AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER?
Dr. W.A. Criswell
4-5-93 12:00 Noon
And as Charles McLaughlin said, this is the seventy-seventh year of our heritage in presenting these noon day hours in tribute to our glorious Lord. And this year I shall be speaking on “The Five Great Questions of the Bible”: two from the Old Testament, three from the New. Tomorrow, What Shall I Do With Jesus? The next day, Wednesday, What Must I Do to Be Saved? The next day, Thursday, My God, My God, Why? And then on Friday, the glorious, triumphant hope we have beyond death, If a Man Die, Shall He Live Again? And the question today, Am I My Brother’s Keeper? In the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis:
Now Adam knew Eve his wife; she conceived, bore Cain, and said, I have acquired a man from the Lord. Then she bore again, this time, his brother Abel.
Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought a minchah—
a thanksgiving present—
of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat, the choicest portion. And the Lord respected Abel and his minchah. But He did not respect Cain and his minchah, and Cain was very angry, his countenance fell.
So the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? and why has your countenance fallen? If you do right, will you not be accepted? and if you do not do right, sin lies at the door—
of your life and of your heart—
Now Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel, and slew him—
murdered him, killed him, the first murder—
Then the Lord said to Cain, Where is Abel your brother? He said, I do not know: Am I my brother’s keeper?
And God said, What have you done? the voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.
Isn’t that a story to begin the history of mankind and humanity? Cain brought a minchah, a present to the Lord, and God saw beyond and into his heart: he was filled with anger and jealousy and pride. I would think that his minchah was like that of a producer at the fair, and he presents all of his beautiful vegetables. Now there’s nothing wrong with a vegetable offering unto God, you find it in the Book of Leviticus [Leviticus 2:1-16]. But what was wrong was the heart that lay back of the minchah. God saw it when Cain appeared before Him. Then all of us see it when, in anger and in jealousy and pride, he slays his brother Abel [Hebrews 11:4].
In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, verse 4, Abel is spoken of. You see, he had a sensitivity to sin. And he brought an atoning sacrifice, blood poured out for his soul. And when God looked upon it, the heart of the Lord was moved, and God accepted the love and dedication and atoning sacrifice of Abel. And that precipitated the awesome confrontation that resulted in the murder of Abel.
So the Book says when Cain slew Abel the blood of that young man cried unto God from the ground. And God confronted Cain and said, “Where is Abel, your brother? For his blood cries to Me from the earth” [Genesis 4:8-10]. And Cain replied concerning the loss of the life of Abel, Cain replied, “Why do You ask me? I’m not responsible. I don’t know where he is or anything about him; why do You inquire of me?” And then, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” [Genesis 4:9]. And all heaven answers with a resounding, “Yes, you are.”
Now I look upon this as an introduction to the whole Bible, to the whole Word of God. Am I accountable for others? Is there soul responsibility and life responsibility into which I was born? And all the days of my life, I am thus accountable to God for others: I say that is an introduction to the whole Bible.
When you read Ezekiel, the entire third chapter of Ezekiel concerns that exact thing. The Lord says to the prophet:
When I say to a lost man, Thou shall surely die; if you warn that lost man, and he turn, you have delivered your soul. But if you fail to warn him, he shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at your hands.
He will die lost. He will die judged. “But his lostness, and his judgment, and his damnation, will I lay at your door” [Ezekiel 3:18]. I am accountable, God says, for him.
You see that in the New Testament in the life of the apostle Paul. In the twentieth chapter, he reviews his ministry and how he gave himself to the cause of the gospel [Acts 20:18-25], and then concluded, “I ask you today to bear witness with me, that I am pure from the blood of all men. I have been faithful in my responsibility and God’s assignment to other” [Acts 20-:26-27].
Upon a day, one of my deacons here said, “Pastor, there’s a family moved next door. And they’re not Christians; they’re not in any church. I thought maybe you could come and visit them.” So I knocked at the door and was graciously entreated. I met a father, a mother, a seventeen year-old daughter, a fifteen year-old son, a twelve year-old son; I prayed with them, talked to them. And they responded so graciously and said, “We’ll be at church next Sunday.” They did not come.
After about three or four weeks, I went back and knocked at the door and again was graciously entreated. Spoke with them, prayed with them. “We’ll be there next Sunday,” they said. They were not present. And on Tuesday night, about two o’clock in the morning, the telephone rang, and there was a nurse from our Baptist hospital on the other line. She said, “Pastor, I apologize for calling at such an unearthly hour, but there is a man here, and his son has been stricken in a terrible automobile accident and is dying, and he is by himself. And I thought maybe I would ask him, “Do you know anybody in the city?” And he said, “Yes.” And he said he knew you. I thought maybe you’d come and stand by his side when his boy dies.”
I dressed immediately, went to our hospital, up to a certain room; walked in, and there stood this father over the bed of a fifteen year-old boy, crushed from head to foot. Driving back into the city at a terrific speed, in an automobile accident and now dying. I stood by the side of the father, and in just a little while the nurse pulled a white sheet over the face of the boy and said to the father, “Your boy is gone.” And she left, and me standing by his side. The father reached down and pulled the sheet away from the face of the dead lad, looked long and hard into his face, then lifted up his arms to heaven and fell down by the side of the bed, crying, “O God, my boy is gone! And what shall I say and what shall I do? O God, my boy is gone!”
After the memorial service—and I have one this afternoon. I live in that kind of a world and have for sixty-six years—after the memorial service, the following Sunday morning, down the aisle came that father, and that mother, and a seventeen year-old girl, and a twelve year-old boy, giving their hearts to the Lord and joining our dear church by baptism.
In those days I stood at the back, shaking hands with the people as they went out. Everybody I shook hands with said, “Pastor, wasn’t that a glorious sight? All the family—all of them, all four of them—coming to the Lord and being baptized! Wasn’t that a glorious thing?” And I nodded in acquiescence, “Yes, that was a beautiful thing, that was a glorious thing.” You see, I didn’t tell them how actually I felt. When I saw that family seated there on the front row, I said in my heart, that is the saddest sight I ever looked upon. Because I didn’t tell them that there was a fifteen year-old boy that belonged to the family. And in the great judgment day, when God calls the roll in heaven, He will call the name of that father, and he’ll answer, “Here.”
He will call the name of that mother, she’ll answer, “Here.”
Call the name of that seventeen year-old girl, she’ll answer, “Here.”
Call the name of that twelve year-old boy, and he’ll answer, “Here.”
And the Lord God will look into the face of that father and say, “And father is that all?”
And he will reply, “No, Lord, there is another boy, a fifteen year-old son.”
And God shall ask him, “And where is he?”
And the father shall reply, “He lies in a Christless grave in Texas.”
There is a responsibility into which we are born and from which we cannot escape. That father is responsible. That mother is responsible. We are responsible; am I my brother’s keeper? Am I my son’s savior? The instruments of salvation are in our hands.
God said to His chief apostle, I give unto thee the keys of the kingdom: whatsoever thou shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven [Matthew 16:19]. The keys of the kingdom are in our hands.
James, the beloved pastor of the first church in Jerusalem closed his epistle, “Whoever converts a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death. He shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” [James 5:20].
One of the strangest things I read in God’s Word is this, that the instruments of God’s grace are mediated through human personality and human character and human life. God made it that way. In the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, the angel says to Cornelius, “You send down to Joppa and inquire for one Simon Peter who will come and tell thee words whereby thou and thy house may be saved” [Acts 10:5-6]. Why didn’t the angel tell him? Because no man ever knows the gospel except through the mediation of a human personality.
In the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts, the Lord appears to Saul of Tarsus and said, “You go into the city of Damascus, and there it will be told thee what thou must do” [Acts 9:6]. Why didn’t Jesus tell him what to do? Because no man comes into the knowledge of the grace of God except through human personality.
Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
No soul is ever saved except through a soulwinner. No work for God is ever done except through a worker. The instruments of God’s salvation are in our hands.
I one time read when our Lord returned to heaven after the days of His flesh, He was accosted by the angel Gabriel, and Gabriel said to Him, “Lord, how many people know, down there in the earth, of Your sacrifice for their sins?” And the Lord replied, “Gabriel, just a little handful.” And Gabriel says, “Lord, how will the whole world know?” And the Lord replies, “Gabriel, I depend upon their telling the world of this salvation.” And Gabriel says, “But Lord, what if they do not do it? What if they fail?” And Jesus replies, “Gabriel, I have no other plan.”
It is we, it is we; God and you make up the kingdom. God and you make up the church, God and you make known the saving grace of our Lord. It is you and you alone chosen for that responsibility, “My brother’s keeper.”
Remember the song that he sang?
Others, Lord, yes, others,
Let this my motto be.
What I shall do for others,
Is Lord, what I am doing for Thee.
[“Others,” Charles D. Meigs, 1917]
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” [Genesis 4:9]. My responsibility before God in my house, in my family, with my children, where I work, as I walk in and out before the world, my great assignment from heaven is that I witness to the grace of God to others, “My brother’s keeper.” Now, may we stand together?
Precious Lord, what a responsibility You have placed upon us. You died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3], was raised for our justification according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:4; Romans 4:25], and some day we shall stand in Thy presence according to the Scriptures [2 Corinthians 5:10]. But O God, what shall our story be? Grant it Master, it may be one of faithfulness and devotion. As I have opportunity, let me say a word for Jesus. God save the children in our homes. God bless this great academy that sits here so reverently, listening to the Word of God. And Lord, bless this great company of men and women, as in our daily life we walk in the love and grace of Jesus, sharing it with others. In Thy precious name do we pray.