Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-25-72 7:30 p.m.
You who are listening on the radio, turn with us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas to the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John. We shall begin reading at the eighteenth verse and shall continue to the end of the chapter [John 17:18-26]. John chapter 17, beginning at verse 18, and continuing to the end of the chapter, all of us sharing our Bibles, all of us reading out loud together. And if it is possible for you who worship with us on the radio of the city of Dallas, read out loud with us. John 17, beginning at verse 18. This is the high priestly prayer of our Lord and this is its concluding half. Now all of us together:
As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word;
That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.
And the glory which thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one:
I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.
Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.
O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me.
And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.
And our text, “For their sakes I sanctify Myself” [John 17:19]. True Sanctification.
For the most part, our popular, common idea of sanctification is the progressive riddance of sin in our lives. We become more sanctified, more holy, more removed from the lusts of the flesh and the carnality of the world and live in the spiritual fullness of God, sanctification. Actually the word and the doctrine mean nothing of the sort, nothing at all.
Sanctification is a dedication to the service of God and that alone. In the Hebrew the word is qadosh. In the Greek it is hagiazō. And whether in the Hebrew or whether in the Greek, the words mean an identical thing. Qadosh, hagiazō mean to be set aside for the use of God. Not for common every day uses but for the purposes of God. It is hallowed. It is consecrated. It is set apart for the purpose and use of God. That is exactly and that alone is what the word sanctify means.
Would you say that Jesus was progressively getting rid of sin when He says, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself”? [John 17:19]. Was He growing away from the world and away from the lusts of the flesh and the carnalities of life and growing spiritually toward God when He says, “I sanctify Myself”? The idea is ridiculously preposterous. For you see, the word means I dedicate myself. I consecrate myself. I give myself to the use and the purpose of God for me. “For their sakes I hagiazō, I set Myself apart for the work of God.”
That is the common word that you will find in, say, the thirteenth chapter of Exodus; when the Lord says the firstborn of every man and beast is to be sanctified for the Lord [Exodus 13:1-2]; it is to be set aside for God. The firstborn of every Israel family belonged to God, and if they were not to give the child to the full time purpose of God then the child must be redeemed [Exodus 13:13]. It must be bought back. And the firstborn had to be redeemed if the family used it because it belonged to God. It was sanctified, set aside for the Lord.
In the [twenty-eighth] chapter of the Book of Exodus and the twenty-ninth chapter, all through there you will find that they are sanctifying the sons of Aaron for the priesthood [Exodus 28:1-29:44]. That is, they were setting aside the Aaronic priesthood in the children and the descendants of Aaron [Numbers 3:3].
You will find that they, in rituals, were sanctifying the altar [Exodus 29:12, 16]. They were sanctifying the tabernacle [Numbers 7:1]. They were sanctifying the vessels of the temple, of the tabernacle and later the temple [1 Kings 8:62-63]. That is, they were setting aside these vessels and instruments and accouterments of worship for the purpose of serving God. They belonged to God, not for common use but for God’s use.
Now this is the meaning of the word and this is what the Lord refers to when He says, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself” [John17:19].
Now there are two things in the text and we shall follow it. First: His sanctification. That is the dedication of His life for the purpose to which He came into the world. And second: why He did it, for their sakes, for our sakes. His sanctification: that is, He gave Himself to the purpose of God for Him, for the reason that He came into the world. And He states that very plainly, very clearly. He came into the world to die for our sins that we might be saved [1 Timothy 1:15]. And throughout the life and ministry of our Lord He faithfully gave Himself, He sanctified Himself for that purpose [John 17:19].
In the hour of His temptation, Satan caused to pass before Him all of the nations of the world, their riches and their glory. And Satan said, “All of this will I give Thee if Thou will fall down and worship me” [Matthew 4:8-9]. But our Lord spurned the glory of all of the nations of the world that He might sanctify Himself; that He might give Himself to the work of God [Matthew 4:10]. He met it again when having fed the five thousand on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee [John 6:8-14], when they saw what He could do with just a few loaves and a few fishes He could feed and army. And if one were fallen in battle He could raise the soldier from the dead [John 11:39-44]. They couldn’t lose with a man like that, and so the Scriptures say that they sought by force to make Him a king [John 6:15]. And the disciples, of course, were complimented and they egged on the crowd as they shouted, “King Jesus, crown Him now, acclaim Him now, present Him now, make a king out of Him. We’ll throw off the Roman yoke. We will conquer the world.”
But when the Lord saw what they were doing, He put the disciples who were egging on the thing and encouraging the movement; He put them in a boat and sent them across the sea. He dismissed the multitudes and He Himself went into a mountain apart, alone, to pray that He might sanctify Himself, that is give Himself to the purpose for which He came into the world [John 6:15-17].
You see it again in the life of our Lord in the hour of Gethsemane [Luke 22:44]. Oh, how dread the burden of the sins of the world upon His soul. As awesome as the sufferings of our Lord in His crucifixion [Matthew 27:26-50], the greater sufferings were in the travail of His soul [Isaiah 53:11]. We cannot enter into that. God alone knows that.
In the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, the prophet as though he were standing by the cross and as though He were in the courts of heaven looking upon it said, “God shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” [Isaiah 53:11]. He shall make atonement for the sins of the people. There again our Lord prayed, “O, if it is possible, if it could be, let this cup pass from Me: but not My will, Thine be done” [Matthew 26:39]. And there again did He sanctify Himself [John 17:19], did He give Himself to the purposes of God, the purpose for which He came into the world [John 12:17, 18:11].
And then once again, on the cross, nailed to the tree, the Scriptures say that they passed by in front of Him wagging their heads, and jeeringly and scornfully and mockingly as they passed by they said, “Come down from the cross, Thou that wouldst raise the temple in three days. Come down from the cross. You said You were the Son of God. Come down from the cross and we will believe Thee. If You are the Son of God, come down. If God would have You, come down” [Matthew 27:39-43].
You know, as you read that and those reviling, blasphemous, sarcastic words that they throw into the teeth of the dying Savior, when you read that you have it in your heart to say, “Lord, do it! Come down from the cross and strike mortifying, terrifying horror in the hearts of these who are thus jeering at Thy death and Thy suffering.”
Would it be? No. He does not tear Himself from the wood in order to come down in judgment upon these who mock and scorn Him. Rather, it will be the limp, lifeless body of a dead Christ who is taken down by other hands from the tree, wrapped in a long winding sheet with many spices, and laid dead in a tomb [John 19:38-42].
“For their sakes,” He sanctified Himself. He gave Himself to the purposes for which He came into the world [John 12:27, 18:11], to the call of God which is to die for our sins, to wrestle with death in His own lair and dominion and to overcome, to vanquish as victor our last great enemy, that we might be delivered from sin, from death, from hell and the grave [1 Corinthians 15:26, 55-57]. “For their sakes I sanctify Myself. I give Myself to the great purpose and calling of God” [John 17:19].
All right, the other part: “For their sakes I do it,” ah, the suffering…He who was the majesty and the Prince of Glory; He who was the whole heart and soul of heaven. Oh, I cannot enter into the height of His glory and the depths of His degradation. He who was the Creator of heaven and earth [John 1:3], the Captain of the hosts of glory [Matthew 26:53], coming down and down and down and down, finally to be made like a man [Philippians 2:6-7], and to suffer as a slave, and to be crucified like a felon, like criminal [Matthew 27:38]. I cannot enter into the heights of His glory and the depths of His shame, who, being in the form of God, poured Himself out and became obedient unto death, the death of the cross [Philippians 2:8]. I cannot enter into the abysmal hiatus between the heaven of His life in glory and the depths of His shame and suffering in the earth. But He did it for us. “For their sakes I consecrate My life” [John 17:19], and this is the noble devotion. “For their sakes, for their sakes I do it” [John 17:19].
Selfishness would have said to Moses, when the Lord saw the children of Israel in their naked sin, dancing around the golden calf, the Lord said to Moses, “Step aside and I will destroy these people, and out of thy loins will I raise seed for a great nation” [Exodus 32:7-10]. Think of the honor of being the progenitor of the chosen family of God. The Lord offered it to Moses, and selfishness would have said, “I accept it, Lord. Destroy the people and raise up a new nation in me.”
But consecration, sanctification said, “O Lord, God, if Thou wilt forgive their sins”—then, a long dash, in every Bible I’ve ever seen, that long dash is there, black, but oh how meaningful, “if Thou wilt forgive thy sin—” [Exodus 32:32], and the sentence is never finished. Moses just adds, “If not, then blot my name out of the book in which Thou hast written. If these cannot live I do not want to live either” [Exodus 32:32]. That is sanctification.
Selfishness would have said to Ruth, “You go back to your home and back to Moab and back to your people” [Ruth 1:15]. But consecration said, “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God: and where thou die, I will die, and there by your side shall I be buried: God do so, and more also unto me, if aught but death separate between me and thee” [Ruth 1:16-17]. That is sanctification.
Selfishness would have said to our Lord Jesus, “Receive the throne and the thronging crowds of acclamation of the people.” But consecration said, “I came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give My life a ransom in death for many, that they might be saved” [Matthew 20:28]. That is sanctification [John 17:19].
Selfishness would have said to the apostle Paul who then was Saul of Tarsus, the queenly, intellectual, academic university city of Cilicia, “Be the rabbi that you are, first in zeal, first in the school of Gamaliel, and live a life of honor, of acceptance, of acclaim.” But consecration said, “The Spirit witnesses in every city that bonds and imprisonment await me. But none of these things move me . . . if I may finish my course with joy, preaching the gospel of the grace of the Son of God” [Acts 20:23-24]. That is sanctification. That is true consecration. “For their sakes I sanctify myself.”
In the moment that remains, may I apply that in our lives to three things out of a thousand to which you could address it? One, in behalf of our children. “For their sakes I consecrate myself,” for the sake of that little child.
A little girl with shining eyes, her little face aglow,
Said, “Daddy, it is almost time for Sunday school; Let’s go.”
“Oh no,” said the daddy, “Not today. I’ve worked hard all week;
I must have one day of rest. I am going to the creek.
For there I can relax and rest. And fishing is fine they say.
So, run along, don’t bother me. We’ll go to church someday.”
Months and years have passed away, life is almost through.
Dad finds time to go to church, but what does daughter do?
She says, “Oh, Daddy, not today. I stayed up most all night.
I’ve just got to get some sleep, besides I look affright.”
Then daddy lifts a trembling hand to brush away the tears
As again he hears a pleading voice distinctly through the years.
He sees a small girl’s shining face upturned with eyes aglow
Who says, “It’s time for Sunday school, please Daddy, won’t you go”?
[“As the Twig Is Bent,” anonymous]
“For their sakes I sanctify myself” [John 17:19]. What you do you must do now, for tomorrow the day is past. The opportunity is gone as the twig is bent. “For their sakes I consecrate, I sanctify myself for the sake of that child.”
Second: for the church. “For their sakes I sanctify myself, for the church.” I heard this week on the radio a man who was talking about going to the house of the Lord and the one remonstrating him against it said, “There is nobody there.” Evidently it was a church that was small, infrequently attended. And the man replies, one the finest reply I could ever think of, he said, “That may be true. There may be very few people there at night, but if I am there, there will be one more. And if I am not there, there will be one less. I am going. For the church I will sanctify myself.”
You know, in Westminster Abbey, two or three times I have looked all through that abbey for the memorial to a great English astronomer. And I can’t find it, nor can I find anybody to help me to find it. But over here in America I heard one of the noblest stories I have ever heard in my life. There was a great noble, famous British astronomer who predicted that in a period of time there would appear a great star in the sky. By mathematical formulae and equations, by the force of gravity and the interplanetary influences, he predicted that in a period of time that great star would appear.
So he watched and he watched, and he calculated and he looked, scanning the heavens. And just at the time that the star was to be seen, he heard the bell of the village church ringing and calling the worshippers to the house of the Lord.
He put down his telescope. He wrote in his diary this sentence. “Called aside to greater paths which must not be neglected for subordinate pursuits.” Walked out of his astronomer’s vision and made his way down to the village church there to call upon the name of the Lord, and he missed seeing his golden star. And in Westminster Abbey they tell me that there is a monument to that great and famous astronomer and underneath are written those words. “Called aside to greater tasks which must not be neglected for subordinate pursuits.” Worshipping God in the hour of God’s people gathering. “For their sakes I consecrate myself” [John 17:19].
“For their sakes I consecrate myself.” Answering God’s call for my life, for our lives, for your life. We all have an assignment, all of us. Some of us may not be able but to stand at the door or to raise a window or to brush out the floor or to do some humble thing, to hand out a tract or maybe privately to kneel in prayer.
I was never more moved in my life than about the first time I preached at the Palace Theater. I was a new, young preacher then, twenty-eight years ago. I was preaching my first service and my first series down there at the Palace Theater. And on that day I walked out at the front. Usually I would go out that side entrance on Pacific, but I walked out the front door.
And when I walked through the lobby of the theater, there was a little, tiny woman dressed in black, an old, old woman. She was bent with the weight of the years. When she saw me walking through the lobby of the Palace Theater, she stepped across the lobby and took my hand. And looking up, she was so small, looking up into my face she said, “I came down here to see my new pastor.” She said, “I am so old, and I am so infirm that I am hardly able even to go to church. But it was a beautiful day and a neighbor took me down, for I said I want to see my new pastor.” And holding on to my hand she said, “I cannot help you. There is nothing that I can do for you. I can just pray for you, and I shall.”
I said, “My dear, do you think that is a small thing and a little thing as though all I can do for you is just pray for you?” I said, “Sweet, little lady, that is the noblest, and finest, and dearest, and most meaningful of all the things you could ever, ever do, is there where you are, maybe on a bed of affliction and invalidism to pray for the blessing of God upon your new pastor.”
All of us can do something. All of us. All of us have an influence. All of us, we have a purpose, an assignment, a plan for our life from God. And how glorious to sanctify ourselves for it. “For their sakes I sanctify myself,” I give myself to the work of God. Lord, bless it under Thy hands and ours.”
We are going to stand now and sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, in the balcony round, on the lower floor, to give yourself to the call of our Christ, to follow in the way of our Savior, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart; answer with your life. What God says, answer. “Here am I, Lord, and here I come accepting Jesus as Savior.” Come [Romans 10:8-13]. Putting your life in the fellowship of this dear church, come. A family, a couple, or just you, down one of these stairways, into the aisle and here to the front, on the first note of this first stanza, come. Make the decision now in your heart, and when we sing in a moment, come. God speed you in the way as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Meaning of the word “sanctification”
B. Set aside for the Lord (Exodus 13:2, Exodus 28, 29)II. His sanctification
A. The mission He came to accomplish (John 17:18)
1. Throughout His life and ministry (Matthew 4:8-9, John 6:1-15, Matthew 26:36-46, Isaiah 53:11)
B. He gave Himself willingly (Mark 15:29-30)III. For their sakes
A. For us He became like a man, to suffer as a slave (Philippians 2)
B. How different from selfishness and self-centeredness (Exodus 32:10, 32, Ruth 1:16-17, Matthew 20:28, Acts 20:22-23)IV. In our lives
A. For the sake of the child
B. For the sake of the church