WE VISIT PASTOR TIMOTHY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 1:4
Dallas Theological Seminary Chapel
I came to the seminary in 1927; and there are more faculty members up here than there were students then. I was supposed to be here about, oh, three or four weeks ago: went through the whole winter, stayed well, and all of a sudden picked up a virus and I could not talk. That is the worst thing in the world that can happen either to a woman or a preacher, either one! And there is nobody in this earth that hates to be puny more than I. I am like that lion that roared through the jungle, and said, "I am the lord of all creation," and turned to a tiger and said, "If you don’t believe it, come out and fight!" And the tiger in terror ran away. The lion met an elephant, and said, "I am the lord of the jungle! If you don’t believe it, come here and fight!" And the elephant trumpeting in terror ran away. And the lion spied a little bitty monkey way up in the top of a banyan tree, and roared at him, and said, "I am the lion of the jungle! If you don’t believe it, come down here and fight!" And the little monkey said, "I can’t because I’ve been sick." Oh, dear! I don’t like to be sick. I don’t like to be down. When you have a virus, that’s the name a doctor gives for something he doesn’t know what’s the matter with you, you’ve got a virus.
Thought I’d speak for a moment this morning on a phrase in 2 Timothy, the first chapter and the fourth verse. Paul writes to his young son in the ministry, "Greatly desiring to see thee; greatly desiring to see thee" [2 Timothy 1:4]. And I thought today we would go visit Pastor Timothy.
He lives in the far-famed Greek city of Ephesus: the most cultured and beautiful and sizable metropolis in the ancient Roman province of Asia. And the port facility is spacious; the ships from all the Mediterranean world go there to pick up the cargo from ancient Phrygia and all of the world back of the coastline in the Aegean. And as we walk through the streets, we pass by the temple of Artemis, temple of Diana, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. If you’re ever in the British Museum, there is a column out of that incomparable structure. It’s the only Greek column that has carved images all the way around it. You be sure to look at it; it is a marvel of architecture. We pass by that beautiful temple of Artemis and finally come to the house of Timothy; and we knock at the door.
He comes, and we introduce ourselves: "We’re from the Dallas Theological Seminary, and we are from a new continent called America, and from a great city of Dallas. And we’ve come to visit you." So strange-looking as we may be, we are invited in, and we sit down. And while we’re seated, I notice a woman in the back part of the house. And I turn to young Timothy and I say, "And who is she?"
"Oh," he replies, "this is Mrs. Timothy"; and he calls, "Sweet, would you come out?" And she proceeds, and I am introduced to Mrs. Timothy, Mrs. Timothy. And I say to him, "Why, there is a church that assumes for itself the original church, and their clergy do not marry. And they say they are the original church. And you’ve got a wife?"
"Yes," says Timothy, "I have a wife. Peter has a wife. All the apostles had wives. Even Paul" – who never was married, or if he was married his wife died or something happened – "Even Paul said in writing to me that a bishop, an elder, a pastor, ought to be the husband of one wife [1 Timothy 3:2]. And Solomon said, ‘He that getteth a wife, getteth a good thing’ [Proverbs 18:22]. So I have a wife."
Now isn’t that a remarkable theological commentary, that the original church, the first church, the church that says it is the New Testament church and down to the present time, isn’t it strange that they say their clergy do not marry? Yet Timothy’s got a wife; the apostles had wives; the men married.
One of my men was talking to a Catholic, and he said to the Catholic, "What do you do with your sins?" He said, "I take them to the priest and confess them, and the priest forgives them."
"Well, what does the priest do with his sins?"
"He confesses them to the bishop, and the bishop forgives them."
"Well, what does the bishop do with his sins?"
"He confesses them to the cardinal, and the cardinal forgives them."
"Well, what does the cardinal do with his sins?"
"He confesses them to the pope, and the pope forgives him."
"Well, what does the pope do with his sins?"
"Well, the pope takes them directly to God, and God forgives him." And my man said, "You mean to tell me the pope is a Baptist?"
I can’t believe the Dallas Theological Seminary is co-educational. I asked, "What are those girls doing here?"
"Why, they’re students. They’re in the school."
Well, that’s all right. I say to a young fellow, "If you fall in love, why, marry the girl and take her to the seminary and both of you go through." And he says to me, "Well, can two of us live as cheap as one?" I say, "Certainly, if one will go hungry and the other will go naked, you’ve got it made."
So I say to Pastor Timothy, "We want to see the church. We’ve come to visit the church." And he says, "The church? What do you mean church? I never heard of a church." I said, "You mean you never heard of a church?"
"No," he says, "I never heard of a church." Well, I said, "You’re the pastor of the church."
"Oh," he says, "you’re speaking of the ekklesia."
"Yes," I say, "the church." He says, ekklesia. Then I happened to remember, I’m three hundred years too early: they never heard of a "church" until after Constantine. It was always, for the first three hundred years, an ekklesia, referring to the people of God, the assembly of the Lord. But after Constantine, they changed the name from ekklesia to kuriakos, "the lordly house," kuriakos, kurkas, kirk, in our language "church." And they changed the idea of the church from the people to an edifice. When Constantine converted – so-called – to the Christian faith, he carried with him all of those Greek temples, and all of those priests, and all of those vestments, and all of those images, and all the rest of the ritual that you find in a Catholic church. And they baptized the whole thing. It became a kuriakos. And those images, this was Jupiter, and this is Venus, and this is Juno, it became Mary, and the image became Peter, and the image became the saints; and the whole house became the "lordly house," a kuriakos. But that was never the intention of the Lord God. It was the intention of our Lord, and for three hundred years it was that way, that the church was the people, not a house, not a vestment, not a ritual, not a priestly craft, but the folks. The "church" referred to the people of God, and it was the purpose of the Lord that the work of the church be done on the outside, where the people are: in the marketplace, up and down the streets, knocking at the door.
Christ was not crucified in a cathedral on a golden cross between two candlesticks. He was crucified on rough timbers, outside the city gate [Hebrews 13:12], on a road so public that it took three languages to describe the purpose of His execution [John 19:20]; and He was crucified naked. These artists have done graciously by our Lord. He was exposed. And that was the intention of God then: that the Lord’s Son be exposed to the world. And that was His intention through all these years that have followed after. The Lord is to be presented to the world, not worshiped on the inside of a lordly house: it’s an ekklesia; it refers to the people of God and not to some kind of an architectural arrangement.
So we ask Timothy, "Well, how do you do your work?" He says, "Paul says from house to house, with many tears, testifying to the whole city, however they live, Jew and Greek, Gentile and Israelite, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" [Acts 20:19-21,31].
"Well, where did you get that idea," we ask Timothy, "that the work of the church is to be done from house to house, testifying, witnessing?" He says, "We received that from the apostolic church in Jerusalem, the first church in Jerusalem. They ate their meat with gladness from house to house, testifying, witnessing to the grace of God, the redemptive love of the Lord Jehovah in Christ Jesus His Son and our Savior" [Acts 2:46-47].
Well, that’s a wonderful program. Wouldn’t it be marvelous if we followed it today? They had a glory, they had a heavenly benediction, they had an unction from above that was apparent: they were glad, they were happy, they praised God, and they glorified the Lord in their worship, in their witnessing, and in their daily ministries [Acts 2:47].
Can you believe such a characterization about some of these churches that you might attend today? Dull and dreary, looking on the benediction as though it were an amnesty, just any way to get out, any way to get done. I heard a fellow stand up one time, and I couldn’t believe my ears. He said, "It was a Wednesday, and we went to a restaurant, and the restaurant hired kids out of the school in order to have somebody to serve the people. And they were coming in, and they were going out, and they were smiling, and they were happy, and they welcomed us. And while we were eating, a bunch of them got over there together and sang some songs. It was a happy experience." Well, he said, "It was Wednesday night, and after that we went to a prayer service. Never saw such a dull, dreary service in all of my life." And then he added, "You know, if both of them had given an invitation, I would have joined the restaurant." It is a glory to be up in the Lord. Man, God’s washed my sins away, He has opened the door of heaven, and every moment of the pilgrimage is a triumph and a blessing. That’s wonderful to be that way: for it, up, optimistic; it’s a glory, and we’re going to win; we’re not going to lose.
I went one time – don’t go anymore – I went one time to an Oklahoma-Texas football game. And to my amazement, there was an Oklahoma fan right down there in front of me. Now I was on the other side. I watched that guy, and as the thing started he stood up with a hundred dollar bill in his hand, and he waved it over his head and turned around and said, "All of you Texans here, I’ll bet you a hundred dollars that we win the game; and I’ll give you seven points." Nobody took him. After a little while, he stood up again, waved that hundred dollar bill over his head, and said, "All of you Texans, I’ll give you fourteen points, and bet you this hundred dollar bill we beat you." And nobody took him up. After a little while, he stood up and said, "All of you Texans," and waved that hundred dollar bill, "I’ll bet you this hundred dollar bill that we beat you, and I’ll give you twenty points." And nobody took him up. And he sat down, and I looked right there at him, and I said, "Man, I’d like to have that guy in my church. He’s got his money where his mouth is, and he believes in what he’s doing." That’s what we need. That’s what we need. We need optimism, and victory, and marching, glory in our church.
I admire that old codger who married at the tender age of eighty-four years, and immediately began looking for a bigger house close to an elementary school. Man, that’s it! That’s it! That’s got it. Oh, dear!
I think any congregation and any pastor anywhere is unbeatable if they will follow that simple program of knocking at the door, witnessing. I admire Billy Graham: he belongs to our church; has belonged to our church for about thirty-five years. And when I read about all of those marvelous, wonderful throngs in England and all over this world that listen to Billy Graham, I say that’s just glory, that’s just marvelous. But after looking at it for all these years and years and years and years, I am still of the persuasion that God’s way is always best: it’s one on one, it’s house to house, it’s heart to heart, it’s witnessing personally, it’s saying a word to that businessman in his office, or talking to that family in their home, or kneeling down with them in prayer. The best way, always, is God’s way.
I love to think of those vast multitudes – and I’m for it; do pray for him and the other evangelists who lift up the name of the Lord – but God’s way, the best way to witness to our Savior always is heart to heart, and face to face, and house to house, and home to home, and child to child, and family to family. And anybody can do that; anybody can do that. You don’t have to be an eloquent preacher to be the most effective servant of God in this world: if you’ll just do that, house to house, heart to heart, home to home, talking about the Lord, and inviting people to the Savior.
Let me describe a poignant illustration of that. I was in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and preaching in their downtown Baptist church. That was the first time I was in the capital city, and certainly the first time I had seen that church. Well, I was amazed and astonished at the pastor of the congregation. His name, Dr. Daniel Tinao; he has a Ph.D. degree in education, he has a doctor’s degree in psychology, he has a doctor’s degree in medicine, he has a doctor’s degree in theology, and is one of the handsomest men I ever saw in my life. He is now president of our theological seminary in Buenos Aires. Well, I was impressed beyond compare as I watched that man superintend his ministerial assignments and preside over the congregation, and just the demeanor of that wonderful young fellow.
That afternoon, Sunday afternoon, I was a guest in the home of an aged missionary named Ann Margaret. And being of an English temperament, we drank tea and ate crumpets. That night, that Sunday night, I was talking to some of the professors in the seminary. I had spoken to the seminary that night, and was visiting with them. And I said to those wonderful teachers, those learned men of God in the school, I said, "I have never been more impressed in all my life than I have been by that Dr. Daniel Tinao, learned, brilliant, handsome, and dedicated to the Lord." Then I happened to mention that I had been that afternoon with Ann Margaret, that old, old missionary. And one of the men in the seminary said to me, "Evidently you don’t know the story." I said, "No, this is the first time I have ever seen them or heard of them." And he said to me, "Well, let me tell you. In the years gone by, many years ago, there was a poor, wretched woman who came to the marketplace with a baby in her arms. And a missionary woman spoke to that poor, wretched Argentine, and won her to the Lord in the marketplace." And he said, "That missionary who won that wretched, poor woman to the Lord was the missionary that you drank tea with and ate crumpets with this afternoon. And the baby in her arms is the brilliant young Dr. Tinao with whom you shared the pulpit at noon today."
I’m just avowing you don’t know what you do when you win somebody to Christ; you don’t know. There are repercussions that filter down through the generations. There are children affected by the faith. There are destinies determined when we win people to the Lord. And if I could say one closing word, it is this: instead of having as the goal and vision and dream of our lives, "We’re going to stand up before the thousands and the thousands, and we’re going to witness to the faith of Christ," instead of having that kind of a dream, why not have the dream that the Lord placed in the hearts of these first preachers and apostles: from door to door, from house to house, from home to home, from heart to heart, witnessing to the loving grace of our Lord. You’ll be blessed if you’ll do that. You will have a marvelous ministry if you’ll do that. And you will change the course of this whole creation if you’ll do that. And someday, God will commend you when He gathers these children home that we have introduced to the Lord.