By the Spirit of the Lord
January 9th, 1966 @ 10:50 AM
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
BY THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-9-66 10:50 a.m.
You who share our services on television and or radio are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled By the Spirit Of The Lord. It is a message as we enter the greatest and most extended and most intense effort to carry out God’s will for His people that we have ever tried or dedicated to Him. We have chosen a title for the whole endeavor. We call it the "Tell Dallas" appeal, or campaign, or crusade, or program. It is our proposal, with the help of the Lord, to extend a personal invitation to every lost man, every lost soul in this city, to give himself personally to the Lord Jesus. It comprises four months.
This month of January is one of commitment on our part. The month of February is one of intensive training. It shall center largely round a lay institute of evangelism. The month of March is the month of witnessing and soulwinning. We will have a young team, two brothers, here to work with us seven hours, seven days out of every week for that whole month. Then the month of April, the fourth month, will find us in our Palace Theater services, and in our Easter services, and in our Jewish Week of Evangelism.
All of this is a progressively intensive dedication on our part to carry out the assignment God has committed to us. It involves many details and many programs, many organizational efforts. There will be very much of the entire organized directed life of this church poured into that effort. And this message is in keeping with that endeavor. It’s not going to be a message as you might think. In fact it is about the opposite of what you might expect. But it is apropos, it is most pertinent, it is most needed.
It is a weakness of the human flesh to depend upon man’s might, our ingenuity, our wisdom. What we attempt is something that man cannot do; it is something that God must do through us. And our whole program, our every organized endeavor, our whole and total effort must be in the power and in the Spirit of God. As Paul avowed to the church at Corinth:
And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the oracles of God.
For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
[1 Corinthians 2:1-5]
However much wisdom might dwell among us, and however ingenious our organized effort might be presented, yet finally and ultimately it must be a work from heaven. And that’s the message this morning.
If you’d like to turn in your Bible to the text, you will find it in the fourth chapter of Zechariah the prophet. Zechariah, almost to the end of the Old Testament, and the reading is this:
And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep,
And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:
And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.
So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?
Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.
That’s the text, and that is the prophetic message for us today, no less than it was to Zerubbabel, the political leader, and to Joshua, the spiritual leader. "For these," said the Lord, "are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth" [Zechariah 4:14].
The background of that prophecy is most familiar to you. In the return of that ragged and wretched remnant out of the Babylonian captivity to the Promised Land, they accepted an assignment from God to rebuild the city destroyed, to rebuild the temple destroyed, to rebuild the nation destroyed [Ezra 3:8-9; Nehemiah 2:17-18]. And as Zerubbabel the political leader, and as Joshua the spiritual leader, faced that task, it seemed impossible. Their enemies were so fierce, and their hands were so weak, and they were so wretchedly poverty stricken. But God had assigned them; they were the seed for the blessing of the whole earth, and had the message died in them, it would have died from among men.
So returning from the rivers of Babylon, where they had sat down in tears and despair [Psalm 137:1], they accepted God’s assignment to rebuild the nation, to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, and to rebuild the holy temple [Ezra 3:8-9; Nehemiah 2:17-18]. But as they faced so enormous a task, God raised up Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet; and the [sixth] chapter of the Book of Ezra describes their preaching. And Ezra writes, "And we prospered under the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah" [Ezra 6:14]. And as Zechariah delivered to the people the vision and message of God, the heart of it is my text:
Thus saith the Lord to Zerubbabel, and to Joshua, the two anointed ones that stand before the God of all the earth [Zechariah 4:14], thus does He speak, lo ve chayil, – lo ve chayil, lo ve chayil, lo ve chayil –
Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord [Zechariah 4:6].
What an astonishing message. What does that lo ve chayil, what does that mean? Lo, "not," emphatic, ve, "in," chayil, what is that? Chayil, that refers to tremendous organized might, the accumulation of wealth and riches, and armed hosts, a whole army, tremendous might; all that man in the aggregate and composite could do; Lo ve chayil.
It’s the kind of a thing that is told in the Book of Samuel when the Philistines came like the sand of the sea and shut up Israel in their mountain home. And there stood in front of them their giant champion named Goliath. And he cursed God, and he defamed the hosts of the Lord, and he challenged any man to come out and represent the Lord of heaven, and he would crush him in the dust of the ground [1 Samuel 17:4-10, 23].
And there came out to face him, and to face the whole vast host of Philistia, a boy, not old enough to shave, beautifully countenanced, ruddy-faced, dressed like a shepherd as though he had come from following the flock from the back side of the field [1 Samuel 17:32, 42]. And when Goliath looked upon him, he said, "Am I a dog that my challenger is a boy with staves in his hands?" talking of the shepherd’s staff that he bore. "Why," said that giant Goliath, "this very minute I will feed your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field" [1 Samuel 17:43-44].
Why, just to look at him was enough to terrify a man and to hear his voice of thunder to bring fright to the soul. But that ruddy-faced teenage boy, who’d lived with God shepherding the flock, answered the challenger of Philistia and said, "Thou comest to me with a sword, and a spear and a shield: but I come to you in the name of the Lord God of the hosts whom thou hast defied!" [1 Samuel 17:45]. Lo ve chayil! Not by power, not by armed might, not by hosts, armies, and all of the gathered strength of which man is capable.
Lo ve choach, ve choach, lo ve choach, I looked up that choach; it’s on a root verb that means "to pant, to exert." The victory will not come, says God, in even our panting and our extreme exertion. Lo ve choach; it’s the kind of a thing that comes from God. When the people of the Lord were pressed against the sea – to one side of them the desert, to one side of them the mountains, and back of them the hosts of Pharaoh – and the Lord opened the sea, no man, no group of engineers, no ingenuity of which we’re capable could do that; God does that! Lo ve choach, not by our straining and our panting. God opens the sea [Exodus 14:21]. It’s the kind of a thing as when the walls of Jericho fell down; God did that [Joshua 6:20]. The kind of a thing that crowned the armies of Gideon with victory, God did that [Judges 7:15-23]. Lo ve choach, not by panting and exertion. "But by My Spirit," ruach, My breath, "saith the Lord" [Zechariah 4:6], for this assignment of Zerubbabel and Joshua was a great assignment [Ezra 3:8-9], and it must be wrought in the arm and strength of Jehovah Almighty God.
Could there be addressed to us today, as a people living in this tragic hour, could there be addressed to us a more pertinent prophecy from the mouth of the Lord? "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none beside" [Isaiah 45:22],"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord" [Zechariah 4:6]; a call to place the center of our thought, and life, and vision, and effort not in us, but in God!
Like Galileo, who with his telescope overthrew the Ptolemaic system of astronomy that had been taught in every school in the earth for thousands of years; Ptolemy had taught, the great astronomer, the Ptolemaic system had taught that the earth was the center of the universe, and the sun and the stars revolved around this earth. And Galileo said, "Not so. But the center of the earth is that burning fiery orb in the skies, and the earth is but a satellite around the sun." That’s what we need in our thought and vision today; not man the center, but God the center! And oh how desperately do we need it in our worldview, and in our vision, and in our future, and in this program of life that we are in; the road down which we are traveling.
What a bleak prospect, to leave, to read God out of this present world! And here we are living with atomic bombs, and hydrogen bombs, and mad maniacs who defy God! It wouldn’t be amiss to describe our present world like a racer that is running down the highway of the universe, mad! What a prospect. What a prospect.
The militarists say that we are preparing for the most devastating of all wars. "Get ready," that’s what he says. And the economist says that we are facing inevitable economic monetary pressures that will destroy ultimately all of our values. And the historian says that we are facing the collapse of civilization. And the criminologist says that our people shall rot at the core. And the psychiatrist and the psychologists say that the human spirit cannot stand modern tensions.
Then the whole world is panting after a garish, materialistic paganism. And I read where a man said, "All of the cosmetics of the world cannot hide the pallor of death that wrinkles the face of this present generation." What a prospect! What a vision! Leaving God out! Nothing left but what these prophets of modern day doom describe as catastrophic and abysmal despair.
We need to lift up ourselves God-ward, heavenward. We need it in our theology. What a place to preach "Christian atheism," that they call it in the seminaries and in the pulpits of the churches of Christ, avowing in modern sophistry that God is dead! "He once was, but He is not anymore." Oh! How we need it in our persuasion of confidence and trust, "Not by power, nor by might, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord" [Zechariah 4:6].
When Israel, when Judah, was surrounded on every side, Isaiah the prophet stood up. And the people were panting after every alliance and every answer outside of God. And Isaiah came and preached, saying, "In returning and in rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence is your strength" [Isaiah 30:15]; looking to God, to God.
And I had you read the one hundred eighteenth Psalm [Psalm 118:1-29], you read just a part of it. That is the psalm that the people sang when, in their wretched misery and poverty, they laid the foundations for the temple, when they returned back with Zerubbabel and Joshua from the Babylonian captivity [Ezra 3:10]. They sang the one hundred eighteenth Psalm when they laid the foundation [Ezra 3:11]. And it is a song and a psalm of heroic trust in God! [Psalm 118:1-29]. "Lo ve chayil, lo ve choach, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord" [Zechariah 4:6].
Now may we speak of us in this endeavor and in this congregation? If we have time, I shall speak of it as the church, as the preacher and the pulpit, and as the conversion of the soul. First, as the church; there is one thing that you will find in all Christian history, and it is this: in those eras and in those days when the power and presence and Spirit of God has waned among His people and has ebbed from His churches, it is in those days that you will find the people striving in every possible way to make up for the absence of the presence and power of God.
System, technique, program, all kinds of ingenious man-made devices; and you will also find that they inevitably contribute even more to the dryness, and unfruitfulness, and sterility of the churches of God. Oh, what a dearth when we apotheosize practical things, and deify techniques, and depend upon organized genius to bring life from the dead, when only God can raise the dead!
All must be baptized in the Spirit and in the power of the Lord [Acts 1:5, 8]. Simplicity and spirituality and prayer are ever our ultimate strength. What wings are to the bird, what feet and legs are to the deer, what breath is to the body, what an engine is to a car, what electricity is to the dynamo, the Spirit and presence of God is to the work of His churches in the earth. And without Him, we fall into all kinds of divisiveness, and we break apart, and we fragmentize, and our words have no unction and no power.
Not only that but we are dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord for the warm matrix in which life can be born and come to the birth. God chose to form life, not in a snow bank, not in a refrigerator, but God chose to form life in the blood-bathed warm matrix of a human body, in tears, in travail, in suffering, and sometimes in death; warm, blood-bathed.
How far away the conception of so many of the churches of the Lord, great monuments in stone and an advertisement in its steeple and bulletin board, that here is a congregation of Christ and a church of the Lord. But on the inside, it is cold, and frigid, and sterile, and conservative, and removed, and ritualistic, and ceremonial. And nobody is saved, and nobody is moved, and nobody is born again. It is the Spirit of God breathing upon a congregation that brings warmth and life to the people [Philippians 2:1].
Our great theologian Edgar Young Mullins, president of the seminary at Louisville, president of the World Alliance, one time told the story of a little monkey tied to an organ grinder. And the little fellow got away; the little monkey escaped in some way and in the dead of winter, in one of those great cities in the Northeast, the little thing was freezing to death.
Jumping upon the ledge of a window sill, the little thing saw a fire burning inside the house, ran around the house, found a way entrance, and there stood in front of the fire with his little paws outstretched to warm himself, but cried continuously and piteously and froze to death in front of the fire, "For," said Dr. Mullins, "the fire was painted on a screen in front of the hearth." And churches are like that. We have an announcement, "This is the house of God." We have the architecture proclaiming, "This is a church of Christ"; but inside there’s no fire, and there’s no warmth, and there’s no life, just death.
The only difference between an iceberg that sent the Titanic down to the bottom of the sea and the great bosom of the ocean that carries the commerce of the world is temperature, that’s all; temperature, warmth; the presence of God, and the feeling of the nearness of the Lord visiting, walking, moving, speaking, inviting, guiding, pleading among His people.
May I speak of it briefly in the pulpit? "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord" [Zechariah 4:6]. As you, I listen to many preachers, and they have different effects upon me. As a youth, I made a journey one time to New York City to listen to the greatest preacher in the world. And he was that, deservedly; most brilliant man I ever heard, a glorious preacher. But the effect he had upon me was, "What a brilliant man, a brilliant man."
Another pastor in another one of our great cities, and as I listened to him, the effect he had upon me was, "How winsome, and how lovable, and how affable, and how nice and fine." Another, in one of our great cities, the impression he made upon me was a man who is socially conscious. All of the problems of capital, and labor, and race, and poverty, and need, and government, and all the things involved in social amelioration, he was very sensitive to them. And I had the impression as I listened to him that this was a man who would make a fine political leader of a certain kind, of a certain departure. That’s the impression he had upon me.
And others, some of them I have the impression that, "Oh, they are scholarly," and some of them academic and intellectual, and some of them philosophical, and just on and on and on. But out of some, I bring to mind one who above all others I just thank God for in my own life, and when I’d hear him, and without exception, always, that feeling was left in me.
There was in him a seeking note, a searching prayer, an invitation of love and mercy. And when I heard him, I wished that I could have been saved all over again. I wished that I could go down the aisle all over again. I just wished that I could go for people who wouldn’t go. I just had that feeling of, "O God, that everything in me might outflow to Thee." That’s the kind of a preacher that we need in the pulpit. One that’s academic, yes; trained, yes; intellectual, yes; scholarly, yes; able and winsome and affable, yes; but O God, mostly for a preacher that can bring a message to our souls and press upon our hearts the invitation of the Lord.
I want to illustrate that in two ways; one, in the testimony of a man in this last century and the other in the life of the preacher that speaks to you this morning. I’ve done my best to find a thing that I read and filed away. But I’ve searched my library in every way I know to turn, and I can’t lay my hands upon it. Consequently, the recounting to you is somewhat in a summary, and some of it I can’t quite fit together exactly. But it goes something like this.
In this last century, there was an illustrious, and gifted, and learned, and scholarly pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church of New York City. And upon a day, in the providence of God, he presented at the morning worship hour to deliver God’s message a layman by the name of Dwight L. Moody. And the minister writes in this thing that I read, in his testimony, he said, "After I presented Mr. Moody, and sat down in the pulpit, and I heard him, and he began to speak," he said, "my soul died within me. His grammar was atrocious, and his sentence structure was unforgivable," and the way he pronounced proper names was unlike anything he’d ever heard in his life. "And as I sat in the pulpit and listened to the man as he began to speak," he said, "I thought, oh, my congregation will be offended, and they will charge me with bringing a man in the pulpit that ought to be out there on the curb."
But he said, "To my amazement, as the man began to speak, instead of being offended or disgusted, they began to listen, and men began to sit on the front of the pew, and they turned their whole souls and hearts on every word that the man said. Why," he said, "it was an astonishing thing to me!" Then as he wrote about it, he said, "And something happened in my heart as I listened to that man speak, uneducated, unlearned, but with a message from heaven!"
And he said, "In the after days as I analyzed it," and my best remembrance of it, he used the word "overtone"; he said, "Beyond the grammar, and beyond the sentence, and beyond the structure and the homiletics, I sensed the overtone of the presence and the voice of God in the messenger." And he said, "Thereafter, when I’d listen to a man preach, I would listen for the overtone, beyond the grammar, or the structure, or the homily, the voice of God speaking." That’s what I mean, not just syllable, and sentence, and paragraph, not just the delivering of a sermon, of an address, but the presence, and experience, and power, and moving of the Lord God! "Not by power, not by might, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord" [Zechariah 4:6].
May I speak of it in my own life? A few days ago, they said, "We want you to come out and speak to the chapel at the Dallas Baptist College, our new school here in the city." So I made my way out there to speak at the chapel service. And as I thought, and I suppose anybody would, I had a little chapel talk that I was going to make to the students out there at their service. When I arrived, the president met me, and he said, "Now we are wanting you to make an invitation today, make an appeal today." Why, I said, "I didn’t come out here to extend any invitation or any appeal."
"Oh," he said, "We hope you will. We hope you will." Well, I just hadn’t planned or thought of any such thing, much less prayed toward it. So when I went in with the students to the assembly, there’s a whole line of them there. And they shook my hand as they spoke to me, and they said, "Pastor, we have never had an appeal. We’ve never had an invitation extended in a chapel service, not yet. And we’ve been praying that today God would speak through you, and that you would give an appeal and press an invitation."
It’s in a different world; to get up and to make an address at a chapel service or a speech at a club is one thing, but to address yourself to the human heart, that it might be moved toward God, is in another world! It’s something else. And it comes not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of God [Zechariah 4:6].
And that’s the effort to which we have dedicated ourselves. Why, the assignment the Lord hath given us is impossible to men, for who can raise the dead? The finest medical science, all that human mind could know and human hand could do, we just observe our dying, and when they are gone, we dig a grave and lay our beloved out of our sight, for no man can raise the dead. That belongs to the power and the Spirit of the Almighty, to raise the dead. Yet the Scriptures avow that we are dead in our trespasses and in our sins; we are lost [Ephesians 2:1].
And for a man to be saved is to be born into the kingdom of light. He’s regenerated. He’s remade. And that regeneration and that resurrection no science and no man’s hands are able to do. It is a work of God! [Ephesians 2:4-9]. Yet the Lord hath assigned us to do it. But He has told us how: "Not by might, lo ve chayil, not by force," however much we might organize and be strong, "Not by might, nor by power, lo ve choach," however we might struggle and pant toward it, "but by My breath, by My Spirit, says the Lord" [Zechariah 4:6].
And one whispered word of the Holy Spirit in a man’s heart is more powerful to the regeneration of the soul than ten thousand sermons. My brethren, we don’t choose between this or something else. We cast ourselves upon the mercies of God, or we fail [Romans 12:1]. We are shut up to God. It is a work of His divine hands [Ephesians 2:8]. And before the humblest, smallest little child that needs to be saved, I’m powerless, for God only can convert the soul [Philippians 2:13]. So our men and our people and our leaders in the church say, "Now, pastor, we’re going to ask our people to commit themselves to this heavenly assignment. We’re going to ask them all to do it. But we want you to do it like this. First, let our deacons commit themselves, and our junior board to commit themselves. Then tomorrow night, we’ll ask the superintendents to commit themselves; then the following Wednesday night our teachers to commit themselves; then the following Sunday all of our people in Sunday school to commit themselves; and then the following Lord’s Day, every member of the church to commit himself." Casting ourselves upon the mercy of God, "Lord, this shall we attempt to do for Thee. God bless it and use it."
They have a little threefold thing here. "I commit myself to pray every day"; and we call can do that. Not one of us but could ask God to bless our soul-winning appeal, carrying out the assignment of the Lord for us. "I will pray every day." The second one, "I’ll commit myself to witness every day, as the Holy Spirit might lead." Some of us may hesitate. We’re timid and hesitant, but most of us can, and the others of us still can pray and maybe God do something for us. "I’ll commit myself to witness daily, as the Holy Spirit would open a door to speak a good word for Jesus."
The third one, maybe a lot of us would hesitate, but many of us will do our utmost, "I’ll commit myself to lead at least one to Jesus and to be baptized between now and Easter." One of our men wrote on his card, "I don’t know how I could do it, but I’ll try." Well, I don’t know how we’re going to do it either, but we can try it, and leave our word of witness and testimony in the hands of the Lord.
So in keeping with this appeal, every deacon here this morning, and every member of the junior board this morning, you are asked to stand up and come down here with the pastor. And get on your knees and give yourself to God, to pray every day, to speak a word for Jesus every day as the Spirit would open the door, and to lead somebody to Jesus, and to baptism in the church, if God would so honor and bless our testimony. Every deacon, every member of the junior board, you’re asked to come, and do it now. With the pastor, get on your knees and let’s take it to God.
O Lord, our Lord, Thou hast given us assignments that we cannot do. If God should ask us to climb to heaven on a ladder, we would not be any more inept or unable. We might climb fifteen rungs, or if we made it to a hundred, we still would ultimately and finally fail. God hath given us assignments that man cannot do. Who is sufficient for these things, to save the soul?
Our Lord, we cast ourselves upon Thy grace, upon Thy remembrance, upon Thy strong arm. God must help us. But our Master, we feel in our souls called to do this. What a travesty that we’d send out missionaries to tell the gospel to other people, and neighbors up and down every street in this city never a personal invitation to them to love Jesus, and to find the Master and His grace, the answer to every need in life and home, and the Savior of their souls.
Lord, what has befallen us that we can live day after day, no intercession, no prayer, no burden of concern for the whole vast city filled with hundreds of thousands who are outside of the grace and mercy of Jesus? Our Lord, Thou hast committed us. Thou has mandated us. Thou has commissioned us. Thou hast sent us, and God bless as we strive to be true and faithful to our Lord’s heavenly mandate [Matthew 28:18-20].
"O king," said one of thy servants, "I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but in Damascus, and Judea, and throughout the empire, I have witnessed to the grace and mercy of Jesus" [Acts 26:19-20]. Lord, grant it to us as a church and as a people to be thus committed and thus faithful. And as we begin with these godly men, our chosen and ordained leaders, then Lord, extend the spirit of commitment and appeal to every member and leader and family of the great congregation. And for every soul Thou shalt give us, for every trophy of grace we can lay at Jesus’ pierced feet, we shall thank Thee forever and praise Thee forever; in His grace and mercy, in His Spirit and in His precious name, amen.
Now may we all stand up where we are, everybody. And Brother Lee Roy, let’s sing us a hymn of appeal, and while we sing this invitation song, a family to come into the fellowship of the church or one somebody you to give himself to Jesus, "Pastor, here I am, and here I come." Out of this great balcony round, in this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, "Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I make it today," while we sing our song of invitation.
SPIRIT OF THE LORD
A. Assignment of
Zerubbabel and Joshua to rebuild
B. God sent Haggai and
Zechariah to encourage them (Ezra 6:14)
1. Not by might
(1 Samuel 17:43-45)
2. Not by our own
exertion (Exodus 14:21, Joshua 6:16, Judges 7:15)
C. A change of center
from man to God (Isaiah 45:22, Zechariah 4:6)
1. In world
2. In theology
3. In trust
(Isaiah 30:15, Psalm 118)
II. The church
A. Inspired, led,
guided by the Spirit of God
B. Warmed by the Spirit
III. The pulpit
A. The different effect
1. Dwight L.
Moody (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
2. Dallas Baptist
IV. The conversion of the soul (Ephesians
A. Our commitment
1. Pray every day
2. Witness daily
as the Spirit may lead
3. Lead at least
one to Jesus and to baptism