The Four-Fold Gift

1 Corinthians

The Four-Fold Gift

March 27th, 1955

But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 Corinthians 1:30

3-27-55    10:50 a.m.



And you’re listening to the pastor of this downtown church as he preaches through the Bible and has come to the thirtieth verse of the first chapter of the letter of Paul to the church at Corinth.  And if in your Bible you would turn to the first Corinthian letter and the first chapter, you can look upon it as I seek to preach the Word of God: First Corinthians, the first chapter, and the thirtieth verse. 

Last Sunday night, we closed at the first part of the thirtieth verse: "But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus" [1 Corinthians 1:30]. And this morning, our message is the latter part of that thirtieth verse of First Corinthians, the first chapter: "who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" [1 Corinthians 1:30-31].  The title of the message is The Four-Fold Gift, and the text I’ve just read: "But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus," Jesus, "who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" [1 Corinthians 1:30]. 

I could think of a great city, like New York, which is built on the banks of a great river like the Hudson, and the great river brings to the city a four-fold gift.  It can generate light for the city.  It can bring health-giving water to cleanse and to sweeten the city.  It can provide power for its manufacturing establishments, and upon its bosom, it can bear the traffic to the world through the oceans, through the seas. 

So with this four-fold gift of the Lord Jesus Christ to us.  He is of God the light of wisdom to us [John 8:12]; He is of God the cleansing righteousness to us [1 John 1:7]; He is of God the energizing power of sanctification to us [Hebrews 2:11, 10:10]; and through His redeeming grace, we are fitted and equipped for the service in His name and for His cause [Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 13:20-21]. 

Christ, of God, "is made unto us wisdom" [1 Corinthians 1:30].  In the Old Testament, as in the book of Proverbs [Proverbs 1:20-33], wisdom is personified; and when you read the book, if you will substitute the name "Christ, the Lord Jesus," where you find the word "wisdom," it will have clear and beautiful meaning.  Of God, Christ is made to us wisdom [1 Corinthians 1:30]. 

In the story of His birth in the first Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew, there came wise men from the East [Matthew 2:1-2].  They passed kings and palaces and thrones and priests and scholars and made their way and found a babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And in amazed astonishment, they bowed down and worshiped that Child [Matthew 2:11].  Wise men from the East, guided by a star, bowed down at His manger bed [Matthew 2:1-12]. 

In the third gospel, the Gospel of Luke, Luke says the Child grew in stature, filled with wisdom [Luke 2:52]; and in that same chapter, written by the beloved physician, he says the Child, twelve years of age, was found in the Temple of His parents both answering and asking questions [Luke 2:41-52]. 

That would be Christ’s business: to answer questions.  He is an answer for every question mark.  He is an ultimate for every groping mind [Colossians 1:13-27], the meaning of all of the ages, of all of the phenomena of life: where we come from, what it now means, and its ultimate destiny [Colossians 1:16-17].  The wisdom of God is in Christ Jesus.  Look at that twenty-fourth verse in that same chapter: "But unto them who are called, whether Jew or Greek, He is Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God" [1 Corinthians 1:24]. 

The difference between wisdom and knowledge is this.  Knowledge is you know a fact, you know the circumstance – that’s knowledge.  Information is knowledge: you know this, and you know that, and you know that.  That is knowledge.  When you know a fact, when you have information, that is knowledge.  Wisdom is what the fact means.  Wisdom is the interpretation of the fact. 

It has been said it would take a man 147 years to take all of the courses offered at Harvard University.  A man could study and pass the examination in all 147 years of the courses of Harvard University and yet never find God, never find eternal life, never become heir to the wisdom of the ages.  Of that, Christ is made to us [1 Corinthians 1:30]. 

It is an astonishing thing to me as you read the story of scholarship through the ages.  The philosophers, especially, who seek after the meaning of life – they grope and they guess over the same field of human ignorance.  You can look at it for yourself.  Start with the first philosopher that is known to human history: Thales; then, Heraclitus; then all of those great Greeks, other Greeks: Plato, Aristotle, all of the successors – Pythagoras – down through the ages; then, the medieval philosophers; then, the modern philosophers. 

They start in darkness.  They go through the same ground of human ignorance, and they end in darkness.  They don’t know what it means to begin with.  They don’t know what it means to end with.  They just see the phenomena, the expression of a thing that they cannot find in it an ultimate meaning or destiny.  They don’t know, and we don’t know.  We just look, and we observe, and we can’t find, and we grope, and we seek, and we ask; and in our own minds, we never find summum bonum:  the ultimate reason, the final good, the meaning of it all – which we call God – never.  So we till, and we plow, and we try, and we think, and we write, and our books multiply, and He’s still hid.  We don’t know what it means.  There’s no wisdom in us.  We can’t find it. 

But of that, Christ of God is made unto us [1 Corinthians 1:30].  What is this meaning?  It’s in God.  What is God like?  He’s in Christ [John 14:8-9].  What is God’s answer?  Jesus has said it.  What is God’s way?  This is the Jesus way: of God, Christ is made wisdom unto us [1 Corinthians 1:30], and we find that ultimate meaning and that ultimate reality and that ultimate answer – we find it in Christ Jesus. 

This week did I read: 


Oh, long and dark the stairs I trod

With stumbling feet to find my God,

Gaining a foothold, bit by bit,

Then slipping back and losing it. 

Down to the lowest step my fall,

As though I had never climbed at all.

While I lay despairing there

Listen, a footstep on the stair, 

In the same place where I, dismayed,

Faltered and fell and lay afraid.

And lo!  when hope had ceased to be,

My God came down the stairs to me.

["Failure," by Theodosia Garrison, 1901]


Of God, Christ is made the answer to us.  What we seek, we find in Him:  the ultimate meaning, our destiny as a people, the relation of all of the facts and phenomena that enter our lives.  There is a cohesiveness.  There is a reason [Romans 8:28-30], and we find that meaning in Christ: "Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom" [1 Corinthians 1:30]. 

No man is ever wise however scholarly he may be, however many degrees he may have, however ingenious he may be in the manipulation of the phenomena of life.  No man is ever wise until he is wise in God [1 Corinthians 3:19].  Beneath that glorious throne, all else is darkness and ignorance.  Wisdom is Christ; and Christ to us is the meaning, and the power, and the message, and the wisdom of God.  "Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification" [1 Corinthians 1:30].  He is our righteousness.  He is our sanctification. 

"What is the difference, Pastor?"  This is the difference: righteousness is outward character; righteousness is the outward manifestation.  Sanctification is inward character; sanctification is the inward spirit.  Righteousness is the robe that you wear.  Sanctification is the Spirit that lives and quickens and motivates within [Philippians 2:13].  All of us in sin and in slavery, but "God made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" [2 Corinthians 5:21]. 

Righteousness is our justification.  Righteousness is our standing in the temple of God’s justice.  Righteousness is our being set right with God, we who have broken God’s law; or if I could use a figure from the Book of the Revelation: in the nineteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, the sainted John, describing the saints, he says, "And there was given to them fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints" [Revelation 19:8].  Righteousness is the outside.  It’s the thing that you see.  It’s the manifestation of it.  "This man is a righteous man.  He does this, and he does that, and he acts the other way."  Righteousness: the outside. 

We are justified in Christ [Romans 5:1].  Not that we are righteous, but there is given unto us righteousness.  We are given robes of white [Revelation 7:9, 13, 14, 19:8].  We are treated as righteous, because of Him, in the presence of God. 

Sanctification, I say, is the inside.  There is also given unto us a quickening Spirit [John 6:63; 2 Corinthians 3:6].  There is a passage in the fifth chapter of 2 Corinthians that says: "If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation" [2 Corinthians 5:21].  He is anew made on the inside.  He is somebody different.  He is somebody else.  That’s sanctification: the regeneration on the inside, the forming of Christ in us [Romans 8:29].  The Spirit and mind of Christ in us [1 Corinthians 2:16] is sanctification. 

There’s something of the sun in an apple.  There’s something of the moon in a rose.  There’s something of the flaming Pleiades in every leaf that blows.  That’s it.  That something of Christ that motivates and regenerates and quickens on the inside – that is sanctification.  "Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, who of God is made unto us righteousness and sanctification" [1 Corinthians 1:30]. 

This is righteousness: to justify a man from his debts, that is, to pay his bad debts [Colossians 2:13-14].  This is sanctification: to cure the man of his thriftless and extravagant habits – to change him on the inside [2 Timothy 2:14-26].  This is righteousness: that the Jewish people were delivered from the Babylonian captivity [2 Chronicles 36:1-23; Ezra 1:1-4].  This is sanctification: that they were cured of the idolatry that brought on the captivity [Nehemiah 9:1-10:39].  This is the difference between righteousness and sanctification. 

One of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side and forthwith came thereout blood and water [John 19:34].  "He that saw it bare record, and his record is true; and he knoweth that he saith truth, that ye might believe" [John 19:35]:  the apostle John, in the nineteenth chapter of the fourth Gospel, looking at the Lord Jesus dying on the Cross – His eyes now glazed, His head bowed in death.  They didn’t break His bones as they did the other two malefactors [John 19:32-33];, but just to ensure His death, one of the soldiers plunged an iron spear into His heart, and when he withdrew the spear, there flowed out blood and water [John 19:34].  He that saw it bear record and his record is true [John 19:35-37]. 

Now, the same apostle interprets: "This is He," in the first epistle of John and his fifth chapter: "This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood . . ." [1 John 5:6].  There are three that bear witness in earth:  the Spirit, and the water, and the blood [1 John 5:7-8]. 

The blood is righteousness.  It is an external atonement [Hebrews 9:24-28].  Back yonder, two thousand years ago, did it happen.  We are justified before God because of Jesus Christ [Romans 5:9].  We are treated as righteous, we are accepted as righteous, in the presence of God because of the blood – the atonement of Jesus Christ.  The blood represents the outside, the righteousness, the historical atonement for our sins on a Cross outside the city of Jerusalem – a thing that happened in time and in history.  That is the blood. 

The other: the water.  That represents the washing of regeneration.  He is a complete Savior.  He not only justifies us in the presence of God, in the temple of justice, but He also regenerates our hearts and our spirits [Titus 3:5].  We are washed by the Holy Spirit of Jesus on the inside of our souls.  He came by water and by blood [1 John 5:6]. He justifies us in the presence of God by the historical atonement on a hill called Golgotha [Romans 5:9, 18].  He also regenerates us on the inside of our hearts by the washing, the cleansing, of His Holy Spirit [Titus 3:5]; and we are there before Him complete [Colossians 2:10] as He is a complete Savior [Hebrews 10:14]. 

"Of God, is Christ Jesus made unto us wisdom" [1 Corinthians 1:30].  He is our wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification.  And once again: "of Him, are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us . . . redemption" [1 Corinthians 1:30]. Now, redemption doesn’t mean much to us.  We live in a different world.  To know the meaning of that word, we have to transport ourselves back, and we can do it easily – easily.  We can transport ourselves back into the day of the people in which environment – social order, cultural life – Jesus was born and lived.  So we’re going back two thousand years.  We’re going back three thousand years.  We’re going, for a moment, to live in the cultural life and the religious thinking of the Hebrew nation. 

Now, when you go back there, this thing of redemption – oh, what it meant!  For you see, way back yonder in that long ago day, and way back there among that ancient people, it was a common thing to sell a member of the family into slavery.  The family was poor.  It had no bread to eat, and in order to live, a member of the family could be sold into slavery.  In that long ago day, bands pillaging and destroying would capture a part of the family, and they would sell a part of the family into slavery.  In that long ago day, a part of the family inheritance might be sold for debt. 

Let me parenthesize here to show it to you.  God gave the land of Palestine to Abraham for an eternal possession, and by the Spirit of God, the land was divided up among the people for an eternal inheritance [Numbers 33:50-56; Joshua 13:1-14:15].  And they were never to sell it, but it was to be in the family through all of their generations [Leviticus 25:23; Numbers 36:7].  God had given it to them.  That’s the reason that when King Ahab came to Naboth and said, "I want to buy that vineyard hard by my palace, and I’ll give thee money for it" [1 Kings 21:1-2] – that’s the reason Naboth replied, "God forbid that I should sell unto thee for money the inheritance of my fathers" [1 Kings 21:3].  It was a thing given them of God, and it was always to be in the family. 

Now, that’s where that word "redeem" came from.  If by war a member of the family was sold into slavery, or if because of debt a member of the family was sold into slavery, they could redeem them.  A friend could, a neighbor could – could buy them back; or as you find, like Ruth and Boaz, so many times in the Bible – or the nearest kinsman could buy back the inheritance of the family that had lost it [Leviticus 25:25; Ruth 4:1-15].  And that transaction they call "redemption" – "redeeming" [Leviticus 25:25; Ruth 4:4]. 

There comes into my mind a moving story that I thought of when I was way, way away from the shores of America.  You could pick up a daily paper, and in that country you could read of the sale – like you had a price, like you’d have a stock market exchange – you could read the price of how much children could be bought for: selling boys and girls, selling the members of their family – a poor, poor country. 

And, I say, it brought to my mind a story that I had read as I looked at that awful thing to us.  What Christianity has done for us, it’s hard to say in sentence and word.  If you were to read a thing like that in the newspapers of America, you would be astonished and amazed.  That’s what Christ has done for us.  But, I say, in every day’s paper I could read there these articles – little articles, little reports – on the slavery of children: boys and girls sold, how many there were, and what price they’d bring. 

This family, I say, that I read of – this family was a father and a mother and four children; and because of the terrible poverty and the lack of bread, it was decided to sell one of the children to buy bread.  So that night, after the four children were fast asleep, the father and the mother were to make up their minds which one, by choice, was to be sold.  So they went to the eldest and looked down into his sleeping face and said, "No, no. Surely not our firstborn – not our firstborn.  We could not sell him."  They went to the second child, and this time the mother spake saying, "Oh, no!  He is the very image of his father – not him, not him."  They went to the third child and looked down into that child’s sleeping face, and this time the father spake and said, "No, no!  Not her. Not her – she looks exactly like her mother."  They went to the fourth child, the baby, and as they looked down into the face of the baby, both of them said, "Oh, surely not – not the baby.  Not the baby."  They sat down and resolved they would all die together. 

You don’t enter that world.  You don’t know anything about it.  I am just trying to transport you back into the day and into the time when those things were the common panorama of the scene all about human life.  That’s the reason that word "redemption" – that means nothing to us.  That word "redemption" is a great theological word inspired by Almighty God.  The Lord took that word "redemption" which meant the buying back of a member of the family that was sold or the buying back of an inheritance that had been lost because of debt; and the Lord took that word "redemption."

And may I say another word?  One reason that I’m emphasizing it this morning is it has become the habit of modern theologians to make fun of it, to ridicule it. "It’s an old, outmoded, superstitious idea," they say.  And there’s not a modern theologian of that liberal turn but that looks upon it with scorn.

Oh, no! Oh, no!  The Bible idea of that word redemption is this: that we have been sold under sin [Romans 7:14] – we have been delivered over unto death [Romans 6:23] – and the Lord has bought us back [Galatians 3:13].  The Lord has paid the price for our redemption [1 Peter 1:18-19].  We are the inheritance of God [Ephesians 1:18]. 

The Lord doesn’t care anything about a thousand worlds.  He can make a million universes.  That’s nothing to God.  But for His people, His inheritance, to be sold under sin and to live under the judgment of death, He sent Christ into the world, and He, of God, is our redemption [Ephesians 1:7].  And the Bible will speak of it like this: "Ye are not your own.  Ye are bought with a price" [1 Corinthians 6:19-20].  You were sold unto sin.  You were given unto death, and the Lord bought you back with His own blood. 

In the first chapter of 1 Peter that you read a moment ago, Simon Peter says the same thing there.  He says, "Ye are bought," ye are redeemed, "not with corruptible things as silver and gold" [1 Peter 1:18].  What is that?  But ye are redeemed with incorruptible things: "the precious blood of Jesus Christ, a Lamb without spot or blemish" [1 Peter 1:19].  So the word redemption. Christ is our redemption. He bought us back. He delivered us again to God.  We are God’s inheritance. 

When someday we rise to glory, the song that we shall sing in the book of the Revelation is this:


Worthy art Thou, the Lamb that was slain. 

Worthy art Thou to receive honor and glory and adoration and love and riches,

For Thou hast redeemed us by Thy blood –

For Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us by Thy blood

Out of every race and tribe and language and people in the earth.

[Revelation 5:9, 12]


That’s the song of the redeemed. 

And that’s where you get that word "redeemed."  We are a redeemed people [Ephesians 1:13-14]. That is, we are a bought-back people [Ephesians 1:7].  We are a people who are the inheritance of God [Ephesians 1:18]; and sold under sin and under the judgment of death, and Christ bought us back.  And the price was not gold or silver, but the price was the blood of the Son of God [1 Peter 1:18-19]. 

May I say one thing of that before our appeal?  The redemption shall be complete.  A moment ago, I said He is a complete Savior. His redemption shall be complete.  That is, we shall be redeemed, and our spirits, our souls, shall be redeemed; but not only shall our souls be redeemed, there shall be a redemption of the entire purchased possession.  Our bodies also shall be redeemed. 

Our bodies fell in the curse.  Our bodies were given over to death in the sin of our first parents [Genesis 2:17, 3:1-24; Romans 5:12].  Our bodies share in this the fallen universe – the curse all around us [Romans 8:19-23].  Our bodies grow old and senile [2 Corinthians 4:16].  Our bodies decay and turn back to the dust [Genesis 3:19].  But there is to be a redemption of the whole possession, the whole inheritance of God [1 Corinthians 15:22].  Our spirit shall be transformed incorruptible [1 Corinthians 15:50-53].  Our spirit shall be made like unto the very presence and reality of God Himself [1 John 3:2].  But not only that, our bodies also shall be redeemed [1 Corinthians 15:42-57]. 

In the eighth chapter of the Book of the Romans, Paul says:


For the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain until now. 

And not only they

– not only does the whole creation groan and travail in pain –

but we ourselves also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies. 

[Romans 8:22-23]


The whole creation shall be re-made, and in that re-making – in that rejuvenation, in that regeneration – our own bodies shall also share.  It shall be a redemption of the whole personality: the Spirit on the inside of the man and the house, the body, in which the man lives.  All of us shall all be changed – all of us [1 Corinthians 15:51]. 

Right now, embedded in the mire – today in the mud and in the dirt and some of our loved ones in the heart of the earth – today in the mire, but tomorrow to blossom in the paradise and the Eden of God.  Today, groping in the night and in the dark, but tomorrow living in the light of the glory of God.  Today, like a pupa, like a chrysalis, coffined in the dust, but tomorrow flying in the great expanse of God’s heaven.  Today like a fledgling, sprawling and vexed by every storm, but tomorrow rising upon eagle’s wings.  Today like a slave groveling in the earth, but tomorrow rising in the inheritance of God, a son of our Father [Romans 8:15-17; Ephesians 1:5] and a brother of the Lord Jesus Christ [Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:11] who "of God is made unto us our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification" [1 Corinthians 1:30] and is our Redeemer [Galatians 4:5; Titus 2:14]. 

Now, while we sing our song – while we sing our song – somebody you, give his heart to the Lord.  Somebody you, put his life in our church while our people wait here for the invitation, prayerfully so, for the Lord shall bless His Word. It’s the Word that God blesses [Psalm 19:7-11].  It’s the truth that God uses [John 8:32].  The Holy Spirit blesses the preaching of His Word wherever God’s Word is faithfully and prayerfully preached, wherever God will use it [Isaiah 55:11]; and He’ll reach out there, touch a human heart and change a human life, and He woos and He appeals [John 12:32].  And while the Spirit blesses the preaching of His Book, of the Word, while God blesses it and our people prayerfully wait upon the ministry of the Spirit, if He calls you, will you come?  Anywhere, everywhere: "Here I am, Pastor. I have felt the wooing of the Spirit, and here I come."  Somebody give his heart to Jesus; somebody put his life [in Christ] – make it now.  Make it now while we stand and while we sing.