CHRIST THE POWER OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 1:24
9-25-66 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 morning message. It is entitled Christ the Power of God. In the first chapter of the first Corinthian letter, the inspired apostle Paul writes these words beginning at verse 21:
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
But we, we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
But unto them which are called, whether Jew or Greek, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
[1 Corinthians 1:21-24]
Edward Gibbon himself in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, with chapter after chapter, has not been able to delineate so succinctly and so accurately the reception of the preaching of the gospel of Christ in the Roman Empire as Paul has done in these brief words: “Unto the Jews a stumbling block.” The Greek word is skandalon; “unto the Greeks foolishness” [1 Corinthians 1:23]. The Greek word is mōrion, moronic idiocy; “but unto us who are saved, Christ the power of God.” The Greek word is dunamin, dynamin, dynamite, dynamo, “Christ the power of God” [1 Corinthians 1:24].
And the miracle of all miracles is this—that in the comparatively short space of about two and a half centuries, these humble preachers, announcing the good news of the love of God in the atonement of Christ Jesus [Romans 5:11], unhinged the Roman Empire and won the civilized world to the faith in Jesus Christ. To the Jew, a scandal and an offense; to the Greek, an idiocy and a foolishness; but unto us who are saved, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God [1 Corinthians 1:23-24].
Far more miraculous than any miracle He Himself ever performed, far more miraculous than any wonder of God wrought in the Bible, is the miracle and the wonder of Jesus our Lord in Himself. Against that truth and that fact of the presence and reality of Jesus in the world, the satanic hosts of the ages have beat like pounding waves of the sea: atheism, materialism, secularism, infidelity, false philosophy, false religion, false ideology, pseudoscience.
And yet, after the passing of these centuries, there He stands—towering, more wonderful, magnetic, glorious than ever in the history of the world. To the infidel, He is still a scandal and an offense. To the sophisticated, He is still an idiocy and a foolishness. But unto us, by the increasing millions, He is Christ, the love of God, the Man of God, the way to God, the wisdom of God, and the hope of the world [1 Corinthians 1:23-24].
Would you consider? “Christ the power of God” [1 Corinthians 1:24], to attract men unto Himself, this strange and inexplicable phenomenon of the attractiveness of the preaching of the Crucified Christ; this foolishness of preaching by which God has ordained that men may be saved [1 Corinthians 1:21]. Men are divided by many demarcations: they are rich and poor; they are old and young; they are black and white. But there is no demarcation in the magnetism of the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God. The university professor in Cambridge, the illiterate Hottentot in Africa, the soldier boy on the battlefield, the anxious mother at home, the mountaineer in his cabin, the plainsman on his pony, the child in the kindergarten, the old man tottering to the grave, the industrial magnate presiding over an empire, the janitor that sweeps out his office, to all alike there is an inexplicable attractiveness of the preaching of the Son of God.
When I was a youth, hardly beyond the age of these teenagers you look upon in this choir, I was invited to a schoolhouse on the frontiers of New Mexico to hold a revival meeting where there was no church; and, if God blessed it for the purpose of gathering the converts God would give us, and to organize them into a church. After I had begun those days of preaching the best a teenager knew how, and God seemingly was preparing to add His heavenly benedictions, I awakened one morning, and up and down the crossroads and in the little village, there were large placards nailed to the fence posts, and the telephone posts, and to the ports of the stores, inviting all of the people to come together and just across from the schoolhouse to build a dance hall. And the placard announced they had already hired an orchestra to come, and every night for those two weeks they were proposing to have a hullabaloo.
I asked about it, and I quickly learned that the people in the community, some of them, had decided they did not want any revival there! And they did not want any church organized there! And they were going to stop it by building a flat pavilion and having a loud and raucous dance every night. Had I been as old as I am now, it would not have bothered me; but it crushed me as a boy.
And I was in a little room where I was staying, back of the store; and a preacher who, because of illness, was forced to give up his ministry and lived out there in that high, dry country, he knocked at the door, came in, and said, “Young fellow, I have heard of your depression and discouragement because of these signs nailed to the fence posts. Don’t you be!” he said. “Don’t you be!” He said, “Let it bother you not at all.” He said, “You stand up there in that auditorium as you have been, open that Book in your hand as you have, and preach the gospel the best you know how, and leave the rest to God, and see what God is able to do.”
I said, “Yes, sir, I’ll do that the best I can.” My brethren, I never heard the sound of a hammer. I never heard the buzz of a saw. The people began coming to those services. God poured out His convicting and saving Spirit. We had a marvelous, marvelous revival, one of the largest baptismal services at its close that country had ever seen. And when it was done, we organized that little church, and it is flourishing to this present day.
The power of the gospel to attract: give me one man, just one, whose faith in God controls his mind, and I will right ten thousand wrongs and bless the name of all mankind; one humble man. He may stammer and stutter like Moses. He may violate all the rules of grammar like Moody. He may be diminutive like Wesley. He may be deformed and crippled like Counselor. But if he will faithfully, prayerfully, earnestly preach the gospel of the Son of God, there will be people gathered round to listen, and they’ll be back, and they’ll come back, and they’ll come back.
Here in this sacred auditorium for twenty-two years already, I have been preaching the gospel of the Son of God, following my great predecessor who stood here for forty-seven years. Not for five days would they be back listening to a discourse on economics, or on the political fortunes and outreaches of the day, or upon any kind of social amelioration.
But preaching the gospel of the Son of God: what shall we do with our sins? And is there any hope beyond the grave? And in the hour of our despair and darkness, is there a light that can shine? Can you have for us a word from heaven? Does God say anything? Does God care? Does the Lord know? And they will be back, and they will come back. How to reach the masses, men of every birth; for an answer Jesus gave the key: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” [John 12:32]. Revelation 19:10, “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
“To the Jew a skandalon, to the Greek a mōrion; but unto us who are saved the power of God” [1 Corinthians 1:23-24].
He is the power of God to convict the human heart. In the white light of His presence, somehow all our pride becomes like the dust under our feet. Who is worthy to stand in His glorious presence? Great statesmen have moved across the stage of human history and have left, and have left the same kind of a world behind; and noble, far-famed generals have marched and deployed their armies over the face of the earth and passing have left this world unchanged behind. And artists and literary geniuses, marvelous poets, novelists, imaginative writers, men of insight, scholars, teachers, academicians, philosophers have passed across the history of this world and have left it behind as they found it, unchanged.
But not this lowly, lonely Nazarene; somehow, having seen Him, and met Him, and known Him, it is never the same again. I think of the apostle Paul, breathing out threatening and slaughter against the saints of God. But when finally he arrived in the city of Damascus, they were leading him by the hand. He had met Jesus in the way [Acts 9:1-8].
Nobody knows who wrote this poem, nor shall I quote it all; but oh! whoever experienced this tells our story:
I had walked life’s way with an easy tread,
Had followed where pleasures and comforts led
Until one day in a quiet place
I met the Master face to face.
And he concludes:
My thought is now for the souls of men.
I lost my life to find it again.
E’er since one day in a quiet place
I met the Master face to face.
And again, He is Christ the power of God to save our souls [1 Corinthians 1:23-24]. His whole ministry in the days of His flesh is a parable of that loving, shepherdly, saving care of our Lord, “And they brought forth the sick and the afflicted and the lame and laid them where He would pass by, and as many as touched the hem of His garment were made whole” [Matthew 14:35-36].
I have often thought, Lord, I wish I had that eloquence. I’d preach a sermon depicting, describing, delineating, drawing that leper when he looked at himself under the touch of the Master’s hand and he was clean [Matthew 8:2-3]; or, how the blind man felt when he could see [John 9:1-7], how the cripple felt when he could walk [Mark 2:5-12], how the sinner felt when he was saved [Luke 23:29-43]. And I thought, why, I know that. I know that. And I stand in the midst of a people who know that—how it feels when we’re saved.
Monuments to grace and the saving care of God all around you. Look, my brother, look. Standing before the sarcophagus of Sir Christopher Wren in the vaults of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the monument to the genius of that incomparable architect, I read the Latin inscription above his grave: Lector, si monumentum requiris circumspice. “Reader, if you require, seek a monument, look around you.” I feel that way preaching the gospel of the saving grace of the Son of God.
My brother, do you seek a testimony, a confirmation? My brother, look around you––monuments to the saving grace of Jesus everywhere. With what glory and triumph does Paul write in the tenth chapter of the Book of Romans: “For there is no difference?” All of us lost sinners alike for there is no difference. “For the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him” [Romans 10:12].
Call upon wealth. We have what wealth can do. Call upon culture, what culture can do. Call upon education, what education can do. Call upon science, what science can do. Call upon Jesus, and we possess what God can do. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13].
I may sing about the Lord and be lost. I may write about the Lord and be lost. I may even preach about the Lord and be lost. But I cannot humbly, and in faith, and in deed call upon His name and be lost; for when I do, something happens in my soul; I am saved. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13].
If you are tired of the load of your sin,
Let Jesus come into your heart.
If you desire a new life to begin,
Let Jesus come into your heart.
Just now your doubting, give o’er;
Just now throw open the door;
Just now reject Him no more;
Let Jesus come into your heart.
[“Let Jesus Come Into Your Heart,” Mrs. C. H. Morris]
He is Christ, the power of God [1 Corinthians 1:24].
While we sing this hymn of appeal, in the throng in this balcony around, somebody you, there’s a stairway at the front and the back on either side, come. The press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, come. ”Pastor, today, today I decide for Christ. This moment, I come.” A couple you, a family you, a child, one somebody you, as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come. In a moment, when you stand up, stand up coming. “Here I am, pastor. I make it now.” Do it. Do it, while we stand and while we sing.
THE POWER OF GOD
reception of the Christian message in the Roman world
all the miracles, the greatest is that of Christ Himself
the reality of the living Christ, the evil of the centuries has beat
there He stands, lives, and reigns
II. Attracting power(John 12:32, Revelation 19:10)
magnetism of the testimony of Jesus
1. The “foolishness of
preaching”(1 Corinthians 1:21)
are divided by many demarcations
1. But there is no
division in the power of Christ to appeal
I’ve been preaching gospel here for 22 years
III. Convicting, converting power
the white light of His presence, all our pride becomes like dust
world has received, known many amazing men, but the human heart continued
meet Jesus you are never the same again (Acts
IV. Saving power
the days of His flesh(Matthew 14:34-35)
to grace and saving care of God are all around you(Romans
upon wealth, culture, education, science, see what they can do