THE PATTERN OF PENTECOST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-4-90 10:50 a.m.
Welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now a part of our worshipping First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Pattern of Pentecost. It is a message in a series presented this month of March in preparation for our tremendous revival meeting that will be conducted here in this sacred place the last week of this month.
Our background text is the second chapter of the Book of Acts:
When the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind. It filled all of the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven, parting tongues like as of a fire, and as a lambent flame, it arose on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other glōssa, languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were in Jerusalem devout men, out of every nation under heaven . . .
And they were all amazed and marveled, and said . . .
How hear we every man in his own tongue wherein we were born?
The glorious good news of the saving of our souls from damnation and hell?
There’s no one of us but that prays for a like experience, a like outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God upon us. We sang just a moment ago,
Lord, send the old-time power,
The Pentecostal power!
Thy floodgates of blessing,
On us throw open wide!
Lord, send the old-time power,
The Pentecostal power!
That sinners be converted,
And Thy Name glorified!
[“Pentecostal Power,” Charles H. Gabriel]
Whatever the cheap veneer of so-called culture, and however cold and insensitive our hearts may appear to be toward God, there is always underneath in every human soul a longing and a thirsting and a hungering after the Almighty. It is universal.
I one time read of an evangelist who was invited to fill the pulpit of an aristocratic, formal, cold, liturgical congregation. And being warm-hearted and Spirit-filled, he concluded his message with an invitation. And when he did so, down the aisle came a ragged, dirty, filthy, street woman. And when she came forward, the paid quartet in the choir, back of the preacher, stood up and left. They walked out the back door of the choir. The preacher thought that he had offended that elite congregation. But instead, the quartet came back and around and put their arms around that dirty street woman with many tears and welcomed her back into the kingdom of God.
And the preacher learned afterward that she, that dirty woman, had once been a member and sang in the quartet, had fallen into sin and into disease and into poverty. But that day, on the Lord’s Day, unobtrusively, clandestinely, secretly had come back into the church, just in memory of the days gone by. Under the power of the Holy Spirit, she had answered the appeal of the pastor and was there at the front, coming back into the arms of our Savior. That is universal: the heart hunger for God.
Down in the human heart, [crushed by the tempter,]
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a [human hand], warmed by kindness,
Cords that are broken will vibrate once more.
[“Rescue the Perishing,” Fanny Crosby]
O God, for revival! There are no problems in national life or human life that cannot be solved by a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God. All of the things we face in the dissolution of the life of our people—drugs and crime and violence and AIDS and disease—all of them are solved and are made to disappear in a great outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord.
I have read many times of the tremendous revival in Wales under Evan Roberts. And in those days and in those years, the jails were empty—not one in a jail! And the whole creation in which those people lived was filled with the love and the presence of the Lord God.
The need of our land is for revival,
A freshet of grace from above,
Repentance toward God and forgiveness,
More trusting in Christ and His love.
The need of the church is for revival,
A blessing from above,
Fullness of Spirit and witnessing,
More trusting in Christ and His love.
[“Abundant Life,” William Leslie]
A great outpouring of the Spirit of God!
This passage in the second chapter of the Book of Acts introduces us to a new dispensation, a new era, a new age—the church age in which we live [Acts 2:1-4]. It was prepared on a certain date, at a certain time, in a certain place from the beginning of God’s creation. It was foretold by the prophets; for example, Joel in Joel 2:28-32 prophesies of this outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord. And he lived eight hundred years before Christ. It was a marvelous gift of the ascended Lord in His intercessions in heaven [John 14:16]. In John 16:7 He said to His disciples, “It is expedient for you that I go away. If I go not away, He that comforts, the Holy Spirit, will not come; but if I go away, I will send Him unto you that He may abide with you for ever.”
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit of the presence of God, heretofore in all of the revelations of the presence and work of the Lord God, heretofore, before Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4], the working of the Spirit of God was always intermittent. It was here, it was there, it was now, it was then. Sometimes upon matter; the Book begins: “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the deep” [Genesis 1:2]. Sometimes upon men: the first judge was Othniel, the nephew of Caleb, and the Spirit of God fell upon him [Judges 3:9-10]. Intermittently: the Bible says of Samson that at times the Spirit of God moved Samson in the camp of Dan [Judges 13:24-25]. Sometimes the Spirit of God would fall upon David [1 Samuel 16:13], sometimes upon Saul even [1 Samuel 11:6], sometimes upon Elisha: “The spirit of Elijah doth rest upon Elisha” [2 Kings 2:15], but always intermittently.
After Pentecost the Spirit of God was poured out without measure [John 3:34]. The breath became a mighty wind. The rill became a great torrent. And the energizing presence of God became incarnate in human personality [Acts 2:1-4]. And Pentecost is a pattern, a model to be reproduced again and again and again [Acts 2:1-4]. A fact in science is a verifiable condition under the same conditions, the same results. So it is a fact in the experience of the people of God; given the same conditions the same results will obtain. Pentecost will fall upon a people again and again and again.
I one time read of a mission in Africa, and the Spirit of the Lord died in the hearts of the missionaries and of the converts. And even the tribal chief stood up and said, “When I worshiped my heathen gods, I was happy. But now having become a Christian, I am miserable and I renounce my Christian faith.” The mission stopped. The missionaries in despair, in hurt, began to cry aloud unto the Lord. And the same thing as at Pentecost happened: the Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon the missionaries. The Spirit of God was poured out upon the tribe. Even the tribal chief was preaching once again. And in their language they had a saying, “Joy is killing us.”
I have seen that in my own ministry. In one of the meetings I held in one of the great cities of America, the meetings were wooden. They were dull. They were disappointing. And on Saturday night the congregation spontaneously met in intercession, in appeal, in prayer, in asking God with fervent soul and heart. And the next morning, Sunday morning, you would have thought you were in Jerusalem when Simon Peter delivered his message at Pentecost! [Acts 2:14-40].
It is repeated again and again and again. In the twentieth chapter of the Book of John, our Lord said to His apostles as He breathed upon them, He said, “Labetē,” lambanō is to receive, is to take; labetē is the imperative form of it; labetē, “Take the Holy Spirit” [John 20:22]. God has poured out His presence upon us without measure [John 3:34]. And it is just for us to receive Him, to open our hearts to Him, to give the issue of our lives to Him. And God answers powerfully and dynamically, gloriously from heaven.
Pentecost is repeated again and again and again and again—in the second chapter of this Book of Acts, Pentecost [Acts 2:1-47], in the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts, after having prayed before God, there is another Jerusalem Pentecost [Acts 4:31-35]. I turn to the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, there is a Samaritan Pentecost [Acts 8:5-25]. I turn to the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, there is a Caesarean, there is a Gentile Pentecost [Acts 10:34-48]. I turn to the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, there is an Ephesian Pentecost [Acts 19:1-20]. And it continues through the centuries. There is no generation but that somewhere there is an outpouring of the Spirit of God. There may be darkness and doubt and death in one place, but in the same time there will be light and the glory and the presence of God in another place. There is no exception to it in the history of the Christian age!
For example, when the church at Jerusalem became deadened by legalism, the Spirit of God was poured out upon the church at Antioch and at Ephesus. And when the churches in Thessalonica and Philippi waned in their love for the Lord, the church at Milan was alive with the presence of Jesus. When the churches of Carthage and of Alexandria became bogged down in theological minutiae, the churches of Gaul were aflame with the power of Christ. When that pontifical court at Avignon became corrupt, the churches in Germany became aflame with the presence of God.
When Mohammed destroyed the churches of South Africa and Syria and the Levant, the scholars of Iona were going forth converting our forefathers, winning the Angles and the Saxons to the Lord Jesus. When the churches of France were darkened in superstition, at that same time the stars of the Reformation were rising in Switzerland, in Germany, and in England. And when the fields of Italy became worthless stubble, a great revival was taking place in Bohemia under John Huss and under our great Baptist preacher Hubmaier. There is no time, there is no era, there is no age but that somewhere there is a mighty outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord God.
My own family: when the Unitarian defection entered the churches of New England and emptied them, at that same time the pioneer preacher was pressing across the Alleghenies into the heartland of America where my family lived. And I can remember those old pioneer preachers as a little boy. There is no time but there is a great outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord God.
And in this present moment when liberalism and doubt, denying the Word of God, has emptied the churches of the western world, look around you today, here in the First Baptist Church of Dallas: under Dr. Truett for forty-seven years, and now under my ministry, fill this sanctuary at an 8:15 service; fill it again at a 10:50 service. The presence and the power of God! There is Pentecost always. It is a pattern to be duplicated, to be repeated, to be modeled again and again and again.
The heart of it lies in the preacher. It lies in the ambassador from heaven, in the emissary from the courts of the Lord. Oh, what a—what a tradition in which the preacher stands: Peter and Paul and Ignatius and Chrysostom and Savonarola and Huss and Hubmaier and Wycliffe and Wesley and Jonathan Edwards and—down to the generation just before us—a Scarborough and a Truett, and to our day! O Lord, what a tradition!
I’ve been asked ten thousand times and more, “How did you start preaching? Where did you start your first sermon? When did you have your first funeral? And when did you have your first wedding? And how was your first church?” Oh, dear, dear me! And when I answer, you won’t believe what I had to say. I started with a dog. Yeah. I was about eight years old, and we had a little cocker spaniel that we called Span. And some dastardly guy poisoned our little dog. He disappeared and we searched all over the prairie and found him in the corner of a big pastureland—dead, poisoned.
Well, there was a cattle thing, shelter, in the corner. So we found the springs of a cot and put old Span on those springs and dug a grave for him, and under that cattle shed, why, we brought him and laid him down. And the mourners, my little friends, they sat on buckets and on cans and there they were, and I stood on the other side of old Span and preached my first sermon—eight years of age. And it had two parts. One: I denounced the dastardly character that would poison a boy’s dog. That was the first point. And the second point was: I just thought about Span being taken up into God’s heaven. You know, I think about that, and in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans you’ll find that is good theology [Romans 8:21-22]. Span is in heaven, and I’m going to see that dog one of these days, I tell you. Oh, life can be interesting!
Preacher walking down the streets, you know, with his head down, thinking about his sermon, and he stumbled into a little bunch of a half a dozen youngsters on the sidewalk, gathered around a dog. And the preacher looked at them and said, “What are you youngsters doing here? You ought to be going to church.”
And they said, “Reverend, we’re gathered around this dog seeing who can tell the biggest lie. And the one that wins gets the dog for a prize.”
And the minister replied, “That is ridiculous! That’s unthinkable! I never told a lie in my life!”
And the youngsters sighed and said, “Reverend, you get the dog.”
I have to fight against preaching long sermons. I tell you it was a struggle for me. For every minute I preach, I wish I could preach an hour or a day.
There was a minister who was known for his long, interminable sermons, and in the message that morning he said, “After ten minutes,” he said, “we’ll stand for the benediction. My dog loves to eat paper and he ate up the rest of my sermon.” And after it was over, a neighbor from another congregation came up, shook his hand and said, “Preacher, does that dog have any pups? I want to buy one for my preacher in my church.”
Oh dear, what could be more thrilling than the memory of these great men of God who have preceded us? And I think of this own pulpit here in which the inimitable George W. Truett stood behind this very desk for forty-seven years preaching the gospel of the Son of God. In the power of the Holy Spirit John Wesley said in his diary, “I went to America to convert the American Indian, but who will convert this heart of mine?” And in Aldersgate Chapel listening to an exposition of the Book of Romans, he writes in his diary, “My heart was strangely warmed.” And John Wesley rose in the power of the Spirit, and that was the birth of the Methodist church.
Dwight L. Moody, praying and pleading with the power of God to fall upon him, walking down Wall Street in New York City, ran into the shelter of a neighboring office and there prayed God to stay His hand lest he die—the power of the Lord God upon him. Charles G. Finney, those who listened to him said his words were like barbed arrows, they were like a hammer that would break the hardest heart to pieces, they were like a sword that would cut to the soul. In the town at that time of Rochester, New York, 50,000 population, Charles G. Finney in his meeting had 100,000 conversions. The whole of upper New York found the Lord.
As you know, I read Spurgeon all of the time. I copied this from one of his messages,
Let the preacher always confess before he preaches that he relies upon the Holy Spirit. Let him burn his manuscript and depend upon the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit does not come to help him, let him be still. And let the people go home and pray that the Spirit will help him next Sunday.
I have often thought about that. What if the preacher in the pulpit found that his heart was dead and his message had not the presence of God in it, and the people all went home and prayed? I don’t know what would happen next Sunday. God is capable of being moved. God hears His people when they pray. And if we pray in faith and expectation for the presence of the saving, converting, convicting Spirit of God, O Lord, what could happen?
I have stood in Jerusalem where Simon Peter presented his sermon at Pentecost [Acts 2:14-40], and I have cried in my heart, “O God, do it again! Do it again!” I have stood in Samaria where Phillip preached the gospel to the Samaritans, and there was a great turning to Jesus [Acts 8:5-12]. And I prayed in my soul, “O God, do it again!” I have stood in Ephesus in the theater there where Paul preached the gospel of Christ [Acts 19:1-20], and I prayed, “O God, Thy Holy Spirit, send Him again!” I have stood in St. Sophia in Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul, where Chrysostom preached to thousands and thousands, and I have cried in my soul, “O God, do it again!” I have stood in the Duomo in Florence, Italy, where Savonarola like a flame from God Himself preached the gospel of Christ and turned Italy to the Lord, and I prayed, “O God, do it again!” I have stood in Aldersgate Chapel where the heart of John Wesley, where as he says, was strangely warmed, and I prayed, “O God, do it again! Do it again!” A few weeks ago, I stood in the pulpit preaching in the Moody Church in Chicago, and prayed in my heart, “O God, do it again!”
And every time Sunday comes and I prepare to stand in this sacred place where George Truett preached for forty-seven years, and I pray, “O God, come down, come down. May every soul, in divine presence, feel Thy nearness, Thy dearness, Thy preciousness, Thy saving and abounding grace. O God, do it again! Do it again! Do it again!
And to you who have listened to the message on television, with what infinite joy would it be to our hearts to know that you had opened your heart and your house and your home to the presence of the Holy Spirit of God, to the blessed Lord Jesus our Savior? If you do not know how to accept Him as your Lord, call us. You will find the telephone number on the screen. There will be a dedicated somebody who knows the Lord Jesus who will lead you into that wonderful experience of accepting Him as your Savior. Call us and God bless you as you find the greatest answer to all of the problems of life in Christ Jesus our Lord. And I will meet you in heaven some glorious and triumphant day.
And to the throng in the sanctuary; in the balcony round, down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor today, God has called me. I feel His presence in my own heart and this is my family, we are all coming.” Or just a couple of you, you come. Or just a one somebody you, accepting the Lord as your Savior [Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:8], or putting your life with us in this ministry of Christ, a thousand time welcome and the angels attend you in the way as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.
THE PATTERN OF PENTECOST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-4-90I. Every new dispensation is accompanied by signs
A. Some of the marvels, manifestations are never repeated
1. Creation of matter (Genesis 1:1-31)
2. Era of Mosaic legislation (Exodus 16:35, Joshua 5:12)
3. Consummation of the age (Matthew 24:1-44, Luke 21:7-33)
B. The confirming signs of the new era of peace
1. Wind, lambent flames, languages in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-4)
2. Languages in Caesarea, Ephesus, Corinth (Acts 11:17, 18:4-11)
a. After Corinth languages ceased (1 Corinthians 13:8)
3. None in Samaria, Gaza, Antioch (Acts 8, 11)
4. In all following Christian history sign of tongues has ceasedII. Four marvelous phenomena that are to be repeated
A. Filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4, 4:8, 4:31, 7:55, 8:17, 9:17, 10:44-45, 19:6, Ephesians 5:18)
B. Boldness in witnessing (Acts 2:14, Matthew 26:69-72, Acts 2:22-23)
C. Conviction and conversion (Acts 2:37-41)