The Pope, The Rabbi, and The Pastor
July 18th, 1971 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-18-71 10:50 a.m.
Glorious choir, you not only sing good, you look good. On the radio and on television, 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 in the Book of Ephesians, there is a phrase in the fifteenth verse, "Speaking the truth in love" [Ephesians 4:15]. In the second chapter of Titus in the tenth verse, there is a concluding clause, "That we may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things" [Titus 2:10].
"That we may adorn the didaskalia, the teaching," the gospel, the doctrine, "that we may adorn," kosmeō, cosmetics, kosmeō, to embellish, to beautify, to adorn, like a woman making her face the more beautiful and pleasant. We are to adorn, kosmeō, to embellish, to beautify, to make acceptable, pleasurable, the doctrine, the teaching of God our Savior in all things, presenting the gospel of Christ in a way that men are drawn to its beauty and its loveliness.
Some time ago, Dr. W. R. White, the then president of Baylor University, sent a sentence to me that stayed in my mind. He said that fundamental, Bible-believing Baptists have the best doctrine and the worst spirit of any group in the earth. Having the truth of God, but presenting it in anger and in criticism, unpleasant, unpalatable, caustic, vindictive, vitriolic, condemnatory, full of judgment and condemnation when the Scriptures say that we are to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things [Titus 2:10], when we lift up the Lord, to do it in love, and in prayer, and in sympathy, and in intercession.
Upon a day I was invited to address a very large and illustrious banquet in Hollywood, California. After the evening and the next day came, an executive in Paramount Studios asked me to come and eat lunch with him in the studio dining room. I accepted the invitation, and when we walked into the small dining room, he said, "I have set our table just before that of Cecil B. DeMille. And I’ve done it for this reason. Do you see the setting there for him? Do you see that big black Bible by the side of his plate?
"You watch him. When we comes in, the first thing he’ll do after he’s seated is to open that big black Bible and read it all during his meal and for an extended time thereafter." So the executive and I sat down, and in a moment Mr. DeMille came in with three of his helpers. They seated themselves. The first thing he did: opened the big black Bible and began to read.
He learned in just a moment from some source that I was there and a minister. He came; he left his table, drew up a chair, and sat down by me and for over twenty minutes talked to me. Some of the things he said, that his father was an Episcopalian minister, his mother was an actress, and she persuaded his father to leave the pulpit to go on the stage.
"For," she said to him, "it’s not the people in the church that need the gospel of Christ. We’ll reach people who will never go to church."
He said, "I grew up under my father’s tutelage, and my heroes were Moses and David and Samson and Peter and Paul."
At that time, he was making the picture show The Ten Commandments. And in the passing of a small while, I received a telephone call from him saying, "We have completed the picture and on a certain night we are going to show it here in the Paramount Studios in a little theater to the actors and the actresses, and would you come and view it with them?"
I accepted the invitation and went out there and saw the picture. A little while thereafter, I received this book. It is the summarial of The Ten Commandments. Beautifully bound, the leather; even the inside is leather.
And this letter accompanied it, the book, addressing me,
Going to you today under separate cover is an especially bound copy of the screen play for The Ten Commandments. Only nineteen had been imprinted with the names for 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.
Andy Valiae, the Director of Public Relations of the DeMille unit of Paramount Studios.
Mr. DeMille died before he could mail the scenario to me. And when his secretary went through his personal effects, she found this volume, on the outside printed, "The Reverend W. A. Criswell, from Cecil B. DeMille."
Can I, as a Baptist, accept the friendship of Mr. DeMille? Or do I compromise my faith in offering my hand as he offers his hand to me? Do I? Or can I remain true to the faith even though I do not live in the world in which lived Cecil B. DeMille?
Upon a day, when our touring group was in Rome, I received a telephone call from the Vatican. And the man on the other end of the line said, "There will be placed in your hand today a letter from the Vatican, from Pope Pius – from Pope Paul VI, inviting you and your group to visit him in the Vatican." And the letter came and I acquiesced immediately. I accepted gladly.
There are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people who go through Rome every year who would give their right arms for an audience with the pope. We were escorted into the papal chambers where he receives only kings and queens and presidents and heads of state, in his private chambers.
In the center of the rather large and gloriously decorated room was a raised dais and a large chair thereon. In a while, he came in, graciously bowed, accompanied by an interpreter and by two cardinals. He took his place in the chair on the raised dais, and read to us a brief address in English.
I had been told before – the day before, that the pontiff had already prepared and written the address he was to make to us. After the address was delivered, he turned to me, he asked – they asked me to be seated there by the side, and that I could choose three to be seated with me. He turned to me and asked me to come up there on the raised dais and stand with him. He warmly greeted me with both of his hands. Then he had a gift he placed in my hand. Then he said, after a few pleasantries, "Let us go down and stand with the people."
We went down and stood with our group and he saw three children there, Cris, our little boy, and the two children of Jack and Ann Hood, Jackie and Clark. And he asked the three children to stand with him. Then, after the exchange of a few other amenities, he shook hands with us and left.
In the daily Vatican paper, L’Osservatore Romano, the next morning on the front page, there was printed and then sent around the world the address Pope Paul the VI made to us. And I read it now.
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 stopped in Rome, which is also a holy place, hallowed by the blood of martyrs, the 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 and 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 full a part in the development of evangelization and Christian education and which led so many of the pioneers westward 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 our hope, we invoke upon all of you the choicest blessings of God.
This is the gift that he placed in my hands: a beautifully, beautifully leather-bound copy of Simon Peter’s letters to the churches, one of the most beautifully bound books I have ever seen.
A while – a very brief while after that – we were in Israel, and I received a letter delivered to me personally from the Ministry of Religious Affairs addressing me, saying, "It is my pleasure to request your presence at a luncheon given Mr. Yinon – Yinon, Director General of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The luncheon will take place at the Eden Hotel, Hillel Street at twelve-thirty in Jerusalem, Tuesday, June 15. Sincerely yours, Dr. Y. Malachi – Malachi, Director of the Department of Information with Christians."
I went to that dinner. About twenty of the leaders of Israel and of Christendom were there, and I was seated immediately to the right of Mr. Yinon who’s the Director General of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. In that dinner, we talked about the things of God and the things of the Word of the Lord. And during the course of the dinner, he placed in my hands that beautiful book.
A day or so later, I was invited to the apartment, to the home, of Moshe Cole, who is a member of Golda Meir’s cabinet and is the Minister of Tourism, the second largest source of income for the State of Israel. And in that visit, Moshe Cole had addressed to me on the flyleaf, a personal salutation and gave me that beautiful book, a book of description and pictures of his favorite painter in Israel.
At the dinner in the Hotel Eden; at one end sat Rabbi Yinon who heads the Ministry of Religious Affairs. At the other end sat Rabbi Nathan, Rabbi Nathan, who is the chief rabbi of Israel.
A night or two after that dinner, we spent the evening with Rabbi Nathan and a group of us met there in his presence. And after his speaking to us, he gave us opportunity to talk to him, to ask him questions, and he’d ask us questions. And we spoke at great length about the Messiah, the coming King.
And during the course of that visit with Rabbi Nathan, he gave me Israel’s state medal. It is nomenclatured on the box and inside this beautiful medal from the State of Israel. Then we shook hands with him and thanked him for his wonderful kindness to us, and he bid us good journey and farewell.
When Pope Paul the VI offered his hand to me, did I compromise the faith when I offered my hand back again in love and friendship? When Rabbi Yinon and Rabbi Nathan offered their hands to me, did I repudiate my Baptist faith and heritage in offering my hand in love and friendship in return? Just what is it for a man to believe in Christ and to be true to the faith? If it is not this, that in all things we are to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior [Titus 2:10]; we are to make it beautiful and attractive, full of love and prayer and warmth [Ephesians 4:15].
One of our guides through Israel was a gifted and educated young woman born in America with a degree from an American university. As a Jewish girl, she decided to live in Israel, had been there now about six or seven years, had recently completed her Master’s degree in Jewry – in the life and history of the Jew – in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Seated at the front of the bus with her, I talked to her for hours and finally explained to her why it is that we witness for Christ. I said to that young woman – a wonderful girl – I said, "That’s what it is to be a Christian. A Christian is by nature and by name and by definition a missionary and a witness. And any Christian who is not that is a speculative philosopher, not a Christian. What it is to be a Christian is to testify, it is to witness, it is to tell others of the Lord and to invite them to a like faith in Christ. And when a Christian does not do that, he is no longer – he is not a Christian; he is a speculative theologian."
She said to me, she said, "You have been honest with me. I will be honest with you. Any time anyone speaks to me to convert me, I am offended." So as we spoke further she concluded it with this word. She said, "I understand now. You being a Christian, you must witness and testify and try to convert me. I, being a Jew, will be offended. So you continue to witness and to testify, and I will continue to be offended, and we will understand one another and be friends."
What is it to be a Baptist? Is it that I find myself in some corner and there I bite and snarl and cut, and with all the language at my command, in vitriolic and acrimonious speech, I denounce and condemn? Is that what it is to be a Baptist? Or is it somebody who has found the Lord as his Savior? And in love and in prayer and in sympathy and in intercession [Ephesians 4:15], seeks to hold up the cross of Christ and to invite all men everywhere to find in Him that life eternal that blesses us now and in the world that is to come? [John 3:16, 10:27-28]. To adorn the doctrine of God our Savior [Titus 2:10].
How do you feel when you pick up the paper and there you read in blazing headline the altercation and the confrontation between the Catholic and the Protestant in Belfast, Ireland? Does that make you proud? Does that please your soul? If you’re like me, when I read the paper, it brings grief to my heart, bitterness, and strife, and confrontation, and war, and hatred in the name of the Lord. Have we not in past history had enough of martyrdom, and burning at the stake, and drowning in water, and acrimonious recrimination? Even John Calvin in Geneva, where we stayed for a few days, burned his bitterest enemy in the fire.
Nor I need to recount for an American audience that it was the bitter, implacable persecution of the Puritans who sent the Pilgrims across the sea seeking somewhere, some place they might call on the name of God. Is that the Christian faith? And is that the adornment of the doctrine of Christ our Savior? [Titus 2:10]. Is it not the place of the minister and the witness of Christ to present his message and his appeal and his gospel in the most beautiful, celestial, and heavenly forms and invitations of which his heart in prayer and sympathy is capable?
To you and to you, here and across the seas, this is the life of God revealed to us in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross [Philippians 2:5-11]. And in His name and sobs and tears and love and mercy, we invite you to love, to worship, to adore the same Lord God who has delivered us and saved our souls; the beauty, the preciousness of the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. Have we not had enough on the pages of bitter and bloody history, have we not had enough of hatred and bitterness and conflict?
The taxi driver, who took me to the Tempelhof Airport in Berlin two or three years ago where I was catching a plane to London and to Glasgow, was crippled. He could speak English and was such a kind, gracious man. So I asked him, "Where did you find those wounds, so scarred, and you’re so crippled?"
He said, "I was with General Rommel in the African army, North Africa. And I was wounded, patched up, sent back to the front lines, and this time taken captive by Britain and was taken to England." Then he said, "War is such a cruel and useless tragedy."
Isn’t it strange? When I went to Glasgow, staying in the Central Hotel right by the railroad station, I got on the elevator to go up to my room and the elevator operator had one arm. I talked to him. He was so kind, so gracious.
I said, "Where did you lose one of your arms?"
He said, "I was with General Montgomery in the Eighth Army in North Africa fighting Rommel and I lost my arm in that conflict."
Then he made the same observation, "War is such a senseless tragedy."
As I came back home, the memory of those two men stayed in my mind. Both of them were sweet, kind, and gracious. Both of them were family men with wives and children. Both of them were churchmen, one fighting with Rommel and the other fighting with General Montgomery. Neither one knew the other. Don’t you pray that somehow, someday there might come into the hearts of men a consideration and a sympathy and a love for one another that would beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruninghooks where we will not learn war anymore? [Isaiah 2:4]
In Nazareth, Nazareth is an Arab city up above, in the hills above the Jewish people have built a Jewish city, and the old city, the Arab city, is below. And between the upper city and the lower city is a large band of no man’s land in between. And when I was in Nazareth, they had made arrangements for me to dedicate, to turn the first spade of earth, of a friendship house there built in that no man’s land between the Jew who lives on the hills on top and the Arab who lives in the city below.
And at that dedication there was the mayor of the Jewish city of Nazareth up there and the mayor of the Arab city of Nazareth below down there, and we shared the platform and the program together as we dedicated that Baptist friendship house, holding hands with the Jew up there and the Arab down here, finding common cause in the love and grace and mercy of God our Savior; adorning the doctrine of Christ [Ephesians 4:15; Titus 2:10].
Can we not, in true faith, hold our arms like the arms of the cross, out, and embrace all mankind? Not in hatred or in bitterness, but in love and prayer and invitation, asking them to share with us the life we have found in Christ Jesus, for "the love of God is greater than the measure of man’s mind; and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind." [From "There’s A Wideness In God’s Mercy," F.W. Faber, 1854].
He came into the world to die for all men everywhere [Hebrews 10:5-14]; these over there, these who are here, and all in between [1 John 2:2]. And as far as the east goes east and the west goes west, just so far are the arms of the cross extended, embracing all humanity. And in the name of that blessed Lord, as a friend, here is my hand.
And in the name of that precious Savior, as a minister of the gospel of His grace, come and welcome. No rancor, no bitterness, no hatred, no condemnation, no judgment, no vengeance. That belongeth to God. But for me, prayer and intercession ]and sympathy and love and understanding [Ephesians 4:15], come, come, come.
Adorning the gospel, the doctrine, the teaching of God our Savior [Titus 2:10], making it beautiful, coveted, wanted, loved. Why not? Is it not the way of the cross? Is it not the way of our Lord? Is it not the way of God?
And in this moment of appeal, while we sing our song, a family you, to come into the fellowship of the church; a couple you, to put your life with us; a one somebody you, "Today I have made that decision in Christ and I am coming." In the balcony, that last row and topmost seat, that somebody you, make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming, "Here I am, pastor, I decide for God today and I’m coming."
Where you are, make that decision in your heart. Say to your wife, "Let’s go." To the children, "We’re all going." Just two of you, just one of you, make the decision now in your heart, "I’m going to give my life to the Lord and I’m coming." Then when we stand up in a moment to sing, down one of these stairways, into the aisle, down to the front, "Here I am, pastor, I make the decision now and I’m coming." Do it. And God speed you and angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.