Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-17-88 8:15 a.m.
And once again, welcome to the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. Did you know in a matter of a few, few days, this radio station will go from ten thousand watts to one hundred thousand watts? There is no radio on the North American continent that will be bigger, more powerful than the radio station we own here in our wonderful First Baptist Church of Dallas; God be praised for the opportunity, preaching the gospel. I think one of the things God has done in this modern age is to make it possible for the prophecy to be true that everyone shall hear before the Lord comes, and that is TV and radio. And by the way, tell everybody if you are not going to come to the First Baptist Church at eleven o’clock every Sunday morning, you can listen, watch the service on Channel 5.
In our preaching through the Gospel of John, we are in chapter 12. And in the heart of the twelfth chapter is one of the most unusual dispensational incidents to be found in the Word of God. Beginning in verse 20:
There were certain Greeks among them that came up to the feast:
They came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.
Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.
And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, the Son of Man is to be glorified.
Then follows His Word. And verse 32, which is my text and the subject of the Magnetic Christ, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me." [John 12: 32]
Now look at this carefully for just a moment. When these Greeks came to the feast, to the Passover, and made the requests, "Sir, we would see Jesus," our Lord was deeply perturbed in His soul by that request. In this passage here, He speaks of the grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies, that it might bring forth a harvest. He says in verse 27, "Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? For this hour came I unto the world," and then that glorious text of the morning sermon.
Another thing about this passage: between the triumphal entry of our Lord into Jerusalem on Sunday and the Passover Feast on Thursday night, the other Gospels have many, many things to say, many chapters. John speaks, records just this one incident; that’s all.
Will you notice again that these Greeks came to Philip, and then he to Andrew. They’re the only two apostles with Greek names: Philip and Andrew. And they were plunged into consternation by the question, by these Greeks, "We want to see Jesus." You see, there is a word in the Greek language, Hellenists, that referred to Greek-speaking Jews. But the word hellenes refers to pagan Greeks, pagans. And this is the word used here. These Greeks are not Hellenists; they are hellenes, they are pagan Greeks. And when they come to Philip, he doesn’t know what to do. And Philip takes their request to Andrew, and he doesn’t know what to do. And Andrew and Philip both come to Jesus and say, "What shall we do?"
Now the trouble is dispensational. For the Lord Himself, had said – and I’m reading it now out of chapter 10 and verses 5 and 6 in the First Gospel:
Jesus sent the twelve, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Now as though you might think, "Now that’s unusual," you turn to Matthew 15 and verse 24. "Jesus answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Well, what do you do with these Greeks, these pagan Greeks who have come, saying, "We want to see Jesus"? When Jesus says, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" [Matthew 15:24]. It posited a question that they didn’t know how to answer.
You see there’s the closing of the old dispensation. This is the end of the Old Testament, and this is the opening of the new dispensation – dispensation, the program of God in dealing with His people, how He deals with people. This is the beginning of a new dispensation. "I was sent not but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," the old dispensation. And the new one, "All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and preach the gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the triune God" [Matthew 28:18-20]. That’s this. And the incomparably meaningful and moving Word of our Lord which is our text, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" [John 12:32], the universality of the gospel, the new dispensation.
This last week, this immediate week, I went to a scholarshare banquet of our preacher’s school here, our college. And one of the things they did there, they had students – they tell me there are about forty-three of them all together – they had students there. That night, there were about fifteen of them lined up. And they were from the nations under the sun: Africa, South America, Asia, Europe, all those continents. And those young preachers called of God, saved by the grace of the Lord, stood up and quoted in their tongue and in their language their favorite verse in the Bible. It’s a new world; Jesus lifted up.
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me." It was true when He was crucified. He was crucified just north of the Damascus Gate, the great road that ran from north to south. And He was exposed there before the world. The Gospels say the multitudes passed by looking at Him.
That was the purpose of God. He was crucified naked. All of your pictures clothe Him, at least with a loincloth. Not so. He was crucified naked. The Lord purposed, intended, that His Son be exposed to the whole world.
And when they took Him down from the cross, the same universality of word was spoken from lip to lip and heart to heart. Do you remember the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, as those two disciples walked to Emmaus so sad? Suddenly there’s a third person walking with them, unknown to them, the Lord Jesus. And He asked, "Why they are sad" [Luke 24:17].
And they explained to him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem and You don’t know what has come to pass in these few days?" [Luke 24:18]. And that has been true through all of the centuries since, the meaning of the message that unfolds concerning Christ our crucified Lord. No one yet has been able to plummet the depths of the atoning grace of God in Christ Jesus. And I’m standing here, still adding to it, after one thousand nine hundred eighty-eight years. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."
How to reach the masses, men of every birth? For an answer, Jesus gave the key: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."
I want you to notice in your King James Version that that word "men" is in italics. That means it’s not in the original. What our Lord says, "If I be lifted up, I will draw panta, panta" – they just added the word men – panta; that is, our Lord’s message of redemptive grace will not bring every individual to a saving faith, but panta, out of every nation and tribe and tongue and language under the sun, there will be those who will be brought to the Lord Jesus, everywhere. Rich and poor, old and young, male and female, learned and unlearned, black and white, red and yellow, from the ends of the earth, they’ll be drawn unto Him.
Now my word. This is the great commitment of the true preacher and pastor; lifting up our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s his tremendous assignment and calling from heaven; to preach Jesus and Him crucified.
You know it’s an unusual thing when you read the apostles’ epistles. The second chapter and the second verse of the first Corinthian letter, Paul writes, "For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" [1 Corinthians 2:2]. Well, what happened? Why is he so emphatically committed? "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." Well, the answer is very simple. Everywhere that Paul preached the gospel, he was persecuted: he was put in jail, he was beat, he was stoned, except when he came to philosophical, intellectual university city of Athens.
And when he stood there and preached Jesus crucified and raised, the Stoics graciously bowed and said, "We’ll just hear you again of this matter" [Acts 17:32]. That’s the way the Stoics, they left; they walked out. The Epicureans were more crude, "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Such inanity," and they left. Now I can tell you this. It’s a thousand times easier to bear the brunt of persecution than it is to be laughed at and ridiculed. And that’s what happened to Paul when he preached about Jesus on the cross in the university city of Athens.
And as he walked from Athens to Corinth, he turned over in his mind, "Will I stay by the old gospel? The gospel of the cross? The gospel of the blood? Or shall I exchange it for the latest sophistry and the current philosophy?" And that’s why the sentence, "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" [1 Corinthians 2:2]. Don’t you wish that all the preachers in the world would be like Paul?
How many of our modern preachers exchange the gospel of the crucified Lord for the latest sophistry, for the latest fad, economics, politics, social reform, even book reviews and entertainment? O Lord!
I one time heard of an engineer who drove his train to a wreck. And when they called him before the board of inquiry, the engineer said, "I saw the flag, but it was white!" And the men in the railroad said, "It was red." The flag was called for. It had been read, but the color had gone out of it. So much of modern preaching is like that. The blood is an offense, the offense of the cross. The color’s gone out of it. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."
The preaching of the gospel of the redeeming blood of Christ; this is the incomparable, marvelous opportunity of the Sunday school teacher, to lift up Jesus. I heard of a Sunday school teacher, a little timid, timorous woman, who when no one else would take the class, volunteered to teach a dozen Intermediate boys; rough, uncouth. And when that little, tiny, timorous self effacing woman came in to teach their class – that’s about the biggest joke they’d ever heard of or seen in their lives – and when they came to Sunday school the next Sunday, they brought a snake with them. That timid, little woman was frightened to death, those boys with that snake.
But in the grace of God, she held out her hand and asked for it. And to the amazement of that bunch of rough Intermediates, she took it and held it back of its head. And it curled itself around her little arm. And she held it up and quoted John 3:14:
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up:
That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
And they told me that every one of those boys in those days that followed were won to Christ.
Anywhere in the Bible is a good where to preach about Jesus, to teach about our Lord. If you’re in the Book of Genesis – as I am on Wednesday night – the great creation, He is the Creator. If you’re reading about the flood, He is the ark of hope. If you’re talking about the journey through the wilderness, He is the Rock from which comes our living water and the manna of life sent down from God from heaven. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."
To the architect He Is the Chief Cornerstone.
To the astronomer He Is the Bright and Morning Star.
To the farmer He Is the Lord of the Harvest.
To the florist He’s the Rose of Sharon, the Lily of the Valley.
To the baker He Is the Bread of Life.
To the banker He’s the Riches of the World.
To the doctor He’s the Great Physician.
To the educator He’s the Incomparable Professor.
To the judge He’s the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
To the jury He’s the Faithful and Tried Witness.
To the lawyer He’s the Great Advocate and Counselor.
To the philosopher He’s the Way and the Truth and the Life.
To the theologian He’s the Author and the Finisher of our faith.
To the lost He’s the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
And to the saved He’s my Lord and my God.
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."
This is the incomparable opportunity of the parent: the father and the mother in the home with their children, lifting up the Lord, telling them, teaching them about Jesus our Savior.
Yesterday, I married a couple that came down here from Muskogee, Oklahoma. I was so complimented. Got to thinking about those days in Oklahoma. In the Kiamichi Valley, way back yonder in those years gone by, there were violent men. One of them, an outlaw and a desperado and a murder and a robber, they sentenced to death, to be executed in the penitentiary at McAlister. And before they executed him, he made a request. "Could I see my little girl before I die?" You see, the law had taken that little child out of the shanty in the Kiamichi Valley, and she was adopted by a beautiful Christian family. And, of course, that godly father and mother, the adoptive parents, taught the little girl about Jesus.
Well, the state honored his request, and they brought that little girl to the penitentiary at McAlister, for that desperado to see the child before he was executed. And she talked to him and told him about the things she’d been taught in that Christian home about Jesus and about heaven.
And you know what? The daily papers of Oklahoma, when they published the story of the execution of that man, they also said, "He said, ‘If we had just known about Jesus in the Kiamichi Valley, everything would have been so different.’" I thought of that poem, "Since Jesus came to our house, what a difference Jesus makes." O God, that in our houses, and in our homes, and with our parents and with our children there might be that wonderful dedication. Lift Him up and "I will draw unto Me."
And may I close with a word about each one of us? Just the sweetest, quietist, dearest, preciousest testimony of the Lord Jesus wherever we go, wherever we work, with whomever we meet; not argumentative, debative, not offensive, just sweetly, beautifully, lovingly, endearingly, speaking a good word about Jesus. I heard of a commuter on a Long Island railroad train out of New York City. Whenever the commuter train left the subway station in the city, this young man, soft-spoken and beautifully dressed, would go to the front of the cars, and as he would walk through the cars, he would say, "Excuse me, sir. Excuse me, miss, if there is someone in your family who is blind or if you have a friend who is blind, tell them to call Dr. Carl. He restored my sight." Didn’t argue, no debate, just a testimony, "He restored my sight."
I thought of that blind man in the ninth chapter of this Book of John, when the Sanhedrin accosted him and said, "But this Jesus is a seditionist and a insurrectionist and a sinner!" The man replied, "Whether He is or no, I do not know. What I do know is this: Where as I was blind, now I can see" [John 9:14-30]. That’s our testimony. We’re not arguing, we’re not debating, we’re not coercive. We’re just saying what the Lord has done for us. And that’ll fill volumes, that’ll fill libraries. "Oh, oh, oh, what He’s done for me."
It is a wonderful thing that can happen when Jesus is lifted up. "I’ll draw all unto Me."
And as we stand in this moment and sing our hymn of appeal, a family you, to come into the fellowship of our dear church, a couple or just a somebody one, "Pastor this is God’s day for me, and I’m coming." Down one of these stairways, the front or the back, or down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s day and hour for me, and here I stand." Make that decision now in your heart, and on the first note of this first stanza, answer with your life, do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.