When the Spirit Is Come
May 21st, 1972 @ 7:30 PM
WHEN THE SPIRIT IS COME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-21-72 7:30 p.m.
On the radio of the city of Dallas you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled When the Spirit is Come, the convicting power, presence of the Spirit of God. And let us read our text together. We are preaching in the Gospel of John; we have come to chapter 16, and we shall read verses 5 through 11. And all of us here in the auditorium sharing it in our Bible, and you on the radio who can open the Book to the Gospel of John, chapter 16, and read through verses 5 and 11. Now let us all of us read it out loud together, verses 5 through 11, John chapter 16, together:
But now I go My way to Him that sent Me; and none of you asketh Me, Whither goest Thou?
But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.
Nevertheless 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.
This message is an exposition of that unusual passage.
The Comforter, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit of God: "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, He will not come. . . but if I go, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, of judgment" [John 16:7-8]. I read a long discussion in Alford’s Greek New Testament concerning that Greek word elegcho, translated here "reprove." And Dr. Alford said that it was impossible to translate that Greek word into the English language. Here it is translated "reprove"; it could be translated "convict," it could be translated "convince." "But when the Spirit is come, He will reprove, He will convict, He will convince the world of sin, of righteousness, 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" [John 16:8-11]. There is profound meaning in this passage that Jesus has spoken to His disciples, and John has written it down here in the sixteenth chapter.
The Spirit of God, it is an unusual thing that in both the Hebrew language and in the Greek language, the same metaphor is used for the Spirit of God: in the Hebrew language the word is ruach, ruach; literally it is "wind" or "breath." And in the Greek language it’s pneuma, pneuma; again, literally "breath" or "wind." In both languages it is the same. And the simile, the comparison, is very apt. It is twofold: there is power in it, and there is quietness and sweetness and gentleness in it.
There is power in it. I read one time about the unbelievable amount of force and energy that is gathered up in a tornado; and a tornado is a mighty and devastating wind. When these great freight trains are hurtling themselves down the tracks, they are controlled by air: air pressure, air brakes, air.
There was a man standing in a giant quarry in North Carolina, out of which they had dug and cut the vast granite stones for the city hall in New York City. And talking about the cutting out of those gigantic granite stones, the man who headed the quarry said, that, "I could lift up an acre of granite ten feet thick to any height that you would ask as easily as you can turn this leaf of paper." And in astonishment his auditor said, "How?" And the quarry man replied, "With air, the pressure of air." Its strength is almost incomprehensible: the might and power in the wind, in the air.
Some of these new modes of transportation, they’re going to ride, the trains are going to move on cushions of air, air. And yet at the same time, ruach, pneuma, breath, gentle as a dove, can play on the cheek of a little baby and awaken the child not at all. The Holy Spirit, the breath of God: "And He breathed on them, saying, Receive ye the Holy Spirit" [John 20:22] – the Holy Spirit of God: powerful, gentle.
"When He will come, He will elegchō, convict, convince, reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, of judgment. Of sin, because they believed not on Me" [John 16:8-9]. There is one great, unforgivable, unpardonable sin; there is one, and that is the rejection of Christ, the testimony and witness of God to Jesus [Matthew 12:31-32]. There are many, many sins, and the attitude of the reformer, of the teacher of ethics, of the moralist, is always, "We must patch up this, and we must get rid of that, and we must change the other"; when actually when you patch up this, it breaks out there. For the trouble lies not on the skin as a pimple, but in the bloodstream of the heart; and the purpose of God is to create a new heart. "Of sin, because they believed not on Me" [John 16:9]; the great fundamental need of all humanity is a conversion, a regeneration, the acceptance of Christ as Savior. The trouble is in the bloodstream.
I’ll never forget, never, the first time I heard that word "penicillin." In our church before I came to Dallas, there was a family in the church by the name of Heard, and they had a little twelve-year-old girl named Leslie. And she fell into some kind of a malady, where abscesses would form intermittently in her body. As long as those abscesses formed on the outside, the doctor could minister to them; but he dreaded for the day to come when the abscess might form in some vital part of her body. And certainly and surely enough that dreaded day came to pass. The next abscess formed in a vital part in her abdomen. And the doctor gave her up for certain death. And at that time the word came – and I was there when it was discussed with the doctor – the word came that there was a miraculous, marvelous, wondrous drug that could heal that body! And they asked, "What is it?" And the answer was, "It is penicillin." And that’s the first time I ever heard the word. "It is penicillin." And immediately the father and mother said, "Where can we find it?" And the answer was, "This miraculous drug has just been discovered; and what little there is of it is in the possession of the surgeon general of the United States in Washington D.C. And if we can just prevail upon the surgeon general to give us enough penicillin to heal this little child, she shall live." I want you to know I, and every politician in eastern Oklahoma, and everybody who had any influence, made appeal to the surgeon general in Washington D.C. that they sent enough penicillin to heal that child. It came to pass: the surgeon general allowed it. The medicine was flown down to Muskogee; it was administered, the child immediately became well!
That is what all of us need, and all humanity needs – to patch up this sin, to reform that aberration. To withdraw and to change this excess is to play with our vital need and necessity. There is one sin and that is the rejection of Christ. When you get a youngster to give his heart to God, all of the other problems are solved. Get a man, get a woman, to give her heart or his life to Christ, ten thousand other things are immediately solved. There is only one sin that God will not forgive in the great judgment day of Almighty God, and that is the sin of the rejection of Christ. There is one unpardonable, unforgivable sin, and that is to refuse God’s witness to His Son [Matthew 12:31-32]. And that’s why the Lord says, "When the Holy Spirit is come, He will reprove, convict the world of sin, because they believed not on Me" [John 16:8-9].
Second: He says, "Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more [John 16:10]. Of righteousness: He will reprove and convict of righteousness, because I go away, and you see Me no more." Now that means this: as long as the Lord was here in the flesh, He could show us what to do; and His example would be always perfect. What He said are the words that ought to be said; what He did are the deeds that ought to be done; the choices He made are the choices that ought to be chosen. When He was here, His example was a paragon of perfect excellence. If you want to know what to do, look at Jesus: what He did is right, always, and perfect. In the holy, heavenly will of God did He give Himself in life, in thought, in deed. But when the Lord is gone, how do we know what is right? How do we know the right choice? How do we know the words to say and the deeds to do? Well, when the Lord is taken away, the Holy Spirit comes; and He shows us what to do. "Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more" [John 16:10].
Do you want to know what choice to make? The Holy Spirit will teach you. Do you know which direction to take? He will show you. Do you know how to react, what answer to give? The Holy Spirit of God will lead you. And if God can’t talk to you in your heart, there is no God. It’s that plain, and it is that definite, it is that stated, and it is that simple. The Holy Spirit of God can whisper in your heart, He can talk to you, He will bring a conviction to you of the choice you ought to make, of what you ought to do, just as plainly and as definitely and as heavenly as if Jesus were by your side walking in your way, guiding you, the path that you ought to follow.
One of the greatest books of all time is entitled In His Steps, or what Jesus would do. It’s a fictional thing; it is glorious. That’s one of the finest books ever written, by Sheldon; a marvelous fictional story, what Jesus would do. And all through that story, those who are making decisions and following paths and choosing courses are doing it, just what Jesus would do.
What would Jesus do? All of us have that example in our hearts, that whispering Spirit of God. And when you follow that example, that whispering, that call, that teaching, that voice, you are invincible; for you are in the will and doing the will of God. "Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more." The Holy Spirit will teach us what is right and what is wrong. Every answer we need can be found in Him; and He will tell us definitely, statedly, plainly, lucidly, clearly. "Of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you see Me no more" [John 16:10].
"Of judgment: the Holy Spirit will reprove, convict, convince of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged" [John 16:11]. What our Lord is saying there is this: the prince of this world, Satan, is not going to be judged, he is judged already. He is not going to lose; he has lost already. His cause is not problematical; it is definitely stated! Satan is going to find himself someday in the bottomless pit; he is going to be cast out [Revelation 20:1-3]. This world will not forever house evil, nor the evil presence and power of Satan. Someday, Jesus said, "God will send His holy angels, and will gather out of His kingdom all that offend, and all that do iniquity" [Matthew 13:41-42]. God’s going to take Satan and bind him, put him in a bottomless pit, and someday cast him into hell itself [Revelation 20:2-3, 10]. Satan represents a lost cause, and what Jesus is saying here, that all who tie their lives, their hopes in him also will find themselves in the same judgment: "Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged" [John 16:11]. Satan has lost it; Satan will be judged, he’ll be damned, he’ll be condemned, he’ll be cast out. And those who follow him follow a lost cause: they themselves will be judged and cast out and condemned [Revelation 20:15]. "Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged."
You know, I can give you a horrible and a terrible example of that. Soon, very soon after the Second World War, I was in Germany; all the way through it, up from south to north, and back across from east to west, and back again from west to east. You cannot imagine, unless you had seen it with your eyes, the utter and complete devastation of those great, marvelous, teeming, industrial cities and complexes of Germany; standing in Hamburg, from horizon to horizon, nothing but vast, indescribable rubble; Hanover, Munich, Berlin, all of them. And when I was in Munich – where Hitler came from – when I was in Munich, I walked around looking at those piles, those mountainous heaps of rubbish, and rubble, and debris, and destruction. And I lived through those days of the rise of the Nazi Party. And in Munich, in Munich, where he began, he had a bare, bare, bare majority. And taking that little, slim majority, he cajoled, and coerced, and forced, and finally put together in the Third Reich, the entire German culture and civilization. They hitched their star literally to the destiny of Adolph Hitler! And what happened?
Later, when I was in Berlin, there again in the midst of vast and illimitable rubble, here is the bunker where Hitler died, committed suicide; there with a barbed wire fence around it, naked and ugly and unkempt. And as I stood there looking at that bunker, I thought of the nadir, the depths of the horror of the judgment that came upon Germany because they found common cause with Hitler. And when Hitler went down, the nation went down. When Hitler was destroyed, the nation was destroyed. When the sun of Hitler set in a sea of blood, Germany was bathed in crimson. When you join your life with a lost cause, the same judgment that falls upon that cause falls upon you.
And that’s what the Lord is saying here. Dear me! Satan has lost. He is judged already! [John 16:11]. And when we link our lives and hope and destiny with the world, and with the god of this world [2 Corinthians 4:4], we are condemned: there is no hope; there is just disaster and judgment that lie ahead.
Why, my sweet people, that’s not something in the future, that’s not something that’s "going" to happen – though it is going to happen, that final condemnation – but it happens "now." This is a life of lostness and of despair that we live now, when we live in the world and reject Christ and the hope of God we have in Him. Let me illustrate that, and then I’m done.
Speaking in another state, I was dedicating a beautiful, beautiful church building, a lavish one. Oh! it’s a glorious church house. The governor of the state and I were dedicating that church house one night, both of us speaking, addressing the people. And when I got through that address, there came up to me a woman; and briefly, this is what she said. Apparently from a very affluent home, she said, "Our child, our little boy was stricken with leukemia, which is, as you know, a sentence of death. And the little boy, certainly, the doctor said, shall die." Now, they were typical people of the world. They lived in the world, their fortune was in the world, their social life was in the world, every hope and vision and dream they had was horizoned by the world. They had no place for God; never thought about God, had no time for God. They were in this world. And in the midst of their worldly success, with its cheap pleasures, its tinsel and tinfoil, its materialities shallow, in the midst of that, then the doctor says, "Your little boy has leukemia, and shall certainly die." This woman said to me, "You cannot know the despair, and the tragedy, and the sorrow, and the grief that covered our home and crept into our souls. It was like death."
And she said – and I suppose on a cable, these televised services were in her city – she said, "I listened to you preach a sermon." Do you remember in the fourth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, "And I saw a door opened in heaven" [Revelation 4:1], and John was raptured up to glory. And I preached a sermon on the gathering of the children of God when the door is opened in heaven. Well anyway, she said, "I sat there and listened to you preach on the open door into heaven. And," she said, "for the first time, for the first time I saw the nearness and the preciousness and the glory of believing in God, of accepting Christ; and that death is nothing other than our entrance into glory, the open door into heaven." And she said to me, "There before that television set I gave my heart to Christ. And I committed the life and soul of my little boy to God." She said, "The end will come soon. It will not be long now." But she told me, "Instead of despair, and agony, and grief, and indescribable sorrow and heartache," she says, "now I can see that when the time comes and the little boy is taken away, it shall be, please God, in His name, in His grace, in His love, that open door into heaven."
That’s what I mean. When you link your life to this world, it’s judged already. It’s judged already! It is now lost! It’s an agony. It’s an abysmal despair. But when you link your life with God in Christ, it is victory every glorious step of the way. That’s what God can do for us. Let Him. Give your heart to Him. Believe in Him. Trust Him.
O Spirit of the living God, fall on me. Write my name in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:15]. Lord, save me, these for whom I pray, and Master tonight these to whom I preach.
We’re going to stand and sing our hymn of appeal. And in this balcony round, somebody you; on this lower floor, the throng and press of people, you; if the Holy Spirit calls and bids you come, make it now. Do it now. A family, a couple, or just you, on the first note of that first stanza, come. Make the decision now in your heart; make it now, and when you stand up, stand up walking down that stairway, or into this aisle and to the front, "I’m coming now, pastor. Here I am." Do it now. Make it now. Come now. Hasten now. Answer with your life, "Lord, I’m coming now," while we stand and while we sing.