What A Man Soweth
October 21st, 1956 @ 10:50 AM
WHAT A MAN SOWETH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-21-56 10:50 a.m.
You’re listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Law of the Harvest. If I were a scientist, I would say "the law of compensation" or "the law of retribution" – "the law of cause and effect."
In our preaching through the Bible, last Sunday night we left off with the fifth verse of the sixth chapter of the Book of Galatians. This morning we begin with the sixth verse and go through the tenth, and tonight we begin at the eleventh verse and go through the fourteenth. Now, this is the reading of the passage for the morning:
Let him that is taught in the word communicate –
give, support –
him that teacheth in all good things.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
The announcement here Paul makes – "God is not mocked: what a man soweth, he shall reap. He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" [Galatians 6:7-8] – an objection could be made. We know that the law of the harvest obtains in the physical and natural world – sowing and reaping – but we are not convinced that that same law also obtains in the spiritual world.
But therein lies one of the finest and most cogent of all the arguments that I know for the one great design and purpose, the Intelligence, the Mind, that lies back of all of our created universe, whether physical or whether spiritual, for the same design and the same mind and the same workmanship and the same purpose and the same laws that operate in one operate also in the other. They are not two, but they are one.
I wish all of us could share in these services at 8:15 o’clock. This Sunday morning, I spoke on the first day: "God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light . . . and God divided the light" [Genesis 1:3-4]. Moses wrote that thousands of years ago.
God divided the light. Light is not one thing. It can be divided into many, many things. We have a certain visible range down here from the red up here to the violet. But below that red are infrared, gamma rays, radioactive rays – all kinds of rays – down there where a man could never see them. Up here above the violet are ultraviolet rays and rays beyond that and rays beyond that.
There are little living creatures in this world that the eye can never see. They’re so transparent that the visible light rays go through them without a shadow, but the ultraviolet rays immediately pick them out and there they are. If you went up and up and still beyond those rays, maybe you could see the whole spirit world of God. The rays that you hear as sound, same kind of a thing that you see as light except riding on a different frequency. And if you had eyes to see, you could see the angels. And if you had ears to hear, you could hear them sing.
"Aw, such stuff!" says the objectionist and the infidel. Ah, but the world is filled with music and this world is filled with things that my eyes can’t see. If I could make a little radio tube, I could hear them. If I have a television set, I could pick them out and see them. God’s spiritual world is like God’s natural and physical world. It is all the same.
In fact, God’s spiritual world is first. First, God was and the great spiritual laws that make Him and His activity work. And when God made our physical world, He followed that plan, and the same thing that obtains up there in God’s glory obtains down here in the terrestrial earth where we live. It’s the same Lord. It’s the same law. It’s the same design. It’s the same mind. The only difference is that God’s spiritual laws are implemented. They’re incarnate down here. They’re the same there as here except here the wheels are made out of iron.
You could say it like this. This great universe is two books written by the same finger of God. One book is physical, material, corporeal, tangible, and the other is spiritual, and intangible, and incorporeal. Or a better way to say it is this: it is one book in two volumes.
God has written large the great spiritual world above us and around us and in us, and then that same God has written large the physical world in which we live and breathe and have our being [from Acts 17:28]. But it’s the same Lord and it’s the same law and it’s the same world. In fact, all of them are interconnected. You cannot enter into one without ultimately touching them all. Take any source, start at any beginning, and when you get beyond the rudiments, you touch all of it. If I’m going to be an agriculturalist and learn agriculture, it isn’t long until I fall into botany and begin to study zoology, and then chemistry, and then meteorology, and all of it becomes one in the sight of the great Mastermind that made it.
Now, the teaching of Jesus is an eternal teaching. It’ll never perish. It’ll never pass away because the keen, marvelous, holy, divine mind of Christ reflected the infinite wisdom of God Himself. He could see the connectedness of things, and He taught just that. In the little simple things they’d find here in this natural world, He discerned the great spiritual laws of God – like He’d be teaching His disciples, "God will take care of you," then He’d point to the fowls of the air and the lilies of the field [Matthew 6:25-34]. God feeds the ravens, and God clothes the lilies [Matthew 6:26, 28].
Paul taught in the same way. These great laws of sowing and reaping, Paul said, were in the spiritual world [Galatians 6:7-8], like Jesus said, and any true teacher will teach that great truth. The man who scorns God and the mind of God and the genius of God has just enough knowledge to make him a fool! But the deep man who knows and understands and has probed into the great depths of the wisdom of the Almighty is the first man, whether in science or in theology, to fall down and worship Him who made all and is all in all.
Now, this great law of the harvest that Paul speaks of here: "God is not mocked," disregarded – never. He cannot be. "What a man soweth, that shall he reap. He that soweth unto his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption. He that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" [Galatians 6:7-8]. God did that, and you can’t spurn God. You can’t mock God. God made that an ironclad law in this world: sowing and reaping.
Now, that law is true in kind, and that law is true in degree. It is true in kind. That is, a man reaps that he sows, not something else. He expects to reap that. "Whatever a man sows, that shall he reap, shall he reap" [Galatians 6:7]. Everything has its price. And when the man pays the price, he gets that, not something else. The student’s knowledge – he pays for it, he reaps that: the medical man’s insight into anatomy and physical, bodily life; the engineer’s understanding of stress and strain, and great girders, and steel, and iron; the agriculturist’s skill in farming. What he sows, that does he reap, not something else.
That’s one of the great ironclad laws of God, and God’s not mocked or scorned. What you sow, you expect to reap that. "What a man soweth, that shall he reap" [Galatians 6:7].
He reaps it in kind – the same thing. You expect to reap what you sow. This is wheat I have sown. I’d be amazed, the whole world would, if it came up sorghum. This is an acorn that I have planted. I expect an oak, not a magnolia. This is a little elm I have planted. I expect it to grow to be a big elm. Here is a man who is trained in law; he’s not expected to be a man in medicine. Here is a man trained in agronomy; he’s not expected to be an engineer. You reap that you sow.
Then Paul applies that to our spiritual lives. He that sows to this life and to this flesh and to this body shall come to the time when the body, corrupting, shall reap with it a harvest of corruption. "But he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life eternal" [from Galatians 6:8] – not unending but the quality of life: a God‑reward crown in life. There’s no exception to that.
When I sow to the flesh [Galatians 6:8] – when my considerations are worldly or mundane, when my hopes are here, when my house is here, when my treasures are here – it corrupts when my body corrupts. My hand cannot hold it. Money cannot keep it. Money may buy a bed but not sleep. It may buy food but not appetite. It may buy medicine but not health. It may buy a house but not a home. It may buy pleasures and entertainment and amusement but not happiness and peace. It may buy a crucifix but not a Savior. These things are of the spiritual world and come from planting spiritual seed, but these other things are of the world and corrupt when the body corrupts. "He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption. He that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life eternal" [from Galatians 6:8].
Sowing to the flesh, the desires of this world – building a house and our treasures and our hopes here – and when the end comes, we corrupt. Our bodies corrupt, the ghastly hand of death laid upon us and upon these for which we have labored and toiled – the reward, the fruit, the reaping of our lives.
Man passing by saw a beautiful mansion surrounded by fertile fields and said, "How much is that estate worth?"
And his companion replied, "I cannot tell you. I cannot tell you its exact value, but I can tell you what it cost its late possessor."
And the man said, "How much?"
And the fellow replied, "His soul, his soul."
A wealthy parishioner dying, the English clergyman came to kneel by his bedside and to uphold him in that somber hour. And as the pastor knelt by the side of the bed, he offered his hand and said, "Would you give me your hand that I might pray for you for upholding in this hour of death?" But the man declined. And when the end came, they opened his rigid and pulseless hand, and on the inside of the hand was grasped the key to his safe.
Doth with what toil and with what labor and with what care do we sow to the flesh our treasures here, our houses here, our lives here, our hopes here. Then when the corrupting hand of death comes, it corrupts with us – sowing to the flesh, reaping corruption.
The grave to them is not the gateway to paradise. I have often thought – this is a harsh thing to say about my theological brethren – but I’ve often thought, the reason so many of my fellow religionists and fellow theologians greatly dislike the doctrine and the preaching and the teaching of the second coming of Christ is this: they are living for the wrong world. And the idea of the triumphant return of the Lord and His coming is distasteful to them for their plans and their hopes and their programs are here, not there. And if He were to come today, if He’d come in a moment, if He’d come in the eventide, if He’d come at the daybreak, then every hope they have, every plan and program they promulgated, has been immediately snapped away with the corrupting and decaying and judged earth. Which world are you living for?
If I could stand in a sacred place now and say, "My brethren, my friends, my people, announcement! Flash! In five minutes the Lord comes again!" – would you rejoice? Would you be glad? Would you lift up your face to the sky to meet Him in glory and in gladness? Just depends on the world you’re living for.
Some of you here – some of you here would lift up your face and say, "Oh, glory to God! There I’ll see my son again. There I’ll see my daughter again. There I’ll see my blessed mother again; there, my precious father again; there, my friends again; there, the treasures, rewards of life; there, my Savior. Oh, come, Lord Jesus!"
Some of you would say, "What of my lands and what of my houses? And what of my stocks and what of my bonds? And what of my life and what of the judgment day?" Just depends on the world you’re living for: sowing to the flesh to reap corruption, sowing to the Spirit to reap life everlasting.
I must hasten for I wanted to take time this morning to exegete this text – surely is different from what you think. I never in my life have been so surprised as I have been in these recent years of my ministry here in Dallas reading God’s Book – really reading it – studying God’s Word – really studying it. Just so different than what you think. Now you listen to an exegesis of this passage.
It starts at the sixth verse and goes to the tenth verse. Now, an exegesis is this: what the man meant, what he was talking about – not what we preach about it, not what we spiritualize, not the lessons we draw from it, but what the man said. What did he say and why did he say it?
All right, now, you listen to this exegesis. Paul is making an appeal to the churches in Galatia to support their ministry, to support the church. Now you have a translation here that you don’t get anything out of. Now, let’s start. "Let him that is taught in the Word" [Galatians 6:6] – that is the congregation. Here is your pastor. Here’s your minister up there pouring out his heart. He’s teaching the Word. "Let him that is taught communicate unto him." Now that doesn’t mean anything to you: "communicate unto him."
Well, let’s translate that "give" or "support." "Support him that teacheth." Support the ministry of the church. "For," says Paul – "for," says Paul – look at the ninth verse: we’re "not to be weary in that well doing" [Galatians 6:9]. The support of our church, we’re not to be weary in that well doing, "for in due season" – all that we pour into that ministry is seed – God will multiply "if we faint not."
You see, that leads me to my second avowal. You reap not only in kind, but you reap in degree. You expect to. Here’s a man plants his seed of wheat, he expects to reap up a hundred fold. He puts one seed and another seed, he expects to reap bushels. For example, in the ninth chapter of Second Corinthians, he says it like this: "This I say, he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully" [2 Corinthians 9:6].
Now, there are harvesters in degree. He is pleading with the churches there in Galatia to support the ministry, to be faithful in their stewardship. For, says Paul, God still lives. He’s not relegated. He’s not dead. If a man sows to his flesh, all he’s thinking about is himself. "How can I get this and keep it? Show me a way that I can get it and use it for myself."
If a man sows to selfish considerations and what he has he grasps and keeps – if a man sows to the flesh, then the harvest is failure, despair, disappointment, corruption. But he that soweth to the Spirit – that is, he’s giving what he has to God, he’s investing what he has in the Lord, he’s supporting God’s church and God’s ministry – he shall reap a harvest too. He shall reap life everlasting, eternal. That doesn’t mean unending – just existence on and on – but it means the quality of life [John 17:3]. He shall reap a life eternal: God’s life, a reward only God can give.
Then the appeal: "Let us not be weary in well doing" [Galatians 6:9]. Evidently, they had a tendency to do that, and all of us do. All of us do. You have a tendency to grow weary in well doing. "Why, I just think what I could do with this. Just think what I could buy with that. Think how I could use this. Think how I could spend it on myself. Think how all the time it takes down there and the gifts it takes down there, think how I could do if I could just do that on myself."
"Don’t you be that way," says Paul. Not weary. Not weary. For some of these days, when a man has denied himself, given to God, when a man has taken what he has and bestows it not on his flesh, not on himself, but invests it in God, some of these days in due season, ye shall reap [Galatians 6:9]. Ye shall reap.
Sowing and reaping. If I sow it to myself, I reap corruption. When my body dies, it dies. If I sow it with Christ, I shall reap in degree a hundredfold the great rich rewards God hath in store for those who love Him, some of which come to us now, most of which are ours by and by [John 10:10; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4].
There’s a great principle there in Paul. Oh, how many times does he speak of it in the great fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, the resurrection chapter:
Death, where is thy sting? Grave, where is thy victory?
Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
[1 Corinthians 15:55, 57-58]
Don’t you be weary in well doing concerning that collection [from 1 Corinthians 16:1]. Oh, that’s another chapter. "Well, some man put that in there. God never put that in there. Man did that." No, sir! That’s part of the same passage: "Oh, death,Thanks be to God!" [1 Corinthians 15:51-57]:
Therefore, my brethren, beloved, be ye steadfast, unmovable, abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know your labor’s not in vain in the Lord.
And concerning that collection, as I gave order unto the churches of Galatia, so do you.
First day of the week will each one of you lay by him in store as God has prospered him.
[from 1 Corinthians 15:58-16:2]
"There’ll be no high‑powered, impossible situations when I come and stand up to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ" [from 1 Corinthians 16:2].
Now, that’s the exegesis of the passage. That’s what he was talking about. And that’s what Paul is preaching to our hearts today.
Could I sum it up just in a sentence then I quit? Sum it up in just a sentence. No act, and no deed, and no gift, and no program, and no investment, and no time, no love, no faith ever committed unto God ever goes without its harvest – never goes without its reward. The Lord makes it to grow and He multiplies it not only in kind – sow to the Spirit, sow to God, sow to Christ, sow to His kingdom and you reap all the rich rewards – not just that but multiplied a hundredfold. No thing in Christ dedicated to Him shall ever fall to the ground. "Be not weary" [Galatians 6:9]. Don’t you be discouraged. Don’t be fainthearted. Don’t let your hands drop. No. "For in due season, we shall reap" [Galatians 6:9]. God gives us that glorious reward in degree, in kind, multiplied a hundredfold.
Why, you look at it. You look at it. Here is a man. Here is a man who has suffered with Christ. Some of these missionaries I’ve seen, especially, they have suffered with Christ. What does God’s Book say? They shall reign with Christ [2 Timothy 2:12].
What does God’s Word sayest? Here is a man who in the name of a prophet has received the prophets. God says he shall receive a prophet’s reward [Matthew 10:41]. Here is a man who has received a good man in the name of a good man – supported him. God says he shall receive the good man’s reward. Here is someone who, in the kindness of his heart, has given a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of Christ – didn’t have anything else to give, gave him a cup of water to drink. He receives his reward [Matthew 10:42]. Here is a sweet, blessed woman, and all her savings is in an alabaster box, and she breaks it and pours it upon the Lord [Matthew 26:7-12]. "Verily," says the Lord, "Verily, wherever a man preaches the gospel, this shall be said as a memorial for her" [Matthew 26:13]. Here is someone who visits, knocks at the door, and Jesus said: "Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these, you did it unto Me. For I was there and you were visiting Me" [from Matthew 25:40]. All of those things – all of those things and you reap, and you reap, and you reap.
And how much more in this appeal that I make, and how much more when a man comes down the aisle, takes the pastor by the hand and says, "Pastor, by the grace and mercies of Christ, I stand here unashamed to confess my faith in the Lord Jesus." What shall he reap? What shall he reap? Here is a family that comes, and they put their life with us in the church to pray with us and to help us in this ministry. What shall they reap? What shall they reap? Here are these that dedicate themselves again, anew, to the service, and ministry, and faith of the Lord Jesus. What shall they reap? What shall they reap?
God is not mocked. What you sow, you reap: If we sow to the flesh, corruption; if we sow to the Spirit, to God and to the work of God, everlasting life. Be not weary for in due season God has His rich and illimitable rewards [Galatians 6:7-9].
We sing to that end this morning. Somebody you, put your life with us in the church. Somebody you, take the Lord Jesus as your Savior. Somebody you, down that aisle, trusting Christ, coming for baptism. However God shall say the word, open the way, would you come and stand by me? It’s of the Lord or it’s nothing. It’s of the Spirit or it falls to the ground. If the Lord bids, if He speaks, into the aisle and down to the front, would you come? Would you come while we stand and while we sing?
WHAT A MAN SOWETH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Objection – law of sowing and reaping does not apply in spiritual world
B. Answer – same Creator made both the visible and the invisible
1. The spiritual, the invisible, is first
C. God has written one book – spiritual and physical creation closely interwoven
1. Teaching of Jesus
2. Teaching of Paul, and of any true teacher
D. Law of sowing and reaping illustrated by Paul in kind and in degree
II. In kind
A. What a man sows, he expects to reap, not something else
B. In God’s spiritual world there are two alternatives
1. Sowing to the flesh, to the world, we reap corruption
a. "Value of the estateâ€¦his soul"
b. English clergyman at the bedside of wealthy parishioner
2. Sowing to the Spirit we shall reap life everlasting
III. In degree
A. Paul is making an appeal to the church to support their ministry
1. Koinonia is a sharing, a communion; translated here "communicate"
B. We reap in degree(Galatians 6:9-10, 2 Corinthians 9:6-8)
C. The rich rewards God has in store for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 15:55-16:2)
D. Nothing dedicated to Christ shall ever fall to the ground(Matthew 25:40, 26:13)