The Church Washed in the Loutron
March 23rd, 1986 @ 8:15 AM
THE CHURCH WASHED IN THE LOUTRON
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-23-86 8:15 a.m.
May we turn to fifth chapter of Ephesians, chapter 5? Ephesians chapter 5. It is a joy for us here in the First Baptist Church of Dallas to welcome the multitudes of you who share the hour on radio. You can remember that tomorrow morning at high noon and each day through this week we will be here in our seventieth annual pre-Easter services, and you are welcome to come. The pastor will be delivering the messages, five of them, on "God-answered Questions." You have the passage? Ephesians chapter 5; we begin at verse 25. Now in the presence of the Lord, may we stand together and read to the end of the chapter. Ephesians 5:25:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it;
That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
Now may we be seated?
The church Christ loved: "Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it; That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." There is a word there that nobody in heaven or in earth knows why they wanted to translate it with the word "washing." I have studied the best that I can, and nobody yet knows why they translated that word "washing." The word is loutron; that’s the word in Greek, loutron. The word in Hebrew is kiyyÃ´r, kiyyÃ´r,. And the Hebrew word kiyyÃ´r, and the Greek word loutron is the word for that laver that was placed in the tabernacle and later in the temple, between the high sacrificial altar and the door of the sanctum sanctorum. Why they wanted to translate that "washing" nobody knows. But what Paul wrote is that we have a loutron, we have a kiyyÃ´r, of water by the word, in the word. We have a cleansing, a sanctifying, in the word of God; and he uses the spiritual picture of the kiyyÃ´r,, the loutron, the laver in which the priest washed his hands and washed his feet before he appeared in the Holy Place of God. And he likens the church that – he thinks of the church in terms of our being washed, our being bathed in the kiyyÃ´r, in the loutron; that is, in the word, he says, "in the Word of God".
Now my brief message – and it has to be very brief – my brief message is, what would the church be like if it were bathed in the word, if it were washed in the kiyyÃ´r? There are several things about it that immediately came to my heart and will to yours. If the church is bathed in the loutron, bathed in the word, washed in the word, as Paul says, it would be a church of prayer; always that first. The Lord said, "My house," quoting the Old Testament, Isaiah, "My house shall be called a house of prayer" (Isaiah 56:7). He [Jesus] said in Luke 18, verse 1, "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint." In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, "Paul kneeled down, and prayed with them all" [verse 36]. In [Luke 18:1]: "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint."
Dear people, you would have had to have lived through it to know what I now try to describe. I was called as undershepherd of the church in September of 1944. And the first Sunday in October, I came here to preach as the new pastor of the church, forty-three years younger than Dr. Truett. My text was Make it a Matter of Prayer, Make it a Matter of Prayer. And when I got through preaching, I knelt by the side of this pulpit and prayed. That was the first time the church had ever seen anyone kneel in prayer. They had never seen anyone kneel here in prayer before. And I do not know what happened – one of those visitations inexplicable from heaven – when I knelt down and began to pray, the entire congregation – and it was jammed to capacity, come here to see the new pastor – when I began to pray, the entire congregation burst into tears, just weeping before the Lord. The Presence was so dynamically, inwardly felt. That’s God. That’s the Lord. That’s the acknowledgement of the presence of Jesus. And I repeat: if the church is bathed in the loutron, if it is bathed in the kiyyÃ´r, it’ll be a house of prayer; it will be a place where people pray.
A second thing: if it’s bathed in the kiyyÃ´r, it’ll be a church of witness. In Acts 1:8, as the Lord ascended into heaven, He said, "Ye shall be My witnesses," then He named it, "in the city, Jerusalem, in the state, Judea, in Samaria, in the nation, and to the uttermost parts of the earth"; testifying, witnessing, speaking a good word for Jesus. And that doesn’t have to be strange or far out: if you love the Lord, given opportunity, given an opportunity it will be as natural to say a good word about Him as it is to breathe, or to greet one another in gracious kindnesses.
I went this past week with Denny Dawson to a meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. And he was dumbfounded to hear me say, "In the sixty years that I have been a pastor, in the sixty years I have been a pastor, knocking world without end from door to door, visiting, I have never been rebuffed in my life, not once." And I’ve talked to the Lord only knows where around this world, and to uncounted different kinds of people; in all of the sixty years I have never been rebuffed, not once. I’ve been graciously declined in the invitation I pressed; but always, it seems to me, with appreciation, that I said a good word about my Lord.
A third: if the church is bathed in the kiyyÃ´r, in the loutron, it’ll be a supported church; all of us, all of us. I read where a fellow, a pastor, was asked, "How many members are in your church?" He said, "I have 1,119." Then the second question: "How many tithers do you have in your church?" And he said, "I have 1,119." And the man who asked the question was overwhelmed. "You’ve got 1,119 members and you’ve got 1,119 tithers?" How could it be? And the pastor replied, "About one hundred of them bring the tithe to the church, and the other God collects it."
I want to tell you something: you will not keep that tenth for yourself, you won’t do it. You will not do it. I have experimented with that, just to be sure that when I would make an avowal like that it would be true. And I have talked, for one thing, to the richest man in the world, and I have talked to the richest families in the world, and I have talked to the poorest. God collects that tithe. I can bring it to Him and be blessed, or if I don’t something is going to happen. I’ll make a wrong investment, I’ll make a mistake; or I will come into a tragic providence; or I’ll become ill. There’s something going to happen, and God will collect that tenth. It’ll cost that tenth. How much better to come before the Lord: "Lord, thank You for breath, and thank You for my eyes, thank You for my hands and feet. Thank You for my house and home. Thank You for Jesus. And thank You, Lord, this is just the token of the depths of the gratitude of my soul. Dear blessed Jesus, thank You." And God will look down upon it and remember you.
A church blessed in the washing of the word, in the kiyyÃ´r, he says, "I want to present it to Myself; that He might present it to Himself, that He might be pleased with it" – like the Revelation says, "a bride adorned for her husband" [Revelation 21:2] – that He might present it to Himself holy, hagiazo, holy, kadosh, holy, holy, holy." [Ephesians 5:26-27]. Remember what I’ve said about that word "holy," about kadosh, about hagiazo? What it means is this belongs to God, it is sanctified unto the Lord. And don’t you think that someone who is given to God, that that someone ought to be pulled out of the world? Don’t you think that an addition to God ought to be a subtraction from the world? Holy, sanctified, that is, separated unto God, each one of us making up the assembly of the Lord.
It’s an ekklesia, translated "church," that is an assembly, the word means "an assembly"; God’s collected, gathered people. And there is to be no such thing as an unassembled church; just couldn’t be. Holy and separated unto to God, and here we are assembled unto the Lord, added to the house of faith, the redeemed family; and that means subtracted from the world.
Young people, when I was your age, when I was your age, I visited a church in a city; I had a wonderful friend in the church, a young minister. And in that church there was a girl, your age; there was a girl, beautiful child, a girl, teenager. And the family was worldly, and they made the girl go to dances and parties, and her heart wasn’t in it. And that particular night, that particular night they dressed her up beautifully – they were wealthy people – they dressed her up beautifully, called the chauffeur, put her in the car, the limousine, and sent her off to the dance. But that night, there was an all-day prayer meeting by the young people for the revival, for the revival. And when that child got in that limousine, dressed beautifully for the dance, when she got in that limousine and the family told the chauffeur to take her to such and such ballroom, when the chauffeur drove away she said to him, "I want you to take me to the church. You take me to the church, not to the ballroom. You take me to the church." And then she set a time, I think it was about one o’clock in the morning, "You come and get me at the church at one o’clock in the morning." And when she entered the prayer meeting, can you imagine the astonishment of those other young people there – dressed in all of her beautiful gown and jewelry?
Now, what I’m saying is, young people, when you went to the dance, count them: these are they who are at the dance. One, two, three of them, six, seven, eight, nine, ten of them; these are at the dance. Now let’s count them at the prayer meeting: these are the young people at the all night prayer meeting, one, two, three, four, and that girl. I’m just avowing that an addition to God ought to be a subtraction from the world; it just ought to be. We belong to heaven, to the pilgrim family of Jesus, and we don’t belong out there, and we don’t belong over there. We belong here in the family of God. "Holy, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, washed in the kiyyÃ´r, in the word, glorious" [Ephesians 5:26-27]. Did you know that’s the word doxa? And doxa is our wonderful, wonderful doxology; doxa, doxa, is the word for "glory," doxa. That’s great! When we come to the house of God, that’s like living at the best, and at the highest, and at the most glorious extremities of God’s goodness; doxa, a glorious church, a happy church.
One of these sorry, no-count, good-for-nothing congregations that felt that when you come to church, you ought to, you know, you can’t smile, you shouldn’t greet anyone, and you shouldn’t be happy; you ought to be – one of the young people went out and looked at a donkey and said, "You sure would make a good member of our church."
A fellow asked another guy, "Have you been to church?"
"No," he said, "I’ve just been sick."
It’s a glorious thing, it’s a doxa, it’s a glorious thing to go to church. We have a good time. No brown aftertaste, no dark hangover. It’s a wonderful thing. "I was glad, I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord" [Psalm 122:11]. Not like dumb-driven, a galley slave, but a rejoicing, a gladness. "This is wonderful! Man, we’re on the way; we’re up."
Do you notice, it’s a church that is loving: "Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it" [Ephesians 5:25]. So we ought to love the Lord, and we ought to love the church; a loving church, loving church. Loving our little children, dear me! I met a mother coming to church this morning, right out there; I met a mother, and the little baby had puked all over the front part of her dress. Oh dear! And I went up to her and she seemed to be embarrassed. I said, "Listen honey, that’s the sweetest thing in the world. That’s just wonderful, coming to church with that little-bitty baby." That’s great. That’s God! That pleases Jesus, a loving church, loving our little children.
And what shall I say about our teenagers? This last week, this last week – Judge, could you take that part of this? "We love you, pastor." What does it say? The teen? The what? "The youth of First Baptist Church Dallas?"
"We love you, pastor. The youth of First Baptist Church Dallas." And what you can’t see back there is, starting on the extreme edge here and going clear to where the Judge holds it there, are personal notes to me from these teenagers, every, just from one side to the other. That’s great! That’s reward! That’s stipend enough. That’s worth more than all the church has ever paid me since I’ve been here in forty-two years. That’s just wonderful. Our teenagers and our young people, and that’s why we’re building and remodeling this house for them. That’s their building. That’s the youth building. That’s theirs. And with Doug Wood and Warren Samuels and these men who work with them, we’re going to have the greatest, finest teenage program in this earth. And I rejoice at the thought!
May I say just one other? And my time is already gone. May I say just one other? A church that is washed in the kiyyÃ´r, that’s bathed in the loutron, that is bathed in the Word, it’d be a pilgrim church: our eyes are on another land. Our eyes are looking for a city whose builder and maker is God [Hebrews 11:10]. Our destiny is not in this world, nor in a grave, nor in a cemetery: our destiny is in the New Jerusalem, the city of the Lord Jesus Christ. And to think He is our Friend and our Savior, Jesus my Lord! He is with me in this life, and in the hour of death and darkness, and in the world that is yet to come. My heart overflows when I think of the presence of the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
The golden sun, the silvery moon,
And all the stars that shine
Were made by His omnipotent hands,
And He is a friend of mine.
When He shall come with trumpet sound
To head the conquering line,
The whole wide world will kneel at His feet,
And He is a friend of mine.
[From "He’s a Friend of Mine"; John H. Sammis, 1910]
The Lord God Himself is my personal fellow pilgrim, fellow traveler, my Friend and my Savior.
Lord God, how could I ever praise Thee, and thank Thee, and love Thee enough?
We’re going to sing us a song, and while we sing the hymn, to give your heart to the blessed Jesus, or to come into the fellowship of our dear church, or to answer some call of the Holy Spirit in your heart, make that decision just this moment, this precious moment. Then, when we sing our song, in the balcony, down one of those stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles: "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand." A thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.