Antioch’s Glorious Year
January 1st, 1978 @ 10:50 AM
ANTIOCH’S GLORIOUS YEAR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Acts 11:20-26; Acts 13:2-4
1-1-78 10:50 a.m.
We welcome also the thousands of you who are sharing with us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas this service on radio and on television. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Antioch’s Glorious Year. And it is a presentation of our own year that we believe will be no less God-blessed in our dear church as it was in the church at Antioch.
Because we are preaching through the Book of Acts there is a passage in the book that lends itself so nobly, and beautifully, and felicitously to this subject. So we shall read it. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Acts, beginning at verse 20; Acts chapter 11, verse 20:
And some of those Hellenists –
Greek-speaking Jews –
Were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.
When you look at that word you hardly realize what is happening: "Grecians." Heretofore, the gospel had been preached all together to a Jew or to a Jewish proselyte, it had never been delivered to an out-and-out heathen idolater. But when these Hellenists – these Greek-speaking Jews that were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose around Stephen – when they came to Antioch they preached the gospel to those heathen, pagan, idol-worshiping Greeks. "And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord" [Acts 11:21]. Now such a thing as that, it is a new departure and an amazing one. These people have come into the Christian faith without any recognition of experience in Judaism at all. Such a thing was astonishing!
And when tidings of it came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem: they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go to Antioch.
Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord . . .
Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus. . . –
the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia there in Asia Minor –
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus for to seek Saul:
And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
Now while they ministered before the Lord in Antioch . . . the Holy Spirit said Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
And when they had fasted and prayed, they laid their hands on them and sent them away.
So they, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit, departed.
[Acts 11:22-26, 13:2-4]
Then you have the final, great, and ultimate obedience to the mandate of Christ the evangelization of the world.
Antioch’s glorious year: first it was a year of evangelism. It began that way. And it ended that way – a year of evangelism – these Greek-speaking Jews, these Hellenists – preaching the gospel to these out-and-out idolaters. It’s hard for us to realize the kind of worship those Oriental Greek cities gave themselves to. The gods were more immoral than the people. The people were more moral than the gods. And their worship was licentious in the extreme.
And when these men preached the gospel to these idolatrous, promiscuous, Greek-speaking people, God blessed them. They turned from their idols to the true and living Lord. And they renounced all of that old and sinful way of worship and living and came unto the glorious fellowship of the redeemed of God. It was a marvelous thing that came to pass.
And the whole year – don’t I read it right? "And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people" [Acts 11:26]. And so powerfully was the presence of God in what they did that they were called a new name: Christianoi, "Christians" [Acts 11:26].
Well that has a great significance for us, Antioch’s glorious year – a whole year. Now the import of that word "whole," that adjectival modification of the word "year," a whole year means that every day of that year they were added; they were with it. They were witnessing, and testifying, and visiting, and preaching the gospel – winning the people to Christ a whole year.
That is scriptural. Do you remember the closing verse of the Pentecostal chapter; chapter 2 of the Book of Acts? "And the Lord added unto the church daily those who were being saved" [Acts 2:47]. Not just on Sunday, not just on the Lord’s Day, but every day; every day was a soul-winning day. "The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."
Seasons did not affect them; it affects us, but it did not affect them and ought not to affect any one of us. We are – we are slaves of seasons. I remember a famous sentence said by Sir Wilfred Grenfell, who for forty years was a missionary doctor in Labrador. Seven months out of the year even the sea is frozen and the ports are closed in Labrador. The sentence that great missionary doctor said is this, "We should be slaves of seasons were we not their masters." And that word is so characteristic of us. We are slaves of the seasons. "[It’s] too hot now to do the work of God." Or "It’s too cold now to do the work of God." Or, "It’s summertime. Or, "It’s wintertime." Or, "It’s too wet." Or, "It’s too muddy to do the work of the Lord."
Last Monday, the twenty-sixth day of December – the day after Christmas – I sat there and watched the Rams and the Vikings play their game. I never saw such loblollies of mud in my life! They never even bothered to change their jerseys at the half; in five seconds they would have been just as mud-covered as before. And as I saw them play that game in the mud, I thought, you know, if that were a Christian exercise we would call it off. "It’s too muddy, too wet, too damp, too cold, too inclement."
We are slaves of the season; we ought to be their masters. A whole year! That meant when the Bacchanalia came, they were still preaching the gospel. And when the days of the Saturnalia came, they were still witnessing for Christ. Every day they were visiting, and working, and talking, and winning people to the Lord.
Not only is that scriptural every day, they were with it. And not only are the seasons not to affect us, but strategically, and supremely, and stridently, and strategically this is all important for us and the kingdom of God. Every day – every minute of every day all through the hours of every day – there are children who are being born into this world. On our mission fields, altogether we baptize about seventy thousand a year. But at that same time there are seventy million who are born. There is not a little boy or a little girl in the divine presence of God this morning hour who couldn’t tell you what that would mean; seventy thousand won and seventy million born.
Ostensibly, and plainly, and tragically, our world is becoming increasingly, increasingly pagan, and heathen, and lost. Every moment they are being born; that same moment we ought to be winning them to Christ. Remember there is always just one generation between us and absolute heathenism. Strategically, it is necessary the whole year they assemble themselves, teaching and preaching the people.
That is why, in the grace of God, I pray the Lord’s blessings upon what we shall begin to do next Sunday night at 7:00 o’clock. The emissary, the editor of the Broadman Press; we have two presses in our Southern Baptist Convention, one is the Convention Press that publishes all of the literature of the Southern Baptist Convention – all the textbooks, all of the study-course books – the Convention Press. The Broadman Press is an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention that publishes books of general interest. Well, the editor of the Broadman Press came down here to Dallas to see me. And they said, "In honor of, and in gratitude for your fifty years as a pastor, we want you to write a book. We want it to be entitled With a Bible in My Hand." That’s the phrase that I have used for thirty-four years, closing my "Pastor’s Pen," "I’ll see you next Sunday with a Bible in my hand and with the love of God in my heart." With a Bible in My Hand, that is to be the title of the book. And they said "We want you to place in it sixteen of your favorite sermons."
Well the idea pleased me, I had never thought about doing such a thing; fifty years of preaching and the sixteen favorite sermons that I would place in the book. So I went through those fifty years of preaching, and I selected sixteen sermons; and when I looked at the sixteen sermons, to my great surprise every one of them is evangelistic – all sixteen.
I met with the staff and I told them what had happened. And I said, "What would you think if beginning on a Sunday in our church, at 7:00 o’clock in the evening, and for sixteen Sundays I preached those sixteen evangelistic sermons, my favorite sermons?" I never had a sweeter response or a more enthusiastic one in my life from the staff. Immediately they said, "That will be blessed of God. And we will work, and visit, and pray." So they took those sixteen Sunday nights and divided them among them. Each Sunday night there will be a division in our Sunday school and in our church sponsoring the hour. Next Sunday night, we begin – the eighth of January, the second Sunday in January we will begin – it will be sponsored by the Singles, the division under the direction of Dr. Rose-Mary Rumbley. The title of the sermon will be This Is Revival. The text is Habakkuk chapter 3, verse 2. "O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid," referring to the judgment of God upon Judah. Finally, as you know, destroyed the nation; carried it into captivity:
O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid:
O Lord revive Thy work in the midst of the years,
In the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember
Casting himself upon the intervention of God; that will be the first sermon. And then thereafter for sixteen weeks, every Sunday night at 7:00 o’clock there will be an evangelistic message preached here in the church: a year of evangelism. And as the staff felt, I feel God will aboundingly and greatly bless it.
Not only was it a year of evangelism, it was a year of teaching and training. And it came to pass that a whole year – every day of it – they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people [Acts 11:26]. That was introduced with this: when Barnabas saw the grace of God and the hand of the Lord upon them, he went to Cilicia and in Tarsus, sought and found Paul [Acts 11:25-26]. Saul, this arch persecutor of the church, who is now preaching the faith that he once destroyed [Galatians 1:23].
Evidently it was not just easy to find him; I have the impression from the text he sought Saul and found him. And when he had found him – it was a vital thing to Barnabas that he find that man – which immediately emphasizes for us the necessity for trained leadership in our work. We cannot do it without it; our people have to be taught if they are to teach others.
In the second chapter of 2 Timothy, the last letter Paul wrote, he wrote to his young son in the ministry, saying, "The things that thou hast heard of me commit thou to faithful men who will teach others also" [2 Timothy 2:2]. And that is the program of God for us. We are to teach and train leaders, teachers in the church, that they in turn may be able to deliver the message in power to others.
When you look at the life of our Lord in a harmony – taking these four Gospels and putting them in parallel columns – there is something you will see that you wouldn’t notice just reading through one Gospel. The Lord’s great Galilean ministry, the great Galilean campaign, ended in defeat , disaster, opposition, bitterness; it ended with the leaders of the nation plotting His death.
What the Lord did thereupon was this, He took His twelve apostles; and in four great, extended withdrawals He taught them and trained them. One of the things He said to them was "Greater works than these shall ye do. I go to the Father" [John 14:12]. I leave it in your capable and trained hands. That is smart besides being God’s wisdom. When the Lord saw the opposition in the world to the truth that He preached, He trained these men in order that they might carry on the work of God – powerfully and effectively. We must do that, just as they did in Antioch.
As you can sense, even a blind man could see, and a deaf man could hear, and a hardened heart could sense, our church is giving itself not only to evangelism and soulwinning; but we are giving ourselves to teaching and to training in the Word of the Lord. We have our academy – these boys and girls brought here, taught the Word of God – taught the Bible – meeting together in chapel services, meeting together in prayer meetings, appeals made to them to give their hearts to Christ. Our academy: one of the most open doors God has ever bestowed upon us. We have our Center of Biblical Studies: young men and women now coming from the ends of the earth – from across the seas – attending it. And so many adjacent ministries that accompany it: our tremendous School of the Prophets, our KCBI, the Bible; the reference Bible that we are publishing next year. Ah! In how ways and in how many avenues is God using us, building up this tremendous teaching program in our Center of Biblical Studies?
And of course our "Action Appeal": may I give you an illustration of why I think our church ought to accept this program from our Southern Baptist Convention and feather it in every way that we know how? I have a dear friend named Dr. Charles Holland, he is now pastor of the First Baptist Church in Longview, Texas. Previously, he was pastor of the Gaston Avenue Baptist Church in Dallas. He said to me one day, "I have taken a census of a strip through Dallas from San Jacinto Street," that’s the street right there, "to Junius Street," that’s the street over there beyond Gaston Avenue. He said, "I started downtown where your church is. And I ended the census out there where you live at the beginning of Lakewood Shopping District."
And he said "In that census from San Jacinto to Junius," from the First Baptist Church to the First Baptist Church parsonage, "in that strip of land we found ninety thousand people. And of that ninety thousand people only twelve thousand of them make any profession of faith at all." Only twelve thousand belong to any faith. That means there are seventy-eight thousand people in one strip of land between our church and our parsonage. Seventy-eight thousand of them don’t go to any church, don’t belong to any Sunday school, are lost and outside the grace of the Lord God.
Now why it is a burden to me, I drive through that strip of Dallas four and five times every day; to the right of me, to the left of me, in front of me, and behind me, as I drive are thousands, and thousands, and thousands of people who are not in anybody’s Sunday school, in nobody’s church. They are lost!. How could I have any sense of being a child of God and a minister of the faith and not be sensitive and burdened by those great multitudes of people that are right here at our door and don’t know the Lord?
We have set a goal of at least seventy met every Sunday; added to our Bible-teaching program. Ah! I haven’t time to speak of the value and the significance of that teaching the Word of God. I am not saying that environment, teaching is everything. Heredity has a great deal to do with what we are, how we are – the color of my eyes, the stature, the physical frame, all of those genetic qualities that make you you – that’s heredity. And I am not gainsaying heredity by birth, but I do say this: whether you speak English or Hottentot is because of teaching. Or whether you are a goose-stepping Fascist or a card-carrying communist is due to teaching and training. Or whether you are a Baptist or a Buddhist is due to your teaching and your training.
And God has given to us that great, heavenly and heavy mandate: we are to teach all the people, evangelize them and teach all the people [Matthew 28:19-20]. And we are assigning ourselves to that tremendous task in this action program: enrolling them – wherever anybody is that doesn’t go to church, that’s not in anybody’s Sunday school – we are enrolling them, God helping us, and going to try with the Lord’s grace to teach them the Word of God.
Antioch’s glorious year: not only a year of evangelism not only a year of teaching but a year of missions. That’s where it all began, there in that year at Antioch. And as they ministered unto the Lord, waiting upon the Lord, the Holy Spirit said, "Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And He sent them out" [Acts 13:2-3]. A great assignment: the evangelization, the discipling of the whole world.
We are in that year 1978, this is the year that our Southern Baptist Convention has denominated and described as a bold mission thrust. There shall be an effort made to establish a mission volunteer core, seeking people in all of our churches who will volunteer to go abroad on the mission field and spend at least two years working in our mission compounds.
But while we are praying and hoping for God’s success upon that bold mission thrust, think of the opportunities that God has given us right here at our own door. There are literally thousands and thousands of foreigners from across the seas who are here in Dallas. We have established an international division in our church, a conversational English class; whereas they learn to speak English, they learn to read the Holy Scriptures. We have a God-blessed ministry, one that is unusually blessed: the Korean church in our compound here, in our complex here, with a pastor. A Chinese church – and about a month ago they asked me if I would not make appeal to our deacons that we pay the salary of a Chinese pastor and we agreed to do it – in this church is a Chinese church. We have a great ministry, an God-blessed one, to our Japanese under one of the most capable laymen I ever saw; he heads the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Kajahira. We have a splendid ministry to our Spanish-American people. This international work is continuing here in our church. Then besides, we have a dozen chapels; some of them are in areas that will be organized into independent churches themselves. Some of them – most of them – are in sub-marginal areas of the city, ministering to the poor and sub-marginal. Ah! What a great ministry that is.
Let me tell you, the state can carry on those welfare programs ten thousand generations and at the end of ten thousand generations, those people will still be on welfare. It is a way of life in America: welfare. But I can tell you something else glorious: if we preach the gospel to them as we are doing and lift that man out of the gutter – set his feet on a rock, he stands Son-crowned – he gets a good job, he does a good work, he supports his family, and he walks in the dignity of Lord God in whose image he was made [Genesis 1:27]. That is the way to do it. That’s the way to do it, the way we are doing it; and the hand of the Lord is with us in it. Ah! The enormous areas of life the Lord has opened to us. That is the reason we pray to support it grandly and greatly.
Dr. J. Howard Williams grew up as a boy in this church. He was pastor of the First Church at Amarillo. He was called to be pastor of the First Church at Oklahoma City and then became our executive secretary in Texas. I was in Oklahoma when he came to be pastor of the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. And he said to me, "The budget of the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City is seventy-five thousand dollars a year." And he said, "I went before the men and I said, ‘for this great church to have a budget of seventy-five thousand dollars a year does not honor the Lord.’" And he made appeal that they would double it the first year. And those men stood up and said to him, "Pastor, we don’t need the money. We don’t need more than seventy-five thousand dollars in this church. That is all we need."
Can you conceive of that? With the whole world drowned in paganism and secularism: lost! And the official board saying to the pastor, "We don’t need but seventy-five thousand dollars a year." Thank God he led them into another vision; it is glorious to see a church sensitive to the tremendous call of God in a needy field in a needy world, in a lost world.
A few weeks ago – about four weeks ago – at the Marina Hotel at the Fort Worth/Dallas Airport, the executive secretary of our Home Mission Board asked about thirty of us – twenty-five of us, a little group like that – to meet with him and spend the day with him. And the burden of it, of course, was being the leader of the Home Mission Board, that we’d put our lives into the winning of America to Christ, preaching the gospel to our fellow countrymen – our own people.
Well, one of the young fellows that was there – I call him "my young Timothy in the ministry" – one of the young fellows there is named Richard Jackson, who is pastor of the North Phoenix Baptist Church. One of my men said to me this morning, "I’ve just been there. They have just completed an auditorium that seats five thousand people." He said – this young fellow Richard Jackson – in talking about supporting the work, and preaching the gospel, and trying to win the people to Christ, he said, "If we gave just ten percent, if the members of our church just tithed," he said, "our church would go bankrupt; we’d go out of business. We could not support its work with just a tithe." He said, "Our people are beginning now to give twenty percent of everything they have and make to the church." And he said "For the last several years I am giving more than thirty percent of everything I have to the work of the Lord."
That’s great! And that is why the church is blessed, and that is why they have to have an auditorium that will seat five thousand people. Man, that is what it is! Not peripheral, not summarily, not indifferently done, but dynamically, sacrificially, committedly. That is what it is, and the blessing of God, and grace of the Lord, and the hand of the Lord is with a people like that.
Oh! I think of us, and I think of me: how ofttimes in searching my own soul do I think, "You know, I do this because it is an assignment for me. And we are doing these things because it is routine for us." Grew up in a Christian home, I did; gave my life to be a preacher when I was a little boy, I did. And just ever since then, this is what I’m supposed to do; so I’m at it, just doing it. But how much of the deep care, and concern, and commitment of this blessed task and assignment really moves my soul and heart?
I had a poignant reconsideration of me about two days ago. As many of you know, Mrs. Mary Crowley has a boy who, flying his airplane from Montana to Dallas, found himself in a tragic crash coming into Addison airport. Had it not been for the make of the plane, the whole family would have been killed – all of them. As it was, this boy, Don was tragically hurt; had it not been for his heavy boots, one of his feet would have been torn off. His face was crushed against the front of the plane, so at the hospital the doctor said to his mother Mary and to me, the doctor said, "Mother, you and the pastor may come in and see the boy." So I walked with her and looked; I did not recognize him, his face unbelievably swollen crushed – a tracheotomy lest he drown in his own blood and the swelling choke off his breathing – unbelievably crushed.
So I took his hand and Mary went around the other side and held that hand. And holding his hand, I prayed the best that I knew how. Then when I prayed, Mary his mother took his hand and kissed it all over – sweetly and tenderly – then prayed a prayer that is too holy for me to repeat; words that only a precious mother would say. And as I left and to this present moment, I think of those prayers. It seemed to me that my intercession was so mechanical, routine, professional, compared to the loving plea of that mother for the life of her boy.
And as I walked away, and to this present moment, I think, "Dear God! How often, and how much, and how prevailing that is of me." I am supposed to do this, I am paid to do that; I am a professional "good man." But does it really care? Is it a burden concern to my soul, that people are lost? That they need Christ? That they are in troubles? Some of them insurmountable, indescribable: tears like rivers flow, sorrows like the night covers the horizon. And here I am casual, summarily indifferent. Great God! I need to do better! I need to be different! We need a new commitment of care and concern, and may God grant it to us for the new year.
No longer will it just be something that I do, as something that I have done, as a habit into which I have fallen. But this is a life; it is an intercession, it is a commitment, it is a calling, it is God’s will for us and we are on the way. And I believe the hand of the Lord will be with us, and God will pour out upon us blessings such as we have never known heretofore. Lord make it that for us, our glorious year.
In a moment now we shall stand and sing our appeal, and as we sing the song, to give your heart to Jesus, or to put your life with us in the fellowship of the church; as the Spirit shall press the invitation to your heart in any way God would say, would you answer with your life?
"Pastor, I just want to start all over again!" You come. If you just want to come and kneel and make that commitment to God, and then go back to your seat, you are welcome. But I will be standing here in the center, and if today, you will give your heart in faith to Jesus, or put your life with us in this precious church, you come to me. And if you want to kneel to the right, to the left, to start anew with God this first day of the year, may the Lord hallow and sanctify the commitment that you make.
Just as God shall lead, may we answer with our lives? And I will be standing here in the center; to confess your faith, taking Jesus as Savior, to be baptized, to come into the church, to answer God’s call for your life, come and stand by me. And the Lord bless you and angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
I. A year of evangelism
A. The beginning of it
all (Acts 11:20-21)
B. Continued daily for
the whole year(Acts 11:26)
1. Scriptural(Acts 2:47, 19:9)
2. Seasons did
not affect them
strategically, stridently necessary
a. Sermon series, book With
a Bible in My Hand
II. A year of teaching and training
Trained leadership vital and necessary(Acts
11:22-25, 2 Timothy 2:2, Acts 2:42)
1. Jesus trained
His apostles(John 14:12)
B. Our teaching
ministries and action appeal
C. The power of
III. A year of missions(Acts 13:2-3)
A. Bold outreach
C. Our chapels
D. The illimitable need
IV. A year of personal commitment(Acts 13:3-4)
A. Mary Crowley and Don
B. Not just something I
do as a habit, but life, intercession, commitment