The Mastership of Christ
Sermon delivered at Moody Tabernacle by Dr. William Evans on Sunday January 4, 1922
(Stenographically reported. Not revised by the speaker).
John 13:12-14. “So when he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and sat down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
“Ye call me Teacher and Lord and ye say well, for so I am.
“If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
Matthew 23:1-10. “Then spake Jesus to the multitudes and to his disciples,
“Saying, the scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat.
“All things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe; but do not ye after their works, for they say and do not.
“Yea, they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.
“But all their works they do to be seen of men; for they make broad their phylacteries and enlarge the borders of their garments,
“And love the chief place at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
“And the salutations in the marketplaces, and to be called of men, Rabbi.
“But be not ye called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, and all ye are brethren.
“And call no man your father on the earth; for one is your Father, even He who is in heaven.
“Neither be ye called masters, for one is your master, even the Christ.”
Matthew 7:21-23. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works?
“And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
I want to speak to you this morning upon the Mastership of Christ. It is a splendid word—that word “MASTER”—in whatever realm you find it, and there is something about the word that captivates. We may have masters in Art, Literature, Painting, Sculpture—masters in any sphere of nature.
I was walking down the street yesterday, and I saw outside of one of the theaters a wooden picture of Jack Dempsey, and I saw a lad of about fourteen step up to that picture and look at it and then lifted up both his hands and put them around Dempsey’s wooden fist. Dempsey is a master, even though in a brutal realm, and there is something about mastership in any domain of life, I care not whether it be General Foch of the Allied Armies, or whether it be the section foreman of a gang of workmen on the railroad tracks. Master is a great, big, fascinating, compelling word.
Mastership may be an idea. The Kaiser had an idea that he was called to be the Emperor of the world, and that idea became an obsession. It completely mastered the German people. It was a master passion.
Mastership may be a person. Paul had no honor, and no friend but Christ. Paul said, “To me to live is Christ,” and for Christ, he surrendered himself and his all.
No man is big enough to have two master passions. No man is big enough to have two masters. We know that, even if Jesus had not said it. No man can serve two masters, for either he would hate the one, and love the other, or he would hold to the one, and despise the other. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
It ought not to be necessary to say to the Christian that Christ is his master, and yet I am here to say that we need to re-affirm that again and again—that not you, but Christ is master. “Ye call me Master, and Lord, and so I am.”
If Christ is not Master in your life, you are not a Christian. If you give allegiance to any other person in your life than Christ, you are not a Christian. If any one else controls your life, you are not a Christian.
Jesus Christ is not an adviser; He is a counselor. He is not merely a Saviour. He died that He might be Saviour and Lord, and Jesus Christ is Lord in your life and mine, or He is not Saviour.
Many will say to me in that day, Master. Why call me Master, and do not the things that I say? Did we not cast out demons in thy name? Not every one that saith, Master, but he that doeth the will of my Father in Heaven.
The Supremacy of Christ
There is no more important subject for the Christian to consider than the Mastership of Christ. If you take the word, “Master,” in your revised version, you will find that it is the translation of seven different Greek words.
There is some blessing in the study of the original text. You get the blessings of the Doctor’s study when he sits down and writes his prescription.
Master translated in the Revised Version is the translation of seven Greek words, and these seven words are divided into three groups. The first group is that in which Christ is said to be master of my head, intellect, my thinking and my praying. The second group has to do with my heart, my affections, my feelings, my love, my emotions. The third is the words which refer to him as my superintendent, or the director of my actions. In other words, he controls my feet, and my hands; my service and my labor.
The mastership of Christ covers the whole of the Christian’s life, in head, heart, feet, thinking, feeling, serving. Master in your thinking, in your affections, in your service. It is a wonderful study. I wish I had five hours to talk to you on the Mastership of Christ, and cover the ground—head, heart and hands. All I can do is to send you away irritated, that I have not said more, and seeking to know more.
An old lady was riding through to California. She saw all the desert land, then she said, this would be a wonderful country if it had some “irritation.” Of course she meant “irrigation.” What I want to do this morning is to send you away in a sense of irritation, because I have not said enough. If I can send you away this morning to think more of the mastership of Christ, I will have done well.
Christ Controller of Thought
Make Christ the master of your thinking; make Christ the master of your head; of your brain. If you were going into the Temple at Jerusalem you would find, first, an outer court; then as you went past the outer court you would come into a place that brought you a little nearer to God. It was called the Holy Place. In it was the Table of Shewbread, the Laver, and the Altar of Incense. A step farther and you came into the most Holy Place, where you meet God. No light, for He was the light. God in the Holy Place—most holy.
“Thou art a teacher.” Some people look upon Christ as a teacher, and they compare Him with other great teachers that have lived. They say He is a teacher only. That is not very wonderful. There are some people who are in that court. There are others who take a step farther, and who say He is a Rabbi. Nicodemus said, “Thou art a teacher.” When a man comes nearer to the Christ, he says, Rabbi—my teacher. When he comes to the highest place, he says, Rabboni—my very dear teacher. Supreme, complete master, and you cannot say that without ecstasy.
The word occurs but twice in the Gospels. Once where the lame man said, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.” The other was when Mary was standing by the tomb, and He walked down and said, “Mary,” and she recognized the name, and said, “Rabboni.” Those are the three attributes that men assume to the Christ. A Teacher; My Teacher; My Very Dear Teacher.
It is not strange that Christ should claim the mastership in the thinking of the Christian. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
The mind, the thought, the brain,—that is the controlling factor in every one’s life, and it is not strange therefore that Jesus Christ should claim supremacy in that realm.
When Christ was here upon earth, that supremacy and mastership was challenged. For example, the Scribes had been recognized teachers among the Jews. When Jesus came and began to teach, he came into conflict with the Scribes. When the Scribes say that the people were following this teacher, Jesus, then they said, “We will kill him.” That was true of the Pharisees; it was true of the Sadducees—the three classes that had been accepted as authority by the Jews for centuries.
Opposition of Worldly Wisdom
They said, Who is this that does challenge our authority of the things of the nations? Who is he? What right have you? The people said, he spake with authority, and men by the thousands followed him, and let the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, and the Scribes alone. Jesus had to meet opposition in His mastership.
Paul met this same opposition. “I did not come to you in the wisdom of men,” said Paul. And he had to constantly fight the scholars of the day. Paul’s greatest conflict was with the philosophy and the scholarship of his day.
One thing I like about Paul’s method. When he went to Athens and Corinth, he tried to meet these men on their own ground, and he could not do it. Faith is not rational. It is super-rational. There are things in life that cannot be explained by reason. It is faith that lays hold of God. The world, by reason or wisdom, never found God.
That was what Paul was teaching in Greece, and it was necessary to save men by the simplicity of the preaching of the cross of Christ, and Paul taught the cross of Christ to the Greeks. The preaching of the cross was to them foolishness, but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.
It was a wonderful day, that day when Saul of Tarsus, brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, the man whose thirteen or fourteen letters are before us now—that man Paul, bowed his neck and took the simplicity of the cross of Christ before the wisdom of Gamaliel, and the Greeks.
Do you know what it is to be considered a fool for Christ’s sake? We want degrees at the end of our names, that will give us standing and prestige. Paul says, I am become a fool for Christ’s sake. The simplicity that a man is saved by faith, and not by scholarship—Paul laid hold of that.
Paul tried to answer with logic; Paul tried to answer with philosophy, and he lost out, then he said, “I am determined to know nothing among you but Christ and Him crucified.” He learned his lesson.
Dr. Griffith Thomas told me last summer an interesting story. It happened at Oxford. A wave of skepticism had broken out among the students. Something must be done, and so they arranged for one of the greatest scholars in the church in England to deliver a course of lectures. He began with a congregation and at the beginning of the fourth lecture he had only an audience, and a very small one. He was trying to meet scientific difficulties from the standpoint of science, and you cannot do it. The cross of Christ—faith—that is your weapon.
Then Mr. Moody came along. God wonderfully gave him power, and Oxford was swept, and hundreds were saved for God. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal; they are spiritual.
Paul had his difficulties, and Paul knew how to handle them. He did not meet steel with steel always.
We are talking about setting apart certain men of learning. I have nothing to say against that. I wish we had more scholars. Mr. Moody did not have it, but he saw that his boys had it.
No man is saved by cleverness, or by scholarship. Just as Christ had His place of supremacy in the intellect, just as Christ was challenged, so are we challenged today.
Our boys and girls are taught in school today that science is master in thinking. That the miracles in the Old and New Testament are discredited. That Jesus did not turn water into wine at all. These miracles are not to be accepted. They are contrary to the uniformity of natural law.
I have nothing against science or philosophy. I wish I had more of it, but the scientist is an absolute ignoramus in the realm of faith. A man can see more on his knees than a philosopher can on the top of Mt. Lowe in Washington.
Rivals to Christ
When any book, any scholarship, whenever any higher education, or philosophy or science causes you to think less of God, less of your Bible, less of Christ, when it unfits you for prayer, for worship and for service, when it robs you of a confidence in God that you used to have, then, I say, it is time to put it into a dungeon; put a rope around its neck.
What books are you reading? Do they make you think less of Christ when you are through reading them? Do they make you think less of your Bible? What studies are you taking? Do they cause you, when on your knees in prayer, to have doubts in your mind? Then, I say, these things are claiming the mastery of your life, and they must be put in the dungeon, and under sentence of death, where they belong. Christ must be supreme in the realm of your faith, and He will be if you are a Christian. “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is better for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee, for it is better for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”
Of course you may be handicapped. You have Christ, and He is all in all. And when you have Him, you have all the sciences, botany, astronomy. Is it botany? Then He is the lily of the valley, and the fairest of ten thousand. Is it astronomy? Then He is the bright and morning star.
Not only the Shepherds came to Christ, but the “Wise Men of the East,” and the brainy men came to the manger. The greatest thinkers in the world have been Christian men. The late Dr. Talmadge was talking with Mr. Gladstone one day, and he said: Do you know I find a lot of people in America who are saying the Gospel is all right for the women, and children, but the scholars do not pay any attention to it. Gladstone said, Dr. Talmadge, I want to say this: In my forty-eight years of public life, I have known all the big men at the top in Great Britain, and out of seventy-four big men that I have known, sixty-nine were “out-and-out” for Christ.
Who was the greatest statesman? Gladstone, the Christian. Who was the greatest writer of law? Blackstone, the Christian.
My parting word to you this morning is this. I have not time to speak of your affections and your service, but only of your mind. Examine your thinking. What books are you reading? What studies are you taking? What effect have they on your Christian life, on your thinking, on your ideas of Christ? If they glorify Christ, and if they give God first place, well and good. If not, it is your business at once to surrender every thought that is against Christ. It is for you to decide, by your knowledge of Scripture, whether it affects your prayer life or not.