth of God and in the Word of the Lord. It is so in our worship. Why can’t I worship out there on a hill somewhere, under a green bay tree, or looking at this pretty water? Why can’t I do that? For the simple reason that the witness of the Lord would die if we did it that way! It would perish from the earth.
I remember a story that I have repeated, and I heard it from my pastor when I was a little boy, sitting in church listening to him preach. My old pastor said that there was a man who ceased coming to church. He didn’t appear in it any more. And the pastor went to see him. And when he went to see him on a cold, winter evening, the man was seated there before the warmth of a fire. And he invited the pastor in and the pastor sat down by his parishioner there before the warm fire. And as they sat there, the pastor got the poker, and he pulled out a live coal that was flaming and burning, and he pulled it out on the hearth—on the rock there by itself. And the flame died, and the fire went out., and it began to smolder and smoke and turned into a cold cinder.
And the man by his side, his parishioner, finally turned to the pastor and said, “Pastor, you don’t need to say a word. I’ll be there next Sunday. I’ll be there next Sunday.” By yourself the fire dies, the flame dies, the spirit dies, the witness dies, the thrust dies, the march dies, the triumph dies! But together we burn; we help one another shine for Jesus.
It’s that way in our praying. There is private praying, I know, and closet praying. There’s praying in retreat. There’s agonizing before God when nobody sees, nobody hears, nobody knows but just God in heaven. But there’s also public praying. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, and in the fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers” [Acts 2:42].
And the Lord said to them, “Now you tarry in Jerusalem. You stay together. Thomas, don’t you go off to Galilee; and Simon Peter, don’t you go down to the Jordan; and John, don’t you go over there to Caesarea; you stay together. You stay together until the Promise of the Father comes. And when I go, I will send Him” [Luke 24:49].
And the Lord ascended into heaven [Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9-10]. And the Spirit of power descended from heaven. “And all of those disciples were in one place, with one mind, with one accord” [Acts 2:1]. And the power of God fell upon them [Acts 2:2-4]—public praying, community praying, fellowship intercession. And that’s true in soulwinning and I haven’t time to speak of it.
Now my conclusion. My friend, my sister, my brother, if God has touched your soul, if God has reached into your heart and spoken to you, say, don’t you feel—don’t you feel in your soul, “Where is this body of Jesus? Where is this koinōnia? Where is this fellowship? Where is this church? I want to join it. I want to add myself to it. That’s where I belong. That’s where I belong, where Jesus calls us to belong.” Do it. Do it.
I was down there in Caracas some years ago, preaching the gospel of the Son of God, down there in Caracas. They were building a beautiful church right in the center of the city, and they had a fine and devout congregation. And while I was there, somebody said to me, he said to me, “Do you know where the first convert came from in Caracas in Venezuela? Do you know where the first came from?”
I said, “No, I’ve never heard it.”
“Well,” he said, “You just listen to this. There was a man here in Caracas—there was a man here, and he was undoing a box of soap. And as he undid the box of soap—the bars of soap were packed in old newspapers—and as he undid the box of soap and was taking out the packing, his eye fell on the advertisement of a book that he’d never seen. It was a Bible. And it intrigued him and it interested him, and he wrote off and sent the money and received a Bible—the first one he’d ever seen. And he began to read it, and God touched his heart, and he was saved. And he looked to Jesus, in faith and in acceptance [Ephesians 2:8]. Then he began to look around. “Where are folks like these I read in the Bible? I want to join myself to them. Are there people? Is there a church? Is there a fellowship like this here in the Bible? I want to belong to them. I want to be baptized into the fellowship of the people of God.”
And he began to go around with that Book in his hand. He began to go around, with that Book in his hand, looking for people, like it is here in the Book. And he wanted to be baptized. And finally, he stumbled into a Baptist preacher and his little Baptist congregation. And he told that Baptist preacher what had happened to his heart, and how he’d been looking for somebody like this in the Bible, who would baptize him, and who could be a guide to him and a strength to him in the work.
Well, this preacher and his little congregation was in some other part of South America. So that preacher received him on confession of faith into that little congregation in some other place like Panama, or Columbia, or wherever it was, and baptized him. And he went back to Caracas, the first convert of the faith in the capital city of Venezuela. And that’s where that wonderful church down there in the middle of the capital city came from.
Why, isn’t that typical? Isn’t that typical? “I’ve been saved. The Lord has touched my heart. Where are these people that the Book speaks of? Where is that fellowship? I want to be baptized, and I want to belong to the household of faith, and I want to be numbered with the people of God.” Do it. Do it. Do it. “Lord, here I am, and here I come. Bless me, and take me, and receive me.” “Pastor, I want to be baptized” [Acts 8:34-39]. “Pastor, I want to put my life in the church.” “Preacher, I want to open my heart to Jesus and let Him save my soul [Acts 16:30-31], and write my name in the Book of Life [Revelation 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27; Luke 10:20], and keep me now and forever [John 3:16, 10:27-30]. And here I come, here I am.” If you’ll do it tonight, while we sing this invitation hymn, in this balcony round, come down one of these stairways. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I give you my hand. I’ve given my heart to God. I’m taking Jesus as my Savior” [Ephesians 2:8]. Or, “Here we are, the whole family of us,” or, “a couple of us.” Or just one somebody you putting your life in the community of the saints, in the fellowship of the Lord, “And here I am.” While we sing this hymn, make it tonight. I want to change the number. I want to change the number: 235; two hundred thirty-five, number 235. And while we sing the hymn number 235, on the first note of the first stanza, come. Make it tonight. Make it now. Make it now. On the first note of that stanza, come tonight, while we stand and while we sing.
WISDOM OF GOD
I. The development, revealing of the work
program of Jesus
A. Wrought in this
dark, wicked world (Revelation 12:4)
B. The attacks against
Him (Mark 2:6-7, 16, 18, 3:2, 6, 22, 28-30)
C. The answer, reaction
of Jesus – organization (Mark 3:7, 13-19,
1. The twelve apostles
2. The church (Titus 1:5, 2 Timothy 2:2)
Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)
II. The verdict of the ages
A. Where banded
together, organized, there is growth and continued life
B. Where isolated,
detached, there is death
1. Francis Xavier
vs. John Wesley, George Whitefield
2. T. DeWitt
Talmage vs. Dwight L. Moody
Baptists vs. Missionary Baptists
III. The strength and effectiveness of our
witness lies in our togetherness
A. The power of the
B. True in every realm
of life – education, government
C. Especially true in
the kingdom of God
2. Prayer (Acts 2:42)
3. Witnessing (Luke 24:, Acts 2:1)
D. Caracas – first