When the Spirit Is Come
January 16th, 1966 @ 10:50 AM
WHEN THE SPIRIT IS COME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
John 16: 7-11
1-16-66 10:50 a.m.
On the television and on radio, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. Now the sermon this morning is entitled When the Spirit is Come. In the last part of the fifteenth chapter of John, the Savior said, "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me" [John 15:26]. Then in the middle of the next chapter, in the sixteenth chapter of John, the Lord said further:
I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.
And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
Of sin, because they believe not on Me;
Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more;
Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged already.
Now, the Lord uses three words there that we’re going to follow briefly. "The Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit"; and it’s unusual that in the Hebrew language, and in the Greek language, the language in which the Old Testament was written, and the language in which the New Testament was written, there is an identical word in both languages that is translated "spirit." In the Hebrew it is ruach, ruach. That’s their ordinary word for "breath," for "wind."
And in the Greek language it is identical and the same: pneuma, pneuma, "breath, wind, spirit." For example, in John 4:24, Jesus says, "pneuma ha theos, God is Spirit." And the sentence is arranged with the emphasis upon pneuma, "breath, wind, spirit." The imagery that lies back is one of tremendous power. All of us in Texas are familiar with a tornado and its devastating effect. These great trains hurtling down a track are controlled by pneuma, "air, breath, wind."
A foreman in a vast granite quarry in Dean Willis’s state of North Carolina, the foreman said, "We provided the granite for the municipal building in New York City." And he said, "I can raise an acre of granite ten feet thick to any height that we please." And one of the members of the group said, "How?" And he said, "With air, pneuma."
It also has in it the imagery of gentleness, so easily dismissed, so quiet, like a dove so gentle, a dove, pneuma, "spirit," the presence of God. Do you remember the story in the life of Elijah, when he stood at the entrance of the cave? And there was a great and mighty storm and God was not in the storm. And there was a mighty earthquake. God was not in the earthquake. Then there was a furious fire and God was not in the fire. Then a still, small voice; and God was in the stillness [1 Kings 19:11-12]. Pneuma, breath; so easily dismissed as a man can shut out a whole glorious sunset just by closing his eyes, or shut out the chalice of God’s blue sky and universe just by closing his eyes, so a man can so easily dismiss the breath, the pneuma, the Spirit of God from his life.
Then the Lord uses another word here: "But when the Comforter is come,It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come," Comforter [John 16:7]. There’s not a word in the English language, nor in any other language that I’m familiar with, that is able adequately to catch the meaning of that Greek word parakletos. In some of these Bibles that Zondervan publishes, they just take the Greek word and spell it out, "Paraclete, Paraclete," parakletos. Para, alongside, parallel, para; kaleo, "to call"; the one called alongside, our exhorter, our interpreter, our guide, our keeper, our delight, our teacher, the Paraclete, the one who walks alongside with us.
He is our strength and our helper. As the two on the way to Emmaus, walking so sad and so despondent, and the Lord came and walked by their side, and He opened to them the Scriptures, and He left them in gladness and glory; the parakletos, Jesus, here with us, and forever [Luke 24:13-32].
Then also, then also he uses the word elegcho, oh, and that’s a different kind of a word, we go into a different nomenclature here. "For if I go not away, the parakletos, the Paraclete, the Exhorter and Teacher and Comforter will not come; but if I go away, I will send Him unto you" [John 16:7].
Then He does something for the world, God in the world, Jesus here now. "And when He is come," this parakletos, this Paraclete, the breath, the pneuma, the presence and Spirit of God, "when He is come, He will elegcho," translated in the King James Version, "reprove," that’s fine, but a better word would be convict. "And when He is come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Of sin, because they believe not on Me; Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged," or better, "condemned already, already" [John 16:8-11].
Now we follow that outline of our Lord, "And when the Spirit of God is come," the presence of Jesus, when God in Spirit is come, and we’re baptized, all made a part of the body of Christ, "and when He is come, also He will convict, elegcho, He will convict the world of sin, because they believe not on Me"; of sin, the sin [John 16:8-9].
There is one great sin, just one. All the other progeny and all the rest of the brood is just corollary, and concomitant, and attendant of that one sin. There is one sin, the mother of all of the rest, and that sin is the rejection of God, the refusal of the grace and mercies of Christ [John 3:36]. "He will elegcho the world. He will convict the world of sin, because they believe not on Me" [John 16:9]. Every sin in a man’s life is but an attendant. It is but an eruption that arises out of the great basic sin of refusal of Christ. And there’s no need to place an ointment here and a poultice there, and to minister to an eruption here, when the sin, when the disease is in the bloodstream.
I will never forget the first time I ever heard the word penicillin, penicillin. Such a strange word and it came about like this. In my pastorate was a lovely family, and in the family a darling little girl about twelve or thirteen years of age. And for some reason she had one abscess after another break out in her body, one of those strange maladies. And the final abscess that had formed in her body was fatal. And the doctors said, "She cannot live. There is nothing that we can do. We can’t reach it." So I made my way up to our Baptist Hospital and walked into the room to stand by the side of the father as he looked into the face of that precious little girl.
And as I sought to say words of strength and encouragement in that crisis, he turned and said to me, "But, pastor, there is a hope. There is a hope. They have discovered a new miracle drug called penicillin; penicillin." And he said, "The small quantity that they possess is in the hands of the Surgeon General of the United States government in Washington D.C." And he said, "Through our senator I have made appeal if they would not take some of that precious wonder drug and send it to us that the life of our little child might be spared."
"Penicillin, what a strange name," I thought.
Well, when I prayed, I prayed that God somehow would make it possible for the Surgeon General of the United States to send down that miracle drug and save the life of that darling little girl. God answered that prayer. The Surgeon General sent down the wonder drug. It was administered, injected. And that glorious child lived and today is a marvelous, and sweet, and Christian woman and mother.
That’s it. That’s it. These abscesses in our lives, and these eruptions in our lives, and the sins of our life, to minister to them, patch it up here, plead with it there, bolster it there, try to change it there, reform it yonder, is a waste of time! For when a man is not right with God and when he doesn’t have the Savior in his soul, all of the rest that we may do is almost beside the point. It’s almost superfluous. For there is one sin, just one: the rejection of Christ, disowning God, unbelief in our Lord [John 3:36; 16:9].
Now I take just a moment more to illustrate that. I want it to burn in our hearts. Young people so often, young people so often, and I meet it so often, "Oh, pastor, if I become a Christian, if I give my life to Jesus, then I can’t have a good time any longer! My life is doomed to sterility, and to blankness, and to emptiness. And I want to have a good time, and I want to live, and I can’t live if I become a Christian."
Why, young man, young woman, that’s what it is to live. That’s what it is to have a good time. That’s what it is to know life to its fullness, bursting out at every seam. It’s to believe in Jesus and trust Christ for it. The rest of it is beside the point.
Same way about a man who thieves and who steals and who robs. If we trust Christ for our necessities, and our livelihood, "Give us this day our daily bread" [Matthew 6:11], and believe in Jesus for it, all of the necessities of our life will be provided for. But the man doesn’t believe that and he doesn’t trust God; therefore he thieves, and he robs, and he takes from others by force and stealth.
Or again, God says, "Vengeance belongeth unto Me; I will repay, saith the Lord" [Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30]. But here is a man who does not trust God and doesn’t believe in the Lord, so in his anger he takes vengeance in his own hands. And sometimes he bathes his hands in human blood, and he murders, and he does violence. There is no sin except one. The sin is the rejection of God, "I don’t trust the Lord, I don’t receive Jesus." And if we can get right there, we shall be right everywhere. Elegcho, and when He comes, He will convict the world of sin, because they believe not on Me" [John 16:10] . . . Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more; of righteousness [John 16:10].
When He comes, when the holy breath and presence, Spirit of God comes, He will convict the world of righteousness because I am going away, back to heaven, and you see Me no more [John 16:10]. What He means is this: in the days of His flesh while the Lord walked among us, lived here, we could take to Him every problem and every decision. What shall I say, and what shall I do, and which way shall I turn, and how shall I go? Every decision could be taken to the Lord, and He could infallibly teach us, and tell us, and show us. But what are we going to do now that the Lord is gone away?
The great tremendous interest of Sheldon’s famous book, In His Steps, or What Would Jesus Do, face that problem; what shall I do? And there are thousands and multiplied thousands of decisions of life. They follow after. They never cease. Life is that and the Lord is gone. And I don’t know, and I don’t understand, and I can’t see, and I’m not equal, and not adequate, and not sufficient. O Lord, how shall I do? How shall I do?
The Lord knew that, and He said, "When He is come, He will speak the word infallible of righteousness, because I am gone away; but He will be here, and you take it to Him" [John 16:10]. And there’s not any problem, there’s not any decision, there’s not any choice, there is nothing in human life, in the soul that is committed to God, but that the Holy Spirit will return an infallible and heavenly answer [John 14:26]. That’s why He is here. That’s why the Lord sent Him. "Of righteousness, of the way to live and the way to go and the choice to make, because I am returning to the Father in heaven; but He will be here as though I were, and His words are as My words" [John 16:10]. Oh, how blessed!
And that’s why Paul exhorted, in the Book of Ephesians, "Grieve not, vex not, reject not, crush not, quench not the Holy Spirit of God, by whom we are sealed unto the day of redemption" [Ephesians 4:30]. Oh, when the Holy Spirit speaks to us, and He shows us the way, and He marks it out, and He guides it in infallible wisdom, then for us to reject and to refuse is to bring condemnation and disaster into our lives!
For example, in the life of Saul, the first king of Israel: "But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him" [1 Samuel 16:14]. Every once in a while I’ll hear a Sunday school group discuss whether or not Saul was a saved man, a converted man. Why, certainly he was saved. Certainly he was saved. When Samuel, in the gift of God, spoke to him after Samuel had been dead, when Samuel spoke to him, he said, "Tomorrow at this time, thou and thy sons shall be with me" [1 Samuel 28:19]. Well, where was Samuel, God’s sainted prophet? Samuel was in heaven. And Samuel said, "Tomorrow at this time, thou and thy sons shall be with me." Well, then what is this thing? Why, this thing is possible to any man that ever lived, any man, any man. "The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul; and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him" [1 Samuel 16:14].
God spake to Saul, and the Holy Spirit of God sought to lead Saul, and he refused. And his life became waste. As Paul said of his own ministry, "I keep my body under subjection: lest after I have preached to others I should become a castaway" [1 Corinthians 9:27]. It is possible for any man to become a cast away, any man in this earth. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, by which we are sealed unto the day of redemption" [Ephesians 4:30].
May I take just one other? The last part of the sixty-third chapter of Isaiah is an incomparably beautiful psalm; and it follows through the first part of the sixty-fourth chapter. And he is describing God as He carried His people along like a shepherd. Then he says, "But His people rebelled, and vexed the Holy Spirit; therefore the Spirit was turned to be their enemy, and He fought against them" [Isaiah 63:10].
O Lord, what a judgment, oh, oh, that the Holy Spirit of God, the parakletos, sent to encourage us, and guide us, and lead us, and minister to us, when we vex Him, and grieve Him, and reject Him, and do violence to Him, He wars against us and He battles against us! And in this instance in which Isaiah is saying in his psalm, forty years they were wasted in the wilderness, until they all died, all of them. And only two entered, Joshua and Caleb [Numbers 32:11-13].
But when we are obedient to the Spirit of the Lord, and listen to His voice, and follow His will, we are invincible. We are invincible. And when they looked upon the face of Stephen, it was as the face of an angel [Acts 6:15]. It shined in the iridescent splendor of the presence of God. "And Stephen being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up into heaven, and saw Jesus standing on the right hand of Glory" [Acts 7:55], invincible, invincible.
And it was by the Holy Spirit, in Romans 1:4, "By the Holy Spirit," Paul calls Him "the Spirit of holiness. It was by the Holy Spirit that Jesus was raised from the dead"; rising for me, rising for me, in the Holy Spirit of God. And that’s been the testimony of the Lord’s saints through the centuries. Following the Spirit of Jesus, given to Him they are unbeatable and invincible.
As Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote in that quatrain of verses that introduces his great poem "Sir Galahad," it was not Sir Lancelot that found the Holy Grail, it was Sir Galahad, and Lord Tennyson introduces that young man with these words, speaking:
My tough blade carves the casques of men,
My, my sword thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.
"Of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye see Me no more" [John 16:10].
Now the last one, "Of judgment, of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged" [John 16:11], he is a lost cause already. This thing doesn’t weigh in the balance, as though darkness will overcome light, as though sin will overcome righteousness, as though Satan will overwhelm the kingdom of God. This thing is already decided, says the Lord, "Of judgment, because the prince of this world is already condemned, and already damned, and already lost." He’s in a sinking ship. He belongs to a doomed dominion. It is over with, says God. And these who identify their lives with Satan are lost with him already.
Last September, driving in that bus through East Berlin, a vast area there vacant in the heart of one of the great and beautiful cities of the world, vacant, vacant, fenced off with barbed wire. And in the center of that vacuity, a bunker, a cellar in the ground and just beyond these shambles of what once was the gloriously beautiful Brandenburg Gate, and just what before what used to be Unter den Lindin, and all around the jagged, saw- toothed buildings that once were the glory of a German empire, now in waste and in ruins. And the guide said, "See, see, this is the bunker in which Adolf Hitler committed suicide; and this is the place where they burned his body, pouring gasoline over his dead corpse." And whoever identified his cause, and his kingdom, and his vision, and his destiny with Adolf Hitler perished in that awful holocaust. And the judgment of God is upon that nation sorrowfully to this present moment. Oh, the tragedy when a soul identifies himself with the kingdom of darkness! Because God says, "It is judged already, already" [John 16:11].
I wonder how He that sitteth in the heavens and laughs at the boasts of these men [Psalm 2:2-6], I wonder what God thinks when some pipsqueak somewhere gets up and says, "And the wave of the future is communism. And your grandchildren will all live in an atheistic, and blaspheming, and socialistic state?" I wonder what God in heaven who laughs at the pretensions and boasts of men; I wonder what God thinks of these things?
And once in a while I see somebody who is oh, so blue, and despondent, and discouraged, and they speak in tones of melancholia, and lugubriety! And, oh! You think, "We’re washed up, we’re done for, it’s all over." Why man, God lives and is on His throne, and God says the kingdom of darkness and of Satan is condemned, and damned, and judged already [John 16:11]. There’s no question about the outcome of that, God says.
Remember what Jesus said to His disciples in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke? They came back and were rejoicing in their power over spirits [Luke 10:17], and the Lord said, "I saw Satan as lightning," and you have it translated in this King James Version, "falling from heaven. I saw Satan falling from heaven." No, no! What the Lord actually said was, "And I saw Satan as lightning fallen from heaven, fallen from heaven, already, already" [Luke 10:18]; and those who identify their hopes, and dreams, and visions with him face a certain and an inevitable judgment.
Now, I see that every step of the way and every hour of the day. And to bring it to our souls, and our houses and homes, and our hearts, and our lives, I see it all the time. May I show it to you? I’m talking to you, that when you identify your life with this world, and the kingdom of Satan, that you face an inevitable judgment. You are connected with, and identified with, and you are married to a lost cause. God has already judged it. Now listen to me.
There was an affluent family, beautiful and spacious home, fine and successful business, socially prominent and acceptable, and worldly; no room for God, no place for Jesus, never take the little boy to Sunday school, never carry the little lad to church. Only time he ever heard the name of God was in an oath and in a curse. And upon a day, the little lad was stricken.
And the doctor said, "And he shall die, soon." Wasn’t anything to do but the father to sit down by the side of the bed and tell his little son, "You are going to die. You cannot live. All the money in the world, and all the science and medical genius in the world,you must die." And it terrified the little boy, terrified the little lad. "Oh," he prayed, "oh," he cried, "Daddy, Daddy, don’t let them take me out yonder, don’t, don’t. Please, Daddy, bury me by the door. Bury me by the door so I can be close to you and Mommy. Don’t let them take me out there. Bury me by the door so I can be close to you." Ah! No Jesus. No heaven. No home. No blessing. No grace. No mercy. No remembrance. "Don’t let them take me out yonder. Bury me, Daddy, by the door, so I can be close to you."
Isn’t it strange how your mind works? About two weeks ago, I was preaching a dedicatory service at the First Baptist Church in Bossier City, Louisiana. And I closed that dedicatory service, I closed it, the message I brought, with the fourth chapter of the Revelation. And John said, "I saw a door opened in heaven: and I heard a great voice as of a trumpet, saying, Come up hither" [Revelation 4:1]. And I closed with that open door into glory.
And when the benediction was said, there came up to the pulpit, a woman in the congregation, and she said, "Oh preacher, you cannot know with what gratitude I speak these words! God did something for me this evening." She said, "Our little boy has leukemia. And we are just waiting until the lad dies." And she said, "I’ve been so despondent and blue and discouraged, and I’ve cried, and I’ve wept, and I’ve been so lost. But," she said, "this evening, while you were preaching and describing that door into heaven," she said, "I saw it, and my little boy, why, he won’t be out there in that cemetery or in the cold ground or buried in a deep grave; why, my little boy will be in heaven. He’ll be with Jesus. He’ll be in the arms and love and mercy of the Savior; and I saw it tonight. "Behold, an opened door into glory" [Revelation 4:1].
My brother, God says if you identify your life and give the energy and hope of the future to Satan, you face an inevitable judgment some day, some time, some where. It will come. "Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged already!" [John 16:11]; his cause is lost. And when we’re with him, we’re lost too. But when we give ourselves to Jesus, and the glory of the Lord floods our souls, whether it’s in the daytime or the nighttime, whether it’s in youth time or in old age, what difference; we are the Lord’s. And the Lord Christ is God’s and we are the inheritors and possessors of all of the riches of heaven [Ephesians 1:18]. "So whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s" [Romans 14:8]. You can’t lose. We shall win. God is with us and He cannot fail.
Our time is done, and we must make our appeal. While we sing this song, you, somebody you, give himself to Jesus. Come down this aisle, and stand by me here at the front. In this great throng in that balcony round, there are a thousand and some odd seats up there in that balcony, in that throng in that balcony around, you, there’s time and to spare, there’s a stairway at the front and the back on either side, come, "Pastor, I give you my hand. I’ve given my heart to God. I take Jesus today; live or to die, I am in Him." The throng on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Here I come, preacher, here I am." Maybe a whole family of you, "This is my wife, and these are our children, pastor," or just two of you, or one somebody you, while we sing this song, and make the appeal, come. Make it now. Come. Do it now. When you stand up in a moment, stand up coming. And God bless you now as you come, while we stand and sing together.