The Power of Personal Testimony
April 3rd, 1977 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 11:23
4-3-77 7:30 p.m.
In keeping with this first Sunday of April, in which we have the observance of our Lord’s Supper, I have chosen, if God will help me, to present tonight in the message the background of why it was that our Lord was so bitterly rejected and so summarily crucified. The text would be in 1 Corinthians 11:23: "the night in which He was betrayed." And I shall read the whole passage together when we observe this memorial of the Lord’s Supper.
"The night in which He was betrayed." To us who love the Lord, it is almost beyond our imagination that so beautiful a character, so sweet and gentle a person, so meek and mild a teacher, should have been so ruthlessly and mercilessly condemned and crucified. How could such a thing have ever come to pass?
If God will help me, I hope I can portray that in this sermon tonight. Going back and following the events, when Jesus came to the latter part of His three-year ministry, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem [Luke 9:51], announcing to His apostles that He should be delivered into the hands of sinners, and should be crucified and die, and the third day, rise from the dead [Mark 9:31].
So going through Galilee and, as most Jews did, crossing over into Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan, and coming down southward [Mark 10:1]; in that journey through Perea, he was met by the rich young ruler [Mark 10:17]. And this is something for many of us to remember who work with people who need the Lord. The Lord did not succeed all of the time. He also knew what it was to see someone say no and walk away. So it was with the rich young ruler. The Lord invited him to eternal life. But, he refused to pay the price. He loved the world more than he loved God, loved his possessions more than he loved Christ and walked away [Mark 10:18-22].
Then the Lord crossing over Jordan, came to Jericho on the way up to Jerusalem, and in Jericho we have the story of the healing of the blind man, Bartimeus [Mark 10:46-52]. And then, the Lord calling down Zaccheus out of the tree and announcing that He would spend the day with that despised publican [Luke 19:1-6]. And seated there at the table with that despised tax-gatherer, the Lord announced to him that this day, salvation had come to his house [Luke 19:9-10]. And Zaccheus, standing as tall as his short stature would allow, said, "Master, this day have I given my heart and my life to the faith, and to Thee. And if I have wronged any man, I will restore him fourfold. And a portion – and a large one – of all that I possess, will I give in the ministry to those who have need" [Luke 19:7-8].
It was a wonderful thing, a keeping with what I was preaching about this morning: a personal testimony, the Lord going to that particular tree, looking up into the face of that particular sinner and saying to him He was going to spend the day in that man’s house and winning him personally to the Lord.
That’s the best way in the earth to win people to Christ, is one by one; so the Lord, in that wonderful story of Zaccheus in Jericho [Luke 19:1-10]. And then leaving Jericho, He came up to the little city of Bethany, which is located on the farther slope of Mount Olivet [Mark 11:1].
The next day is Sunday, and on Sunday our Lord entered Jerusalem, at the exact time we’re told by Gabriel the angel to Daniel the prophet-statesman in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel [Daniel 9:25]. In the exact way as it was prophesied by Zechariah the prophet, the Lord Jesus came riding on the foal of an ass into Jerusalem [Zechariah 9:9]. And the people, the throngs, were ecstatic in their praise of God, in the coming of their promised Messiah [Mark 11:9-10]. This was the great historical rendezvous of God with His chosen people, Israel. The mighty and victorious and triumphant day had come. Israel was presented with her messianic King. And He came as the prophet, as prophesied, riding on the foal of an ass into the city, and the people took palm branches and waved them before Him; they even took off their clothes for that beast of burden to walk upon [Mark 11:7-8]. And the children shouted the praises of God [Matthew 21:15]. The whole multitude burst into the glorious paean of love and adoration: "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the Son of David, Hosannah in the highest" [Matthew 21:9].
Now, the throng was ecstatic. They were happy. They were filled with praise. But the rulers of the nation and the theological professors of the rabbinical schools, and all of the leaders in the temple and among the people, were offended by what the throngs were doing. And they said to the Master, to the King who had come: "Bid these be still." And the Lord said: "If these were to be silent, the very stones would cry out" [Luke 19:40].
This was the great covenant day for Israel. Her King had come. The next day, the Lord came back again into Jerusalem from Bethany where He was spending the night of that Passover week, the week in which we are now living: Passover. And when the Lord came down the mountainside and up into Jerusalem, He passed by a fig tree. And because He was a hungered, and because the tree had leaved and shown forth itself as being full of fruit – coming to the tree, it was barren. There was no fruit upon it. Yet, a leaved fig tree was a sign of an abundance of fruit. And the Lord cursed the fig tree [Mark 11:12-14]. It was sterile and barren. Instead of bearing forth fruit unto God, it was empty.
And the fig tree is always a sign of Israel. And when the Lord cursed the fig tree because of its barrenness and its unfruitfulness and its sterility, it was a parable, a picture, an earnest, of what God was doing with the nation that was about to refuse their messianic King.
Then the Lord comes into the city of Jerusalem and cleanses the temple [Mark 11:15-19]. Here again was an affront of the first order and the highest degree to the leaders of Jewry. You see, there was not anything more profitable than that temple traffic. They bought. They sold. They changed money. And for these Sadducees, and for the high priest and his family and the ruling clique of the temple, it brought in untold wealth.
And when a man touches a fellow’s pocketbook, he touches the most vital nerve center in his life. And when the Lord cast out those that were buying and selling and changing, He caused an indescribable bitterness to rise in the hearts of those who were trafficking in the temple and thus making money like a mint. There was a bitterness that arose in their hearts that was as deep as life itself.
At that time, there came the Gentiles, the Greeks, saying: "Sirs, we would see Jesus" [John 12:20-21]. And that brought to the heart of our Master the vision of the cross upon which soon He would die: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me," the message of salvation, not just for Israel, but the whole world to be included in the family of God, who look by faith to Him.
Then the Lord returned to Bethany for the night. The next day, which is Tuesday – the next day was the day of the tremendous and violent confrontation between the King Messiah, the Lord Jesus, and the rulers of the temple, and the rulers of the nation, the priesthood, and all of those who were in exalted leadership among the Jewish people.
First of all was the Sanhedrin. When the Lord appeared in the temple, the next day, on Tuesday, He was accosted by the Sanhedrin. And they came up to Him and asked, "By what authority do You dare to do these things?" [Mark 11:27-28]. Well, it is a good question. Here is a man, by the simple sheer aura of His personality that could cleanse an entire twenty-six acres of the temple. And they didn’t dare seize Him, for fear of the people [Mark 11:18, 32].
There must have been something about the Lord that was beyond anything that we have ever been introduced to. What could happen in the presence of the personality of the Son of God? When people decry the miracles of the Lord, it is because they don’t realize what is possible in the presence of God. For example, when they sought Him in Nazareth, to cast Him headlong down into death, the Book says He just walked in the very midst.
There was a majesty and a glory about Jesus that we do not know or could enter into, having never seen Him. So it was in His cleansing of the temple. Why didn’t they seize Him? Why didn’t the temple police take hold of Him, wag Him off to prison and to jail?
It was because of the love of the people for Him and because of that intangible something that accompanied the personality of the Son of God. The Lord Himself said, "You could have no power over Me, except it is in the purpose and plan of God that I die for the nation and for the world" [John 19:11]. So at that first confrontation, the members of the Sanhedrin come up to the Lord Jesus and say, "By what authority doest Thou these things?" [Mark 11:28].
And the Lord replied, and you’re going to follow through now to some of the most brilliant dialectics you ever were introduced to in your life. How the Son of God could speak! And the Lord replied, "Let Me ask you a question. And if you answer Me, I will answer you [Mark 11:29]. The baptism of John: was it from God, or was it from men? [Mark 11:30]. Is it something the Lord commanded of him? Or is it something that he invented of himself? The baptism of John: whence came it; from heaven or from men?
And they reasoned among themselves and said, "If we say it is from heaven, why, He will say, ‘Then why do you not believe him, for he witnessed to Me?’ But, if we say ‘It was from men – he invented it himself’ – the people will stone us," because all men, everywhere, received John as a prophet [Mark 11:31-32].
And so, the Sanhedrin said to the Lord, "We do not know. We cannot answer Thee."
And the Lord said, "Neither will I answer thee" [Mark 11:33].
Brilliant! Then, the second confrontation there in the temple. Now the Herodians, and the Pharisees hated each other. The Pharisees hated the Herodians and the Herodians hated the Pharisees, but they all agreed they hated Jesus more.
So the Herodians and the Pharisees had a trap. What a trap! It was as brilliant as the devil himself, who says, "I am the king of this whole world and its glory is mine."
They had a trap. No way in the world to get out of that. You see, it was framed like this: the people of Jewry hated Rome. They were the chosen people of God, but they were slaves to Rome. And Rome imposed heavy taxes upon them. And they hated Rome, so they devised a question. "Is it right to give tribute to Caesar?" [Mark 12:14]. How innocent a question! Why, it had been debated for years and for years: is it right to pay tribute to Caesar?
If the Lord says yes, the people will hate Him, stone Him, for they were galling under the yoke of Roman slavery. But if He says it is not right to pay tribute to Caesar, then He is guilty of treason. All they had to do was to accuse Him before the Roman procurator, and immediately He was arrested for sedition, treason. You couldn’t get out of a trap like that. Plain and simple innocuous question! So they come up to the Lord Jesus and say, "Is it right to give tribute to Caesar or not? What do You say?"
And, the Lord said: "Bring Me a piece of the money that is current in the land" [Mark 12:15].
And they brought Him a piece of the money. And holding it in His hand – a denarius – He said, "Whose image and inscription is that?"
And they said, "Caesar’s" [Mark 12:16].
And He replied, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s" [Mark 12:17]. It was an amazing answer!
But, they’re not done in this day of confrontation. The Sadducees came forward then to ridicule Him. "You believe in the resurrection? Huh? You believe in being raised from the dead? Huh? And You believe in a life that is to come? Huh? Then, let us ask You something: according to the levirate law [Deuteronomy 25:5-6], if a man has a wife and no child and the man dies, his brother is to take his wife and to raise an issue to the brother that had died, lest his name perish and his family perish in the earth." Now, said the Sadducees – and they told an old hackneyed story over which they had laughed for the years of their existence: "There was a man who had a wife. And he died without leaving any issue, without any son. So, by the levirate law, his brother took her. And he died, not having a son. Then the third brother took her. And he died and no issue. And the fourth brother took her, and the fifth one and the sixth one. And there were seven brothers, and all seven brothers had her and died without any issue. And last of all the woman died. Now, in the resurrection – Ha, ha, ha," said those Sadducees – "Now, in the resurrection, whose wife is she, for all seven of them were married to her? Ha, ha, ha, ha!" [Mark 11:18-23]. They had devastated and decimated those who believed in the resurrection for centuries with that old hackneyed story. "Ha, ha, ha! Boy, have we got Him in a corner! Let’s hear Him answer now."
And the Lord said, "In the resurrection, we are like the angels." That is, our instruments and vessels of procreation, of fertility, are not anymore given to us. We are like the angels, like Gabriel and like Michael. We are like the angels of God in the resurrection. "But, as concerning the resurrection, you do greatly err, not knowing the Scriptures. For did you never read: I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dust and of the dead and of the grave. God is the God of the living: I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, living, living" [Mark 11:24-27].
Let me point out something to you. There, talking about the infallibility and the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures; in that answer of our Lord, He is basing the entire doctrine of the resurrection from the dead upon the tense of a verb: "I am the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the living."
Now in that confrontation, when the Pharisees saw that the Lord had put to silence the Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection, the Pharisees came up to Him and, in a way to entrap Him again, one of their lawyers stood up and asked Him the question over which they had debated for centuries and centuries, again: "Master, what is the greatest commandment in the law?" [Matthew 12:28].
Here is something that I learned from the Lord for all of us. There are differences in commandments. Some are more weighty than others. Some are more vital than others. Some are more significant than others. Some things are more important than others.
And the Lord so answered, "There is a great commandment in the law. It is"and He quoted the shema, from the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy [Deuteronomy 6:4-5]: "Hear" – hear, shema – "Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord. And thou shalt worship the Lord thy God" – not a multitude of gods, just One, the One true Jehovah, Jesus God –
Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God with all of thy heart, and strength, and might, and mind, and soul, and body.
And the second commandment is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
And the Pharisaical lawyer looked at the Lord Jesus and said, "Master, You have answered well. To love the Lord thy God is the greatest commandment of the Lord. And to love a man’s neighbor, to love people, is like unto it" [Mark 12:32-33].
What a day! What a day. And it closed with the Lord’s scathing denunciation of these whited sepulchers [Matthew 23:27] and ended in sobs and in tears. You read the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Matthew, which is the conclusion of that day of confrontation, and the scathing denunciation and judgment of the Lord. And it closes, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. . .how oft would I have gathered, but you would not! Your house is left unto you desolate" [Matthew 23:37-38].
And as the Lord passed by, the last thing in His public ministry, He watched the people give into the treasury, and saw a poor widow cast in everything that she had. And He said, "She hath given more than they all, for they out of an abundance hast cast in, but she, all of her living" [Luke 21:2-4].
Now, the last day of His life: and going up, leaving the city for the last time, they pointed out to Him those great stones in the temple [Matthew 24:1-2]. And then, walking up Olivet, He seated Himself and gave that marvelous discourse on the end of the age: "Master, You say these stones are to be destroyed and the temple, torn down? When shall it be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming?" [Matthew 24:3]. Then His great apocalyptic address in Matthew 24 and 25.
That night, He is the guest in the home of Simon the leper. And Mary anoints Him with oil, with spikenard [Matthew 26:6-13]. It would take a man a whole year to work to buy that much ointment. And when Mary anointed the Lord, Judas Iscariot, because he was a thief, John said, and had the bag [John 12:6] – he was the treasurer, Judas Iscariot said, "Look at this waste! Why, we could have taken that and fed the poor" – because it was in his hand, that he had the bag – if it were turned into money and sold and given unto him.
And the Lord said, "She hath anointed Me for My burying" [Matthew 26:12]. And Judas, stung with that rebuke, and seeing the confrontation of the day and the cause was lost, immediately went to the high priest to bargain for the betrayal of the Lord Jesus [Matthew 26:14-16].
And on Thursday, He sent Peter and John to arrange for the Paschal meal in the upper room [Matthew 26:17-18; Luke 22:8-12]. And as the disciples come in for that Paschal, to show you how human and how carnal all of us are, they began to argue about who would be the greatest in the kingdom: who is going to sit on His right hand and who is going to sit on His left hand [Luke 22:24, Matthew 20:21]. And it was then that Jesus took off His clothes, which is the humblest thing a man can do, girded Himself with a towel, and washed the feet of the apostles [John 13:4-5], saying, "If I, your Lord and Master, will wash your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet" [John 13:14]. Footwashing, humility.
The Lord took bread and brake it. "This is My body." Took the fruit of the vine, blessed it, "This is My blood of the new covenant, shed for the remission of sins. This do, as oft as ye eat, as oft as you drink, in remembrance of Me, until I come again" [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26].
Then, while they ate the Paschal meal, He is asked – Simon Peter says to John, "John, ask Him who is it that is to betray Him?" And the Lord replies, "It is to him to whom I give the sop. And he dipped the Paschal bread, the unleavened bread, in the gravy of the lamb and handed it to Judas Iscariot [John 13:21-26]. And Judas went out immediately and arranged for His betrayal that night [John 13:30].
O blessed Savior, how men treated Thee! And refused Thee, rejected Thee, spit upon Thee, plucked out Thy beard [Isaiah 50:6], mocked Thee, crucified Thee [Matthew 27:29-50]. But Lord, raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7], having died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], we love Thee and offer Thee the fruit of our hands and of our lives.
This is the night in which He was betrayed. We’re going to sing our hymn of appeal in just a moment. And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, to give himself to the Lord, or to come into the fellowship of this dear church, while we sing this hymn of appeal, would you make it now? Come now. On the first note of the first stanza, come. Make the decision in your heart. And when you stand up to sing, stand up, walking down that stairway or coming down this aisle. I’ll be here to this side of our communion table. Come to me. "Pastor, tonight, I’ve made this decision for Christ and I’m coming. I give you my hand. I’ve given my heart to God, and here I am." Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE POWER OF PERSONAL TESTIMONY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Acts 3, 2 Corinthians 4:13
I. What God does with one who magnifies His saving name
A. Healing of the lame man (Acts 3:1-8)
1. Walking, leaping and praising God (Acts 3:9)
2. Fifteen thousand believed (Acts 2:41, 4:2)
B. Healing of the Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5)
1. Jesus told him to go back home and testify
2. Result of his testimony – four thousand believed (Mark 8)
II. Christian faith began in a personal witness
A. Declaration of John the Baptist (John 1:29)
1. Disciples who heard him witness began to follow Jesus (John 1:35-38)
2. One by one disciples brought one another to Jesus (John 1:40-45)
B. Ministry of our Lord continued in the same way
1. Sermon on new birth delivered to congregation of one
2. Message on being born again delivered to congregation of one
3. Message on spiritual worship delivered to congregation of one (John 4:23)
C. Entire Bible is like that (Acts 8:26-37)
III. The testimony of Paul
A. What kind of a preacher was he? (2 Corinthians 10:10)
B. How did he work? (Acts 20:20-21, 31)
IV. One by one
A. Faith of the one lost sheep, lost coin, lost boy (John 10:3, Luke 12:6-8)