Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 10:32
4-4-73 7:30 p.m.
Last Wednesday night, at this precious hour, we were looking at the three tremendous divisions into which, by inspiration, the Scriptures divides all humanity. In 1 Corinthians 10:32, the apostle divides all humanity into three categories: the Jews, the Gentiles, and the church. Last Wednesday night, we followed through the scriptural presentation of the Jew. Then we mentioned the Gentiles, and just almost barely mentioned the Gentiles. And now we are going to discuss the church.
First: what the church is not. The church is not Israel under another name. This is one of the most basic of all of the primary, fundamental interpretations of the Word of God. I do not think that the Bible will ultimately have any real prophetic meaning for you at all if you do not accept and believe and receive this first tenant: that the church is not Israel, under another name. In my humble opinion, in my persuasion, the Bible becomes in its prophetic revelations an enigmatic jumble, a shambles, a jigsaw puzzle that cannot ever be put together, if you identify the church with Israel, that Israel today is the church. I do not think the Bible would ever mean in clarity, in lucidity, in prophetic revelation anything to you if you do that. That is why I emphasize it so. If there is to be any understanding of the Bible, Israel has to mean Israel, the church has to mean the church, and the kingdom has to mean the kingdom. And when you let the Bible speak as it speaks in language, sometimes the depth of it may baffle us, sometimes the promises of it may stagger us; but if you will let the Bible speak to you in the plain language that it uses, it will be meaningful to you all the way through. And this part will be a foundation for this part, on which this part is built, and this part is added, and this part is explained, and it’ll just go right on, if you will let the Bible say what it says. But whenever you start taking those words, and you take this word to mean this, and then you take this nomenclature to mean that, you don’t have any end to it except just the extremity and the horizons of anybody’s wildest imagination.
May I also point out: there are several things that will always designate a liberal. Here’s one: a liberal will not believe in the virgin birth [Matthew 1:20-25]. There’s not one in a jillion of them that does. That’s a little test, is how he feels about the virgin birth. Now here is another one: whenever you see a man identify Israel with the church, under another name, you just put it down; he has an interpretation of the Word of God that is so latitudinarian that anything can mean anything, just limited only by the extent of his imagination.
Well, I’m emphasizing that, what the church is not: it is not Israel under another name. For example, in Matthew 11:13, the Lord Jesus said, “The law and the prophets were until John.” In John 1:17, the inspired apostle [John] said that Moses and the law are in one period, but Christ and grace are in another period. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” And that little “but” in there is all important: the law and Moses belonged to one dispensation, but Christ and the grace of our Lord belongs to another dispensation [John 1:17].
Now, I have done this before, but will you let me do it again? And there are a lot of you here who do not attend our church, so for you I want you to see how people do in the Bible, publishing the Bible. I have a Bible that I greatly like to preach out of; it’s an Oxford Bible, it is very expensive; so it is given to me, I do not buy it. I like it because of the shape of it, and because of the big print of it. That’s about as big a printed Bible as you can get. And it’s only recently that I’ve had to use my glasses preaching out of this copy of the Scriptures. So I like the Bible, I like it very much. But, and I notice Richard Peacock has one, isn’t yours just like this? A copy of an Oxford Bible like this. Now, I have over here on page 1285, Richard, chapter 41 [Isaiah 41]. Now I’m going to read the top, you know like they put in the Bible, they put the top, you know, they put editorials, nomenclatures, captions, at the top. All right, now I’m going to read it: “God’s promises to the church.” So I look to see what God’s promises are to the church, and this is what I read: “But thou, Israel, art My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham, My friend, Fear not; for I am with thee” [Isaiah 41:8, 10]. Now the man that publishes this Bible and editorializes it, he says, “God’s promises to the church,” but when I look at the text, it’s God’s promises, explicitly, “to Israel, to Jacob, to the seed of Abraham My friend” [Isaiah 41:8]. All right, now I’m going to turn the page. We’re going to turn the page over here, Richard, you . . . [comment from audience]. Huh? [comment] Yeah, we’re going to turn the page to 1288 this time. Now this is Isaiah 43. All right, now we’re going to look up here: “The church comforted with God’s promises.” Now I’m going to read what it says, “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine” [Isaiah 43:1], and so forth. He writes up here, “The church comforted with God’s promises,” but when I read the text, “Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel” [Isaiah 43:1].
Now I turn the page, just once again. Here in chapter 44 of Isaiah, “The church comforted with God’s promises”; he ran out of soap, so he just repeats himself, he doesn’t have enough intellectual acumen to even change the vocabulary. “The church comforted with God’s promises.” Now, let me read. I look down here and expect to find the church, because that’s what he says up here. Here’s what I read: “Yet now hear, O Jacob My servant; and Israel whom I have chosen: Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob My servant, and thou Jesurun,” that’s a pet name that God has for Israel—if you love your wife or sweetheart, sometimes you’ll have pet names for them like “sugar pie” or “honey dolly” or “little cabbage head” or little, you know, just some pet name. This, this is a pet name, “Jesurun, whom I have chosen” [Isaiah 44:1-2].
Now do you see what I’m talking about? If you do that, if you do this, your Bible will come into shambles, decimated pieces. It will never have any meaning for you, never. And the more you study it, the more you’ll get confused by it; because this thing doesn’t fit, that thing and all this together doesn’t fit the other, and finally you just give up in despair and do what the liberal does, and I can understand why he does it—he just pitches it out the window as a piece of antique literature, and he starts taking his text from Shakespeare, and Milton, or Henrik Ibsen. I don’t blame him; I’d do the same thing too. It’d be so confusing to me, I’d say, it’s just an enigma, it’s a riddle, and there’s no need to study it, so let’s just study something about something else. And then what he’ll start doing is, he’ll start preaching about race relations, and about economic problems, and about current events, and pretty soon he’s on book reviews. I don’t blame him. I’d do that same thing too if I looked upon the Bible as he looks upon the Word of God. It loses its meaning when you do that. Let the Bible say what it says. And then if we don’t understand, let’s study it. Then if we still don’t understand, let’s just say, “Dear God, we’re just going to put a little comma here, till I see You in heaven, and You explain it to me up there.” But don’t deny it, and don’t spiritualize it away; let it say what it says.
And oh, some of the most enigmatic prophecies in the Bible that you could ever imagine; it took thousands of years for us finally to understand what it meant. I pointed one of them out to you when we were underscoring the Bible; that protevangelium, the gospel before the gospel, Genesis 3:15, “And the Seed of the woman shall crush Satan’s head, the Seed of the woman.” Remember when I told you about that? Those old rabbis looked at that for thousands of years, because a woman doesn’t have seed, the man has seed. She has seed. They call it “seed.” The Greek word for “seed” is sperm, spermatozōa, spermatozōon singular, spermatozōa. They call it “seed”; a man has spermatozoa, seed. Yet that Scripture said, “The Seed of the woman” [Genesis 3:15]. Well, after the passing of thousands of years, who would ever have thought it, a biological miracle: a woman bore a Man-Child, virgin [Matthew 1:20-25]. Can you imagine that? But our place is not to deny it or to spiritualize it; our place is, God says this, I accept it and believe it, and if it takes another ten thousand years for me to understand what God meant, well, we’ll just wait the ten thousand years and let God make it plain. But we’re not going to change it or spiritualize it away; we’re going to let it say what it says. So, when the Book says, “Israel,” we’re going to say “Israel”; when the Book says, “the seed of Jacob,” we’re going to say, “the seed of Jacob”; and when the Book says, “the church,” we’re going to say, “the church.” And we’re not going to make one mean the other.
Not only is it not Israel, the church, but the church is not the kingdom. It is not the kingdom. The kingdom was rejected, the kingdom that was announced by John the Baptist [Matthew 3:1-2], and announced by Jesus [Matthew 4:17], and you know, “He came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, saying, Repent ye, the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 3:1-2], you remember all those things; “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” [Matthew 3:1-2, 4:17]. In Luke 19:11-27, there we learn that the kingdom is rejected, and the King has gone away, He is exiled. The church is never the kingdom in Scripture, never, never. The church is called a house. In 1 Timothy 3:15—and by the way, some of you, many of you have sent word to me, have called me or written me; all of this is going to be printed for you, we’re going to print it for you and place it in your hands so you can just go right down the line with it. It’s called a house, the church is called a house in 1Timothy 3:15. It’s called a temple in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. It’s called a body in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31. “Christ is the head of the church,” Ephesians 1:22, and Ephesians 4:15, and Colossians 1:18, but He is never spoken of as the King of the church, never. There’s no nomenclature like that; it is never even hinted at. He is the head of the church; He is never spoken of as the King of the church. The King is the head of a kingdom [John 18:36]; the head of the church is the husband, He is the Bridegroom, and He is spoken of as the Bridegroom, and the church is His bride, Ephesians 5:23-32, and Revelation 21:2, 9, 10. There is a vast difference between the kingdom and the church.
I preached a sermon here some time ago; oh, it hasn’t been too long ago, about the coming King. He is the promised King [2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16], and He came [Matthew 1:23-2:1]. He is a rejected King, they crucified Him [Matthew 27:32-50]. He is an exiled King, He went up to heaven [Acts 1:9-10]. Then I spoke of the great interlude, the intermission between the time that He was exiled [Luke 19:11-27] and the time that He is coming to reign [Revelation 19:11-16]. And we live in that intermission, which Paul says is the mustērion, we are going to see that in a minute, the age of grace, the age of the church [Ephesians 3:1-11]. But is He a king? “Thou sayest I am a king” [John 18:37], that was the text; that’s the most vigorous affirmative in the Greek language, “Thou sayest I am a king. To this end was I born, and for that purpose came I into the world” [John 18:37], He is a coming King. “And He hath on His vesture, and on His thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords” [Revelation 19:16]. But that is something else; the church is something else! The kingdom is forever to Him, forever, and God is making it up, and building it out of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and those that sit down in the kingdom with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [Matthew 8:11]. But the church is something else; that’s a mustērion that God stuck in there that He did not reveal until He did so to His apostles [Ephesians 3:5-11].
All right, that leads us to what the church is. The church is a mustērion, it’s a mystery. That is, if you’ll remember what “mystery” is in that Greek word, a mustērion, a mystery” [Ephesians 3:3]; the Greek word “mystery” does not mean something un-understandable or enigmatic; but the word “mystery,” the Greek word “mystery” referred to those mystery religions where people only knew the secrets who were initiated into it. Some of you men are Masonic craftsmen, you belong to the Masonic Lodge, you are introduced to the secrets of the order when you are initiated into the Lodge; now that’s a mustērion. And that’s the way it is used in the Bible.
Now, the kingdom was no mustērion; the kingdom was no mystery. The Old Testament prophets described it in glowing terms world without end. That was no mystery. Now the mystery of the church was revealed to Paul the apostle in Ephesians 5 [Ephesians 5:23-32], in Ephesians 3:1-11. Another thing; that the Gentiles were to be saved was no mystery. In Romans 9:24-26, Paul quotes Hosea 2:23, and Hosea 1:10, in that order, where Hosea was saying that the Gentiles are going to be saved.
But the mystery is this: this hiatus between the exiled King [Luke 19:11-27] and His coming [Revelation 19:11-16], this age of grace in which God was doing a new thing, He was building something that the world never saw or heard of or dreamed of, and it’s not in the Old Testament. He is building a church out of both Jews and Gentiles [Ephesians 3:1-11]. And when anybody goes back into the Old Testament to look for the church, he is spiritualizing, he’s doing something that God expressly said is not there. You call that “eisegesis”. Exegesis is taking the Word of God and expounding what it is, what it says. Eisegesis is a man reading into it what he thinks. And anytime a man goes back into the Old Testament and there reads the church, he is eisegeting; he’s putting it in there. It is not there. It’s a new thing that God kept in His heart from the beginning, that in this period of time between the exiled King and His return, God does a new thing, a secret thing that He revealed to the apostles, namely, He is building a church [Ephesians 3:1-11].
All right, not only is the church a mustērion, a secret God kept in His heart [Ephesians 3:1-11], but it is a called out body, it is an ekklēsia: “On this rock I will build My ekklēsia” [Matthew 16:18]. I preached a sermon—oh, these things just crowd into my heart—we visit Timothy. So we go into the home of Timothy in Ephesus, and we say, “Timothy, we’ve come to talk to you about your church.” And he says, “About my what?”
“We’ve come to talk to you about your church.” And Timothy says, “Church, what is that?” And we say, “Timothy, you don’t know what a church is?” Timothy says, “I never heard of it. What is a church?”
“Why Timothy, you’re the pastor of it here in Ephesus.”
“Oh,” Timothy says, “Oh, you want to talk to me about the ekklēsia, the brotherhood called out, the redeemed called out, the people of God called out, ekkaleō, the called out people of the Lord. You want to talk to me about the ekklēsia. Yes, the church.” No wonder Timothy didn’t know what he was talking about; it was only three hundred years after that, now you think of that, for the first three hundred years it was called an ekklēsia, the called out people of the Lord. But when Constantine was saved, or converted, or whatever you want to say happened to Constantine, when Constantine changed to become a Christian, that fellow did more to turn the stream of the Christian communion than all other men put together by a thousandfold. He not only baptized the Greek temples and made churches out of those basilicas, and he not only baptized the priests and made Christian ministers, priests, out of the Greek priesthood, and he not only took the ritual of the idolatrous worship and made it Christian ritual, and he not only took all the images and baptized them and said, “Now you’ve been worshiping this image that you call Neptune, actually, that’s Simon Peter,” so they’d call him Simon Peter and just keep on worshiping the same image only give it another name; not only did Constantine do that, but he succeeded in changing the name from ekklēsia to kuriakos, kuriakos, kuirokas, a lordly house, the kuriakos, the kurkas, the kurk. And in English it comes out “church.” But for three hundred years there was no such thing as a church; it was an ekklēsia, referring to the people. But after Constantine, it became kuriakos, kurkas, kurk, “church,” referring to the building, “the lordly house.” Dear me. And the church sank in a downward path from which it has never recovered. For the church was out there, the people wherever they were, witnessing, they were in the agora, they were in homes, they were, the Lord only knows where they were; they honeycombed the entire civilized world and changed it. Then after Constantine, why, they got in those beautiful temples and forgot about the evangelization of the world; and it is still unevangelized. Isn’t that an amazing thing what happened?
Well, the church is not a kuriakos, it doesn’t even refer to a building; but the church is the called-out assembly of the saints [1 Corinthians 1:2]. And you can have a marvelous church, man I’ve seen them, with the Spirit poured out upon the meeting, under brush arbors, in tents and tabernacles . . . why, I went up here to Allen—you know where Allen is?—I went up here to Allen, some of you real estate men buying land up there at $500,000 a square foot or something like that, I don’t know what in the world you’re doing, but up there in Allen, I went up there when you could buy that land for $50 an acre, I went up there to Allen, and right in the middle of Allen there were two streets that crossed, a road this way and a road that way. So every night they’d get them some hobby horses, some—is that what you call them? Horses, you know, horses like carpenters make things on. Sawhorses, that’s right—they got sawhorses, and they blocked the streets, and I stood up there, I took one of the deacons here in the church with me to go up there and lead the singing. We got all of God’s saints together, and I held a meeting right there where those streets cross up there in Allen. And God blessed us, and souls were saved every service, and we praised the Lord. That’s great. That’s marvelous. We don’t need these stained-glass windows to worship God. And we don’t need these carpets to worship God. And we don’t need those soft pews that make you go to sleep. And we don’t need all these other things. We just think we do. But the church is God’s people. And that’s what we are.
And then we’re going to come to it: it is the called-out people, it is the body of Christ [Colossians 1:18]. And I have a bunch of Scriptures for that. It’s an organism, not an organization. And it speaks of building the church of God, the body of Christ. It is the bride of Christ, 2 Corinthians 11:2. One of the most magnificent passages in the Bible is that passage in Ephesians [Ephesians 5:29-30], where Paul takes Adam, the symbol and the type of Adam, and God took out of his side, Eve, and brought her to the man” [Genesis 2:21-23]; and out of the same imagery the church was born out of the side of the Savior, the riven side of our Savior [Ephesians 5:30]. The church was born in the blood and sufferings and atoning death of Christ [1 Peter 1:18-19]. Adam and Eve; the second Adam and His bride, the church—that’s one of the most beautiful imageries I think in God’s Book, what Paul speaks of in the fifth chapter of Ephesians. As Eve was taken out of the side of Adam [Genesis 2:21-23], so the church is taken out of the side, the riven side of our Lord [Ephesians 5:28-32].
All right, the origin of the church: in Matthew 16:13-20, the Lord makes a play upon words, “I say unto you that thou art petros, and upon this petra I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” [Matthew 16:18]. It’s a play on words. Petros is singular in number, and it is masculine in gender; and it refers to Simon Peter; he’s a stone. Petra is feminine in gender, and plural in number; and it refers to a foundation. Philippi up there, those great strata of rock upon which that country is built up there, it’s at the bottom of towering Mt. Hermon. Now, Christ said, “I will build My church” [Matthew 16:18]. And here’s what I think: I think John the Baptist gathered the material; I think Jesus was the creator and gave it its ordinances, its discipline, and its commission [Matthew 28:19-20]; and I think at Pentecost, the living breath was poured into it [Acts 2:1-4].
Now the mission of the church – and we’re going to hasten, because I want to turn this service over to Emil Gaverluk—the mission of the church, and man, would I like to ring the changes on this if I could. The mission of the church: it is not a social club, it is not an amusement center, it is not a house of merchandise, it is not a reform bureau, nor is it a social service. The church is mandated, is entrusted with the message of redemption, a gospel, to all the world. The church is not even a system of ethics; it is not even a code of morals, though both of them are in it. The church is the gospel of salvation to all men who will receive it. As Paul said in Romans 1:16, “Brethren, I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to all who will believe it, receive it, accept it; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” And the assignment of the church is not to reform the world [Acts 1:8]. Let’s say it like this in imagery: the mission and assignment and mandate of the church is not to clean up the pigpen, but to get the prodigal son out of it and back in his father’s house [Luke 15:11-24]. Now that’s what the church is to do. So many times we look upon ourselves as being called to clean up the pigsties. Well, that’s for whatever you’d like to do as individual citizens and as fine civic members; but the message of the church is to get that boy’s heart changed and get him out, and get him back home where he belongs.
Now the destiny of the church: the destiny of the church is to be caught up and out and away; the dead in Christ rising first, and the living saints going to meet the Lord in the air [1 Thessalonians 4:17]. In 1 Corinthians 15 you find that [1 Corinthians 15:51-52], in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 you find that [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. Like Enoch caught up and away [Genesis 5:24], like Elijah ascending up to heaven in a whirlwind [2 Kings 2:11], so the destiny of the church is to be caught up. The tribulation is not for the church; it’s God’s purpose to keep the church out of it. Now I realize there is great discussion over that and great difference in it; but I cannot, after looking at all of the discussions that I can look at, the tribulation is not for the church. The rapture comes first, and we’re going to be raptured out of it [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. In Revelation 3:10 he expressly says, “Because thou hast kept My word, I also will keep thee from the trial, the tribulation, that should come upon the whole earth.”
And then, as I told you so one time, I don’t know anything in chronology in the Bible but to follow it as it is, as it is revealed. And if I depart from that, I fall into all kinds of trouble. All right, now let’s take this chronology. In the first chapter of the Revelation, he wrote, according to the divine outline [Revelation 1:19], the things that he saw [Revelation 1:12-18, 20]. And then in chapters 2 and 3, he wrote the things that are, the existence of the churches [Revelation 2:1-3:22]. Then in chapter 4 he was raptured to heaven; there was a door opened in heaven, and John was raptured up to heaven [Revelation 4:1], a type of the rapture of the church, and the church disappears at the end of chapter  [Revelation 4:1], and it doesn’t reappear until Christ comes with it in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 19:11-16]. Now I don’t know anything except to follow that chronology, and if I ever depart from it, I am sunk; I just don’t know what to say. But if I will follow it, it will be very plain, and the Bible will fit all together. So, let’s just stay with the Word of God then. In the fourth chapter, the church is raptured [Revelation 4:1], and it’s not seen again till it comes with the Savior [Revelation 19:11-14]. Now, and we’re talking about the church, the church is going to be raptured up to heaven [Revelation 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], and it’s going to stand, we’re going to individually stand before the bēma of Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:10, and there we receive our rewards, when we’re raptured up to heaven.
And then seventh, and last: we’re coming back with our Lord after the marriage supper of the Lamb, in Matthew 22:1-4, and Revelation 19:7-9. When the church is raptured away, up there in heaven [Revelation 4:1], in that time of the tribulation down here in the earth, when God is judging the earth and all those terrible things between Revelation 4 and 19, in the tribulation here in the earth, God’s church is raptured up there in glory [Revelation 4:1], and there we stand before the bēma of Christ to receive the rewards that God hath prepared for those who love Him [2 Corinthians 5:10]. And then there we sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:7-9]. And if I had time, maybe we’ll take time sometime, and talk about who those guests are, and who the bride is there. And then at the end of that, why, we’re coming back with the Lord, openly and publicly and visibly [Revelation 19:11-14]; and that comes in the battle of Armageddon, according to the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 19:17-21]. The intervention of God in human history is at the battle of Armageddon, at the war of Armageddon, when the Lord comes with His saints and delivers His people down here in the earth, and establishes His incomparable millennial reign [Revelation 20:1-7].
Well, God love you, we will come back next Wednesday night, and let’s, let’s pray the pastor feels good. You know what these little kids are? They are born unmitigated congenital carriers of germs and diseases and everything else. We’ve got a little grandchild, and his name is Paul Daniel. The babysitter was with the little boy, and he had some kind of a virus and a cold; so the babysitter got it, and she went to bed. And then the little boy’s daddy got it, and he went to bed. Then the baby’s mother got it, and she went to bed. And then the baby’s uncle, Cris, got it and he went to bed, and he’s still in bed out there. And then the baby’s grandpap, the pastor of the church got it, and he’s been wrestling around with it. And, of course, Mrs. C already had something, and so this was added to it, and she went to the hospital with it. Now all of this came from that little critter out there. Do you love them because of, or in spite of? Which is it exactly?
So, I’ll see you in strength and health. If anybody believes in divine healing, now sure is the time to come put your hand on my head or something. You know the funniest thing, right there, you see that spot right there, right here? I went down there to make an appeal, you know, stand there; you’ve seen me do that, go down there to make an appeal. Somehow this fellow heard that I had something wrong with my stomach—now I don’t have anything wrong with my stomach, it’s just like iron, cast-iron, I eat anything—but he evidently picked up that something was wrong with my stomach; so out of the clear blue sky he came down here, and took his hand, and put it on my tummy, and knelt right down there and prayed Almighty God that instant to do a miracle and heal me of my stomach. I guess I would not have thought about it, were it not that I was so surprised at what was going on. Well, I love him for his solicitude, God bless him. Oh dear!
Now, Mel Carter, where is Mel Carter? Mel Carter. As you know, we’re in the midst of a wonderful week that Mel will describe to you. And Mel, you want to have a prayer and then have a song, and invite the people to remain, and tell them how everything is.