Calvary Road Baptist Church

“IF I BE LIFTED UP”

John 12.32

 

It does not astonish that so many reject the gospel, but that some embrace the gospel. It is not amazing that the vast majority of mankind refuses Jesus Christ, but that there are men and women everywhere who receive Him.

How are you to explain a family of four people who are not Christians living in the United States in the last half of the 20th century? You do not explain them, for they are the norm, the average, and the expected. What must be explained is that one of them is converted as a young man and is still in the gospel ministry more than thirty years later.

How do you explain someone whose life was a confusing religious hodgepodge of Native American religious influence from birth to age five, followed by exposure to an inconsistent mixture of various denominations sprinkled through the next ten years, with exposure to religious liberals and adulterous pastors, including reading about the major world religions in junior high school, delivering a speech in high school against the right of the modern state of Israel to exist in the middle east, and then ending up on a college campus as a delighted spectator watching a modernist professor ripping apart the fragile faith of several professing Christians in class?

Yet, just over a month ago, I marked my 33rd year as a Christian. However, this is not much different from the stories of so many others who end up Christians. Despite the incredible odds against such a thing happening, a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ and her life is never after that the same.

My text for this morning’s message from God’s Word is one of those Bible passages that provide explanation for such occurrences. How do you explain the Christianity of the Apostle Paul, or of Martin Luther, or of John Bunyan, or of John Newton? Turn with me to John 12.32, where you will find the answer to those questions. When you find that verse, stand for the reading of God’s Word: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

You will notice something in the verse that sets the Lord Jesus Christ apart from any other so-called religious leader, such as the Buddha, or Mohammed, or Moses. It is His use of those personal pronouns “I” and “me.” Buddha would never have encouraged anyone to focus his or her attention upon him. Neither would Mohammed, whose lies and deceits nevertheless focus the attention of his followers on Allah. Of course, Moses, the lawgiver, served the Most High God, and would have shuddered at the thought of attention by worshipers being focused on him.

However, the Lord Jesus Christ did focus attention on Himself. Why so? Because of whom He is. You see, Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of the living God. He is the Creator of this universe and all that herein is. He is that one Mediator between God and man, the way the truth and the life. As Simon Peter declared in Acts 4.12, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Our text, then, deals with a unique individual, someone who is unlike anyone who has ever lived. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself spoke the words of our text on the day He instituted the communion of the Lord’s Supper, that night of the Last Supper, the day before His crucifixion by the Romans, at the behest of the Jewish religious leaders, and with the consent and encouragement of the crowd.

How does someone who lived so long ago, and how does something that happened so long ago, affect anyone today? I trust you will see the connection, as we consider what our text tells us about what was done to Jesus Christ, and then what Jesus Christ did. Keep in mind that our text is predictive. That is, the Lord Jesus Christ was speaking about things that had not yet happened at the time He spoke. He is, in this text, making two predictions. In addition, those two predictions go directly to the heart of His reliability and truthfulness as a savior.

 

First, WHAT WAS DONE TO JESUS CHRIST

 

Our text begins, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth . . . .” In the next verse, John provides editorial comment to explain what Jesus was talking about here: “This he said, signifying what death he should die.” John Wesley tells us “This is a Hebraism which signifies dying.”[1] Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ was not only predicting His Own death, but also the kind of death He would suffer, since only Roman crucifixion involved this type of lifting up. What can we tell about people who would do such a thing to the sinless Son of the living God? Does that not speak of wickedness, depravity, and malevolence? Do not think those men were any different from anyone else in the human race, because all have sinned.

However, what was done to Jesus Christ was not only what He suffered at the hands of cruel and unjust men. Turn with me to Isaiah 53, where we see what His heavenly Father did to Him:

 

1      Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

2      For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

3      He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4      Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

5      But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

6      All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7      He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

8      He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

9      And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

10     Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

11     He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

12     Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

 

What happened to my Lord Jesus Christ on that cross? Several surprising things are found in this important passage: First, verse 6: “the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” That is, God placed the sinner’s iniquity on Jesus Christ. The crucified Christ was carrying our sins on that cross, placed upon Him by His heavenly Father. Next, verse 10: “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin . . . .” This was as much done by His heavenly Father as by any Roman soldier or Jewish religious leader. God bruised Him. God put Him to grief. God made His soul an offering for sin and then offered Him.

In one sense, He really was nailed to that cross by Roman soldiers. However, it was at the instigation of Jewish leaders, and cheered by the bloodthirsty crowd who shouted, “Crucify him. Crucify him.” We all understand that dynamic to some degree. However, in a larger sense, it was all of God. This was all God’s doing. As Abraham’s offering up of Isaac on Mount Moriah was a type, so the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross was the fulfillment, the antitype, with Jesus Christ being offered for the sins of others by His Father in heaven.

 

Then, WHAT WAS DONE BY JESUS CHRIST

 

Our text does not tell us everything that was done by Jesus Christ following His crucifixion. We are not told, for example, what He would say on the cross. Neither are we told that He would give up the ghost, or that He would go to Abraham’s bosom and lead captivity captive, and rise from the dead, and then ascend to His Father’s right hand. All of those things are certainly important, but our text only tells us one thing: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

What did Jesus do that He predicted He would do after what was done to Him? He predicted that He would draw all men unto Him. Did He, in fact, fulfill that promise? Of course, Jesus did what He said He would do. Jesus is faithful and trustworthy. He is true. The only question has to do with what He actually promised to do. We should address that question by first asking what Jesus predicted. “. . . I . . . will draw all men unto me.” What did He mean by those words?

First, what does it mean to draw? The Greek word is elkush, and is the same word that is used in John 6.44: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” It refers to moving an object from one area to another in a pulling motion, with the implication being that the object being moved is incapable of propelling itself or in the case of a person is unwilling to do so voluntarily.[2] Thus, we do not have here a case of the general call to salvation. We have here the effectual call to salvation, of which there are no examples in the Bible of anyone refusing.

Next, who are the “all men” who are referred to here? Is the Lord Jesus Christ referring to everyone who has ever lived? Not likely, since we all know people who have died in their sins. As well, neither can “all men” refer to all those who were then living, since not all of them were saved either. Consider the prediction of Simeon in Luke 2.34, as well as Isaiah 53, where we are told He would be despised, rejected of men, and held in low esteem. Thus, those referred to by the phrase “all men” could not include every single person, but must refer to all kinds of people, people from every nation, kindred, tongue, and tribe.

Thus, what this means is that when Jesus Christ was crucified He would then gather His elect to Him, from every nation, kindred, tongue, and tribe. What this verse does not tell us is by what means He would accomplish this gathering of the elect. That would be left to the Apostle Paul to explain in writing. First Corinthians 1.17-21:

 

17     For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

18     For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

19     For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

20     Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

21     For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

 

To see this in action in scripture we have but to turn to Acts 2 and Peter’s Pentecostal sermon, where Peter preached Christ crucified, buried, and risen again and 3,000 were saved.

To reiterate: What Jesus promised to do (and did) was to gather all kinds of men (from every nation, kindred, tongue, and tribe). They are those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1.4.

 

Now, WHAT IS BEING DONE BY JESUS CHRIST

 

That was then and this is now. How is Jesus Christ presently fulfilling His promise to draw His to Him? Whether fifty days or fifty centuries after Christ’s crucifixion, the means by which Christ calls out His own remains the same. It is by means of the preaching of the gospel.

As near as I can recollect, I heard the gospel when I was six or seven years old, and did not hear the gospel again until my uncle witnessed to me the summer I turned fifteen. I did not hear the gospel again, as near as I can tell, until I was witnessed to by someone at Oregon State University. Thus, on three occasions over the space of 17 or 18 years I heard the gospel and really was drawn to the living Christ.

So long as a real sinner is shown to be really estranged from the real God by real sin, and that the real living Savior stands ready to save that sinner who really comes to Him by faith, then this risen from the dead Jesus will draw the elect sinner to Him and will save whoever comes to Him.

 

Keep in mind that while explanations of Bible doctrines are always nice, the means Jesus Christ blesses is the straightforward declaration of the truth. In other words, you will never understand all that your mind desires to comprehend about the gospel. At some point, in order to be saved from your sins, you have to take someone’s word and act without understanding everything. You will never understand everything.

When you take God’s Word as true, when you are confident God is telling the truth and what is preached to you is an accurate reflection of what the Bible declares to be true, then you can be saved from your sins. I am confident most of you here today who are not converted, nevertheless, understand enough to be saved.

I urge you to respond to Christ’s promise to draw His own to Him by coming to Him today.



[1] John Wesley, Notes On The Bible, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[2] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 318.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org