Sowing and Reaping
January 28th, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
SOWING AND REAPING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-28-73 8:15 a.m.
In our preaching through the Book of Galatians, we are in chapter 6. And you who are listening to the service on radio are sharing with us the First Baptist Church in Dallas its morning worship hour. There is a passage in the sixth chapter beginning at verse 6 through 9 [Galatians 6:9] that reads like this:
Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto 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.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
The seventh and the eighth verses are so ofttimes quoted [Galatians 6:7-8]. But if the message is to be an exposition then we must find it in its context, and the context for this passage is astonishing!
The apostle is talking about giving. Let him that is taught in the word, the people of the church, communicate unto him that teacheth in all of the good things of life communicate, koinōneō, share with him. A koinōnia is a sharing. It is a communion. It is a fellowship. The word koinōnos, is the word for liberal, so the word translated here communicate, let him that is taught in the word, the people in the church communicate unto him that teacheth, give to the support of the church and to the ministry.
Then he uses an example out of natural law. “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. He that soweth to his flesh shall in the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall in of Spirit reap life everlasting” [Galatians 6:7-8]. So don’t be discouraged in the liberality that God would place in your heart in supporting the church and the ministry; “for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” [Galatians 6:9].
Now an objection might be most appropriate if someone said, “This law of sowing and reaping may obtain in the natural world, but it does not find application in the spiritual world.” No, for the same mind and the same design and the same plan and the same intelligence that lies back of our natural world is the same design and plan and intelligence that lies back of the spiritual world. It is the same Creator who made both the visible and the invisible [Hebrews 11:3].
And of the two, the spiritual, the invisible, is first. For it was along the lines and the designs and the plans that God knew in the spiritual that He laid down the foundations for the physical. And the only difference between the physical and the spiritual is that the wheels that work in the physical are clothed. They are ironed; they are substantive. And the wheels that work in the spiritual are unclothed. They are without iron, and with substance.
You know, I have said in times past that God has written two great books. One is the physical world around us. This was designed by God’s hand and the Lord God Almighty created it all [Genesis 1:1-31]. Then there is another book that God wrote. It is the spiritual book, the world of the invisible [Psalm 18:1, Hebrews 11:13].
As I rethink that, I’ve come to the conclusion it would be better to say it like this: God has written one book, and the same hand and the same finger has incised and inscribed it all. The only difference in it is that it has two chapters separated by our five senses. But the world of the invisible and the world of the visible, the world of the natural and the world of the supernatural, the world of the spiritual and the world of the mundane and terrestrial, they are all one world.
We have no finer evidence of the personal creative workmanship of the one God than we find in that one work. For example, so intimately and precisely has the same Lord God made it all that wherever you touch one of the works of God, immediately you are introduced to all of the earth, all of the rest. And you cannot escape it. When you enter into to one of the works of the Almighty, when you get beyond the rudiments, when you get beyond the primary, immediately you come into contact, you bump into everything else that God has done, so closely interwoven has the Lord made the entire creation, visible and invisible.
For example, suppose you were to study agronomy, agriculture. It is not long until you are studying botany. Nor is it long until you are studying zoology. Nor is it long until you are studying meteorology, all about the weather and the moisture and the rainfall. So God’s whole earth is like that. It is one world created by one hand, the mind and plan and design of the Almighty. So what I see in the physical world I can be led to understand what is in the spiritual world.
Jesus knew that, and that lies back of His masterful teaching. Our Lord illustrated the things that we know in this physical life by the things that we know in the spiritual life. And He illustrated the things in the spiritual life by what we know in the physical life. He would watch the little birds as they would fly, or as one would fall to the ground [Matthew 10:29]. Or He would watch a little wildflower grow, and illustrate in that the great spiritual presence of God [Luke 12:27-28].
Paul does that here, and any true preacher does that also. He will take the simplest things of this life, the laws that we say, the outworking of the mind and plan of God, and he will use them to illustrate spiritual truth. He may not call it the law of retribution or the law of compensation or the law of cause and effect, but he will take the great spiritual laws that God has made in the world and illustrate them in the things that we see in common life.
Now here is one. The law of sowing and reaping. The law of planting and harvesting. And the law here in this passage in Paul is illustrated in kind and in degree. First in kind: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” [Galatians 6:7]. We get what we pay for. We receive what we buy—that, not something else. When the student goes to school, his payment is knowledge, to know. A soldier will find fame and fortune, and a workman will receive money. He gets that. What he sows he reaps. What he buys he receives. It is that and not something else.
This is the law of the harvest. If a man plants wheat he expects that, not sorghum. If a man plants an acorn, he expects an oak not a magnolia. If you plant a slip of an elm you expect a great giant elm. It is that, not something else. When a young fellow goes to school and he is taught medicine, he is proficient in that, not in agriculture. Here is a lawyer who is taught in the school. That does not mean he is proficient in engineering. He reaps that.
So it is in God’s spiritual world. What we sow, we reap that. And the apostle is saying here that in God’s spiritual world there are two alternatives. One, when we sow to the world, when we sow to the flesh, we reap corruption. But when we sow to the Spirit we reap eternal life [Galatians 6:7-8].
And he is talking about here mundane things, things of the earth. He is talking about the rewards of the world. Look at them for a moment. The rewards of the world, sowing to the world, sowing to the flesh are very apparent. They are affluence. They are success. They are comforts. They are freedom from hunger and starvation and cold and heat. They are many, many things that the world can repay when we sow to the flesh and sow to the world. But the Scripture here says that there is in that corruption [Galatians 6:8]. It is that always. The harvest is disintegration, loss, corruption.
Money, for example, money will buy a bed, but not sleep. It will buy food, but not appetite. It will buy a house, but not a home. It will buy medicine, but not health. It will buy amusement and pleasure, but not happiness. It will buy gifts, but not love. It will buy a crucifix, but not a Savior. When we sow to the world, when we sow to the flesh, always the harvest ultimately is corruption. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 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” [Galatians 6:7-8].
The reward of the world ultimately is corruption. There was a man who was in the car of another friend and they passed by a beautiful estate. And there crowning it was an impressive mansion. And the passenger in the car said to the other friend, “What is the value of this estate?”
And the other man replied, “I can’t tell you what it’s worth, its value. But I can tell you what it cost its recent possessor.”
And the man said, “What did it cost him?”
And he replied, “Everything that he had. It cost him his soul.”
An English clergyman, the pastor, the vicar of a church was kneeling by the side of a wealthy parishioner, and he was pleading with the man to give his soul and his heart to God. And as the pastor pled with the parishioner, he said to him, “As a sign and a token of the commitment of your life to God, give me your hand. Give me your hand; give me your hand.”
And the man refused to do so; and so died. And when he died his cold pulseless hand relaxed, and the pastor looked in it and saw that the man was grasping the key to his safe.
“He that soweth to the flesh, to the world, shall of the world and of the flesh reap corruption” [Galatians 6:8]. There is not a Mason who is listening this morning, but could never forget the most dramatic of all of the initiations in human history, when Hiram Abiff is slain, and in seeking to raise him from the dead, the man taking his hand turns and says, “I cannot raise him. The skin slips off of his hand.” Corruption. He that soweth to the flesh, to the world, shall of the flesh reap corruption [Galatians 6:8]. The harvest is the key.
Ah, I remember a wealthy man in his last illness was obsessed with his hands. In the aberration of his mind, he was obsessed with his hands. And his wife called his best friend of the years and said, “Would you come and see him? Maybe you can help him.” So Jim came and visited with his old time friend. And Jim said to him, “John, there’s nothing wrong with your hands. Nothing!”
And John turned and looked at him and said, “My God, Jim, look, look! They are so empty!” He that soweth to the flesh, to the world, shall of the flesh and of the world reap loss, death, disintegration, corruption [Galatians 6:8].
Death is a mockery to those who live for this life alone, who leave God out, who forget there is a life that is yet to come. Death to them is not the gate to Paradise. It is a colossal and eternal loss. He that soweth to the flesh, to the world, shall of the flesh and of the world reap corruption. “But he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” [Galatians 6:8]. What an astonishing thing to write about giving!
Let him that is taught in the word koinōneō, give, share, with the ministry, with the church, with the work [Galatians 6:6]. For he that soweth in the things of God, who plants in the things of the Lord shall of the things of God reap, reap.
Now I come to my second discussion. Not only reap in kind but reap in degree. Don’t be weary in it, for in God’s time you shall reap. What degree? How often will the apostle discuss this? He will say, speaking of this liberality, he will say:
But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Every man as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not by coercion or by necessity; but of a full free heart.
For God is able to make all grace abound toward you; He being sufficient in all things.
[2 Corinthians 9:6-8]
The law of the harvest. When I sow to the Spirit, I reap in degree also only a thousandfold, a hundredfold, many times over and beyond; the quality of life, eternal everlasting. Isn’t that an astonishing thing? Isn’t that an amazing thing? Isn’t that an unbelievable thing? That when I sow in the kingdom of the Lord, when I give to the work of the Lord, then in degree as well as in kind am I marvelously blessed in the world of the Spirit.
My time is gone. Let me illustrate that rather than try to expatiate on it. Often I am asked, “Did you ever know Dr. Truett?” I wish I could have been here in the church when the great far-famed pastor stood in this pulpit, forty-seven years behind this very desk, proclaiming the message of God. I would just see him at a convention; hear him upon a stated occasion.
One time I heard him describe something. Oh, how it moved my soul, and it illustrates exactly what the apostle is avowing in this passage. Sowing to the Spirit [Galatians 6:8] and reaping in degree things that only God could bestow. My remembrance of how the thing came about was this. He was out there in the West, at Paisano I suppose, or at Bloise, where he preached to the cowboys every year. And after a morning service one of the cowmen out there who owned vast hundreds of thousands of acres of land, with a great spread of cattle, asked the pastor if they might walk together.
They walked and they walked and finally came to a certain isolated place. And the big cowman said to the pastor, “This morning for the first time, in the message that you brought, I have come to see that I don’t own this great ranch. These thousands and thousands of acres, they belong to God. And I am just His steward, His servant.”
He said, “This morning I have come to realize I do not own these vast herds. These cattle belong to God and I am just God’s servant. And I don’t own these great possessions the Lord has placed in my hands. All of them are God’s and I am just to use them for Him.”
And the big cattleman said, “Dr. Truett, would you kneel down here by my side and tell God for me that today, today I give to Him everything that I possess and that I will be a good steward and use it for God’s glory. Tell Him for me.” And the pastor said he knelt down by the side of the big cattleman and told God that today all of the vast spread of that vast ranch he gave to God and that he would be a good steward using it for the work of God in the earth.
The pastor said when he got through with the prayer he supposed that the request had ended and he’d done what the big ranchman had asked for. But when he got through the prayer of dedication, the rancher put his hand on the arm of the pastor and said, “Just one other thing. Having given to God everything that I have, and having promised God I would be a good steward of what the Lord hath given to me, now pastor, could you tell God that I also give Him my wayward and prodigal boy? And would you ask God that He save and bring back my wayward and prodigal son? Do I have a right to ask God for that? Now that I have given Him everything that I have?”
When the great pastor got through talking about that, I was melted in tears. Does a man have a right to expect of God, having dedicated to God all that he has, then does he have a right to expect God to give him a harvest in degree?
The law of the harvest says yes. And these laws are more eternal and implacable and unchanging than the laws that we see of gravity or of light and its speed.
When a man gives himself to the spiritual realities that the Lord lays upon his soul, then the harvest is promised of God. You have a right to ask, “Lord, my son.” “O God, this work. O Lord, this task.” “For he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap an everlasting reward” [Galatians 6:8], the quality of life. Therefore be not weary; for in due season God will bestow the harvest [Galatians 6:9]. Trust Him for it. Believe Him for it, and God will do it.
In this moment that we stand to sing our appeal, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, to give your heart and life to God [Romans 10:8-13], would you come? To put your life with us in the fellowship of this dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25], would you come? In the balcony round, you, on this lower floor, into the aisle and here to the front, you, “I make that decision now, I do it today and here I come. Here I am.” Make it now. Do it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.
A. Apostle is talking
is a sharing, a communion; translated here “communicate”
B. Objection – law of
sowing and reaping does not apply in spiritual world
– same Creator made both the visible and the invisible
The spiritual, the invisible, is first
has written one book – spiritual and physical creation closely interwoven
What I see in the physical world can lead me to understand the spiritual
E. 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
b. English clergyman at
the bedside of wealthy parishioner
c. Hiram Obiff
Wealthy man, dying, obsessed with his hands – “They are so empty!”
2. Sowing to the Spirit
we shall reap life everlasting
III. In degree
A. Paul speaks often of
the degree of reaping(2 Corinthians 9:6-8)
B. When I sow to the
Spirit I reap in degree many times over and beyond
C. Dr. Truett – walking
with great cattleman
Does a man have a right to expect of God, having dedicated all he has? – yes