The Best Way Is God’s Way
August 21st, 1983 @ 10:50 AM
1 Corinthians 16:2
Collection, Money, Offerings, Tithe, Great Doctrines of the Bible: Economology, 1983, 1 Corinthians
THE BEST WAY IS GOD’S WAY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 16:2
8-21-83 10:50 a.m.
And welcome to you, the uncounted multitudes sharing with us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas the blessings of heaven on radio and on television; God prosper the message to your heart and life. It is the third one in the series of the doctrines of economology, our offering before the Lord, and the title of the sermon today is The Best Way, God’s Way. The reading of the text is in 1 Corinthians, the last chapter 16, verses 1 and 2; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2:
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.
[1 Corinthians 16:1, 2]
Sixteen, verses 1 and 2.
Upon a day, I went to the British Museum in London, by far the greatest museum in the world. I wanted especially to see Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Aleph; and Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Alpha. They are great uncials; the New Testament written in block capital letters. About 325 AD, when the books of the New Testament were first collected together, those great uncials were written. There is a romantic story, with the discovery and British acquisition of Codex Sinaiticus that I wish we had time to listen to. It is breathtaking.
So as I looked at those great uncials, those great codexes, the foundation for the inspired Word and breath of God, the Word of the Lord written out, as I looked at them, in my Bible I’ve got all kinds of separations in it, just all kinds. Over here are chapters, and here are verses, and here are paragraphs, and here are punctuation marks, and here are spaces, and here are words that are separated; that’s the way it is in my Bible. But when I look at those great codexes, there are no paragraphs, there are no separated chapters, there are no verses, there are no punctuation marks. There are not even spaces between the words; it is all one great theopneustos, “God-breathed,” word from heaven [2 Timothy 3:16], one great revelation.
Now what we do in our Bible is this. There are many scholars who say that the fifteenth chapter of the 1 Corinthians letter is the high-watermark of all revelation. The fifteenth chapter of the Book of 1 Corinthians is the avowal of the resurrection of Christ from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:20]: He, the firstfruits, and then we, in our order, in our day, in our time [1 Corinthians 15:23]; the marvelous preaching of the gospel of the resurrection of Christ and our life forever in Him. The high-watermark: many of the great scholars of the Bible say it is found in the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter
Then in our Bible, why, we separate that tremendous immortal revelation of God; we separate it from the sixteenth chapter. We put a space in there, and a chapter heading in there, and a little summation of what it says concerning the collection [1 Corinthians 16:1], as though this were spiritual and mighty and triumphant and glorious. And this pertains to the mundane and terrestrial things of life. Now that’s what men do.
But God doesn’t do it that way. God is as much interested in you in this life as He is in your soul in the life to come. It’s all one to Him, just like this Bible is one; there’s not even a space, I say, between the words. It is the breath of God.
So it is in our lives: God is interested in everything about us, every little thing about us. There’s not anything that concerns you in which God is not interested; in your soul and heart, in your physical frame and daily life.
Let me give you a poignant illustration of that. The sainted apostle John writes to his friend Gaius, and these are the first two verses of 3 John:
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]
Isn’t that something? “I would love that God would bless you aboundingly in this life and in this world, as I wish that thy soul may be blessed of God and prospered of God” [3 John 1:2]; both. That’s the Lord. He is interested in everything about us.
I was called as pastor of this dear church in September, 1944. In just a few days, I shall begin my fortieth year as undershepherd of this precious congregation. When the church called me from my pastorate in Oklahoma, the deacons gathered with me and said, “Pastor, before you go, would you lead our church in its stewardship appeal, in order that we’ll have another year underwritten in our service for the Lord?” I answered, “Gladly, wonderfully, just delightedly so.”
Well, do you think that was any less spiritual than when the men gathered together and prayed for me? And we had a prayer meeting before I left. Or when we had our final worship service there and I bid goodbye to those dear brothers and sisters in the faith? I think, according to the Word of God, that in God’s sight it was as spiritually acceptable to Him that I lead the church in a great stewardship appeal as when we got on our knees and prayed for God’s blessings upon us.
You see, you and I do that. We compartmentalize our religion, “Now this is spiritual, but this is material. This pertains to the kingdom of God, and this is just pertaining to us in the world.” Now we do that, but He doesn’t. God puts us all together as one in His love and grace and in His sight and presence. And whether it’s of this life or of that life, whether it’s of my physical frame or whether of my soul, all of it is dear to Him.
So it is in this passage: immediately, in the same breath that He speaks of the marvelous triumph of the resurrection, he says, “Now concerning the collection,” both alike in the presence and evaluation of God. So the apostle writes by the breath of the Holy Spirit, “As I gave order to the churches, so do you” [1 Corinthians 16:1]. This is an injunction from the inspired apostle, and thus he writes, “Upon the first day of the week,” kata mian, every first day of the week, each first day of the week [1 Corinthians 16:2]. That is the Lord’s Day; that’s Christ’s day. That’s our wonderful day.
- It was on the first day of the week that our Lord was raised from the dead: the greatest event in all God’s creation, when Jesus was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-6; Luke 24:1-6; John 20:1-9].
- On that day, He appeared to the women, alive [John 20:11-17; Matthew 28:9-10; Mark 16:9].
- On that day, He appeared to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus [Luke 24:13-32].
- On that Sunday evening, He appeared to the ten apostles [Luke 24:36; John 20:19]; the first day of the week.
- The following first day of the week, Sunday, He appeared to the eleven apostles, Thomas being present [John 20:26].
- On the first day of the week, in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, the church in Troas gathered together for the breaking of bread [Acts 20:5-7].
- On the first day of the week, in Revelation 1:10, the sainted apostle John is in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day and saw the incomparable vision of our living Lord [Revelation 1:10-13].
- On the first day of the week, on Pentecostal Sunday, our Father in heaven, in promise to His Son, our Savior, poured out the Spirit of God in the second chapter of the Book of Acts [Acts 2:1-4].
The first day of the week, every first day of the week, this is our Lord’s Day. It’s our great day of glory and praise and song and worship. And on that day, “Assemble together,” the first day of the week, “let every one of you” [1 Corinthians 16:2]. It is not only periodic, first Sunday of each week, it is personal: “Let every one of you,” each one of you. In God’s sight, we are all somebody, somebody dear, loved, died for. There’s nobody that’s nobody in the sight of God. We’re all somebody in His grace and love.
“Let every one of you,” that’s the father, that’s the mother, that’s the youth, that’s the child, that’s the baby; they’re all precious in God’s sight. We are each one, dear to our Lord. “Let every one of you,” each one of you. We are born one at a time; we are born again one at a time. We are saved one at a time. We’re baptized one at a time. We are judged one at a time. We die one at a time. We’re all in God’s sight: you individually, each one, you. God never looks upon us as gobs, and bucketsfull, and oceans full; He looks upon us as “you,” individually. And each member of the family is somebody precious in the sight of the Lord.
If I were to describe the Christian religion as any one thing above anything else, I would say that the Christian religion is the faith of the one lost sheep [Luke 15:3-7], and the one lost coin [Luke 15:8-10], and the one lost boy [Luke 15:11-32]; it’s individual. It concerns you, and God knows you by name [Luke 10:20; John 10:3], knows all about us and that child.
I have no quarrel with our men gathering together over here. Gifted men, dedicated men, fine executives: and they gather over here and they make great decisions and they plan great programs, and I just thank God for them. I have no grief against that; I’m just preaching the gospel from the Book.
That little child, that smallest child is no less dear and precious in the sight of God than that executive who is over here helping make those tremendous decisions. That little child, and it is remarkable how things, providences, are colored by that little child.
I had a godly deacon, bless his memory, Amos Marlin; one of the dearest men that I ever knew, a soulwinner, a visitor, a dedicated layman, a godly deacon. So interested in missions, and one day I asked him about it, and he said, “When I was a small, small, small child, I heard a missionary from China. And I had one nickel, and that nickel was just oh, so much to me. And when they took up an offering for the missionary from China, I placed in the offering my nickel.” And the deacon said to me, “From that day until this, I have been vitally interested in missions”; that, in a child.
My brethren, we’re all important in His sight; that father, that husband, that wife, that mother, these youngsters, these children, and those tiny tots. That’s what the Book says: “Let each one of you” [1 Corinthians 16:2] every one of you. It concerns us all.
Not only is it periodic, “on the first day of the week,” each first day of the week, not only is it personal, “let each one of you,” but it is also provident, “lay by him in store” [1 Corinthians 16:2]. Provident: it is a matter of foresight and of planning. “Lay by him in store”; well, I’m not surprised at that. God does everything else by infinite plan and wisdom. Why should I be surprised that He runs His church by an infinite plan and wisdom? God does the whole creative work according to a plan. Those tremendous planets in their orbits, and the stars and the suns in their universes; everything we see. God does according to plan, foresight. He even raises out of the dust of the ground these beautiful flowers by plan. He even has His salvation by plan, a plan of salvation. There’s a program in the wisdom of God, in every area of our life, and in all the world we see around us.
Then when I look at God in His provision for His churches, He does it according to a plan. He does it according to foresight. Now there’s not anything that will bless your family and bless your life as that; to sit down and to plan your program, and your life, and your finances, and all the things that pertain to what you dream for, and pray for—if you did that, you would never fall into unpayable, crushing debt, and a whole lot of other things that plow up the family.
Now I’m no authority in this; I just read. But in my reading, they tell me there are two things that bring disruption and divorce to a home: one is in-laws, and the other is money, far more than anything else. Seventy percent of the families in Dallas will break up, will end in divorce. That’s tragic. If each family you would sit down and, listening to the Word of the Lord, plan, provident in foresight, what you’re able to do, and then achieve these things as God gives you ableness; oh, what a blessing!
Now this: when you sit down, according to the Word of God, and you take the increase God has given you, and you set over here nine parts, “This is for me, and this is for my family, and this is for our work and life: nine parts for us.” And then over here on this side, there’s one part for God. And my brother, now when you do that, it will do something to your heart.
If you take God’s part, you’ll feel it in your soul, “This is God’s part, and do I steal from God? Do I rob God? Do I?” You know, something happens to a family and to a man who takes God’s part.
If God gets His and I get mine,
Then everything will be just fine.
But if I get mine and keep God’s, too,
What do you think the Lord will do?
I think He’ll collect, don’t you?
I was never introduced to wealth until I came to Dallas; I was never around wealthy people. But being here as long as I have, I have learned many things. And that’s one of them: if a man has a billion dollars, if a man has a billion dollars and he keeps God’s tenth, he’ll make a blunder. He’ll make a misjudgment and he’ll lose $100,000,000. I have seen it. If a man has two billion dollars, two billion dollars, and he keeps God’s tenth, he’ll make a $200,000,000 misjudgment, and you’ll read it about in the paper. God collects; you don’t rob God, you don’t steal from God. That belongs to Him, and He collects. Oh, how much better it is to make it an act of glory and of worship; Lord, Lord God.
You know, it’s a strange thing how people are with the Lord. In a county seat town was a newspaper, county newspaper, and an infidel farmer wrote a letter to the editor of the paper, and it went like this:
On Sunday, I plowed my field. On Sunday, I planted my crop. On Sunday, I cultivated it. On Sunday, I harvested it, and on Sunday, I sold it. And I had the best crop I ever had, and I got the best price for it I ever received.
And then he said,
I dare you to print this letter in your paper.
The next issue of the county paper, sure enough, there the letter was, just as he had written it. But the editor added a little footnote, “Editor’s note: God doesn’t always balance His accounts the third week in October.”
My friend, infinitely better, gloriously better, is it for you and your family to sit down, and in providence plan what God has given you, and in foresight set up the family budget; and this you’re going to use for rent, or for the mortgage, or for food, or for clothing, or the education of the children, this; and then this belongs to God. Do it.
Not only is the injunction that we periodically, each Sunday, and personally, each one, and providently, plannedly, lay by in store, but it is proportionate: “as God hath prospered him” [1 Corinthians 16:2]. Now my brother, there’s not anything before which I’ve ever stumbled more than I have before that. And I’m not alone. There are a whole lot of other people that have stumbled at that, too: “As God hath prospered him” [1 Corinthians 16:2].
So this theopneustos, this God-breathed word says that God is the One that gives us our possessions; it comes from Him. God does it [1 Corinthians 16:2]. Now here’s where I stumble: well, if God does that, why does He bestow so much, so many times, upon wicked, vile, infidel, God-dishonoring people? And over here are the finest, sweetest people in the earth who live in poverty and need. Now God, why do You do that? Why do You do that?
Or, let me put it biblically. Lazarus, saintly Lazarus, who upon death is in the bosom of Abraham, saintly Lazarus is at the door, begging crumbs from the rich man’s table. And Dives luxuriates in worldly splendor [Luke 16:19-22]. Now Lord, if You are the One that bestows these properties, then why do You do that? Lord God in heaven, why is it that You don’t give the riches of this earth to godly people? Why is it that those godly people instead sometimes live in want and in poverty, and upon the vilest of mankind You bestow abounding wealth? Now, why do You do that, God?
Then as I read the Book, the Lord speaks. And I say, “Lord, excuse me. Pardon me. I just didn’t understand.” You see, God’s judgment and God’s idea and God’s persuasion and God’s evaluation of His gifts are different from ours. He doesn’t place such an abounding store and importance and value on worldly possessions as we do; He just doesn’t do it. Our Lord said, Jesus our Lord 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” [Luke 9:58]. He had nothing; He was poor.
In the third chapter of the Book of Acts, when Peter and John are going up into the temple, there is a beggar seated, asking alms, extending his right hand. Simon Peter looks at him, and he says, “I do not have a coin, not a coin to put in your hand. But in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” [Acts 3:1-6]. Poor, poor, poor; they were rich, they were rich! They were rich; that is, they were rich toward God.
Our ideas of riches, of affluence is so different from God’s; and He bestows His gifts upon us. And because it may not be worldly affluent—see, I thought that maybe God didn’t do right in the way He bestowed His gifts. Man, how I need to change my mind!
As most of you know, I began my preaching ministry in the days of the Depression. I started preaching in 1927, and in 1929 was the tragic market crash, and all America was plunged into the darkest depression our nation had ever known. And in all through those years, I was a pastor; I lived with the people. The anguish and the heartache that I saw would make a man out of stone weep and cry: people losing their homes, people losing their farms, people losing everything they had. Even the entire banking system of America was closed down, shut down, all of it.
Well, in those days, there was a banker, one of those pressed to the wall; bankruptcy. And when a friend came to see him, the banker said, “Jim, I’m ruined, I am ruined! I’m ruined.” And his friend said, “Why, John, you mean to tell me that they have caught you embezzling funds from the bank? You’re an embezzler? You’re a cheater, a stealer, and you’re going to the penitentiary?”
“Oh, no. No, Jim! Not that, not that.”
“Well, John, John, John, those sweet children of yours, those darling children, they’ve all died. They’ve all died?”
“No, John,” said Jim. “No. My children are beautiful and well.”
“Oh, I know what it is. Jim, your wife has left you, and she’s run off with another man.”
“Oh, no,” said Jim. “No, John, no.”
“Oh, I know what it is. Jim, you have lost every friend you had in the world.”
“No!” said Jim. “No John, I have not lost my friends.”
“I know what it is, Jim. I know what it is. You have terminal cancer and you are going to die.”
“No!” said Jim. “I’ve been in no better health in all of my life.”
“Well, Jim, what is it? You say you are ruined.” And Jim replies, “John, I have lost my money. I have lost my money.” And John put his hand on his friend’s shoulder and said, “Well Jim, I just misunderstood. I thought you were ruined. Man, you are not ruined!”
You see, our idea of value, of preciousness, of dearness is so different from that that belongs to God. I have seen some of the cheapest, vilest, no-accountest people in the world who were wealthy. And I have seen some of God’s saints who live, “Lord, give me this day, my daily bread” [Matthew 6:9-11]. Who is rich? Who is rich? You see, God’s idea is so different from ours. So he says to us, “as God has prospered him” [1 Corinthians 16:2], proportionate. Whether it be little in God’s sight, or whether it be much in man’s sight, it is all alike. That part, set apart for God by the poorest member of our church is, in God’s sight, just as much as that large part set aside by the most affluent member in our church. That’s God. That’s God. I must close.
Not only is the injunction periodic, “every first day of the week”; not only is it personal, “let each one of you”; not only is it provident, “foresightedly, plannedly laying by”; not only is it proportionate, “according as God has prospered us”; it is preventative, “that there be no gatherings when I come” [1 Corinthians 16:2]. My dear people, we move into another world from the nagging, pestering, continuous, wearisomeness and nuisance of these collections when we come before God, according to His brief word, with an offering in our hands.
Tell me, when you read the story of Abel, is there anything in that story about his testimony, or about his witness, or about his words of praise, or about his song? The only thing we are told in the story of Abel is that he came before God with an offering [Genesis 4:4], and he sealed that commitment with his blood [Genesis 4:8, 10], that speaks to us to this day [Hebrews 11:4]. “With an offering” [Genesis 4:4], that is all that is said. And that is enough.
When a man says to God, “Dear Lord, You and I are going to be partners; You and I. Lord, the breath I breathe, that is God’s breath. And the life that I have is a gift from God; life. And the sunshine, that’s God’s sunshine. And the rain that You give, that’s God’s rain. And the increase, that germinating seed, that’s God’s touch. And the harvest that is gathered, that’s God’s harvest. Lord, that’s Your part, and my part will be a dedicated labor of love. I offer my hands and the strength of my life; and Lord, let’s do it together. You give me breath, and health, and strength, and life, and sunshine, and rain, and harvest, and I will give You, Lord, the devotion of my hand and the labor of the love of my life.” That is an unbeatable team, God and His servant working together, walking, yoked together in the faith and work of the Lord. It is a glorious way. It is a happy way. It is a victorious way, and it ends in heaven.
May we stand together?
Our wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Savior, whose very name is Wonderful [Isaiah 9:6], O Lord, how good You are to us! Even in days that we think are harsh and trying, God is good. And our Lord, we pray it again, that the message will bear a fruit in the hearts of these who have been in the presence of Thy Holy Spirit and have listened to this message from God. Now Lord, honor it, please honor it, with a gracious harvest, please Lord. May God seal the truth with a gracious harvest. May it please Thee in heaven and encourage us in earth to see families come, and couples come, and young people come, and children come. “This is God’s day for us, and we are on the way.” The Lord bless them as they come, we ask humbly in Thy dear name, amen.
Our earnest appeal to the lost, that you would open your heart to Jesus; to a family, that you would put your life with us in the church; to anybody you, that you stand with us in the love of Jesus; God bless you as you come, while we sing our appeal.