Effective Praying


Dr. W. A. Criswell

James 4:1-3

10-27-74    10:50 a.m.

Active Link to Video for this message.  http://www.wacriswell.com/serm…/1974/getting-things-from-god


W A Criswell in white suitOn the radio and on television all of us are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  In our preaching through the Book of James, we have come to the fourth chapter; and the message is an exposition of the first three verses.  It is entitled Getting Things From God.

The pastor of the church in Jerusalem writes:


From whence come wars and fightings among you?  Come they not hence, even of your lusts at war in your members?

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your own lusts.

[James 4:1-3]


There are some words in the passage that in 1611 might have reflected the true passage that the pastor wrote, but to us they have a somewhat different color and connotation.  He says, “Do not these troubles that arise between you, arise of your lusts that war in your members?” [James 4:1].  The word ishēdonē.  A very common word in the English language is hedonism, hedonistic; that is, pleasure-loving.  Lust has a little different turn to us, today.  But hēdonē: self gratification, ministering to one’s self, pleasure.

Then the second verse: “Ye lust, and have not” [James 4:2].  Epithumia has no gesture toward lust.  Epithumia means to long for earnestly, to desire.  Then he says, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss” [James 4:3].  That’s all right.  Kakos, literally means, “badly,” and can mean, “evilly.”  “That ye may consume it,” dapaneō, means “to spend wastefully, luxuriously,” that you may consume it upon your lusts [James 4:3].  And there again, the word is hēdonē, for selfish pleasures.

So the pastor is writing about why we don’t get things from God.  Now he’s going to speak of it, not prayer in the sense of communion, or fellowship, or a surrendered yieldedness to God; but he’s going to write a prayer as an instrument, a means of receiving things from the hands of God.  How do you do that?

First of all, we would say, a truism: most people don’t even try.  Prayer is extraneous to their thought and to their life.  To the natural man, prayer would be a burdensome task.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God because they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

The same inspired apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:7, he said, “The carnal mind is enmity against God and is not subject to the law of God, neither can be.”  And he said further that the flesh cannot please God [Romans 8:8].  So to an unspiritual man, to a natural man, the man of the flesh, the carnal man, prayer is extraneous, and is looked upon as a burden, and as a tedious task.

Even in our church you will find that same repercussion, that holdover from our old carnal nature.  For to many of us, prayer would be a wearisome assignment.  I can see that in how our people respond, say, to an invitation to come to dinner, or to an invitation for entertainment.  And they’ll be there, but when they are invited to pray, they find other places that are more alluring and attractive.  And of course to a skeptic, and to an unbeliever, prayer is absolutely impertinent; it has no meaning whatsoever.  Prayer is nothing to an unbelieving world.  And to ask or not ask would be just the same.

Now when we come to ourselves—we who are Christians and have been baptized into the faith and belong to the household of God—we also find frustration in prayer; for we ask and we don’t receive.  That seems such a diametrical contradiction of what our Lord wrote.  You read Luke’s account of it in his eleventh chapter [Luke 11:9-13].  Matthew makes it a part of the Sermon on the Mount, when our Lord said in Matthew 7:7:


Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.


Then He added:

If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give good gifts to them that ask Him?

[Matthew 7:7-811]


So we ask, and surely enough, there is nothing returned: nothing received, nothing given, nothing found, and nothing opened for us.

Well, that’s why the pastor at Jerusalem—the apostle James—that’s why he writes this passage.  “You do not have because you do not ask; and you ask and receive not because ye ask kakos [James 4:3].  You don’t ask correctly.

God has put this world together in a way that it runs according to certain principles and certain laws.  And if you obey those principles and those laws, you will find a response, a return.  But if you don’t, you don’t find the response; and you don’t find the return.  It has to be done according to the way God set it up.  And to tell whether or not you are obeying the law or not, being obedient to the principle of God is whether the thing works or not, whether you get what you are after or not.

If you have a problem in mathematics, the answer as to whether you did it right or not is the sum of it.  Is it correct?  If you had a machine, the answer to whether the thing is put together right or not is whether it does what you want it to do.  Does it run?  And does it produce?

So it is in this thing of prayer, of getting things from God.  If you do it right, you have to use the instrument in the correct way.  If you get what you want, you have to do it in the way God set it up.  No matter what kind of an instrument, or how effectively it may be put together, if it is not used correctly, then it won’t work right.

For example, when our little fellow Cris was a baby, he was in a highchair, eating at the table.  And he had a spoon in his hand, and he was trying to eat with the spoon turned upside down.  Did you ever try to eat with a spoon turned upside down?  It’s just the opposite of what you want.  It doesn’t scoop up.  You have to turn it up, you know, to make it scoop up.  Well, he was trying to eat with it upside down.  So I took his little hand, and I turned the spoon up.  And I said, “Son, this is the way you eat.”  Well, sure enough, he turned it backside up and tried to go through eating, cramming that into his mouth.  No!  You can’t do it that way.  It was made to do this way.  And if you don’t do it this way and you do it that way, it doesn’t work.  It’s not made that way.

I was over there in Embree Hall one time, and I never heard such raucous noises in my life.  There were some of these teenage kids that somehow or the other had gotten the key to the organ; and they had opened it, and they were fooling around with that organ.  And the sounds out of it, Tommy, would drive a man insane.  It was made to work in a certain way, such as Tommy can do it.  But the way they were doing it, it sounded terrible.

Now all the things in God’s whole universe are like that.  He puts it together in a certain way.  And when we follow that way, and follow those principles and those laws, the way God made it to work, it works beautifully, marvelously—anywhere in it, up and down, high and low, from side to side.  But when we don’t do it that way, when we don’t follow the principles and the laws of the Lord, then we follow into ways that lead to frustration, and defeat, and sometimes abject despair.

So the apostle, the pastor, James, the Lord’s brother, writing here about prayer, he says several things.  One: we do not have because we do not ask.  And another: when we do ask, we do not receive because we ask kakos, badly, that we may consume it, dapaneō, wastefully spend it on our own hēdonē, our own personal pleasures [James 4:3].

All of us are made pretty much alike; and apparently there is no limit to our wanting.  If we have two cars, we want a third one.  If we have one, we want a second one.  If we are affluent enough to have a beautiful townhouse, we’d like to have one also out in the country.  If we have a million dollars, we want two.  If we have 500 million dollars, we want a billion.  The people who are the most avaricious and grasping for money are rich people.  There seems to be no satiety, no satiation to the wants of people.  They just expand, and expand, and expand; and the more we have, the more we want.  Nations are like that.  This is why the apostle writes, “From whence come wars among you and fighting?” [James 4:1].  It’s because these things that you seek, and desire, and covet, you just want more, and more, and more.  And so the nations finally come to bitter grips about possessions.

There is no solution to this oil industry.  Someday you are going to find, when it comes to a choice between the poverty and impoverishment of industrialized nations, and seizing the oil, I can tell you exactly what will happen.  They will attempt to seize the oil.  That’s the way humanity is put together.  We are just made that way.

So he says, that in our praying, so much of why we don’t get what we ask for is, we use God.  “Why should there be a God,” we say to ourselves, “if He is not usable to us?”  So we use Him.  And we ask in order that we may consume what we ask for, for our own selfish pleasures [James 4:3].

Now, I haven’t time to add to that.  There are many reasons why the Scriptures reveal to us that we ask, and we don’t receive.  For one thing, we don’t expect it.  We ask without any expectation of our prayer being answered at all.  The Lord said to a man one time, “According to your faith be it done unto you” [Matthew 9:29].

Sometimes we ask indifferently.  We don’t agonize.  The Lord spoke of that when He spoke of our importunity in prayer: to pray, to ask, to ask again and again, earnestness in our intercession [Luke 18:3-7].

Sometimes, we don’t get our answer because we have harshness in our hearts toward others.  The Lord said when you pray, if you have aught against your brother, forgive him; ask him to forgive you.  Make it right with him [Mark 11:25].

Then sometimes our prayers are not answered because of sin in us.  The psalmist said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” [Psalm 66:18].

Isaiah wrote the first two verses in the fifty-ninth chapter of his prophecy:


Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your sins have separated between you and your God, and your iniquities have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.

[Isaiah 59:1-2]


So, these things interfere; they come between us and God.  But he also says, and this is the emphasis of the message this morning—he also says that there are times when we have not, because we ask not [James 4:2].  We just don’t take it to God in prayer.  We don’t make it a matter of prayer.


I got up early one morning

And rushed right into the day.

I had so much to accomplish

That I didn’t have time to pray.


Problems just tumbling about me,

And heavier came each task.

“Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered.

And God answered, “You didn’t ask.”


I tried to come into God’s presence

And used all my keys at the lock.

God gently and lovingly chided,

“My child, you didn’t knock.”


I wanted to see joy in beauty.

The day tore on gray and bleak.

I wondered, “Why doesn’t God show me?”

He said, “You didn’t seek.”


So I woke up early this morning

And paused before entering the day.

I had so much to accomplish.

I had to take time to pray.

[“No Time to Pray,” Grace L. Naessens]


The reason we don’t have help from heaven is we don’t ask for it [James 4:2].  We don’t take it to God.  We don’t make it a matter of prayer.  We just rush into it ourselves, make decisions ourselves, plan things for ourselves, and just leave God out of it.  Then we wonder why life can be so bleak and so gray, so frustrating and disappointing.  We don’t have because we don’t ask.

You know, it is a marvelous thing, how God can be moved to answer if we ask—just ask.  Now I stumbled into this in Psalm 107.  The psalmist is going to talk about a man who is sick unto death, and in his extremity, he prays.  Then he is going to talk about a mariner, a sailor in a storm, and in the agony and terror of the hurricane, and the boat about to sink; then he is going to talk about the man as he prays.  And in both instances, the man is heard.  God hears him and saves him.  But the psalmist says, why can’t we take it to God before the extremity?

Now, you listen to the psalmist: “His soul abhorreth”—this, beginning at verse 18—“all manner of food.”  He’s sick.  He’s nauseated.  And he draws near to the gates of death [Psalm 107:18].  Then he cries unto the Lord in his trouble, and God saves him.  God sends His word and heals him and delivers him [Psalm 107:19-20].  Then, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” [Psalm 107:21].

Now, he’s going to talk of a mariner.  “They that go down to the sea in ships, that do great business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord ….” [Psalm 107:23-24]. God commands and raises the wind, and lifts up the waves [Psalm 107:25].  “They mount up to the heavens, and they go down again to the depths; and their soul is melted because of trouble.  They reel to and fro,” on a deck of a ship that is torn like a leaf on the water.  The people “reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end” [Psalm 107:26-27].


Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and God brings them out of all their distresses.

He makes the storm a calm, and the waves thereof still.

Then are they glad because they be quiet; and so He bringeth

them unto their desired haven.

Oh that men—Oh that men would praise the Lord for His

goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!

[Psalm 107:28-31]


God answers prayer.  He just does.  Here’s a sick man, in his extremity and he hadn’t prayed.  But in his final, agonizing moments, he asks God; and God hears him.

Or here are sailors that never think about God. Or if they do, they use His name in vain—like our politicians.  They just cuss all the time.  Isn’t that tragedy?  How in the world can God bless America when our men in highest office use God’s name in vain with no thought at all?  They all do it, practically.  I am so disappointed I don’t how to say it.  Here are men who, like drunken sailors, they reel and they are men that never have called on the name of the Lord.  And in their extremity, they pray, and God hears them.  He is that kind of a God.  We don’t have because we don’t ask.  We don’t take it the Lord.  We don’t make it a matter of prayer.

You know, in my preparing the message, I came across the story of a sweet little boy.  He was a German lad, and he was so devout.  He loved the Lord, and he prayed to God.  His father and mother were very dilatory, but the little boy was so devout.  The pastor would speak of him in praise for the godliness and holiness of such a little lad.  The headmaster at the school said, “Be sure always to be on time.”  So the little boy sought to be on time when he went to school.

This day, this morning, on account of his parents, the little boy couldn’t get away.  And when he walked out the door to go to school, the clock struck the time that he was to be there.  That was a long walk from his house to the schoolhouse, and the little fellow bowed his head and prayed aloud, “O Lord, O Lord, don’t let me be late for school!”

There was a man who overheard the boy’s prayer.  And he thought, “This is unthinkable!  It has already struck time for the boy to be there, yet he prays, ‘O God, don’t let me be late for school.’”  And out of curiosity, the man, the listener, followed behind the boy just to see what would happen.

You know what happened?  The headmaster of the school had put his key in the doorknob, in the lock, and somehow he had turned it the wrong way, and he jammed the lock.  He couldn’t get the door open.  They called for a locksmith.  And when the locksmith had finished his work, and the door opened, and the headmaster and the students walked in, in walked in that devout little boy, just on time.  Isn’t that blessed?  “Ask,” He says.  “Ask.”  Make it a matter of prayer.  “Ask.”  [Matthew 7:7].

Yesterday afternoon, I went out to Collins Hospital, a part of our Baylor University Complex, to visit one of our members.  He was there on the fourth floor in a wheelchair, as an invalid, where they had placed him out in the hallway; so I visited with him.  And after my visit, I said, “Let’s pray.”  So I bowed my head, and he bowed his.  And then I prayed.  When I said, “Amen,” and had finished my prayer, he seized my hand with both of his and said, “Now, I want to pray.”  I said, “Fine.”  So I bowed my head and closed my eyes again, as I stood by his wheelchair, and he prayed.

And this is what he prayed: he said, “O Lord, how wonderful it is to have the pastor to come to see me.”  He said, “My dear, sainted mother never had but two pastors: Dr. Truett and Brother Criswell.  And now he has come to see me, and I am so happy to have him.  And now, dear Lord, you know I don’t have a penny.  I don’t have a cent.  I don’t have any money at all.  And, O Lord, you know how I want a package of cigarettes.  Now Lord, put it in the pastor’s heart to give me the money to buy a carton of cigarettes.”  Then he said, “And dear Lord, if he won’t give me the money to buy a carton of cigarettes, dear Lord,” and he just held onto my hand, “dear Lord, put it into his heart to give me the money to buy just one package of cigarettes.  Please, Lord.  Amen.”

I pulled out my billfold.  You know, I couldn’t walk away from that guy without giving him that dollar bill for those cigarettes, as much as I hate those “coffin nails.”  I just couldn’t do it.  Well, the Book says we are made in the image of God [Genesis 1:27].  I guess God is a little like that.  The rule is to ask.  The first principle is to ask.  “Ask, and you shall receive” [Matthew 7:7].

And He doesn’t say, “Study a book about it.”  You don’t have to be learned.  You don’t have to have doctor’s degrees.  You don’t have to have a diploma in theology.  You don’t have to go to the library and read a book.  Just as you’d talk to your own father, so the Lord invites us to talk to Him: the high and mighty, the low and menial.  All of us, just ask—just take it to God and ask.

Sometimes God will say, “It is not best.”  When Moses pled with the Lord to let him go over into the Promised Land, God said to him, “Moses, speak no more to Me of the matter.  No.  No.  No”[Deuteronomy 3:23-26].

When the Lord prayed, “Lord, let this cup pass from Me” [Matthew 26:39].  God said, “No.”  And the Lord died on the cross [Matthew 27:46-501 Corinthians 15:3].

When Paul said, “Lord, this thorn in the flesh; remove it from me” [2 Corinthians 12:7-8].  God said, “No, My strength is made perfect in weakness.  My grace is sufficient for thee” [2 Corinthians 12:9].  God may say no, but God’s rule and God’s principle is that we ask.  That’s the way He has put this thing together.  It pleases God that we ask.  Make it a matter of prayer.  Take it to God, and ask of God [1 Thessalonians 5:17].

The Lord, when He was incarnate, prayed.  In the second Psalm it says, “Ask of God, and He will “give you the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession”[Psalm 2:8].  But He is to ask.  Even the Lord Jesus is to pray.  It was the purpose of God to bless all Israel, but Samuel had to pray for the blessing [1 Samuel 12:19].  It was the purpose of God, in the days of Elijah, to send the rain [1 Kings 18:1].  But Elijah had to pray for it [1 Kings 18:41-45].

When Daniel read after seventy years in the prophet Jeremiah God was to visit His people and they could return back home, Daniel yet had to pray for it [Daniel 9:2-19].

It was the purpose of God to save the Gentiles, and God raised up Paul, Saul, to preach the gospel to the Gentiles [Acts 9:15], but he had to pray for us that we might be saved [Ephesians 3:14-17].  That’s the way God has put it together.

Why doesn’t God just do it anyway?  I don’t know.  It pleased God.  The principle, and the rule, and the program of God is that I ask Him, that I pray, that I take it before Him.  That’s the way God makes it work.

We have a tremendous assignment in our church.  We have our stewardship program that we are underwriting now.  I can tell all of our deacons, and I can tell all of our people this: we’re not going to succeed in that, if we don’t pray.  We must ask God for it.  And that sweet family that was up here, the Bristol family, they don’t do that of themselves.  That father of that boy prayed, and that lad prays.  And if he doesn’t teach his children to pray, they’re not going to do that.  They just won’t.  The time will come inevitably when they’ll say to themselves, “This is just too much trouble.  This is too much burden.  This is too much to give to God.”  These things come out of our prayer life, and they don’t come, they don’t arise any other place.

Same way about the spirit of our church: If God is here, we have to ask God to be here.  If we feel His presence, we must ask God, in saving grace, to walk among us, to sit down by our side, to live in our hearts.


Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,

With all Thy quickening powers.

Kindle in us a flame of sacred love,

Even in these hearts of ours.

[“Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,” Isaac Watts]


We can’t do this without prayer.  It can’t be done.  I think the apostle is avowing, nor can it done anywhere in the world, nor can it be done nationally, unless a people pray and ask God, they would be thrown into wars, and conflicts, and judgments.  That’s the way God made it, that we pray [1 Thessalonians 5:17].

But if we do, God gives us above all that we ask or think.  That’s the way the apostle Paul closed his prayer in the third chapter of Ephesians:


Now unto Him who is able to do above all that we ask or think. . . .

Unto Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus. . .

world without end.  Amen.

[Ephesians 3:2021]


“Above all that we ask or think.”  If you ask, God will do above all that we have asked for, and all that we could even think for.  Abraham asked God for Ishmael [Genesis 17:18], prayed to God for Ishmael.  The Lord was pleased, and said, “I will make of Ishmael a great people.”  All of those Arab people, “I will make of them a great people” [Genesis 17:20].  But, He gave him more than he asked for.  When he was a hundred years old, and when Sarah was ninety years old [Genesis 17:17], out of his own loins, God gave him Isaac [Genesis 21:235-11].  “Above all that we ask or think” [Ephesians 3:20].

Jacob said, “Lord, if You will just give me raiment, and food, and bring me back home, I will give the tenth unto Thee” [Genesis 28:20-22].  When God brought him back to Bethel, Jacob was enriched immeasurably [Genesis 33:5-11].

Solomon said, “Lord, give me wisdom.”  And God said, “I will give you everything else beside” [1 Kings 3:9-13].

When the transgressor, the thief on the other side of the Lord Jesus, prayed, “Lord, remember me,” Jesus said to him, “Today—semeron—”This day you will be with Me in Paradise” [Luke 23:42-43].

When the prodigal son came back to his father and said, “Father!  I am not worthy to be called thy son.  Just make me one of these menial hired servants.  Send me out into the field, or whatever, and just give me the wages of a hired hand.”  The father said, “Bring hither the finest robe, and put it on him; and put a ring upon his finger; and kill the fatted calf.  For this my boy was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” [Luke 15:18-24].  And they began to rejoice.  That is God.

“Above all that we ask or think” [Ephesians 3:20].  Ask Him.  Ask Him.  Make it a matter of prayer.  “Lord, I don’t know the decision to make in this.”  Ask Him.

James begins his book with that: “If any of you lack wisdom, knowing how, ask, and God gives abundantly” [James 1:5].  “Lord, I have a problem in my life.”  Take it to God.  Make it a matter of prayer.  “Lord, I’ve got troubles,” or “I have needs.”  Take it to the Lord.  Above all that we ask or think [Ephesians 3:20] will God answer from heaven.

Ask.  It pleases God for you to ask.  He delights in our importunity.  Ask.  Take it to the Lord.  Make it a matter of prayer.  “Pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17]; that is, make everything a subject of intercession before God—little things.  He is not only the God of the big; He is the God of the little.  He is not only the Lord of princes, and presidents, and prime ministers; He is the Lord of the most menial, and the most humble.

Take it to God.  He will answer.  You’ll have a new life, and new hope, and a new uplift in your soul.  There will be a heavenwardness in you, a Christ-wardness in you that you never knew before, if you’ll just ask.

Our time is far spent.  In a moment, we are going to sing our hymn of appeal.  And while we sing that song of invitation, if the Lord has spoken to you, would you come down that aisle, or down that stairway?  “Today, pastor, I take the Lord as my Savior.”  Or, “Today, I’m putting my life in the fellowship of this dear church.”  A family, a couple, or just you, make the decision in your heart, and on the first note of the first stanza, come.  Do it now.  Make it now, while we stand, and while we sing.

The Lord Will Help

The Lord Will Sustain You

Adrian Rogers

Adrian Rogers
Adrian Rogers

“Man that is born of woman is full of trouble as the sparks that fly upward.”

It starts almost the day we’re born. We’re born crying, and from there it just goes on and on. We have burdens. If you don’t have burdens, the problem is you’re probably not a thinking person. But I want to tell you today what to do with your burdens.

David wrote, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee; He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” David was a king; he was wealthy. What do we learn from this? That burdens come to the high as well as to the low. They come to saints as well as sinners. They come to the old as well as the young. What do we do with our burdens? We have to cast them upon the Lord,

Do you have a broken heart?  Has one of your children ripped your heart out? Is there a husband who has forsaken you? A physical malady gnawing away at your body? Is there a problem perplexing you? The Bible says you are to cast your burden upon the Lord (Psalm 55:22). He will sustain you.


You Are a Saint?

The Joy of Sainthood

By John MacArthur

John MacArthur
John MacArthur

“To all the saints in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:1).

Every Christian is a saint.

Many people think of saints as men and women who are especially holy or who have been canonized by an official church body. Usually only those who have been long dead and have extraordinary religious accomplishments to their credit qualify.

God, however, has a different perspective on sainthood. Paul called the Corinthian believers saints (1 Cor. 1:2) then went on for many chapters correcting their sinful practices. He called the Roman, Ephesian, and Colossian believers saints but they weren’t perfect either.

What then qualifies someone as a saint? The answer is in Philippians 1:1: “To the saints in Christ Jesus” (emphasis added). That’s the criterion. Sainthood is not reserved for the spiritually elite. It belongs to every believer because every believer is in Christ Jesus.

If you love Christ you also are a saint. That might come as a surprise to those who know you best, but it’s true nonetheless!

The hallmark of sainthood is holiness. In fact, the Greek word translated “saints” in Philippians 1:1 (hagios) literally means “holy ones.” It is used throughout the New Testament to speak of anyone or anything that represents God’s holiness: Christ as the Holy One of God, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Father, holy Scriptures, holy angels, holy brethren, and so on.

To God, you are holy and beloved in Christ (Col. 3:12). You have received a saintly calling (1 Cor. 1:2) and a saintly inheritance (Col. 1:12). You have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14), and every other spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3).

With that privilege comes the responsibility of living a holy life. That’s why Scripture admonishes you to present your body as a living and holy sacrifice (Rom. 12:1) and to live in a manner worthy of your saintly status (Eph. 5:3).

The power for godly living is the Holy Spirit, who indwells you. As you yield to Him through prayer and obedience to God’s Word, the characteristics of a true saint become increasingly evident in your life. Make that your commitment today.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for choosing you as one of His holy ones.
  • Pray that your life will be a consistent testimony to the reality of true sainthood.

For Further Study

What are the privileges and responsibilities of saints as outlined in Psalm 34?

Why the Cross?


Why Was it Necessary to Have the Old Rugged Cross?

Why the Cross? – Adrian Rogers, Love Worth Finding. Watch Christian video & TV shows from ministry broadcasts and programs free online.


Note: One of the most important sermons you will ever hear. It is one of the very best I have ever heard. It is a classic that should be remembered by you and shared with your loved ones. Don’t go away and miss hearing this sermon. You may say that you don’t want to hear any sermon. Yes–you do, too. You will want to hear this one.

                                   Why The Cross?

1 Peter 3:18

Adrian Rogers / Now in Heaven

    1. Christmas is a happy occasion as we celebrate, around a Christmas tree, the birth of a baby.
    2. But there is another tree, an old rugged cross, that we will think about today.
    3. The cradle, crucifixion and coronation are inextricably interwoven and linked together.
    1. We are the unjust this verse of Scripture refers to.
      1. We are sinful by birth.
      2. We are sinful by nature.
      3. We are sinful by practice.
    2. God is holy and cannot overlook sin.  If God were to overlook sin, He would no longer be a holy God.
    3. Sin brings a penalty, and sin must be punished.
      1. Romans 6:23
    4. Not only is God holy, but God is also loving; so, God must have a way that He can have sin punished and yet have us forgiven, and that method is substitution.
    5. There must be someone who pays the penalty for sin, and that someone is Jesus.
    6. God prophesied the cross and substitution in the Old Testament, many years before Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
      1. Abraham and Isaac
        1. Genesis 17:19
        2. Genesis 22:1-14
          1. Hebrews 11:17-19
        3. Mt. Moriah is the same mountain on which Jesus was crucified.
        4. Isaac, in obedience to his father, submitted to being bound and placed upon the altar.
          1. John 10:18
        5. Jehovah –Jireh means “The God Who Will Provide.”
        6. John 8:56
      2. The Passover lamb is a picture of substitution.
        1. Exodus 12:1-13
        2. John 1:29
  3. THE SUFFERING PASSION OF THE CROSS  (1 Peter 3:18) THE SATISFYING PROVISION OF THE CROSS  (1 Peter 3:18 and Colossians 2:14)
    1. The emotional suffering  (Luke 22:41-44)
    2. The physical suffering
    3. The spiritual suffering  (Isaiah 53:10 and 1 Peter 3:18)
      1. Habakkuk 1:13
      2. Psalm 23:4
  4. THE SAVING POWER OF THE CROSS  (1 Peter 3:18)



Blessed Tears of the Apostle Paul


Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 20:31

W. A. Criswell
W. A. Criswell

And once again a tremendous privilege, God-given, blessed of heaven in our dear First Baptist Church of Dallas, to share this evening hour with the uncounted thousands and thousands of you who are listening to the service over KRLD.  And tonight, because of the inclement weather in our part of the world, I suppose there are more thousands of you who are listening than in any Sunday night in which we have ever broadcast these services.  Then of course over KCBI, the radio station of our Bible Institute, welcome.  And God open your heart as the message is delivered tonight by the pastor entitled The Tears of Paul. 

In your Bible, if you will turn to the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, Acts chapter 20, we shall begin reading at the thirty-first verse and read to the end of the chapter.  And wherever you are tonight, if it is possible, get your Bible.  Open it to the Book of Acts; turn to chapter 20 and beginning at verse 31.  Read it out loud with us, Acts chapter 20, verse 31.  All of us now reading it aloud together:

Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 

And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all of them which are sanctified. 

I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. 

Yea, ye yourself know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. 

I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed give than to receive. 

And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. 

And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him. 

Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more.  And they accompanied him unto the ship.


 [Acts 20:31-38]


There are by far more personal details revealed to us in the life of the apostle Paul from the pages of the Bible than revealed in any other personality that moves across the pages of this sacred Book.  His feelings, how he responded, his suffering, his tears—the innermost life of this apostle and missionary of Christ is revealed.  And we can see him, how he thinks, how things affected him, how he responded in so many of the situations that developed in his missionary life and missionary journeys.  You could ask, “Why is the Bible so filled with these pages and chapters and books—opening to us the innermost life and heart and soul of this apostle of Jesus Christ?”  And when you think of it and look at the life of Paul, the answer is very evident. 

Paul wrote in the first Corinthian letter chapter 11, the first verse, “Be ye followers of me, as I am a follower of Christ.” So closely identified was Paul with the life, and heart, and love, and outreach, and atoning grace of our blessed Savior, that to follow the work and to give dedicatory subservience and surrender to the will of Christ was identical:  following Paul, we follow the Lord.  That is why, in the providence of God, so much of the innermost life of this glorious exponent of the faith and missionary statesman is revealed to us in the Bible.  Looking at him, following him, patterning our life after his example, we pattern our life and follow the blessed example of our Lord. 

Paul was a man of such diverse feelings and emotions and characteristics.  He was a man of tremendous energy, and yet filled with weakness.  He speaks of the weaknesses “…messengers from Satan to buffet him.”  And when he took it to the Lord, God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”  “Therefore,” wrote the apostle, “I take pleasures in” necessities, and deprivations, and trials, and persecutions, and sorrows, and heartaches, “for when I am weak, then I am strong” [2 Corinthians 12:7-10]. 

What a conflict in life and personality, so tremendous a man, and yet bowed in such weakness.  He was a man of such tremendous energy.  It’s almost unthinkable what he did in spreading the gospel of Christ in the Greco-Roman—the civilized world.  And yet with all of his dynamism and all of his tremendous force, he is as gentle as a woman.  He will weep, he will cry, he will be moved, he will be hurt, he will lament, he will love his people so much that when they fall into error or into mistake, it is as though the Lord Himself was grieving over His derelict children.  What a difference in the personality of the man!  He is a man of tremendous convictions: laid down his life for the faith, accosted Simon Peter face to face when he was to be reprimanded.  Fearless, a man of infinite conviction, dedication and yet at the same time, he has the heart of a child: humble, teachable, malleable, listening to the voice of the Spirit of God.  This man has the drive of a king, of a general, and at the same time has the gentleness and the softness and the preciousness of a woman. 

Well, when you look at him and think of him as the pattern for our own life, you immediately come to the conclusion, “He’s not a Stoic, he’s a Christian!  And he can be moved by the sufferings and the derelictions of humankind.”  And that’s we, we are not to be stoics! We also can be hurt and moved and can be full of sorrow and tears by the trials and the sufferings and the derelictions of our people. 

Our Lord was like that, moved in His heart, moved to tears—crying.  I don’t read in the Bible that He ever laughed.  There are places in His conversation that lend itself to humor.  He was so pointed in some of the words that He said as He observed the life of the religious leaders, but in the Bible never a word that He laughed, nor that He even smiled.  But three different times in the life of our Lord it is said that He cried.  He burst into tears, as the Greek word has it, He wept. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus, in the grief of Mary and Martha [Luke 11:35]; when He beheld the city from the brow of Olivet, He cried over the lost city [Luke 19:41]; and we are told that in Gethsemane, He wept before Him who was able to deliver Him from death and learned obedience in the things that He suffered—the will of God that He die for our sins.  This is our Lord! And this is the apostle Paul. 

In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, it is said three times.  He speaks three times of his tears.  In verse 19, he says, “serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and many tears and,” translated here, “temptations,” trials, peirasmos: tears and trials.  Then in verse [31], “remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears,” and then in verse 37, “and he kneeled down, and prayed with them all, and they wept.”  In that parting prayer; these three times in this small address—his short address of our apostle to the pastors at Ephesus—three times is he presented there as crying, as weeping. 

Against the life and missionary work of the apostle Paul, there is always that overtone of sorrow and heartache and tears.  Look at it.  It says in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts that Paul and Silas, after they were beat, scourged, flailed, placed into the prison in Philippi in stocks and in chains, and at midnight, beat as they were, they praised God and sang hymns to the Lord [Acts 16:25].  And the whole story is one of victory and uplift and triumph!  And you feel it when you read the story; it’s just almost incomparable in literature, the spirit, the triumphant spirit of this man, singing and praising God in prison.  But when you look at the story and look at an overtone, you know what you read?  It says in the Book; the Philippian jailer, noticing the blood clots on the back of the apostle, where he had been beat unmercifully by those Roman lictors, the Philippian jailer, now converted, noticed those blood clots on his back.  And it says in the Bible that he “washed their stripes” [Acts 16:33].  That is just incidentally said; just incidentally mentioned; but it is always that overtone of suffering and affliction—washing stripes, the beat, bloody backs of Paul and Silas. 

All right, look at it again.  I suppose that in the fourth chapter of the second letter to Timothy, the swan song of the apostle Paul, I suppose that in that chapter you will find one of the most triumphant words in the Bible, a victorious salutation, benediction. Do you remember it?  “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me in that day: and not unto me only, but unto all of them also that love His appearing” [2 Timothy 4:7- 8], one of the great, great avowals of faith, commitment, triumph to be found in the whole Word of God! 

All right, the overtone now, you read that chapter.  And writing to Timothy, he’ll say, “Timothy, when you come, bring the cloak that I left in Troas with Carpus” [2 Timothy 4:13].  That is, “This dungeon is cold and damp, and when you come bring the cloak, the coat that I left in Troas with Carpus,” in prison, dark, damp, cold! 

Take again, in the Book of Philippians, he will write one of the most beautiful letters in the Bible.  It is a love letter, literally.  Imprisoned in Rome, they send him a gift and he writes this letter back—sends it by Epaphroditus—thanking them for their remembrance of him in his need, in prison in Rome.  Then, as he writes this letter, saying, “Rejoice in the Lord, and always, I say, rejoice!” [Philippians 4:4].  Rejoice always in the Lord! That’s the tone of the letter, but as he writes it you can hear the overtone, the clanking of the chain as he writes in prison chained to a Roman soldier.  And he speaks of that in the first chapter of the book: how his chains, his bonds have been made known throughout the Praetorian Guard [Philippians 1:13], chained all day, all night, every day, every night; the overtone of his life, one of trial and affliction. 

Take again; He will write in the Corinthians letter about his self-sufficiency.  He works with his own hands.  He pays his own way.  He is not chargeable to strangers.  And he preaches the gospel, supporting himself.  He mentions it here in the passage that we have read.  “Ye, yourselves know, how these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and them that were with me.”  And I have showed you—I have given you example how that so laboring, ye ought to support others, remembering, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:34- 35].  That is the apostle Paul: self-sufficient; not chargeable to strangers; working with his own hands; taking care of himself. 

Yet, look at him.  In that same Corinthians letter, he will write an overtone in his life.  He mentions the fact and he notices that Cephas, Simon Peter, and James the Lord’s brother, and the other apostles all have wives.  And as they move in their missionary work, their wives go with them.  But he mentions the fact that he is alone.  There’s nobody to comfort him and strengthen him and be a companion with him in a home.  He is by himself, alone; the overtone in the life of sorrow of the apostle. 

May I point out just one more?  The apostle has the signs of an apostle—miracles, healings.  It is wonderful!  Even from his person they would take handkerchiefs and lay them upon the sick, and the sick would be healed.  Glorious! But always that overtone in his life; he loved Timothy, but he did not heal Timothy.  He loved Trophimus; he left Trophimus at Miletus, sick.  And of himself, a thorn in the flesh; in the flesh some kind of physical ailment, hurt, illness.  He couldn’t heal himself, and he lived his life with that buffeting of Satan in his flesh [2 Corinthians 12:7-10].  In the life of the apostle Paul, you will find those overtones of sorrow and tears and triumph. 

And now the three that he mentions here in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts.  “Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and” with many tears, and peirasmos, “trials” [Acts 20:19].  The life of the apostle from the beginning was that.  The Lord said to him when God called him into the apostleship, into his discipleship, into his ministry, the Lord said to him, “I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake” [Acts 9:16].  And his whole life was that. Do you realize that most of the life of the apostle Paul as a minister of the gospel of the Son of God, most of it was spent in prison?  What an unusual thing!  And yet when you study it, it was only out of a life that was buffeted, and beat, and bruised, and tormented that such letters could have been written, as we have here in the New Testament from the pen of the apostle Paul.  “I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” That was his call into the ministry, and his whole life is that. 

When he began preaching at Damascus, that he might be spared, they let him down over the wall in a basket.  When he came to Jerusalem, there was stirred up against him such vicious and violent and vitriolic opposition that they sent him out to Cilicia, to Tarsus where he came from.  When he began his preaching in the first missionary journey in Lystra, they dragged him out for dead; stoned him, they thought, to death.  At Philippi, beat and in prison; spending three years in prison in Caesarea, in Judea, and finally sent to Rome, as a prisoner chained to a Roman soldier.  Most of his life as a preacher was spent in bonds, in chains, in manacles, and stocks, in prison:  “Show him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” 

And here in the Corinthian letter, he writes of those sufferings.  Listen to him as he says:

In labors abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons frequent, in deaths oft.  

Five times of the Jews received I forty stripes save one. 

Thrice was I beaten with Roman rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;  

In journeyings often, in perils of waters, 

in perils of robbers, in perils of mine countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 

In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

[2 Corinthians 11:23-27]

 What a ministry! God calls him, and into what?  “I will show him,” says the Lord. “what great things he must suffer for My name’s sake” [Acts 9:16]. 

Now, an inevitable question; why doesn’t he quit?  Why doesn’t he quit?  “Lord, Lord if this is my assignment and this is my work, I refuse!” Why doesn’t he quit?  All right, he speaks of that.  He says in 1 Corinthians 9:16:

For necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!.   If I do it willingly, I have a reward; but if my will is not in it

Oikonomia, a dispensation is committed unto me” 

“Whether I want to or whether I don’t want to, this is God’s call for my life and necessity is laid upon me, the oikonomia, the dispensation, the stewardship of God.”  That’s what it is to serve the Lord.  We’re not doing it for what we get out of it.  We’re not doing it for pay.  We’re not doing it for prestige.  We’re not doing it to be honored.  We’re not doing to be elected.  We’re not doing it to be furthered.  We’re not doing it to be praised or even acknowledged.  We’re doing it for Jesus!  He called us!  This is His assignment for us: “Necessity is laid upon me.” 

In the years gone by when I was in Oklahoma, I heard of two Southern Baptist missionaries in Oklahoma.  One was named Hogan and the other was named Bradford Hays.  And in the midst of an awesome trial, Hogan said to his friend Hays, “I am quitting.  I am resigning.  I’m going back home.  This is too much.”  So Bradford Hays said to his friend and fellow missionary, “I understand, and I know, but before you go, would you sit down and sing just one song with me?”  And Bradford Hays got his guitar, and he strummed the tune, and they sang:  

Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name? 


Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas? 


Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To carry me on to God? 


No, I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord;
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy word. 

[“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?”; Isaac Watts]

 And when they got through singing the song, Hogan turned to Bradford Hays and said, “I’m staying.  I’m staying.”  

God never called us to flowery beds of ease.  God called us to be His workmen and His servants and His witnesses, and however it may turn in His gracious hands, to God be the glory.  Here I stand, so help me, amen; the tears of his discipleship, apostleship. 

Number two: the tears of his compassionate and shepherdly and seeking heart, “remember, by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” [Acts 20:31].  “Testifying both to the Jews, and to the Greeks” from house to house, “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” [Acts 20:21].

  Now, once again may I present the apostle Paul?  I don’t know how many times, world without end, do I hear at a convention, at an evangelistic conference, at a pastor’s meeting, read it in a Book, “This man is the greatest preacher since Paul!”And they will speak of some marvelous orator, some man of distinguished presence and majestic mean and glorious perorations.  I know what they mean when they say that, “This man is the greatest preacher since Paul!”  They think of a man of tremendous oratorical ability and glorious forensic presence.  In the tenth chapter, in the tenth verse of the second Corinthian letter, Paul describes what kind of a preacher he was, and how people responded to him when they saw him and heard him.  Paul quotes them saying, “His bodily presence is weak, and his speech is contemptible.”  That is what they said about him when they saw and heard him—greatest preacher since Paul, “weak and contemptible in presence and in speech.” 

Well, how did he do his work?  I would suppose that the greatest revival meeting outside of Nineveh that the world has ever seen is the revival meeting of the apostle Paul in the city of Ephesus.  All Asia, the Roman province of Asia, was turned to the Lord.  The seven churches of Asia were founded in that ministry.  The whole province was moved God-ward.  Well, how did he do it?  He tells these Ephesian elders, “Remember,” and then he describes it, ”by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” [Acts 20:31]; pleading from house to house, “testifying… repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” [Acts 20:19-20].  Can you conceive of a ministry like that?  With tears from house to house; pleading the cause, the faith, the blessing, the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ.  What an amazing ministry! 

I don’t see men like this much anymore, but when I was growing up, as a youth I would listen to L. R. Scarborough, president of our Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  And as I would listen to him at school, at the university, in revival, in a conference, my heart would be so moved and I remember so many things that he said. 

This is one.  He was holding a meeting in Hillsboro, down there in Central Texas, and there was a godly physician in the church who had a young partner, a young doctor, who was not a Christian.  And that older physician, the older partner prayed for the young doctor and took him to church.  And Dr. Scarborough preached that day on John 6:37: “He that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.”  And the young fellow was saved.  The young doctor came forward and gave his heart to Jesus.  And Dr. Scarborough said he let the young man testify, “How were you saved?”  And the young physician replied, “I was saved by the explanation of the preacher of John 6:37 and by the tears of this beloved physician who stands by me here.”  Isn’t it remarkable how little things like that stay in your heart?  “I was saved by the preaching of the gospel and by the tears of this beloved physician here. “ Did you know I have seen that world without end in my own work as an undershepherd? 

I remember one time going to a home to try to win a boy to the Lord Jesus.  I sat by his side in the living room and I opened my Bible and I talked to that boy about the Word of God.  How we are lost, God says so.  How we are to be judged for our sins, God says so.  And how in pity and mercy Jesus came to the world to make atonement for our sins, God says so.  And now He commands us to repent, to turn, and to accept the Lord Jesus, and to receive Him as our Savior.  And as I talked, I never saw a boy more indifferent, hardened like an old man.  I sat there and talked to that lad in despair!  Do you know, while I was speaking to him and falling into abysmal discouragement, there came into the living room his older sister.  And she took a chair and kind of sat by his side, kind of at an angle.  And as I continued to speak and plead with that boy, she buried her face in her hands like that, and the tears rolled between her fingers and dropped to the floor.  And as I spoke, that sister buried her face in her hands, prayed, and cried.  That boy would look at his sister and those tears dropping between her fingers.  And he would look back at me.  And he would look at his sister, and he would look back at me.  In no time he was under deep conviction.  And in no time, he was in the kingdom of God, saved by the testimony of the preacher, the Word of God, and by the tears of that sweet girl seated there.  There is power in it!  Paul describes it as such.  That was the basis, the reason for the great revival meeting in Ephesus: “Day and night with many tears, from house to house, testifying repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Third, “And when he had spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.  And they wept sore” [Acts 20:36- 37], tears of love and affection for the people of God.  This morning, I spoke about that in the message My Life and My Church; describing how I feel in other countries with people of a different language, of a different culture, different nationality, moved by their presence and their love for Jesus.  And now, because the sermon is to be placed in the third volume of my Expository Messages on Acts, I want to recount in closing why it is that we sing “Blessed be the Tie that Binds” at the close of our Lord’s Supper; moved by the spirit of the love and affection and fellowship of God’s people. 

 A few months after the Second World War, I was in Munich, Germany.  And the devastation was so vast, a wilderness of rubble, and our Baptist church in the city of Munich, of course, destroyed, bombed out, and the people scattered; so many of them killed.  And in the few months afterward, I attended the service, preached there—a little handful of people returning back to the city.  Their church had been utterly destroyed.  It was a heap of rubble.  And in some kind of a lean-to, propped up, with lanterns, the little wretched, miserable, destroyed, beaten group had regathered.  And I preached to them the best that I could.  How could you forget a service like that and a night like that? 

 Well, a few years passed, and I was back in Munich.  And Sunday morning, I attended the church alone, by myself.  No one knew that I was present.  I just quietly entered the church and worshipped with those dear people alone.  They had rebuilt their sanctuary.  It wasn’t finished; everywhere it was still in the making.  But they had rebuilt it enough in which they could hold their services.  And the pastor conducted them.  He was much crippled—he was very crippled.  I asked about him.  He had been grievously hurt in the war and was there leading the congregation as their pastor—so very wounded and crippled from that raging conflict. 

Then after the service was over, they observed the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, as we had planned to do here tonight.  And after the service was over, they all stood up, and I in their midst, and they joined hands, and I joined hands with those on either side of me, and they sang that song: “Blessed be the Tie That Binds.” 

Dear people, I couldn’t understand the services.  I’m not that proficient in German.  I couldn’t understand the sermon.  I could only know the hymn tune, the melody that they were singing. But as I sat there in the service, not understanding a sentence the preacher said, and as I sat there and listened to the singing, and as I stood there in joined hands with those dear people, singing the melody of, 

Blest be the tie that binds

Our hearts in Christian love;

The fellowship of kindred minds

Is like to that above,


And when we asunder part, 

It gives us inward pain; 

But we shall still be joined in heart,

And hope to meet again.

[“Blest Be the Tie; John Fawcett]


Why, bless your heart, I felt there with those strangers, I didn’t know anybody, not a soul could I name, couldn’t even understand the language, but as I sat there and listened, and stood there joining hands, my heart was in the presence of God Himself.  And I felt the communion and the fellowship, the koinonia, the sweetness of being with God’s people.  That’s what happened here; he kneeled down, and prayed, and they all wept tears of love, tears of joy, tears of gladness, tears of praise, tears of affection.  And that’s why when I came back home to Dallas, beginning at that next service of the Lord’s Supper, we stand and join hands and we sing:  “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds.”  It’s a fellowship like heaven.  It’s God’s presence in our midst.  It’s the people of the Lord loving Him and loving one another; the tears of Paul.

We’re going to stand and sing our invitation hymn, and while we sing it a family, a couple, a one somebody you, to give himself to Jesus, to put your life with us in the church; how welcome, how loved you will be.  This is God’s house.  These are God’s people.  The Lord moves in the life of our dear church.  He bids you come.  If you’ve never made a confession of your faith in Jesus, He waits, inviting just you.  If you already know the Lord, would love to be with us in this precious church, come, and welcome.  God speak to your heart; speak to your soul, that somebody lives on the inside of that house.  God bless you and please that you answer with your life.  Do it now.  Make the decision now, and in a moment when we stand, stand up walking down this aisle.  “Pastor, I’ve decided for Jesus.”  Or, “Pastor, putting my life in the service, and ministry, and love, and prayers of this wonderful church,” welcome, and angels attend you in the way while you come, as we stand and as we sing. 

Copyright © 2015 The W. A. Criswell Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

W. A. Criswell


Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 Corinthians 4:1  

W A Criswell in white suitThat first definition in the dictionary: this thing is a “mystery”—that is, by human reason it is incomprehensible; it is unfathomable; it is unknowable; it is inexplicable.  This thing is a “mystery.”  That’s the way you use the word. Now, the meaning of that word in ancient time and the use of that word in the Bible is not that at all.  It is altogether something else and something different.  Now this is anciently what the word “mystery” meant, and this is the way the word is used in the New Testament.  The Greek word is musterion, and it comes from the word mustes.  And a mustes was one who was initiated into the secret rites of an ancient—one of the ancient mystery religions. Now, in the ancient day, they had mystery religions, and an initiate into those religions was called a mustes; and it comes from the Greek word muo which is on the stem mumu which is made by closing your mouth, mu, m-u, mu.  The Latin word mutas, meaning “dumb,” is built on that.  And the English word “mute”—he’s deaf and dumb, he’s a mute—is built on that.  The word comes from the stem mu which means to close your mouth or to close your ears or to close your eyes to keep a thing secret: muo,mystesmusterion. Now, those mystery religions were the great religions of the ancient Greek world.  The most famous, I suppose, were the Eleusinian mysteries at Eleusis.  That was the state religion of Attica, of Athens.  It was the worship of Demeter, the goddess, and Persephone, her daughter—a goddess. And the people of the state of Attica, the Athenians, would make those pilgrimages down to Eleusis and there they were initiated into the mystery religion by which they were identified with the goddess and were assured of a happy, blissful immortality.  Now, that word musterion did not at all refer to a thing that was incomprehensible, that was unfathomable, that was inexplicable—what you’d call a mystery—but the word musterion referred to the secrets of the mystery religion that were revealed to those votaries who were initiated into that religion.  It might be easy to understand; it might be hard to understand; but in any event, the word referred to the secrets that were revealed to the initiated in the mystery religion. Now, that is the way the word is used here in the New Testament—that ancient word that refers to a secret revealed.  Here is something that has been kept hidden in the heart of God from the beginning of the world but is now revealed to the initiated.   Egypt had them: the mysteries of Isis and Osiris.  The Persians had it: the mystery of Mithraism.  They were the great religions, actually, of the ancient world. Now, they used that word in the New Testament to refer to those who are going to be initiated into the secrets of God.  Now, you’ll see the word used by Jesus in that way in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew.  He says:   Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. And the disciples came and said unto Him, “Why speakest Thou unto them in parables?” He answered and said, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given . . . Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing do not see, and hearing they do not hear.

[Matthew 13:9-1113]


You are going to be initiated into the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.  To them, they’re not going to be initiated.  They can’t see and they can’t hear.  But you, you’re going to understand the mysteries of the kingdom.  Now, may I take one other in explaining that word—Paul’s use of it here in the second chapter of the first Corinthian letter?  Now, you’re going to have a good explanation of it here in this second chapter of the first Corinthian letter:   And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony, the oracles, of God— the secrets of God, the revelations of God, the mysteries of God— For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect . . .

[1 Corinthians 2:1-24-6]

  All right, let’s look at that word “perfect.”  Now, when you use that word like you use it, “perfect”—“Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect” [1 Corinthians 2:6]—you mean by “perfect” one that’s without fault, without sin:  he’s perfect. The Greek word there is teleios, t-e-l-e-i-o-s, teleios, and it refers to one of those who has been initiated into the mystery religion and is not a novice any longer.  “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are teleios”—that are initiated into the religion.  Perfect, not without sin, not without error: doesn’t even refer to that—teleios:   We speak wisdom among them that are initiated— not a novice any longer, not a babe in Christ, but one who’s been initiated— yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to naught:— that pass away— But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:  Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, “Eye never saw it, ear never heard it, mind never conceived of it . . . But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit . . .

[1 Corinthians 2:6-10]

  We are initiated into those great secrets of God.  “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” [1 Corinthians 2:14].  You take a man out here in the world, he doesn’t know what it is—the mind and the Spirit of Christ.  He’s not initiated into those mysteries.  Now that’s the way the word “mystery” is used.  So we’re going to start now.  There are seven of those mysteries.  There are seven of those secrets that are in the heart of God from the beginning of the world, and they were revealed, seven of them were revealed, to the apostle Paul.  All right, the first mystery is the mystery of the incarnation.  That’s First Timothy 3:16First Timothy 3:16.  That’s the mystery of the incarnation.  This is the text:  “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:  God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”  That’s the mystery of what I’d call “the full gospel, the whole gospel”—the mystery of the coming of the Son of God in the flesh: “manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels . . .” [1 Timothy 3:16]. The angels, Peter said, desired to look into this thing [1 Peter 1:12], and they wondered.  They didn’t know what God was going to do.  They just watched and looked in awe.  And when He was born in Bethlehem, for just a moment, the curtain was pulled back and there the amazing presence of the angels of God as they beheld the wonder of this Child incarnate [Luke 2:8-15]—and the angels who ministered to Him in the wilderness [Matthew 4:11], and the angels who ministered to Him in Gethsemane [Luke 22:43], and they were with the Lord in the days of His passion.  Said Jesus, “Put up your sword!  If I were to say the word, there would be a legion of angels” [Matthew 26:52- 53]. “Seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles” [1 Timothy 3:16].  Most amazing thing, this thing of people turning to the gospel of Christ: “Believed on in the world, received up into glory” [1 Timothy 3:16].  That’s the first revealed mystery of God—the mystery of the incarnation, the full gospel of the Son of Man.  All right, all right, the second mystery revealed to the apostle Paul: Colossians 1:25-28,Colossians 1:25-28.  This is the mystery of the indwelling Christ.  Colossians 1:25:   Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to the saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man teleios in Christ Jesus.

[Colossians 1:25-28]

  Now when you read that, you say: “that we may present every man perfect, present every man without sin, without . . .” Brother, if I had the job of doing that, I’d quit right now.  Sinners all of us:  you, you.  Are you perfect?  Stand up there and tell this people so, would you?  Would you?  Would you, saints like you are?  Preacher’s wife all her life—can’t remember when she wasn’t a preacher’s wife—just stand up, anybody, and say, “Here I am, preacher.  I’ve been going to church forty years, and I’m now perfect.” Well, I don’t have any candidates.  What’s the matter with you?  Nobody going to stand up and say, “Here I am, preacher. I’m perfect?”  Doesn’t mean that—not referring to that.  Look:   This mystery . . . which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:  Which we preach, whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching men in all wisdom; that we may present every man teleios— that you might be initiated into the great secrets of God.

[Colossians 1:27-29]

  It’s a crime, I tell you, for God’s people to live all of their lives and know nothing about the great mysteries and revelations and teachings of God!  After they’ve been Christians forty years, don’t know any more about God, don’t know any more about the church, don’t know any more about the Bible than they did when they began.  Paul says his task is “to teach the people the wisdom of God that we may present every man teleios before the Lord” [Colossians 1:29]—that you might know the great secrets and the great revelations and the great meanings of the Word of God. Now, when your religion stops at John 3:16—we stand up, quote John 3:16, and that’s all we know about it.  We learned John 3:16 when we were children, and after forty years, that’s still all we know!  Paul says that’s not it, that’s not it.  These initiations into the great mysteries of God, we are to know them.  We are to love them.  We ought to understand them.  We ought to enter into them. I think one of the greatest manifestations of the favor of God upon us is the attendance here at these 8:30 services where we’re trying to learn the mysteries of the Lord, the great secrets of the Almighty that He’s revealed here in the Book.  And ninety-nine out of a hundred never understand, never know, never try.  They have no hungering or thirsting after them. We ought to grow in knowledge, in spiritual discernment, not being fed with milk as babes all our lives, but ready to eat strong meat [1 Corinthians 3:1-2].  Go out in the deep with the Lord.  Get out there!  The Lord likes it!  Simon Peter said, “Lord, if it’s You, let me come—let me walk on the water!”  And Jesus said, “Fine! I like a faith that will get over the board of the ship and walk on the water” [Matthew 14:28-29].  Well that’s—I’m just tellin’ you what Paul says, that’s all.  “This mystery, whom we preach, warning and teaching in all wisdom; that we may present everyone teleios in Christ Jesus” [Colossians 1:28]—fully initiated into all of the great truths of the Son of God. Now, I haven’t time to expatiate upon this mystery—this mystery I’d call the mystery of the new birth, the mystery Christ dwelling in you, the mystery of being born again, the mystery of how we get to be a member of the household of faith and a member of the body of Christ.  Oh, Nicodemus, when he heard Jesus talk about that mystery, Nicodemus said, “How could such a thing be?” [John 3:9].  And Jesus said, “Art thou a master in Israel, art thou”—the Greek is hodidaskalos, the teacher in Israel—“and you do not know these things?  You are not initiated into these wisdoms?” [John 3:10]  The mystery of Christ in us: regeneration [Titus 3:5], born again [John 3:3-8], members of the household of faith [Ephesians 2:8-9]. All right, the third mystery: the third mystery is the mystery of the church—Ephesians 3:1-10.  And I will take no further time on that because the last two services, I have spoken on that passage.  The mystery of the church—Ephesians [3:]1-10:   How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery . . . Whereby, when ye read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, but is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

[Ephesians 3:3-5]

  Namely, that the Gentiles and the Jews were to be together in a church, an organism called the church[Ephesians 3:6]—a thing that was hid from the old prophets and the old seers.  And they never saw it this long distance of time between the sufferings of Christ and the glory of Christ and the dispensation of grace in between—what we call the church age. That was a mystery.  It was something they didn’t see [Ephesians 3:5].  It was hidden in the heart and counsels of God until time came for it to be revealed.  That’s the third mystery, the mystery of the church: that Jew and Gentile should be together in one great body called the church [Ephesians 3:6]. All right, the fourth mystery––and I hastily go over this one.  I’ve spoken of it before.  The fourth mystery is the mystery of the blindness of Israel, and that is discussed in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans.  And I read just a verse: 25 and 26.  Romans 11:25-26—the mystery of the blindness of Israel. Did you ever face that in your life?  Here is the most devout Jew that you ever could sit by—and I’ve done it with them here in Dallas beside being over there in Palestine—and he loves the Bible, the Old Testament, and the prophets and the Law, and he loves God’s Word; and he reads the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, and he doesn’t see Jesus, and he’s not converted.  The most mystifying of all of the things in this world:  those devout people who worship Jehovah God and spurn the Lord Jesus Christ.  Listen to Paul.  That’s the fourth mystery:   I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.  But when that day comes, when that day comes, all Israel shall be saved.

[from Romans 11:25-26]

  Brother, would you ever think that?  Would you?  Would you ever know that by looking at Israel?  You’d never guess it in this earth, but it’s a mystery God reveals.  It’s a secret of God: “There shall come out of Sion a Deliverer, and turn away ungodliness from Jacob” [Romans 11:26].  “For this is My covenant: I will remember them for the fathers’ sakes” [Leviticus 26:45].  “I will not cast away My people” [Psalm 94:14,Lamentations 3:31Romans 11:2].  “I made a covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and I will keep it” [Leviticus 26:42], says the Lord God. That’s a mystery that’s in the heart of God.  Human reason would never know it.  That’s the fourth one. All right, now the fifth one: the fifth mystery is the mystery of the translation of the church.  When that final day comes, when the last one is added to the body of Christ, the fifth mystery is the mystery of the translation of the church.  That’s First Corinthians 15:50-58.  First Corinthians, fifteenth chapter, 50 to 58: this is the mystery of the translation of the church.  You call it “the rapture” of the church.   Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.  But, I shew you a mystery— “I show you a mystery.”  That is, this is something you’d never know.  It’s a secret hid in God you’d never find out.  It’s a revelation of God—  Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep— we’re not all going to die— but we shall all be changed— transfigured, translated— In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed. 

[1 Corinthians 15:50-52]

  Why, you could think and think and think and read Socrates and Plato and Aristophanes and Euripides and Marcos Aurelius and Schopenhauer five hundred million thousand years and you’d never know that.  It’s a mystery.  That is, it’s something that God had to reveal to us—this rapture, this translation of the church.  It’s something God tells us, hid in His heart.  That’s the fifth mystery. Let’s go to the sixth one real quick.  The sixth mystery is the revelation of the antichrist—the mystery of iniquity.  In the second chapter of the second Thessalonian letter, Second Thessalonians 2:1-9, that’s the sixth mystery:    Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto Him That ye be not soon shaken or troubled— Don’t you be discouraged; don’t you be.  Brother, we’re going to win this thing.  Yes, we are—  Let no man deceive you . . . that day will not come, except— “that day will come when,” if I could place it positively— when there is a great falling away, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitting in a temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

[2 Thessalonians 2:1-4]

  It’s going to be Satan incarnate right here before us.   Remember not, I told you these things? And know ye not what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth—

 [2 Thessalonians 2:5-7]

  And talking about the Holy Spirit—the reason that thing doesn’t come to pass right now, the reason the mystery of iniquity the antichrist—Satan—doesn’t possess us now is because of the restraining power of the Holy Spirit.  Were it not for the restraining power of the Holy Spirit in this world, this world would be vile like it was before the days of the flood [Genesis 6:5-8].  But when He’s taken out, then that mystery of iniquity that now works, the antichrist, the son of perdition, the man of sin will be revealed [2 Thessalonians 2:3-7]. Now the last one, real quick like.  The seventh mystery is the mystery of the bride of Christ—the bride of Christ, the church—the bride of Christ.  Now that’s in Ephesians 5:22-32.  Ephesians 5, verse 22 to 32: “Wives,” then he speaks of the wife and her husband, “As the husband is the head of the wife, so Christ is the head of the church.  Husbands, as Christ loved the church, gave Himself for it” [fromEphesians 5:22-25] and so on.  Now, the thirty-second verse: “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and His church” [Ephesians 5:32]—the bride of Christ, His church. And the last verse, hastily, quickly—Revelation 21:9, and 10, and [2]:   And the angel came unto me and talked with me, saying, “Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me the holy city, New Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

[Revelation 21:9-102]

  The last, the seventh, mystery revealed to Paul is the mystery of the bride of Christ adorned, decked out, dressed for the Lord Jesus Christ.  Oooh, the great good things of God! All right, Mr. Souther, we sing our song.  And while we stand and sing it, somebody, on the first note of that first stanza, to give himself to God or somebody put his life in the church.  Nobody leave until this benediction.  Somebody you, give your heart to God or your life with us in the church, you come on this first stanza while we stand and sing.