Five Lost Brethren
January 12th, 1969 @ 7:30 PM
FIVE LOST BRETHREN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-12-69 7:30 p.m.
If you are listening over the radio, over WRR the radio of the city of Dallas, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in this queenly city. And we always read out loud together God’s Word. And tonight our passage is the background and the context of the message. The title of the sermon is Five Lost Brethren, and the text is Luke, the Third Gospel, Luke, and we shall begin reading in the sixteenth chapter at verse 19. All of us take our Bibles and turn to Luke, chapter 16, beginning at verse 19. And if your neighbor does not have his Bible, share yours with him and all of us read it out loud together. Luke 16, beginning at verse 19, reading to the end of the chapter. Now all of us together:
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried:
And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
And from the reading of this story from the lips of our Lord, you can easily see the burden of the message tonight: “For I have five brethren” [Luke 16:28]. Those words are so nominal, they are so ordinary and commonplace; there are many people who could say those simple words, “I have five brothers. I have five boys who are with me in this family.” The words are very ordinary, but their significance lies not in the language itself, but it lies in the one who said it: for this is a man in torment [Luke 16:24]. He speaks to us from the depths, dark and fearful, of the dreaded abyss beyond the judgment of Almighty God.
Do you ever think how is it that these would speak to us who have preceded us into that other land beyond the grave? What would they say to us could they speak to us? When I was in school in Waco, in Baylor, just beyond the university is a very large and beautifully kept cemetery. In the eventide, many days I would walk through that cemetery. And in the center of it are two very large statues. One is erected at the foot of a grave of a man named Dr. Wallace. I know nothing about him; Dr. Wallace, his name there Wallace, M.D., L.L.D., Dr. Wallace. And the other is at the grave of Governor Coke of the state of Texas. The two statues are very impressive. They are about thirty feet apart, and they stand there and have through these years and years, eye to eye, heart to heart, breast to breast, face to face. And so many times in walking by, I would stand between them and look at Dr. Wallace and look at Governor Coke, and as they faced one another, I would often think, what would they say could their lips speak, could their mouths and tongues frame words and language? What would they say?
We have here in the story told by our Lord a voice from the depths of torment. And what he says is this: “I am hopelessly lost, forever undone. I have sinned away my day of grace. For me the sun has set, life in earth has ended, and I am lost. But,” he says, “forgetting me, remember I have five brothers who are there with you. And remember them, my five brothers.” Such a voice from the depths of the abyss, speaking these simple and plain words, but oh the weight of their content! First he says they are here with us. We know them. We call their names. They are our friends, they are our neighbors, they are people with whom sometimes we do business. Sometimes they may come into our house. Sometimes we go to their homes. Sometimes it might be he is your husband. It could be one of those boys is yours, your child. They are here with us, and as such life assumes a responsibility beyond what we’re able to bear without the sustaining presence and guiding wisdom of God. Oh, the seriousness of responsibility God has given to us because of these who face immortality, eternity, and, as these five brothers for whom this man pleads from the depths of the abyss, they are lost, they are lost!
I sometimes think of the responsibility of pilots who fly these airplanes across this continent. If a pilot has a cargo plane, and his wares, his burden is metal, or wood, or stone, the responsibility might not be so heavy, but when a pilot takes his seat there in the nose of that plane, and back of him are sometimes a hundred fifty, a hundred sixty, and in some instances a hundred ninety passengers, oh the weight of the responsibility of the pilot as he takes his seat! And the souls of these that ride with him through the sky are on his hands.
I had a dear friend that I met at the Y, who was a pilot of one of these great continental airlines. And he was stationed here in Dallas and lived here in Dallas. And I don’t know why it was, but he and I would often argue with one another about drinking. He was very much in favor of what he called “personal liberty to drink,” drink alcohol, drink whiskey. And I was very much not in favor of it. And I don’t know why, but every time I’d see him, why, we’d get into some kind of an argument over drinking liquor. And one of my arguments with him always was that as a pilot, the last thing in the world he ought to do is to argue for drinking liquor. But he would say to me, “Now I never drink on the job; I’m always sober when I climb into that cockpit.” But I said to him, “It may be that you are sober, you think you are, when you climb into that airplane, but if I were a passenger seated back of you, I would feel much more comfortable in my heart if I knew that you did not drink, because a responsibility is upon you: beyond yourself you have a responsibility to your passengers.” Did you know, upon a week that he and I had argued about drinking and I told him that, did you know that very week he flew his airplane into the city airport of Chicago, and when he came down to the runway, he hit a sign, one of those signs you see on the side of a road, of a street, he hit the sign, and he killed himself and all of his passengers, all of them. And when I read it in the big, dark headline in our Dallas papers, just a few inches, just a few inches—and I’m not saying he was drunk, I do not know; I am supposing he was sober—but I could not help but think of the word that I spoke to him: “I would feel so much more comfortable if I knew that the pilot who sat in that place, for my sake, did not drink.” The responsibility of this life goes beyond ourselves. “I have five brethren,” and they are here with you.
Second about them: he says they are lost, they are lost, they are lost: “Testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment” [Luke 16:28]: they are lost. And in this instance that word “lost” means the same thing as it means in every other instance where it is used in the Word of God: they were facing an eternal judgment; they are lost, they are lost. They are lost. Lost, lost. Not their wealth was lost; we lose that anyway. Naked we come into this world, naked we go out of this world. We brought nothing into it, we shall take nothing away from it [1 Timothy 6:7]. Not that their wealth was lost, nor that their bodies were lost; we face decay, death, disintegration, corruption, all of us. But the cry of this man was, “My five brethren are lost”; their souls are lost, their spirits are lost. Whatever it is that makes a man a man or a woman a woman, they are lost, they are lost. If they were to die tonight, they’d come to this place of torment; they are lost, my five brethren [Luke 16:28].
And a third thing: they are unsought, un-prayed for, un-asked. The only one in all God’s creation that had a burden for those five brethren was this other brother who was in torment and in the abyss [Luke 16:27-28]. That is an unspeakable tragedy! There was no Sunday school teacher that cared. There was no father or mother who cared. There was no pastor or church member who cared. There was no friend or neighbor who cared. The only one in all God’s universe who had a burden for these five boys was that other boy who was in hell and in damnation and in torment [Luke 16:28]. That is unthinkable and unspeakable! That is until I sometimes carefully look at myself, and look at you, and look at the leaders of our church, and look at all Christendom. Do you find in the church where you attend, and do you find in your pastor, and do you find in your own home and in your own circle, do you find a burden for the lost? Do you? How long has it been since you ever saw a church bowed down in tears, weeping before the Lord over those who are lost? It is a rare thing today to find a minister, or a deacon, or a Sunday school teacher, or a staff member, or one of God’s saved anywhere with a burden of the lost upon his soul; a rare, rare thing; and a rarer thing to see someone who is weeping before the Lord because of the tragedy of a lost member of the family, or a lost friend, or a lost pupil in a Sunday school class. “I have five brethren, and they are lost”; and the only one who cares, makes appeal, is this other brother down in the depths of torment and damnation [Luke 16:27-28].
Oh, oh, my own cold and indifferent heart! O Lord, and the vast, colossal indifference of God’s people in the earth; who cares that these five brothers here in our midst face an eternity without hope, without God? Who weeps? Who prays? Who cares? Who intercedes? Who asks? Who seeks? Who does? Lord, do I? Do my people? Do you? My five brethren who are lost.
You know, when we are removed from God and when revival fires die and our people are immersed and enmeshed in the world, spiritual things become almost like other peripheral indifferent things to us, just one of the many, many ships on the bosom of the river as it flows by and carries us along. But when revival comes, when revival comes, some of the most unusual displays of the convicting Spirit of God happen. They are astonishing when they do!
In the days of my youth, so long time ago, in the days of my youth, many, many years ago, I was preaching a revival meeting under an arbor, out in the country. These things as I review them now seem so far removed and so strangely unknown today. But when the Holy Spirit of God comes upon a congregation, unusual things happen, astonishing things, almost inexplicable things. Well, God’s Holy Spirit fell in convicting power upon those services. And upon a Sunday morning, in the service one of the finest young women in the community, not a fanatic, not one unbalanced in aberration, but one of the finest young women in the community, in the service burst into one of the most sorrowful lamentations I ever heard. Oh, I can hear that girl cry and sob now over these years and years and years; sobbing, crying, lamenting. And the men said, “She ought to speak to you.” So I went and sat down by her side. And you know why she was sobbing? She said to me, “I have a brother who lives in California. And to my amazement he came by here on the way home, on his way back to California. And he was in the service last night. Last night he was here under this arbor, in this service, and the Holy Spirit of God was convicting him, and I could see it, and I could feel it. And God spoke to me, and said, ‘Plead with your brother. Speak to your brother. Witness to your brother.’ And because of timidity, because of other things that I don’t know why, I resisted the Spirit of God, and I didn’t speak to my brother. And the service closed, and early this morning he left to resume his journey to California.”
And she said, “Sitting in the service this morning under this tabernacle, under this arbor, I have felt the condemnation of God upon me for resisting His Spirit, when God said to me last night to speak to my brother.”
In our indifference, we’re so cold and so removed that we could pass by ten thousand urgings of the Holy Spirit to witness and testify, and it never bother us at all. We’re so enmeshed and involved in the world that if the spirit of revival were ever to come, and God could speak to us and we could hear His voice, how many times would it be one of condemnation? “You did not testify. You did not witness. You did not speak.” Five brethren, they are un-prayed for, they are unsought, they are unasked, they are unwanted; five lost brethren.
I must hasten. One other thing: what can save them? What can save them? “I have five brethren. Send Lazarus, raise him from the dead. Send Lazarus, and the wonder of the miracle of one raised from the dead, speaking and testifying and pleading, would turn those five brothers to the Lord. Please father Abraham, send Lazarus that he may testify to them, lest they come to this place of torment” [Luke 16:27-28]. And Father Abraham said, “No, they have the Book. They have the Book; Moses and the prophets, who testify of Jesus. They have the gospel message. Let them hear that message and be saved. For if they hear not the message, God’s Book, Moses and the prophets who testify of Jesus, if they hear not him, neither would they be convinced, converted, convicted, neither would they be saved; they would not turn, even though one rose from the dead” [Luke 16:29-31]. What can save us? None other but the blessed Lord Jesus: the message of this Holy Book. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. No other way but the blessed Lord Jesus.
What can wash away my sins?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
[“Nothing but the Blood”; Robert Lowry]
What can save us? Our blessed Lord Jesus. And the prophets point to Him, and the apostles point to Him, and the Bible points to Him, and even the voice from heaven points to Him, “This is My beloved Son . . . hear Him” [Matthew 17:5]. And the church points to Him. And every witnessing Christian points to Him, “Behold the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. And the preacher points to Him, and the message tonight points to the blessed Jesus. Look, look and live. Turn:
There is life for a look at the Crucified One,
There is life at this moment for thee;
Then look, sinner, look unto Him and be saved,
Unto Him who was nailed to the tree.
[“There is Life for a Look”; Amelia M. Hull]
You, somebody you, looking to Jesus, believing in the Lord Jesus, taking our blessed Savior into your heart and life, trusting Him, coming to Him, do it now. Make it now. In a moment we shall stand to sing, and when we stand to sing, you, you, be the first to come. Make the decision now; do it now. Wherever you are, in this balcony round, on this lower floor, make the decision now. And in a moment when you stand up, stand up coming. “Here I am, pastor, I make it tonight. I have decided, and here I come. I’m giving my heart in repentance and in faith to the blessed Jesus. I ask Him to forgive my sins. I ask Him to write my name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. And when I die, I want to see God’s face, and live. I’m coming tonight in faith, in repentance, in trust, in confession to the Lord Jesus; and here I am.” Make it tonight. Do it now. Is there a family here who ought to come, putting your life with us in prayer and intercession, in this dear church? You come. A couple you, or just one somebody you, as the Spirit of the Lord shall press the appeal to your heart, decide now, make it now, come now. And may the angels attend your way as you come. Listen to the voice of the Spirit, let God speak to your heart, and answer with your life, “Here I am, pastor, here I am; I’m taking Jesus as my Savior, and here I come.” On the first note of the first stanza, come; make it now, do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
I. “For I have five brethren.”
A. Ordinary words many
is in the one who said it
B. Walking through
cemetery in Waco
C. We have a message
from the depths of hell
1. “I am
hopelessly undone; forget about me.”
2. But, “I have
II. They are here with us
A. We cannot deny their
B. Life made serious –
responsibility for human souls
2. Pilot who
claimed to be sober when he worked
III. They are lost
A. “Lost” – in this
instance they are on the road to hell
B. Not their wealth or
bodies was lost, but their spirits
IV. They are unsought, unsprayed for
A. Only one with a
burden for them was this man, already in torment
B. The unspoken word;
1. Young woman
who resisted speaking to her brother
V. One message to save
A. Moses and the
prophets testify of Jesus
B. No other way but Jesus
(Acts 4:12, Matthew 17:5, John 1:29)