Our Mandate From Heaven (SBC)

Acts

Our Mandate From Heaven (SBC)

June 4th, 1965

Acts 26:16-22

But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:
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Southern Baptist Convention

OUR MANDATE FROM HEAVEN

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 26:16-22

6-4-65    7:15 p.m.

 

I am to preach tonight on a subject, Our Mandate from Heaven, and from a passage in the immutable and unchanging Word of God.  In the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Acts is recorded the story of the defense of Paul before King Agrippa.  And as the apostle speaks of his conversion, he quotes his Lord as saying:

But rise, and stand upon thy feet:  for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness—

to the people, and to the Gentiles—

. . . unto whom now I send thee,

To open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith in Me.

Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God.

[Acts 26:16-20]

Across the plains of Sharon and far out over the blue waters of the Mediterranean, glittered the colonnaded streets and the marble palaces of Caesarea by the sea, a city built by Herod the Great in honor of Augustus Caesar, and now the capital of the Roman province of Judea.  Inside the beautiful city is the capital building, the Roman Praetorium.  And inside the Praetorium, one of the most dramatic events in human history is taking place.  On a raised dais sits the Roman procurator Porcius Festus in his scarlet robes, surrounded by his lectors and legionnaires.  By his side are his illustrious guests:  Herod Agrippa II, king of Lebanon, in all of his royal insignia; and with him his sister Bernice, a queen in her own right, with her flashing jewels and her resplendently robed attendants.  All the group is surrounded by magistrates and captains, and men of Roman governmental administration.  And before the group, on a marble polished pavement, stands a prisoner, a humble preacher of Jesus, the apostle Paul, chained to a Roman guard [Acts 25:23-27].

What a contrast in luxury and poverty, in pride and humility, in brutality and tender sympathy, in self-denial and self-aggrandizement, in skepticism and sublime faith.  And the prisoner is permitted to speak for himself [Acts 26:1-11].  He first recounts his conversion on the Damascus Road and then his mandate from heaven [Acts 26:12-18].  And after presenting his ambassadorial credentials from the gates of glory, he then speaks of his obedience to this celestial appointment [Acts 26:19-23].  And in the midst of his eloquent address, the procurator interrupts, saying, “Thou art mad; much learning has taken away your very reason” [Acts 26:24].  The apostle appeals to the king [Acts 28:25-27]; and the king replies, “en oligō you would persuade me to be a Christian” [Acts 26:28].  The Authorized Version is very gracious:  “Almost,” they translate it.  I suppose every Greek scholar in the land would say the phrase en oligō was one of contempt and ridicule:  “Briefly, to sum it up, you would persuade me to be a Christian” [Acts 28:28].  In any event, the group turned back to their court life of pleasure and forgetfulness, and Paul returned to his prison cell; his eloquent witness blunted by Roman skepticism [Acts 28:30].

But the sword of the Lord had not failed.  The great Lord that called him to stand before kings and magistrates and rulers also said, “I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake” [Acts 9:16].  And in obedience to that heavenly call and that divine appointment, let down over the wall of Damascus in a basket [Acts 9:25], he was still true to that heavenly vision.  At Lystra, stoned and dragged out for dead [Acts 14:19]; at Philippi, beat and placed in an inner dungeon [Acts 16:23-24]; at Ephesus, exposed to wild beasts [1 Corinthians 15:32]; before Nero in Rome [Acts 27:24], in the Mamertine dungeon awaiting execution [2 Timothy 4:6], he still was obedient to the heavenly mandate.  And finally, in his last appeal to his son Timothy in the ministry, he wrote, “O Timothy, keep that which has been committed to thy trust [1 Timothy 6:20].  Preach the word [2 Timothy 4:2], do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” [2 Timothy 4:5]; imprisoned and facing execution, but keeping the faith.

Whether I stand with the winners

Or perish with those who fall?

Only the cowards are sinners,

Fighting the fight is all.

Strong is my foe–who advances!

Snapt is my blade, O Lord!

See their proud banners and lances!

But spare me the stub of a sword!

[“Battle Cry,” John G. Neihardt]

We also have our oppressive opposition and our despairing discouragements.  Never in the history of the world, in Christendom has the Christian witness been under the terrific pressure that it is today.  As the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” [1 Corinthians 16:9].  And there are many adversaries, the discouraging disappointments that confront our Christian witness in the world today.  One: disillusionment and hopeless cynicism.  The twentieth century was to be the golden era of man.  We have seen all of our golden dreams ruthlessly hurled to the ground.  A little boy, seeing a mud puddle on the street covered with an oil slick, and its rainbow colors, called to his mother, and said, “Mother, come, look!  Here’s a rainbow gone to smash.”  Almost every day we see or hear some golden dream gone to smash.  World War I was fought to end all wars:  it but paved the way for World War II.  World War II was fought to bring to mankind the four freedoms; but the brave new world for which our men died has eventuated in a slavery, the most fierce and diabolical that mankind has ever known.

A few days ago, an American general said, “Into the foreseeable future there is nothing but war and conflict.”  One of our statesmen recently asked, “Can we emerge from this century without annihilation?”  It is not the preacher, it is not the evangelist, it is the scientist and the military strategist and the statesman who is preaching the demise and the annihilation of a godless world!  Time was when men scoffed, and laughed, and mocked, and ridiculed at the hellfire and damnation of the old time preacher.  But look who is preaching it now, only in more lurid tones and in hopeless frustration and despair!

The agonizing disappointments that face our Christian world, second: the advance of atheistic communism.  They are dedicated to the destruction of our Christian witness—never forget it.  Whether in Cuba or in China or in Russia, it is ever the same.  We are not to be deceived with a shallow optimism that could persuade itself concerning the reception of the Christian message in this present world.  There has never been, there has never arisen a foe so ruthless and so merciless and so diabolical as the foe we face in worldwide, atheistic communism, nor one that has ever been so successful.  For the first time in human history, national governments are openly and avowedly atheistic.  No ancient Greek would face a vital decision without first consulting the oracle at Delphi.  No Roman general would go to war without first propitiating the gods.  But these bow at no altar; these call upon the name of no deity.

The oppressive opponents, the discouraging, the despair of our witness in the world, the militant renaissance of pagan religions is a phenomenon in our day and in our time.  In centuries past, in centuries past, churches in great areas have been obliterated by these pagan religious victories.  Within ten years after the death of Mohammed, in 632 AD, the Muslims have destroyed the churches of Egypt, and of Palestine, and of Syria, and have overrun most of North Africa.  We are living to see that same decimating devastation in our day.  When I was in Africa, for every one convert we made, Islam made ten.  When I was in India, I spoke to our Baptist missionaries of England and of the North, who were closing down the mission stations on the Ganges River, founded by William Carey.  I stood by the side of an Indian preacher who had been sent to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal.  He was standing there looking at our Baptist church and school; he had been sent there to shut it down.  I looked at the marble foundation stone; it had the date on it, 1845, the date of the organization of our Southern Baptist Convention.

The despairing disappointments that we face in this modern Christian world, a fourth one: the increasing minority of the Christian population in the world.  We are never but one generation away from paganism.  But for every one we win, twenty-five others are born.  Within the last thirty years, nine hundred million have been added to the population of the world.  We have in the world today a population of Christians, nominal Christians, of about thirty-four percent.  Within a few years it will drop to about twenty percent.  And if it keeps on dropping, the day will come when the Christian people in the world will be an insignificant element in the vast mass of its population.  In no country where we have missionaries have we won as many as five percent to the evangelical faith.  And here in America, five out of every ten are lost; and there are one million more unchurched in the United States than when the Southern Baptist Convention met at this time last year in Atlantic City.

The disparaging discouragements that we face, a fifth one:  the materialism and the secularism of our age.  Materialism proceeds as if God did not exist.  It interprets life not by Christian values and ideas, but by the world’s standard of success.  It worships at the shrine of status symbols and loves and adores all of the trappings of an affluent society.

Talking about Texas, one of our Texas tycoons died, one of these fabulous oil billionaires.  And he had one request:  that he be buried in his gold-plated Cadillac.  So when the day for the committal rites came, the big crane lifted up that limousine, swung around over the big gaping hole to let down the gold-plated Cadillac and the dead tycoon inside, down into the grave.  And in the awe and the hush of that moment, a fellow was heard to say, “Man, ain’t that living!”  When L.B.J.’s great society hits its peak, heaven will come as an anti-climax.

One of our Dallas dowagers, having come to the end of the way, appeared at the pearly gates in glory.  The gatekeeper asked for her credentials, and she laid before him a life membership card to the Dallas Symphony, a charger plate from Neiman Marcus, a receipted bill from the Sheraton Hotel, and a picture of herself shaking hands with L.B.J.  The attendant looked at it, duly impressed, and politely said, “Come in madam, by all means.  But I can tell you now; you ain’t going to like it here.”

Materialism is peculiarly the sin of America.  It is an evil that stalks our nation as it has stalked every nation who has decayed before us.  Shortly after the adoption of our American Constitution, Lord Macaulay, the famed British statesman, in England, predicted that the government created by the Constitution would not last two hundred years.  The next twenty-five years will tell whether the prophecy of Lord Macaulay is fact or fiction.  But there are many, many dramatic symptoms of the decaying life of our American people.  The punks, and the beatniks, and the dope addicts, and the alcoholics that line our streets; the orgies on campus and on beaches; all of the things that enter into the sick readers of sick books, and the sick viewers of sick movies; America has been sullied and dispirited by plenty, it has been fouled and misbegotten by pleasure, it has been deceived and caught in the junk web of pseudoscience.

And that leads me to the sixth disappointment that the Christian witness faces in the world today, and that is intellectual vapidity:  scholarly cynicism that erodes the very being and conviction and zeal of the Christian witness.

I was astonished, I was amazed.  Last week the Southwide WMU prepared this auditorium for their Southwide meeting.  And right up here they placed a beautiful placard, the motto of Southwide WMU convention this year:  “Except the Lord build” [Psalm 127:1]; a beautiful placard, a gloriously effective motto.  When the sign was placed up there, one of the high schools in one of the towns in the county of Dallas, came to prepare for their commencement exercises that night.  And when the officials walked into this auditorium and saw that sign, they were offended, and they said, “That sign must be removed.”  And the question was asked, “Why?  It is beautiful, it is decorative.”  And the officials replied, “But it refers to the Lord; and a reference to the Lord God in a commencement exercise of a public school is out of place!”  And the sign was removed!  When I heard it, I thought of old Pat Henry, defending three Baptist preachers in Virginia, holding that leaf of their indictment, and cried, saying, “Great God, great God, great God!  What a commentary on the life and education of America.”  I wonder what old Ben Franklin would think about that.  When he called the Constitutional Convention to prayer, and when he said, “How could we hope for success without the help of the Lord God Almighty?”  But this is the secularization of our modern American educational system.

Our students come back home, and they say to me, “Pastor, I have lost the faith.  I don’t believe anymore.  I have learned that I have come from a green scum.  I am nothing but an accidental fortuitous collocation and concourse of atoms.  Life has no meaning and no purpose whatsoever.  Why, my professor said I once was a molecule of amino acid, and then I was a paramecium, and then I was a fish, then I was a tadpole, then I was a fowl, then I was a marsupial, then I was a chimpanzee, then I was an anthropoid ape, and now here I am.

What a magnificent heritage, oh dear me, dear me!

Once I was a tadpole beginning to begin,

Then I was a frog with my tail tucked in,

Then I was a monkey in a banyan tree,

And now I’m a professor with a Ph.D!

[author unknown]

Truly, truly, some of us are halfway persuaded that man’s descent from the monkey hasn’t started yet.

I mention a seventh:  the despairing discouragements that face the Christian witness today, the doctrine of universalism, the doctrine that there’s not any wrath of God, there is no judgment of God, there is no damnation in hell, all men are going to be saved anyhow, anyway, some way.  That is one of the subtlest heresies ever to attack the Christian faith.  If it is not true, that “Whosoever believeth on the Son hath everlasting life”; and, “Whosoever believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth upon him” [John 3:36]—if that is not true, then the foundational purpose of the Christian religion has been removed, and in its place is substituted some wistful speculative philosophy.  The foundation of the Christian faith is this:  that there is only one way to God, and one way to be saved, and that is in Jesus Christ.  “Ego eimi hē hodos kai hē alētheia, kai hē zōē”; “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; and no man cometh unto the Father but by Me” [John 14:6].  Christ is the light of the world [John 8:12], not reason or science or speculative philosophy.  Paul would agree with Simon Peter when he said, “And there is salvation in none other name:  for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12].  And when the liberal theologian writes, and I quote him, “If the doctrine of perdition were written on all of the pages of all of the Bibles of all the world, I would not believe it”;) but sir, the damnation of sin is at the heart of the struggle of this universe from creation unto the great consummation that is yet to come.  The sinner is lost in this life, the sinner is lost in death, the sinner is lost at the judgment bar of God, and the sinner is lost in the eternity that is yet to come [1 John 5:12].

And this is our mandate from heaven:  “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose . . . To open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in Me” [Acts 26:16, 18].  It is a personal mandate involving a personal commitment.

One of my deacons went on the other side of the railroad tracks to hold a revival meeting.  I went over there on a weekday, a morning service, to encourage my deacon as he made appeal for Jesus.  He did something that I never had seen a man do before.  He started at the back and asked each one if he had a burden on his heart, and if one had a burden on his heart, he asked, “What is the burden?”  And when that one spoke of the burden, then he said, “Now let us pray.  And you who have the burden, you ask God for help and strength, and we’ll pray with you.”  And he went through the whole congregation to a little mother who was seated in front of me, with a baby in her arms, and another little fellow, a little boy just big enough to begin to talk and to play on the pew by her side.  When he came to that little mother, he asked her, “Little mother, do you have a burden on your heart?”  And she said, “Yes.”  And my deacon said, “And what’s the burden on your heart?”  And she replied, “Oh, that my husband might be saved, that he might be a Christian.”  And the deacon said, “Now let’s all bow our heads, and little mother, you pray for the burden on your heart.”  We all bowed our heads.  I bowed my head.  And we waited for the little mother to pray about the burden on her heart.  She didn’t say anything.  She began to cry and then to sob.  I finally stood up, and I said, “Deacon, if you don’t mind, let me pray in her stead.”  So the best I could, I prayed for her husband, wherever he was, that he might be saved.  When I finished the prayer and sat down, the little boy was looking into the face of his mother, astonished at the tears that rolled down her cheeks.  And the little fellow said, “Mother, what you crying for?  What you crying for?”  And she didn’t reply.  He worked himself up into her arms, and looking straight into her face, he repeated his question, “Mother, what you crying for?  What you crying for?”  She never did reply.  But seated back of the mother, I could look straight into the astonished eyes of the little boy, and I said in my heart, “Sonny lad, you don’t understand why mother cries; but someday you will, someday you will.”  And my assignment and my mandate from God in heaven is to find that man, and win that man, and introduce that man to the Lord Jesus.  I may have other assignments, I may have other duties, I may have other responsibilities, but my great mandate from heaven is to win that man to God [Matthew 28:19-20].

Set us afire, Lord,

Stir us, we pray!

While the world perishes

We go our way,

Purposeless, passionless,

Day after day.

Set us afire, Lord,

Stir us, we pray!

[“Set Us Afire, Lord,” Ralph Spaulding Cushman]

This mandate from heaven is to the church and involves the whole association of our churches.  It is a church mandate involving a church commitment.  Apart from a soul-winning devotion, apart from a missionary outreach, our churches have no reason to be.  A church exists by evangelistic fervor and missionary outreach as a fire exists by burning.  They are not social clubs, but assemblies called out of God to deliver our message of deliverance and salvation.  And how we have changed!  How astonishingly and amazingly we have changed!

Go with me, and let’s visit Aquila in the ancient Asian capital of Ephesus [Acts 18:24-26].

“Aquila, we’ve come to see you, and we want to talk to you about the church.”  And Aquila replies, “The church?  What’s that?”

“Why, Aquila, you never heard of the church?”

“No,” says Aquila, “I never heard of a church.  What is a church?”

“Aquila, we’re talking about the saints of God, the household of faith, those who have been saved in the blood of Jesus.”

“Oh,” says Aquila, “you are talking about the ekklēsia, the called out assembly, oh!” said Aquila.

For you see, after 300 AD, they changed the name from ekklēsia, “the called out saints of God,” to the kuriokas, “the lordly house,” kuriakos, kurkos, kirk, “church” in our language.  They never heard of it in that ancient day!  They never heard of it for over three hundred years!  Ekklēsia referred to the people of God.  Up and down the highways, the byways, in the synagogues, on the streets, in the alleys, out in the fields, wherever men were, there was the ekklēsia, the saints of God, delivering the message of salvation!  But after 300 AD, they changed the word to “the lordly house,” the kuriokas, the kurkas, the kirk, the church; and it referred to the beautiful architectural pile of mason and stonework.  It referred to the pomp and the pageantry, and it referred to the liturgy and the beautiful accouterments of worship.  And outside the people were forgot.  That same kind of a heresy we have inherited from the Christian ages, and we have allowed it to despoil God’s work among us today.

One of those forgotten ones, out in the dust of the road, wrote an appeal.

You have builded temples in His name,

Of mortar and brick and stone

With windows of glass most beautifully stained,

With tower and spire and dome.

But what do we of the byways care

For structure and line and trim?

Out in the dust of the lonely road

We only ask for Him.

You’ve robed your choirs and trained them well

In proper and intricate song

You’ve bought fine organs to edify

And lull the weary throng.

But what do we care for your black-robed choir,

Or your organ’s deep “amen”?

We want you to walk beside us here,

And point the way to Him.

All the paths of the world are a crooked maze

And we are woefully lost.

For the road to Him in the paths of men

Is faint and hidden and crossed.

What do we care for the trappings of art

When our heart’s high hope is dim?

We seek the touch of His healing hand,

Oh show us the way to Him.

[author unknown]

How we have changed!  How we have changed!  Look at this, man, look at this!  In the second chapter of the Book of Acts:  “And the Lord added to the church daily.  And the Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved” [Acts 2:47].  Now follow me:  if the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved, would not that be a minimum of 365 baptisms a year?  Wouldn’t it?  Wouldn’t it?  If the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved, a minimum, if one a day was saved and baptized, that means that they had accessions in baptism of at least 365 a year.  My brother, there are more than one quarter million churches in the United States.  And yet in the entire world, in the entire world there are not six that baptize as many as 300 a year.  And in the world there are not 16 that baptize 200 a year.  I cannot help but feel the message of the risen Lord to the church at Ephesus:  “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, for thou hast left thy first love.  Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen . . . and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy lampstand out of its place, except thou turn!” [Revelation 2:4-5].  I feel that way about the churches of our Southern Baptist Convention:  if we do not do those first works of soulwinning and evangelism and missionary outreach, God will remove our lampstand from among us and give it to a people who will do His work in the earth.

O God, O God, O God!  A hundred seven years ago, the Lord visited America in revival.  In a brief period of less than two years, more than a million converts were added to the church.  In two weeks of May in 1850, people were being saved at the phenomenal rate of fifty thousand a week.  In a proportionate population as we have today, that would mean more than three hundred thousand a week.  O God, that America, that we might be on our knees, not beaten there by Russian missiles, not bludgeoned there by the hammer and sickle of a communist attack; but down on our knees pouring out our hearts to God for a fresh baptism from above.

O Lord, the need of the land is revival,

A freshen of grace from above,

Repentance toward God and forgiveness,

More trusting in Christ and His love.

The need of the church is revival,

More praying for those who are lost,

More fullness of Spirit and witness,

More zeal without counting the cost.

[author and work unknown]

Our mandate from heaven, it is a personal mandate involving a personal commitment.  It is a church mandate, involving a church commitment.  It is last, a denominational mandate, involving a denominational commitment.  The phraseology of the Great Commission is in the plural.  The imperative involves the whole people of God.  There are no “spiritual frontiers.”  The need is universal.  The Great Commission, in Matthew 28:19 and in Acts 1:8, is said in one sentence and in one breath, and it involves all thirty-three thousand of our churches, and all eleven million of our members.

We have learned how to work together.  This is the fortieth anniversary of our Cooperative Program.  And if the past has taught us anything at all, it has taught us this:  that our future and our destiny lies in our common determination to deliver God’s message to our nation and to our world.  It involves every board, and every agency, and every pastor, and every church, and every association, and every child of God.

One church can have a Sunday school, but if there is a Sunday school movement, then it involves the whole denominational effort, a Sunday school board, and directives therefrom.  One church can send out a missionary, but if there is a missionary movement, it involves the whole denomination, and a mission board, and directives therefrom.  One church can have a revival, but if there is a revival movement, it involves the whole denomination, and every agency, and every church, and every board, and every child of God who is born again and baptized into the body of Christ.

May I illustrate that?  I was preaching in a governmental complex in Japan.  And God wonderfully blessed the appeal.  And after the service of sermon, I pressed the message of Christ for personal commitment to Jesus, and then passed out cards to those Japanese men, workmen, who had responded in saving faith to the gospel of the Son of God.  And as I passed out the cards, I said to those Japanese converts, “If you have any question, raise your hand.”  And one of the men raised his hand.  I walked over to him with the interpreter, and he said to me, “Sensei, if I sign this card, then what?  If I sign this card, then what?  Then what?  Then what?”  No pastor, no church, no Sunday school, no literature, no Bibles, no anything there, just preaching the gospel and this man responding with his life, “Sensei, if I sign this card, then what?”  I am trying to get you to see that a great soul-winning evangelistic movement involves every agency that we possess in the Southern Baptist Convention, all of it, all of it, all of it:  every school, every seminary, every board, every piece of literature that is written, every dedicated missionary, every pastor aflame.  It involves all that we have and possess.

The Christian faith is a great doctrine; it is also a great deed.  The Christian faith is a great message; it is also a great ministry.  The Christian faith is a great sermon; it is also a great service.  It is a great preaching; it is also a great practice.  It is a noble orthodoxy; it is also a magnificent orthopraxy.  And until God sees our people rise in combined effort to carry this message to our home, and to the nations beyond the seas, we shall never have His ultimate and final blessing.

And the Lord God whispered and said to me,

These things shall be, these things shall be,

Nor help shall come from the scarlet skies

Till My people rise

Till My people rise, My arm is weak

I cannot speak till My people speak.

When men are dumb, My voice is dumb,

I cannot come till My people come.

From over the flaming earth and sea

The cry of My people must come to Me.

Not till their spirit break the curse

May I claim My own in the universe.

But if My people rise, if My people rise,

I will answer them from the swarming skies.

[from “Forward, March!” Angela Morgan, 1918]

I conclude; spoken far too long already.  The hand of God is in history today as ever it was in the days of Moses, or Isaiah, or Paul, or Luther, or Roger Williams.  God uses men, and women, and circumstances, and fortunes, and vicissitudes in His sovereign will.  God builds upon broken lives, and broken hearts, and shattered ideals, and catastrophes, and devastations, and wars, and earthquakes, and intrigues, and inquisitions, and persecutions.  The hand of God is behind the kaleidoscopic changing world in which we now live.  Whole nations and populations living for thousands of years in one dull, monotonous pattern have been thrust into a new life of existence.  It is a changing age, a changing world.  And earthquaking changes are coming to pass everyday; and atomic fission and space exploration make them more possible and more probable.  But my brother, God does not change [Malachi 3:1; Hebrews 13:8], and human nature does not change, and the lost condition of men does not change, and the message of salvation does not change, and our mandate from heaven does not change, and God’s purpose in Christ does not change!  He has never revoked His promise and His prophecy that “at His name every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” [Philippians 2:10-11].  And the great promise and announcement in Revelation [11:15] has never been rescinded:  “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and forever and forever and forever and forever!” [Revelation 11:15].

Wherever the battle is the hottest, and wherever the war against paganism and darkness is the most open and intense, there we ought to be doubly found and doubly faithful!  God raised up His churches for militant action, and He raised up this denomination for world conquest.  O God, send us a fresh baptism of soul-winning zeal and missionary outreach!

Bring me my bow of burning gold!

Bring me my arrows of desire!

Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!

Bring me my chariot of fire!

We shall not cease from battle strife,

Nor shall the sword sleep in our hand,

Till God sends New Jerusalem

Into this fair and pleasant land.

[“And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time,” William Blake]

Our mandate from heaven—amen and amen!

OUR MANDATE FROM HEAVEN

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 26:16-22

6-4-65

I.          The Scriptural background

A.  The place – Caesarea by the sea, the Roman Praetorium

B.  The scene – Porcius Festus on a raised dais, surrounded by illustrious guests; Paul on the pavement before them in chains(Acts 25:23-27)

C.  The address – Paul recounts his conversion and call(Acts 26:12-20, 24, 28)

D. The return

      1. They to court life, pleasure and forgetfulness

2.  Paul to his prison cell

a. His obedient faithfulness through suffering, opposition, persecution and imprisonment(Acts 9:16, 25, 2 Corinthians 11:33, Acts 14:19, 1 Corinthians 15:32, 1 timothy 6:20, 2 Timothy 4:5)

II.         The world we face(1 Corinthians 16:9)

A.  Disillusionment

B.  Communism

C.  Revival of pagan religions

D.  Increasing Christian minority

E.  Secularism, materialism and humanism

F.  Intellectual vapidity

G.  Universalism(John 3:36, 8:12, 14:6, Acts 4:12)

III.        Our answering commitment(Acts 26:16, 19-20)

A.  A personal commitment

      1.  Deacon leading service, praying for every burden

B.  A church commitment

      1.  Apart from a sense of mission, there is no reason to exist

      2.  The ekklesia vs. the kuriokas

      3.  Returning to the first works(Acts 2:47, Revelation 2:4-5)

C.  A denominational commitment(Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8)

D.  We live in a changing world – but God does not change(Philippians 2:10-11, Revelation 11:15)

E.  Wherever the battle is the hottest, there we ought to be found doubly faithful