Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-1-78 7:30 p.m.
It is a joy unspeakable for us in this dear First Baptist Church in Dallas to share the evening hour with the thousands of you who are listening on the Radio of the Southwest, KRLD, and with other thousands who are sharing it in prayerful listening on KCBI, the radio of our Bible Institute.
As a part of this program, George Shearin and Ann Hood asked me if I would preach the first sermon I ever preached in my life, and did I remember it?
Well, yes, I certainly do.
And they said, "Well, would you preach that sermon again?"
Well, without thinking, without cogitation, without consideration, on the spur of the moment, I said, "Yes."
Well, the reason I thought that I could is this. I carefully outline – very carefully, and many times, meticulously, I outline every sermon that I preach – have through all of the fifty-one years that I have been a preacher. And I file those sermons very carefully. Every message I have ever delivered in my lifetime, I have carefully filed away. So, I thought, "Well, it’d be just easy for me to get that outline and to preach that sermon."
So, I have it here in my hands. It is yellow with age. Fifty-one years ago, this is the sermon that I delivered as a seventeen year-old boy, upon being licensed to preach in the First Baptist Church of Amarillo, which was then located at Ninth and Polk.
Well, I looked at this sermon, and for the life of me, I cannot begin to recreate the message that I delivered at that time. I just look at it, and it is as strange to me as it would be to you. So I said, "Dear Lord, grant that the people be in marvelous empathy and sympathy and understanding, as I’m up here tonight seeking to do what I promised in a hasty moment to do."
Now, the title of the sermon was: "What Do Ye More Than Others?" And it is an expounding of a verse in the Sermon on the Mount, in the fifth chapter and we’re going to read the context together. All of us, now, turn to Matthew, chapter 5, beginning at verse 38, reading to the end of the chapter. And next to the last verse, you will see the text, "What do ye more than others?"
Matthew 5, beginning at verse 38. Now on the radio, we invite you also to read it out loud with us. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount said, now let’s begin at verse 38 in chapter 5:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right [cheek], turn to him the other also.
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so?
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
And coming to this modern day, after having studied these Scriptures, could I point out two words in the text before we begin: "What do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so?" [Matthew 5:47]. The better Greek text is ethnikoi, "Do not even the heathens so?" World people, people of the secular business life, do not they do that? "What do you more than they?"
And then, "Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect" [Matthew 5:48]. Never meaning like Him in moral holiness, "Be ye therefore teleios." Teleios refers to the maturity of those who grow toward that goal for which the creature or the thing was created. For example, an oak tree is a teleios of an acorn. And a man is a teleios of an infant, reach the goal for which the Lord intended it. And that’s the meaning here. Not that we should be, could ever be, perfect in holiness, as our heavenly Father, but the Father in heaven has a goal for us, and we are encouraged to attain it. And the way we do so is in this message of the Sermon on the Mount.
Now, the text, "What do ye more than others?" [Matthew 5:47]. So I start off with the law of differentiation. That sounds like a good seventeen-year-old philosopher, "The law of differentiation." So I speak first about the differences among men. And I spoke of their physical and biological differences. You could look at us up here on the platform, and see some of us are big and tall, and some of us are like pygmies. We are different biologically and physiologically. Some of us are men. Some of us are women. God makes us in different ways.
And we differ in time. Some of us born thousands of years ago, some of us born today, others will be born in the years that are to come. People, the human race, differs in time. It differs in space. Some people live over there in China, and some people live over here in the United States, and some live in India. And we differ under our governments. Some of us are under totalitarian governments, and some of us are in democratic governments and social governments. But, I avowed, the meaningful difference in man is not in the generations in which they live, or the time and space in which they live, but the meaningful difference in men is found in their character, in the kind of men they are.
And I used two illustrations. One concerned Dr. Truett, my predecessor, whom I never dreamed that, in God’s grace, I would be standing in this sacred place, and here mentioning him tonight, as I did in the first sermon I ever preached.
Men differ in character. And I spoke of the marvelous impression that the great pastor had upon me as a boy. And I could not emphasize that too much. I could not pay too great a tribute to the marvelous message and manner and meaning of the life of that immortal preacher. As a boy, listening to him in a revival meeting in Amarillo, many times at Baylor, and at conventions in the years of my beginning ministry, Dr. Truett had a profound impression upon me; and not only upon me, but upon all of the other preachers of his generation.
And then I mentioned Abraham Lincoln as a man, the more I read about him, I’ve never read anything about Abraham Lincoln that I did not admire. Men differ mostly in character. And I used as an illustration one out of the world of the pulpit, Dr. Truett, and one out of the world of government, Abraham Lincoln.
Then I said the principle of doing more is emphasized in the secular world. You see it everywhere. In the professions they say, "Do what you’re supposed to do and then some, if you’re going greatly to succeed." And in all of the efforts of life in the secular world, the man who does more than he’s supposed to do is the man who is successful and blessed of God. And I use there an illustration of Emerson and his famous mousetrap. Emerson said that, if any man can build a better mousetrap, civilization will beat a path up to his door. He’s building a better mousetrap. He’s doing a better thing. And that is found in the secular world. Doing more, the man achieves and he prospers and he’s blessed.
Then I said, "How much more in the Christian world are we blessed when we do more than others." In the Christian world, the man ought to be honest and hard-working. He ought to live a cleaner and a better life. He ought to have more love for people, and he ought to be kind and just and helpful and unselfish.
And then I had a passage here when I kind of excoriated us, for we have become more unlike true Christians and more like the world. We just act as they do, and you couldn’t tell us from any other Christian. We are just all alike. People that are saved, people unsaved, you can’t tell the difference in them.
And then I spoke of the commitment of the apostles, and the commitment and spirit of the early Christians and of the martyrs, and their mutual tie of love and unity. They out-lived, out-loved, and out-died the world. And in these respects, "What do we more than others?" [Matthew 5:47]. We take our religion as a matter of course, and are indifferent toward its high calling in Christ Jesus.
Then I spoke of the duties of being more than others. Can people tell by the way you act and live that you are a Christian? "What do you more than others?"
Then, I spoke of the meaning of the rebirth, the significance of coming forward and giving our hearts in faith to the Lord Jesus. Second Corinthians 5:17, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; and all things are become new." In our conversion and in our new birth, we are given ourselves to a different kind of a life than the life known in the world. And that is the meaning of our baptism. We have changed. "We are buried with Christ in the likeness of His death, dead to the old life and the old world. And we have been raised to a new life in Jesus Christ" [Romans 6:3-5].
And then, I had a passage in there, "Have you changed?" Since you’ve been saved, since you gave your heart to Jesus and since you were baptized and since you were raised to a new life in the Lord, are you different? And can people see it? Have you changed into that somebody else? And then I say, "It is only by that word ‘more’ that others can see Jesus in you." And here, I spoke of the great responsibilities of the Christian: "You are the light of the world" [Matthew 5:14]. "You are the salt of the earth" [Matthew 5:13]. It is in you that we have hope for a better tomorrow.
Then I had a passage here; especially is this true of young people. In your actions and in your words, and especially in your attitude of a boy toward a girl, and a girl toward a boy, do you see a difference since you’ve been saved and since you’ve given your heart and your life to the Lord? Then I said, "You’ll never draw anybody closer to God than you are yourself. And if we fail in that, we just add one more thorn to the suffering of our Lord."
Then, I closed. "What do ye more than others? [Matthew 5:47]. What is it God would have you do that would distinguish you from the rest of the world? That ‘more’ means a life of unselfishness." And then, I began to expound this Sermon on the Mount, "If a man take away your coat, your inner garment, let him have your outer garment also" [Matthew 5:40]. "And whosoever compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain" [Matthew 5:41]. A life of unselfishness; not greedy and grasping, but a life of altruism, and sympathy, and understanding, and sharing with others. A life of sincerity, worshipping God in spirit, and in truth [John 4:24]. And then, I quoted the Sermon on the Mount, "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven" [Matthew 5:20].
We are not to be righteous just in formality, and ceremony, and ritual, but we are to be righteous in prayer, in commitment, in love, in appeal, in service for others. And then I spoke of a life of purity. And I spoke of the Sermon of the Mount, when the Lord says you do not have to commit adultery in order to violate the Spirit of God, but lust in the heart is also the spirit of adultery [Matthew 5:27-28]. And you do not have to murder a man with an ax or with a gun, but if you hate him and are angry in your heart, you are a murderer [Matthew 5:21-22]. It is a life of infinite purity, and it is a life of loving forgiveness.
If a man curse you, bless him; and if a man hates you, do good to him; and if he despitefully use you, pray for him; and love your enemies, even those who do not like you [Matthew 5:44].
And last, I said it is a life of service. In 6 and 20 and 21: "Lay up not for yourself treasures in earth . . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven [Matthew 6:19-20], for no man can serve two masters" [Matthew 6:24]. He can’t serve the world, and he can’t serve God. And as for us, we have chosen to serve the Lord.
And I closed with the poem:
Must I be carried to the skies
On flow-‘ry beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through bloody seas?
["Am I A Soldier of the Cross," Isaac Watts]
Must Jesus bear the cross alone
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone,
And there’s a cross for me.
["Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone," Thomas Shepherd]
That was the first sermon I ever preached.
Well, as I looked back over it, very typical of the spirit of a young fellow who was just beginning. Young people are very, very sensitive to the kind of persons we are. It isn’t what we say, it’s how we are that affect our boys and girls and our young men and women. And that was the reaction of a seventeen year old boy to the Christian life. We are to be different from somebody who lives out in the world.
Now, may I take a moment to add one thing of today? It says here in the passage. "I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven" [Matthew 5:44].
I want to take just for a moment, and then we’ll have our appeal. I want to take just a moment to emphasize and to illustrate that Christian principle of returning good for evil, praying for those who might hate or despise or persecute you.
It’s a strange thing. As you know, Wednesday night, we came back from England. And in London, I met a businessman. And to my astonishment, he said to me, "For the years, I have wanted to shake your hand. And I wanted to look at you, to see what you looked like." Well, I was so overwhelmed by him. "Well," he said, "It was like this. I was on a business trip to Texas. And while I was there, I listened to a man preach on the radio, and the sermon moved me so deeply, and mostly because of an illustration that you used." And he said, "It concerned a little boy who brought a bouquet of flowers to a Russian officer."
Well, that was delivered here in the pulpit years ago, several years ago. And as I rode back, came back to Dallas on the plane, I tried to recreate that story in my mind, and I had difficulty doing it. But, the outline of it is this: In the days of the ravages of Stalin, when the communists of Russia were more vicious than they are even today, they were decimating the church, seeking to destroy it. And they killed the Christian believers by the uncounted thousands, tore up their churches, placed those who remained in prison.
This is in a dungeon in Russia. And there is a handful of wretches in the dim-lighted prison, a little band of persecuted and hated and incarcerated Christians. And as they are there together in that cell, there is a man who is pushed into the cell with them. In the dim of the light, they can’t see who he is. But as they look at him closely, they are astonished, for that is the officer who has destroyed them and wasted them and killed them, and imprisoned them. And he now is pushed into the cell as a fellow Christian.
And they ask him, "What happened? You’re the man who arrested us and accused us, and persecuted us, and have put us in prison. What are you doing here with us?"
And his story was this: there came to the police headquarters where he was an officer a little boy with a bouquet of flowers. And he asked to see the comrade captain, and more of a joke than anything else, the policeman at the headquarters ushered in the boy before their captain and said, "Comrade Captain, here is a boy with a bouquet of flowers for you." And they sort of looked at it humorously, and left the boy in the presence of the captain.
And the little fellow with a bouquet in his hand, he said, "Comrade Captain, on the day of the birthday of my mother, I always brought to her a bouquet of flowers. Now I have no mother, and I have no father because you killed them. But on the birthday of my mother, I am bringing the bouquet of flowers to you, for my mother taught me to love those that hate us, and bless them that curse us, and do good to them, and pray for them who despise and treat you evil. And I am bringing this bouquet of flowers to you, on my mother’s birthday."
That was the story like that; the best I can recreate it. And that captain said, "I could not get out of my mind that boy, and the spirit of the child and the teachings of his mother, and the Christ that he served. And I came to the place where I bowed in His presence and gave Him my own heart, and my own life. And I, now, am a fellow Christian, and so pushed into the dungeon with those other wretches."
I would think that the theologians are correct when they say, "Had Stephen not prayed, Paul had not preached." When the Lord said to the apostle on the road to Damascus, "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" [Acts 9:5], what did He mean? It is most apparent. It was that young firebrand Saul who presided over the stoning of God’s first martyr, Stephen [Acts 7:58]. And when the stones beat him into the ground, and his blood was drunk up by the earth, he did not curse, nor did he imprecate, but He prayed, "God, forgive them" [Acts 7:59-60]. And he died loving those who were taking away his life.
And Saul had never seen a man die like that. And that’s what the Lord meant when He said, "Saul, it is hard for you to kick against the pricks" [Acts 9:5]. The witness of that man Stephen, and the death of that man Stephen, you see his face in the midst of the night. You dream of him in your dreams, and you can’t escape the witness of that faithful martyr.
In fact, the Greek word for "martyr," martus, is the Greek word for witness. You can’t forget it. The whole world is like that. They may listen somewhat to our words and our appeals and our verbalizing the faith, but, mostly, they look at us: "What do ye more than others?" [Matthew 5:47]. It’s the faith. It is the commitment. It is the holiness and purity of life. It is the devotion. It is the expression that emphasizes the reality of our Lord and His saving grace in the world.
That is our appeal in this Sermon on the Mount. Being Christians, we have taken upon ourselves to be different from the world. "What do ye more than others?" Loving more, praying more, asking God to help us more; rearing our families the more faithfully and earnestly and carefully and lovingly and tenderly. In every area of our lives, being more honest, more faithful, more true, more devoted, more zealous, more at the work to which God has called us. "What do ye more than others?" [Matthew 5:47]. This is the answer of God to the needs of a lost and weary world. That is our invitation to you: to walk in the pilgrimage with us, as we journey through the days and the years of this life.
Our friend Paul Harvey said, "You know, if this Book weren’t true and didn’t lead us to heaven, if every syllable is a lie, if the Book isn’t true, we still have the best life, walking by its precepts and guided by its holy principles." And what the great commentator said this morning is an everlasting fact. "If there isn’t any heaven, and if God has misled us, we still have the best life, guided by these beautiful and holy principles Jesus has taught us in the way."
But, oh, dear, I believe every syllable of the Book. I believe every promise God will faithfully keep. The words of God in Christ Jesus are everlastingly "yea" and "amen." And not only is it in this life that God sanctifies and hallows and blesses our days, but God will someday open the doors for us into glory. And our death is a triumph. Our last hour will be our finest hour. And the glory and beauty that we know in Christ Jesus in this life is just begun. We find it fully and marvelously and holy in the life that is to come.
As we stand in a moment to sing our appeal, thus to give your heart to the Lord Jesus or to put your life with us in the fellowship of this dear church; to walk with us in the pilgrim way; make the decision now in your heart. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up walking down that aisle, walking down that stairway, "Pastor, tonight, I have made this decision for Christ and I am coming," or, "to put my life in the fellowship of the church," or, "to bring my family. We are going to rear our children here in this dear congregation." A couple or just one somebody you, when you stand up in a moment, stand up walking down that way. The angels will attend you and the Holy Spirit will guide and bless you as you come, and the hearts of the thousands of people here in this audience seeing you, will rejoice with the angels in heaven in the decision that you make [Luke 15:10]. So, come now, make it now. And God bless you as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.