Strategy and World Conquest


Strategy and World Conquest

November 21st, 1976 @ 8:15 AM

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 1:6-8

11-21-76    8:15 a.m.

On the radio, it is an infinitely precious and blessed privilege that we have of sharing this service with you on WRR, the radio of the city of Dallas, and on KCBI, the radio of our Center of Biblical Studies.  This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church delivering the message entitled Strategy and World Conquest.  I humbly pray that God will bless the words to our hearts.  It concerns what God has outlined for us to do in our pilgrimage serving our generation.

In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we have come to verse 6, and I read the text:

When the disciples therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath placed in His own power.

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you:  and ye shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

And when He had spoken these things, He was taken up; a cloud received Him out of their sight;

[Acts 1:6-9]

the shekinah glory of the Lord bore Him away.  It is not a cloud in the sense of mist or visible moisture, but it was the garments of God, the chariot of the Lord, that took Him up and away into heaven:

And they stood transfixed, looking toward heaven; then two messengers, two angels, stood by them in white apparel;

And said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye transfixed, gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.

[Acts 1:10-11]

And there our Lord is in session at the right hand of the Father, waiting until His enemies be made His footstool, until the consummation of the age [Hebrews 1:13].

The title of the sermon on this text is Strategy and World Conquest.  There’s a Greek word, strategos, it’s the word for a general in the army.  The man who guides the building, and attack, and conquest of an army, in the Greek, in the New Testament Greek, is called a strategos.  And from that word strategos we get our stratagem, which is a plan or a scheme; “strategic,” which is an important development or object in the consummation of the plan; and we get our word “strategy” which is the art of the deployment of an army to reach a stated objective.

For example, the Pentagon will have a strategy for the defense of America and, if we were ever involved in some kind of an attack, a strategy for victory in behalf of our country.  Now, God has a strategy for us.  He has a strategy for His kingdom.  And the strategy of God, as I read it here in the text, is twofold in character.  One: a part of the strategy of God is cataclysmic.  It will descend, it will come, it will materialize suddenly, the time of the consummation when God shall restore the kingdom to Israel [Acts 1:6], and the time when He shall come in like manner as we have seen Him go [Acts 1:11].  Not forever will you see continue the history of the nations as you see it now; war, and peace, and sin, and death, and all of the things that fill the pages of the story of mankind with human blood, and suffering, and death.  There is a time coming when all of these things shall pass away.  And that day will come cataclysmically.  It will come suddenly [Revelation 19:11-16].  It will come without harbinger or announcement [Luke 12:40].  And that is a day in the secret annals of God, placed at a definite time in a definite way [Matthew 24:35-36].  Strategy in the kingdom of God, how the Lord has planned for this world, and one is, and the first that is mentioned in the text is, cataclysmic, the consummation, the denouement, the great intervention of God at the end of the age [Acts 1:6-7].

Now the second part of the strategy of God for His kingdom is gradual and progressive.  It’s not for us to know the time of the end [Acts 1:7].  Our attempts to set dates are altogether futile and actually prohibited by the Word of the Lord.  We ought never to do it [Matthew 24:23-26].  But there is a second part of the strategy of God.  “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me starting in Jerusalem, and then in Judea, and then beyond in Samaria, and then beyond to the uttermost part of the earth” [Acts 1:8].

There is a progressiveness, there is a gradualness, there is an outgrowing in the strategy of God.  Now the kingdom of God and the plan of God for us is not just the first.  It is not just cataclysmic.  It is not just the great triumph at the coming of the Lord [Matthew 16:27, 25:31], but the strategy of God for His kingdom’s work in the earth is also progressive and gradual; here a little and there a little, teaching, continuing, evangelizing, outreaching until the end of the day [John 5:17].

I was in Oklahoma City this last week, speaking at their state convention.  And in conversation with one of the men, we began talking about the First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.  They have had some of the most unusual pastors there that you could ever think for.  And I mention one of them.  At one time that First Church in Oklahoma City called as pastor a world famous evangelist, and he was a decided premillennialist, which is fine.  I am.  But this man was a premillennialist of an emphatic nature.  So one day he was driving down the streets of Oklahoma City and saw one of his deacons out in his front yard planting trees.  He stopped the car, walked over to the deacon and said, “What are you doing?”  And he said, “Pastor, I am planting some trees.”  And the pastor said, “Don’t you know that is a repudiation of my preaching?”  And the deacon said, “How, pastor?”  And the pastor replied, “Long before these trees will grow for any shade whatsoever, Jesus will come.”

Now that is a fine and wonderful way for the pastor to be, that Jesus imminently, soon may arrive.  But it is not good when it causes us to say, “There’s no need to do this, and there’s no need to do that, and there’s no need to do the other because Jesus is coming soon.”  What we forget is there is a twofold character in the strategy of God.

There is an imminency in His coming.  We’re to be prepared any day, any hour.  He may come today.  He may come before my sermon is finished.  But there is also another part and another character in the strategy of God, and that is this outreach, this continuing in Jerusalem, our Dallas; in Judea, our state of Texas; in Samaria, our homeland; and to the uttermost part of the earth, our great outreach in missions [Acts 1:8].  Now it is of this second character of the kingdom of God and the strategy of our Lord that commands our attention this morning; the strategy of God for us [Acts 1:8].

I was poignantly, poignantly and deeply sensitive to this work of the Lord in a service that I held one time in Japan.  And it made such a profound impression upon me that I have mentioned it many, many times.  I was somewhere, I do not know where.  It was in the preaching mission that I shared in Japan, lasted about three months long, starting at the northern island and coming clear down to Kyushu, the southernmost prefecture.

I was taken by a Japanese official––this is in the days when MacArthur was ruling Japan, and MacArthur was a great Christian and sought to bring the gospel message to the Japanese people––there was an official who took me somewhere, a long, long way away from the big cities in Nipon, to a government compound, very large and very spacious.  And I preached to the people in the government compound.  The auditorium was covered with rice mats, and the people sat on the floor in Japanese style.

When I got through with the message, as earnestly presented, as evangelistically presented as I could do, each one was given a card that was perforated in the middle.  There was a top to the card and a bottom to the card.  The top of the card was, “I want to accept Christ as my Savior, and I do it now.”  The bottom part of the card was, “I want to know more about Jesus.”  Everyone was given one of those double-printed cards.  And they were given time after prayer to see what God’s Spirit would lead them to do.

Well, one of those Japanese men stood up, seated on the floor he stood up, and holding the card in his hand, pointed to the top one, “I accept Jesus as my Savior, and I do it now.”  He pointed to that card and said, “Sensei,” that’s their common word for teacher, “Sensei, if I sign this card, then what, then what?”  No church there, no Bibles, no Sunday school, no pastor, no teachers, no leaders, no literature, no anything, “Sensei, if I sign this card, then what?”

For the years since then––and that was 1950––for the years since then, the question of that earnest Japanese man has stayed in my heart.  There is far more in the strategy of the kingdom of God than just evangelism, preaching.  There must follow with it a tremendous program of church building, of teaching, of training.

And when I read the Bible that is exactly what our Lord has said.  Our Great Commission is encompassed in three tremendous verbs.  Matheteuō, that’s the first one, baptizō, that’s the second one; and didaskō, that’s the third one.  We’re to go into all the world and matheteuō, “make disciples.”  He did not say euaggeliō, though often in the Bible the word euaggelizō, “evangelizing,” is used.  But in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 He used the word matheteuō.  We are to make followers, disciples.  We’re baptizō, we’re to baptize them.  We’re to form them into the church, baptized into the body of Christ.  And didaskō, we are to teach them all the things that He has commanded us to observe.  Then He says, “I will work with you.  I will be by your side to the end of the age” [Matthew 28:20]; that is, to the end of that first part of the strategy, until the coming of the Lord.

Now if we follow the wisdom and mandate of God, that is what we are everlastingly doing.  We are matheteuō, we are winning to Jesus and making disciples of the converts.  We are baptizō, we are baptizing them in the name of the triune God, and we are seeking to form in their hearts and minds the mind and heart of God that we find in Christ Jesus [Matthew 28:19-20].

I want to show you, if I can, how, when we fail to do that, we ultimately fail in the strategy of building the kingdom of our Lord.  There was, in this last century, there was a tremendously gifted preacher by the name of T. DeWitt Talmage.  I suppose we have never had in America any man who approached Talmage in brilliance.

There’s one phenomenon about his ministry that I’ve never heard of in the world, and that is this.  When he preached his sermon each Sunday in the Brooklyn Tabernacle, in Brooklyn on Long Island, across from Manhattan, when he preached that sermon, in practically all of the daily newspapers of America it appeared on Monday morning.  Can you imagine a thing like that?  From New York to San Francisco, the sermon that T. DeWitt Talmage had delivered the day before was printed in those daily newspapers.  He was scintillating, and he seized upon every development in national life and used it as a platform upon which to deliver the message of God.  He was a star of the first magnitude.

Now, I preached one time in the First Baptist Church in Brooklyn, and I asked the pastor, “Do you know where Talmage’s Brooklyn Tabernacle was located?”  He said, “I’ve been here years and years and I have never been able to find out.”  About two or three weeks ago I was in Kansas City preaching at a convocation of four conventions, three black and one white.  And Gardner Taylor, a famous black preacher from Brooklyn, was there with me.  And I was eating a meal with Gardner Taylor, and I said, “Gardner Taylor, can you tell me where T. DeWitt Talmage’s Brooklyn Tabernacle was located?”  And he replied, “I’ve spent my life in Brooklyn, and to this day I have never been able to find where it was.”  There is not a vestidual remnant of the tremendous work of T. DeWitt Talmage in Brooklyn.  You cannot find it.

What that says is an underscoring of the strategy that God assigned us in the building of the kingdom.  It is far more than a preaching service, far more than brilliance and eloquence in homiletics, far more than the scintillating personality of a great pulpiteer like Talmage.  In the strategy of building the kingdom of God in the hearts of men there is matheteuō, discipling.  There is baptizō, baptizing.  There is didaskō, teaching and training.  It is the whole gamut of human life that God includes in the building of His church [Matthew 28:19-20].

That’s one of the reasons why in these last several years I have been praying and struggling to build a ministry here in the church that involves thousands of people, far greater than just the pulpit, than our assembly in these stated hours of public worship, but a ministry that continues seven days a week, every week in the year.  One of the men said in this pulpit, “On any day there are more than a thousand people down here at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, studying the Word of God, sitting in classes, learning at the feet of godly teachers.”  Think of that.  Tomorrow, the next day, the following day, pick out any day, there’ll be more than a thousand people down here at this church, sitting at the feet of a godly teacher, learning the mind of the Lord in Christ Jesus; a tremendous carrying out, a faithfulness to what God has outlined for us in the strategy of the kingdom.

Well, we have a marvelous paragon for that in the New Testament itself.  When you study closely––I don’t mean casually or peripherally––but when you study closely, intimately, the life of our Lord, this is what you’ll find.  He began His ministry, then as time passed, He met opposition, the devil and his demons.  Satan and his angels began violently to confront Him and oppose Him!  This vile world will never be a friend to grace.  We battle against almost insuperable odds to evangelize it and to disciple it.  It is never easy.  You row upstream when you seek to build the message of Christ in the earth.

Now the Lord met that.  How did He meet it?  How did He meet it?  This is what He did.  When the Lord began to meet violent, and vindictive, and vengeful, and bitter opposition, the power of darkness in the world [Ephesians 6:12], what He did was He began to organize, and He started with the ordination of twelve apostles [Matthew 10:1-15].  And He spent the rest of His ministry in teaching and training those twelve men.  Then when He had finished His teaching and His training, He gave them the Great Commission that we’re seeking to carry out today [Matthew 28:19-20].  That’s the wisdom of God.  And when I hold this Book in my hand, I hold a record of that attempt on the part of the apostles to carry out that great strategy of the kingdom.  For example, the four Gospels are four little tracts that were given to catechumens.  Matthew was written up there in Antioch.  And Mark was written over there in Rome.  And Luke was written up there in Philippi.  And John was written over there in Ephesus.  And those Gospels are little tracts that were given to catechumens, to people that they had won to Jesus, in order that they might be taught the mind of Christ Jesus.

They were little teaching tracts; they were little textbooks.  And when I turn to the Book of Acts, “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began to do and to teach” [Acts 1:1], referring to the Gospel of Luke, the little tract that he’d written to place in the hands of Theophilus, a knight, a nobleman in the Roman Empire, and now he’s following it with another little tract called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit,” what God is doing now in the earth.

Then when I turn to the rest of the New Testament, there are the epistles, teaching these neophytic, these young churches the doctrines of the faith.  And that’s followed by the pastoral epistles, which teaches the churches the direction that they are to go, the pragmatics, the common know-how of continuing the work, such as in Titus, “For this reason,” says Paul, “I left you in Crete, that you might ordain elders in all of the churches, pastors in all the churches” [Titus 1:5].

And finally we come to the Apocalypse, which is written for the encouragement of the people, that they might live in victory of spirit and triumph of hope and vision.  The whole form of the New Testament is carrying out that strategy of the Lord; making disciples and teaching them and training them in the faith [Matthew 28:19-20].

Now we’ve had almost two thousand years of Christian history since then.  And wherever you find that the church has followed that strategy, it has risen.  It has shown.  It has soared in power and God’s Spirit has been upon it!  And wherever it has been faithless and untrue in that strategy, the church has fallen into apostasy and anemia.

Oh, with two thousand years, how could I illustrate that!  I just take one or two instances.  Out of the monastery of Iona, the little island of Iona, there went those scholars.  They had been in those walls studying the Word of God, and now they went out of that little island of Iona, and they evangelized and taught the Scots and founded the Christian churches in Scotland.  And for years and for years they made Scotland a great Christian nation and the Scots a great Christian people.  Same thing our Baptist preacher Patrick did in Ireland.  He went over there.  He evangelized that Emerald Isle.  He baptized those converts, everybody in the isle, and taught them the faith of the Lord.  And those that followed after Patrick also did the same.  It was a great people, the Irish and the Scots.

I cannot tell you the sadness that anybody who loves Jesus would feel to visit those nations today.  In this very pulpit, a great Scot preacher said, “If the apostasy in Scotland continues for the next twenty years as it has in the last twenty years, the day is coming when Scotland will be more pagan than it was when the scholars of Iona evangelized it.”  And that was in 500 AD!

My dear people, I’m just telling you that the work of the strategy of the kingdom of God must never fail because if we do the people will be pagan and heathen.  We are never more but one generation away from paganism and heathenism.  It isn’t just that Peter and John had a great assignment, or that Augustine and Ambrose had a great assignment, or that John Huss and John Wesley had a great assignment, or that George Truett and Lee Scarborough had a great assignment; it is that we also have a tremendous assignment!

And that is my appeal.  Far, far too often do I see people who belong to God, and who are fellow members of our dear church, seemingly play at religion.  They toy with the church as you would a plaything.  The faith is something speculative, removed, and the building itself is sort of an ornament on Ervay Street.  But it isn’t dynamic to them.  It isn’t central in their life.  They are part-time, or quarter-time, or half-time Christians.  They’re not committed.  They’re not all out.  They’re not full-time.  And that’s what God needs in us.

Let me give you a little word that so illustrates that.  There was a man here in the church, God bless him—there’s a man here in the church that I was visiting with, talking with, and he happened to have the church envelope, a self-addressed church envelope, in which he had placed his pledge card.  And so he said, “Pastor, it’ll save you ten cents,” or whatever it is that you have to pay for a self-addressed business envelope.  He said, “It’ll save you ten cents if I just give it to you and you take it to the church.”

Well, I said, “Fine, we need the dime.”  So he placed it in my hand.  Well, I talked to him, I continued visiting with him.  And I talked to him about the work of the Lord.  I had no––I wasn’t thinking about his pledge card at all.  I’d put it in my pocket, put it in my pocket, just like my giving.  I put it in my pocket and I’d even forgotten about it.  And I began talking to the man about the work of the Lord, and about our church, and about all we were trying to do for Jesus and how vital it was.

I was just talking to him, just out of my heart.  You know what he did?  He put his hand on my arm, he said, “Pastor, give me back that envelope.  Give me back that envelope.”  So I, I gave it back to him.  He said, “Pastor, I’m ashamed of myself.  I’m ashamed of myself.”  He said, “I haven’t done anything worthy for the Lord.  Give me back that envelope.”  He said, “I’m going to fill out another card, and this one will be worthy of the Lord.”  That’s the spirit of which I speak.  Just to be a piece, a part, that’s not what God asks.  It’s the whole of us.

My job ought to be serving Jesus.  I may be, and then whatever I am at, I do that to pay expenses.  I’m a CPA, or I’m a doctor, or I’m a lawyer, or I’m an accountant, or I am a clerk, or I’m a ditch digger, or I work in a store, or whatever it is, I do that to pay expenses, pay the mortgage on my home, feed my children.  I do that to pay expenses.  But my job is serving Jesus; all out for God.  And my sweet people, when the Lord finds us like that, you’ll find that power in our midst of which He spake; God’s presence, and God’s healing, and God’s goodness, and God’s benedictory and heavenly remembrance with us every moment of the day, every step of the way.  It’s a holiness.  It’s a heavenliness.  This is not philosophical or speculative.  The realest thing in this world is the presence of God in a heart that is fully committed to Him [Matthew 28:20].

Our time is much spent.  But it has blessed my soul today to try to deliver this sermon.  We’re going to stand and sing our hymn in just a moment, and while we sing it, in this balcony all the way round, a family, a couple, or just you, giving your heart to the Lord, or putting your life with us in the church, or answering a call from heaven, come down that stairway, walk down that aisle, “Here I am, pastor, I am coming today.”  Or in the press of people on this lower floor, into that aisle and down to the front, make the decision in your heart and come now.  May the angels we preached about last Sunday night attend you in the way while you come, as we stand and as we sing.