A Teaching Church
October 17th, 1971 @ 10:50 AM
A TEACHING CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Matthew 28: 18-20
10-17-71 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. The title of the sermon is A Mandate of Christ, or better, A Teaching Church. The First Gospel closes with these words, "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All authority, exousia," inward, by the Man Himself:
All authority, all power, is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age.
Looking at the format, the verbal expression of our Lord in that great commandment, that Great Commission, we have our message of the day. There are three participles and one imperative. The imperative is mathēteusate, "make disciples." The three participles are poreuthentes, going; baptizontes, baptizing; and didaskontes, teaching. Looking at the format, therefore, of the Great Commission, I would know that there is a great commandment in the heart of our Lord. And the commandment is plainly expressed in the imperative: mathēteusate, make disciples of all the people of the world.
I can easily understand the imperative in that verbal expression, for without converts the church would die. It has no future. It has no tomorrow. If no one is born into the kingdom of God, the church ceases to be. It has no future existence. And what works for the welfare and well-being of the church, also works for the health and prosperity of the nation. We are to win people to Christ. We’re to bring them to God. And without that converting grace and saving effectiveness, not only does the church die, but the nation finally dissolves. The social fabric of our life disintegrates.
There is a professor at Bon University who made a study of the posterity of a woman who for forty years was a thief, a drunkard, and a tramp. She died about 1800. She had eight hundred thirty-four descendents, and this professor studied seven hundred nine of them and traced them from youth to old age. One hundred forty-two of them were beggars. Sixty-four of them lived on charity. One hundred eighty-one of the women were prostitutes. Seventy-six of the progeny were convicts. And seven of them were vicious murderers.
The professor in his study concluded that in seventy-five years this one progeny cost the German government in alms houses, in law courts, in prisons, and in institutions, two and one-half million dollars. Not only is it vital for the very existence of the church that we win disciples, but it also is foundational and primary for the social health of the nation.
Now, there is a second great commandment. As the lawyer asked Jesus, "What is the great commandment?" And Jesus replied, "There is one: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul, and strength." Then Jesus said, "But there is a second great commandment, and it is like unto the first." So in this mandate from our Lord there is a significant foundational primary assignment: that is to make disciples, to win converts, to introduce people to God.
But there is a second part of this tremendous mandate, and it lies in our teaching program. I see that in the very word that our Lord uses when He speaks of disciple making. Would you not have expected He would use the word euaggelizo, "evangelize?"
"Go ye therefore, and evangelize the nations and peoples of the world," that’s the word that is commonly used in the New Testament; but Christ does not use that word. He uses the word matheteuo, matheteuo which means "to make disciples" but has a color in it, a side in it that means instruction and teaching. It is not only the evangelizing, calling men to repentance and faith in Christ, but it carries with it a tremendous instructional, pedagogical program. We are to make disciples. We are to make learners, mathēteusate, not just evangelism, but also a tremendous teaching program with it.
I see it also as the Lord spells it out: didaskontes – having made disciples and having baptized them, didaskontes – didasko, teaching them. This is a vital part of any church or congregation that would reflect the spirit of our Lord. A New Testament church, a church like Christ’s church, is a teaching church. The apostle Paul, in the third chapter of the first [Timothy] letter, gives the qualifications for a pastor, a poimen, or presbuteros, or an episkopos, and he uses the word, "the pastor, the elder, the bishop of the church is to be a didaktikos, a didaktikon. That is, in the King James Version, it is translated, "apt to teach." In other versions, you’ll find it translated, "given to teaching, gifted in teaching, able to teach."
In the second chapter of the second letter that Paul wrote to Timothy, he said, "The things that thou hast heard of me, of many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" [2 Timothy 2:2]. If a pastor is a gifted pastor, he not only is inspirational, he not only seeks to move men volitionally, but he also teaches in his sermon. This is a biblical concept and revelation of the office of a minister of Christ. He is a teaching pastor. He is a teaching minister. He is didactic and pedagogical as well as inspirational and volitional.
Therefore, when I think of our church and seek to model it after the pattern of the mandate of Christ, not only is it to be evangelistic, soul-winning, knocking at the door, inviting people to God, but it is also to be a teaching ministry, a teaching church. Now, I see this implemented gloriously in the First Baptist Church here in Dallas. We have our Sunday school, a tremendous teaching program, a meaningful and gigantic effort, a Sunday school. We have a Training Union. We have our music program. We have our mission auxiliaries for our children and young people, all of it in a teaching approach.
We have these great buildings, a vast investment. When you ride around the city of Dallas, you’ll see Dr. Estes’ empire. I’m glad he has it and not I. Here’s a tremendous building, cost millions of dollars. Here is a great building, cost other millions of dollars. There is one out here in East Dallas that cost a multitude of millions of dollars. And when you get your tax statement, so much for this and this and this, and no small part of it is to pay Dr. Estes’ salary and all the rest of the public school teachers.
And when we look at the public school system and its vast, vast, investment of millions and millions of dollars, all of us realize that it is foundational to the continuance of the democratic process. You cannot have a democracy in a society that is unlearned, inept, untaught; it is vital, our public school system. And our support of it is unanimous. Then along will come somebody, a far out left screwball, and he says the investment of money in building these churches is a waste.
I know exactly what he thinks. He has it in his mind – – you know they are so knowledgeable, and they are so intellectual, and they are so superior, these sophisticates, these sophists who are way out yonder somewhere in speculative metaphysical limbo – – I know exactly what he thinks. He is thinking that a church is a box, has stained-glass windows around it and a cupola stuck on top of it, and empty pews on the inside. What’s the matter with him is he doesn’t realize that a New Testament church, a Christ church is a thousand miles removed from that; for a New Testament church is a great teaching institution! It is a school, and it needs these vast facilities in order to mediate the truth of God.
There has to be a place for babies, and for small children, and for teenagers, and for youth, and for college and career, for business and professional, for young adults, for older adults, for median adults. And however I may think it important that we spend these millions of dollars teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic, creating the secular foundation of society, I must not forget that there must also be in the heart of the child a teaching that brings him to God and to deepening human spiritual values. If all that a child was, was an anatomical process, he’s a secular material entity, why, we could send him to the public school, let him learn the processes and the foundational meanings of botany and biology and mathematics and history, and let him go.
But a man is also soul! He is also living spirit! And it is as vital that we have a teaching program that reaches into the heart as it is to have a teaching program that reaches into the mind and the body! They are both needed. Dr. Estes has his assignment; we have ours. And both of them are vital and must be supported. A true New Testament church is a teaching church; it is pedagogical also.
There’s no more beautiful or precious invitation in the Bible than the last three verses of the eleventh chapter of Matthew; Matthew 11:28, 29, and 30:
Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Look at that: "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me," that is an old Talmudic, rabbinical phrase, "Take my yoke upon you." That’s an old rabbinical phrase which means, "Enroll in my school; sit at my feet and learn of me." In the very heart of the sweetest of all invitations is to enroll in the school of Christ, to become a learner at the feet of Jesus. And if it is a New Testament church, we’re doing just that. The pastor, the deacons, the staff, the leadership, the membership, all of us alike, gathered around the great Master Teacher, learning from Him. It is a teaching church.
Now, if we have any success in a pedagogical approach such as that, there must be a concomitant, a corollary, an addendum that accompanies it: there must be excellence in teaching. I have never understood, nor could I ever be made to understand, why it is that we persuade ourselves here is someone going to teach mathematics, and here is someone going to teach biology, and for the mathematical teacher and the biological teacher, we need fine training and excellence in presentation. But here’s somebody going to teach God, and life, and the meaning of the soul, and whether they’re trained or not, whether they’re gifted or not, whether they know anything or not, why, it’s beside the point. Just for me to say it shows the deep, vicious fallacy in the conclusion. And those things have their repercussion in human life.
As you know, a few weeks ago, about three weeks ago or less, why, we were up there in southern Kentucky, in a crusade. On a morning, I bought a copy of the Louisville Courier Journal that I read for six years when I was attending seminary. And this is dated Tuesday morning, September 28, 1971. And the headline says, "Mountainfolk Still Take Up Serpents for the Lord." Then I read here, and I’m going to read to you a part of this newspaper article: "The preacher says," his name is "Pack":
Mark 16 tells us to take up serpents. Not everybody takes up the serpents and not every time. Brother Pack, in his chanting prayer last Saturday night, warned the congregation to do it only when the Spirit anoints you. Not a moment too soon, nor a minute too late, because it’s dangerous. The moment came for Brother Pack, while twenty-five others clapped and sang. He and Lester Ball, and Brother and Sister Alton Ball passed the serpents back and forth, handling them smoothly, keeping one hand free, working the serpents’ heads away from the body, stroking them, soothing them. When the passion overtook them, they closed their eyes, and they sang strange tongues; their tongues rolling loose, their bodies swaying. The serpents flicked their vicious tongues, but never struck for the five minutes that it lasted. Then carefully, the four, these snake handlers, dropped the serpents, they were rattlesnakes, back into their boxes, and locked and hid them under a seat.
And his authority, he says, lies in the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark: "And these signs shall follow them that believe: In My name they shall speak with new tongues: they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them." The only thing the matter is that’s not a part of the Bible! That’s spurious! Mark’s Gospel was lost in its ending from the beginning. Even Matthew did not know the ending of Mark, nor did Luke know the ending of Mark – from the beginning, the ending of Mark was lost!
Mark’s Gospel concludes at the eighth verse. And whoever wrote that ending was somebody filled with darkening superstition. You’ve left the brilliant, glorious light of inspiration, and you’re now in the twilight of superstition! There are many attempted endings of Mark, of which this happened to be one in the Textus Receptus by Erasmus. And that’s why you have it in the King James Version. But there are dozens of those endings. Not one of them is inspired of God! And that serpent handling and that drinking poison and that loosening of tongues and gibberish that attend it, that’s not a part of the inspiration of the Word of God.
Well, I said that to our Bible Institute, and to my amazement, there came up a young minister to me, and he said, "Why, I enrolled in this institute in order for you to be teaching me the Word of God, that this is the inspired Word of the Lord. And now the first thing I find out is that you don’t even believe that it’s inspired, and this part you’re taking out all together. Oh," he said, "I’m so disappointed." Well, that’s why he needs to be taught! That’s why he needs to come!
Look what God has done. You may have, you do have one ancient manuscript of the annals of Tacitus, just one. You have one ancient manuscript of the Greek Anthology, just one. And those great Greek dramatists, like Euripides, and Aeschylus, and Sophocles, you have late manuscripts, very few. But in order for God to assure us of the verity of His Word, you have thousands and thousands and thousands of ancient Greek manuscripts.
And you have more than thirty thousand ancient versions. And all you have to do is to compare those thousands of manuscripts, and you can easily see where a scribe made an error here, and he added a little note here, and he put a little addendum there, and he wrote a little explanation there. You can easily see it. So that when you hold the New Testament in Greek in your hands, you have the Word of God! God did that!
Look at the Hebrew Old Testament, what happened. The earliest of all the Hebrew manuscripts was the Masoretic Text that was written between 900 and 1000 AD. Back of that, there were no manuscripts. And of course the liberals had a field day, "How do you know that this is the Word of God? The only manuscript you have of any antiquity was written a thousand years after Christ."
That’s why to me the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is the greatest archeological contribution in human history; because that took the Old Testament manuscripts back to 150 BC, a hundred fifty years before Christ. And by comparing the manuscripts in those Dead Sea jars found in those caves west of the Dead Sea, by comparing those manuscripts in 150 BC with the manuscript that we have of 1000 AD, you can easily see how God preserved in accuracy His Holy Word.
But the man needs to be taught that. You weren’t born knowing it. You weren’t born knowing how to walk. Had you not been taught to walk, you’d ramble along with all fours like an ape; that’s the way you’d walk. You were taught to stand up and walk. And you couldn’t talk; you’d use gibberish, like these tongues speaking people. That’s the way you’d talk. You were taught to speak English. You are taught the fabric of the society and the home and family in which you live! It is vital that we teach!
There can be no everlasting foundation for real conviction without teaching, without knowing! Otherwise, it is blind, unadulterated fanaticism. I believe a thing because my mother believed it or because I was in a group like that. No! I believe this thing because it is the truth of God, and I know that it is the truth of God! I can see it for myself. There’s not anything any of these men can read that I can’t read or they understand that I cannot understand. I can be taught! And my convictions can rest not upon superstition or blind fanaticism, but it can rest upon the truth and the revelation confirmed by the Spirit of Almighty God!
I cannot tell you with what earnestness and prayer to the God that rules in the heavens that we began this Institute here in this church. Oh! Just like our British interns, and I spoke of what that meant in the missionary outreach of the earth, touching that English speaking nation, you touch most of the world. In response to that, there’s a young man in the church that made it possible for us to have the British intern this year. And then there’s a man listening on television today, does not belong to our congregation, and he’s made it possible for us to have the British intern two years beyond that. The young man from England is on the way now. And for three years, we’re going to have our British intern. It was taken out of the budget. That part’s been restored.
Also in our budget was the salary of a full time professor for our Bible school, our Institute. But they took it out. And I sat there and watched them do it. "Pastor," they say, "We know how your heart’s in this, and we know how you feel about it, but there’s no other choice. We don’t have the money, and we’re going to take it out." Take it out. It means the destruction of the Institute, because it will erode, it will erode without somebody giving his full time to it. It will not continue.
Dr. Harold Ockengay was here about three Sundays ago. I did not know he was in the congregation. He came and spoke to me after the service was over. And I talked to him just a minute. He’s the president of Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Boston where Mel Carter was graduated. And I was talking to him about it, and it confirmed my persuasion. Dr. Ockengay said to me, "If you are not able to get a full time professor to build the school, it will gradually erode and die."
It has already started. The semester of last January we had three hundred twenty-nine enrolled. As we began the semester in September, we had two hundred and ninety-five. Dr. Ockengay said to me, "The staff just giving peripheral, incidental direction to it cannot build it; and it could never be more than just on Tuesday evening as it is now. It needs to be on every day of the week. It needs to be in the daytime. It needs to be in the evening." There’s not anything that we’ve ever envisioned in this church that has a more glorious opportunity to serve God than that.
These minority groups and they’re coming with us. We have several of these leaders in our colored churches, in our Negro churches. We have several of the pastors and leaders in our Mexican churches. They’re coming here. And they’re sitting at the feet of these professors and learning about Jesus. There never was a finer door open to us, and effectual, than this. That’s why I have said, we’re going so to respond, please God, we’re so going to respond to this stewardship appeal that it becomes a mandate for that budget committee to come back up here the first Sunday in December and say, "We have restored these items in that budget." And one of the things to be restored is that professor to help us build our Bible Institute.
We are accused, all of us who believe in the Bible, who preach a fundamental gospel; we’re accused of being anti-intellectual. I’ve been called that world without number, anti-intellectual. And we’re the butt end of every ridiculous barb on the part of these liberal theologians and liberal politicians because we believe the Bible, and because we believe in the miracles, and we believe in the deity of Christ, and we believe in the resurrection from the dead, and we believe that men ought to be saved in coming to the Lord, and we believe He is coming again, and that He is in heaven, an intercessor and mediator. Because we believe in these things that the Bible teaches, therefore, "We have lost touch with the times; we’re like an anachronism. We belong to the medieval ages. We should have been back there. We’re not abreast to the times. We are anti-intellectual."
I was going through some of my files preparing for a book that I am supposed to write entitled With a Bible in My Hand, which is supposed to be a story of my life that the Sunday School Board has asked me to write, the Broadman Press. I was going through some things in my file, and there is a full page in Time magazine, insulting, in the middle of it is a picture. Where in the world a guy ever doctored a picture of me and made it look like that, I don’t know. But underneath it is labeled "Fundamentalist Criswell, Fundamentalist Criswell," then, got a whole page ridiculing the faith.
Then I got another one there, this one from Newsweek. And right in the middle of it is my picture. And then there are about five dozen anti’s that I’m supposed to be; I am anti-intellectual! I am anti-modernist! I am anti-liberal! I am anti-ecumenical! I am anti-evolutionist and right on down the line! They delight in making fun and ridiculing any man that believes the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. That’s a part of their program of decimation. Ridicule is a powerful arrow.
Now, there’s nobody in the earth that has a greater reverence for the achievements of science and its blessings to mankind than your pastor. Lord Macaulay wrote in his history of England, smallpox was the most terrible of all of the ministers of death in the centuries through the medieval ages – smallpox. When the Spanish came over here in the 1500s, there were three and one half million Mexicans who died after the Spaniards came, smallpox. Smallpox literally decimated the North American Indian where we live. And it attacked the rich and the noble.
William II, the Prince of Orange, died of smallpox when he was twenty-four years of age. Emperor Peter II of Russia died from smallpox when he was fourteen years of age. Louis XV held fourth his hands in 1774, and he said, "Look, had I not already had smallpox, I would have thought I have it now." And a few days later, little papules burst all over his body; and in three weeks Louis XV was dead.
Macaulay said, "Many of those who survived the disease were left with the hideous traces of its power. The babe turned into a changeling at which the mother shuddered. The eyes and cheeks of the betrothed maiden turned into objects of horror to the lover." Smallpox, it was the scourge of the race! It blinded so many people. George Washington, the first president of the United States, escaped with his life when he was a teenager, but it left his cheeks pot marked and scarred the rest of his days.
But today, smallpox has been eradicated from the face of the earth except for isolated cases in a few underdeveloped nations. You don’t have to be inoculated anymore. It has been taken out of the civilized world. This has been done not by faith healers, but by science and the medical men who have found ways to attack this scourge of the human family. And I pay tribute. The doctors – there was a doctor of medicine who joined our church at the eight-fifteen service this morning – I pay tribute to those men.
But I am just saying there are other truths also. Science has its ministries in anatomy, in physical well being, in astronomy, in the whole world of cosmogony and creation and life and living, biology. I’d be the first to avow it. But I also avow there is something other and beside, over and beyond the anatomy that makes up the man’s physical processes. He’s soul, he’s heart, he’s immortal, and he needs to be introduced to God. We need to teach.
Here I’ve copied out of our daily paper here in Dallas. Here’s a minister who writes. He’s pastor of a church here in our city. He says:
The vast amount of news coverage concerning Mr. Graham and his gospel may give the impression and the implication of local religious solidarity in his particular expression of religion. I wish to register a strong protest. Many ministers, including myself and my congregation, have strong differences. We disagree that a man needs to be saved! And in spite of all the noise and circus-like promotion, he’s got a religion that limits itself to an aged, error-filled Book. And the public ought to know that there are some of us who believe religion should be reasonable!
As though a man who believed in the Bible and who preached the Word of God is irrational and unreasonable! When the Book says, and it is confirmed by human experience, "that we are born in trespasses and in sins, that we are dead and fallen, and we need to be quickened and brought back to God" [Ephesians 2:1]. That is the teaching of the Word, and we ought to give ourselves to it.
I have to quit. In a moment we’re going to stand up and sing our hymn of appeal. And as we sing the hymn, a family you to decide for Christ or decide to put your life with us in this dear church; a couple or just one you, while we sing the song and while we make the appeal, would you come and stand by me? Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. That first step you make will be the most meaningful of all of the steps you’ve ever taken in your life. In the balcony, there’s time and to spare, if you’re on the back row of the top balcony, come down one of those stairways and here to me. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Pastor, this is my hand, I’m giving my life to God." Or, "I’m joining my heart and life with you in this wonderful church." Or, "Here are my children. This is my wife. We’re all coming today." As the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Come now. I don’t know any other way to go but this one, come. Decide now and come immediately. On the first note of the first stanza come, while we stand and while we sing.