The Appointed Kingdom
June 1st, 1969 @ 10:50 AM
THE APPOINTED KINGDOM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-1-69 10:50 a.m.
Now on the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Appointed Kingdom. The message is a contrast between the kingdom of our Lord and the kingdoms of this world. It is a message in keeping with the holy and heavenly memorial that we observe in behalf of our Redeemer who bought us with a price, His own blood [1 Peter 1:18-19]. In the twenty-second chapter of the Third Gospel, the Gospel of Luke:
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover—
The Passover is the first feast of that seven-day week of unleavened bread—
And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill Him; for they feared the people.
Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, one of the twelve.
And he went his way, and communed with the captains and the chief priests, how he might betray Him unto them.
And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money.
And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray Him unto them in the absence of the multitude.
Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed.
And He sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the Passover, that we may eat.
And they said unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we prepare it?
And He said unto them, Behold, when ye are come into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water.
All of this was done secretly. A man did not carry water; that was a woman’s assignment, and for a man to bear a pitcher of water was a sign. It was something easily distinguishable.
Now you follow that man into the house where he entereth in.
And ye shall say unto that man who lives in that house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest chamber, where I shall eat the Passover with My disciples?
And he shall show you a large upper room furnished, ready: there you prepare the meal.
And they went, and found as He had said unto them: and they made ready the Passover.
And when the hour was come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him.
And Jesus said unto them, With desire I have desired—
Isn’t that an unusual frame? A Hebraism.
With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer:
For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
Now I want to take three consecutive events that you will not find in any one of the Gospels, but when they are paralleled, when they are harmonized, this is what happened. The day came for the preparation of the Passover; that would be the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nisan. And they gathered there in a secret place, in an upper room, a large upper room. And when I think of that place I always think of Leonardo da Vinci’s imaginative portrayal of it. It wasn’t like that. They didn’t sit at a table. They leaned on their left elbows and ate with their right hands as the custom was in that day. But when I think of it I think of that upper room, as Leonardo da Vinci has drawn it, and the Lord in the center, and then the disciples gathered around the table and on either side.
Now when the disciples gathered in the room, of course there had to be some kind of a seating arrangement: the Lord in the center, or wherever the Lord was, then to His right hand and to His left hand, one on one side and one on the other, and then so around, the twelve had to be placed. Well, that precipitated an argument among them.
And isn’t that humanity for you? This is the most solemn night, and the next day, the day of the crucifixion, the most solemn day that the world has ever known. There has been none like it. And yet in that tragic hour the disciples are quarreling over who will be greatest in the kingdom of God [Luke 22:24].
And it was precipitated, of course, by the seating arrangement. “Who is going to sit on His right hand?”
“Well, I am,” says one. “No you are not, I am,” says the other. “No, you get out of the way, both of you; I am,” says the third. “Who’s going to sit on His left hand?” And the same quarrel obtained there; the disciples seeking their personal advancement.
Well, you say that is surely an aberration in the lives of those twelve apostles, isn’t it? Well, you have it all through the church. You have it all through the staff. You have it all through the ministry. You have it all through the deacons. You have it all through the members of the church. There is no place that you don’t have it. Who is going to be first? Who has the preeminence? That is a streak of our fallen nature. It is everywhere and even in these twelve apostles that night of the institution of the Passover they are quarreling about who shall be greatest, who is going to be elevated, who is going to be elected, who is going to be exalted.
Then, of course, there was another thing that precipitated the argument. As you know, according to Jewish custom there would be in that upper room if it were furnished, and the Bible says that it was, there would be a place to wash their feet as they came in. That was a sign of hospitality, of graciousness. Well, a servant did that. So when they came in and there was the room prepared, there was the basin, and there was the water, but there was no servant. So who was going to perform the ministry of washing feet, a place for a menial servant?
Well, this disciple looked and said, “I am not going to do it.” And the disciple looked and said, “I am certainly not going to do it.” And the third disciple looked and said, “Well, I am not going to do it, not going to find me washing feet.” So the next thing that happened in that sequence is, the Lord took off His clothing [John 13:4]. And that is the most humbling experience in human life. There is not anything as humiliating as nakedness, with anybody who is not some kind of a Hollywood pervert. And the only way you get them to undress before a camera, they have to be carefully taught and infinitely hardened.
I haven’t read a testimony of anyone of those perverts yet but who will honestly tell you, if they will be honest, that it took a whole lot for them to learn to strip before a camera. But of course, that is the order of this modern day. When people go to the picture show they want to see nudity, and when they go to the Broadway plays they want to look at filth. And the filthier it is the better they like it.
This is a part of the ultimate dissolution of America. No nation yet has ever fallen into that disgrace and survived. And if America survives it will be the one exception in human history. And I don’t think the Almighty God will make an exception of America. We are increasingly dirty. We are increasingly filthy. We are increasingly blasphemous in our language, in our habits, in our entertainment, in our literature, in our youth, in our age, in our national life. But, if you have not been perverted, when you take off your clothes you are immediately, in the presence of the public, like Adam and Eve were; they were conscious that they were naked [Genesis 3:7].
So the Lord girded Himself with a towel [John 13:4]. A slave didn’t have many clothes to begin with. And when the Lord disrobed and identified Himself as a slave, He girded Himself with a towel and began to wash the disciples’ feet [John 13:5].
You’ve heard me say before, I am not of the persuasion that the washing of feet is an ordinance in the church, though I grew up and have been around, in my early ministry, Baptist churches that were what you call foot-washing churches. And that is one of the most solemn services you will ever look on in your life as they weep, as their tears mingle with the water in the basin, and they wash one another’s feet. It’s not an ordinance in the church because the apostles never said so, and they interpret the language and meaning of our Lord.
But you’ve heard me say, I do not, of course, according to the Word of God, I do not believe in the washing of feet as an ordinance. But I wish I knew something that would take its place, whereby we could learn to be humble and lowly before one another—the hiding of self, the bowing out, the crucifixion of the old man and the old life, that we might learn to be humble.
Well, it was an unusual thing to see the Lord disrobed and girted with a towel, and washing the disciples’ feet [John 13:4-5]. The whole scene was one of deepest humility, abject debasement.
Then it was that the Lord spake unto them, and in the record here in the Gospel of Luke, He says, “The kings of the Gentiles exercised lordship . . . and they that exercise authority . . . are called benefactors” [Luke 22:25]. Hail, Caesar! And they grovel before him, like sycophants, like the whole earth always has been. Some hero come by, some famous somebody come by, and they are called great benefactors. Though they exercise lordship over them, “But it shall not be so with you: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve” [Luke 22:26]. The greater the man is the deeper does he bow and the more humbling does he serve. But the least great among you is he that exercises lordship [Luke 22:26-27].
Now I want to take that, and in the few moments that remain, I want to follow it through in a contrast between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. First: in our idea of greatness: would you think greatness in terms of meekness or humility or debasement? The world thinks of greatness in terms of all of those things that enter into a Caesarean kingly, sumptuous manner of authority, rulership. That’s great, the king. That’s great, the general. That’s great, the leader, der Furher or Il Duce; heil, heil! That’s great. Yeah, that’s great, all right; but oh, the aftermath!
What is true greatness? True greatness in this kingdom is the greatness of humility, debasement, and meekness.
Second: it is a contrast in the ideas of self-fulfillment. How is it that we teach our people in the world? Well, success is at the basis of whatever we are trying to do: inculcate, teach, learn, practice, follow after, achieve; success! Oh, if a man is not a great and noted and famous person, in whatever line you name, why, he’s failed; he’s no success. You’ve got to achieve. You’ve got to be at the top. You have to be noted and famous. You have to rise. That’s what it is to succeed. And all the rest of them, they are just hoi polloi, they are am ha eretz, they are just like craven cattle. That is what the world thinks.
But how different in the kingdom of God! He can be a great man in the kingdom of God and be a farmer, plowing the earth, planting flowers, raising a garden, absolutely unknown. He can be a great man in the kingdom of God who is a plumber, or who is a janitor, or who is a little preacher, or an unnamed, unknown missionary.
I met with some of them last week. I just don’t have that kind of religion. I felt like bowing my head in their presence. Take a trailer, put his family in a trailer, drag it off to a frontier a thousand miles from nowhere, and there use his home for a church. Plumbing? Why, you couldn’t hook the thing up within five hundred miles of anything. Electricity? Water? Nothing that we know of the luxuries of life. Yet just for the love of God, out there in a frontier where it is hard and difficult.
Why, I felt I wasn’t worthy to walk in the door, much less to break bread with the man of God. Oh, our ideas of greatness are so warped, so different from those that God has.
Where shall I work today dear Lord?
And my love flowed warm and free.
And the Lord pointed out a tiny place and said, “Tend that for Me.”
I said, “Oh no; not that little place!”
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done;
Not that little place for me.”
And when the Lord answered He was not harsh;
He answered me tenderly;
“Tell me precious child of Mine
Are you working for them or for Me?
For Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.”
[“Father, Where Shall I Work Today?” by Meade McGuire]
The ideas of self-fulfillment. My part of the world, if the boy is not a big preacher with a big church with a weighty election, why, he is no success. He’s a failure. He never did rise. Who said he didn’t rise? And who said he was a failure? It’s one thing to be judged by man’s standards. It’s another thing to be judged by God’s standards.
Third: the contrast here in the ideas of work and ministry. The idea of the world is we must work for reward. I got to get something in return. That’s what I am working for. What do you think I am doing? I am working for a reward. Now there is nothing in God’s Word against rewards and working for it. All through the Word of the Lord you will find the reward ample and conducive and encouraging and blessing. God will see to that.
There is no work we do that is not written in the book. No gesture, no kindness, no part of the ministry we offer to Jesus but that the Lord writes it down. And it will be our eternal crown someday. But to do it for that purpose, oh, how cheap! How cheap. To sing just for the praise that might come for the voice, or to preach just for the applause of the people, or to serve God just in order to be filled with gratitude, salve, and minister to ego. O Lord, O Lord!
How different in the kingdom of God, serving for the sake of serving, ministering for the sake of ministering, helping for the sake of helping, doing it just for the love of God and to meet a felt and known need. There is no finer key to the life of our Lord than His word “For the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” [Matthew 20:28].
I could follow the life of my Lord in my imagination, and can’t you? He was a carpenter, and even when He was preaching beyond His thirty years of age they referred to Him as the carpenter [Mark 6:3] and sometimes as the carpenter’s son [Matthew 13:55]. He was the carpenter. Well, do you ever sit down and think, what did He do, what did He do? Well, He made furniture, He made a chair to sit in; a table to eat on. Tradition has it that He made yoke for oxen, and they were the easiest to bear, the tradition says. What He was doing was helping, helping. He was a carpenter. He was building.
And in the days of His flesh, His life was one of infinite blessedness in ministry. Where there were people hungry, He sought to feed them [Mark 8:1-9]. Was there a leper unclean? He sought to cleanse him [Mark 1:40-42]. Was there a man who was blind? He sought to give him sight [Mark 10:50-52]. Was there grief over the dead? He sought to raise the dead [John 11:32-34, 43-44]. His whole life was one of ministry.
When Simon Peter stood at Caesarea at the household of Cornelius, he summed up the whole ministry of our Lord in these words, “Who went about doing good” [Acts 10:38]. “Who went about doing good,” encouraging the discouraged, lifting up the fallen, helping the helpless, strengthening the weak. The ministry of our Lord; not to be ministered unto, but to minister, to help [Matthew 20:28].
We must hasten. Fourth: the unusual contrast in the ideas of loving affection. So much of the world is like this. “You let me down and you are out. You betray me, or you do me wrong or you do me dirty or you do me bad and I mark you off and you are my enemy.” That is so typical of the world. They will take our young people and suck them dry, and eat them, then throw them away like a peeling, like a core.
While the girl is beautiful or talented they eat her up; then when she is older and lost her beauty, so many of them in Hollywood will try to commit suicide. It is awesome to face. For the world likes you when you are up, and the world likes you when you are beautiful, and likes you when you are rich, and likes you when you are famous; and is disgusted with you when you get ugly or poor or are down. That’s the world. That’s the world.
Now the amazing contrast in the Lord Jesus: I pointed out to you that Hebraic word, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you” [Luke 22:15]. “With you”; who are those “yous”? Who are they? Well, one of them was Judas Iscariot. He was seated there. He was one of those you’s. And Simon Peter was another one of those you’s. And the whole rack of them comprised those you’s.
All right, Judas Iscariot at that time had already made arrangements to betray Him [Matthew 26:14-16]. And Simon Peter before the sun rose in a few hours was going to curse and deny that he ever knew Him [Matthew 26:69-74]. And all of them were going to forsake Him, and flee [Matthew 26:56]. And yet it is with these that there is a pathetic yearning in our Lord to be with them [Luke 22:15].
And isn’t that marvelous? He knew their imperfections. And He knew what Judas was going to do, and He knew what Simon Peter was going to do, and He knew what all of the disciples were going to do, but He loved them just the same. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? If somebody loves you because you are fine or healthy or rich or good-looking or whatever, that is one thing, but what I would like to know is, when you are sick and when you are old and when you are ugly and when you are of no profit and no use, will they still love you? Would they? That is real love.
And as long as you are fine and noble and they admire you and love you, yes. But if you were down and your imperfections were most apparent would they still love you? Would they? That is the love of our Lord. And isn’t it a wonderful thing? He knows you as no one else in this world knows you and still loves you; yearns for your affection. Just loves to be with you. Will come into anybody’s house, into anybody’s home, into anybody’s heart. So desires to be with you. Just forgive you, overlook everything in your life. That’s God. And forgive you.
Allow me the moment because I have these things prepared, and I just want to say them so bad. I have just one more: a contrast in kingdom citizenship—the quality of the kingdom itself. In the world this is our idea. It is to be one of ease and one of sensual enjoyment. That’s what it is to live in the world. How different in the kingdom of God.
In the third of the three temptations Satan offered the glory of the kingdoms of the world to Jesus if He would just not go to the cross [Matthew 4:8-9]. And all through the life of the Lord that same pattern obtained; the temptation to Jesus to find some easier way than the cross. And He steadfastly refused him [Matthew 4:10]. And that same thing is offered to us by day and by night. “Don’t make the sacrifice. Don’t put yourself out. Don’t pay this price. Live it up. Enjoy it.” But the kingdom of God is made up of the love, and the tears, and the sacrifice, and the devotion, and the pouring out of life for God’s sake and God’s cause [Matthew 16:24-26] .
That’s why I love this church. There is nobody in this church for convenience sake. If you were here for convenience sake, you would have stopped long time before you got out here. And that quality of love and devotion is felt in this congregation every time I stand here and look into your faces. You have come for some other reason. And all through this congregation are men and women who veritably pour their lives out into this ministry in money, in time, in talent. This is their life. That is the kingdom of God. It is never defined in terms of ease or of sensual pleasure but always in terms of sacrifice and devotion and the pouring out of life unto death. As long as God gives us breath, here we are, so help us dear God.
We must close. In a moment we will stand to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, to give your heart to Jesus, to give your life to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13] or to put your life into the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25], will you come and stand by me? I’m going to be on this side. I’m going to stand on this side of our Lord’s Supper table. You come to me here, give me your hand, “Pastor, this is my wife and these are our children. All of us are coming today.” Come and welcome. Or just one somebody you, “Pastor, I give you my hand, I give my heart to the Lord [Ephesians 2:8], and here I come.” Do it now, make the decision now, and on the first note of the first stanza stand up coming. Do it now. And God bless you and angels attend you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.