September 18th, 1966 @ 8:15 AM
DR. W. A. CRISWELL
9-18-66 8:15 a.m.
Now the sermon this morning is entitled Doctrinal Deviations, or The Faith Once for All Delivered Unto the Saints. And you who share the service on radio are listening to the First Baptist Church in Dallas and the pastor speaking. In the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, Dr. Luke writes this story:
And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
He said unto them, did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit.
And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.
Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Now a passage from next to the last chapter in the Bible, the epistle of Jude:
Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:
Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints,the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.
As all of you know, I spent my vacation in a preaching ministry, most of it in the Pacific Northwest in the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, Canada. And when I make a sojourn like that and visit our brethren and talk with our pastors, it brings to my own heart a review of all of these Baptist churches and pastors as I have seen them and visited them in the earth. And as I review them and recall their faces, they are truly a strange and unusual lot. For a Baptist is one thing in one place and one thing in another place. His fellowship as a world group is by no means homogenous.
For example, they so greatly differ in the way they dress. I have seen many Baptist congregations that if a woman were to come in with her hair cut, and with powder on her cheeks, and lipstick on her lips, and jewelry on her hands, she would be an astonishment to the people, for they are so very strict in the requirements that they make of how our women dress. Then I have been in congregations, many of them, where the pastor of the Baptist church dressed in clerical robes and his collar fastened at the back. And as I sat in the congregation and looked around, I thought, "Well, what an unusual thing. We have nuns here in the services, dressed in the habits of a nun with a gold chain around their neck and a cross dangling on it." They were the deaconesses of the Baptist church. They differ so greatly in the way they dress.
And they differ no less in their doctrines, what they believe and what they teach. I have been in many Baptist congregations that were anti-organization. They look as though it were anathema upon Sunday school, Training Union, WMU, Brotherhood, any kind of an organized effort for God. All of it to them is born out of the abyss.
I attended a service one time in one of those anti-organization churches, and the pastor, who was a public school teacher – – and they do not believe in paying their pastors, so he must work to make his own living; how grateful I am that I am a Southern Baptist pastor and of this congregation – – that man that day had mimeographed a little order of service. He had done it because in the long preaching services – – they began at nine o’clock, they were finished after one o’clock – – they were having a memorial for the dead. And that pastor of that Baptist church had mimeographed a little program. And on the back side he had placed the names of the dead that they were honoring. Because he had introduced that innovation, it created a doctrinal controversy in the church. And they assailed the pastor unmercifully for mimeographing that little order of service. First time it had ever been done in the history of the denomination.
Then there are those who find their doctrine in the world of expediency. The Green River Baptist Association in Kentucky, after long discussion, decided that there were three ordinances: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and foot washing. So after they had published their minutes, it came into the hands of Dr. Thompson, who was then executive secretary of Kentucky Baptists, and he read that. So he wrote them a formal letter and addressed it to the moderator and all of the Baptist ministers there and said, "I have seen from the printing of your minutes that you have departed from the faith and are no longer in fellowship with our Southern Baptist people. Therefore, we will discontinue the annuity board payments to your retired ministers."
Well, the next year I attended their services in their district associational meeting. And after a long and prayerful discussion, they finally unanimously voted that there were two ordinances in the church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper; and that foot washing was not one of the ordinances appointed in the house of God. Then, of course, the doctrinal complexities that enter into the membership of the church is as varied as high heaven and low earth.
Harry Truman, with great affirmation when he was president, said, "Yes, I am a Baptist, and my religion is the religion of the Golden Rule. That is all we need to know about religion." It reminded me of the irregularly attending member of the church who was justifying his absences to the pastor, and this irregular attendant said to the preacher, "Sir, my religion is the religion of the Golden Rule. That’s what my religion is, and that’s all I need to know about religion." And the pastor replied, "My dear friend, you know, my understanding of astronomy is ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star,’ and that’s all I need to know about astronomy." Every kind and degree of doctrine, conviction, you will find among our Baptist people.
All of this is doubly brought to my mind when I visit a fellowship such as I have been with in these last several weeks in northwestern Canada. It is a phenomenon that has developed that the Oregon Washington Convention should now be carrying on an extensive work in British Columbia and in Alberta. But when you look at it, it is sort of reasonable that it should have developed because the boundary line between that Pacific Northwest in their sectional governmental life is altogether imaginary. It is the same kind of a country. It is the same kind of a culture. They speak the same language. They face the same great industrialization, and they have everything in common. So for the outreach of the churches to go beyond an imaginary international line was a perfectly normal and expected development.
So as I looked at those pastors and as I listened to them, I came back with a factual presentation that I wanted to make to you. What are they like, and what do they face, and what is their commitment, and why are they there? And in speaking of them, we shall have a good opportunity to microcosm the whole world. They are sort of like the rest of us in this vast, vast, increasingly populated and lost earth.
First of all, as I listen to them, I have the impression that they live in a sea of liberalism, on every hand, on every side. One of those pastors I met in the states, in California, before going up there. He had been up there in one of those cities and in one of those little churches for twelve years, and had finally quit and returned to the states. And he said to me, "I cannot describe to you the loneliness that I felt in the city where I was pastor." He said, "In order to find some kind of fellowship, I tried to attend the ministerial association made up of all the preachers in the little city." But he said, "It broke my heart to attend the meetings and to hear nothing but the Bible downgraded and Jesus my Lord belittled." And he said, "Finally, I just lived to myself, alone."
And in a letter that I cut out, of one of the pastors who is still up there, he wrote to a friend: "In a recent ministerial meeting, I realized why there is so little being done in the two largest Protestant denominations in Canada." Then he names the minister of the church and said – at the ministerial meeting, he said, "Let’s discuss the subject of demythologizing the Bible." Then he proceeded to discount the miracles, the story of Genesis, and the virgin birth of Christ. Then one of the leading men in England has written a book on this subject called Honest to God. And if you want to find your heart turn a flip-flop that a man who’s supposed to be a minister would write a theological book like this, just get it and look at it. Then this other minister representing the other denomination that I don’t call out, in complete agreement with the other minister who was degrading the Bible and belittling Christ, says that he has ordered copies of that Honest to God book for his people to study. That is the background of the whole theological world in which they live.
As I sat in the hotel room in Calgary, I picked up the magazine that they place in the rooms, and it is called The Golden West. And in that was an article on aging, thoughts on aging. Well, I thought, I’d better read that and get acquainted with it. So I sat me down and I read the article on aging. And here is one of the first things that he says:
Spiritual security and faith in a religion provides further emotional support for all of us who are going off the deep end. Religion gives comfort to many; not to the enlightened of course, not to the academic, not to the educated. But to some of us, why, religion still has meaning, and it provides a rock on which to stand.
Then his comment: "Religion is good if one believes in a merciful God, but belief in a God of judgment will make even the moderately innocent cringe in fear."
Now this is the whole outlook of liberalism: God is good, and God is sweet, and God is precious, and God is fine, and God is affable, and God is amenable. He is personable. That is God. But as for a God before whom we shall stand in a judgment day – that, to them, is medieval mockery and grossest superstition. Consequently, religion has no meaning whatsoever if there is not a moral accountability in this world. Then, what would it matter that a man teach ethics like Socrates or humanities like Seneca? Why bother with religion as such at all? "Let’s have a course in ethics at the university, and that is all the truth that can be found. What is good for the nation, or what is good for the family, in the experience of the human race, that is all of the truth." That is modern liberal religion.
But oh, to us, to us, the ultimate values in life are not found in our experience or even in our history! They are grounded in the character of God! Why should a man be honest? Because God said, "Thou shalt not steal" [Exodus 20:15]. Why should a man seek to live uprightly and gloriously? Because it is the first duty of man to honor and to reverence and to glorify God. Values are not subject to fluctuation as though right and wrong were something that men juggle, but right and wrong is found in the character of Almighty God. He made this universe like that, and someday we shall give an account to the Lord for the things that are done in the flesh. But oh, I have so much! Oh, I have so much to say! And the time, I don’t know where it goes.
As I look at those men, as I look at them, and as I watch them and listen to them, I have the impression that they are almost alone in their evangelistic appeal to the people to whom God has sent them. For example, at the little city of Chemainus, which is about, oh, thirty-five thousand in number, their pastor whom they had just called had not come. And the church was presided over by a fine doctor, a physician, one of these laymen again; Dr. Osbourne. And Dr. Osbourne, one of the most discerning of all the physicians that I have ever known, Dr. Osbourne said to me, he said, "You know the congregations of Canada, the churches of Canada, build a house of worship and open the door. And if anybody comes, they are welcome, but there is never an attempt to persuade people about Jesus or to take the message of the Lord out to them."
I do not deny that to build a beautiful church house, and to open the doors, and to welcome the people to come in is a magnificent thing to do. It is a fine thing to do. But the heart of the Christian faith is found in its missionary restiveness. Our Lord so exemplified that in His own ministry and in the way He taught His disciples: out in the streets and lanes of the city, and then into the highways and to the hedges and compel them to come in. Or in the ministry of the first church: they that were scattered abroad went everywhere testifying to the good news, preaching the word [Acts 8:1-4]. Or the marvelous personal example of the apostle Paul: "Remember that by the space of three years, I cease not to warn everyone night and day with tears, publicly and from house to house, testifying repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" [Acts 20:20-21, 31].
It is a fine thing to build a church and to invite people to call on the name of the Lord in its reverential atmosphere, but the heart of the Christian faith lies in its ministries outside the four walls. True Christianity is of all things evangelistic, sharing the good news of the grace of the Son of God. I must hurry.
A third thing that I was very conscious of: the pastors have a colossal problem because there is no background of stewardship in the lives of the people, and that is universal in that part of the world. And however a minister may love the Lord and however he may devote himself to building up the faith, if he does not teach his people to be good stewards before God, he will always have a weak church and a weak people. I don’t know why that is true. I can’t quite understand it, but I have found it universal everywhere I have been. Where there is a strong church and a glorious congregation, you will find those dear people honoring God on the first day of the week with a tithe and an offering.
And a pastor does not bless his people and he does not bless the kingdom of God when he refuses to lead his people into a great stewardship commitment of themselves to the Lord. People think of us in our tremendous giving program as millionaires, and they tell me that. "Why, no wonder you have a great program there of a million, seven hundred thousand dollars a year in that church. Everybody that belongs to that church is a millionaire." And when I stand in this pulpit and look at you poverty-stricken people, I am just amazed at what they think of us. It is not because we are millionaires; it is because we have the love of Jesus in our hearts, and once a year in the fall time, at Thanksgiving time, we come down here by our family groups, every one of them; our babies, our children, our teenagers, our fathers and mothers, and we offer unto God a part of all the Lord has given us, and God blesses us in strength. None of that is found in the background of the people of Canada.
All right, another: and they agonize before doctrinal deviations in our fellowship. What do you mean by that? Well, just looking at it: one of the young pastors in one of those little cities, struggling to build his church, finally, in a loan from the foundation, erected a house of worship, a little church house. And in that congregation one half of the attendance in the church and in the Sunday school belonged to another communion, and they wanted to join the church. They wanted to be members of the church. But that young pastor and his faithful fellow Baptists, said, "No. For you to belong to this church, you must be baptized. You must be baptized."
"We will not be baptized," they said. Then the pastor said, "Then you cannot come into the fellowship of the church." That went on for a long time. And just a little while before I visited the pastor and the people, that little group went to a hall and withdrew their attendance from church and Sunday school. And he was left there with about one half of the little group that he had gathered together through the years. And as I looked at him, I thought, "What courage, what courage. Standing by what he felt is the truth of God; what tremendous commitment." It’s no small difference; one family in a little place like that, and when half of the congregation leaves – – and all it would have taken to receive them [was] just to say, "Come in" – – but he felt a doctrinal conviction concerning it.
Then when I was up there, they asked me about an article that appeared in so many of our Baptist denominational papers, magazines, weeklies. And how come they mentioned it to me was that it appeared in one of the denominational papers of the West, in the western states. And the thesis of the article is written by a minister here in Texas. The thesis of the article is that for us to require people to be baptized who come into our Baptist church is an addition they call "Landmarkism," under Dr. Graves and Dr. Pendleton in the last century, and that such a requirement should not be made at all. And they said to me, "We were astonished that such an article should be printed in one of our western Baptist papers."
Then when I came back, I had the surprise of my life when I looked at the paper and the man had written an editorial concerning the article; and you listen to what he says. Surprisingly, he says, "Readers’ responses have run four to one in favor of the article. They consider baptism as an act of individual obedience rather than a function of the church." Anybody[can] baptize you, take you out there in a swimming pool and baptize you. It is an individual matter. It is not a church matter. These are our Baptist people and you stumble, and believe me, they agonize.
I, when I went to Penticton, the pastor said to me, "Do you see that wonderful young couple there? He has come to be principal of our high school. And he and his wife belong to a Baptist church in New Zealand. But they joined that church from the Anglican Church. They were christened as babies. And now they have moved to Penticton, and they are attending our little church; and it would mean so much to have them to be members of our church. But," the young pastor said, "I am in an agony. I don’t know what to do or where to turn. They were christened when they were infants, and yet they were received by the Baptist church where they lived in New Zealand."
You know what I did? That was just, we were eating dinner at the – in the little church before I preached. I said, "Dear Lord, help me, help me." And I changed my sermon in a thousand miles away from what I thought to speak. And I preached on this:
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, Look, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Phillip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.
[Acts 8: 35-37]
First, there must be that consciousness of standing in the presence of God in the confession of our sins and the acceptance of Jesus as our Savior; that first, before one can be baptized. "What doth hinder me to be baptized?" First, you must accept the Lord, believing in Him with all your heart. And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I accept Him as my Savior." "Then he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Phillip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Phillip, that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing" [Acts 8:36-39]. The first thing, the first thing that will come into the heart of a true believer on Jesus is, "Look, I want to be baptized."
Is that an inconvenience? Is that something that is unacceptable, harsh, cruel? My sweet friend, there’s not much we can do for God. He said, "If I were hungry, I would not tell thee, for the cattle on a thousand hills are Mine, the gold and the silver is Mine" [Psalm 50:10-12; Haggai 2:8]. There’s not much we can do for God, but what we can do, let us do. And this I can do. I can be baptized. And when we love the Lord, the first thing in our hearts: "I want to be baptized."
And you’ll find that among your children. You will never find an exception to it. When a child is taught the Word of God, and when that child, when the child is quickened, the Holy Spirit speaks to the little heart. You will never find an exception to it. The first thing that child will say to you, "Mommy, Daddy, I want to be baptized." God made it that way. God put that together. And the Lord will honor it if our people are thus obedient.
Now spare me one more minute. Those dear preachers; I love to include them in my prayers, and my personal love, and my pastoral sympathies. They wouldn’t be there were it not for a spiritual commitment that puts some of us to shame. The pastor at Williams Lake said, "I have some teenagers. I’m going to take them in my car to Prince George where you’re preaching tomorrow night, and I’ll be praying for you. They need Christ. They need to be saved."
Once again, the sermon that I thought I would preach I cast aside. And the burden of lost souls weighed once again on my heart. And I asked of God, "Lord, when that hour comes, and I deliver that message, Lord, attend it with the convicting power of the Holy Spirit." They are just a little handful of people. And it had been a generation almost since I had preached to a little handful of people; not since I was pastoring out there in those little country churches. But that young fellow at Williams Lake drove one hundred fifty miles in the rain to bring three lost teenagers to the service.
Well, I said, "Lord, if he has that kind of hope in Jesus, Lord stand by me." And we had a service that night. I don’t think I can remember any service filled with so many, many tears. And all three of those teenagers were gloriously saved. It was worth it. It was worth it. And he’s just typical of the rest. When I preached Sunday morning in our church at Calgary, the pastor said, "There’s a marvelous young man here and his wife. I’ll be praying for you as you press that appeal." So when we sang the invitation, we didn’t just sing a stanza and then have the benediction. We sang, and I pressed the appeal, and we sang, and that pastor prayed. And down the aisle they came, positively one of the finest looking young men, one of the most gracious looking and beautiful young women you could ever see – the young fellow and his wife saved and joined the church by baptism.
O God, bless such a minister anywhere in the earth who will preach the saving grace of the Son of God and make an appeal. My brother, "Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3]. "He was raised for our justification" [Romans 4:25], and someday we shall see Him again. My friend, won’t you accept the mercy, and love, and grace, and goodness of God that extends even to you? Come, come, come. This is the heart of the Christian faith.
And while we sing this invitation and appeal this morning, somebody you, would you come? "Pastor, I give you my hand. I give my heart to the Lord." Or, "Pastor, this is my wife and these are our children. All of us are coming this morning." Or one somebody you, however the Spirit shall lay the appeal on your soul, answer with your life: "Here I am, pastor, and here I come." Make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come. Come, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Surveying the whole world of the people called Baptist
A. Differ so in dress
1. Some so strict
2. Ministers in clerical robes, collar; deaconesses in dress of a nun
B. Differ so in doctrine
1. Some anti-organization
2. Some doctrinal expediency
3. Some no doctrinal conviction at all
II. Phenomenon of the Oregon Baptist Convention into Canada
A. They are surrounded by a sea of liberalism
1. Ministers are so few – attending associational meetings difficult because they degrade Bible and belittle the Lord
2. Ministers discounting miracles; teaching Honest to God
B. They are almost alone in their evangelistic emphasis
1. Tragedy of churches in Canada – build houses of worship, but never go outside to tell the good news
2. Christianity is nothing at all if it is not evangelistic(Luke 14:21-23, Acts 8:1-4, 20:31)
C. They face situations with no stewardship background
1. The people have never been taught stewardship responsibility of God’s servants
D. They agonize before doctrinal deviations
1. Their attempt to build Baptist churches as we know them
a. Members from another communion wanting to join without being baptized
2. Torn by our lack of unanimity of opinion, conformity of practice
a. Article on alien immersion – "Landmarkism"
b. Seminary professor disagreeing with pastor
3. My attempt to help
a. Preaching in Penticton – before one is baptized, first he must believe (Acts 8:35-39)
E. Their spiritual commitment