Strategy and World Conquest

Acts

Strategy and World Conquest

November 21st, 1976 @ 10:50 AM

Acts 1:6-8

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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STRATEGY AND WORLD CONQUEST

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 1:6-8

11-21-76    10:50 a.m.

 

It is with joy and gladness that we welcome you who are listening on television and who are sharing the service with us on radio.  This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the morning message entitled Strategy and World Conquest.  In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we have come to verse 6 and following.  And the message is built upon the Word of our Lord in these verses in the first chapter of the Book of Acts.  The text is this:

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 Lord 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, Judea, Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

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

[Acts 1:6-9]

That is, it looked like a cloud.  It was not a cloud such as we think of, made of mist or visible moisture.  It was the shekinah glory of God.  It was the garments of the Lord.  It was the chariot of the Almighty.  And our Lord ascended up into heaven, there in session at the right hand of the Majesty on high [Hebrews 1:3], able to save us to the uttermost because He ever liveth, there to see that we do not fail when the golden gates are opened [Hebrews 7:25].  “And a cloud received Him out of their sight” [Acts 1:9]—and they stood transfixed, looking up into glory, into which the Lord had entered—”and while they stood there fixed, there came two messengers from heaven,” angeloi, messengers, angels, “and they said to them, ‘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 1:9-11].

Now there is buried in that passage a tremendous message for us.  And I pray God shall bless me in mind and heart as I seek to spread it before you that you may look upon it, strategy in kingdom conquest.  There is a Greek word that you run across once in a while in this New Testament.  It is strategosStrategos is the Greek word for a general in an army.  He is a “strategist,” strategist.  Our English word “stratagem” comes from that; a ploy, a scheme, a plan.  Our English word “strategic” comes from that; an object, a place, a development that is vital to the execution of the plan.  So our English word “strategy” comes from that word, strategy.  That refers to the art of so deploying your forces as to win an objective, a strategy.  The Pentagon has a strategy for the defense of America, and if we were attacked, they have a strategy for overwhelming and overcoming the enemy, strategy.

Now there is a distinct strategy of the Almighty God in the building of His kingdom in the earth.  And that strategy in my text is plainly presented in a twofold character.  A part of the strategy of the Almighty God in building His kingdom in the earth is cataclysmic.  It will suddenly come at the consummation of the age, and that was what the disciples were referring to when they said, “Lord, is it now?” [Acts 1:6].  Upon His resurrection from the dead [Matthew 28:5-6]; and glorified, standing before them, “Lord, is it now, this time that You restore again the kingdom to Israel?” [Acts 1:3-6].

All of those things of the Old Testament prophets, glorious millennial pictures of the world that is to come, when God is Ruler and Christ is King [Isaiah 9:7], “Lord, is it now that the kingdom comes?”  And the Lord replied, “That is not for you to know” [Acts 1:7].  There is a time known but to God when Jesus Christ shall come [Matthew 24:36].  “As ye have seen Him go away,” in the shekinah glory of God, so will He return [Acts 1:10-11] in that same glory, accompanied by the hosts of heaven, the saints and the angels of glory [Matthew 25:31; Revelation 1:7].  There is a day coming, a time set, when the kingdom shall be seen visibly [Jeremiah 23:5; Daniel 2:44], and our King shall personally appear [Revelation 1:7].  There is a strategy in God’s kingdom work that is cataclysmic, without announcement, without harbinger; suddenly the heavens are rolled back like a scroll [Revelation 6:14], and God descends, and the kingdom comes [Matthew 24:30, 25:31].

But there is another character in the strategy of Almighty God regarding His coming kingdom.  And this second part is not cataclysmic.  It is not suddenly bursting; but it is rather gradual and progressive.  So the Lord said to the apostles, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me” [Acts 1:8], evangelists in Jerusalem, our Dallas; in Judea, our Texas; in Samaria, our America; and unto the uttermost part of the earth.  The strategy of God in His coming kingdom is twofold.  It is cataclysmic and sudden [Matthew 24:29-30], but it is also gradual and progressive [Luke 17:20-21].  It is not just cataclysmic.  It is not just that we are waiting for the coming King, but it is also that we are working and evangelizing, teaching, training, witnessing, discipling.  It is not just cataclysmic; waiting for the King [Acts 1:6-8].

This last week, I was preaching at the State Convention in Oklahoma City.  And speaking with a man from the First Baptist Church, we began to talk about some of the pastors of the First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.  And they have had some unusual ones all through the years.  They change about every few years.  So, upon a time they had called a very famous evangelist as the pastor of the First Church in Oklahoma City, who was a decided and emphatic premillennialist.  Well, I think that is good.  I am, too.  Only he had a turn to him about his premillennialism that was unusual.

He believed, and that is all right, he believed that Jesus was coming real soon, right now; so much so that all of the rest of the work of the kingdom was sort of an affront to God, as though He were not coming soon.  Now, the doctrine of the imminency—i-m-m-i-n—the imminency of the coming of Christ is what God would have us believe.  Always we are to be ready, prepared; for we know not what hour the Lord may come [Matthew 24:42], but, there is another part to that strategy.  It is not only cataclysmic, suddenly, when the Lord shall come without warning [Mark 13:35-36], but there is another side to it, there is another strategy in it.  There is also a working, and a gradualness, and a progressiveness, and a teaching, and a training in it that is most obvious in the Word of the Lord [Acts 1:8].

Well, anyway, this pastor of the First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City was driving down the street, and he saw one of his deacons planting some little trees in his front yard.  He stopped the car, walked over to the deacon, and addressing him said, “Don’t you know that is a repudiation of my preaching?”  And the deacon in surprise said, “Why, pastor, I am just planting some little trees here in the front of my yard.”  And the pastor said, “Don’t you know that before those trees would grow up to offer any shade, Jesus will be here?  Jesus will come.  You shouldn’t plant trees.  You shouldn’t plan, for the Lord is coming.”

Now that famous evangelist was correct in the gospel that he preached.  Jesus is certainly coming, and we ought to prepare; and His coming is of all things imminent; any day, any hour [Luke 12:40].  But according to the Word of God, and my text that I am trying to expound before you, he was mistaken in the second part of that strategy.  We don’t know that time when the Lord comes, and it is not for us ever to know.  The angels do not know.  Jesus in the days of His flesh said, “I do not know” [Matthew 24:36].  It is as a set time, a fixed time in God’s purposes of election and grace.  But in the meantime, I must work, and I must plan, and I must serve, and I must struggle, and I must agonize, and I must try, and I must teach and witness and train as though His coming were yet another thousand years away.  There is a twofold strategy in the kingdom of God.  He is coming cataclysmically, but also He gave us a tremendous assignment, world conquest and evangelization [Acts 1:7-8].

Now we are going to take the second one: the strategy in the kingdom of God as the Lord has mandated it to us; what we are to do until He comes.  The Lord has very plainly outlined our assignment.  He did it in three tremendous words in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20; He mandated us, He commanded us to go into all the world and the three words, mathēteuō, baptizō, and didaskōMathēteuō, “to make disciples”; it has been an amazing thing to me every time I read that text that the Lord didn’t use euaggelizō, evangelize.  He didn’t use the word evangelize, although we are to evangelize.  He used the word mathēteuō.  Your word “mathematics” comes from that word, mathēteuō, “to make students, to make disciples, to make followers of the whole world.”  It has in it euaggelizō, “evangelism”; and it has in it a world of wealth beside [Matthew 28:19-20].

We are to make disciples of the whole world.  We are to form them in churches, baptizing them in the name of the triune God.  By one baptism are we added to the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13].  We are baptized into the church of the Lord; and didaskōn, teaching them—”didactic” comes from that word; didaskōn, teaching them to observe all of the things that I have commanded you.  And when you do it, “I am with you to the end of the age” [Matthew 28:19-20]; to the great consummation, to the cataclysmic coming of the Lord [Matthew 24:29-30].

Now I had an experience one time that pressed that strategy upon me as no other thing I ever met in my life.  It has so constantly been with me that I have mentioned it many, many times.  Twenty-six years ago, a little over, in 1950, I was on a three-month preaching mission in Japan; beginning at the northern most island, preaching all the way down to Kyushu, the southern most prefecture.  And somewhere, I do not know where, somewhere an officer in the Japanese government took me to a governmental compound.

It was in the days when General Douglas MacArthur, who was a great Christian, ruled the empire of Nippon.  And MacArthur sought to bring the Christian witness, with Bibles and missionaries, to the Japanese.  We had an incomparable opportunity.  I never preached but that we had at least one hundred fifty or more converts.  It was the most glorious open door I have ever seen in the world, and we did nothing about it.  Well, this officer took me to a governmental compound and assembled the people there for me to preach to.  The auditorium was covered with rice mats, and all of the people sat on those mats and listened to me preach.  And when I was through, each one was given a card that was perforated in the middle.  The top card read like this: “I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior, and I do it now.”  And the bottom card said, “I want to know more about Jesus.”

After each one in that great group had been given the card at the end of my sermon, at the end of my appeal, there was a man seated right there who stood up and pointing to the top card, asked me a question.  “Sensei,” which is their word for teacher—”Sensei, if I sign this card, then what?  Then what?”  That question burned like fire in my soul.  “Then when?”  There was no church there.  There were no Bibles.  There was no pastor.  There was no Sunday school.  There was no literature.  There was nothing.  “Sensei, if I sign this card, if I give my heart to Jesus; if I take Him as my personal Savior, then what?”  And that “then what” concerns and covers the whole spectrum and gamut of the kingdom of God?  It is not enough that a man be saved.  It is not enough that a man give his heart to Jesus.  It is not enough that a man be evangelized.  In the strategy of the work and patience of our Lord, there is a mathēteuō, a discipling; a baptizō, a baptizing; a church-building and a didaskō, a teaching and a training [Matthew 28:19-20].

Now I want to show you, if I can, how, when that strategy given us of God is not carried through, how anemic and how apostasizing becomes the work of the Lord in the church.  In this last century, toward the latter part of the century, there was a tremendously gifted and brilliant pulpiteer by the name of T. DeWitt Talmage.  I suppose America, and maybe the world, has never produced as brilliant a man as T. DeWitt Talmage.  I have a book in my library, The Wisdom and Wit of Talmage.

Look at this.  When he preached his sermon on Sunday in the Brooklyn Tabernacle, just across from Manhattan in New York; the next day, practically every great newspaper of the nation from New York to San Francisco printed that sermon in the daily newspaper.  Did you ever hear of anything like that?  Did you ever see anything like that?  It was astonishing!  It was a spiritual phenomenon!  T. DeWitt Talmage had a gift of seizing upon the occurrences of the day, the happenings of the day, and turning them into tremendous sermons that were scintillating and pertinent and brilliant.  And the whole America read them.  Now that is T. DeWitt Talmage.

I was preaching in the First Baptist Church of Brooklyn, and I said to the pastor, who had been there many years, “Can you tell me where the Brooklyn Tabernacle was located, Talmage’s church?”  He said, “I have never been able to find it.”  About three weeks ago, I was preaching in Kansas City to four Baptist conventions; three of them black; one of them white.  For the first time in the history of Missouri, they were convening together.  I was eating dinner with Gardner Taylor, who is pastor of the now-called Brooklyn Tabernacle, a black church in Brooklyn.  And I said to Gardner Taylor, “Do you know where the church was over which presided that great pulpiteer T. DeWitt Talmage?”  And he replied, “I have been pastor in Brooklyn for a generation.  I grew up in Brooklyn.  And,” he said, “I have never been able to find its location.  I do not know where it was.”  So completely has disappeared the work and the church of that scintillating preacher that even those who have given themselves to the ministry of the Lord, in the same town where he preached, they have no idea where it was located.  It is gone.

What does that say?  In letters of living fire, that it is not enough to preach, it is not enough for a pastor to be an able and even brilliant and scintillating pulpiteer.  But, if we follow the strategy that God has given us in this Holy Book, there is not only the evangelizing and the preaching, but there is also the matheteuizing, the disciplining; and the baptizoing, the baptizing, the baptism, the building of the church; and the didaskizing, the teaching and the training in the work and way and mind of the Lord [Matthew 28:19-20].  Can we ever forget, we are never been but generation away from paganism?  Just one.  And we have an everlasting and heavenly mandate.  We must preach, we must evangelize; and we must disciple; and we must baptize; and we must build up the church; and we must teach and we must train [Matthew 28:19-20].  And the assignment is never done, not until the consummation, the cataclysmic end of the age [Matthew 24:29-30].  It is twofold.

Now when we look at the Word of the Lord, look at it closely, I mean far more closely than just a casual devotional reading of the Bible; when we look at it closely and study it closely, there will be some wonderful things that we will see on the surface that you never know.  Now, here is one.  When the Lord began His ministry, as always in the world of darkness, after a while He met vigorous, and bitter, and vituperative, and vitriolic opposition, so much so, as you know, they finally destroyed Him; they crucified Him [Matthew 27:32-50].  Now, when the Lord met that vigorous and violent opposition on the part of the kingdom of darkness; and we shall all meet it—this vile world is no friend of grace to carry us on to God.  There is the kingdom of darkness in this world presided over by Satan and his angels [Ephesians 6:12].  When we do God’s work in the world, we will meet that just as the Lord met it.  Now when the Lord met that opposition of darkness, what did He do?  This is what He did.  He organized and ordained the twelve apostles [Matthew 10:1-4], and the rest of His ministry He spent in teaching them and training them.  There were great withdrawals up into Sidon, Caesarea Philippi beyond Jordan [Matthew 15:21].  He taught and trained those men whom He had ordained, and it was through them that the great heavenly mandate was carried out [Acts 1:8].  The Lord met the fierce and darkening opposition by a program, a strategy!  Then, when you follow the thing through, the whole New Testament, it will be just that.

For example, I have in my hand here, and I turn the pages of four Gospels.  What were they?  They were little tracts that they gave to the catechumens in order that they might know the mind of God in Christ Jesus, and might learn of the Lord—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Matthew was written at Antioch.  And Mark was written at Rome.  And Luke was written at Philippi.  And John was written at Ephesus.  And they were little tracts given to the young converts, what they call “catechumen,” in order that they might be taught the Word of the Lord, that they might know the Lord Jesus.

Now when I come to the next book, the Acts of the Apostles, Luke begins “The former treatise that I made, O Theophilus”—a knight, a nobleman in the Roman Empire—”of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach” [Acts 1:1].  “The former treatise that I have written,” that is the little tract that you call Luke.  He placed it in the hand of this catechumen, this new convert, named Theophilus [Luke 1:3].  And then he followed it up with another tract and I hold that in my hand, the “Acts of the Holy Spirit,” that Theophilus might be instructed, might be taught in the moving of the Spirit of God in the earth!

Then when I turn the pages of the New Testament, I come to the Epistles.  These are doctrinal treatises that the church might be taught in the faith, and, of course, in deportment; how they are to live in the kingdom of the Lord and in the fellowship of the saints.  Then that is followed by the Pastoral Epistles.  These are directives concerning the building up of the church; as Paul said in the Book of Titus to his son, Titus, in the ministry, “For this purpose I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldst . . . ordain pastors in all of the churches” [Titus 1:5].  Then that is followed by the Apocalypse, the last book out of which we read, which is for the encouragement of our people, in the face of tremendous darkness and opposition we shall not fail.  The victory is finally ours!  The whole Bible is that!  It is for catechumens.  It is for learners.  It is for the teaching and training and discipling in the Word of the Lord.

Now we not only have the record of the inspired Word of God, we have two thousand years of Christian history.  And what do you find in the two thousand years of Christian history?  You find the same thing.  That strategy, wherever it has been faithfully followed, there will you find the church growing; the glory of God, the saving of the people, the strengthening of the work of the Lord.  And wherever you find the witnesses of Christ untrue to that strategy, there will you find the work decaying and apostasizing and finally in anemia, disappearing from the face of the earth.  If we had time, which we do not, we could be here all day long listening to the pastor as he reviews that two thousand years of strategy in the story of Christendom.

May I take just one or two instances of it?  There came out of Iona, the little island of Iona, there came out missionaries, scholars, and they evangelized the Scots, the Scottish people.  They won them to Christ, and they taught them the faith, and Scotland became one of the great Christian nations of this world, Scotland.  The same thing happened in Ireland.  There was the Baptist preacher by the name of Patrick, and he went over there under the power of the Holy Spirit of God and evangelized that entire Emerald Island.  He baptized all six of those great tribal chieftains, and their warriors, and their families, and their courts.  He won the whole island to Jesus.  And he built those churches—conversion; baptized them; baptized them, and taught them the way of the Lord, and Ireland became a great Christian nation.  Now what has happened?

In this very pulpit where I now stand, there was the president of one of the Christian colleges of Scotland.  And I quote from him.  I quote from him verbatim.  He said, “If the apostasy that we have seen in the Christian church in Scotland for the past twenty years continues for the next twenty years, Scotland will be as pagan as it was when Columbo left Iona to evangelize it.”  When was that?  In 500 AD.  Have you been to Europe?  Have you been to Scotland?  Have you been to England?  Have you been to church?  Do you see?  The whole British Isles and all of continental Europe is as pagan as it could be.

There are not two percent of the people who attend church.  Walking up and down the streets of Stockholm and riding those buses, I talked to everybody I could, inviting them to the Lord, inviting them to the church.  And without exception, I had the same, unwearying, repeated answer, “I am not interested!”  I never had a variation of that reply.  “I am not interested.”  What did we say?  “We are never but generation away from heathenism, from paganism.”  And what you are seeing develop in England and continental Europe is the loss and disintegration of the faith!

And something else happens, and I haven’t time to expatiate upon it.  Wherever we lose the faith, you look at what is happening to England economically.  Whenever we have lost spiritually, you look at what is happening to Europe economically.  Why, I have knowledgeable men who say to me in all sincerity, “It is just a matter of a small time until you see Europe fall into the hands of the communists.”  They can have Italy any time they choose.  They can almost have France any time they choose.  Have you read this morning’s paper, which I do not read on Sunday, but I happened to look at that.  Have you seen this morning’s paper about Old Mexico?  They are leaving Mexico, those that can get out.  They are fleeing Mexico, those who have anything, for the country has lost its soul!  And losing it has lost its great economic potentiality.  And the people are afraid; just one generation.

Strategy in the kingdom of God; great Lord in heaven, what an assignment to evangelize, yes; to mathēteuō, to disciple, a thousand times, yes; to build up the churches, a million times, yes; to didaskō, to teach them the mind of God in Christ Jesus, a hundred thousand million times, yes [Matthew 28:19-20].  And that is the burden of my message to you.

How many of our people look upon the Christian faith as a speculation?  It might be true; maybe not true; indifferently discussed.  How many of our own people look upon the church as a toy to be played with?  How many of them think of the building itself as the architectural ornament on Ervay Street?  Where is that dead earnestness and commitment that turns our Greek word “witness,” martus, into the English word martyr?  That is, “he laid down his life for the faith.”  It was blood.  It was life.  It was eternity.  It was God.  So many of our people are half-time Christians; they are quarter-time Christians.  They are part-time Christians.  They are—maybe, they are, maybe not.  Lord, Lord, how we need a commitment.

I was talking to one of the men of our church.  He may be here this morning.  I was visiting with him, and he had the envelope in which—a business envelope—a church envelope, in which he placed his pledge card.  And he was going to mail it and turn it into the church.  He said to me facetiously; he said, “Pastor, I will just give the envelope to you.  It will save the church.”  What do one of those things cost, John, when we mail in a business envelope our pledge card, ten cents or eleven, or twelve, or whatever?  He facetiously said, “Pastor, I’ll save you that much money.  I’ll just put it in your hand.”  I said, “Oh, thank you.”  And I put it in my coat pocket.  And, when I was coming to church, I was going to turn it in for him.  I had no thing about that envelope, or what was in it, or the pledge card, it wasn’t even in my mind.  I just thanked him for it and put it in my coat pocket and was going to turn it in for him, as he said to save the church ten cents or eleven or whatever.  I just started talking to him about the work.  I began talking to him about the dreams we had and the visions we had, talking to him about what we were doing here.  A fellow said here in this pulpit that every day there are more than a thousand people down here at this church studying before a Christian teacher; every day.  It will be that way tomorrow.  It will be that way the next day.  Every day, there are more than a thousand people down here at this church studying in a class the Word of the Lord, the mind of Christ.  So I was just talking to him about the work of the Lord, and what we were trying to do for Jesus; trying to make this thing shine for Him—build a lighthouse for the Lord!  I was just talking to him about the work.  He put his hand on my arm like this.  He said, “Pastor, give me back that envelope.”

Well, I reached back in my pocket and put it back in his hand.

He said, “Pastor, I’m ashamed of what I have done.  Give it back to me.”

And he said, “Then, I’ll fill out a pledge card that will be worthy of the Lord.”

The spirit of that man, who evidently was sensitive to the leading of our Savior, the spirit of that man is what we need.  “Lord, I have been toying with the faith.  I’ve been following afar off.  I haven’t been all out.  But by the grace of God, I’m going to change.  The Lord can have me, and I give myself to Him; all of me.”

You know what I think reading the Book?  I think a man ought to work to pay expenses.  I think his vocation ought to be serving Jesus.  “I have a mortgage to pay; got children’s mouths to feed; got their naked backs to clothe.  I have got to buy the groceries.”  But these things, we work just to pay the bill, the expenses of a banker, a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, clerk, a typist, shovel gravel, work in the parts department, whatever.  We do that just to pay expenses.  But my job is, my business is, my vocation is, my calling is to serve Jesus.  “Here I am, Lord, such as I have, such as I can do, count me in.  Put my name among those who love God.  With all of my heart, and all of my mind, and all of my strength, and all of my body, count me, Lord, among those who are disciples of Jesus.”  That’s the strategy of the kingdom.  Without it, I repeat, the church fails, the nation fails, the home fails, the fabric of society fails.  But with it, the Lord is exalted, the people are blessed, and God heals the nation.

And that’s our prayer and our invitation to you today, thus to give your whole heart to the Lord.  On television and radio, wherever you are, to bow in that commitment, “Lord, today, beginning now, I give to Thee everything that I am.”  And here in this great throng of people, in this balcony round, a family, a couple, or just you, on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, to give your heart to Christ, to come into the fellowship of His church, to do God’s will and God’s call in your life, would you make that decision now?  And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up walking down that stairway, coming down that aisle, “Here I am, pastor, I make that decision now.”  Do it.  And may the angels we preached about last Sunday night attend you in the way while you come.  While we stand and while we sing.