School of the Prophets (evening session)
March 19th, 1971
SCHOOL OF THE PROPHETS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
And I am sure without that unusually effective introduction I could not do anything at all. How nice it is to have Dr. Bryant around to introduce you.
Now tonight, then in the morning at nine o’clock, in the afternoon at two o’clock, and tomorrow evening at seven o’clock we will follow these lectures on the work of the minister. The lecture tonight is not a preface, and yet it is not down to some of these things that enter the actual work of the pastor as we shall look at it in depth and in intimacy tomorrow. But the message tonight is mostly about our office and our God-called assignment.
If you would like to turn to the fourth chapter of Ephesians, the message is an expounding of this word from the apostle Paul; the fourth chapter of the Book of Ephesians. After he speaks of the basic unities of the church, "one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism" – do you have that sermon I preached here on One Baptism? They couldn’t print it in time? Isn’t that too bad? Don’t you have the names and addresses of these men? Will you mail it to them? You are going to do that. You are all going to get it.
,One God and Father of all.
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men,
And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
[Ephesians 4:6-8, 11-12]
These gifts of Christ to His church.
If you will turn to the twelfth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, you will find the gifts that the Lord bestows upon His churches; you’ll find them in the first sentence there, called ta pneumatika, translated here "spiritual gifts." Pneuma, "spirit, breath," pneuma; pneumatika, "the things of the spirit," which in the context here in the Bible refers to the gifts of the Spirit, ta pneumatika, "the spirituals, spiritual gifts."
Now in the fourth verse there of that same chapter, talking about these same gifts, he calls them ta charisma, ta charismata. Charis, "grace," charis, "grace"; charisma, charismata, "gifts, grace gifts." A charismatic gift is an endowment – a "talent" is too common and too base a word – a charismatic gift is something of the Spirit by which a man is endowed to do a work that otherwise he couldn’t do at all. And we’re going to discuss that in this address tonight.
In any event, when the Scriptures speak of the pneumatika, the charismata, it speaks of them when it uses those words as though they were bestowed by the Holy Spirit. Here in the passage in Ephesians, the gifts – called dora here, which is just the word for "gift," dora, "gift" – the gifts are looked upon as bestowed by Christ Himself. Now when we look at the gifts in the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians, it refers to those endowments, those charismatic abilities and ways of winning; a charismatic gift, that intangible something that makes a minister effective. And in most instances it’s very difficult to put your finger on it, or even to define it. That’s why when a young minister will look at a very successful preacher, like in the days of John A. Broadus – his great intellectual studies made him stoop; he studied over a desk so long he stooped. So the generation that knew John A. Broadus, stooped; they all stooped. Lynn Broughton wore his hair long, long hair, and wore a long coat. And there was a generation of preachers who wore long hair and a long coat. Billy Sunday, of course, broke chairs over the pulpit; and there are some ministers in the Southern Baptist Convention who got fired breaking chairs over the pulpit. Oh, you could go on endlessly about the idiosyncrasies of preachers!
What the preacher is trying to do is, he recognizes in the man a charismatic gift: something that comes down from God. So he supposes that the gift lies in those idiosyncrasies: the stooping of the shoulder, the length of the hair, the dress of the coat, the tone of the voice, the gesture. Oh! in how many areas will we try to find the secret of that man’s power. Well, a charismatic gift is not anything that you could touch in him; it just isn’t. It is something of the soul; it is something of the spirit; it is something that comes from God. God does it. And we’re going to look at it in a moment.
Now, most of the times in the Scriptures, these gifts will be presented like this – and if we had hours here, I preached on them for two years here in this pulpit; I wish you could have been here, you would have enjoyed it – most of the times they are presented as endowments bestowed by the Holy Spirit of God. But in this passage in Ephesians, the One who is bestowing the gift is Christ; and the gifts are not endowments, but they are the men themselves: apostles, and prophets, and evangelists, and pastors and teachers. And here in the passage, which we haven’t time to go into, they are looked upon as spoils. When the Lord met Satan in his own lair, met death in his own grave, and triumphed, and went back up into heaven carrying captivity captive, figures here of a great Roman triumph, why, He gave gifts unto men, like the Roman general after the war was won would give gifts to his soldiers who fought with him. Well, the Lord did that when He ascended up on high, when He led captivity captive. And I don’t think I ever enjoyed preparing a sermon in my life as much as I did on that sermon on Leading Captivity Captive, what that meant when the Lord ascended up into heaven leading captivity captive. And as the victorious general, He gave gifts to His churches; and the gifts here are not charismatic as they are elsewhere in the Bible, the gifts of the Spirit, but He gave to the church apostles, and prophets, and evangelists, and pastors and teachers [Ephesians 4:11]. And this is the riches of the church. Not these monumental buildings, and not these vast investments; but the riches of the church lie in the preachers, and ministers, and yokefellows, and workers that God bestows upon it.
I can take this staff and go to a barn and have as wonderful a church as we have right here: we would just have the handicap of trying to work without facilities. But the strength of the church is not in these carpets, or in this organ, or in this old beat-up building – this thing was built in 1890, this building was – or in all of these facilities around here. But the riches of the church lie in the gifts of Christ to it, which gifts are these people He has called into this full-time service: the preacher, these who labor by him; you, and those who labor with you. That is Christ’s richest remembrance and endowment and gift to His church.
Now, the secular world doesn’t look upon that in that way at all; it doesn’t even consider it. At the beginning of this century, a literary critic in a New York paper, reviewing a book on preachers, including Phillips Brooks, wrote this remark: "It was a pity so much ability and labor were spent upon men whose work was entirely aside from the main currents of human interest."
When I was a boy, a teenager, getting ready to be a preacher, going to school, working in the summer, I was a grocery boy; I delivered groceries for a Jew named Sachstein. And I so well remember delivering groceries in one of those nice homes in Amarillo. And the woman was in the kitchen, and she started talking to me, and she asked me what I was going to do when I did what I had in my heart to do, when I grew up. And I told her I was going to be a preacher. And she was aghast, and said, "What a pity to throw your life away being a preacher." The judgment of so much of the unbelieving world is like that: that the pulpit and its influence has long since been rejected by the majority of the populous.
Does God think that? In the judgment of God, these ascension gifts of Christ are the most valued and the most precious. When the Lord went on high, ascended into glory, and gave gifts unto men, what did He give? Politicians – ugh! Prize fighters – ooh! Generals. Just name them. In God’s sight, not in man’s sight, but in God’s sight the richest gifts of heaven are the God-called apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. That’s what God says. And some of these days in the great assize, it’s going to surprise the earth, the allotment in glory to these generals, and politicians, and rich men, and magnates, and entertainers, and prize fighters: they are not listed. The great endowed gift is you; it’s you.
All right, let’s look at these just for a moment: the apostolos, apostolos, "one who is sent"; apostello, "to send somebody". There are two ways the word is used in the New Testament. In a technical sense, "the twelve apostles"; for example, the nineteenth chapter of Matthew, the Lord will say, "They will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." That’s a technical sense of the use of the word "apostle": there are twelve of them. You have another instance of the use of that word in the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation: the great city is built on twelve foundations which are the twelve apostles. And see there are just twelve. Now that’s the technical use of the word. But the use of the word is frequently in the Bible in the general sense of somebody who is sent, who preaches where there are no churches. Barnabas is called an apostle several times in the Bible; Andronicus and Junia are called apostles [Romans 16:7]; and Epaphroditus of Philippi was called an apostle. And in that sense these men are those who go out and preach the gospel where there are no churches; they are modern apostles.
All right, and He gave to the church prophetes, "one who speaks out"; prophetuo, "a fourth speaker." The idea of prediction is a medieval idea that came into the word years, centuries after it was used. But a prophetes is a man who stands up and delivers God’s message. Now in a technical sense it refers to a technical office, "apostle." For example, in the twenty-first chapter of Acts and the tenth verse, you have it used there technically: "Agabus the prophet." But in the verse that precedes, in the ninth verse of the twenty-first chapter of Acts, it refers to the daughters of Philip; that is, there is a use of the word "prophet" technically, in an office, such as Isaiah the prophet, or Samuel the prophet, Jeremiah the prophet, Agabus the prophet. But the word is also used "prophet" in the sense of those who speak by divine inspiration. The man is a prophet; he has a message from God! And in that sense it’s used today.
Now, euaggelistes, euaggelistes, "somebody who is telling the good news"; euaggelizo, "to tell the good news, to bring good tidings." And that word refers to the kind of a message that is preached; and it refers to the kind of a minister. He’s an itinerate minister: he’s not a settled pastor; he’s a man that goes from place to place to place bringing the good news. He’s an euaggelistes, he’s an evangelist.
Now, pastors and teachers – you notice that’s together – "He gave some, apostles; some, prophets; some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers" [Ephesians 4:11]. Now that shows that in the divine inspired mind of the apostle Paul, as he writes this, that pastors and teachers are together. Poimen, poimen, "a shepherd," translated here "pastor," poimen. There are three words in the New Testament that refer to that office. One, he’s called a presbuteros, "an elder." One, he’s called an episkopos, "an overseer," translated "bishop." Third, he is called a poimen, "a shepherd." And those three words are interchangeably used in the New Testament to refer to the same man, the same office. Any pastor is also a presbuteros and an episkopos; any pastor is an elder, he’s also a bishop. Now the word "elder," presbuteros, refers to the dignity of his office. He’s a presbuteros, he’s an elder, he’s to be received with deference, and to be honored. He’s also an episkopos; that is, he overlooks the work. Your pastor is the leader of the church. And any time that’s not so, you have a sorry, weak, anemic, no-count church! There’s no exception to that in God’s history. That’s the way God made it. If the deacons lead the church, it’s a poorly led church. I don’t care how smart they think they are, or how businesslike they are, how anything else they are. It is the pastor who is the episkopos, the overseer, the director of the church. And all deacons ought to know that. And if I’ve got any deacons that don’t know that, we’re going to have a session with them tomorrow. They all know that. That’s why this is a good church: I run it. Isn’t that right? [Yes, sir!] Isn’t that right? [Yes, sir!]
I never made that arrangement – God did it. God did it. That’s something the Lord has done.
Now there is the didaskalos, didaskalos, "the teacher." And any good pastor is somebody who has it in his heart to teach his people. And that’s what I try to do in my sermons. And you know, as time goes on, and we enter these things, I want to show you how I do that. The pastor teaches; he teaches.
Now, Wade, he’s to do one other thing. In the second letter to Timothy, the fourth chapter, he is to do the work of an euaggelistes: he’s to do the work of the evangelist. The pastor is to be all of these things: presbuteros, and episkopos, and poimen; and he’s to be a didaskalos, he’s to be a teacher, he’s to teach in his preaching; and he also is to make appeal for souls. "Do you know the Lord? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? Are you saved?" There’s to be an appeal in his message. When you get through, get down there and ask people to come to the Lord. Now that is a God-called minister.
Now, Christ from heaven never fails to bestow upon His churches these ascension gifts. There is no generation, there is no century, there is no era, there is no hour, there is no time, there is no day, and there will not be until the Lord comes again without these ascension gifts. God bestows them upon His churches.
Now, I’ve listed them here, through the ages, just some of them. In the apostolic age you had those twelve apostles; you had Stephen and Philip; you had Apollos the orator; you had Timothy and Titus. They are the ascension gifts of Christ to the church. In the ante-Nicene, the Nicene, and the post-Nicene age, you had Polycarp the pastor of the church at Smyrna; you had Papias, pastor of the church at Hieropolis, just across the Lycus River from Laodicea; you had Ignatius of Antioch – did you know he was pastor at Antioch in about 70 AD? Ignatius – and Justin Martyr of Samaria, a wonderful philosopher that found the Lord because he saw in Him the fulfillment of those prophetic Scriptures. Then you have those great apostolic fathers: Irenaeus, and Tertullian, and Origen, and Augustine, and Chrysostom, the Golden Mouth – the gifts of God to His churches – not buildings, but men of God!
In the pre-Reformation age, Peter Waldo, the Waldensians; John Wycliffe; Savonarola; John Huss; Thomas Cranmer; Hugh Latimer; Menno Simons, the Mennonites; and George Foxe, wrote The Book of the Martyrs. And in the Reformation age, Luther, and Philip Melanchthon the scholar with him; and Zwingli, and Calvin, and Knox, and our great Baptist Balthazar Hubmaier who was burned in Vienna; and Felix Manz who was drowned in the Limmat River that pours out of the Zurich Sea.
In the seventeenth century you had John Bunyan, and Baxter, and Rutherford, and Guthrie, and Roger Williams, and William Penn; in the eighteenth century, Wesley, and Whitefield, and Edwards, and Brainerd, and William Carey; and in the nineteenth century, Christmas Evans – and by the way, Spurgeon said Christmas Evans was the greatest preacher that ever lived – Christmas Evans, and Charles Spurgeon, and Joseph Parker, and Thomas Chalmers, and F. W. Robertson, and Alexander McLaren, Charles Finney, Dwight Moody, Sam Jones, John Broadus, Adonirum Judson, David Livingstone; and in the twentieth century, our century, the gifts of God to the church is Spear, Mott, Truett, Scarborough, Robert G. Lee, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham. And when these men lay the mantle down, God will have other men. His gifts to the churches, they never cease nor will they till He comes again. Don’t you worry.
Sometimes I think, "Oh dear me, the whole denomination is going to wash out! We’re going to raise up a generation of preachers that don’t believe the Bible." And sometimes in my human anxiety I tremble. And then when I can get ahold of myself, that is foolishness. Listen, there will never be a time, there will never be a generation, there will never be an age, there will never be a day that God does not raise up here and there and around the world His preachers! He just will. I don’t need to worry or be concerned.
When I looked at the plaque, the dedication to John Wesley in Westminster Abbey, it had several things, oh about four or five things that Wesley said. You know, like, "The world is my parish," when the churches wouldn’t let him preach in the churches. Well anyway, one of them is this: "God buries the workman, but carries on his work." Always there will be that ministry from the God-called preacher.
Now we speak of the moving Spirit of Christ in the God-called preacher. "Well, what do you mean by that?" Well, let me illustrate it in two ways. One, Elisha was a child of God before Elijah called him. I presume the reason Elijah called him was because of the noble dedication of Elisha to the word of the Lord and to Jehovah the God of Israel. But before he was prepared for the prophetic office, there must be something from heaven that comes down upon him. So as they two walked together, Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for thee." And Elisha said, "My father, that I might have a double portion of thy spirit." And Elijah replied, "You have asked a hard thing; it is not mine to give. I cannot bestow it upon you. It comes from heaven. But the sign will be, if you see me when I am translated, you have your request." As they two walked along and conversed, suddenly there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and Elijah went up in a whirlwind of flame and fury! And Elisha cried, "My father, my father!" The sign, the sign: "If you see me, your prayer is answered." And the mantle fell down from Elijah on the ground. And when Elisha saw him ascend, the sign, he picked up the mantle of Elijah and went to the Jordan River, and said, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah? And he smote the waters, and they parted." And Elisha went over. [Amen!] And the sons of the prophets looked at him and said, "The spirit of Elijah doth rest upon Elisha" [2 Kings 2:9-15]. How did they know? He was the same man; had the same bald head – because in the chapter it ends with those children; and said, "the bears ate them up"; the same man, the same man. He never had one more hair to grow in his head; just the same. It’s that charismatic gift. How did they know? It’s the charismatic gift from God.
The second illustration out of many: the apostles were Christians before Pentecost. They loved the Lord, they believed in Jesus. But the Lord said, "Before you begin that work, you wait, and tarry" [Luke 24:; Acts 1:4]. And they waited and prayed, and as they tarried and prayed, after ten days the Spirit of God came upon them. And the dwellers in Jerusalem said, "They’re drunk! Why, we’ve never saw men act like that. They are drunk." They were drunk! Only they were drunk with the Holy Spirit of God: the charismatic endowment [Acts 2:1-13]. This is what I mean by the moving Spirit of God in the God-called preacher. It’s in him; it’s something God puts in him. And it makes him effective in his work.
Now I was down in Guatemala. I met a missionary there who founds churches. I was in southern Rhodesia, and I met the same kind of a missionary: wherever he goes, he founds flourishing churches. It is a glorious thing to see a missionary like that. I have looked – Billy Graham has belonged to this church for seventeen years; seventeen years he’s belonged to this church – I have looked at Billy Graham up and down, one side and the other, and you have too. There are ten thousand preachers that can doubtless prepare a better theological message, a more learned message, a more scholarly message than Billy Graham. But when he stands up there and speaks, and gives an appeal, such as at the Baptist World Alliance – that was the number one surprise of my life! At the Baptist World Alliance he stood up there and preached, and to my amazement gave an appeal; and there were several hundreds who responded, came down there to the front, giving their lives to God. It is a marvelous thing, a wonderful thing.
Then I mention here men that I went to school with, who were so unpromising in their student days. Some of them were stupid. Some of them were dumb. All right, here’s one of them – I’m going to take two of them that I remember – here’s one of them: one of them, I said, did you know, I believe God has made a mistake. Not in a thousand years would I call that man to be a preacher. God needs somebody to lecture to Him, namely me. I was in school with him. I could tell Him a whole lot about that guy. He just doesn’t know. Yet the Lord called him. Well, here is what happened. The days passed, we were through seminary, and the clouds of war began to gather; and finally, the chief of chaplains of the United States called for men to go into the armed forces of our country to be chaplains. That boy answered the call in the 1930’s; he answered the call. And when the United States was involved in the war in 1941, he immediately was sent overseas. He stayed with his fighting unit all through the war. He never came back until the war was over. And when he returned, he was the most decorated chaplain in the armed forces of the armies of the United States of America. I don’t know how many Purple Hearts he had; wounded again and again and again, staying with his men.
You know, I had the strangest feeling, walking down at a Southern Baptist Convention when the war was over, I met that friend, just face to face, in a hallway. He still is a chaplain. He was in the uniform of his country, all those ribbons and decorations. But you know, that sense of having looked upon him with such contempt and judgment, when I looked at him I was overwhelmed with unworthiness, or shame – I wanted to bow my head. He did not know how I felt, or I would have asked his pardon and forgiveness.
It’s God that calls the minister. And God has a place for him. And that was why God called him: He could see these boys dying out here on those battlefields, and He called that young fellow, got him ready. And when the time came, God had His man! See I didn’t know anything about that. Does us good sometimes to admit that God knows more than we, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it? Oh dear!
A second one: I went to school for years with a young man; I never saw a boy with less gifts in my life than that boy. Now you can just put them all together, and it wouldn’t be any young fellow you ever could name who had fewer gifts to the ministry than that one. I know, because I took him out to my little churches and let him preach; and it was agony just to listen to him. Oh dear!
You would be surprised if I name that boy today. Oh! he is a tremendously effective missionary statesman. He’s not pastor of a church. I don’t suppose he would have been successful, pastor of a church; he cannot preach. But oh! what that man can do guiding the missionary ministry of a great, vast missionary enterprise. See, God knew all that. That’s the work of the Lord. And when God calls the man and endows him for those ministries, it is precious what God does!
Well, I’ve got one minute. We will finish this tomorrow because I want to speak of the change that comes into these men who have given themselves to the Lord, but they’re ordinary, there’s no power, and there’s no unction, there’s no moving. Then something happens. What is that something? We will speak of it tomorrow at nine o’clock in the morning, and then continue for the day.
I so want to talk to you. And I want you and us to talk together. And that’s why they have placed the time as Sunday night. Sunday night after the services are over, we’re going to stay here, and we’re just going to talk. There’ll be a lot of things that come to your soul, a lot of questions you’d like to ask, a lot of things I’d like to ask you; and we’ll just have a good time together Sunday night, and stay here all night long if you want to do it. Just have a good time together, maybe get out on our knees and just pray until the sun rising Monday morning. You can’t tell.