His Unspeakable Gift
November 15th, 1959 @ 7:30 PM
HIS UNSPEAKABLE GIFT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
11-15-59 7:30 p.m.
But this I say: He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart so let him give, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.
As it is written:"He hath dispersed abroad, He hath given to the poor; His righteousness remaineth forever."
Now He that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness,
Being enriched in everything for all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.
For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God,
Whiles by the experiment of this ministration, they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them and unto all men,
And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.
Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.
[2 Corinthians 9:6-15]
This chapter you have just read is a part of a long appeal and adjuration from the Apostle to the church at Corinth because of a thing he had said. Paul was in the midst of a great appeal. He was taking up a collection, and in encouraging the saints at Corinth to be noble and to be generous, he used the example of the churches of Macedonia: how forward they had been in their generosity. The poorer they were, the more liberally they gave [2 Corinthians 8:1-3].
And he said to the people in Macedonia that the churches and the saints of Achaia had been forward a year ahead of time [2 Corinthians 8:10]. They did not wait until the exact moment or the exact day, but a year beforehand they had been zealous in their giving and in their proposal to support this great appeal for the collection voiced by the apostle [2 Corinthians 8:4]. Now, Paul writes to these people there in Corinth that the Macedonians, who have done so excellently and so well and so generously and so nobly, he writes to the people in Corinth that these Macedonians are coming down to see how the people in Corinth have done [2 Corinthians 9:4].
Paul had boasted to the Macedonians that these Corinthians had been ready a year ago and had made great professions and avowals a year ahead [2 Corinthians 9:2]. Then Paul writes to the people here in Corinth, and he says:
I am afraid; I’m scared; I tremble lest these Macedonian Christians who themselves have done so excellently and to whom I have boasted about your forwardness and generosity, I’m afraid these Macedonians are coming down and find that you haven’t been anything like I said you were.
[Summary of 2 Corinthians 9:3-4]
So Paul writes to the Christians there, to the church in Corinth, to stir them up to give so that when these Macedonian Christians come down to visit that everything Paul has said about these Corinthian Christians is exactly right. They’re everything Paul said they were. Their heart and their spirit, their generosity, their liberality – everything Paul boasted of them – was exactly as Paul had said. That’s why he writes the letter here to the saints, to the church members, in the city of Corinth.
Now, my sermon is how Paul took that appeal, and what it brought to his heart, and the way that Paul turned it in his own soul. And it is found in the text that closes the chapter: "Thanks be unto God for His inexpressible, for His unspeakable gift!" [2 Corinthians 9:15]
What the thing did in Paul’s heart, it turned around. It took an altogether different tact. Paul said, "I can describe the liberality of these who have given the most unto God, but I could not begin to describe the liberality of God Himself." Paul says, "I can write it down in black and white how much people have given, even the most sacrificial, but I could not begin to write down what God has bestowed upon us." The appeal that he was making to the people to give generously and liberally to the Lord brought to his heart the marvelous gifts that God had bestowed upon us in Christ Jesus. And he closes his appeal with the text: "Thanks be unto God for God’s inexpressible, indescribably glorious gift, the unspeakable gift of God in Christ Jesus" [from 2 Corinthians 9:15].
Isn’t that a wonderful way for a Christian man to think? Starting in a program such as we’re in, in an appeal such as we share, to start thinking about our gratitude to God and our thanksgiving to heaven for the rich and indescribably worthy things God has given us in Jesus. We may buy and sell in other places, but you don’tever buy and sell in the kingdom and patience of Jesus [Isaiah 55:1]. Everything here is a gift – all of it. Our salvation is a gift [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Eternal life is a gift [Romans 6:23]. Grace and glory are gifts [Ephesians 1:6, 4:7]. Our promise in heaven is a gift [1 Peter 1:3-5]. We brought nothing into this world – nothing. We shall take nothing out of this world – nothing. And everything that we have is a gift of God. Most especially is these wonderful things that God has given us in Christ Jesus. "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable, His indescribable, inexpressible gift" [from 2 Corinthians 9:15].
Now, may we think of that for this moment? The meaning of the gift of Christ is inexpressible and indescribable. It is unspeakable. It cannot be placed in language and in sentence. Thanks be unto God for the unspeakable gift of Christ. The meaning of the gift of Christ cannot be placed in words. The world has seen many great and marvelous and illustrious divines. The world has heard speak and has read the writings of many glorious theologians, but there never was a theologian nor was there ever an orator or preacher that could say in language what Jesus means to us and this world.
In doing my doctorate at the seminary, a part of that work lay in a study of the atonement of Christ. We studied it for two years. We read books and volumes and libraries. But after a man has read every book, and after he has studied every library, and after he’s followed every theologian, and after he’s followed the doctrine through two thousand years, he still comes to this present hour saying, "I’m not satisfied yet."
There’s not any doctrine, there’s not any theological tome, there’s not any system of thinking or presentation by which a man could ever begin to encompass all that is meant in the atonement of Jesus Christ. Though we have the gift of tongues and of angels and speak with all the eloquence of men [from 1 Corinthians 13:1], though we sing about it, preach about it, write poetry about it, no one is ever able to express in language the meaning of the gift of Christ to this world.
"Thanks be unto God for His inexpressible gift!" [2 Corinthians 9:15] Thanks be unto God for His inexpressible gift. If the meaning of it cannot be contained in language, neither can its preciousness, its infinite worth.
Every other gift I know of, I suppose, could be summarized: this diamond costs so much, or this beautiful mink stole costs so much, or this convertible coupe costs so much, or this villa costs so much, or this fine, beautiful trip on a vacation to Florida, or – may the Floridians forgive the blasphemy – this beautiful vacation trip to California. All of it can be expressed. All of it can be described. All of it can be evaluated. But no one by any computation known to men or to angels in heaven or in earth could ever comprehend or describe or delineate the preciousness of the gift of the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
We get a little faint hint of it in the story of Abraham offering up Isaac on Mount Moriah [Genesis 22:1-19]. How he must have felt when he lifted up the knife to slay his only son, the child of promise [Genesis 22:9-10]. "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief. He hath made His soul an atonement for sin" [from Isaiah 53:10].
When He shall look upon the travail of His soul, He shall be satisfied. By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many; for He shall bear their transgressions.
How would you say by any computation known in earth the preciousness of the gift of the love of God in Christ Jesus for us?
Alas! And did my Savior bleed
And would my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?
Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut His glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man, the creature’s sin.
["Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?" by Isaac Watts, 1707]
How would you describe the preciousness of the gift of God in Christ Jesus? Thanks be unto God for His indescribable, for His inestimable, for His unspeakable, for the gift that cannot be placed in language or in sentence or in tongue. What would one seek to say to describe: "Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ"? [Ephesians 1:3] "Thanks be unto God for His indescribable, inexpressible gift" [from 2 Corinthians 9:15].
How would you place in tongue or in language our thanks unto God for those spiritual blessings that have come to us? We are a fallen people, but the results of our fall – of our sin, of our judgment and death – is never seen in this life [Luke 16:19-31]. It is seen in the life that is to come. And from the abysmal depths, which is the woe we deserve [Romans 6:23], to the inexpressible heights of glory to which God hath given us a place and an inheritance in Christ is a measure [Ephesians 1:18], is a distance that an angel could not compute. This is our deserved damnation. This is our gift of glory and inheritance in Christ Jesus. "Thanks be unto God for the unspeakable gift" [from 2 Corinthians 9:15] – the indescribable salvation we have in Him.
How would you describe in language the spiritual blessing that comes to us in the forgiveness of our sins: our adoption into the family of God [Romans 8:15], being made a joint heir, a fellow heir, with Christ for all of the riches of the kingdom and glory that is to come? [Romans 8:16-17] If the stream cannot be measured, how much less could one plumb the depths of the fountain? "Thanks be unto God for His indescribable, His unspeakable gift" [from 2 Corinthians 9:15].
How could one place in language, in sentence, in tongue, in descriptive form, our gratitude to God for His unfailing love and patience and for His promised eternal presence? We may be unfaithful; He will never be unfaithful [2 Timothy 2:13]. We may fall by the way; He will never stumble or stagger [Isaiah 40:28-31]. We may forget; He will never forget [Isaiah :15]. He will never change the bounty by which He has invested us with life now and life in the world to come [Malachi 3:6]. I may grow negligent; He will never be negligent. I may be in all ways derelict and forgetful; He will never be derelict or forgetful [Isaiah 44:21]. He has promised, and He will keep that promise forever and forever [2 Corinthians 1:20].And His presence is never taken away from us however unworthy we may be, however full of fault and failure we may be [Hebrews 13:5]. The presence of Jesus is with His children. His presence and love follows you no matter where you go or what you do [Psalm 139:7-12; Matthew 28:20].
And the loving, abiding presence of Jesus is always here in this church. Every time we meet, whether we prayed or not, He’s here [Matthew 18:20]. He seeks a blessing, indescribable and precious, to be poured out upon us. Sometimes our hard hearts make it difficult for God to reach our souls and to give us a promised blessing, but He’s here to do it [Mark 6:5-6]. He never fails to try to come, to beseech, with arms extended toward His people [Luke 13:34]. He never withdraws His presence [Hebrews 13:5]. When the angels came to announce His birth, they went back up to heaven [Luke 2:8-15], but the Babe of Bethlehem stayed [Luke 2:4-7]. He is forever Prince [Isaiah 9:6] Emmanuel [Matthew 1:23], God with Us, and He’s here tonight. He’s here by you! He’s here by my side. He will be with us to the end of the way [Matthew 28:20].
His promises and love and blessings are indescribably and forever precious and dear and holy and full of grace and glory. He became poor that we might be rich [2 Corinthians 8:9]. He suffered utmost shame that we might possess utmost glory [Hebrews 12:2]. He sorrowed that we might rejoice [Isaiah 53:3]. He was bound that we might be free [Galatians 5:1]. He died that we might live [2 Corinthians 5:15]. "Thanks be unto God for His indescribable, for His unspeakable, for the preciousness of His gift" [from 2 Corinthians 9:15].
May I take the first word just for a moment before I make an appeal to your hearts? Thanks be unto God for it. I cannot describe the gift. He says it is indescribable [2 Corinthians 9:15]. It is inestimable. It is unspeakable. But we can thank God for it. Though I can’t say in sentence the meaning of the atonement of Christ nor can I place in language and in word all the preciousness of His blessings, but we can be thankful to God for them. "Thanks be unto God" [2 Corinthians 9:15].
For one thing, I can thank God by remembering that Jesus did these things for us, for me. I can remember [Luke 22:19; Hebrews 12:3]. I can bring it to mind and keep it in my heart. I can be thankful by remembering that He did it.
If you’ve ever been in Paris, in the heart of that beautiful city and in the most beautiful part of that beautiful city is that tremendous, glorious Arch of Triumph [Arc de Triomphe]. And the Arc of Triumph is built over the France memorial to the Unknown Soldier, and there is a flame that burns. It never goes out. They call it the eternal flame in remembrance of what the men who laid down their lives for France have done for the peace and destiny of their nation.
When you walk into Westminster Abbey, in the nave – the great central part of the cathedral – just beyondis the grave of Livingstone [David Livingstone, 1813-1873]. Beyond the door and this side of it is the grave of the unknown soldier [grave of the Unknown Warrior]. And around and back and forth, there marches day and night in that cathedral a member of the armed forces of the British government just to remember the men who laid down their lives that there might be forever an England.
Have you ever been to our nation’s capital [Washington, D.C.]? If you have, one of the most impressive things you will ever see in this world is in the Arlington Cemetery. There, a beautiful sarcophagus with this inscription: "Here lies in honored glory an American soldier known but to God." And up and down and back and again, in front of that sarcophagus, there marches a representative of the armed forces of the American people, lest we forget.
Thanks be unto God. We cannot describe the gift we have in Jesus – its meaning, its preciousness, its blessing – butwe can remember that Jesus did it for us. "Eat in remembrance of Me. Drink in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat the bread and drink the cup, ye do show the Lord’s death" [from 1 Corinthians 11:24-26]. You remember it. You memorialize it. You keep it before even our little children who look upon the elements His death until He comes again. Thanks be unto God. We can thank God by remembering that He did it.
We can thank God in the way that these Macedonian Christians did. First, they gave their own selves unto the Lord [2 Corinthians 8:5], then they gave unto the appeal of the apostle by the will of God [2 Corinthians 8:3-4].
There is another way we can thank God for the indescribable, unspeakable gift in Christ Jesus. Thanks be unto God. We can bring unto God ourselves – lay ourselves at His feet – and then offer some gift in our hands [Romans 12:1]. First, ourselves:"Here Lord, here Lord, weak and feeble and not very much, but such as I am, here Lord, I give my life to Thee. And Lord, it may not be much, but here is a gift in my hand for Thee. The unspeakable, indescribable gift of God: thank you, Lord. Here is somewhat for Thee."
One of these visitors had come back from the Orient and was showing pictures like I have done and others have done many times here at the church. And one of these men that had been over there and come back from Korea showed a picture. It was a picture of a boy pulling a plow, and the handles were guided by a feeble old man. Anybody could take a picture of a scene like that. And when the picture was flashed at the church on the screen, a retired missionary stood up and said, "Wait. Wait. Wait." He said, "That picture – that picture is a picture of a family that I won to Jesus." He said, "That boy and that old man – that father." He said, "In the Korean War, the church, our little church, was destroyed and the people were in poverty and in want and in need." And he said, "That family took the only ox that they possessed and sold it and gave it to the church that we might rebuild our little chapel, but the family had to live and the plowing had to be done. And the boy pulls the plow; guiding the handles, that feeble, tottering old man." Oh, that is just one of a multitude of instances that every day crown the unspeakable gift of God in Christ with glory and with love and with gratitude and with thanksgiving.
I think so often of the prayer that Dr. Fowler prays: "And now, Lord, we bring our gifts unto Thee." And we remember the word of the psalmist talking about David when he said: "Neither will I offer unto Thee, Lord, that which doth cost me nothing" [from 2 Samuel 24:24].
"It is something for Thee – something in keeping with the unspeakable glory of the gift of God in Christ Jesus, something, Lord, for Thee: a gratitude, a thanksgiving, a remembrance, a memorial, an appreciation – myself, Lord, and a gift in my hand."
Oh, dear, sweet people! God does something to a life like that. There is something, there’s an intangible, there’s an other, there’s a heaven that reaches down and into the very soul and life of the home and the house. I must quit.
This comes to my mind, and it presses upon my mind. I was a guest in a home in one of the great cities of this nation, and I was at the breakfast table the following morning. I was not holding a meeting there; I was just on another trip. And the family of this glorious man is in this church. He grew up here as a boy, has gone away ever since youth, and has been wonderfully blessed of God. Ah, the home is a mansion, and the family are just glorious.
And sitting at the table with the family, beautiful, beautiful home and everything – the appointments, everything about it just glorious – seated at the table at the breakfast time, he said to me, he said, "I guess you wonder how it is that God has blessed me as He has. Well," he said, "I will tell you."
He said, "When I proposed to this girl" – and made a sweet gesture toward his wife – he said, "When I proposed to this girl who is my wife and the mother of my children," he said, "My wife said to me, ‘I will marry you. I will marry you if you promise me we will have a Christian home.’ And she says, ‘I will live on your salary, whatever it is, if you will promise me that one-tenth of everything we make we will give to the Lord.’"
He said, "Preacher, when I proposed to that girl and when I married her, I was making $120 a month. How I could do that I did not know." But he said, "The first month we were married, she wrote out a check for $12 and gave it to the Lord." But he said, "From that day and hour until this, God’s favor has rested upon me and my precious wife and my dear family." And he says, "I think of all the homes in the world, God has favored my home the most and the best."
God blessed that girl. "I will marry you, ‘if’." Oh, that every girl’d be that way: "If we will have a Christian home, bring our children up in the love and nurture of the Lord, I will marry youif we will have a Christian home." And wouldn’t it be an incomparable thing if every girl would say to the boy, "And I will live on the income you make. If it’s not but a nickel a day, we’lllive somehow on a nickel a day. I will live on the income that you make. I’ll live on your salary, and we will trust God to bless us with that ultimate victory. And you promise that a tenth of all that He gives us, we will return unto Him"?
"Oh, thanks be unto God for His unspeakable, inexpressible gift!" [from 2 Corinthians 9:15] That’s the way Paul said it, and that’swhat stewardship brought to his heart. And may it bring a like devotion from us unto God.
While we sing our song of appeal, in this balcony round, somebody you, in that far – this balcony – somebody you, here, somebody you, give his heart today to Jesus, would you come? Down one of these stairwells, would you come? Would you? Give me your hand and say, "Preacher, tonight, I give my heart to Jesus." Would you? Would you? On this lower floor, somebody you, into this aisle and down here to the front, "Here I am, preacher, and here I come. Tonight, I give my heart to Jesus," or, "Tonight, pastor, we’re putting our lives in the fellowship of this church." One somebody you, or just a family you, would you tonight? Would you make it now? On the first note of the first stanza, into that aisle and down to the front, "Here I come, preacher, and here I am." Will you make it now while we stand and while we sing?