The Pleading of the Holy Spirit
October 23rd, 1988 @ 8:15 AM
THE PLEADING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-23-88 8:15 a.m.
We welcome the throngs 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 The Pleading of the Holy Spirit. The sermon is an exposition of a passage in the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, verses 7 through 11 [John 16:7-11]. In our preaching through this marvelous Fourth Gospel, we are in the very heart of the Holy of Holies: the precious, beautiful Word of our Lord to His disciples just before He was crucified [John 19:16-30], buried [John 19:38-42], and raised in triumph from the dead [John 20:11-18].
Our Lord speaks to His disciples, John 16, beginning at verse 7:
I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.
And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
Of sin, because they believed not on Me;
Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more;
Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
It is almost impossible in human language to present, to describe God. And how much more so is that impossible when we seek to place in verbal voice the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament He is called ruach [Genesis 1:2]: an exact duplication of pneuma in the New Testament, translated “breath” [Ezekiel 37:9]. Sometimes, as in the third chapter of John, Jesus will use the word “wind” [John 3:8]. When we think of the symbolism of the Holy Spirit expressed in those words, it has a tremendous connotation of power.
A tornado is nothing but wind. The man who was running a great quarry said, “I can lift ten solid acres of granite ten feet thick at any height by the power of air.” And these great trains are controlled by air brakes. And yet a dove can fly through it. I can move my hand through it. It’s like gravity: it pulls down to the earth everything. Someone has described the gravity that holds this earth in orbit as being a steel beam three thousand feet thick. And yet, I move my hands through it; a little bird can fly through it. Ruach, “breath,” pneuma, the Spirit of God.
Here the author refers to the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete, translated here “the Comforter [John 16:7]. Para, “alongside,” kaleō, “to call”; the One who is called alongside; our Comforter, our exhorter, our pleader, the Paraclete. And in speaking of the Holy Spirit as a parakletos, He says, “He will reprove, elegchō, reprove the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, elegchō” [John 16:8]. Elegchō, “convict”: you have a good instance of the use of that word in the fourteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, the middle of the chapter. Paul is describing the assembly of God’s people, and he says when they assemble, if they speak in tongues, in unknown languages, an unbeliever will come in and think you are mad [1 Corinthians 14:23]. But if you prophēteuō, prophēmi, if you speak out for Christ, if you testify for the Lord, they will elegchō, they will be convicted, they will be reproved; and they will fall down before the blessed Savior [1 Corinthians 14:24-25].
That’s the word that is used here. The Holy Spirit elegchō, He convicts the world in His testimony [John 16:8]; and it’s threefold: first, “Of sin, because they believe not on Me” [John 16:9]. The mother of all sin is the repudiation, the refusal to give heart and life to our blessed Lord. What good is it to plead against this iniquity and that transgression and this sin, when the heart is not right with God? But if the heart is given to Christ, all of the virtues follow thereafter. Our problem is in the bloodstream: the refusal to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
I’ll never forget the first time I ever heard the word “penicillin.” In the church that I pastored years ago, there was a precious little girl, and her bloodstream was infected. And there would be eruptions of tragic sores on this part of her body; then it’d be this part of her body, and she was dying there in one of those tragic attacks on the inside of her body. And that’s the first time I ever heard of penicillin. The physician said, “If we could just find that marvelous new drug—they’ve just discovered it, penicillin—she’d be healed.” We made appeal, we made appeal to the Surgeon General in Washington DC in behalf of that little girl; and he responded and sent a little vial of penicillin. And her life was saved, and she was made well again. That’s the problem in human life: it’s in the heart, it’s in the bloodstream. And to patch us here and to address our appeal there to all of the phases of transgression and iniquity is futile. But if we can get right in our hearts, if we can be saved, if we can accept Jesus all of the problems of sin in life are immediately washed away in His grace, in His love, in His atoning blood [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5].
This is the reason that the Bible will call the rejection of Christ the unpardonable sin, the unforgivable sin [Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30; Luke 12:10]. Every other sin that you can name can be forgiven except that sin. When you read the Bible, the saints of God’s Book have fallen into the most grievous transgressions.
- Noah was drunk [Genesis 9:21]; God forgave him.
- Abraham was a liar down in Egypt [Genesis 12:11-19; 20:1-2,13]; God forgave him.
- Moses was a murderer [Exodus 2:12]; God forgave him.
- David covered his adultery [2 Samuel 11:2-5], with an unbelievable transgression—killing one of the finest men in his army [2 Samuel 11:12-17]—God forgave him.
- Jonah was disobedient to God [Jonah 1:1-3]; the Lord forgave him.
- Simon Peter cursed, denying the Lord Jesus [Matthew 26:69-74]; the Lord forgave him.
- Saul was an arch-persecutor of the disciples of Christ, the people of God [Acts 9:1-2]; the Lord forgave him, made a great apostle out of him [Acts 9:15; Ephesians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:11].
But how can God ever forgive the transgression that involves the refusal to accept Christ as our Savior? That is what it is to be lost: to refuse, to repudiate the testimony of God to His Son [Matthew 12:31-32]. And that’s what it is to be saved: “I accept Jesus as my Savior; open my heart and life, and give my whole soul and eternity to Him” [John 3:16; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 10:9-10, 13; 2 Timothy 1:12].
I can’t be saved by my self-righteousness, my goodness; it’s never good enough. Like the rich young ruler when the Lord named for him the commandments, “Do this, and you will live”; and the young fellow said, “All these things have I kept from my youth up. What lack I yet?” [Matthew 19:16-20]. I can’t be saved by the struggle in trying to be good; can’t even be saved by the sorrow for sin, metamelomai. I have to be saved metanoeō [Mark 1:15]. Judas metamelomai in regret and sorrow; took his own life [Matthew 27:4-5]. I have to be a metanoeō; I have to turn, I have to look in faith to the Lord. And when I do, I become a child of God [Ephesians 2:8]. That’s what Thomas the disciple, the apostle, did when he bowed before the Lord and said, “My Lord and my God” [John 20:28]. That’s what it is to be saved.
“Of sin, because they believed not on Me” [John 16:9]. There is one and only one great pervading, damning, dooming sin, just one: and that is the repudiation of Jesus the Son of God, our Savior, our hope, our heaven, our life, our forgiveness, our every tomorrow [Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30; Luke 12:10].
He will not only reprove the world of sin, “Because they believed not on Me” [John 16:9]; but, “Of righteousness, because I go to My Father; of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more” [John 16:10]. When the Lord was here in the flesh, if the Lord were here today in the flesh, He could guide us into all righteousness [Matthew 3:15]. No problem you would ever face in life but that you could lay it before the blessed Lord Jesus; He would tell you exactly what to do. But He is not here: “I go to My Father, and you see Me no more” [John 16:10]. Then how do I know what is right? This is the presence and the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God: He will teach us; He will show us the way [John 16:13-15].
Did you know the most popular book ever written outside of the Bible is Sheldon’s In His Steps? In His Steps, or, “What would Jesus do?” The Holy Spirit of God guides us when we lay our decision before Him. And that’s why grieving the Holy Spirit is such a tragedy, such an indescribable sorrow. In the Book of Ephesians, chapter , Paul pleads with us: “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” [Ephesians 4:30]. The sorrow described in the Old Testament of Saul, the king of Israel, disobeying the Lord, the Bible says, in an indescribable tragedy, “The Spirit of the Lord left him, and an evil spirit troubled him” [1 Samuel 16:14]. O God! that there would always be in our souls, in our lives, in our hearts a disposition to listen to the Spirit of God; every decision made in His wisdom and in His direction.
Simon Peter one time said to Ananias and Sapphira in the presence of the congregation of the church, “You have not lied unto men, you have lied to the Holy Spirit of God; and the Holy Spirit withdrew His hand, His strength, and they immediately lost breath and life, and were dead” [Acts 5:1-10]. O God, how we need the direction, the help, the encouragement, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in our lives! And when we listen to His voice and follow His will, we are invincible.
I think of our blessed Lord: think of the tragedy that He faced in His trial and ultimate crucifixion and death [Matthew 26:57-27:50]. But do you remember how the Book of Romans, the great book of theology in the Bible, begins? “Jesus Christ, declared the Son of God with power by the Holy Spirit in the resurrection from the dead” [Romans 1:4]. The Holy Spirit of God raised Jesus from the dead, though He faced trial, crucifixion, and death [Matthew 26:57-27:50]—invincible! When the Spirit of God is with us, and we’re following His voice and direction and choice, God Himself works for us, opens the way, prepares the day, stands by us in glory, in power, in triumph and victory [Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:57].
And a third: “Reprove the world of sin, because they believed not on Me [John 16:9]; of righteousness, because I go to My Father [John 16:10]; and of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” [John 16:11]. My dear people, Satan has already lost his cause. His dominion is doomed [Revelation 20:10-15]; his sentence is already passed [Matthew 25:41]. And if I identify my life with him and this fallen world, I am lost in the same judgment that falls upon our arch-adversary.
I stood one time at the bunker in East Berlin where Hitler had taken his own life, killed himself. Then with instruction to his henchmen, I stood there and looked at that place where they covered him with gasoline and burned his body. I had just gone through Germany. This is just a few months after the Second World War. It was beyond thinking, it was beyond imagination, the devastation of those great cities in Nazi Germany. I stood, for example, in the middle of Hamburg, their second greatest city, and there was not one building standing from horizon to horizon. All of those cities, eighteen million men destroyed, slain in battle, all because of identifying themselves with Hitler. And as I stood there and looked at that and thought of the vast devastation of that great nation, the heartache in a divided Germany regnant today, there came to my heart, “That’s what happens to the human soul when we identify ourselves with a lost cause, with a lost leader, with the king and prince of death and of damnation.” O Lord! How could a sane man ever give himself to such a decision as that? “I choose this world. I choose to follow Satan. I choose the vanity and the vainglory of what I can see in this life, and forget the great glorious life that God has in store for those who love Him, give their hearts to Him” [1 Corinthians 2:9]. How tragic when a family, a home, a man, a woman, father or mother, turn aside from God and give themselves to the vanity of this present life!
I one time read one of the saddest things I could ever think for. In a home that was vainglorious, very affluent, but worldly, no thought for God, no time for Jesus or the family of the Lord’s people, their little boy, one little child, their little boy became sick unto death. And all the money in the world couldn’t heal him; and the little lad lay there dying, and the little boy in pity, looking pitifully to father and mother, said, “Daddy, Mother, when I die, don’t take me to that cold, dark cemetery. Take me and bury me by the door. Bury me here by the door, so I can be close to you.” O God! How infinitely rich we are when we are promised heaven, the glory of the world to come. Jesus our Savior, to be with Him and one another world without end, and how pitiful and how tragic to build our lives in this world, and to lose it in the judgment!
God give us strength and help to believe and open our hearts heavenward and God-ward. Then in any providence in life, doesn’t matter, Jesus is with us, standing by us in the hour of our death and opening for us the gates of heaven [Romans 14:8].
We’re going to stand now in a moment and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing the song of invitation, a family you to come into the fellowship of our dear church; a couple you to give your heart to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-10]; a one somebody you to follow the will of God and the call of the Spirit in your heart; make that decision now, and upon the first note of the first stanza, welcome. May angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.