His Inexpressible Gift
November 1st, 1964 @ 7:30 PM
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
11-1-64 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are invited to turn in your Bible to the second Corinthian letter, chapter 9, chapter 9, and read it out loud with us who are gathered in this First Baptist Church in Dallas. The second Corinthian letter, chapter 9; we shall begin reading at verse 6, and read to the end of the chapter. The text is the last verse in the chapter, and the title of the sermon is His Inexpressible Gift. Second Corinthians chapter 9, beginning at verse 6, now all of us reading it out loud together, beginning at verse 6:
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 for ever.
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 every thing to 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;
While 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]
And the text is the last verse that we read together: “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift” [2 Corinthians 9:15]. Yet as you have read the chapter, Paul has said nothing at all about God’s unspeakable gift. He just adds that on to the end of the chapter. What he’s talking about was the ministry of the people of Achaia to the want and to the need of God’s saints in the earth [2 Corinthians 9:7, 12]. And yet he closes those chapters, 8 and 9, with that remarkable exultation: “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift” [2 Corinthians 9:15].
You know, that word there translated “unspeakable” is very interesting. Those Greeks put together words, and sometimes they’d make a whole bevy, a whole covey of words that would describe somewhat the same thing; and this is one of them. Here in 1 Peter, chapter 1 and verse 8, Peter writes about our Lord, “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable” [1 Peter 1:8]. There’s another Greek word built along the same line, aneklaletos, aneklaletos, “unspeakable.” “We rejoice in Jesus with joy unspeakable, aneklaletos, and full of glory.”
Now you’ll find a like word when Paul rises to this paean of glory and praise to Jesus, in the last chapter of his discussion of election, the eleventh chapter of Romans: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable, anexeraunetos, how unsearchable, anexeraunetos, how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” [Romans 11:33]. Now you’ll find that same kind of a Greek adjective here: “Thanks be unto God for His anekdiegetos; thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift, for His inexpressible gift” [2 Corinthians 9:15], a gift of boon, of bounty, of visitation, a blessing that cannot be described. It is beyond what human language could convey. “Thanks be unto God for His anekdiegetos, His unspeakable, inexpressible, indescribable, unsearchable blessing in Christ Jesus.”
Now I said that the apostle just seems to tack that on. He hasn’t said anything about the unspeakable gift of God in Christ Jesus. He’s been talking about the ministry to the want and the need of the saints of God in the earth [2 Corinthians 9:6-14]. Then he says that, just puts it on [2 Corinthians 9:15]. But he has in his mind a marvelous thing. What he was writing about was—and we didn’t have time to read the first part of the chapter—what he was writing about was this. Paul had boasted to the Macedonians about the marvelous liberality of the Christians in Corinth. He’d said so much to the people up there in Macedonia that when he found out that there was a company of Macedonians who were going down to visit the Corinthian Christians, Paul wrote them a letter, and he said, “Now, I am writing that you might realize what I have boasted about you to those people up there in Macedonia. Now they are coming down to Corinth to visit you, and when they come I do not want them to find my boasting of you to have been in vain: that I have said good things about you, and you are not doing any good; that I have spoke of your liberality, and that you are not liberal; that I talked about the marvelous spirit by which you are working for God and serving Jesus, and they come down and find there is nothing of truth in it.”
Now Paul says, “I am writing to you in order that when those Macedonians come, and they remember what I said in boasting of you to them, that when they come they will see every word I have said about you is the truth. You are not only liberal, you are over and beyond; you are not only doing good, but you are doing better than that; you are not only loving and serving Jesus, but you are giving your whole life to Him. Now get ready for the visit of the Macedonians who are coming to look upon your charity and your liberality and your devoted service to the blessed Jesus” [2 Corinthians 9:1-5].
Then the thought, the reason he tacked that on was this. Paul got to thinking about the liberality of God. He could describe the liberality of the Corinthians, and he could even describe the liberality of the Macedonians; but how would a man in language describe the liberality of God? Paul got to thinking: he could write in black and white of the sacrificial gift of the most devoted servant in Corinth or in Macedon. But how could he write of the sacrificial gift of God in Jesus Christ? So he put that on, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift” [2 Corinthians 9:15].
And you notice what he calls it in the name of the Lord. He calls God’s bounty to us a gift. We don’t buy and we don’t sell the spiritual blessings of our Lord unless we buy without money and without price [Isaiah 55:1-3]. Everything that comes from God is a gift. He gives us Jesus; the forgiveness of our sins is a gift; grace and glory is a gift. Everything the Lord bestows upon us is a gift. We brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of this world. All that God bestows upon us is a gift. “Thanks be unto God for His inexpressible, anekdiegetos, for His indescribable bounty, and love, and mercy, and grace in Christ Jesus” [2 Corinthians 9:15].
Now for a moment I want us to speak of that inexpressible gift. It is beyond words, beyond description in its meaning, in its meaning. Just how would you stand here in this pulpit, or how would you pick up a pen and write, or how would you pick notes and sing, how would you describe adequately, fully, sufficiently the meaning of the love of God toward us in Christ Jesus?
The church through one thousand nine hundred sixty years, the church has produced many theologians, and many eminent divines, and many marvelous scholars; and yet after they’ve written and written and written, and preached and preached and preached, and said and said and said, it seems to me they have not touched the hem of the garment yet! There are that many more sermons yet to be preached, and that many more theologies yet to be written, that many more songs yet to be sung, and that many more homilies yet to be delivered. We never fathom this unfathomable sea of the inexpressible, the anekdiegetos, the gift of God in Christ Jesus [Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8].
When I was doing my doctors work at the seminary, one of my subjects was the atonement; one of the minor subjects that I studied was the atonement. You know after we’d studied that for two years, and had gone through every review, and every doctrine, and every theory, after we’d gone through the whole literature of the whole theological world, when the study was done and the examination was passed, I still had the feeling that we have not begun to touch the limits of the meaning of how the cross of Jesus saves us from our sins.
When a man wrote a great heavy tome, and I read it, after I’d gone through a thousand pages of what he said about the theory of atonement, I had the feeling, when I got to the end of the last word, “He still hasn’t said it.” And when I made those surveys of the centuries, and the theologians, and the scholars, and the divines who have written for the years and the years, and they’ve done their best to describe how it is that the blood of Jesus saves us, when they’ve done their best, I still had the feeling, “They still haven’t said it.” I don’t think you can say it! I don’t think you can put it in homily or sermon or theology. I don’t think you can fathom the unfathomable, nor can you put your arms around the infinitude of the love of God and the grace of God in Christ Jesus, an anekdiegetos gift. Ah, the depths of its meaning!
Now may I speak of the depths of its preciousness? “Thanks be unto God for this inexpressible gift [2 Corinthians 9:15], anekdiegetos, beyond description,” the preciousness of God’s gift to us. You know, the things that we have, for the most part, we can put a value on them. If you’ve been given a diamond, you can take it down to a jeweler and he’ll appraise it for you. If you’ve been given a beautiful car, there’s a certain price that the government makes them paste on the window, and when you go to the agency and see it on the floor, you can read the price there. And if you have a beautiful house, there’ll be a real estate man and he can appraise it; and the tax collector will certainly do it. Whatever you have in this world, there’s a price on it.
But I’d just like for somebody who has prayed for a little child, and God has answered prayer—like God answered the prayer of Hannah [1 Samuel 1:9-11, 19-20]—I’d like for somebody to come up to me and say, “Now preacher, I can tell you exactly the price of this little precious Samuel boy God has placed in my heart.” I’d just like for you to tell me that. If you were to say, “I say he’s worth a hundred thousand dollars; I’d say he’s worth a million dollars”; I’d look at you in astonishment! Why, man, there are some things the price of which you never mention because they are not bound; they are illimitable and infinite!
Our deepest emotions are never described. Sometimes they’re too deep even for tears. And the preciousness of things that are really precious are beyond description—the only daughter of a mother or the only begotten son of a father—and that is the preciousness of this inexpressible, this anekdiegetos gift of God. The Lord devoted Him to death, to agony, to suffering, to shame, to crucifixion for our sins: the preciousness of the gift [2 Corinthians 9:15].
Did God try to buy our souls with gold? Did God try to buy our salvation with silver? Did He try to dedicate for our justification all the wealth of the world? No! What He gave was Himself, the most precious of all describable gifts. He gave Jesus, His only begotten Son [John 3:16].
Well, here I am, trying to describe the indescribable, and trying to fathom the unfathomable, and trying to plummet to the depths of an unplummeted sea. But I ought to try, because that’s what it is to preach. You can’t ever say it all, but you ought to say something. You can’t ever describe it all, but you ought to try to describe something. You can’t encompass it all, but you ought to put your arms around as much of it as you can. Though adequate words fail, yet we ought to say something for Jesus; inexpressible, the preciousness of the gift of God in our Lord [2 Corinthians 9:15].
You know I try to think, just how was it when God gave the Lord Jesus for our sins, just how was it? And just a little faint echo would be when Abraham took his only boy Isaac and made that three journey trek to Mount Moriah, and there on top of Mount Moriah he bound his lad, put him on the altar, and raised the knife to plunge it into his heart [Genesis 22:9-10]. This is the child of his old age; Abraham was more than a hundred years old when that boy was born, and Sarah was more than ninety [Genesis 17:16-17, 21:1-5]. He was the child of promise; and now he raises his hand to plunge the knife into his heart. I’m saying that in this you’ll get a little faint idea of the preciousness of the gift of God.
Do you remember Jesus said, “And Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad?” [John 8:56]. When did Abraham see His day? I’ve often thought, I’ve often thought when Abraham saw the day of Jesus, and was glad, was when he raised that knife to plunge it into the heart of his boy Isaac, and a voice called from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham,” and Abraham turned, and saw in a thicket a ram caught by the horns. And God said to Abraham, “Abraham, let the boy go. Let the boy live. Take this ram and sacrifice this innocent animal instead of the boy” [Genesis 22:9-13].
That was Jesus, the ram. That was the type of our Lord, the ram. And the blood that was spilled out was blood of atonement, and blood of expiation, and blood of forgiveness, and blood of salvation [Genesis 22:13; Romans 5:11; Hebrews 5:17, 10:5-14]. And when Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad” [John 8:56], I think it was then that Abraham looked ahead, and by faith saw the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God that saves us from our sins [Hebrews 11:17-19, 1 John 4:10].
“Yea,” as Isaiah said, when it seems as though he stood by the cross, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief” [Isaiah 53:10]. “All we like sheep have gone astray; and the Lord hath laid upon Him the sins of us all [Isaiah 53:6]. The Lord shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: and by the knowledge of My righteous Servant shall God be able to justify many” [Isaiah 53:11]. Oh, the preciousness of that gift!
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”; Isaac Watts]
The preciousness of the gift; “Thanks be unto God for His anekdiegetos, for His inexpressible gift” [2 Corinthians 9:15].
I speak now of the blessing of the gift. I’ve spoken of its meaning. I have spoken of its preciousness. I speak now of its blessing. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable, indescribable, inexpressible gift” [2 Corinthians 9:15]. One of the blessings of the gift of God in Christ Jesus [John 4:10; Romans 6:23]; we do not know the depths of our fallen nature. It’s not seen in this life. It has a reverberation and an echo into the life that is yet to come. Down and down and down, and down and down and down are the children of old man Adam fallen; finally into death, finally into hell, finally into torment, this fallen creature, down and down and down! And yet, in Christ Jesus are we lifted up, and raised up, and raised up, and higher, and higher, and above the angels, and above the archangels, and are made joint-heirs with the Son of God Himself! [Romans 8:15-17]. Oh, my soul! “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!”
And again, think, think of our forgiveness and our adoption into the family of God [Galatians 4:4-7]. Our forgiveness: washed clean and white in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 1:5], as though we had never sinned. The vilest among us, as though we had never sinned; pure and without spot and without blemish in His holy presence [Ephesians 5:27], in that glorious day, washed in the blood of the Crucified One [Revelation 1:5], and now adopted into the family of God [Galatians 4:4-7]. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift” [2 Corinthians 5:27]. If the stream cannot be fathomed, how would you plummet the fountain? Oh, the goodness of God in Christ Jesus toward us! No man who trusts in Him shall ever bear the penalty of his sins, never [Isaiah 53:5]. Christ gathered all of those javelins, and swords, and spears, and judgments, and bore them in His own body on the tree [1 Peter 2:24]; and we are free, we are free, as though we had never sinned. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.”
And then last, think of His unchanging love toward us and His unchanging Spirit and presence with us in Jesus Christ our Lord. I may change, but He not [Hebrews 13:8]. I may deny Him; but He will never deny me [2 Timothy 2:13]. Not by caprice, nor by change of purpose will God ever draw back and take away the bounty of His love to us in the Lord Jesus [Romans 8:35]. The angels, that came down into this world to announce the coming of our Savior [Luke 2:8-12], left and went back to heaven [Luke 2:13-15]. But Jesus stayed. Jesus stayed; God in the flesh, Immanuel, God with us, the God-Man Christ Jesus forever and ever [Matthew 1:23].
God hath identified Himself with our flesh, and with our life, and with our lowly and fallen nature [John 1:14, Philippians 2:7-8]; and Christ is ours now and forever and forever [John 3:16-17, 10:27-28]. God gave Himself to us in Christ Jesus [John 4:10; Romans 6:23]. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift [2 Corinthians 9:15].” Made shame for us in order that we might be made the glory of heaven [2 Corinthians 5:21]; suffered all of the cruelties and indignities of an ignominious crucifixion [Matthew 27:32-50] that we might have glory, and honor, and repute, and grace, and dominion, and power, and beauty, and acceptance forever and ever; bound that we might be free; suffering that we might never suffer; dying that we might never die; living for us; O God, “Thanks be unto Thee for the anekdiegetos gift, the unspeakable, indescribable gift in Christ Jesus.”
Now how shall I thank Him? How shall I thank Him? I shall thank Him with my mouth and with words. O Lord, accept this sermon tonight, and accept these words tonight, and accept this humble gratitude for saving a lost soul. Lord, we shall thank Thee with our words, feeble and stammering as they are; we shall thank Thee with our words, and we shall thank Thee, Lord, with our memories. We shall not forget.
When you go to Paris, those great boulevards all over the city will converge at the Arch of Triumph. And when you walk through that great Arch of Triumph, there is an eternal flame dedicated to the Unknown Soldier. When you go into Westminster Abbey, the most sacred place for the English people in the world, when you go into Westminster Abbey, in the great nave, just this side of the tomb of David Livingstone, there is the grave of the Unknown Soldier. And when you go to Arlington Military Cemetery, there you’ll find day and night an honor guard before the sarcophagus of our unknown soldier.
Driving through Germany one time after the war, I saw a Royal Air Force cemetery where the men had been gathered and buried in the heart of the earth. And as I walked through that cemetery of those British boys who’d lost their lives defending their little island, I saw a bouquet attached to one of those crude crosses. I walked over there and read a sign, a little note attached to the bouquet: after naming the man it said, “His wife and children in England shall never forget.”
We shall thank Him in our memories. “This is My blood of the new covenant, shed for the remission of sins. Drink in remembrance of Me. And this is My body which is broken for you. Eat in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:24-25]. And by God’s grace and in His goodness and in His providence, we shall keep sacred that memorial until Jesus comes again: our thanks to God for His unspeakable gift [2 Corinthians 9:15].
And we shall thank our Lord by the devotion of ourselves to Jesus. In this incomparable passage, writing to the Corinthians and speaking of the Macedonians, he said, “And this they did, not as we thought or planned or hoped, but first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and then unto us by the will of God” [2 Corinthians 8:5]. We shall thank God for His unspeakable gift by devoting ourselves to the Lord. For a man to bring a gift and leave himself out is worthless. It’s not what we give but what we share; for the gift without the giver is bare. Lord, when I bring my gift, it says, “This is me. This is me, Lord. This is the strength of my life. This is every hope and dream of my soul. Lord, I give myself when I bring the gift to Thee.”
I was preaching in one of the great cities of America and in a great First Baptist Church, a tremendous one. And I was the guest on a Lord’s Day dinner time. I was the guest of one of the deacons in that glorious church. The Lord had prospered him and blessed him, and he had a beautiful, precious wife, and darling children. And everything seemed to be just ordered of God. One of those beautiful homes, beautiful on the outside, beautiful on the inside, beautiful everywhere, oh, it was just a benediction to break bread with that dear family. So while we were eating dinner, why, he got to talking about his wife, and he got to talking about his day of marriage, and he got to talking about the day he proposed. And he said, “You know what my wife said to me when I proposed to her? She said, ‘Darling, I will marry you on two conditions: one, first, that you promise we will have a Christian home; and second,’ she said, ‘I will live on whatever salary you make, whatever it is, and I’ll be happy in it.’” And he said, “I was making a hundred twenty-five dollars a month at that time. She said, ‘I will live on whatever salary you make, and I’ll be happy in it; but you’ve got to promise that month by month, week by week, whatever God gives you, you’ll tithe it to the Lord.’” Well, he said he just hadn’t considered doing that. He said he’d just never thought about that. But he wanted to marry that girl, so he balanced it out, and he came up with a verdict: he thought she might be worth it. So he said, “I made that promise to her: we’ll have a Christian home, and whatever God gives to me, I’ll take a sacred tenth of it and devote it to the Lord.” He said, “Preacher, I never had such a hard time in my life as any first little check of a hundred [twenty-five] dollars: I wrote twelve dollars and fifty cents of it for God. Oh,” he said, “I thought we were going to starve for sure. We’re never going to get ahead for sure. But I made the promise to that little girl that I’d tithe and have a Christian home. Why,” he said, “preacher, look around you, look around you. Why,” he says, “God has blessed us.” And I looked around, and I thought, “God surely has remembered this wonderful man.”
That’s how I can thank Him: I can devote myself, and my home, and my family, and all I have and are; I can give them all to God.
How can I thank God for His inexpressible gift? Why, I will not be flippant, and I will not be easy, and I’ll not be careless as though the things of God, my love and worship and devotion, were to be without cost and without effort. I’ll not come to church just when it’s convenient and easy, when I don’t have any place else to go. I’ll go to church when it’s pouring down rain, and when it’s hot like blue blazes, and when it’s cold like an icicle. I’ll be right there, Lord. I’ll be right there. And I’ll take my part in building the household of faith in the earth. And what I bring to Thee, Lord, will be at a cost. “Neither will I offer unto the Lord that which doth cost me nothing” [2 Samuel 24:24]. I’ll bring myself Lord, and it’ll be a true token of the devotion of my life.
Let me tell you this, then I must close. Korea is such a tragic spectacle. Oh, the tears, and the heartache in Korea; yet Korea was one of the great promising Christian nations of the Orient; more Christians in Korea than any place over there in that part of the world, and now so tragically torn asunder by the awful ravages of communism.
Anyway, one of our people went over to visit Korea, and as he was going down the highway looking at the country and looking at the people, he saw a Korean pulling a plow, and an old man, the father of the son, and the old man guiding the handles of the plow. And the American tourist stopped and took a picture of that boy pulling a plow and his old father guiding the handles; came back to the United States, and gathered his friends, as we always do, and showed them the pictures of our travels abroad.
And in that little group, looking at those pictures, was a missionary. And when he flashed that picture on the scene, he said, “I just wanted you to see evidences of the poverty of Korea. Look at that picture,” he said, “a boy pulling a plow, and an old man guiding it by the handles.” And the missionary looked, and stood up, and said, “Why, man—why, man, why, I know those people!” He said, “You know why that boy is pulling that plow?” He said, “They needed desperately help in the little church, and that old man took the only oxen that he possessed, and sold the ox, and gave it to the church!” And he said, “That’s why that boy pulls the plow, and that old man guides it with the handles.”
I don’t know anything that follows that story; but I’d make a supposition and a guess that when the American tourist heard that, he swallowed real hard like. Oh, the sacrifice and the tears that sometimes is poured into the ministry of God; it makes me ashamed of what little I do for Jesus. Thanks be unto God for His anekdiegetos, for His indescribable, unsearchable, unspeakable, inexpressible gift. Oh, the love of God toward us in Christ Jesus! [2 Corinthians 9:15].
Thy name, Lord, be praised forever and ever and ever! Amen and amen.
You know there are just times when you get to thinking about Jesus, get to reading the Book, review all that He has done for us, there are just times when Lord, you just, you just want to cry, you want to weep, you want to shout, you want to sing, you want to say something. Oh, the fullness of the abounding grace of God that reaches down even to us, even to us!
Our time is gone, and while we sing this hymn of appeal, somebody you to give your heart to Jesus, a family you to come into the fellowship of the church—we’re still in a last gracious minute over WRR—if you’ve listened to this message, and you’ve never taken Jesus as your Savior, do so now; do so now. Give Him your heart and your life, let Him forgive your sins; take you to heaven some of these days. Do it now.
And in the great throng in this auditorium, there’s time and to spare if you’ll come. In the balcony round, on the lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front: “Here I come, preacher, here I am. I make it tonight,” while we stand and while we sing.
translated “unspeakable” – whole group of Greek words used to describe somewhat
the same thing(2 Corinthians 9:15, 1 Peter 1:8,
Paul seems to just tack on this exultation
Alarmed lest his boasting of the liberality of the Corinthians to the
Macedonians had been too much, he speaks of the liberality of God
unspeakable gift of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ
II. The gift of God in Christ Jesus
The whole meaning of the gift no man can say in language
church has produced many theologians, scholars, divines, yet never able to
studied the atonement for two years – still had the feeling I had not begun to
touch the limits of its meaning
The preciousness of the gift
There is a price on the things we have in this world
things are priceless
a. A mother’s only
child (1 Samuel 1:9-18)
b. A father’s only
Abraham a faint type(Genesis 22:9-13, John 8:56,
Isaiah 53:6, 10-11)
The blessings of the gift
We do not know the depths of our fallen nature(Romans
forgiveness of sin and adoption into the family of God (Galatians 4:5-7, Revelation 1:5)
unchanging love toward us and His presence with us (Hebrews
13:8, Matthew 1:23)
III. How shall we thank Him?
our mouth and words
With our remembrance
The Lord’s Supper(1 Corinthians 11:24-25)
the devotion of ourselves to Jesus(2 Corinthians
helping God’s cause in the earth(2 Samuel 24:24)