The Pope, The Rabbi, and the Pastor


The Pope, The Rabbi, and the Pastor

July 18th, 1971 @ 8:15 AM

Ephesians 4:15

But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
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Dr. W.A. Criswell

Ephesians 4:15, Titus 2:10

7-18-71     8:15 a.m.


On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Pope, The Rabbi, and The Pastor.  In the fourth chapter of the Book of Ephesians, I read a phrase.  It is in the fifteenth verse: “Speaking the truth in love.  Speaking the truth in love” [Ephesians 4:15].  And I read another clause, the latter part of a sentence in the second chapter of Titus and the tenth verse: “that you may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” [Titus 2:10].  The “doctrine,” that is a translation of the word didaskalos, teaching: “that you may adorn the teaching of God our Savior in all things,” and “adorn” is kosmeō: cosmetics, to adorn, to embellish, to beautify, to make pleasant looking and acceptable: “that you may adorn”—cosmetics, adorning, embellishing the faith—“that you may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.”

Years ago there was a sentence that Dr. W. R. White, president of Baylor University, said to me that stayed in my heart, and the sentence was this: he said, “In many instances some of our fundamental Bible believing Baptist people have the best doctrine and the worse spirit.”  That stayed in my mind.  Having the truth but presenting it in a pugnacious and vitriolic and scathing way—like a man preaching on hell: anytime a man does that he ought to do it with tears, not in triumph.  “That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” [Titus 2:10], making it beautiful, presenting it in the most acceptable, and pleasing, and gracious, and loving manner possible.

Upon a day I was invited to address a very large and illustrious banquet in Hollywood, and the next day an executive of Paramount Studios in Hollywood asked me if I would eat lunch with him in the Paramount Studios.  I gladly accompanied him, and when we walked into the private dining room, he said, “I have placed your table here immediately in front of that of Cecil B. DeMille,” who at that time was making The Ten Commandments.  He said, “I want you to look at something.  There”—and his table was set up next to the wall and ours in front of his—he says, “See that place setting there, that’s for Mr. DeMille, and right by the side of it is a big black Bible.  Now, I want you to sit here, and when he comes in, the first thing he’ll do is to open that big Book, and all through his meal, and sometimes much after, he’ll read that Bible, every day.”

So we seated ourselves, the executive and I, and in a little bit, Cecil B. DeMille came in with three of his people, and they were seated there.  And he opened the Book and began to read.  While they were bringing the plates, he found out that a young minister, a minister, a minister was seated in front of him, so he came around and pulled up a chair and sat down by me and talked to me for a little over twenty minutes, just let his food get cold.

Briefly, what he said was that his father was an Episcopalian preacher, but that his mother had persuaded his father to leave the pulpit to go on the stage, saying to him that the people he needed to reach were not those in church, they were already won, but people out there in the show, in the vaudeville, in the theatrical world.  In any event, his father DeMille, Mr. DeMille, acquiesced, and went on the stage with his mother.  And he said to me, “I grew up at my father’s knee who taught me the Word of God, and my heroes were Moses, and Samson, and David, and Paul, and Peter.”

I came back from that mission to Hollywood, and, in the passing days, I received a telephone call from Mr. DeMille.  He said, “The picture is completed, and at such-and-such night, we’re going to have a showing of it with—a private showing with all of the actors, and would you come and sit down with us and look at the picture?”  I accepted the invitation and went out there, and with the actors in the picture I looked at the showing in that little theater, little tiny theater, of Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments.  Some time after that, not too long after that, Mr. DeMille died, and to my great surprise, I received a letter, and the letter said, addressed to me,

Going to you today under separate cover is an especially bound copy of the screenplay, the scenario for The Ten Commandments.  It was being held for a personal letter from Mr. DeMille.  Only nineteen have been imprinted with the names from whom Mr. DeMille intended them, and yours was among that nineteen.  And I am sure you know better than my words can tell you the regard Mr. DeMille had for you through the very fact that he had one of these scripts made for you.

Sincerely and devotedly,

DeMille Unit of Paramount Studios

He died before the volume could be sent, and on the outside, and that’s one of the most beautifully bound, it’s leather, and leather on the inside, “The Reverend W. A. Criswell from Cecil B. DeMille.”

I ask you a humble and simple question.  Can I accept the friendship of Cecil B. DeMille and still be a Baptist?  Or to shake his hand, does it mean that I compromise the truth?  Can I?

In Rome, to my great surprise, I received a telephone call and then a letter.  The letter was brought to me by hand, placed in my hand by a papal messenger.  And the telephone call said that I was to receive a letter from the Papal Palace, and that the head of the Roman Catholic Church was inviting me to bring with me the people that I would ask to come and to have a personal interview with the pope.  That was one of the most unusual surprises of my life.  I had no thought of such a thing.  There are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people every year who go to Rome who would give anything in the earth to have an audience with the pope, hundreds of thousands every year, and I was invited.

It came from a group here in Dallas who, because Mr. Gooding of Channel 8 was making a documentary of our tour, they were asking if he could take his television cameras into the Vatican library and into the Sistine Chapel, and from that, naturally, it became known to the Vatican people that I was coming; that was why Bob Gooding was there.  And from there it developed through people in high places that this invitation was extended.  I accepted it in all gratitude.  There are no treasures in the earth comparable to those in the Vatican library, and this is the head of one of the great, great movements in the earth, the Latin Church.  Had I been invited to Buckingham Palace to see the head of the Church of England, her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, I would have accepted.  I was invited to visit the head and the sovereign over the most incomparable treasures in the earth; St. Peters, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican library and museum.  I accepted.

All four hundred of us were there, and in the chambers he received us, in his own chambers where he receives only the kings and the queens and the presidents of state.  I do not understand why he chose that exalted particular place for us; he did.  And in front, as we were seated, in front was a high raised dais.  And he had me seated here, and three of the people that I would choose.  In a little while he came in, accompanied by an interpreter and by two cardinals, took his place on the chair on the raised dais, and read, as they told me that he was going to do.  The day before they said he had a prepared address to deliver to us.

After he read that address, he asked me to come up there with him and warmly greeted me with both hands, and he had a gift for me.  Then he said, “Let us go down and stand with the people.”  We went down, and he noticed three children there: Cris, our little boy, and Clark and Jackie Hood.  And he had the three children come and stand by him, and had a little gift for them.  The address that he made to us, the next morning was published on the front page of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, and was sent around the world, and the address was this:

Dear friends in Christ,

We are most pleased today to receive so large a group from the Southern Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas.  This is a striking and perhaps unique illustration of a new spirit of friendship among those who call on the name of Christ.  You are on your way to those holy places, sanctified by the Lord Himself, which it was our privilege to visit not so long ago.  We are likewise happy that you stop at Rome, which is also a holy place hallowed by the blood of martyrs, a place of pilgrimage since New Testament times.  Some of the sacred books of that Testament were written here, and the great document of our faith, the letter to Rome, and the great document of our faith in justification and sanctification was addressed to the infant church of Rome.  We are pleased to encounter, under such a distinguished leader as Dr. W. A. Criswell, members of a Christian communion which, since the foundation of your great nation, has played so fully part in the development of evangelization and Christian education, and which led so many of the pioneers westwards in more recent times.  May this encounter, for which we thank you warmly, be an effective sign of a new effort at mutual understanding and cooperation.  As a pledge of this hope we invoke upon all of you the choicest blessings of God.

And he then placed in my hand this unusually beautiful bound volume of St. Peter’s two epistles to the churches, and in sweet kindness shook hands with us, and left for his other assignments.  Can I accept the friendship of the head of the Latin church and still be a Baptist?  Or do I compromise the faith by accepting the handshake of that Roman leader?

In Israel, I received a letter.  It was an invitation from the Minister of Religious Affairs: “It is my pleasure to request your presence at a luncheon given by Mr. Yinon, general director of the Ministry of Religious Affairs.”  And at the Eden Hotel on Hillale Street, at that dinner, attended by about twenty leaders, half of them ministers of the Israeli government, I was seated immediately to the right of General Director Yinon.  And we talked about things dear to our hearts—the Scriptures, the land, the faith—and he gave me this book in remembrance of that beautiful occasion.  And I was invited to the apartment of Michiko, a member of the cabinet of Mrs. Golda Meir.  And after we visited with him and his wife, he gave me this beautiful book.

Then we visited with Rabbi Natan, Rabbi Nathan, and he invited me to bring our people with me, and we visited together, talked and asked questions for about two hours, and in that service he gave me Israel’s state medal.  He gave me that beautiful medal, Rabbi Natan, the chief rabbi of Israel, as we spoke about the things and asked questions back and forth, especially concerning the Messiah; as we spoke about the things of God.  Can I be a friend?  Can I accept the friendship of the chief rabbi of Israel and still be a Baptist?  Do I compromise the truth by accepting the handshake of the chief rabbi of Israel?

Or is it to be a Baptist that I find myself in some corner somewhere, and I snarl, and I bite, and with vicious vitriolic words I face the whole world that does not believe as I do?  Is that adorning the doctrine of Christ our Savior? [Titus 2:10]. Is that making it beautiful and presentable?  Is that embellishing the faith of the Lord?  Has there not been too much rancor and bitterness in the world, religious and political?  Have we not burned enough martyrs at the stake?

I was in Geneva.  John Calvin burned in the fire his bitterest enemy.  Nor would I take time to describe the persecution of the Pilgrims by the Puritans.  Are you pleased when you read in the newspapers of those bitter clashes between the Protestants and the Catholics in Belfast, Ireland?  I am frank to confess, when I see those headlines splashed across the pages, it brings grief to my heart—this in the name of Christ.

One of our guides in Israel was a learned and gifted young woman born in America, a degree from an American university, chose to go to Israel and recently received her master’s degree at the Hebrew University in Jewry, in Jewry; Jewish faith, life, and doctrine.  She and I, being up there at the front of the bus, spoke for hours.  Finally, I said to her, “My dear, what it is to be a Christian is to witness.  Any Christian who does not witness is a speculative philosopher, not a witness, not a Christian.  For that’s what it is to be a Christian, is to witness, to testify, to tell others of Christ, to uphold the beauty and glory of our Lord, and if I do not do that, I am not a Christian.  I am some kind of a speculative religionist theologian.”

She said to me, “Since you’ve been thus honest with me, I’ll be honest with you.”  She said, “Every time anyone speaks to me and tries to convert me, I am offended.”  So as we talked, she finally said, “I can understand that you as a Christian must continue to witness, to try to convert me, and I as a Jew will continue to be offended.”  And she said, “We will both understand each other.  You continue to witness, and I will continue to be offended, and we’ll both be friends.”  I have it in my heart to present Christ to the whole world, but I also have it in my heart to present the Lord not in bitterness, or in hatred, or in rancor, or in vitriol, but I have it in my heart to lift up Jesus and to preach the revelation of the doctrines of Christ with all of the compassionate love of my soul.

As some of you know, Nazareth is an Arab city, but the Jews in the war took it, and the Jews have built an upper city, upper Nazareth, on the hills.  And between the lower city, the old city of Nazareth where the many Arabs live, and the new city, where the Jews live, is a band, an open band all around the city.  And the Jews are up there with their mayor, and the Arabs are down there with their mayor.

And while we were there, in that no man’s land between the Arab below and the Jew above, in no man’s land, we turned the dirt and had a great moving service of dedication for a Baptist Friendship House.  And they planned it when I could be there, thus to dedicate that building to friendship between the Jew on the hill and the Arab in the valley below, and holding hands, a minister of Christ presiding in that place with love for the Jew and love for the Arab and a prayer that we all might be saved.

Adorning the doctrine of Christ our Lord [Titus 2:10], filling it, bathing it with love and tears, sympathy and compassion, and intercessory prayer [Ephesians 4:15], that all men might come to the knowledge of the truth, and especially, personally to know Him, whom to know aright is life everlasting [Psalm 50:23].  I need not compromise, nor you.  We can be true to the faith and present our Lord in the finest understanding of our minds and souls, and we can do it with a hand outstretched in love, in sympathy, in prayer for all men everywhere [Ephesians 4:15], beautifying, adorning the doctrine of Christ our Savior [Titus 2:10].

Our time is spent.  We must 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 put your life in the circle of this precious church, while we sing the appeal, come.  On the first note of the first stanza, come.  Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when you stand up, stand up coming.  God lead you in the way as you reply to God’s call with your life, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come,” while we stand and sing.