FOR THEIR SAKES I SANCTIFY MYSELF
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-5-84 8:15 a.m.
The sermon today, I say, is an interlude; it is a sermon that has come out of three weeks when I have been mostly to myself; haven’t been up. And praying and thinking, I came to a very definite persuasion, conviction, concerning us in the house of the Lord; and this is the message. It is based upon a part of the high priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus in the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John, and verse 19. Our Lord prayed, "And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified. For their sakes I sanctify Myself."
Our usual interpretation of sanctification is a progressive ridding ourselves of sin. Sanctification, more and more we are less of ourselves and more of God, getting rid of the infirmities of our lives, becoming increasingly sanctified until finally we’ll be wholly sanctified, without iniquity and without sin. That’s the usual doctrine of sanctification: the gradual getting rid of the infirmities of our flesh. But however true that might be, that is not the biblical doctrine of sanctification. For it would be impossible to apply that in the Word of our Lord who prays, "For their sakes I sanctify Myself; for their sakes I am getting more and more rid of sin in My life, and more and more perfect in My days." It’s impossible. It is our Lord who prays, "For their sakes I sanctify Myself." The biblical doctrine of sanctification is a very simple one: anything that is given to God for the purposes of God, in the will of God, is sanctified. There are a whole group of words that in English are translated from the same word in Hebrew and in Greek. Our words "sanctification, consecration, holiness, hallowedness," all of those words and many related are from the same Hebrew word and the same Greek word. The Hebrew word qadosh and the Greek word hagiazo are exact and literal translations. And they apply to God, and they apply to what belongs to God, to the people of God, to the things of God.
For example, in Isaiah chapter 6, verse 3, the seraphim cry, "Qadosh, qadosh, qadosh; Holy, holy, holy; sanctified, sanctified, sanctified, is the Lord God of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory." In the Book of the Revelation, chapter 4, verse 8, the four living ones – I call them cherubim – cry, "Hagios, hagios, hagios, the Lord God of hosts." He is qadosh; He is hagios; holy, sanctified. And what belongs to God is holy and sanctified. The name of the temple is ton hagion, "the sanctified place, the sanctuary of the Lord". And the people that belong to God are hagioi, hoi hagioi, they are the saints of God. That doesn’t mean they are sinless; it means they belong to God, they are the people of the Lord. And whatever is used for the purposes of God is sanctified: the altar, the holy place, qadosh qadoshim, the Holy of Holies, all the pots and all the vessels in the temple were sanctified, they were holy. And whatever is chosen of God for His purposes is sanctified.
In the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Exodus, "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, it is Mine. Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn." When the avenging angel passed over Egypt, the blood redeemed, interposed between the strike and stroke of death and the loss of the firstborn in every family in Egypt; and thereafter every firstborn in Israel belonged to God to be used for the purposes of God. It is sanctified for the Lord. "Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn" [Exodus 13:1].
In the third chapter of the Book of Numbers, the tribe of Levi was exchanged for the firstborn. And the tribe of Levi was sanctified for the purposes of God. They had no land inheritance in Israel; the Lord was their inheritance. The whole tribe of Levites was to serve God. And in the tribe of Levi, in the twenty-ninth chapter of the Book of Exodus, Aaron and his sons were sanctified for the high priestly office. The beautiful ceremony was so meaningful in setting aside Aaron and his sons to minister in the presence of the Lord. The blood of sacrifice was placed on the right ear and the right hand and the right foot. It was a sign that these sons of Aaron, in all of their faculties and in all of their powers, belonged to God. They were sanctified for the Lord, to serve the purposes of God.
That is the word our Lord uses when He speaks of Himself and His sacrifice for us: "For their sakes," for us, "for their sakes I sanctify Myself; I give Myself for the purpose that God sent Me into the world." And in dark Gethsemane, when He prayed, "Not My will but Thine be done," He was sanctifying Himself, consecrating Himself for the purpose for which God sent Him into the world. And in the days of the terrible trial and in the day of the cruel cross, He was sanctifying Himself, consecrating Himself, giving Himself for the purpose by which God sent Him into the world. And there’s no one of us but will find His heart moved, deeply moved, when we think of the gift of life and of love for our sakes in the consecration of our Lord for us. Any consecrated life dedicated to us is heart moving: mother, father, friend, for our sakes consecrating themselves, giving themselves for us.
In 1941 when America was plunged into the war, one of the finest, handsomest young men in our church was the first to volunteer. Before he left our little city, he came to me and asked me to pray for him as he went away into the war. And he said something to me that has stayed in my mind, my heart – I could never forget it. The young fellow said, "If I can give my life for you, that you have freedom to preach the gospel of Christ, I will gladly lay down my life."
For their sakes I consecrate Myself."
A picket frozen on duty,
A mother starved for her brood,
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood;
And millions who, humble and nameless,
The plain, hard pathway plod, –
Some people call it consecration,
But some of us call it God.
["Each in His Own Tongue"; William Herbert Carruth]
It’s the same. The same words that describe God describe consecration, sanctification, holiness, hallowedness; the words are identical.
And that leads to an appeal that the pastor will be making from now on. At each one of the services, at eight-fifteen o’clock, this service, at ten-fifty o’clock, the next service, at seven o’clock, the evening service, there will be an additional appeal, invitation, pressed at each one of our services. And in each one of those services, there are two couples who will be coming forward to reconsecrate, and to rededicate, and to regive themselves to the Lord, and to the kingdom of Christ, and to the work of our Savior. We shall begin with the staff; two couples, or one couple and two single people, or four single people. We shall begin with the staff, until all in the staff have come forward reconsecrating and recommitting their lives to God. Then we shall begin with the deacons, and the deacons, two couples at a time, until all of the deacons have reconsecrated themselves to the work of the Lord. Then we shall begin with our Sunday school teachers, until all of our Sunday school teachers have recommitted themselves to the Lord. Then we shall begin with our church membership, until all of our church members have hallowed their lives in the service of our dear Savior. And our staff under Dr. Melzoni will choose them Sunday by Sunday, Sunday by Sunday, these are to come forward to reconsecrate and to recommit their lives to the service of Jesus.
At the broaching of such an invitation, immediately several things come to our minds. The first one, "Pastor, why so few?" When I first mentioned it, one of the dear members of the church said, "Pastor, why don’t all of the staff come forward at one time? Or why not have a general invitation for consecration and everybody come?" That’s what I have seen for fifty-five years. In fifty-five years of sharing in revival services in the church, I have stood down at the front and have shaken hands with the people who came at a consecration service. Every revival meeting will have its consecration service. And the people come and stream by and shake my hand. For the most part, it is meaningless. It’s like a herd of cattle following the lead steer. If there is a pew there, and all on that pew move out, and one is left, he’s embarrassed so he comes. It has no meaning, it has no ultimate purpose, it’s just for fifty-five years I have seen that in every revival meeting, shaking hands with these endless people coming by, reconsecrating their lives to the Lord. What we need to do is purposely, plannedly, statedly, prayerfully, preparedly coming before God to regive, and to reoffer, and to resacrifice, and to reconsecrate our lives to Jesus, a few of us at a time, meaningful, having prepared for it.
A second question would arise: "Pastor, why that open and public commitment to Jesus, why? Can I not do that in my heart, privately, alone, just between me and God? Why would I be invited publicly to come forward to reconsecrate and rededicate my life to Jesus?" For the same reason that we ask someone who accepts Jesus as his Savior to come forward and publicly to avow his faith in the Lord. He could ask the same question: "If I accept the Lord Jesus as my Savior, why cannot I do that personally, privately, in my bed chamber, in my closet with the door closed? Why cannot I accept the Lord as my Savior and make no public avowal of it at all? Why can I not?" He could – but God asks that we avow that openly and publicly before men. God asks it of us. He says in Matthew 10:32, "Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven." God says that. God says in Romans 10:8 and 9, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart one believeth unto a God kind of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." It is an invitation of God. If I have taken the Lord in my heart as my Savior, God asks me, invites me, publicly to avow that before men and angels.
Often time in these many years have I thought, "Why does God do that? Why cannot a man accept the Lord privately in his heart, with the door closed, and nobody ever know it? Why does God ask of us for a public avowal?" I can think of two reasons. Number one: it does something to me, to me when I openly and publicly and statedly and avowedly give my heart to God. It does something to me. My soul, my heart, are strengthened in the confession and in the faith. Second, it does something to these who see me do it. It does something to the congregation. It does something to the people. It does something to the family. It does something to the assembly of God’s saints, when they see me openly and publicly stand professing my faith in the Lord Jesus.
This has been almost seventy years ago, seventy years ago: my father came down to the front of the church. There had been a kind providence that blessed his life, and he sat there and took a white handkerchief out of his pocket – I so well remember that white handkerchief – and covered his face with his handkerchief and wept before the Lord. Seventy years ago. And I remember that as though it were as today. It made a profound impression upon me. I think that’s one of the reasons why God says openly and publicly, we are to avow our faith and the commitment of our lives to God.
Another question: "Pastor, isn’t that mechanical? Isn’t that mechanical? You work it out with the staff, and with the deacons, and with the teachers, and with the people in the church, isn’t that kind of a mechanical and meaningless gesture toward the Lord?" I just get it out of God’s Book, not according to the word of the Lord. There were times stated, set apart, when God’s people came before the Lord. Every year, once a year, Hannah and Elkanah went up to Shiloh, there to regive themselves to God. And Hannah made a little coat, and brought it to the boy Samuel; every year they did it, statedly, at a set time, coming before the Lord. And in this blessed Book, the highest day and the most meaningful and sacred of all of the year in the life of Israel was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On that day they came before the Lord, plannedly, prayerfully, purposely, statedly, there to appear before God in heaven. For us to have a time in our lives, "On this day I’m going to reconsecrate, and regive, and rededicate, and sanctify my life for God;" and to prepare for it, to get ready for it, to pray about it purposely, to give our lives toward it, is one of the most meaningful things that we could ever, ever do.
I need to do it. We need to do it. I have often said – and you’ve heard me say it – our lives in Christ are like great power lines: no matter how taught you stretch them, by and by they will lie on the dust of the ground. Here, and then again here, and here again are great standards that hold up those power lines; and you’ve seen them cross our nation. My life is like that: once in a while I need openly, purposely, statedly, prayerfully, I need to reavow and reconsecrate my life to the Lord, to begin again in Him.
"Pastor, didn’t you do that sixty-four years ago?" Yes. Sixty-four years ago I came down the aisle at that little church and gave my heart publicly to Christ. But my brother, all of those people who saw me do that are in heaven; they’re dead, all of them. Even my father and mother are in heaven. Don’t I need to do that for you? Don’t I need to avow that faith just once again? I do.
And may I conclude, as I read God’s Holy Word and pray over its meaning, there is not anything that ennobles the heart, that is more worthy of the sainted soul, that is more Christlike than to consecrate ourselves, to regive our lives for somebody else. "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, for their sakes." For my family, for my children, for my church, for the kingdom of my Savior, for Jesus my Lord, for their sakes I reconsecrate and rededicate my life to God.
Selfishness said to Moses, "Stand aside, Moses, and let the wrath of God burn against these erring people. For God has said to you, ‘Out of your loins will I raise up a people who will do My will.’" Selfishness said to Moses, "Stand aside and let God make out of you the father of a new nation." But Consecration said, "O God, if Thou wilt forgive their sin; but if not, blot my name out of the book which Thou hast written. If they can’t live, I don’t want to live. If God destroys them, let God destroy me." Consecration.
Selfishness whispered to Ruth, "Go back to Moab, back to your people, back to your family, back to your home; go back to Moab." But Consecration replied, "Entreat me not to leave thee, nor to return from following after thee. For whither thou goest, I will go; where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. And where thou diest, I will die; and there will I be buried. God do so and more also unto me if aught but death separate between me and thee" [Ruth 1:16-17]. Consecration.
Selfishness whispered to Jesus, "Bow down. All the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them are Yours. No cross, no suffering, no tears. Bow down." But Consecration said, "To give My life a ransom for many God sent Me into the world; and not My will, but Thine be done." Consecration.
Selfishness whispered to Saul of Tarsus, "Your breeding, your family, your upbringing, your training, your education, your gifts, you can be the leading rabbi in Israel," Selfishness. But Consecration answered, "These things that were gain for me, I counted loss for Christ. Yea, and I count but all things loss, and look upon them as refuse, that I may serve Christ." Consecration. Sanctification. Dedication. "For their sakes I give Myself to the service of my Lord."
That can include everyone dear to your heart: your children, for their sakes; for that boy of mine; for that girl of mine; for that child of mine I give myself to the Lord. For the whole circle of the family, I reconsecrate my life to Christ. For the lost, that they might be saved, do I give myself anew to the work of the Lord. For my church and the assembly of God’s people and for my blessed Savior, for their sakes I consecrate my life to Jesus.
And beginning at this service, and for the services that lie ahead, we shall see these come forward, and in God’s time you’re coming forward, reconsecrating, sanctifying your life for the blessed Jesus. That is the additional appeal. Always our appeal is for the lost, a somebody you publicly and openly to accept Christ as your Savior, come, come. A family you, to put your life in the circle and circumference and communion and fellowship of this dear church, in the balcony round, in the throng on this lower floor, a whole family you coming to put your lives with us in our dear church, welcome. As the Spirit of the Lord shall place upon your heart His divine and holy appeal, answer with your life, and welcome.
Now may we stand together? And as we sing our song, as God leads, as the Spirit of Jesus woos in the way, come, and a thousand times welcome. And angels attend you in the way as you come, while we sing, while we pray, and while we wait. Bless you. God bless you.
FOR THEIR SAKE I SANCTIFY MYSELF
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Meaning of the word "sanctify"
1. Many words in English to translate one word in Hebrew, Greek
2. Refers to God, everything in service of God, that pertains to God, that belongs to God
a. God is sanctified (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8)
b. Anything, everything set apart for God is sanctified (Zechariah 14:20)
B. The heart is moved by the dedication of one who suffers for us (John 17:18-19, 10:10, Matthew 20:28, 26:39)
II. An additional appeal – for the consecration of our lives for our Lord
A. Why a few at a time?
B. Why the public commitment?
1. God asks it (Matthew 10:32-33, Romans 10:9-10, Exodus 32:26)
2. A reason for God’s asking
a. Confirmation, affirmation in our own souls
b. Encouragement to others – both believers and unbelievers
3. Is it a mechanical, meaningless gesture? (1 Samuel 2:19)
4. Our individual, personal need to do it
5. The noblest commitment of the human heart and life – Christ-like
a. How different from selfishness and self-interest (Exodus 32:10, 32, Ruth 1:16-17, Philippians 3:7-8, Matthew 4:8-9, Mark 10:45, Matthew 26:39)