For Their Sakes I Consecrate Myself
November 27th, 1988 @ 8:15 AM
FOR THEIR SAKES I CONSECRATE MYSELF
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-27-88 8:15 a.m.
We welcome the multitudes of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now a part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled For Their Sakes I Consecrate Myself. It is a textual sermon from the seventeenth chapter of John, and the nineteenth verse. In the very heart of the high priestly prayer of our dear Lord, He uttered these words of consecration: “For their sakes I consecrate, I sanctify Myself” [John 17:19].
The apostle John is the only one that records this moving intercession of our dear Lord. He leaned on the bosom of our Savior [John 13:23]; he experienced the inner life of our Lord and King Christ Jesus. And he writes this Gospel when he was beyond ninety years of age. In the scores of years that followed the ascension of our Savior into heaven [Acts 1:9-10], the apostle John meditated upon the sacred, heavenly words of our Lord; and so recorded them here in the seventeenth chapter of his Gospel.
“For their sakes I sanctify Myself” [John 17:19]. There is a mistaken definition of sanctification that is so contrary to the Word of God. For the most part, people think of sanctification in terms of gradually getting rid of sin: I am becoming sanctified; I am becoming more godly, more free of the weaknesses of the flesh. There is no such meaning of sanctification as that in the Bible. The word in Hebrew and the word in Greek, the word in the Old Testament and the word in the New Testament translated “sanctification” is exactly alike. It refers to what is belonging to God, and giving oneself to the Lord. In Hebrew it is qadash, the verb form. In Greek it is hagiazō, the verb form. The substantive form in Hebrew: qadosh. And the substantive form in Greek: hagios.
For example, in the sixth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet sees the Lord high and lifted up, and above the throne are the seraphim. And they cry to one another, “Qadosh, qadosh, qadosh: Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of glory; the whole earth is filled with His presence” [Isaiah 6:1-3]; the exact word in Greek, hagios. In the fourth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, the apostle John sees the throne of the Lord Jesus and the four cherubim crying, “Hagios, hagios, hagios—Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of glory [Isaiah 6:3]. And the four and twenty elders fall down and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever” [Revelation 4:8-10].
The word refers to the Lord God Himself, and the word became a reference to what belongs to God. If it is sanctified, if it is kadosh, if it is hagios, if it is sanctified, it belongs to God; it’s used in the service of the Lord. For example, a bowl, or a pot, or a pitcher, or an altar, or a tabernacle, or a building would be sanctified; that is, it is used in the service of the Lord. And thus the word refers to God’s people who are set aside for Him, consecrated to Him.
Do you remember in the story of the Exodus, the firstborn of all in Egypt died that Passover night [Exodus 12: 29-30]. But if the blood of expiation were placed on the doorposts and on the lintels in the form of a cross, the death angel passed over [Exodus 12:7, 22-23]. Thereafter the firstborn were always sanctified, they were set aside, they were dedicated to the Lord [Exodus 13:1-12]. Then as the beautiful expression of God’s grace continued in the lives of the people, the tribe of Levi was substituted for the firstborn: the tribe of Levi was sanctified; it was devoted to the service of God Almighty [Numbers 3:11-13]. They had no lot or inheritance in the Holy Land; they were set aside for the service of God [Numbers 18: 6, 24]. Then in the tribe of Levi, Aaron and his sons were sanctified: they were set aside for the service in the holy temple and in the tabernacle of God [Numbers 18: 19-20].
You know the ritual of the consecration of those priests is most meaningful. First, a ram, and they put their hands on the head of the ram and there made confession and consecration. Then the ram was sacrificed and the blood of the offering was placed on the right ear, and on the thumb of the right hand, and on the big toe of the right foot [Exodus 29:19-20], signifying that the entire energy and mind and devoted life of the priest belonged to God. Now that is the meaning of the word “sanctification.” “For their sakes I sanctify Myself” [John 17:19]; set aside, devoted, consecrated to the service of God.
You see that so beautifully in the life of our Lord: “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, give Myself, to God” [John 17:19]. When Satan in the [third] temptation came before the Lord, in the third temptation came before the Lord and offered Him all the world and the glory of it if He would fall down and worship him [Matthew 4:8-10], our Lord sanctified Himself for us. Do you remember, after the feeding of the five thousand, they sought to make Him a king [John 6:8-15]: “Here is a man who can feed an army on a few biscuits and a few little sardines. And here is a man that can raise the dead [John 11:43-44]. If the soldiers are slain, He could raise them to fight again.” They sought to make Him a king; overcome the whole power of the Roman Empire, “And He withdrew into a mountain apart to pray all night long” [John 6:15]; He sanctified Himself, He consecrated Himself for us [John 6:15]. In the garden of Gethsemane, He prayed, “Lord, Thy will be done” [Matthew 26:42]. He sanctified Himself for us. When they came to arrest Him that night, Simon Peter drew out his sword and tried to cut off the head of the servant of the chief priest. And the Lord said to Simon Peter, “Put up your sword. If I will, if I would, I can call for twelve legions of angels” [Matthew 26:52-53].
Can you think about that? A legion was numbered in six thousand. Twelve legions of angels would be seventy-two thousand angels. Do you remember reading in the life of Hezekiah the king of Judah, when Sennacherib led the Assyrian army and shut up the whole city like a vise? In answer to the prayer of Hezekiah [Isaiah 37:15-20], God sent one angel, one angel; and that angel passed over the Assyrian army that night, and the next morning there were one hundred eighty-five thousand dead corpses in the Assyrian army [Isaiah 37:36]. One angel, one hundred eighty-five thousand dead soldiers—and Jesus says, “If I would, I can call for seventy-two thousand angels to come and stand by Me” [Matthew 26:53].
Consecrated Himself, sanctified Himself for us [John 17:19]: and thus it is that our Lord died on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50], and they shouted in His presence, “Come down from the cross, and we will believe You; we will accept You as our Messiah, as our Lord and King” [Matthew 27:40-42]. It’ll not be a superhuman man tearing himself down from the cross: He sanctified Himself, He consecrated Himself for us, He died for us [Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3; John 17:19]. And it will be a limp, lifeless body, a corpse that is taken down from the cross and laid in a buried tomb [John 19:16-42]. O Lord God, what You have done for us! “For their sakes I sanctify Myself” [John 17:19].
The order in the Greek is exactly as it is here in the English. First is, “For their sakes, huper auton, for them, for their sakes I sanctify Myself” [John 17:19]. Sanctification begins in a heart of love; and it is expressed, it is expressed in the giving of a life for someone else. How beautifully you see that so often illustrated in the story of the people of God. “For their sakes I consecrate myself, I sanctify myself.” When the people of Israel sinned around the golden calf [Exodus 32:1-8], the Lord said to Moses, “You stand aside and let My wrath burn against this people! And when I have destroyed them, out of your loins I will raise Me up a nation that will do My will” [Exodus 32:9-10]. Selfishness, self-interest would have said, “Lord, let the fire burn! Slay them all! Burn them up! And I’ll be the patriarch of a new nation” [Exodus 17:19]. But consecration, sanctification replied, “Lord, if You will forgive their sin”—then a long dark dash in the Bible; he never completed it—“and if not, Lord, blot my name out of the book that you have written” [Exodus 32:32]. That’s sanctification [John 17:19]. That’s consecration.
Self-interest, selfishness would have said to Ruth, “You go back with your sister Orpah, to your family, and to your people, and to your speaking in their tongue and in their life. You go back” [Ruth 1:13-15]. But consecration and 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 [John 17:19]. That’s consecration.
Selfishness would have said to the Lord Jesus, “Accept the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them worshiping Satan” [Matthew 4:8-9]. But consecration said, “I came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give My life a ransom for many” [Matthew 20:28]. And when He died, He died on a cross, with His arms outstretched to the world [Matthew 27:32-50]. Did you ever think, on one side of Him was that robber that cursed Him, and on the other side of Him was the robber that believed in Him and accepted Him [Luke 23:39-43], but the arms of the cross were outstretched to both alike, to the whole world. As wide as the world is wide, so wide is the love and grace of our Lord Jesus, with His arms outstretched to the peoples of the world.
Selfishness would have said to the apostle Paul: “You be a rabbi, and receive the accolades as the greatest exponent of Judaism in your generation.” But consecration said, sanctification said, “All things that were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ, that I may know Him” [Philippians 3:7-8]. It is a beautiful and precious expression of our devotion to God.
Now in the brief moment that remains, may I apply it to us? First, to myself. “For their sakes I consecrate myself” [John 17:19], as the pastor and undershepherd of the church. Did you know when radio and television came in the prognostication was made that the local pastor would fade away? There would be a few great preachers who would stand before the microphone on radio and before the camera on television, and they would be the preachers of the whole world; and the local pastor would be nothing but an errand boy, just carrying out little old incidental details. Why did that prognostication fail? Why did that never come to pass? Why isn’t there a few great preachers who on radio and television capture the attention of the whole world, and that’s their pastor and that’s their preacher? The reason it failed is: for every generation and for every congregation there has to be a servant of Christ who embodies, who incarnates the truth of God, and who ministers to the people. He’s their shepherd; he’s their pastor. It is the same thing as if we had a few great lovers to father all of our children: every generation, every generation has to experience falling in love and building a home and birthing a child. That is the pastor of the congregation, the undershepherd of the church: “For their sakes I consecrate myself”; ministering to the dear people God hath given us.
“For their sakes I consecrate myself.” This is the beautiful and holy dedication of the father and the mother for the child. Did you ever hear this?
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 the daddy, “not today,
I’ve worked hard all week.
I must have one day of rest.
I’m 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 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 a fright.”
Then Daddy lifts a trembling hand
To brush away the tears,
As again he hears a pleading voice
Directly 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,” author unknown]
You don’t have long with a child, not long. Seems to me they grow up overnight; seems to me they change in a day. And what you do, you must do now: tomorrow is too late. “For their sakes I consecrate myself.”
May I speak of it with regard to some of the humblest ministries in life? Now I’m not criticizing when I speak of this wonderful man, a great man; and the address that he made was published in a book, and I quote from him: “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.” Now that’s marvelous; that’s eloquent. That’s our Lord: thinking in world terms and from eternity to eternity. The language is fine—but I want you to know that in actual ministry of our Lord, how was He? He washed feet [John 13:3-5], He humbled Himself [Philippians 2:6-8]. If you’ve ever read Ben Hur, that wonderful, wonderful story of the Christ, Ben Hur, He received and never forgot, He received a cup of cold water from a young man as He was dragged along into captivity; the Lord Jesus.
I went to one of our finest men here in the church. He was head of a great unit here in the city of Dallas, a deacon. I went to him and I said to him, “We have a group of junior boys, junior boys, and they need a teacher. Would you go teach that group of junior boys?” And that wonderful man said to me, “Pastor, if you have a big class of men, I’ll teach that big class of men. But I’m not going to waste my time teaching a group of junior boys.” I can’t imagine things like that! I can’t enter into it.
The more Christ-like we are, the more godly we are, the more consecrated we are, the more we’re willing to do the humblest ministries in life: to bow, to bend, to serve. “Any place, Lord, is a good place for me, if it pleases You.” Oh! what a spirit like that will contribute to the life. “For their sakes I sanctify myself.”
And what could I say in behalf of the lost? “For their sakes I consecrate myself” [John 17:19]. As Elisha said to that Shunammite woman, “Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child?” [2 Kings 4:26]. And I make that appeal to your heart this solemn morning hour. Wherever you are, listening on that television set or through that radio, is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with your child? Is it well with the family? At this Thanksgiving season, what a beautiful moment, what a precious time to turn your heart, and thoughts, and love, and devotion, and soul heavenward, and say, “Lord, I give myself to Thee. Thank You, Lord, for making it possible for me to enter into the kingdom of heaven” [Romans 10:9-10].
And to the great throng on this Lord’s Day in this sanctuary of our Savior, in the balcony round, in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, today I have decided for Christ, and here I come, here I stand.” A family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, “This is God’s day for me, and I’m coming.” Bless you; angels attend you as you respond with your life, while we stand and while we sing.