FOR THEIR SAKES, I CONSECRATE MYSELF
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-27-88 10:50 a.m.
Once again welcome to the throngs of you who are sharing this hour on radio and on cable television. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and I am the pastor bringing the message entitled For Their Sakes, For Their Sakes, I Consecrate, I Sanctify, Myself. It is a textual sermon from the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John.
As I have said each Sunday morning, that we are preaching through this wonderful Fourth Gospel, we are now in the Holy of Holies of the life of our Lord. From chapters 14 to 17, our Lord is speaking to His disciples just before His arrest and crucifixion, and before He goes into the garden of Gethsemane, after which He is arraigned and finally crucified; why, He kneels and prays for us, for those disciples there, and for us who have believed on His name through them. And in the very heart, in the very midst, of this high priestly prayer in the seventeenth chapter of John is this word in verse 19: "For their sakes I sanctify Myself" [John 17:19].
"For their sakes I sanctify Myself." John, the beloved disciple, leaned on the bosom of the Lord [John 13:23], and he became a part of the deep inner life of our Savior. He writes this Gospel after he is beyond ninety years of age. And in those scores of years of contemplation and meditation, the words of our Savior became increasingly precious and meaningful to him, and through him, to us all. And thus, he records, and he alone does it, it is not found anywhere else in the Word of God – thus he records this intercessory prayer of our Lord in chapter 17, praying for us, and in the prayer: "For their sakes I consecrate, I sanctify, Myself" [John 17:19].
We are going to take just a moment to look at the actual text itself. The common understanding of sanctification is, we are progressively getting rid of sin. We are being sanctified. We are overcoming the weaknesses and temptations of the flesh, and we are becoming sanctified. That is the usual understanding of the word, but there is nothing like that in the Bible, nothing at all, nothing approaching that.
The word "sanctification" and the word "sanctify" move in an altogether different direction in the Word of God, both in Hebrew and in Greek. And the words represent an identical idea, both in Hebrew and in Greek. In Hebrew it is qadosh, in the verbal form, qadosh in the substantive form. The identical meaning is expressed in Greek in the verbal form hagiazō, which is used here: "For their sakes I hagiazō, I sanctify Myself" [John 17:19], and the substantive form hagios. And it is used altogether referring to the character of God, or what is dedicated to the service of the Lord. It is used no other way.
For example, in sixth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet says: "I saw the Lord Jehovah . . . high and lifted up . . . and above Him stood the seraphim . . . And they cried one to another qadosh, qadosh, qadosh, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts: the whole earth is filled with His glory" [Isaiah 6:1-3]. Qadosh, "sanctified, holy" is the Lord. I said a moment ago, the exact meaning of that Hebrew word is also in the English word hagiazō or hagios.
In the fourth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, in verse 8, the apostle John sees our Lord on a throne. And the four cherubim cry to one another: "hagios, hagios, hagios" – the great, eternal, Lord God Christ. And the next verse says, "And the four and twenty elders fall down and worship Him who liveth forever and ever" [Revelation 4:8-10].
The word describes the character of God. Then it is also used to refer to anything that is dedicated to the service of the Lord. For example, a bowl may be qadosh, or a pitcher, or an altar, or a tabernacle, or a building, a temple, sanctified, it is sanctified; it belongs to the service of God. And of course, that is descriptive of those who belong to God; they are sanctified, they are His.
Do you remember in the story of the Exodus, God’s death angel passed over Egypt that terrible, awesome night? [Exodus 12:12, 22-23]. And if anyone was not behind the blood on the lintels on the doorposts, in the form of a cross, the firstborn died [Exodus 12: 29-30]. And the firstborn that was saved by the blood was qadosh, it was hagios. The firstborn was sacred to God. The firstborn belonged to God [Exodus 13:1-2, 11-15]. Then as the ritual of the worship of the tabernacle continued, why, the tribe of Levi was set aside, in place of the firstborn, and they were qadosh, they were hagios, they were sanctified to the service of the Lord [Numbers 3:6-12]. Then in the tribe of Levi, God chose Aaron and his sons in the Aaronic priesthood, and they were set aside [Numbers 3:10]. They were qadosh, hagios, they were sanctified for the service of the Lord [Numbers 3:11-13].
Could I mention, one of the most unusual rituals in all the Bible is the way the Aaronic priesthood was consecrated, was sanctified, for their service in the Holy of Holies. They took a ram, and put their hands on the head of the ram in confession and consecration; then when the ram was sacrificed, they took the blood of the ram and put it on the right ear of the priest, and on the thumb of the right hand of the priest, and on the big toe of the right foot of the priest [Exodus 29:20]. It was a sign that all of the energy, and all of the life, and all of the devotion of the priest was sanctified, it was glorified, it was consecrated for the service of God. And that’s the meaning of the word here: "For their sakes I sanctify Myself" [John 17:19]. "I give Myself, in the will of God, for them, for their sakes."
If we could take a moment here to speak of that with regard to our Lord, "For their sakes I sanctify Myself" [John 17:19]. Satan did all that he could to interdict the expiatory, atoning ministry of the Lord in our behalf. For example, in the third temptation, Satan came to the Lord Jesus and said, "If You will bow down and worship me, I will give You all of the kingdoms of the earth, and the glory of them, if You will just bow down before me" [Matthew 4:8-9]. Now if Satan did not have that power, if the glory of this world did not belong to him, it would have been no temptation at all. It is because he is the god of this world [2 Corinthians 4:4] that he had the ableness to offer it unto Christ: "All of it, I will give to You" [Matthew 4:9]. And for our sakes He sanctified Himself. "No, He said, "in the will of God have I come, and in the will of God do I give My life" [Hebrews 10:7-10]; for us, sanctified for our sakes [John 17:19].
Do you remember, again, when He fed the five thousand? [John 6:1-13]. They came and tried to make Him a king [John 6:15]. Think of what a leader He would have been. He would have subverted the Roman Empire in no time at all. Here is a Man that can feed an army with a few little biscuits and two or three little sardines [John 6:9-12]. Here is a man that can raise a dead soldier from the grave [John 11:43-44]. Think of what he could have done in delivering people from the oppression of the Roman army. They sought to make Him a king. He turned aside into a mountain and prayed alone unto God all night long [John 11:15]. For our sakes, He sanctified Himself [John 17:19].
Look again in Gethsemane, when He bowed before the Lord: "Thy will be done" [Matthew 26:39, 42]. For our sakes He sanctified Himself. When He was arrested, Simon Peter impetuously drew out His sword to cut off the head of the high priest’s servant, who was there to engineer the arrest of our Lord. And the Savior said to Simon Peter, "Put your sword back . . . If I will, if I will, I could ask for twelve legions of angels" [Matthew 26:52-53; John 18:11]. Did you ever think about that? Twelve legions of angels. Each legion had six thousand soldiers in it. So, twelve legions would be 72,000 angels.
Now if you will look just for a moment, in the days of Hezekiah, when the king prayed, the city of Jerusalem was shut up by the army of Sennacherib, the Assyrian army, completely surrounded. Hezekiah prayed before the Lord [2 Kings 19:14-19]. And the Bible says that night, an angel, one angel, an angel came down from God’s heaven and passed over the army of the Assyrians, and one hundred eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers were dead corpses the next morning [2 Kings 19:35]. Now you think of that: one angel, over the Assyrian army, 185,000 of them dead corpses; that’s what the Bible calls them, dead corpses. And the Lord says, "If I were just to say the word, 72,000 angels could be here by My side" [Matthew 26:53].
He sanctified Himself for us [John 17:19]. He gave Himself willingly for us [Hebrews 10:7-10]. And when He was nailed to the tree, those mockingly walked up and down in front of Him, and jeeringly, sarcastically, sardonically said, "Come down from the cross, You, and we will believe You are the Son of God" [Matthew 27:39-42]. You know, when I read that, I feel like saying, "Lord, do it! Come down from the cross and strike terrifying horror into their unbelieving souls!" That’s the way I feel: "Lord, do it."
No; for our sakes He sanctified Himself. It won’t be a triumphant superman who is tearing Himself from the wood and coming down. It will be a limp, lifeless, dead body that is carried into the tomb for our sakes [John 19:30-42]. "I sanctify Myself" [John 17:19].
You know, usually in a translation they will turn the words around, but not here. In one of those unusual things, the order of the English is exactly as it is in the Greek: "For their sakes" – that is first, "For their sakes I sanctify Myself" [John 17:19]. That is, consecration, sanctification begins in a heart of love. And then it is presented, it is exhibited, it becomes viable flesh and blood in the consecration of a life for somebody else.
That’s a beautiful and meaningful thing, a moving thing, wherever you witness it: to see somebody sanctified, consecrated in behalf of somebody else, for others. Do you remember when the children of Israel were dancing naked around the golden calf? [Exodus 32:48, 19, 25] The Lord God said to Moses in anger, "Moses, you stand aside and let My fury like a fire burn against these people, and after I have destroyed them, I will raise Me a nation out of your loins that will do My will" [Exodus 32:10].
Selfishness and self-interest would have said, "Lord, burn them up! Burn them up. Out of me, create a nation after Your own liking and will." But consecration, sanctification said, "O God, if You will forgive their sins" – then, in the Bible there is a long, black dash. He never finished it. "Lord, if You will forgive their sin___: then he added, "And if not, blot my name, I pray Thee, out of the book that Thou hast written" [Exodus 32:32]. "If they cannot live, I do not want to live." That is consecration.
Look again in the beautiful story of Ruth. Self-interest, selfishness would have said to this Moabitess woman, "Young widow, you go back home to your people, you follow Orpah, return to Moab, to your family, to these who speak your language and know you and live your life. You go back home" [Ruth 1:15]. But consecration, sanctification said:
Entreat me not to leave thee, nor 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 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.
That is sanctification. That is consecration.
Selfishness, self-interest could have said to our Lord Savior, "Accept the worship of the world, all the nations in their glory." But sanctification said, "I came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give My life a sacrifice, an atonement for many" [Matthew 20:28].
And do you notice that when they crucified Him, His outstretched arms were to either side. On one side was the thief that cursed Him, as well as on the other side, the thief that believed in Him [Luke 23:39-43]. But His arms were outstretched to both alike; our Savior, in His loving interest, embracing the whole world. Whether they believe or not, whether they repent or not, whether they accept Him or not: the arms of the cross, extended to include all of the families and peoples of the world. "For their sakes I sanctify Myself" [John 17:19].
You could say the same thing about the apostle Paul. He could have been the chief rabbi, accepting all of the accolades of his nation. Self-interest would have said, "Do it." But consecration, sanctification said, "All things that were gain for me, these I count but loss for Christ, that I might know Him" [Philippians 3:7-8]; beautiful thing.
If I could take a leaf out of my own life; how moving that is: "For their sakes I consecrate Myself" [John 17:19]. In the pastorate, before I came here to Dallas over forty-four years ago, we were in the midst of the Second World War. There was a young man in the congregation, a good-looking, tall young fellow, a prince of a boy; his family, one of the dearest families in the church. When the war broke out and America was involved in it, that young fellow came up to me and said, "Pastor, I am volunteering. I am entering the war." He said to me, "If I give my life that you have the freedom to preach the gospel, I will gladly lay down my life for you."
Great God in heaven; O Lord! Every Sunday night, from the proscenium, there was a drapery lowered, and gold stars on that drapery representing those boys from our congregation who had laid down their lives for us. Lord in heaven! How it bends you in lowest humility and gratitude for these who have poured out their lives unto death for us: consecration, sanctification for somebody else.
May I take the word and apply it to us who stand before God in our day? "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, I consecrate Myself" [John 17:19]. May I begin here, in the pulpit? The pastor, on behalf of his congregation, sanctifying, consecrating himself for them.
A long time ago, years ago, when radio came, and then when television came, there was, oh my! a self-assured prognostication made that the day was in hand when we would not need that local pastor. We would have a few great preachers in America, and they would stand before those cameras and before those microphones, and they would preach "the unsearchable riches of Christ" [Ephesians 3:8]. And the local pastors would be nothing but an errand boy. There would be a few great preachers that would pastor the whole flock from ocean to ocean.
Why didn’t that prophecy come to truth? Why didn’t that prognostication materialize? I will tell you exactly why. Every congregation needs that pastor to incarnate the very life of our Lord, to speak words of comfort and encouragement to our souls in the hour of necessity, of death, of despair. We need him, and no radio and no television in this earth will ever take the place of that human heart, that touch of a human hand, that word of sympathy and love and remembrance.
It’s exactly the same way. Why couldn’t you have one great lover to love for us all, to father all of our children? Simply because every generation has to experience for itself, falling in love, and building a home, and fathering a child. "For their sakes I consecrate Myself. I give myself, I sanctify Myself" [John 17:19].
How poignantly true is that of fathers and mothers for their children! For their sakes I consecrate myself, I sanctify myself, for that little child, that little boy, that little girl, that has my name and looks like me:
A little girl with shining eyes,
Her face all aglow said,
"Daddy, it is almost time for
Sunday school. Let’s go."
"Oh, no," said Daddy, "not today,
I have 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’s fine, they say.
So run along,
Don’t bother me.
We’ll go to church some other day."
Months and years have passed away,
Life is almost through.
Dad finds time now to go to church;
But what does the daughter do?
She says, "Oh, Daddy, not today;
I stayed up most all night.
I have just got to get some sleep,
Besides I look a fright."
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, let’s go."
["As the Twig is Bent," author unknown]
I tell you truly, you who have little children: they are little for a moment. They are grown and gone before you realize it. Just turn your head and that little child is a teenager. Turn your head once, more and they are gone forever. What you do, you must do now, you must do now. Tomorrow is too late. "For their sakes I consecrate Myself, I sanctify Myself for them" [John 17:19].
May I also point out that we magnify our Lord in the humble ministries of life. May I illustrate it? I listened to one of our great leaders, he headed one of our tremendous institutions. The speech, the address that he made, I read later in one of his publications. Well, it’s eloquent, it’s just marvelous, no doubt about that [1 quote, He said, "Our Commander in Chief, the mighty Christ, thought in world terms. He lived in world circles and commanded us to world conquest. Little minds think in little circles. The divine Savior thought from pole to pole, from eternity to eternity, and around the globe."
Well, that’s wonderful. Don’t you think that was eloquent? Fine language, and true; Jesus did have a world vision, and He gave Himself to an earth-encircling task. Do you know how He actually lived? Do you know what He actually did? He washed feet. That would be Jesus. He washed feet [John 13:4-5].
Have you ever read Ben Hur ? Ben Hur, the tale of the Christ, one of the most moving, dramatic novels you could ever read, Ben Hur. In Ben Hur, Ben Hur is being dragged along by the Roman soldiers into slavery and into the galley. Remember that? And while they were dragging him along, the Lord Jesus, who was then about nineteen years of age, stops and gives him a drink of cold water. That’s Jesus. That’s Jesus.
You can talk about His great encircling work and the vision that encompasses the globe. That’s eloquence, and it is true. When you follow the life of our Lord, actually what He did was the humblest and the simplest ministries of life.
I’ll give you an illustration here in my own church. He is dead now, and otherwise I would not mention it, because he would know who I was talking about. We had a man here in the church, a deacon here in the church, who headed one of the great, viable institutions in the city of Dallas. And we desperately needed at that time a teacher for a little boy’s junior Sunday school class. And I went to him and I asked him if he would teach that little class of boys, and he replied to me, and he said, "Pastor, if you have a big class of men, I will teach that big class of men. But I am not going to waste my time and life teaching a class of little junior boys."
That’s it. That’s it exactly. "For their sakes I consecrate Myself" [John 17:19]; not to be exalted or esteemed or accoladed or praised. "Lord, if there is the humblest work that I can do for You: move a chair, sweep the floor, knock at the door, see somebody sick, invite somebody lost to the Lord; Lord, for their sakes I consecrate myself, I sanctify myself." Then we will leave the accolades and the rewards to God, and you don’t have to worry about that. If in your heart of hearts there is a spirit to love Jesus, and through Him to be a humble minister to others, someday God will give you a crown of life. He will not forget.
And that leads to this closing word, "For their sakes I sanctify Myself" [John 17:19]: somebody who is lost. Do you remember Elisha, when the Shunammite mother came to him, and he greeted her and said, "Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband, and is it well with your child? Is it well?" [2 Kings 4:26]. Oh, how that echoes in our hearts today! In the circle of your home and family, are they all in the kingdom? Is it well?
And among those whom you know, those who labor by your side in a business, or an acquaintance, or a neighbor, do they know the Lord? Is it well with them? And do you, in God’s presence today, if the Lord were to summon you before the great judgment throne of Almighty God – and He could do it any time, any minute – if we were to stand before the Judge of all the earth, is it well with you and your soul? Could you say, "Lord, insofar as my heart could be opened heavenward and God-ward, I received You as my Savior and love You as my Lord."
The sweetest, [most precious] of all responses that you could ever make in life, "Today, pastor, today, I give my heart in faith to the Lord Jesus, and here I stand." God grant it, and precious Savior; amen. May we pray?
Our Savior in heaven, how dear, how dear You are to us. Humble Son of God, came down from glory [Hebrews 10:5-14], made Himself of no reputation [Philippians 2:7], took upon Him the weaknesses and sorrows of our life [Isaiah 53:4], died our death [1 Corinthians 15:3]; O God, cried our tears, suffered our hurts, our Brother, Jesus the Lord [Hebrews 4:14-15]; now exalted and raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-6], awaiting the time of our coming; O God, without loss of one, may we be present, may we answer to our name in glory. May God open for each one of us the gates of heaven. And our Lord, in this service and at this moment, give us the souls of these that today ought to respond to the call of God, in whose name we pray, amen, amen.
In a moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing the song of invitation, a family you, to come into our dear church, and welcome; a couple you, a one somebody you, as the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, make that decision now, do it now, and on the first note of the first stanza come, down a stairway, down an aisle, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I come." May God bless you as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.
SAKE I SANCTIFY MYSELF
A. Only John records
this intercessory prayer of our Lord
B. Meaning of the word
character of God (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8)
2. Anything dedicated
to the service of the Lord
Includes those who belong to God (Exodus 13:1-2, Numbers 3:11-13, Exodus 29:20)
II. For us
did all he could to interdict atoning ministry of Christ (Matthew 4:8-9, John
6:15, Matthew 26:52-53, 2 Kings 19:35)
gave Himself willingly (Matthew 27:42)
begins in a heart of love; exhibited in consecration of a life for somebody
different from selfishness and self-interest (Exodus 32:10, 32, Ruth 1:16-17,
Matthew 20:28, Philippians 4:7)
III. The message to us today
A. The pastor on behalf
of his congregation
B. Fathers and mothers
for their children
C. In our humble
ministries of life