LEST WE FORGET
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 11:24
9-9-79 7:30 p.m.
It is a privilege beyond anything that we could say in syllable or sentence to share this service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas with the uncounted thousands of you who are listening on KCBI, the radio, the stereo station of our Bible Institute, and on KRLD, the great CBS outlet for the Southwest. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, bringing the message. It is based upon the eleventh chapter of the Book of Corinthians; 1 Corinthians 11, verses 23 through 26 [1 Corinthians 11:23-26]. And, the message is entitled Lest We Forget. It is a most familiar passage to us, because it is the one that I always read before our memorial of the Lord’s Supper. First Corinthians, chapter 11, verses 23 through 26. And we invite you on the radio to read it out loud with us who are gathered in the sanctuary of this First Baptist Church in Dallas. All of us, together; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, reading it out loud, together:
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you,
That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread:
And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me.
After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood: this do ye, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.
For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till He come.
[1 Corinthians 11:23-26]
And the text: “This do in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:24, 25]. And again, “Drink ye, all of you, in remembrance of Me; this is My body broken for you; this is My blood, shed for you” [Matthew 26:26-28].
The reason for the institution of the memorial is very apparent. It is so easy for us in our human frailty to forget the sacrifice others have paid in our behalf. I see it in every area of life, and I see it in my own life. It is easy for a child to forget the cost and the sacrifice their parents have made, that they might be born, that they might have life, that they might have upbringing in the world. And oft times children are forgetful of the great sacrifice their parents have made for them.
I was just thinking—and I haven’t thought of this in years. When I was about five years old, about five years old, I came to the place where I couldn’t walk. There was an enormous abscess under my right knee and it extended down into the calf of my leg. And my mother carried me in her arms to the train. And because so far in northwest Texas we lived, the nearest hospital was Trinidad, Colorado.
She took me in her arms to Trinidad, Colorado. And in the operation, when they drained that enormous abscess, there must have been a large cavity. And they filled it and stuffed it with gauze. And every day, the doctor would come and pull out that gauze through that raw and open wound. And my mother would hold me, and I would scream and cry out of agony and pain, then [she] gathered me to her heart again and took me back to our farmhouse in northwest Texas. And I remember, when she brought me home in her arms, I remember her saying, “Look at him, he’s so poor.” Just one little incident in the life of dear mother. How easy it is for children to forget the loving remembrance, the tender care, the preciousness of our parents. Lest we forget.
It is easy for citizens to forget the sacrifice of their countrymen for them. In my going around over this whole world, once in a while I am astonished to find an American military cemetery in the most unthought for and out of the way places. I saw one far up in the Apennines at Petramala in Italy, a large American cemetery filled with men who had laid down their lives for us in the Second World War. I stumbled into another one of them in the Philippine Islands. Last summer, I stumbled into another one of them in Singapore. These are the men who in the Second World War built a screen of shelter and protection around us with their own lives, and how easy it is for us to forget.
It is easy for us who are Christians to forget the martyrdom of our forefathers. Picking up an old English book, it was filled with woodcuts, pictures, the way they made them many, many years ago. And one section of that book was filled with pictures of burning the Baptists at Smithfield. One of the pictures was a mother, tied to the stake with her little daughter, being burned because they were Baptists. And when I was in Colchester, in Essex, in eastern England, there a large plaque to the martyrs of Colchester, and one of them listed among many others was a father and a mother and two daughters, all four of them burned at the stake because they were Baptists. How easy it is for us to forget.
Sometimes, maybe oft times, it is easy for a nation to forget its debt of gratitude to God. On the twenty-second day of June in 1897, Rudyard Kipling wrote his great poem entitled “Recessional.” There’s a reason for the name: they were celebrating the sixtieth, the diamond anniversary of Queen Victoria. At that time, the sun never set on the British flag. It was at the height of the British strength and power and empire.
They were there; the kings and the queens and the armies and the navies from the ends of the earth. And in that awesome moment of the conclusion of the greatest pageantry the world had ever seen, Rudyard Kipling wrote his poem: “Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget—Lest we forget!”
How easy it is for a nation to forget its debt of gratitude to God. So it is that our Lord instituted this memorial supper, lest we forget the cost of our redemption. What an unusual thing that the Lord did when He gathered His disciples, His twelve apostles, and instituted this simple supper of breaking bread and sharing the cup. And each element represents a tremendous facet of His devoted life [1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Matthew 26:26-28].
This is His body: “A body hast Thou prepared for Me” [Hebrews 10:5]. He came into the world to offer Himself a sacrifice for our sins. A spirit cannot do that. He was incarnate for that purpose that He might be a sacrifice for our sins [Hebrews 10:5-14]. And this world can never be the same again, because His blood, the crimson of His life, was poured out upon it [Matthew 27:32-50]. Lest we forget.
There must have been something tragically wrong, some unbelievable, catastrophic judgment that awaited us that it would bring down from the courts of glory the Son of God, the Prince of the angels, to suffer and to die for us. There must have been an awesome judgment awaiting us that such a sacrifice would be made in our behalf. And that is exactly what happened. It was because of our jeopardy and the judgment of death that awaited us [Romans 3:23, 6:23] that our Lord came down from heaven to die that we might be saved [Hebrews 10:5-14].
In the little town in which I grew up, there was a runaway wagon. A team hitched that somehow became frightened and loose, and the team was maddeningly, violently, running away with that wagon. And to the amazement and astonishment of the town’s people, the man that owned the wagon ran and stood in front of that runaway team and seized the bridles and pulled the team down to a stop, but in doing it he was mangled to death. And the town’s people, standing over that mutilated body, asked the man as he lay dying, “Why did you do that?”
And the man replied, as he died, “Go look in the wagon.” And they looked in the wagon, and there was a little baby that had been fast asleep. There must have been a like jeopardy that faced us, that brought down from the courts of glory One who made such a sacrifice in our behalf.
The judgment that awaits us is most plain, revealed to us in the Word of God. Ezekiel 18: 4, “The soul that sins shall die.” Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” I die two ways when I sin. My body dies. If I didn’t sin, I’d never die. It’s because I sin that my body dies. But I die a second way. My soul dies when I sin. I am shut out from the presence of the holiness of God. My soul dies. The Bible will call that hell, but hell is such a curse word that it has lost its spiritual meaning. The Bible also calls it the second death [Revelation 20:14-15, 21:8], and I face that because I am a sinner [Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Romans 3:23]. I face the judgment of death in mortal frame, and I face the second death, to be shut out from God for ever and ever [Revelation 20:14-15, 21:8]. It was because of that jeopardy and that judgment that the Lord Jesus came down into the world [Hebrews 10:5-14].
And this because of a second great spiritual moral principle by which God governs His universe. First: a moral law that I cannot escape; when I sin, I die [Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23]. Second, though: God has a moral principle, that there is possibility and capability of substitution. Somebody can die in my stead. That is the whole message of the redemptive story of the Bible. In the Old Testament, when a man had sinned, he brought a sacrifice, an offering to the temple. And the sacrifice, the victim, was tied to the horns of the altar. And on the head of the victim—it could be a bullock, it could be a lamb—over the head of the victim the sinner put his hands, and he confessed all of his sins over the head of that sacrificial animal. He identified himself with that victim and the victim is identified with him. And after the confession of sin the victim was slain, and his blood poured out at the base of the altar, and its body offered as a sacrifice to God [Leviticus 4:27-30].
Was there some meaning in that? Did God have some symbolic pictorial purpose in that? Look at it again. In the institution of the sacrifice of the Passover, the Lord said that the lamb chosen for the sacrifice should be kept with the family four days [Exodus 12:3-6]. Why that? It was, that the lamb might be identified with the family. Four days, it is to be kept in the circle of the home and of the family. Then when the sacrifice, the Paschal lamb, is slain, it is a part of the family; blood shed in behalf of this house—this home and these people. God having pictured for us a marvelous redemption.
Then, finally, in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, the prophet explains it gloriously and beautifully:
He was wounded for our transgressions . . . bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
That’s God. And, when, in the fullness of time, the body was prepared for Him, on that day of all days they brought Him to Golgotha, Calvary [John 19:16-17]. And there, between the earth and the sky, they lifted Him up [John 19:18]. They made great wounds in His hands, and His side, and His feet. And when that Roman spear was thrust into His heart, the crimson of His life poured out [John 19:34]. He bowed His head and cried, “It is finished” [John 19:30]. And thus to remember: He did that for you, for us. And had there been nobody in the earth who ever lived but you, He would have done that for you. It is an atoning sacrifice for each one of us [Romans 5:11]. Family by family, the Paschal Lamb: individually by individual, always it is personal [Exodus 12:3].
Whenever we think to define religion in the aggregate, in the mass, in the maze, we’re just that much apart from the mind and purpose of God; always, it is you. He knows your name [John 10:3]. He knows all about you, and He laid down His life that you might be saved [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And if there was nobody else in the earth who ever sinned, He yet would have died for you, for us individually [John 3:16-18]. And that’s the meaning of His message, “This do in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:24, 25].
Do you have a child? Do you? Do you have a little boy or little girl? Or have they grown up? What do you expect of them? Do you ever call them in, and say, “I want you to sit down there. I’ve prepared a list of things that I’ve done for you: gave you birth; this mother went into the valley of the shadow of death, and in travail gave you life, and these and these and these and these things. Now on this side, we’ve figured out how much we think that’s worth. This is what we think it was worth to give you birth”: and so many thousands of dollars. “This is what we think, for all those times that you were not well. And this is worth so many thousands of dollars, and we’ve added up here. Now we want you to pay us off.” Did you ever hear that in your life? Did you ever conceive of anything like that in your life? Would you do anything like that in your life? Would you? It is preposterous and unthinkable.
You know what you do do? And all of us are alike, every one of us. Do you have a child? Do you have a little boy or a little girl growing up? The only thing you ever asked for, the only thing, is that they might remember, in loving devotion, you. That’s all. That’s all. That’s all. You couldn’t buy the sacrifice for money, couldn’t do it. And that’s why Jesus frames this remembrance like this. We couldn’t buy our salvation; we’re not rich enough. We couldn’t deserve it; we’re not good enough. It’s a free gift [Ephesians 2:8]. And all He asks in return is to remember, to love, to be filled with gratitude and thanksgiving [1 Corinthians 11:24, 25]. O thank You Lord, that You gave Your life for me! [1 Corinthians 15:3]. Thank You, Lord, You saved me from the damnation and pit of hell [1 Thessalonians 1:10]. Thank You, Lord, You promised to stand by me in the day of the great judgment. And thank You, wonderful Jesus, that You are preparing a home for me too in heaven [John 14:2-3].
That’s what it is to be a Christian. That’s what it is to love Jesus. That’s what it is to give your heart to Him [Romans 10:8-13]. Lord, Lord, how good You have been to me!
May we stand together? Our Lord, when we think on these things, Lord, Lord, how unworthy we are. Could it be that Jesus came into this world to die for me?
Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown,
And love beyond degree!
But drops of grief could ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
‘Tis all that I can do.
[“At the Cross,” Isaac Watts]
Were all the realms of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
[from “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” Isaac Watts]
Dear Jesus, not by coercive, not by judgmental fear and visitation, but Lord Jesus, just out of the love of our hearts, we adore Thee, praise God for Thee, sing Thy name with gladness and love and devotion. And to walk in the pilgrim way, to be named by Thy name, to follow after Thee—Lord, what a benediction, what an open door, a privilege. And our Savior, the wonder of the life that we have found in Thee; Lord, that we might share it with the whole world, that they also might come to know Thee as Savior and Lord [Matthew 28:18-20].
And in this moment that we stand in the presence of our Lord, in quietness and in prayer, in supplication, in appeal, somebody you, this night, “I take Jesus as my Savior. Here I am. I give my life and heart to Him [Romans 10:8-13]. Here I come.” Down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, my whole family, we are coming tonight.” A couple or just one somebody you; while we wait, while we pray, make the decision now. And, as we sing this hymn of appeal, we’ll be here, loving, welcoming, thanking God for you. Do it now, while we pray, while we sing.