The Fellowship of God’s People
September 8th, 1968 @ 7:30 PM
1 Corinthians 10:13-17
THE FELLOWSHIP OF GOD’S PEOPLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 10:13-17
9-8-68 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the glorious services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And you who are not able to be here tonight I wish you could be present. I do not know any sight in this earth so incomparably glorious as to see these choirs all around us. That Chapel Choir, the Clarion Choir, our Sanctuary Choir, and all you have got to do, Lee Roy, is get one more, and that will fill the whole balcony all the way around. Put them up there in front. Oh, what a place!
Did you know, Lee Roy, they are not Baptist churches, I wish they were, but I went to a church that had the entire balcony on that side filled with instrumentalists, the whole balcony on that side? And I went to another church, and it is bigger than this one, I went to another church and the whole section on the lower floor was given to the orchestra. It was beautifully arranged, the lyres, the seats. Instead of just being seats there, they were arranged with lyres in front of them; l-y-r-e-s, full of lyres. Oh gracious, Lee Roy, you just, that’s heaven! That’s what the Book says. That’s heaven.
Harps, singing, that’s glory and that was the worship of the Old Testament. You heard me say, no telling how many times you heard me say, I wish I could have attended one of the services in the days of King Solomon. An orchestra of three hundred seventy-five instruments, a Levitical choir of five thousand [1 Chronicles 23:5, 25:7], singing on the steps of the temple, praising God, and that is what those psalms are; “praise God on the high-sounding cymbals” [Psalm 150:5]. Man, you would just jump out of your skin. Praise God on the high sounding cymbals. Praise God with the pipe and the timbrel and the organ and the trumpet [Psalm 150:3-4]. That’s glory, and we are going to have it here.
Now Lee Roy, I don’t know what you are going to do, but there may be spaces up here that you haven’t even seen or found yet, but we are going to discover them. We are going to put singers and orchestras everywhere. Oh, what the Lord has in store for us!
Now I don’t want you to get a wrong idea about this coming week. Some of you who weren’t here this morning wouldn’t understand when Mel says, “I’m planning to get sick every night next week.” Well, that’s right. The announcement is correct, but you ought to know why. I saw Dr. John Bagwell, our beloved physician, on the street just before I came in, and he said, “Pastor, I am just serving you notice, I am not responsible for you this coming week.” Well, I said, “That’s right, doctor. I don’t want to see you for a week.” I’m going to get sick every night next week. I am planning on it.
We are going to have a pastor’s party every night this coming week, and everybody in the church has a designated night, and we are going to eat what I like. We are going to eat popcorn, and peanuts, and potato chips with mustard and garlic dills. We are going to eat hot dogs. We are going to eat all kinds of things, and it’s free. I wanted to do this, as I say, for the years and years. I want to invite you to be my guest. And we are going to start tomorrow night with the Adults and whoever else is to come, and the pastor has the program, and the pastor’s family is going to shine in it. If they don’t shine, we are going to have some trouble out there at the parsonage. We’re just going to have a big time, so when your night comes, you be there.
Now in God’s Book, turn to 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians chapter 10, 1 Corinthians chapter 10, and we are going to read just a short passage, verse 13 through verse 17. First Corinthians chapter 10, beginning at verse 13 through verse 17. All of us now, read it out loud together with me. Verse 13:
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
[1 Corinthians 10:13-17]
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the koinōnia of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the koinōnia of the body of Christ? [1 Corinthians 10:16]. And the church is the body of Christ [Ephesians 1:22-23]. And there is not a fuller, richer meaning word in all Greek literature than the word, koinōnia.
Many years ago I remember I preached a series of sermons on the koinōnia. Sometimes, as in this passage, it is translated “the communion” [1 Corinthians 10:16]. In other passages, in most of the passages, it is translated “the fellowship” [Acts 2:42; 1 John 1:7], and it refers to the sweet preciousness of God’s people who share with their Lord the rich blessings of heaven. And that is what I am going to talk about tonight; the koinōnia, the fellowship of God’s people with their Lord.
The head of the Great Crusade for the Americas that is now taking shape, and will find its consummation next year, the head of that is one of the most brilliantly gifted, able men I have ever known in my life. His name is Reuben Lopez, and he is the pastor of the Villa Mariana Baptist Church in Sao Paulo. I was seated by his side at a dinner, and he said to me, “Because you are now president of the Southern Baptist Convention are you visiting the mission fields of the world?”
I said, “No, I’ve had it in my mind and heart to come down here to South America in these great cities in Argentina and Chile and Brazil and other nations. I’ve had it in my heart a long time, just as I have it in my heart to go to New Zealand and Australia. But,” I said, “I am not coming as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I just happened to be elected to that office before I got down here.” I said, “I never think of it and that election and that office unless somebody reminds me of it. I have come as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and I have come for the love of God. I just wanted to see you and to visit with you. That’s all. I am no official representative or messenger or plenipotentiary from anybody. I am just coming as a pastor to see you and your people.”
And in the message tonight, may I speak of some of those moments of fellowship? I was preaching in the largest Baptist church in Sao Paulo, Brazil, of which Dr. Lopez is the pastor. So in the introduction as I began the message I said, “People ask me, why are you down here? Well,” I said, “One of the reasons I am down here is this. One of the members of my church wrote me a letter, and I just received it, and she said ‘In this building of prayer partners in the Crusade of the Americas, I have a prayer partner in South Carolina’. And she said in her letter, ‘I don’t want a prayer partner in South Carolina. I want a prayer partner in South America.’ So she wrote to the WMU of the Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham and said, ‘I don’t want a prayer partner in South Carolina. I want one in South America.’ So the WMU wrote back and said, ‘We don’t have enough in South America for prayer partners in North America, so you’ve got to have a prayer partner in South Carolina.’”
Now, I said to Lopez and his church, “One of the reasons I have come down here is to tell Lopez he has got to make more Baptists so we can have prayer partners with the people in South America up there in North America where I came from.”
Well, it happened to be that at that service there was another pastor of a Baptist church in Sao Paulo, so he placed in my hand that week this letter:
Dear Dr. Criswell,
In my sermon last night I shared with the dear people of our Libertad—he says that means Liberty Baptist Church—what you had said that morning at that Villa Mariana Church about someone in your church insisting on a prayer partner in Brazil. One of our deacons felt led to do something about it, and at the conclusion of the service, he was at the door, suggesting that those willing to covenant to be prayer partners for the Crusade of the Americas place their names and addresses on the paper he provided. These are the names.
And he’s got a list of families in Sao Paulo who would like to be prayer partners with some of us up here in America.
So, Dr. James Bryant, you come here, and you take that list, and you call Dr. [Lopez] and tell him you would like to have one of those as a prayer partner down there in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Now that came out of that facetious remark, a surprise to me. After I had preached at the morning hour at that Villa Mariana Baptist Church, to my great surprise, the missionary said, “Now we have another church on the other side of the city, and there are eight million people in that city. We have another church on the other side of the city that is waiting for you to come and preach to them.”
“Why,” I said, “I can’t imagine such a thing. It would take us an hour to get across this city, and we’ve had our morning service here.” And the missionary said, “That does not matter. The people will wait for you. They will patiently and gladly wait.”
So after I preached at the morning hour, I got in his little car, and we drove clear across that vast city to a little church that is called the Garden of Brazil Baptist Church. When we got near the place, there were four men on the street corner to receive us, a block or two from the church, those four men waiting there at the big intersection to welcome us, and when I got to the church, it was jammed to the doors, to the windows and all around.
Dr. Thurmond Bryant, who is the president of our Baptist seminary in Sao Paulo, was interpreting for me, seated by my side, and when I stood up to preach, our own wonderful Brazilian boy, Ari Silva, you know that boy, that glorious boy, well, he interpreted for me. Oh, that young fellow, he loves God, and he is a dedicated young fellow. And since you love Ari, I have published in the Reminder for this coming week a letter to you from him.
Well anyway, as I sat there on the platform, in the pulpit, and Dr. Thurmond Bryant, sitting there whispering in my ear all of the things that were happening, the pastor stood up to introduce me. And he started off like this, and I quote him as Dr. Bryant whispered in my ear [what] he was saying. He said, “This is the greatest day in my life.” He said, “Just to think that the pastor of the largest and greatest Baptist church in the world, and the pastor and the president of the largest Baptist Convention in the world, has come here to preach in my church. I am so little and so unworthy.” And he stopped and burst into tears. And failing to regain his composure, he sat down, and Dr. Bryant said to me, “You stand up and preach, for the pastor says he cannot speak. He is so filled in his soul.”
Well, you know how I am. While he was weeping over there, I was weeping in the pulpit. We had one of the sweetest services that you could ever share. The people were that way. The whole service was like that. It was like the precious ointment upon Aaron’s head, that fell down on his beard and to the hem of his garments [Psalm 133:2]. The savor, the perfume, of God’s sweet presence blessed the whole service and all of us there. It was truly one of the dearest, sweetest hours that I ever shared. And that boy Silva entered into it so fully and completely. God bless him.
Now, not only in the services of the church did I feel the moving of the koinōnia, the fellowship of God’s sweet saints, but I especially and particularly met it and felt it and saw it in the dinners that they had for me. Now, I fell into something in the journey that I never thought for. We have our missionaries down there, and they had a schedule going for me day and night, but I found also that the nationals had a schedule also, and they are two different things. As you have a national Baptist convention, well, they have a national convention in Chile and a national convention in Argentina and a national convention in Brazil. So not only were the missionaries preparing a schedule for me, but the nationals were.
Now God blessed my soul as I met with those missionaries and preached with them and visited with them, but especially and unusually so was it impressive to me about those nationals. Now I can’t tell you why they wanted to have their meetings apart from the missionaries. They just did.
So upon a day in Buenos Aires, I’d been ground to death day after day and was getting ready at the end of another grinding day to lie down just for a moment before the dinner meeting and the convocation that night. So I lay down and hadn’t been there but a moment until there was a heavy knock at the door. I went to the door and there stood an Argentine, and he said, “My name is Alfonso Olmedo, and I have driven three hundred seventy-five miles with my wife here”— and he introduced her—“to visit with you and to preside over our national meeting tonight.” Well, you can’t say to a man and his wife, “Now listen. I am dead. I have disintegrated.” So I said, “Wait until I get my clothes on, and you and your wife come in.” So they came in when I got dressed and took me down to the Savoy Hotel in the heart of the city for their national meeting.
Now Mrs. Olmedo had been saved in the glorious mission that George W. Truett conducted in Rosario. All through South America I found leaders who had been saved in the glorious preaching mission of Dr. Truett through South America, a marvelous thing! It’s been a generation since Dr. Truett was there, and everywhere you will find leaders who were converted under that incomparable pastor’s ministry.
“Well,” Alfonso said, “I want to tell you how come me to be saved and how come my being a Baptist.” He said, “I was a Catholic and belonged to the Catholic Action.” And he said, “Now, that is a group of Catholic men down here in Argentina whose task it is to get other people into the church and into the faith. Well,” he said, “I tackled the Baptists, and,” he said, “that was my ruin and my downfall.” He said, “After our discussions, two years, I didn’t get him to be a Catholic, but I am a Baptist and a Baptist preacher,” and a very effective one. He is the president of the Argentine National Baptist Convention.
So we met that evening in the Savoy Hotel. They wouldn’t let a missionary in. Not one of them was there. It was a national Argentine meeting. And they had about thirty-five leaders, the men who were heads of the executive boards, the men who were heads of the missionary units, the men who were heads of all the organized life of the Argentine National Convention; all of them were there. There were about thirty-five. And I’ve never had such a good time in my life listening and talking to those men.
It is an astonishing thing what they are doing! They are not large in numbers. They are not numerically large, but they are dedicated to winning Argentina to Christ. And some of those men who head the mission divisions in the great country—and it is as big as all the eastern part of the United States, all of the United States east of the Mississippi River. That’s about how big Argentina is. And some of those men said that they were in districts where it rarely ever rained, where water was as precious as gold, and others are in districts where it rains every day; some of them where it is cold and high, others where it is hot, warm, and humid; and all of them in their churches so dedicated.
Now, they will have a little church, if they have thirty members, they will have forty-five present at every service. If they have a hundred people, why, they will have a hundred fifty present every service. So when they found out that I had fifteen thousand members, they fully thought that I was preaching to twenty thousand people every service. Well, when I said, “Now, I don’t know about that,” why, they said to me, “Where are those other members?” Now, all of you who are listening on WRR, where are you? Yeah, they expect you to be here at church, every one of you; every one of you.
Oh, it was a sweet, precious thing, and I wish I could go on with it. I have one other, and then I must close. They did the same thing somewhat in Brazil, only in Brazil they had a few missionaries present. And the spirit of those men in Brazil; I don’t know how many of them spoke that night at the dinner. And when each one would get through speaking, he would come and give me a Brazilian hug. He would hug me with his cheek on one side and hug me with his cheek on the other side. Well, I am in favor of that. I like hugging and kissing in the Lord. It’s just a sweet thing to do. Isn’t that in the Book? Isn’t that what it says? Yeah. “Salute one another with an holy kiss” [Romans 16:16]. That’s what the Book says, and that’s what they did, and those Brazilians do that. The Russians do it, but I don’t like the way they do it with those heavy beards. But I like the way the Brazilians do it. They do it so graciously and sweetly and preciously.
Well, we must hasten, I say. One dear old man stood up, pastor of one of the oldest churches in Brazil, he stood up, and he said, “I represent the old line.” And he told the story of the missionary who sought him out in a little interior village and won him to Jesus. Now I am going to tell that story a little later on when I have opportunity. And when he sat down, a young fellow stood up who had been graduated from the seminary the day before. He was a graduate one day and a young pastor there in the city, and he said, “I represent the new line. The preacher that just stood up and said he represented the old line baptized my grandfather.” And he spoke. But I am coming to the last one that spoke.
Do you know what the man did that introduced me? You just can’t imagine. I never was so surprised in my life. When that man stood up to introduce me to speak to that group of nationals and the few missionaries present, he had them to turn out the lights. And he had a projector there, and he said, “I want you to see the church that this man pastors.” He had been here to Dallas. He had taken pictures on the outside and the inside of this church, and he showed them pictures of our dear church before his words of introduction. And I just sat there and looked at those pictures and just cried like a child. It was such an amazing thing to me, and I had been gone long enough to be lonesome for you.
Well, when he got through showing the pictures of our church, then he stood up to introduce me, and by my side was the missionary whispering in my ear what he was saying. And you know what he said? He described the service here that he attended. Oh, I wish you could hear that description, how it affected him. “Oh!” he said, “I never saw in heaven or earth a church like that, and being so big and so rich”—he doesn’t know us very well—“being so rich, oh!” he said, “I thought they would be formal and stiff and reserved. Why,” he said, “it was informal, and I felt warm and welcomed, and I felt the Spirit of God in the services.” Then he started to describe me, and here is a sentence that he said. He said, “I looked at the pastor and I watched him and I heard him, and the First Baptist Church has a pastor,” and I quote it exactly, “who laughs, and weeps, and cries, and prays with his people.”
Well, sir, that’s rung in my ear ever since. “They have a pastor who laughs, and weeps, and cries, and prays with his people.” Then he got down to describing our altar rail, and our call to prayer, and how God gave us a great harvest that morning, and how I prayed with each one that came. “Why,” he said, “it was God’s holy temple, and the Spirit of the Lord was there, and I never was so moved and so blessed in my life.”
Well, I tell you, after an introduction like that, what do you do and what do you say? I suppose tears, like smiles, is a universal language. The fellowship of God’s people, the koinōnia, it bridges national boundaries. It bridges the seven seas. It crosses every continent. It lasts beyond this life. It reaches its glorious consummation in the life to come, the sweet fellowship of God’s people [Acts 2:42; 1 John 1:7].
Now we are going to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, or a couple you, or one somebody you to come into the fellowship of the church, or to give your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], while we sing the song and while we make the appeal, come and stand by me. I’ll be here on this side of our communion table. You come. There is a stairwell on either side, at the front and the back; from these balconies, you come. The throng on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front: “Pastor, I give you my hand. I give my heart to God.” Or “Tonight, we have decided for Christ, and here we are” [Ephesians 2:8], a family, a couple, or just you. While the Spirit pleads and invites, while our people pray and sing the appeal, make the decision and come. When you stand up in a moment, stand up coming, and God be with you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.