The Best Way Is God’s Way
August 21st, 1983 @ 8:15 AM
THE BEST WAY IS GOD’S WAY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 16
8-21-83 8:15 a.m.
Well, welcome the great multitudes of you who are sharing this hour on radio with us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas. This is the pastor delivering the message. It is the third one; it is the third sermon in the series on economology, on our offering before the Lord. And this message is entitled The Best Way is God’s Way. In the sixteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 16, "Now concerning the collection,as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come."
I went to the British Museum. That is the greatest collection of ancient literature and artifacts and archaeological treasures in the earth. I do not know whether all of it put together, outside of the British Museum, is so great. Especially, particularly, I wanted to see Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus; they are the two great uncials written in box letters, the two great uncials of the New Testament, written in Greek, written in about 325 AD, about the first time that the New Testament volumes were all gathered together and written out. The romantic story of Codex Sinaiticus, Aleph, is one of the most beautiful, interesting, breathtaking stories in the world. Well, I looked at those. My, what a holiness, a privilege just to look upon such work of God and men. And here in my Bible, I see my Bible all divided up; it has chapters, and it has paragraphs, and it has verses, and it has spaces between words, and just all kinds of divisions in it. But when you look at those codexes, the way God wrote it down, there are no chapters and there are no verses, there are no punctuation marks, there is not even a space between words. It is all together, as though God meant it to be that way. When God speaks of this, or of this, or of this, it’s all God’s breathed Word, His theopneustos, His God-breathed Word, all of it.
Now when I pick up my Bible and read the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, there are many, many scholars who say that is the high watermark of all revelation: because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we also, He being the firstfruits, we also shall be raised in our time. This is the great fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, the greatest revelation, promise in the Bible: we shall live again with our living Lord. Then in my Bible there is a large open space, a separated space. Then there’s a chapter heading. Then there’s a summation. Then it reads, "Now concerning the collection,as I gave orders to the churches," as though this were altogether different from that. That’s man’s doing; it’s not God’s doings. This tremendous revelation, the scholarly judgment of the high watermark of all God’s revealed promise, this, and this concerning the collection, are all in the same breath, in the same page, in the same paragraph; there is not even a space between the words as God reveals to us His holy purpose and will.
And aren’t you glad? Aren’t you glad that God is as interested in us materially as He is interested in us spiritually? He is as much interested in the little things of your life as He is in the big things of your life. There’s not anything in your life in which God is not vitally interested. For example, the sainted apostle John writes to his friend Gaius, in the third epistle of John, "The elder," he calls himself, "the elder," the presbuteros, "John, unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" [3 John 1:1-2]. Now isn’t that a strange thing? He doesn’t say, "I wish that your soul might prosper as you prosper in the life of the world," but he says, "I pray that you mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." That’s God. That’s the Word of the Lord, and that’s the Lord attitude toward us. He Is interested in everything about us. And here in one breath He is describing our final resurrection, and then in the next breath He is talking to us about the collection in the churches.
I was called to be pastor of this dear congregation in September of 1944. In just a little while I will begin my fortieth year as pastor of the congregation. When I was called here in September, the deacons in the church that I then pastored, the deacons came to me and said, "Pastor, before you leave, would you lead our church into our stewardship appeal, and that we might have our program that we dedicate to God underwritten for one more year? Would you do that?" I was delighted. I said, "Yes, I’d be happy to." It is as spiritually acceptable to God that I lead the dear church there in its stewardship appeal before I left, as when we had a prayer meeting, and we prayed for the then young preacher as he faced the tremendous assignment to which he was called in the city of Dallas. There’s no difference in it; it is all precious in the sight of the Lord.
So, he says, "This is the order I give to the churches"; it’s an apostolic injunction. Let’s look at it. It’s translated here kata mian, it’s translated here "upon the first"; actually he says, "Every first day of the week." That is, our offering unto God is to be periodic, one day out of seven. "Upon," or as the Greek is, "Each first day of the week" [1 Corinthians 16:2], that’s Sunday. That is Christ’s day. That’s the Lord’s Day. It was on Sunday He was raised from the dead [Mark 16:2]. It was on Sunday that He appeared to the women [Matthew 28:9-10] and to the apostles [John 20:19]. It was on Sunday that He appeared to the two on the way to Emmaus [Luke 24:13-35]. It was on the following Sunday that He appeared to the eleven [John 20:26]. It was on Sunday, in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, that the congregation at Troas gathered together to break bread [Acts 20:7]. It was on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, that the sainted apostle John was in the Spirit on the isle of Patmos [Revelation 1:10]. It was on Sunday, Pentecostal Sunday, that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the congregation in Jerusalem, and poured out upon the earth in the second chapter of the Book of Acts [Acts 2:1]. It is Sunday, God’s day, the Lord’s Day, Christ’s day; and on Sunday we are commanded to bring before the Lord our remembrance and offering, periodically, one day out of seven.
"On the first day of the week let every one of you"; it is not only periodic, it is personal: "each one of you, every one of you." That refers to the husband, refers to the wife, refers to the father, to the mother, to the youth, to the child, to the baby. The baby is somebody, don’t you think? "Every one of you, each one of you." We are born one at a time. We’re born again one at a time. We die one at a time. We are judged one at a time. We are somebody in God’s sight, each one of us. Every member of the family is somebody precious in the sight of God. If I were to define the Christian religion as any one thing above anything else, I’d say the Christian faith is the religion of the one lost sheep, of the one lost coin, and of the one lost boy [Luke 15:3-32]. It is individual. It is personal. It is each one of us. And each one of us is precious in the sight of the Lord.
That child, you say, "Oh man, man, here we are doing big business for God. We have this group of dedicated business, gifted, executive men who are meeting together, and oh! these things, man, that’s important, that’s big." I’m not denying that, and I praise God for it. I’m just preaching the Book, that’s all. In God’s sight, that smallest child is also as important in every plan and appeal and program that we make as the most gifted executive among us.
I could not forget one of the dearest deacons and godliest men, Amos Marlin, oh that godly man! So interested in conversion and witnessing and soulwinning and testimony and missions, and I asked him one day, "How is it that you have always through the years been so interested in missions?"
"Well," he said, "pastor, it may sound silly to you, but when I was a small, small, small child, when a nickel to me was an enormous possession, I gave to a missionary from China in our church my nickel. And from that day until this I have been interested in missions." Think of that, a little, tiny, tiny, tiny tot with his nickel, and he gave it to foreign missions in China; and it colored the rest of his life.
This is the wisdom of God for us: each one of us. And that’s why, as you’ve heard me insist for thirty-nine years, when we come before the Lord we include all of us. The husband doesn’t do it for the whole family; he may say, "Well, the check is in my name, and I receive the compensation, and it’s my salary"; but his wife also works and contributes, and the children are a part, and they contribute. All of us have a part; each one of us is vital in the work of the Lord. And it pleases God when the whole family appears with an offering in their hands.
Not only is it periodic, "Every first day of the week"; not only is it personal, "Let every one of you"; but it is provident: "lay by him in store." It is provident; that is, it is planned, it has foresight. Now I’d be surprised if God didn’t do that for us in the church. He did it everywhere else. He made His universe according to a plan, and all of those planets that orbit in space orbit in the plan of God. He even makes His little flowers according to a plan; in the seed, in the harvest, according to a plan. He even has a plan of salvation. I’d be surprised if God didn’t have a plan for us in our church. And He does. He is provident; foresight.
Now I want to say a word, parenthesizing here, to our families. There’s not anything that will bless you in your home than what God says for us to do here: to sit down, and with foresight to plan your family life. I read – and I’m no authority – but I just read that there are two main reasons for the breakup, the divorce, of our families. One is in-laws, and the other is money; those two things. That’s just what I read. Now, what could be more blessed than for a family, a young couple to begin with, and then the rest of their lives, with providence, with foresight, with planning, they sit down. You’d never fall into trouble with all of that overspending and debt if you’d do that. You’d live in the providence of God. Then, when you sit down, "This is for God and my brother; and this is for us in the family." Now if you were to do that, sit down as the Bible says, and in foresight, in planning set it apart – one part is for God and my brother, God’s work in the earth, and nine parts is for us – if you were to do that, I tell you what’d happen to you: you would never find your heart at ease in taking God’s part and putting it over here and using it for you. You just, you just feel bad about that every time you did it. You see, if God gets His and I get mine, everything will be just fine. But if I get mine and keep God’s too, what do you think the Lord will do? I believe He will collect, don’t you?
You know, I was never introduced to wealth until I came to Dallas. If there is a billionaire, if there is a billionaire, and he doesn’t give God His tenth, the day will come, and he’ll make a one hundred million dollar mistake; and God collects it. I’ve seen it. If there is a man that has two billion dollars and he doesn’t give God His tenth, the day will come when he’ll misjudge, and he’ll lose two hundred million dollars; and you’ll read it in the newspaper. And if here is a man that has a hundred dollars, and he keeps God’s tenth, he’ll make a mistake, or he’ll have an illness, or there’ll be a providence, and he’ll lose the ten dollars. You don’t keep it. God collects it, and how much better, infinitely so, to offer it to God in praise and gratitude and in worship? Do it.
Not only is it periodic, "Every first day of the week"; not only is it personal, "Let every one of you"; not only is it provident, "by foresight, by planning lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him," then God does it. Now isn’t that an amazing doctrine? And when I say it, man I stumble at it as you do: God gives us what we have: "As God hath prospered it, as God gives him the increase." Well then I have some questions to ask about that. If God does it, how in the world does God do it so unequally and inexplicably? And I would first say, so drastically, uncomfortably, and badly. Lazarus is a beggar; godly man, and when he dies he goes to Abraham’s bosom. But Dives luxuriates in all of the worldly affluence that any man could possess or think of [Luke 16:19-22]. If God does that, why doesn’t He give the abundance to the good man? Why does He bless the evil man as He does? Now Lord, what’s the matter here? Well, as I pray and as I study and as I read the Bible, God has a plain answer: God just doesn’t look upon worldly possessions as we do; He just doesn’t.
Jesus said, "The foxes of the earth have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head" [Matthew 8:20]. Poor, poor, Jesus was poor! In the third chapter of the Book of Acts, when Peter and John go up to the temple, there is a beggar who has his hand outstretched, and asks an alms. And Simon Peter answers, saying, "I do not have a coin, not a coin. Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee" [Acts 3:6]. Oh, my brother, can you imagine the poverty of those men: poor men who were rich! They were rich! They were rich! Didn’t have any money; they were rich. They were rich. God’s idea is not like ours, it just isn’t. And He doesn’t look upon that as we do.
I began my ministry – as you remember – in the Depression. I started in 1927. And in ’29 the awful crash came in the financial markets of America. And then thereafter, for all those years, I was pastor in the Depression. There are ten thousand poignant memories that press upon my heart when I think of those days. Anyway, in the Depression, the bank went under. And a friend visited the president of the bank, and he said, "Oh Jim, I’m ruined! I’m ruined! I’m ruined! I’m ruined!"
And the friend said to him, "Why, John, why, John, I didn’t know. You’ve been caught an embezzler. You’ve stolen the people’s money, and you’re going to the penitentiary. I didn’t know you’re an embezzler."
And the banker said, "Oh no, no, no, no!"
"Oh," said his friend, "I see, your children have all died; poor, little, precious, beautiful children, your children have all died."
"No, no!" said the banker, "not my children have died."
"Oh," said his friend, "Jim, I understand now; your wife has gone off with another man. She has left you."
"Oh no," he said, "not my beautiful wife."
"Now I understand, Jim, every friend you’ve got is gone. You’ve lost your friends."
"Oh no, no!"
"Oh, now I understand, Jim, you have terminal cancer, and you’re going to die. You’ve lost your health."
"Oh, no, no, no!" said the banker, "I’m ruined! I’ve lost my money! I’ve lost my money!" And his friend said, "Well Jim, I didn’t understand, ruined"; put his hand on his shoulder and walked away, "Oh, your money!"
My brother, that is the least of all of God’s gifts, the least. Look around you. Man, I wouldn’t take ten million dollars for even one of my eyes, I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t take five million dollars for one of my feet, I wouldn’t do it. All of the blessings God has given me, Lord, Lord, and if I had to live without money, I could. You see, God blesses us; we just don’t have the same conception of His gifts and His riches as He does.
Well, according as God has blessed us, setting aside a proportion for Him, the last, it is, it is preventive: "that there be no gatherings when I come" [1 Corinthians 16:2]. It doesn’t please God when our people gather together and here we go through a nagging, pestering, continuous nuisance that we call "a collection." No sir. What we are to do is to come before God as He says, "on the first day of the week," and we have set aside a proportion for Him; and we come before God in praise, and worship, and thanksgiving, and gratitude, and love, "O God, what a wonderful privilege You have given to me."
Isn’t it a wonderful thing that we read about Abel? No mention is made of his song, no mention is made of his praise, no mention is made of his testimony; all that is said about Abel is that he brought a minchah, an offering before the Lord, that’s all [Genesis 4:4]. And isn’t it a wonderful thing with us, "Lord, Lord, this breath that I breathe, that is Your breath. And this life that I have, that is Your life, Lord; it came from You. And the sunshine that comes down from heaven, that is Your sunshine. And the rain that falls, that is Your rain. And the increase that germinates, that’s God’s increase. And the harvest that’s bestowed upon us, that is God’s harvest. And what I do, Lord, I offer as Your partner my hands and labor of love. And we’re together in it, God, You and I. You give me life, and breath, and sunshine, and rain, and increase, and Lord, I’ll give You a devoted, loving labor. And together, Lord, we’ll do it."
When a man links his life and his heart and his soul with God, it’s an unbeatable team. That man and God, that woman and God, that youth and God, it’s a great way to live. And the Lord adds His benedictory blessings. May we stand for the moment?
Our wonderful Savior, what a great, thrilling, open door does the Lord lay before us, inviting us to take the almighty, omnipotent God as our partner, and then work and labor in love with Him. Lord, to give Thee our lives, our souls, our destiny, and our labor, sweet, blessed Jesus, how much You have given for us. Thank Thee that we can do something for Thee.
And in this moment when our people pray and wait, a family you, a couple you, a somebody you, "Today, pastor, God has spoken to my heart, and we’re on the way." Make the decision now, and when we sing in this moment, down one of those stairways, down one of those aisles, "Pastor, here I stand." God bless you as you come. And thank Thee, Lord, for the sweet harvest. In Thy precious name, amen. While we sing, welcome. Welcome. Welcome.
THE BEST WAY IS GOD’S WAY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 16:1-2
A. Codex Sinaiticus, Aleph, Alexandrinus – no chapters, paragraphs, verses
B. Chapter 15 the greatest, highest revelation
1. Chapter 16 is in the same breath – no break in the original
2. We add a break as though one were spiritual and one mundane
C. So in our lives – God is interested in everything about us(3 John 1:1-2)
D. Text begins with a strong word diatasso – "to give order"(1 Corinthians 16:1)
A. "Upon the first day of the week"(1 Corinthians 16:2)
B. That is the Lord’s Day(Matthew 28:1-6, 9-10, John 20:11-20, 26-29, Luke 24:13-32, Acts 20:7, Revelation 1:10, 12-13)
A. In God’s sight, we are all somebody
B. Every member of the family
C. Christianity is the faith of the one lost sheep, coin, boy
A. Planned, aforethought, providing
B. God has a plan in everything else, so here
C. Can we steal from God? – He collects
A. "As God hath prospered him"(Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:12-26)
1. It is God who confers property
2. God’s evaluation of His gifts so different from ours(Matthew 8:20, Acts 3:6)
B. That part being set aside for God by the poorest and the most affluent
A. Preacher doesn’t have to ding-dong for money
B. Abel brought a minchah, "offering" to the Lord(Genesis 44:4)
C. Partners with God