WE VISIT PASTOR TIMOTHY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Landmark Baptist Temple, Cincinnati, Ohio
2 Timothy 1:4
5-21-95 7:30 p.m.
Well, here I have been here all day long, and I haven’t brought you a greeting from the empire state of Texas. Texas is some place, some state, where every molehill is a mountain, and every dry wadi is a river, and every hole in the ground is an oil well, and every man is a liar. That’s Texas. Ah, pastor what a benediction to be with thee and these wonderful, appreciative, encouraging people.
The title of the sermon tonight is We Visit Pastor Timothy. And the reading of the text is in Paul’s second letter to his son in the ministry, Timothy, beginning at chapter 1:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God . . .
To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace and mercy and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;
Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
[2 Timothy 1:1-5]
Now in that fourth verse did you notice that clause, “greatly desiring to see thee”? [2 Timothy 1:4]. So I thought tonight we would just visit Pastor Timothy. His church is in the ancient Greek city of Ephesus. And from everything I can dig up and everything that I can remember and in my visit there, looking at what these archeologists have been digging up for two hundred years, Ephesus was almost certainly the most beautiful Greek city the world has ever seen. It was located on the eastern side of the Mediterranean and at that time was a port city.
The Cayster River runs through the middle of it, and through the centuries the sediment brought down by the river has so filled the shore that the remains of it today are about six miles inland. But when Paul was there and Timothy was called as pastor of the church, it was a great seaport.
As I said, these archeologists have been digging there for decades and decades. And when you look at it, you can hardly believe that such a city ever existed. You can walk down those wide boulevards, and on either side there were rows of Greek Corinthian columns. I never saw anything like that in the world, the streets of the city, the boulevards of the metropolis, lined with beautiful Corinthian columns.
Then as we continue through the city, we come to the theater, carved out of solid rock, seating twenty-four thousand people. And at the top of it you can hear somebody whisper on the stage. I have preached in it. It is an amazing place of drama and assembly.
Then as we continue walking through the streets of the city, we come to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the temple of Artemis, or in Latin, Diana. I have never in my life seen anything that compares to the little bitty piece of that vast structure that has been dug up and preserved. It was four times bigger than the Parthenon in Athens and was the wonder of the world. If you have ever been in the museum in London, the British Museum, there is a base of one of the columns of that temple of Artemis that you can look at. It’s the biggest piece of marble I ever saw in my life. And all around it are sculptured statues, life size. There were 274 of those columns in that incomparable building, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
And then, of course, finally we come to the home of Timothy. And we knock at the door, and he comes to the door, and we introduce ourselves. “We’re from the Landmark Baptist Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio.” And we’re welcomed in. So as I sit down and look around, I notice the women that are there. There’s his grandmother, there’s his mother, and there is Mrs. Timothy. Can you believe that? There is his wife. And I say to young Timothy, “You mean to tell me that you are married, that you have a wife?”
And he says, “By all means, yes. The proverb says that he that getteth a wife getteth a good thing [Proverbs 18:22]. And the apostle Paul wrote me in his first letter, chapter 3, verse 1, the episkopos, the presbuteros, the poimēn, the pastor is to be the husband of one wife [1 Timothy 3:1-2]. That’s what the Book says.”
Well, am I overwhelmed and amazed! The Roman Catholics say that “we are the original church. We’re the one that’s in the Bible, and we’re the one that’s been in existence ever since and so today. We are the original church.” Yet the Catholics refuse to have any of their clergy married! But God’s Book says the pastor is to be the husband of one wife. And brother, did you ever out-marry yourself. You’ve got one of the sweetest, dearest wives in this world. That’s according to the Word of the Lord. The preacher is to be married.
Well, a few days ago, there came to our church there in Dallas, there came after the service, one of the finest young men, good-looking, tall. Aw! And he introduced himself, and he said, “I have just been graduated from the university, and I’m getting ready to go to the seminary.” Well, he had by his side a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful girl. And he turned and introduced her to me, and he said, “This is my fiancée, and we are planning to be married.” Then he said, “Oh, how I wish that we could be married now, and I’d take her with me to the seminary.”
“Well,” I said, “That’s wonderful. Marry her and take her with you to the seminary.”
“Well,” he said, “I don’t have the money.”
“Well,” I said, “marry her anyway.”
“Well,” he said, “can two live as cheap as one?”
I said, “Certainly. Marry her and take her to the seminary. Two can live as cheap as one if one will go hungry and the other will go naked. Just marry her. Just marry her. Just marry her.”
And then I say to young Timothy, “How’s your church?”
And he says to me, “How is my what?”
And I said, “How is your church?”
And he says, “Church? I never heard of a church. What is a church?”
I said, “Good grief, you are the pastor of a church!”
“Oh,” he says, “You mean my ekklēsia.”
I said, “Yes, church!”
Then I remember. For the first three hundred years the name of a congregation of the Lord was an ekklēsia, ek kaleō, the called-out people of God, referring to the people. And it was only after the conversion of Constantine in 300 AD that they changed the name of it from ekklēsia, referring to the people, to kuriakos—kurios, Lord; oikos, house—the house of the Lord. They changed the name from referring to the people, ekklēsia, to kuriakos—kirkus, kirk; comes out in English “church”—referring to a house. But I tell you, one of the amazing things that I see in history is this, that the most dynamic of all the centuries of the Christian faith were the first three hundred years, when there was no such thing as a church house.
The people did their work out there where the folks were, up and down the streets of the city, in the market place, in the home, from house to house. And you know, I think about that. Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two golden candelabra, but our Lord was crucified outside, outside the city walls [John 19:20; Hebrews 13:12] on the side of a great travelled highway, and where the people could see Him and watch Him. And He was crucified naked! I have never seen an artist draw a picture of the Lord as He actually was. They always cover Him. But our Lord was crucified naked. It was the will and purpose of God that His Son be exposed!
And pastor, you can’t expose the Lord Jesus too much. You can’t preach about Him too much. Singer, you can’t sing about him too much. Orchestra, you can’t play for Him too much. And people, you can’t witness about Him too much, or testify about Him too much, or speak His name too much, or sing about Him too much. God intended for His Son to be exposed for the whole world to see Him.
“Well, preacher Timothy, how do you do your work?”
And he replies, “With enthusiasm. Paul wrote to me, ‘Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say, Rejoice’ [Philippians 4:4]. We’re to do our work with gladness, with triumph, with glory, with enthusiasm.”
There is a Greek phrase en theos, in God. The Greek word for God is theos—en theos, in God. And they took that phrase en theos and made a substantive out of it, enthousiazō, verb. And we have taken that Greek word enthousiazō and spelled it out exactly in English: “enthusiasm.” Enthusiasm is nothing other than “in God,” God in you. And when God is in you, everything is gloriously triumphant. There is nothing like joy, and gladness, and enthusiasm in the work of the Lord. Dear me, what a privilege to be happy in Him!
You know that thing enthusiasm is an amazing component. In the city of Dallas is the Cotton Bowl. And in the days of the state fair, every year in the fall time, the Longhorns from Texas University and the Sooners from Oklahoma come down and butt heads in the Cotton Bowl. They play their annual football game. Well, that’s been going on for almost ninety years. They’ve been coming down there every year in the fall and play their annual football game.
So one of the men in the church asked me to go with him out there to that Cotton Bowl and look at that annual Texas Longhorn-Oklahoma Sooner football game. So I went out with him, and we sat over here on that side of the Cotton Bowl with fifty-five thousand fanatical Cotton Bowl Texas Longhorn fans, fifty-five thousand of them. And you wouldn’t believe it. Right here in front of me sat a Sooner, sat an Okie, right there, the only one in fifty-five thousand. There he sat, right down there in front of me. Well, it was in the days of Bud Wilkerson, when the Oklahoma Sooners beat the tar out of Texas for over ten solid years, one year after another. It was in those days.
So as they started, that nut there stood up, and he waved a hundred dollar bill over his head and said, “Say, all you Texans, I’ll give you seven points and bet ‘cha this hundred dollar bill we beat ya’.” Well, nobody took him up, so he sat back down again. And as the game went on, he stood up a second time, waved that hundred dollar bill over his head, and said, “Say, all you Texans, I’ll give you fourteen points and bet ‘cha this hundred dollar bill we beat ya’.” Nobody took him up, so he sat back down again. And did you know, the third time that critter stood up, waved that hundred dollar bill over his head, and said, “Say, all you Texans, I’ll give you twenty-one points and bet ‘cha this hundred dollar bill we beat ya’.” Nobody took him up then, and he sat back down again, right there in front of me.
And as I looked at him, I said, “Man I’d like to have that nut in my church. He’s enthusiastic, he believes in his team, and he puts his money where his mouth is.” Ah, there’s nothing in the world like being enthusiastic, and joyful, and glad, and happy in the Lord, in the faith.
I tell you, to be optimistic, to be enthusiastic, is a beautiful component of the faith we have in our Lord. Did you ever hear about that old critter, that old codger, at the tender age of eighty-seven, he married a girl and immediately began looking for a bigger house close to an elementary school? God bless him; enthusiastic, happy in the Lord, just praising His name.
“So, Timothy, how do you do your work?”
“Well, Paul, wrote in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, ‘Watch and remember, that by the space of three years there in Ephesus I ceased not day and night, testifying to the Jew and to the Greek, from house to house, repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ’” [Acts 20:31, 20-21].
“So how do you do your work, Timothy?”
“Paul wrote saying ‘from house to house,’ knocking at the door” [Acts 20:20].
Well, when I was in the seminary, I was pastor of a little tiny village. And in that village was a little Baptist church. And the most they’d ever had in Sunday school was sixty. I said to them one time, “On such and such Sunday, let’s have a hundred in Sunday school.” Aw, I was greeted with frowns and all kinds of concupiscence.
They said, “We have never in the history of this church had more than sixty, and you want to have a hundred. It’s unthinkable, impossible, unreachable, unobtainable.”
Well, I was young then, and it made me mad. And I called the church in conference on a Sunday morning, and I said, “On such and such Sunday we’re going to have a hundred in Sunday school, and I want you formally to vote you will do nothing to achieve it. And now I put it to a vote. I’m asking every one of you who belong to the church to vote that you will do nothing when we have a hundred in Sunday school on such and such Sunday.” So I had them vote, and every one of them held up their hands: “Fine. Fine.”
So what I did, pastor, I got me some paper and a pencil, and I went up and down every road, every lane. I went up and down the highway that went through. I knocked at every door, every door, and I introduced myself as the pastor of the church. And I said, “Could I come in and read the Bible with you and pray?” And they would invite me in, and I’d kneel down and pray with the family. Then I’d say, “If you’ll be in Sunday school on such and such Sunday, may I write your name down?” And I wrote the name of the family down. And, sweet people, when that Sunday came, we had three hundred sixty-five present in Sunday school.
And I haven’t gotten over that yet. When I went to Dallas, there was not a church in the earth; there was not a church in the world, that had an attendance of two thousand in Sunday school—not in the world, not in the earth. And I started out with those dear people. And we got two thousand, and we got three thousand, and we got four thousand, and we got five thousand, and we got six thousand, and we got seven thousand, and we got eight thousand. And once in a while we’d go over twelve thousand in Sunday school. Preacher, I am convinced there’s no limit to the number of people you can reach for Jesus Christ if you will do as it says in the Book, “from house to house,” out there where the people are [Acts 20:20].
So one of my deacons called me on the phone, and he said to me, “Pastor, right next door has moved a family, and I thought if you’d come and invite them to church, they would respond.” So I knocked at the door and was graciously entreated. I met a father and a mother, a seventeen-year-old girl, a fifteen-year-old boy, and a twelve-year-old boy. I talked to them about the Lord, explained the way of salvation to them, got down and knelt on my knees with them, and they responded beautifully, and they said, “We’ll be there next Sunday.” Next Sunday came; they were not there.
I waited, oh, about three or four weeks, and I went back and knocked at the door. And once again I was cordially entreated. Met the family, spoke to them about the Lord Jesus, how He died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3], raised for our justification [1 Corinthians 15:4; Romans 4:25], coming again [Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7], and we are invited to accept Him as our Savior. Aw, they just responded. And when I got through praying, they said, “Preacher, we’ll be there next Sunday.” Sunday came, and they were not there.
And on Tuesday night, after that Sunday, on Tuesday night the telephone rang about two o’clock in the morning in the parsonage. And when I answered it, one of our Christian nurses in the Baptist hospital there was on the other end of the line. And she said, “Pastor I apologize for calling you at such an unearthly hour. But there’s a man here in the hospital, and his son has been terribly crushed in an awful automobile accident. And his son is dying.” And she said, “I asked him, ‘Do you know anybody in the city?’ And he said he knew you. And I thought that you might come and stand by his side while his boy dies.”
I hastily dressed, went to the hospital, up to such and such a floor and room, walked in and there stood that father, and that fifteen-year-old boy before him. Driving back into the city in a furious rage, had an awful accident, and was crushed from head to foot. In no time at all after I arrived, the nurse took the white sheet and put it over the face of the boy and looked up to the father and said, “Your boy’s gone.” And she left me standing there by his side.
The father took that white sheet and pulled it away from the face of his boy and looked long and hard into that silent countenance, raised his hands to heaven, and fell on his knees and cried, “O God, my boy’s gone. What shall I say, and what shall I do?”
After the memorial service, the following Sunday down the aisle came the whole family, father, mother, seventeen-year-old daughter, twelve-year-old son, giving their hearts to Jesus and joining the church by baptism. I would stand at the back of the church and shake hands with the people as they left. And every one of them that shook my hand, every one of them, said to me, “Pastor, wasn’t that a glorious sight, the whole family coming to the Lord and joining the church by baptism?”
And I would acquiesce, “Oh, yes, a wonderful sight.” You know what I actually thought? When I looked at that family, seated on the front row there, I said in my heart, “That is the saddest sight I ever looked at in my life.” You see, I didn’t tell the church, I didn’t think I should, that there belongs to the family a fifteen-year-old boy, and he lies in a Christless grave in Texas.
And someday at the great assize, at the judgment bar of Almighty God, when the book is opened and the roll is called up yonder, and the Lord calls the name of that father, and he answers, “Here,” calls the name of that mother, and she answers, “Here,” calls the name of that seventeen-year-old daughter, and she answers, “Here,” and calls that twelve-year-old boy; he answers, “Here,” and the Lord looks into the face of that father and says, “And is that all?”
And the father replies, “No, Your Honor, there is one other child, a fifteen-year-old boy.”
And God will say to him, “And where is he?”
And the father replies, “He lies in a Christless grave in Texas. The harvest past, and the summer ended, and we are not saved” [Jeremiah 8:20].
When the choir has sung its last anthem,
And the preacher has prayed his last prayer,
When the people have heard their last sermon,
And the sound has died out on the air,
When the Bible lies closed on the altar,
And the pews are all emptied of men,
And each one stands facing his record,
And the great book is opened, what then?
When the actor has played his last drama,
And the mimic has made his last fun,
When the film has flashed its last picture,
And the billboard displayed its last run,
When the crowd seeking pleasure have vanished,
And gone out in the darkness again,
And the trumpet of ages is sounded,
And we stand before Him, what then?
When the bugle call sinks into silence,
And the long marching columns stand still,
When the captain repeats his last orders,
And they’ve captured the last fort and hill,
When the flag is hauled down from the masthead,
And the wounded afield checked in,
And the world that rejected its Savior
Is asked for a reason, what then?
[“What Then?” J. Whitfield Green]
Great God in heaven, how we need the love and grace of Jesus our Lord, not only in this life but in that awesome day that closes time and eternity, and in the forever that lies beyond; we need to be saved [John 3:16-17, 10:27-30; Ephesians 2:8-9].
Now preacher, I have a different kind of an appeal. I want you to come, as you did this morning, and I want you to stand right there facing our congregation. And my beloved song leader and the instruments, I want you all to come here. And, son, you do this anyway that you want. If you want to sing a solo, if you want to announce a hymn and sing the hymn, you do as you feel in your heart. If you want just the instruments to play along, you do what you would like.
But I’m asking you, remain seated. If there is somebody in your family who is lost, and you will make a covenant with the pastor, “Pastor, you pray for me; I’m going to do my best to win that somebody in my family to the Lord,” I want you to make a prayer covenant. You don’t have to say anything. Just come and shake hands with the pastor and go back to your seat. But that is a covenant of prayer that he will make with you tonight. I will pray for you, as you witness to that somebody in your family, that that someone will be saved.
Do you have someone in your business that you work with who is lost? “Pastor, you pray for me, and I’ll do my best to win that somebody in my business where I work, win them to the Lord.” Do you have a neighbor who is lost? “Pastor, pray for me; I’ll do my best to win that neighbor to the Lord.” Is there someone you know who is lost? Will you ask God to give you wisdom as you approach them and invite them to the Lord Jesus? Will you make that covenant with the pastor? “Pastor, you pray for me, and I will do my best to win that somebody to the Lord Jesus.”