Christ the Power of God
November 5th, 1989 @ 10:50 AM
1 Corinthians 1:18-20
CHRIST, THE POWER OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 1:18-24
11-5-89 10:50 a.m.
The great throng in this sanctuary this precious hour and the uncounted throngs of you who are worshiping with us on radio and on television, you are now a part of our wonderful First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Christ, the Power of God. It is a message out of one of the most dynamic passages in all Holy Scripture: 1 Corinthians chapter 1, verses 18 to 24; 1 Corinthians chapter 1, 18 to 24:
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness – idiocy, inanity – but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.
It is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
But we, we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a skandalon, and unto the Greeks morian;
But unto us who are called, whether Jew and Greek, Christ the dunamin of God, and the wisdom of God.
And my text: "But we, we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews" – the Greek word is skandalon, a skandalon – "a scandal" – how could one ever persuade himself that in the tragic crucifixion, execution, that God opens for us the doors of heaven? "a scandal" – "And unto the Greeks idiocy" – the Greek word is morian, our word "moronic" comes from it; inanity, foolishness; "But unto us who are saved, whether a Jew or a Greek, Christ the" – and the Greek word is dunamin, our word "dynamic, dynamite" comes from that – "Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."
The miracle of our Lord is beyond imagination, it’s beyond description. Who would ever have thought that that humble Jew, crucified by Roman edict, would within years displace all other gods in the Roman Empire, all of them? I don’t know anyone today who worships Juno or Jupiter. Displaced all of them; and not only the gods, but the thrones and the kingdoms and the powers of the civilized world. As the great beautiful verse in Revelation 11, He is King, and of His kingdom there is no end [verse 15]. It’s unthinkable; it’s unimaginable; it’s unbelievable. Greater than any miracle our Lord ever did, those demonstrations of the power and presence of God, greater than any miracle recorded in Holy Scripture is the miracle of Christ Himself. Against that Rock of ages, the evil of the centuries has pounded and beat like waves of the sea. Agnosticism, atheism, infidelity, materialism, false philosophy, false theology, false religion, cults, pseudoscience, and yet after the passing of the years there He stands, lives, reigns: to the bigot, still an idiocy and a foolishness, and to the sophisticated still an inanity; but to us by the millions and the millions, Christ the power of God, the gift of God, the wisdom of God, and the hope of the world.
First: Christ the power of God to draw men unto Himself: that marvelous Scripture that has come to pass, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw pantas, all kinds of men, of people, unto Me" [John 12:32], this foolishness of preaching that saves them who believe. Men are divided into many, many demarcations. They are rich and poor, they are black and white, they are old and young, they are learned and unlearned; but there is no demarcation in the magnetism of the testimony of Jesus our Lord. It’s a miracle! Whether it be a professor in Cambridge University in England, or the lowest Hottentot in Africa; or whether it be a soldier on the battlefield, or the anxious mother praying at home; whether it be a mountaineer in his cabin, or a plainsman on his pony; whether it be a child in the kindergarten, or an old man tottering to the grave, there is no difference in the appeal of Christ to draw men unto Himself.
I learned that early in my ministry, even as a teenager. I held a two-week revival meeting in New Mexico, where there was no church. There was a schoolhouse there at the crossroads and a store, and I preached the gospel in the auditorium in that schoolhouse. And the throngs came from the ends of the earth. And when the meeting was done, I baptized my converts in a stock tank, and organized them into a living church, flourishing today.
How to reach the masses, men of every birth,
For an answer, Jesus gave the key:
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth,
Will draw all men unto Me."
["Lift Him Up," Johnson Oatman, Jr.]
I want you to look at yourself, look at you. I have been preaching in this pulpit now over forty-five years. For thirty-five of those years I prepared four sermons and delivered them every week. One at this hour, one at 8:15, one at this hour, one in the evening, and one on Wednesday night; did that for over thirty-five years. And have been preaching in this pulpit over forty-five years. You tell me, you, suppose I had stood in this sacred place and delivered lectures or sermons or discourses on any subject that you will name: on government, or on culture, or on stocks and bonds and investments, or on psychology, or sociology, or civic life; name any subject in the earth. If I were to say to you, "I have stood here in this sacred place and delivered messages on any one of those subjects for over forty-five years, and these people would still be here listening," you’d say, "Pastor, you have lost your equilibrium. We might come one time, or somebody might come twice, but to come for over forty-five years is unthinkable, unimaginable!" But look at you: there you are, there you sit, and have been coming back and back and back. And when the announcement is made, "Preacher is going to stand here next Sunday, and he’s going to preach out of that same Book, and going to preach that same message about Jesus," you’ll be here, you will be here. It’s a miracle, the power of Christ to draw men unto Himself – the magnetism of the testimony of Jesus, the spoken word of our living Lord.
Number two: the power of Christ not only to draw men unto Himself, the drawing of the sacred Word, the testimony, but it is no less a marvelous thing, a miracle, how He searches the heart, how He convicts us. That is one of the most unbelievable things in this earth; just meeting the Lord, what happens inside the soul, inside our deepest hearts.
I think of the sixth chapter of Isaiah, when he describes his call to the prophetic ministry. He said, "I saw the Lord" – and John chapter 12 [verse 41], says he saw Jesus – "I saw the Lord high and lifted up. And when I saw Him," Isaiah writes, "I cried, Woe is me! I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts" [Isaiah 6:1, 5]. That is universal. Simon Peter fell at His feet, and said, "Lord, depart from me; I am a sinful man" [Luke 5:8]. Just meeting Him probes our deepest souls. The mask of our pride and false righteousness somehow falls away, and we are naked and open before Him with whom we have to do; changing the heart, probing the soul.
Many wonderful men have come across the dramatic stage in human history. Great statesmen, great statesmen changing the governments of the world have come and gone; but the human heart continues on unchanged. Great military strategists have led their armies in triumph over the face of this planet; but the human heart has continued on unchanged. Poets and philosophers and educators have written their books and left us heir of the wisdom of the ages; but the human heart has continued on unchanged. But to meet Jesus you are never the same again. He does something to the soul, that Lord Jesus that I met in my father’s house at my mothers’ knee, from the lips of my Sunday school teacher, and from the testimony of my pastor. What a change! What a difference to meet Him.
I think of Saul of Tarsus who left Jerusalem with a band, breathing out threatening and slaughter against the people of God in Damascus, and went there to hail them into court and into death. But when he arrived in the city, they were leading him by the hand. And for three days and three nights he was on his knees praying before Jehovah God [Acts 9:1-9]. What was the matter? What had happened? He had met Jesus in the way. And it is never ever the same again. When you meet the Master, something marvelously happens. He probes our souls. He speaks into the depths of our hearts, and we are changed.
And last: Christ the power of God not only to draw men unto Himself, and not only to convict us of our need, of our sin, but He is Christ the power of God to give us life, salvation, forgiveness, to open for us the doors of glory and the gates of heaven. The change marvelous, the gift of life itself. I often times think how it must have been, the feeling, the feeling of a leper that Jesus had touched, and he was healed. I guess the reason I’m sensitive to that is in one of my missions in Western Africa, I made a tour of those leper colonies; they called them clan settlements. I can’t describe to you that disease. The extremities rot and fall off: your nose rots and falls off; your ears rot and fall off; your lips rot and fall off; your fingers rot and fall off; your hands fall off; your toes and your feet rot and fall off. It’s an indescribable affliction, leprosy. I say, I’ve tried to think how it must have felt when Jesus touched a leper and said, "Be clean" [Matthew 8:1-3], be healed; and he looked at himself and he was whole again, together. Or a blind man groping in the darkness, and Jesus touched his eyes and he could see [Mark 8:22-25].
That’s with us: the power of God in Him to change our lives, to save our souls. Paul wrote it triumphantly when he summarized in Romans 10, verse 13, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." What Jesus can do to the human life!
Call upon wealth, and we have what wealth can do. Call upon culture; we have what culture can do. Call upon education; we have what education can do. Call upon government; we have what government can do. But call upon Christ, and you have what Almighty God can do. It’s a miracle!
In these many, many years gone by, there was an old, old preacher who learned that I was interested in a great man of God and pulpiteer who died long before my day. His name was Len G. Broughton. And seated by the side of that old preacher of God’s gospel, he said to me, "I have heard that you were interested in Len Broughton." I said, "Yes, I wish I could have seen him, wish I could have known him." "Well," he said, "Let me tell you something about him that is unknown to the world."
As a boy he belonged to a poor, wretched family on a poor farm in North Carolina. His father was a drunkard; and the family lived in penury, in poverty, and in want. Upon a day, the poor mother called in the little boy Len and said to him, "Len, I want you to go out into the woods, and cut a cord of wood and place it on the wagon, take it to town and sell it. And for the money you get from the cord of wood, here is a list of groceries I want you to bring home; for there is nothing to eat in the house, nothing to eat in the house." So the lad, in keeping with his mother’s admonition, went into the woods, cut a cord of wood, put it on the wagon, and ready to go into town to sell it for something to eat.
When he mounted the wagon to drive away, his drunken father came stumbling out of the woodshed with an empty flask in his hand. And he came over to the wagon where the boy was, and said, "Son, when you go to town to sell the cord of wood, you get this flask full of whiskey and bring it back to your dad." And the boy pulled out that list and said, "Daddy, I can’t do that. There’s nothing to eat in the house, and mother has given me this list of groceries to buy." And the father said, "Son, you do what I tell you. When you sell this cord of wood, you buy your dad this flask full of whiskey and bring it back to me." And the boy looked narrowly at his dad, and there by the side of the wagon wheel was a rock. He lifted up that empty flask and dashed it on that rock and broke it into a thousand pieces. It infuriated his drunken father, who reached up to the wagon and pulled him down to the ground, and beat him! And then back in the wagon. The father went into the woodshed and came out with another empty flask, and put it there in his hands and said, "Son, you will do now what I tell you. When you sell this cord of wood, you bring your daddy back this flask of whiskey." And that lad Len did the same thing again: he raised it over his head and dashed it into a thousand pieces on that rock by the wagon wheel.
It infuriated his drunken father, who reached up and grabbed the boy, and pulled him down on the ground, and began to raise a piece of that wood to beat the boy to death! And when he did, that poor woman on the porch of that cabin fell to her knees and raised her hands to heaven, and began to cry to God.
There was something about the sound of the agony of her voice and the sight of her on that cabin porch crying from her knees to God that stilled the drunken heart of that father. He let the boy go and stumbled out into the woods.
That night, in the wee hours of the morning, there was a heavy knock at the cabin door and the voice of his father. Not knowing but terror, Len and the other children pulled the cover of the bed over their heads and faces. Mother arose, lighted the lamp, raised the latch on the door, and he came in. But instead of terror and the horror, he began to describe to his wife how all the night he’d been praying to God, and that God had forgiven him, and Jesus had come into his heart, and he was saved. He was saved. And when Len pulled the covers down from his head, he looked, and there silhouetted against the lamp of the night was the father holding his mother in his arms.
Then the father came over to the bed where Len lay, pulled the covers back; and looked at those terrible bruises on his body. He kissed them, and took the boy in his arms, and said, "Son, daddy is a new man. He’ll never do that again. God has forgiven him, and I have been saved. You’ve got a new father; and we’re going to have a new home." Then that old preacher said to me, "That’s where Len Broughton came from."
I saw a man this morning in the early service from North Carolina, who remarked, "And one of the best governors that North Carolina ever had was Governor Broughton out of that family, out of that home." It is marvelous; it is miraculous what God can do in the saving grace and power of Jesus our Lord!
There is life for a look at the Crucified One,
There is life at this moment for thee;
Then look, sinner, look unto Him and be saved,
Unto Him who was nailed to the tree.
["There is Life for a Look," Amelia M. Hull]
And to you who have listened to this message on television, may God grant that you open your heart to the appeal of our wonderful and living Lord. On the screen you will find a telephone number. Call us, tell us you want to be saved, you want to know God, you want Christ in your house and heart and home. And if you don’t know how to receive Christ as your Savior, you call that number; there’ll be a godly counselor who will lead you into the kingdom, into heaven. And I’ll see you up there one of these glorious and triumphant days.
And in the great throng of God’s people in the sanctuary this holy hour, in the balcony round, somebody you, down one of these steps, "Pastor, the Lord has spoken to me, and I’m answering with my life." The throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, Jesus, Jesus has knocked at the door of my heart, and I’m opening my very soul and inviting Him to come in." A family you putting your life with us in our dear church; anybody, somebody you answering the call of the Spirit of God in your heart, on the first note of the first stanza, come. May angels attend you in the way, God bless, while we stand and while we sing.
CHRIST THE POWER OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 1:18-24
A. The reception of the Christian message in the Roman world
B. The miracle – He displaced all other gods, kingdoms, powers (Revelation 11:15)
C. Of all the miracles, the greatest is that of Christ Himself
1. Against the Rock of Ages the evil of the centuries has beat
2. Yet there He stands, lives, and reigns
II. To draw men unto Himself(John 12:32)
A. Men are divided by many demarcations
1. But no division in the power of Christ to appeal
B. Learned early in my ministry
1. New Mexico revival
2. Here, preaching to same congregation 45 years
III. To convict men of their sins
A. In His glorious presence, I see myself as I really am(John 12:41, Isaiah 6:1, 5, Luke 5:8)
B. The world has received, known many amazing men, but the human heart continued unchanged
C. To meet Jesus you are never the same again (Acts 9:1-9)
A. What it is to be touched by His saving power (Matthew 8:1-3, Mark 8:22-25)
B. What Jesus can do to the human life(Romans 10:13)
1. Len G. Broughton