The Pre-Pentecostal Church
January 16th, 1977 @ 10:50 AM
THE PRE-PENTECOSTAL CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-16-77 10:50 a.m.
In our preaching through the Book of Acts, Sunday morning, Sunday night, I am going to depart from the preaching through the Book of Acts tonight. And I am going to preach about the choir, the Levites; going to preach about the orchestra, the trumpeters; going to preach about the organ, and the organist; going to preach about the people and the praise of the Lord. You are listening to the services, on television and radio, to the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the glad, hallelujah, happy pastor who is bringing the message from the fourteenth verse of the first chapter of the Book of Acts.
You know, it is amazing to me in my preaching through the Book – and I’m always preaching through some book; it is rare thing that I will ever be preaching adventitiously, I will always be preaching through a book, such as I preached through the whole Bible one time. It took me seventeen years, eight months; but I preached through the whole Bible. Then, since then, I’ve been preaching through separate books, especially those that the Zondervan Publishing Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, would like for me to preach through, in order that they can publish the sermons. I have just finished, as you know, preaching through the Book of Isaiah, and those sermons will be published in a very large volume this coming this fall. Then they wanted me to preach through the Book of Acts, and nothing could have delighted my soul more than to preach through the Book of Acts.
So, as I started to say, it is surprising to me how in just preaching through a book that the time will come when a certain emphasis, or a certain thanksgiving, or a certain praise ought to be expressed to the Lord our God, and how it will be just there before me. So it is in this Book of Acts. We are coming now to this pre-Pentecostal prayer meeting. And the little one hundred twenty souls in verse 15, "And the number together were about one hundred twenty" [Acts 1:15]. They are poised before the greatest opening era, epoch, in the history of God’s mercy and redemptive program for His church, for His people. And the verse 14 says, "These" – the one hundred twenty named below – "these all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women" – they are especially mentioned; isn’t that unusual? – "these all continued in prayer and supplication, with the women, and with Mary the mother of our Lord, and with His brethren" [Acts 1:14]. So they are there in a ten-day prayer meeting, expectant, waiting for the Promise of the Father [Acts 1:14].
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come" – this is the great Pentecostal chapter, number 2 – "they were all with one accord in one place [Acts 2:1]. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" [Acts 2:4]. And Simon Peter delivered his message [Acts 2:14-40], and that day there were three thousand who were added to the church [Acts 2:41]. What a moment! What a day, waiting for the new dispensation, the new day of grace, for the infilling, the quickening of the body of Christ, the extension of the preached message of Jesus to the ends of the earth! [Acts 1:8]. There they are, just ready and waiting, praying expectantly [Acts 1:13-14]. It is just as we are today. As marvelously as have been God’s remembrances upon this church and its witness in these days and years past, they are as nothing compared with what God has before us.
The Lord works like that always. Wherever you stand in the dispensations, wherever you are in the ages, there’s always a greater day coming. Always God moves forward. He never recedes. His creation is followed by redemption. His redemption is followed by sanctification. His sanctification is followed by glorification. Always it is onward, upward, outward. God moves, and He moves in this church. And we stand poised at the greatest day of our lives. So we look at this little congregation here of one hundred twenty against whom God has matched the darkness and the heathenism of the world [Acts 1:15]. Standing poised therefore, some things about them that concern us: one, God is with us [Matthew 28:20], and the Holy Spirit is in us [1 Corinthians 6:19]. And it is the purpose of God’s grace to use us [Ephesians 2:10]. God is never against us, and the Holy Spirit never interdicts us in the purposes of God.
Now, I don’t deny that there are many, many times when we seem so frustrated and defeated, and once in a while, because of our human weakness, fall into despair; but we ought never, no matter what the providence, God is with us, and God is for us. As Romans 8:28 says: "In all things – in all things – God works together for good to them who love the Lord, who are called according to His purpose," who are doing His will in the earth. God is with us. When I stand here and preach, I always have the promise that there in that man’s heart, the Spirit is working. And when I witness to a man privately – I don’t care how hard he may be – I have the promise from heaven that in his soul, God’s Spirit is moving, He is working! And oh, to have a church filled with these whose hearts are open God-ward, heavenward, filled with the Spirit of Jesus!
In my reading, I came across one of the saddest things I ever read in my life. Here is a man who is talking about his church. Now, you listen to him and weep. "I go to God’s house and find no God. I do not hear His voice in song or sermon. His grip is not in the hand of fellowship. I hear no yearnings for the lost in the message of the preacher nor do I see it in the faces of the people. There is no God in the temple where my people worship." That’s the saddest thing I believe I ever read! O Master, that the church might, as this pre-Pentecostal little band, that we might open our hearts, our souls heavenward, and that God might come down and fill us with His moving Spirit, and that even a stranger and a sojourner passing by, when he came in the door, would feel immediately the presence of God among His saints!
When the engineer is frozen in ice, there’s no traffic in the kingdom of God, nothing moves. There’s no life in a refrigerator. It just keeps something for a while that is dead. But it never generates life. Even an egg has to be warmed under a mother hen’s wing or in an incubator if it is to burst into life. When the wires are heavy and bound, the electricity is cut off from the city and it dies. No baby is ever born that is not first bathed in the warm blood of a mother’s womb. No dead mother could give birth to a live child. The matrix in which children are born into the kingdom of God is in the warmth of the prayers and the love and the tears of His people. When Zion travails, sons and daughters are born into the kingdom. The only difference between the iceberg that sank the Titanic and the bosom of the ocean that bore up the ship is a matter of temperature, nothing else. And it is that in the church. O Lord! That God could be with us as He was in that little Pentecostal group! That we might be filled with the Spirit! [Acts 2:1-4]. And when I bring the Spirit with me into this God’s house, and when you bring the Spirit with you in your heart, and we have the Spirit with us in our souls, then there is something that is felt and seen and done in the congregation of God’s saints. Lord, Lord, make it that in this dear church!
Will you notice again, it is founded, they stand upon the Word and the promise of God, the little assembly does. For the Lord had said, now listen to the word, "Being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the Promise of the Father, which, saith He, you have heard of Me" [Acts 1:4]. What Jesus said, He said, "If I go away, I will send Him unto you [John 16:7]. This promise have I received of the Father" [Acts 2:33]. And on the Word of the Lord who could not lie, and who would not deceive us, the little band took their stand as upon an eternal and immovable rock. And that’s where we stand in this church, on the Word and the promise of God. We read together, "For the word of God is quick, living, quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart . . . For all things are naked and opened before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" [Hebrews 4:12-13]. Or as Jeremiah said, "Is not My word like unto a fire, saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" [Jeremiah 23:29]. God’s Word; standing on the promise and Word of the Lord; that’s the preacher. O God, grant that if this church, if Jesus delays His coming a thousand years, that this church will never know any other thing than to have a pastor that preaches the Word of God, he expounds the revelation of the Lord in this blessed Book, and that the people love to hear it – just like manna from heaven, just like water of life – reading, listening to the expounding of the Word of the Lord.
And that’s why I love for the choir. They sing beautiful songs, and I rejoice in every one of them, but I especially, particularly, love for the choir to sing the Word of God. Some people sometimes kid me about my attitude toward Handel’s Messiah. But one of the reasons that I have a profound affinity for it is every syllable in it is the Word of God. When you sing those songs and choruses and solos in the Messiah, every syllable of it is the Word of God. I just love to hear you do that. "If My people which are called by My name" [2 Chronicles 7:14], that’s just what you sang. And then again in the second one, "Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool" [Isaiah 66:1], that is the Word of God. Lord, Lord, wherever we turn in the teaching ministries of this church, the Academy, our Bible Institute, our Sunday school, our assemblies in the evening, in our worship service, Lord, Lord, may Thy Word be magnified, "A lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path" [Psalm 119:105]. Not only God is with us, and not only the foundation upon which our feet stand – the immutable Word of God – but, but Christ and His gospel can save, has saved, does save, able to save. "There were added unto that little congregation that day three thousand souls" [Acts 2:41]. Think what a proportion that was – one hundred twenty of them [Acts 1:15] and three thousand in one day! [Acts 2:41]. If something like that happened here in this church – we’ve got about nineteen thousand members now – if you had a proportion like that, I just, I couldn’t take it. I guess that’s the reason it doesn’t happen. I just break for joy. Oh, oh the ableness of our God to save! [Luke 19:10]
Yesterday, at noon, I sat across the table from one of the finest, most gifted executives and businessmen in our city. He’d been marvelously saved. So he was telling me about a famous actress, a TV and movie and Broadway star that he had heard. He had watched her perform. She was presenting a drama, and in the drama – in the dramatic part – she sang a song that was written for Mary, the mother of Jesus. And he was telling me the wonder of her conversion. And he said, "I was close enough that when I heard her sing the song," he said, "real tears, real tears coursed down her face." She cried, moved by singing the song of Mary.
I said to him, "Did you know Mary Crowley had that same converted TV star, movie star, Broadway star to speak to her group just a day or two ago? And she stood in this platform and sang and did dramatic readings and gave her testimony to Jesus." Christ can save and he does save and when we dedicated the Charles A. Sammons Nuclear Center for Cancer out there at Baylor University Medical Center yesterday, and he asked me to lead the dedicatory prayer, Mr. Sammons did, I was seated by the speaker. And the speaker was a famous movie and TV star. His brother is even more famous than he. And his brother, I’m told, is an alcoholic and a very desolate man. But this man, this movie star, this wonderful fellow, he’s been marvelously converted. He’s saved. And he witnesses to the grace of the Lord Jesus in his life, but, as I looked at that businessman seated across from me at the dinner yesterday, and he’s telling me about the conversion of that movie star and how wonderful it was, I looked at him, though I didn’t say anything to him about it, I thought in my heart, "And my brother, God has done a wonderful thing in saving you." It’s wonderful just to see it in him. And God’s done a wonderful thing in saving you, and you. Just look around you. He can save. He does save. He is able to save [Hebrews 7:25]. That’s Jesus in His ministries in the earth. Again, not only is God with us [Romans 8:28], and not only do we stand upon the immutable rock of the Word of God, and not only is Jesus able to save [Luke 19:10; Hebrews 7:25], but He answers prayer [James 5:16]. God answers prayer. I saw God do something here several years ago, but I never dreamed He did it again. It was just too good to think for, that God would do it again.
Years ago, many years ago, our deacons voted to borrow a million dollars and build our chapel building across the street which cost about $1,750,000. And a million dollars then was lots of money, and to borrow that much money was an astonishing thing! So while that building was getting started, the property over here on the other side of Patterson Street came up to sale, and I took it to the deacons and they said, "Pastor, we have borrowed to the limit of reason and we just cannot buy that property."
"Well," I said, "I understand. That’s correct." So I was standing over there on that curb on Patterson Street; standing on that curb with our minister of music, and I was just looking at that building for sale. And I said to my minister of music, I said, "This is the saddest day that you could imagine. Somebody will buy that extensive property there and build a forty-story building on it. And it is gone forever, and we so desperately need it."
And he said to me, "Well, pastor, why don’t you ask God for it?"
That was astonishing! "Why don’t you ask God for it?" That had never occurred to me. I thought I was to ask the deacons for it. It just never occurred to me, not one time. So I just thought I would try. So I took it to the Lord. I told God all about it. I got a telephone call from Mrs. Veal, sainted Mrs. Veal. She said, "Pastor, I hear you’re on your knees praying about that property over there."
I said, "Oh, Mrs. Veal, yes."
She said, "What does it cost?"
I said, "I don’t know but I’ll tell you real soon." So I found out what it cost. They wanted $550,000 for it. I called her back.
She said, "Go buy it, and I’ll give you the money." And she gave me $550,000, and we bought that property. I got a telephone call from her again – these are interesting calls – I got a telephone call from her again. She says, "Pastor, what do you want to do with it now that you bought it?" Well, I said, "Mrs. Veal, the city crowds us, chokes us to death in the weekday." Not on Sunday, the great city is open on Sunday. There are fifty thousand cars down here in the weekday, and it is open on Sunday.
When anybody tells you, "We don’t want to go to the First Baptist Church because we don’t have any place to park," man, there’s a thousand acres down here on which you can park. The thing is empty on Sunday. It is in the days of the week that the city crowds us and chokes us to death. So I said to her, "I want to build a parking building and a recreational building on top."
She said, "What does it cost?"
I said, "I’ll tell you real soon."
So I sent back word to her, and I said, "It will cost a little over a million dollars," which was a big amount in that day.
And she said, "I’ll give it to you."
And so, the building went up. Nobody knew anything about it just Mrs. Veal. We just built that building over there. Well, I couldn’t imagine God doing that again. I just couldn’t imagine it. And for a long time, I had the most despairing prospect in this church. The choir would come to me, three hundred of them, and the minister of music and all everybody loved the work of praise. They’d come to and say, "Pastor, we are just stepping over one another in there. No place to robe. No place to put our music. No place to do anything. No place for the orchestra. It’s just terrible." Well, you can’t have the choir way over yonder somewhere. It has to be right here to the auditorium, so they can march in. And then the babies; mothers, and the baby people, the nursery division come to me and say, "We got rooms back there that will hold ten babies and there are fifteen of them. And what are you going to do with those other five?" And they said, "There’s just no – and we have to be close to the auditorium"; had to be close to the auditorium because a mother when she comes to church would love to feel that her baby is just right there. And if anything of necessity arose she could go to her baby. To put it way over there – it has to be right by the auditorium." And then, there was a tremendous impasse on our recreational facility. The academy wanted it, and the missions said, "We can’t carry on our work without it. That’s the way we get these kids to come." O Lord, I just despaired. I absolutely despaired. I said, "Lord, there is no way." Just like Moses with the army of Pharaoh behind him and mountains on either side of him and the Red Sea in front of him [Exodus 14:8-12]. I was just like that. Lord, there is no way. There’s no way. God, what shall we do? Where shall we turn? Lord, Lord. And that went on for I don’t know how long. And then Sheffie Kadane came to me and he said, "Pastor, the city wants to give you Patterson Street." Did you ever hear of anybody in the city wanting to give you a street? Don, if you think that is not unusual, you just go to the city and tell them, "I want a street." And see what happens. You just try that.
He came to me and he said, "The city wants to give you Patterson Street. They have another program on the other side of you and they want to give you that street and they want to deed it to you right now, right now. Deed it to you right now. Patterson Street." Why, I couldn’t imagine such a thing. That just doesn’t happen. And at the same time, Mary Crowley wrote me a little note and said, "Pastor, for five years I’m going to give you $50,000 a year to help in the work down there." So I took it to Don. And I said, "Don, I want you to look at this." And then I met with Mary and with her leadership. And I said, "It might be that we could build this building for our choir and for our orchestra and for our babies." And they said, "We can do it." And it started. And then I went to Rip Nichols about the children. And I went to the Wicker family about that big thing that’s built over this whole building, our family recreational center, our Wicker gymnasium. Then something happened. The city said, "If you touch this building, it will cost you $900,000." That’s the old Truett Building, and we were going to extend it across Patterson, the Mary C Building; $900,000. I took it to the men and they said, "Pastor, fine. Let’s make that building as though it were built today. Let’s make it conform to the fire code and all of the other upness of the city codes, because that’s where our children are"; $900,000 extra!
Do you know what’s going to happen? Tonight, we’re going over that thing. And we’re going to dedicate everything of the Mary C complex, debt-free. Tonight we’re going to do it. God is going to do it! That’s the Lord. There’s not anything too hard for Him, just watch Him. And I say I never dreamed God would do it again. It is just too much to ask. It’s like the story of that soldier in the army of Alexander the Great. He had done a heroic thing, and Alexander wanted to do something gracious for him. And so Alexander sent to the soldier, "What would you like?" And when the soldier made his request, it was a stupendous thing and the men came back to the great General Alexander and said, "It is beyond what he ought to ask." And Alexander the Great replied, "But it is not beyond what Alexander the Great can give." God’s like that. He’s a great God. He is a mighty God. And He loves His people, and bows down His ear to hear them when they cry and when they pray [James 5:16]. And He is delighted to answer in kind.
O Lord, bless Thy name with every fiber of our being. Praise Him on the harp! Praise Him on the cymbal! Praise Him with the trumpet! [Psalm 150:3-5]. Praise Him with the voice! "Let everything that hath breath praise ye the Lord!" [Psalm 150:6]. Or as it is in Hebrew, "Hallelujah!" What a great and wonderful God! I must stop. Time is done. God always calls us into blessedness, into fullness, into the most preciousness of all of the possibilities of our life. And when the Lord knocks at your heart, and invites you to come, it’s to something great, wonderful, happy, marvelous, better every day, and finally, it’s heaven itself.
And that’s our invitation to you; down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, "Here I am pastor, I’ve decided for God. May He enroll my name in the Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15]. May He count me among God’s redeemed. I’m bringing my family." A couple of you, or just one, somebody you, make the decision now in your heart and when in a moment we stand to sing, on the first note of that first stanza, take that first step. And may angels attend you as you come. We’re waiting for you, do it now. Happy Day, come! While we stand and while we sing.
PRAYER AND PENTECOST
The Praying Church
Acts 1:4 – "wait for the promise of the Father . .
. " – the promised Holy Spirit
Lk. 24: – "behold I send . . . . . – but tarry in the city . . . ."
He came in answer to
the prayer of Jesus, not through merit, intercession, efforts
of the disciples (John 14:16;
Date set in heaven,
like birth (fullness of times); crucifixion (Passover)
resurrection (third day). A new dispensation. Pentecost
There is one Pentecost: just one.
The beginning of the new era, the church age, the government
(dispensation) of the Spirit. He has
come, has been given, not withdrawn.
Here to end of this church age.
In the world today, His government since Pentecost.
He is Christ’s gift to the believer.
Given us upon our
acceptance of Christ as Savior.
Acts 2:38 [5:32]
10:44, 45 [15:8]
Rom. 8:9 [I Cor. 3:16]
Then why pray for the Holy Spirit, if given at conversion?
Then why this 10-day prayer meeting, if date set, coming anyway?
Many who say, we are
not to pray for Holy Spirit.
This prayer meeting had nothing to
do with His coming.
He came, the gift of the Father,
sent by the Lord Jesus in
answer to Christ’s prayer. Given us upon conversion. From
thence forward, a matter of yielding
to Him. Have Him already.
Not to ask, pray for – Just
But there is more to
it than that.
(1) Lk. 11:5-13 – "importunity"
not aorist but present imperative, continuous action.
Keep on asking. When you pray for revival – Holy
" " "
preacher . . .
" " lost . . . .
(2) Paul for Ephesians 1:16, 17; 3:14, 16; 5:18
cf. Elisha to Elijah – II K. 2:9
(3) Pentecost repeated.
Acts 8:14-17 – Samaritan Pentecost
Acts 10:44-46 – Gentile Pentecost
Acts 19:6 – Ephesian Pentecost
(4) Prayer and the Holy Spirit
Acts 9:11, 17 – Saul of Tarsus
Lk. 3:21 – Jesus at baptism
Yes, it is correct –
But it is also correct
– we are to pray for Him
John 20:21-23 "receive ye the Holy Spirit"
labete (Greek) "take,
him, judge, according to your law
19:40 body of Jesus
received his witness
Their prayer – as soon as they were ready to take the
Pentecost was ready to come. They were
ready to take at Pentecost.
Jesus returned to
heavenly home, left little band of 120.
No guns, no tanks, no planes, no ships, no books, no prestige, no social
standing [I Cor. 1:26-29]. But they had
a Savior in heaven and a promise. And
the little band of unlettered, unlearned men and women made up their minds to
do two things: to stay together and to pray together.
10 days of prayer – 1 sermon – 3,000 baptized
The power of God was upon them.
ILL – The king
Earnestly desiring the gift –
Neh. 11:24 –
"Whatsoever things ye desire . . ."
Jer. 29:12, 13 –
.When seek with all your heart."
Emptied of self, ready
ILL – Baby birds, all
mouth, to mother bird – prepared, yielded
What lack I? Need?
To respond, confess
Christ, Church membership