God’s Unspeakable Gift
November 11th, 1956 @ 10:50 AM
GOD’S UNSPEAKABLE GIFT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-11-56 10:55 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message, entitled, God’s Unspeakable or Inexpressible Gift. It is from two passages; in the first of Ephesians, in the ninth of 2 Corinthians. Paul begins his Ephesian letter, which letter we have now come to in our preaching through the Bible:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus by the will of God, to the saints at Ephesus,:
Grace,, peace, from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.
"Blessed be God who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ," or to say it in another way, in the ninth chapter of the second Corinthian letter and the last verse, 2 Corinthians 9:15, "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift." Thanks be unto God for His inexpressible, the infinitely preciousness of His gift.
And why he made that exclamation at the end of that chapter was this; he had boasted to Macedonia, the churches up there in the north, about the Corinthians, the church in the south, and had been very much expressive of the liberality and the graciousness of the response of the churches up there in Macedonia. Now the people of Macedonia to whom he had boasted about Corinth, they were coming to Corinth, and Paul was afraid that he had spoken too effusively, too magnanimously, so, he was writing to the Corinthian church exhorting them to measure up to what he had said about their liberality.
Then he turned to the liberality of God and the gift of God and made that exclamation, "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable, indescribable gift."
Could I say it like this? Paul felt that it could be described; the liberality of the Macedonians and the liberality of the Corinthians, but no man could describe the infinite worth of the gift of God in Jesus. Paul felt that he could put down in black and white the gift, the sacrifice of any man, any one of us, but you could never write, you could never say, word could not contain it, the sentence could not be framed to bear it, the inexpressible, not to be spoken of, indescribable gift of God in Christ Jesus. That is why that exclamation, "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable, indescribable, inexpressible gift."
We buy and sell in many things, but buying and selling never pertains to spiritual gifts unless we buy and sell without money and without price. God gives us Jesus; God gives us eternal life; God gives us grace and glory; God gives us everything. We do not buy them; they come from His benign, benevolent and gracious hands.
But the gift of all gifts, "Blessed be God who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ," the gift of all gifts is His Son, Christ Jesus. And that gift, Paul says here, cannot be described, inexpressible. No man could ever fully portray the meaning of that gift. The church produces many theological scholars, and many wonderful divines, and many thoughtful students, but in all of their theologies, they are never able to encompass all the meaning of God in Christ Jesus.
When I was doing my doctorate at the seminary, one of my minors was a course in the atonement, the study of how the cross forgives us, washes away our sins, how God saves us in the sacrifice of Christ. And after I studied it for two years, and read a library of books upon it, and stood in examination on it, I had the very definite persuasion when the course was done and the thing was over that all of it together, the great divines of all the centuries and now the two millenniums, had not begun to describe in any theology or in any theological work, however big the tome and however learned the exercise, they had never begun to enter into the great mystery of all the meaning of God’s gift in Jesus.
If we had the tongues of men and of angels, we could never describe this. Theology falters here. Poetry falters here. The songs of Zion are not able to adequately to encompass it here. The full meaning of God’s gift in Christ is inexpressible. It is incomprehensible; it is unfathomable; it is illimitable, it infinitely, marvelously God’s own doing.
This gift is inexpressible. It is not to be described, the preciousness of it. There are things you cannot put in language, and you cannot say them in words. Great emotions and great feelings are never encompassed in a man’s witness or in his testimony or in his description. He cannot say the well, the fountain that rises up within him, the preciousness of the gift, its costliness.
Suppose you were to have a mother here who has lost her only son. Mother, you stand up, and you describe to us the feeling of the dedication of your son to the purposes of God who called him away. She could not say it in word or in language; it is inexpressible.
Suppose a father, here, who has lost his only begotten. You stand up and you describe for us. Use all the poetry that language could write, and use all the songs and hymns that heart could sing, and use all the beauty of alliteration and oratory and peroration, and describe for us how it is, this gift, this loss, this dedication to an unscrutable purpose of God of your only begotten. He would stand and say it with groanings that cannot be uttered. You cannot enter into those things. They are not to be expressed.
I suppose a faint, faint type of the great gift of God is portrayed in the incomparable, beautiful story of the author by Abraham, of his only begotten son, Isaac. But that was the faint type. These things are unfathomable mysteries in which the human heart cannot enter the gift of God, the dedication of His Son for us in the Lord Jesus.
It pleased the Lord to bruise Him. "He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. By the knowledge of My righteous servant shall many be justified, for He shall bear their iniquities" [Isaiah 53:11].
In the Greek liturgy, there is a phrase, "Thine unknown sufferings." We cannot enter into the preciousness and the costliness of God’s gift of His Son in Christ Jesus. Nor can we enter into the blessings that come to us of the gift of God in Christ Jesus. They are inscrutable, and unfathomable, and indescribable, and inexpressible.
We are a fallen people, but the depths of our fall never appears in life, and is never seen in this earth, never. The unfathomable depths of our deserved woe and the unutterable glory of the heights of the gifts of God to us, an angel could not measure. We are not in hell; we are not damned; we are not condemned; we are not doomed, all because of the mercies of God upon us in Christ Jesus. In Him our sins are forgiven. In His blood, our iniquities are washed away. We are adopted into the family of God. We are children, and if children, then heirs. All of it is the gift of God in Christ Jesus. How could one describe it in words or in language or in sentence?
And the gift of God in Christ Jesus is, if it boon, a bounty, a blessing that is never recalled, never taken away, it is ours forever, and once it is bestowed it is never denied, never. That is one reason that when I read this Bible, what a great assurance and comfort to us, to the soul and the human heart. I may fail, but He will not fail. I may be unworthy, but He is always worthy. I may prove unfaithful; He abideth faithful forever.
The gift of God in Christ is never taken away. Once it is mine, it is mine forever, however unworthy these hands may be, that season and that possession. It is never taken away, it is never denied. He is faithful; He never changes.
The angels who announced His coming into the Earth went back to glory, but He did not go back without us, without providing a way for us. The angels returned, but the babe of Bethlehem stayed, and God identified Himself with our humanity. And it is the man Christ Jesus who is our intercessor at the throne of God today. He bears our humanity. He never changes. His body was glorified, but His heart never changed. He is still the same, God’s man, our man, our Savior, the man, Christ Jesus.
And that is God’s gift to us, God’s gift of Himself, the inexpressible, unspeakable gift of God in Christ Jesus. He became poor that we might be rich. He suffered unutterable shame that we might have indescribable glory. He sorrowed that we might rejoice. He was bound that we might be free. He died that we might live. Thanks be unto God for His inexpressible, indescribable gift.
Thanks be unto God, or as in Ephesians, "Blessed be God who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ." But how do you do that? He is so great, He is so high, He is so lifted up, He is so marvelously, wonderfully, and we are so small. "Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak of these things, I who am the dust and ashes" [Genesis 18:27]. How do you thank God? "Thanks be unto God." How do you bless God? How do we? Well, we bless God; we thank God for one thing, by remembering that He did it, calling it to mind, keeping it in our hearts, to remember.
This is Armistice Day. This is the eleventh day of November. These days, when I was a youngster, were days of great rejoicing and gratitude. You see, I can remember the war. I had a brother in it who was in France. I can remember the war that was fought to end all war. And I can remember the illimitable hopes by which the nations and the world looked forward to the day when they would beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and we would not learn war anymore. I can remember those days. November eleventh, Armistice Day, this day is so changed from what it was when I was a boy.
Have you ever been to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac from our national capitol? Have you ever been there? I have several times, and I have sat down and I have watched that American soldier march, and then turn in soldier fashion, and march back again, and turn in soldier fashion, back and forth. And the beautiful sarcophagus there, and the beautiful memorial around, all of it for that one purpose, and it brings tears to my heart to say the purpose, for it seems to me those boys have died in vain. The blood, the tears, the separation, the breaking up, that we might enjoy peace, and freedom, and liberty in this world, both for us and for all of the nations of this globe.
And instead, little by little, gradually, sometimes by leaps and bounds, sometimes by great areas and by small, that dark veil gradually covering this earth, seeing these cemeteries in foreign lands, remembering that memorial there in Washington, die in vain, war in vain, devote life and blood in vain. O God, when shall the Lord bear His strong arm to intervene?
That is the reason I have come definitely to the theological position that I now preach and stand by, that our hope lies in the intervention of God. We are a lost humanity, we are a sinful people, and the curse is in this Earth, and Satan stalks up and down among the nations. And as long as men can clutch their fists, as long as they can make a bomb, as long as they can sharpen a sword, just so long will they lie in wait for their brother.
But our hope lies in the intervention of God. And He comes, and He will, and He shall establish righteousness and justice in the Earth, and He shall reign triumphant, and God shall be the God of all the nations of the Earth, and we shall live in the light of His countenance forever and ever when He cometh, when He cometh.
How do you thank God, and how do you bless God? By the remembrance that He did it for us, that Jesus died for us. The memorial that brings to our hearts, not only does it point to that death, not only to that cross, not only to that suffering, but also as oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come, till He come, till He shall set up righteousness in the Earth, till our king visible and reigning shall dwell in our very midst, and we shall see Him whom our lives shall see. We who live today shall live with Him.
We bless God by remembering. We bless God by giving away ourselves to Him. Ye are not your own; you are bought with a price. I suppose there is a no more beautiful word in the Bible than in the eighth chapter of the Corinthian letter where Paul says, "And they did not give as we had hoped but first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and then they gave unto us by according to the will of God" [2 Corinthians 8:5].
I tell you truly, for a man to sign a pledge card and to bring a gift here in the church, and to do it grudgingly, and to do it by compulsion just because I have got to and this is how I respond; this is the way I give, oh, no. I do not know what God thinks of it; I suppose it would be better, just do not at all, just do not at all.
But if it could be like this: "First they gave their own selves to the Lord." They gave themselves to God. Lord, this hand of mine and its strength, and this mind of mind and what it is able to think or to do, and this life of mine what it is able to become, Lord, all of it is Thine; all of it is Thine. And this little gift that I bring; a part of what God gives me, Lord, that is just a token, just a symbol.
And how willingly and how gladly the privileged offer it, which leads me to this last avowal, how do we bless God? How do we thank Him? How do you do it? We do it by the sharing and the supporting with all of these that belong to God’s kingdom and are in God’s love and God’s purposes.
I thank God I have bread to eat. I thank God that I have my mind and my reason, and I thank God that I am not invalid, and I thank God for shelter, and I thank God I am not in a concentration camp, and I thank God for all these manifold blessings. Why? Do I thank God that I have food to eat because somebody else is hungry? Do I thank God I am out of prison because somebody else is in a concentration camp? Do I bless the name of God that I can see because somebody else lives in the dark? Do I thank God I can walk and be strong because somebody else is invalid?
No. No. I thank God that I have my reason and my mind so that I might maybe, in a dedication to God, be a strength and encouragement to somebody else. Thank God I have bread that I can divide with the hungry. Thank God I have somewhat of what God has blessed us with, this earth, that we might support and help somebody else who does not have those blessings from God. Thank the Lord that I have lived in a Christian land and grew up in a Christian home because they were born and lived in heathenism; no, that I might share the light of Christ with them, thank God. Thank God. That is the way to bless God.
Oh, for us to say, Lord, thank thee for food and clothing and shelter and freedom and salvation and this open door of this church, and then just say how fortunate I am and we are! Oh, no, no! Let us turn it the other way, thank God for the church and the open door and all of these wonderful blessings. Thank God for them that we might share them with those who do not possess them. That is why God gave them to us. That is why God chose us that we might share with them.
Nor shall we bring, as Bob Caplinger said, nor shall we bring that which costs us nothing, no, nor as in Malachi to bring the blind and the crippled and the halt and keep the best of the flocks for themselves, no. We shall bring our best and dedicate it to God. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift. We shall thank Him by dedicating ourselves to Him and the gift that costs us something.
One of these visitors in Korea took a picture of the poverty of that wasted land, and the picture was a boy who was hitched to a plow and an old man with the handles guiding the plow. Well, that would be a picture you would take if you went over there. He was showing it in a group, and there was a missionary in the group, and he instantly recognized the picture. And the missionary stood up and said, "Sir, do you see that boy pulling the plow and that old man guiding with the handles?" He said, "They are a great Christian family, and when they built their little church, this poor family having nothing to give sold the one ox that they had and gave it to the church, and now they pull the plow themselves." That is what makes the Christian faith regnant and powerful and dynamic in the earth.
Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift. And that is the way we can bless His name and thank Him forever. Now, while we sing our song, somebody you, to give yourself to the Lord. A family you, to come into the church as God’s Spirit shall make the appeal, while we stand and sing this song. Would you come and stand by me while all of us stand and sing our song?