The Baptism in Blood
September 11th, 1977 @ 7:30 PM
THE BAPTISM IN BLOOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-11-77 7:30 p.m.
And once again, thank you, the brass section of our orchestra and our choir that is kind of showing tonight, but they will do better next Sunday night. When I have my next conference with Gary Moore, they will be full up there next Sunday night. Now, we want you who are listening on radio to open your Bible with us to the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew chapter 20, verses 20 through 23, verses 20 through 23. Our text is in another area of the Bible than the book through which we are preaching. These days we are preaching through the Book of Acts, and in the Book of Acts in the eighth chapter, and in the eighth chapter the closing verses which describe the baptism of the Ethiopian treasurer. And I have been preaching on “Preaching Jesus.” “And he began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35]; so the title this morning, Preaching Jesus, The Baptism in Water.
Because tonight we have the Lord’s Supper, I am preaching one other baptism. And this is the one that we read in the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, The Baptism in Blood. Will you then read out loud with me, both the thousands who listen on the radio, if you have opportunity to have a Bible in your hand, and the thousands who are here in this sanctuary, Matthew chapter 20, verses 20-23?
Now read it out loud together with the pastor:
Then came to Him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshiping Him, and desiring a certain thing of Him.
And He said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto Him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on Thy right hand, and the other on the left, in Thy kingdom.
But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto Him, We are able.
And He saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on My right hand, and on My left, is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father.
The Lord answering James and John, who desired in the kingdom that they be seated on His right hand and on His left, were not rebuked for their ambition in the service of the Lord, to be much identified with our Christ in His kingdom, but there was a price to pay. “Can you drink the cup that I drink of? Can you be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” [Matthew 20:22]. And they said, “Lord, we can” [Matthew 20:22]. And the Lord replied—and this is prophetic—“Ye shall indeed drink of My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with” [Matthew 20:23]. The cup of our Lord was the cup of blood, the cup of suffering. And it is a prognostication and a prophecy of what should happen to those two brothers, those sons of Zebedee. James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I in the twelfth chapter of Acts [Acts 12:1-2]. And the sainted apostle John was sent to Patmos in his old age to die of exposure and starvation [Revelation 1:9]. “Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of, and ye shall be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with,” the baptism of blood.
There is a cheap gospel that I hear and have heard all of my life. And in listening to the radio, I often turn to those stations that present this cheap of all cheap gospels. The men who are paid and get money for doing it stand or sit, and they preach in loud voices and sanctimonious tones saying, “Here is a vial of oil that I will send you for such-and-such money,” or, “Here is a little prayer cloth—a healing cloth that I’ll send you for such-and-such money.” Yesterday one of them advertised, “I have a quiver of the arrows of deliverance, and I will send you this arrow of deliverance, and each one will deliver you twenty-one times.” And they go through all of that cheap, cheap, cheap gospel message saying, “It is not God’s will that you ever suffer. It’s never God’s will that you be sick. It’s never God’s will that you be plunged into sorrow and tears and death. Jesus, in the atonement, healed all of your diseases, and you are never to suffer, never to be in trial, never to be ill, never to be aged, never to die. You buy these things that we have blessed, this little vial of oil and anoint yourself with it, or come here and let us anoint you, and we’ll have an anointing service, and then you’ll never be sick. You’ll never be tried. You’ll never be sorrowful. You’ll never have pain.” Ah, is that true and is that the revelation of the gospel message in this Holy Book? So we’re never to be tried. We’re never to be sick. We’re never to be plunged into sorrow, and we’re never to suffer. We are delivered from all of these things.
I stand over the fallen form of Abel, and I look at the ground that drinks up his blood [Genesis 4:8-10], and I say, “What is this? Where is God? Doesn’t God care for Abel, the righteous son of our first parents?” Or I look at the fortunes of Job, who of all men was tried, plunged into the deepest of life’s sorrows [Job 1-3], and I say, “What? What? Doesn’t God care? Doesn’t God know? Doesn’t God deliver? What is this that has happened to Job?” Or I look at Jonathan, one of the purest, most beautiful characters in human literature, cut down with his father Saul on Mt. [Gilboa], cut down by the blaspheming Philistines [1 Samuel 31:1-6], and I say, “What? Jonathan, lying here in his own blood, slaughtered by the sword of the heathen.”
And I look at Daniel, beautiful, holy, the most paragon of all of the young men you could ever read after, as a teenager, captured by Nebuchadnezzar in about 605 BC [Daniel 1:1-7], a young fellow who had been converted and introduced to God in the great revival under Josiah [2 Kings 23:1-25]. And the armies of the Babylons seize him, take him to the court in Babylonia, make a eunuch of him, and the rest of his life, he spends as a slave, as a eunuch in the court of Babylon [Daniel 1:6-7]. What? Does God not care? Does God not see? Does God not know? What is this that is happened to one of the saintliest young men who ever lived? Or I turn to the New Testament as I’m going through the whole Word of God.
Jesus in Gethsemane, crying unto the Father in agony [Matthew 26:38-44], and finally nailed to a tree, and dying in insufferable sorrow and pain on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50]. What? Does God not care? Does God not see?
And following through in the Bible, Stephen, this Hellenistic Jew, this Greek-speaking foreign-born Jew who was filled with the Holy Spirit of God, who spake with such wisdom that they could not answer him [Acts 8:10], and in fury and in rage they drag him outside the city wall and stone him to death! [Acts 7:58-60]. What? Does God not care? Does God not see? Does God not deliver?
Where’s your little vial of oil or your arrow of deliverance or your little prayer cloth that you sell for money? You say it’s not God’s will that we suffer or be sick. James, this young man who by the side of John asked this of Jesus, baptized in blood, beheaded with the sword of Herod Agrippa I that he might please the blaspheming Jews [Acts 12:2-3]. Or as we continue on, the apostle Paul. What is this I hear, you’re crying unto God because of this stake? The King James Version, this thorn in your flesh [2 Corinthians 12:7-8]. It was a fleshly illness. It was some terrible thing that Paul had to endure every day and night of his life. What? Does God not deliver? Does He not answer prayer? Does He not heal? Why?
Or in 2 Timothy 4:20, “Trophimus,” writes Paul, “have I left sick at Miletus.” What? Trophimus was one of the finest companions of Paul through all the years of his ministry. What’s the matter? Can’t Paul heal? Doesn’t God care? Is Paul cruel and hard? And he leaves Trophimus sick in Miletus. Why doesn’t Paul heal him? Hard-hearted and cruel. Why doesn’t God heal him? He must be hardhearted and cruel also.
Turn to the second chapter of the Book of the Revelation, the Lord speaks of “My martyr Antipas” [Revelation 2:13]. Nobody knows who Antipas is. He represents ten thousand times ten thousand martyrs who laid down their lives for the Christian faith in that first century after the apostolic age. And I carry the message on through.
Did you know the first historical mention we have of Christ is by the magnificent Roman historian, Tacitus? Tacitus was about twelve or fifteen years of age when Paul and Peter were martyred. And the first, the first instance in secular history that we have a mentioning of the name of Christ is in the Annals of Tacitus. And why is he mentioning this? He is describing the ferocious inanity of Nero against a group called Christians. And in that he had to explain who the Christians were. And I read this famous passage from Tacitus. And you’ll look at the occasion that gave rise to this great Roman historian concerning persecution and suffering. “But all human efforts”—he is explaining the burning of Rome and Nero’s effort to avert the suspicion that Nero did it in order to build his golden palace. So, describing the efforts of Nero to avert the suspicions that he did it, Tacitus writes:
But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor and the propitiation of the gods did not vanish the sinister belief that the conflagration was a result of his order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abomination called Christians by the populus. Christus, Christ, from whom the name had its origin—
And that’s the first time the name of Christ is ever mentioned in secular literature:
Christ, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the supreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate. And a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.
Now he’s a heathen author, a tremendously gifted historian, but his attitude toward the Christians is one of disdain and contempt, as you can read. “Accordingly,” he writes, “an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty. Then upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted.” Showing how many Christians had been won to the Lord in Rome even in about 60 AD, “an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city as of hatred against mankind.”
That’s Tacitus’s idea of the Christian religion.
Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, these Christians were torn by dogs and perished or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt to serve as a nightly illumination when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle and was exhibiting a show in the circus—
the great round arena—
while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there rose a feeling of compassion for these Christians, for it was not as it seemed for the public good, but to glut Nero’s cruelty that they were being destroyed.
Where is your little vial of oil or your little prayer cloth or your cheap gospel in the sight of the burning by the thousands and the thousands of these Christians under the first persecution of Nero?
I have in my hands here, I have one of the great, great books of all time. I have Foxe’s Book of Martyrs; Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. These are the two great books that have changed the life of the Christian speaking world; and next to the Bible, have been read more than any other books that have ever been published. One, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and the other, Pilgrim’s Progress. What do I expect to find in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs? The first section—he was born in the early 1700s—the first section is on the history of the Christian martyrs to the first persecution under Nero and that concerns the apostles, how they died. Then the second chapter is the ten primitive persecutions; that is, the persecutions of the Christians under the secular Roman Empire.
And do you notice, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs says there are ten primitive persecutions, ten persecutions under the Roman Empire. And when I read the Book of the Revelation, the church at Ephesus represents the church of the apostles [Revelation 2:1-7]. The second church, the church at Smyrna, called the martyr church, the church at Smyrna is addressed by the Lord with these words, “Ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” [Revelation 2:10]. And when I read that of the Smyrnan church, the church immediately following the apostles, the church of the martyrs [Revelation 2:8-11], I read in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs the ten primitive persecutions: the first under Nero; the next under Domitian; the next under Trajan, and so on ‘til the last one under Diocletian. These are the Christians who laid down their lives for the faith, who were baptized in their own blood.
Then this next great and greatest of all books, Pilgrim’s Progress, written by John Bunyan, a Baptist preacher, who refused to obey the edict of the king that he couldn’t preach, and stayed in Bedford jail for ten years, and wrote this—next to the Bible the most read book in human literature, and it is called Pilgrim’s Progress from Earth to Heaven. And what is the book about? The book is about, from beginning to end, the trials and the troubles and the sorrows of the Christian Pilgrim as he journeys through this weary world—the baptism in blood.
No matter where you are or who you are, there are enemies to you in the Christian faith on the outside. In the Revelation from chapter 5 through chapter 19, there is nothing but blood and slaughter, trial and tribulation [Revelation 5:1-19:21]. This continues to the consummation of the age. And not only do we have the trials of being a Christian in the world, but we have the trials of being a Christian in our own souls, in our own hearts. Our enemy is not only outside; he is inside and always inside with us. We travail in our troubles in the Christian pilgrimage in this world.
I heard last week a story of Spurgeon. There was a young preacher, and Spurgeon was in the audience. And the young preacher was dramatically, dramatically describing the panoply, the armor of the Christian, in the sixth chapter of the Book of Ephesians. And Paul says we are to take on the whole armor of God [Ephesians 6:10-20]. We are to be girt with the girdle of righteousness, and our feet are to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace [Ephesians 6:14-15]. And we are to put on the helmet of salvation . And we are to be covered with the breastplate of righteousness [Ephesians 6:14]. And we are to take the shield of faith [Ephesians 6:16]. And we are to hold in our hands the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God [Ephesians 6:17]. And the dramatic young preacher said he put on this preparation of shoes for preaching the gospel of peace and girt with the girdle of truth, and he had on the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, and he said, “I am ready. I am armored. Where is the devil? Bring him on. I’m ready for him.” And Spurgeon whispered, “Psst, psst, the devil is in the armor.”
That’s true! You’ll never get him out of your heart. You’ll never get him out of your soul. You’ll never get him out of your house. You’ll never get him out of your home. You’ll never get him out of your life. You’ll never get him out of business. You’ll never get him out of the car. Wherever you are, he’s right there. He’s like the vision in Zechariah. “I saw Joshua the high priest of God standing, and Satan standing at his right hand to contravene him, to interdict him, to oppose him” [Zechariah 3:1].
He’s here in this pulpit. He comes to church oftener than you do. There’s no time that he’s not here. He’s down there by your side when you kneel in prayer, and you’ll never get beyond the trial and the trouble of Satan’s affliction in this life: the baptism in blood [Matthew 20:23]. Nor am I to be dissuaded otherwise when troubles come upon me.
Is this not a Book of martyrdom? Is it not? Did the Lord not say in the sixteenth chapter, the last verse of the Gospel of John, “In the world ye shall have tribulation”? [John 16:33]. Did He not say that? Did He not say in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, “I send you forth as lambs, sheep among wolves”? [Matthew 10:16]. Did the apostle Paul not write, “In the last days there shall come perilous times?” [2 Timothy 3:1] And then listen, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” [2 Timothy 3:12].
Is not that written in the Book? Is not that a Book of martyrs? And when we follow after the Lord, do we not follow after trails of blood in Gethsemane? “His sweat as it were drops of blood” [Luke 22:44].
Have you ever been in Gethsemane? Have you ever known a Gethsemane in your life? Sorrow, blood, following the Lord through the Via Dolorosa, through the pilgrimage and finally to the cross [Luke 23:26-46]. And the Lord’s Supper is for our memorial, our remembrance. What did He ask us to remember? The miracles that He did? Never mentioned them. The great truths that He thought? Never spoke of them. But He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:24-26], the suffering, the blood of the cross. And is not that our assignment in this life?
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause
Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flow’ry beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed thro’ bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend of grace,
To carry me on to God?
No, I must fight if I would reign,
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
[“Am I A Soldier of the Cross,” Isaac Watts]
That’s what it is to be a Christian, baptized in blood [Matthew 20:23].
I close, and I wish we had hours now to speak of why, why would one choose to suffer? Why would one choose to battle? Why would one choose to follow a Lord whose footsteps are stained in blood and who died on a cross? The answer is simple, plain, and precious. You see, there’s a joy unspeakable in following the blessed Lord through any swollen river, beyond any trial, through any trouble. Hebrews 12:2; “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of God.” Of whom is he speaking? About Jesus, who for the joy that was set before Him. That’s the Christian faith. “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God” [Acts 16:25]. No wonder the prisoners heard them. These men were in stocks, and the blood ran down their backs. They’d been beat with Roman rods [Acts 16:23-24]. But there in that dungeon, fastened into stocks, beat by the magistrate, they were so happy they sang praises to God [Acts 16:25].
I have read authoritatively that the martyrs never felt the flames. They were so filled with the joy of the Spirit of God that as their bodies burnt, they sang hymns and songs and praises to Jesus. That is the Christian faith. And that’s the way we are to be in any trial or any sorrow in our lives. If it is God’s will like Job, or Abel, or Jonathan, or Daniel, or James, or Trophimus, or Antipas, or Paul, Lord, Lord, just fill my soul with the joy and the gladness of the presence of God as we receive from His hands those providences that He chooses best for us.
Why, in my study, within a week there was a family telling me of the sorrow that had come into their home because of a tragic death. And I said, “You know what it is to be a Christian? It’s just like this: so the doctor has told me that in three months I’ll be dead. The doctor has told me that I have a terminal illness, a cancer inoperable and that in three months I will be dead. This is what it is to be a Christian.”
“Doctor, would you say that again? Three months I’ll be dead?”
“Three months you’ll be dead.” This is what it is to be a Christian. “Bless God, praise God, glory to His name, in three months I’ll see Jesus face to face, three months.” That’s what it is to be a Christian. Bathed in blood, praise God there’s a providence that maybe I don’t understand beneath us, suffering in trial, bowed down in sorrow, tears raining from our faces, bless God there’s a holy and heavenly reason for it, dying in the faith with a song on your lips.
“Can you be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? Drink the cup that I drink? You shall” [Matthew 20:22-23]. That’s what it is to be a Christian. Oh, dear people, if God would just give us strength to follow after, the joy is supernal, unspeakable, precious, indescribable!
We are going to stand in just a moment now and sing our hymn of appeal. And for you to give your heart to Jesus, to follow in the way of our Lord, for you to come into the fellowship of our church, walking down one of these stairways, coming down one of these aisles, “Here I am, pastor. I have decided for Christ. I’m following Him. And I’m on the way.” Do it. God be with you and the angels attend you as you come. “This night I have decided for Him.” A family you to put your life in the church, a couple you, or just one, somebody you, on the first note of the first stanza, come. I’ll be standing right there to that side of the communion table. On the first note, when you stand up, stand up coming down that aisle, walking down that stairway, “Here’s my hand, pastor. I’ve given my heart to God, putting my life with you in this wonderful church. We’re on the way. Here we are.” God bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
BAPTISM OF BLOOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The cheap gospel daily preached
A. Hear it everywhere: faith oil, faith water, heal sickness for money
B. Abel, Job, Jonathan, Daniel and others’ suffering; did God forget about them?
C. The evil world inside and outside
II. Biblical Christianity
A. The Bible, a book of martyrs
B. Following our Lord
III. Inexpressible joy
A. Paul and Silas
B. Martyrs burned at the stake
C. Persecution and suffering