For All Things Are Yours
February 11th, 1979 @ 7:30 PM
FOR ALL THINGS ARE YOURS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 3:3-6, 21-23
2-11-79 7:30 p.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message, one preached a long, long time ago, years and years ago. I am amazed that they could have remembered it. It is a message from the third chapter of 1 Corinthians, and it is the one that was chosen by the Single Adults, asking me to deliver it tonight, which I pray the Holy Spirit will help me to do. Now we are going to read two passages of Scripture in the third chapter of 1 Corinthians. First Corinthians 3:3-6, 3-6; then we are going to start at 21 and read to the end of the chapter. Now out loud together, and if you are listening on radio, why, turn in the Bible with us. First Corinthians chapter 3 and our first section will be verses 3 through 6. Now let us read out loud together:
For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
[1 Corinthians 3:3-6]
Now we go to verse 21 and to the end of the chapter:
Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;
Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;
And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.
[1 Corinthians 3:21-23]
And the title of the sermon is the text in verse 21: For All Things Are Yours; things present, things to come, things in this life, things in the life to come, this world, the next world, everything, everybody in it, all are yours; which is absolutely one of the most astonishing avowals that could be made. Yet the apostle makes it by holy and inspired and infallible inspiration [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:16]. "All things are yours" [1 Corinthians 3:21].
Now, all of that is contingent upon another great avowal that the apostle says in the text: "Ye are Christ’s" [1 Corinthians 3:23]. And only in that sense can the first avowal of Paul be true, that "all things are yours" [1 Corinthians 3:21]. They are all ours, everything, only in Christ, only as we are in bondage to Him. Being in Christ, we have all things. The text cannot be separated; it belongs together. In Christ, God gives us all things. And if you separate them, they are like two hemispheres that bleed themselves white when they’re torn apart; they have to go together. In Christ, in our bondage to the Lord, in Him we have all things.
That is a remarkable thing in itself, that it is only in our bondage to the Lord, in yielding lordship to Him, that we possess all things. And yet, when you think of that apparent contradiction in life, you see it everywhere. For example, over here in East Texas – and I am thinking about somebody in the story – over here in East Texas there is a humble little country cottage. And in that cottage lives a man, a farmer, a working man and his dear wife. And they have in the home their darling children. And they live in almost near poverty and want. They make their living off of the poor soil in that East Texas farm. Then they become suddenly rich, wonderfully rich. Oil is discovered, fountains of it, on their farm; and overnight they are rich. And all the prohibitions and interdictions and burdensome weariness of poverty are gone away, and it is as though an emancipator and a liberator came and announced to the family, "The world is yours. You are free. You have everything."
All right, let’s take one other. Here is a boy growing up in the home. And he happens to be growing up in a puritanical home. And the father and the mother rigidly circumscribe the activities of that boy. There are many, many "don’t’s"; and the lad is being brought up in the straight and the narrow way. Then the boy comes of age, and he cuts loose the apron strings of his mother, and he goes out into the world free from the heavy hand of his father. And he lives out in the world without interdiction. It is as though a liberator and an emancipator says to him, "You are free! The world is yours! Live it up!" And cutting loose all of those bands that bound him to his father and mother and his Christian home, he plunges out into the world. He is free!
But isn’t it strange how life is? That family over there in East Texas, so poor, and they worked hard, and they were happy in that poor cottage and with those darling children around them; now they’re rich, they don’t have any home anymore, dad and mother divorced, the children are orphaned. And as the years have passed, the man says, "I’ve never been so wretched in my life. My children are in the world. My wife is gone. And I’ve never been so wretched in my life." What an amazing thing! Emancipation, liberation, the world is ours; but it has in it a worm, and a black drop. And the boy, "I’ve come of age, I’m free. I do as I please." And he plunges into the world without restraint and interdiction, and he’s miserable, and he’s wretched, and the tears roll down his cheeks as he eats with the hogs, and he says, "My father’s house, I am going back. And I am going to say to him, ‘Let me be a hired servant in your house, only, I want to come back home’" [Luke 15:11-21]. Isn’t that a strange thing?
The world is ours, only in Christ. And that is the great teaching of the apostle. You listen to the apostle as he writes, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free" [Romans 8:2]. But, when Paul wrote that in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ hath made me free" [Romans 8:2], he said that only after he wrote his first verse in the Book of Romans, "Paul, a doulos, a slave of Jesus Christ," translated here, "Paul, a servant, Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ" [Romans 1:1]. And then having given himself in servitude to the Lord, then he says, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ hath made me free" [Romans 8:2]. Isn’t that an astonishing thing like so many things taught us in the Bible that are diametrically contradictory? For example, Jesus will say, "The man that would save his life must lose it" [Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24]. This is one of those contradictions: the only way I can be free is to be in bondage and in slavery to the blessed Jesus; otherwise, I’m wretched, and a servant and a slave of the world, and of misery, and of sin.
You know, I can show you another illustration of that that comes to my mind. Here’s a mother, sweet, darling, precious mother, and she has a little baby, she has a little child. And so being a faithful and loving and careful mother, she is in servitude to that baby. Why, there are hours in the night when she’s up with the child, and there are hours in the day when she is consumed with the needs of the child. And the mother literally pours her life as a slave and as a servant of that little child. Then as we look at her bondage, we remark, "Look at the hours in her life, and the care in her heart. Look at all of those troubles to which she goes in order to minister to that little child. She is a bondservant of the child." Then let’s say, upon a day, the little child dies. And you come into the home, and you say, "Ah, look at you! You are free, you are free! No more bondage and no more servitude to that little child. The little thing is out there buried in the ground in the cemetery, and the life is passed and over with, and you are free, free, free." The mother bows her head and cries, and weeps in disconsolation. She’s free only when she is in bondage to the child; and when the child is taken away, she then is bowed in a heartache and in a hurt indescribable. All things are yours, only in our bondage to the Lord, in our servitude to Christ [Romans 1:1, 8:2].
So, let’s look at what Paul says is ours. "All things are ours in Christ" [1 Corinthians 3:21]. First of all, because of the context, because of the church to which he is writing, he says, "Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas" [1 Corinthians 3:22], now, what gave him rise to speak of that is some of them say, "I am a follower of Paul, I am a Paulite"; and others said, "I am a follower of Apollos, I am an Apollosite"; and others said, "I am a follower of Cephas, Simon Peter, I’m a Cephasite." So, Paul says these teachers, whoever they are, whatever they are, they’re yours; you’re not theirs. For in Christ, all of these teachers, all of them, are for your blessing, and for your inheritance, and for your edification, and for your spiritual encouragement and knowledge. You are not theirs; they are yours [1 Corinthians 3:21-23].
And if there’s a prophet in the Old Testament that writes, that’s for our benefit. If there’s an Isaiah or an Amos, that’s for our encouragement and the building up of our faith in the Lord. And if there is a Simon Peter, or an apostle John, or an eloquent Alexandrian named Apollos, all of them, they are ours. We do not belong to them; they are ours.
Don’t you wish you could stand on the rooftops and the housetops and the skyscrapers and all the other top media that broadcast, don’t you wish you could stand on those housetops and those rooftops and the tops of these antennas and all these broadcasting stations, and announce that to the world? Then you’d never have a Jim Jones in Guyana, you’d never have him. You see, these false teachers, like these: Garner Ted Armstrong, and Herbert W. Armstrong, and Jim Jones, and a thousand others, they say, "You belong to us. You belong to us." And they take the fanatical devotion, religious zeal, of those people, and they use it, and they turn it to themselves. And the end of it is disastrous and catastrophic. Don’t you wish you could say that to the world: you don’t belong to them, no matter who he is. You belong to Jesus and to Him alone; and these are just ministers who are bringing to you the Word of the Lord. And if they don’t do that, then they’re false emissaries, and pseudo-apostles, and teachers that don’t bring the truth of heaven to your souls.
Whoever it is, if you have a pastor, he’s mine. I don’t belong to him; he’s God’s servant to help me and encourage me in the way. And if you have a denomination, and if you have an association of churches, and if you have leaders, and if you have preachers, and if you have evangelists, no matter who they are, they all are for us; we’re not for them, because in Christ we inherit all that God has spoken through His ambassadors and plenipotentiaries from the courts of heaven. In Christ, a Paul, an Apollos, a Cephas, whoever, he is ours, and his message belongs to us.
Then he says, "In Christ, all things are ours [1 Corinthians 3:21-23], the whole world, the whole world." Dear me! You mean all of this is mine? That’s what he says. You mean those stars that shine above in the chalice of the sky, and the vast illimitable emerald landscape, you mean all that I see in the world, that that’s mine? Yes! In Christ, all of it is ours.
Long time ago, there was a wonderful South Carolinian preacher named Ellis Fuller. In the days that followed, he became pastor of the First Church Atlanta, Georgia, and from there went to be president of the Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. I heard him preach one time, and he said – and I didn’t understand it, I had to turn to the South Carolinian next to me and ask him, "Now what does that mean?" – well, Ellis Fuller said that when he was a young preacher, a young fellow, he was walking down a country road in South Carolina, and he met a big, black mammy. And she was just singing to the top of her voice. He said she had over her shoulder a croker sack full of lighter knots, a croker sack full of lighter knots." Now, honey, you’re a South Carolinian, I bet you yourself don’t know what he’s talking about – a croker sack full of lighter knots. Well, I turned to the guy next to me and I said, "Now what is that?" Well, it was a burlap bag full of pine knots, and the pine knots, you know, full of resin, they just glow immediately when you light them. Now McBride, did you know that? A croker sack full of lighter knots: well, he talked like a South Carolinian, and that’s what he said. He said, he said, "That big, black mammy had a croker sack full of lighter knots over her shoulder, and she was just singing, walking down that country road, to the top of her voice, just so happy." Well, he said he stopped her, and he said to her, "What makes you so happy? What makes you so happy?"
And she said, "Well, just look all around you. All of this is mine."
And Ellis Fuller said, he said, he said, "Mammy, you say all of this is yours? You own all of this?"
Well, he said, "Why I know where you live, and you live right down that road and in that shack. You don’t own any of this."
She said, "Oh, lawzie, but I do!" She said, "Everything you see belongs to me. And I look at it and rejoice in it everyday. And the white man pays taxes on it."
Isn’t that, isn’t that the Lord’s truth? Ha! It’s all mine, in Christ, to look at, to enjoy, to rejoice in; the work of His hands, it’s all mine in Christ [1 Corinthians 3:21].
Listen to this: Cleon’s – the title of the poem is "Cleon’s Possessions." Look at it:
Cleon hath a million acres,
Not a one have I;
Cleon dwelleth in a palace,
In a cottage, I;
Cleon hath a dozen fortunes,
Not a penny, I,
Yet the poorer of the twain is
Cleon, not I.
Cleon possesses acres,
But the landscape, I;
All the charm to me it yieldeth,
Money cannot buy;
Cleon harbors sloth and dullness,
Freshness, vigor, I.
He in velvet, I in rags,
But richer one am I.
Cleon is a slave to grandeur,
Free as thought am I;
Cleon is appalled at illness,
Strength and health have I;
Wealth surrounded, care envisioned,
Cleon fears to die;
Death may come, he’ll find me ready,
Happier one am I.
Cleon sees no charm in nature,
In a daisy, I;
Cleon hears no anthems ringing
In the sea and sky;
Nature says to me, Forever,
Earnest listener, I;
State for state, with all attendants–
Who would change?–Not I.
["Cleon and I"; Charles Mackay]
In Christ, God hath given us the whole world, everything in it, to love and rejoice in.
Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.
A violet by a mossy stone,
Half hidden from the eye!
[from "She Dwelt Among Untrodden Ways"; William Wordsworth]
The world, our life, in Christ life is ours [1 Corinthians 3:21]. You know, this world can be so sordid. If I were looking someone to contemplate suicide, I’d look in Hollywood. If I were looking for someone addicted to drugs, I’d search in Hollywood. If I were looking for someone filled, satiated with the ennui of life, that’s where I’d find it. But if I were looking for someone whose heart was filled with the glad joy of sheer living, I’d look in the house and in the heart of a Christian. Bobby Burns, who gave his life to dissipation, wrote,
Pleasures are like poppies spread:
You seize the flower, the bloom is shed;
Or as the snow falls on the river,
A moment white–then gone forever;
Or like the borealis rays
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbows lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.
[from "Tam o’Shanter"; Robert Burns]
Jesus said, "Whosoever drinks of this water, the water of this life, shall thirst again; But whosoever drinks of the water that I give him shall never thirst; but the water I give him shall be a fountain, a spring of water, rising up into everlasting life" [John 4:13-14]. Who lives? The Christian, every day is a glorious day for him.
In Christ all things are ours, all of the teachers and prophets and apostles, the world, life, and then death [1 Corinthians 3:21-23]. What could that mean? Death, death is ours. Well, it’s a marvelous thing how a Christian can write. The world in all of its vast philosophical understanding, never wrote a sentence like this: Paul, in Philippians 1:21, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is a gain." The whole vast unbelieving philosophical world is appalled at death. They look upon death in absolute terror. Bertrand Russell, I quote, "No fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling can preserve one individual life beyond the grave. Nothing awaits us but the worm, and the dirt, and the corruption, and the darkness." Now, from a poet:
The world rolls round forever like a mill,
It grinds out life and death, and good and ill,
It has no purpose, heart, or mind, or will.
Nay, doth it use man harshly, as he saith?
It grinds him some slow years of bitter breath,
Then grinds him back into eternal death.
[Thompson, quoted in The Assurance of Immortality; Harry Emerson Fosdick]
Or from another poet:
From too much love and living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives forever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea.
[from "The Garden of Proserpine"; A. C. Swinburne]
Now that is the world! And there is no philosophy beyond it, as a man looks into the vista of the eternity that unfolds before him. But my soul is there not some other way? Is there not some other voice? Has not God said some other thing? He has. In Christ, even death is ours [1 Corinthians 3:22].
There never was a more saintly man than that old Puritan named Richard Baxter. He preached with tremendous earnestness. He wrote with zeal. He served his church with unceasing care and affection. His last days were spent in great pain and suffering. He was so tragically ill. He said to a friend, "Do not think the worst of religion for what you see me suffer." And did you know, a visitor, a friend, came to see him on the day that he died, and he said to that friend, "I have pain, there is no arguing against sense. But I have peace." And just a little bit later, as that friend sat by the side of Richard Baxter, the friend turned to him and asked him, "How are you, Richard?" And he whispered serenely and radiantly, "Friend, I am almost well"; and fell asleep in Jesus. "I am almost well." It’s like that cripple and that blind man, two martyrs tied together, who were burning at the stake. And as the flames rose, the crippled man began to cry, and the blind man turned his head and said, "Be of good cheer, my brother, this fire will heal us both." Death is ours. And no blind eyes in that beautiful city of God, and no crippled limbs, and there’s no sorrow and heartache and tears and age in death [Revelation 21:4]. For death is ours [1 Corinthians 3:22]. "To me to live is Christ, and to die is a gain" [Philippians 1:21]. In Him, death belongs to us [1 Corinthians 3:21-23]; it’s just our open door into the beautiful and perfect and heavenly life God has prepared for us who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9].
And now, the apostle concludes. It looks as though he is an accountant, adding up all of the blessings that belong to us in Jesus, as though to speak of all the world were not enough, and all of life is not enough, and all of death is not enough, and all the prophets and apostles and teachers are not enough, finally he comes to a summation, saying, "If there are things present, or if there are things to come, everything is ours, all of it." Lest he omit something, he just puts his arms around everything that God has made and that God means, and says, "All of it is ours; things present, things to come, all are ours" [1 Corinthians 3:22]. Things present, in Christ, my dear people, this is a wonderful way to be. O Lord God, that I could come to that place in my life where I could live like this: in Christ, whatever it is, it’s for my good and my blessing. The Lord is fitting some heavenly remembrance for me.
All of us have a lot of disappointments, all of us. Even these tears and trials and heartaches of children and teenagers are as real as they are to us in adulthood. And we all experience in a common denominator the tears and the sorrows and the frustrations of life. If you haven’t had a tremendous heartbreak, you’ll have it someday; it’ll come in a child, or it’ll come in your home, or it’ll come in your business, or it’ll come in your physical life.
I had a wedding recently, and the best man, a young fellow, a young fellow, they put him on the platform where I had the wedding ceremony in a wheelchair, a beautiful young fellow. And as I looked at him I thought, "Dear God, just standing at the threshold of life, and there he is in a wheelchair." He never walked, all of his life, long as he lived, he’ll be just like that. They have to put him somewhere in a wheelchair. There is no one of us but that has heartache and tears and sorrow in our lives. Now, in Christ, in Christ, I learn to accept it. God is meaning some good thing for me. Maybe He wants me to pray more. Maybe He wants me to weep more. Maybe He wants me to love Him more and trust Him more. Maybe He wants me to exhibit to the world what it is to be a Christian, to be happy in my grief and sorrow and disappointment, to sing songs in the night. But in Christ, all things are for good. No wonder so many people say, "My favorite verse is Romans 8:28: ‘We know that in all things God works together for good to them who love the Lord.’" They’re all ours, and for our blessing.
And things to come; the future is ours. And if we had about forty hours, we could rejoice in what God is purposing for us, that better thing He hath prepared for us [Hebrews 11:40]. The resurrection is ours. The rapture is ours. When we’re caught up to heaven, forty times a dozen over do I say to people who come down here and join this church, "You know, we’re all just going up to heaven from right here." Would that God it’d be, that we who love the Lord and are in this church, we just all go up together. The rapture is for us [1 Thessalonians 4:13-17]. The marriage supper of the Lamb is for us [Revelation 19:6-9]. We’re going to sit down with the Lord, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with those who belong to the blessed Jesus. We’re going to break bread, and drink a new wine with our Lord at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25]. That’s ours.
And the millennium is ours. Dear me, I can hardly think of it. The millennium is ours. God hath purposed it for us. "Be of good cheer, little children, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom" [Luke 12:32]. It’s all ours. And finally, that heavenly home is ours. Somewhere in that New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:2], God has an address for you, for us [Revelation 21:1-4]. On some Hallelujah Street, across from some Glorious Boulevard, right near a Praise God Square, there’s an address and a mansion for us [John 14:1-3]. And with Him, world without end, forever and ever, we live and reign and praise the blessed God [Revelation 22:3-5]. Everything is ours.
O Lord, how rich I am! Richer than any man in the world, richer than any man who ever lived; more blessed than all who have ever walked down this road called life is God’s blessings heaped upon me, all in the Lord.
And that is our incomparable invitation to you. Come and inherit with us the riches in Christ Jesus in this life and in the life to come. Pilgrimage with us, sing with us. Praise God with us. Live the victorious and triumphant life with us that the heavenly Visitor walk by your side and let Him reveal Himself to you. It is Jesus. You just don’t realize. You just don’t know but it is the blessed Lord who knocks at your door [Revelation 3:20]; who will be your best friend, who will stand by you in this life and world to come. Take Him. Clasp His hand. Speak to Him. Ask Him to see you through. Believe in Him [Acts 16:30-31]. Trust Him, confessing [Romans 10:9-10]. Do it now.
In a moment we are going to stand our hymn of appeal and while we sing that song, a family; a couple; or one somebody you, "Tonight, pastor, I take the Lord as my Savior, and I am coming. Tonight I’m putting my life in this dear church, we are on the way." God bless you, angels attend you while you come, and while we stand and while we sing.