To Whom God Reveals Himself
January 26th, 1964 @ 8:15 AM
TO WHOM GOD REVEALS HIMSELF
Dr. W.A. Criswell
1-26-64 8:15 a.m.
The title of the sermon, To Whom God Reveals Himself; if you would like to follow the message, it is an exposition of two verses in the first chapter of the Book of Ephesians. Reading in the first chapter of Ephesians from verses 15 through 19:
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him:
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power
To whom God reveals Himself: it is to that one who has the spirit of sophia, of intuitive understanding, of wisdom; of apokalupsis, who can see the unveiling of God in the revelations of Himself in the earth; epignōsis, to the one who has experiential wisdom, and to the one—the eyes of his understanding being enlightened [Ephesians 1:17-18]; to the one whose ophthalmos dianoias is illuminated. That’s a strange and unusual expression, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened: ophthalmos dianoias. You’ll find it nowhere else in the Word of God, but you’ll find it once in a while in Greek literature.
For example, Plato will refer to the eyes of the soul, and Ovid, an earlier contemporary of Christ, in describing Pythagoras, said, “With his mind he approached the gods though far removed in heaven, and what nature denied to human sight, he drew forth with the eyes of his heart.” And the Revised Version translates this ophthalmos dianoias, “the eyes of the heart.” So the one who knows God must be one who possesses the spirit of sophia, of apokalupsis, of epignōsis, and whose eyes of his soul, ophthalmos dianoias, are open unto things invisible [Ephesians 1:17-18].
Let us follow that: the one who knows God must possess the spirit of sophia, of an intuitive understanding, a wisdom of the heart and of the soul. He must see with all of the human faculties of knowing. Just form and substance and fact are not enough. He must also have an inner understanding and an intuitive wisdom.
Socrates one time said to a young man named Lysias, “Lysias, come here and sit down by me.” So the young teenager came over and sat down by Socrates, and Socrates said, “Lysias, do you know the difference between right and wrong? Can you tell me things that are wrong and things that are right?”
“Why, certainly,” said Lysias.
“Well,” said Socrates, “let’s get a piece of paper, and let’s draw a line down the middle, and over here let’s write all the things that you think are bad, and over here let’s make a list of all the things that you think are good.”
“Well, fine,” said Lysias.
So they started off. “Now, Lysias,” said Socrates, “tell me all the things that you think are bad.”
So Lysias starts off, “Murder, that’s bad.”
So Socrates writes down murder. “All right, another one, Lysias.”
“Stealing, that’s bad.”
“All right, another one.”
“Lying, that’s bad.”
So they got them a column there of all the things that were bad. Then over here, all the things that were good. Then Socrates began talking to Lysias about the things that he’d written down there. He said, “Lysias, you say murder is bad. Now Lysias suppose our beloved country was in danger, and the foreign invader was at our gates, and all of the woe that follows the destruction of war was before us. Now suppose you took arms and went out to defend your country and you slew the foe, and you murdered him right and left. Would that be good?”
“Yes,” said Lysias, “that’d be good.”
“All right,” says Socrates, “let’s take that one, murder, and put it over here where it’s on the good side. All right, now, lying, lying. Lysias, you say lying is bad. Lysias, suppose there came a soldier by of a foreign invader, and on the inside was a little baby, and the soldier was commissioned to slay all the little babies. And when the soldier came to the door and asked, ‘Is there a baby in this house?’ Suppose you, in order to save the child, were to say, ‘No, sir. There is no child here.’ Would that be good?”
Lysias says, “Well, Socrates, I believe that would be good.”
So he says, “Well, let’s take lying and put it over here on the good side. Now, you say stealing is bad. Now, Lysias, suppose you had a dear friend, someone you loved, and in a fit of depression he was seated there at a table contemplating suicide, and by the side of the table was a dagger. And in order to save your friend’s life, you stole that dagger away. Lysias, would that be good or bad?”
“Well,” says Lysias, “I think that’d be good.”
“So,” Socrates says, “now let’s take stealing then and put it over here on the good side.” So Socrates went through all the list of the things that were bad and put them all on the good side. And then he did the same thing with all the things that were good, and he put them on the bad side.
And when he got through, Lysias said, “Socrates, I tell you I just don’t believe I know what’s good and what’s bad.”
You see, you can’t categorize anything. Beyond fact and form and substance must always lie an inner intuitive understanding, a sophia, a wisdom of the heart [Ephesians 1:17]. In one of these books on Greek philosophy, Zeller, the author, quotes Gorgias the sophist as being metaphysically able to prove that nothing can exist, and that what does exist cannot be known by us, and that what is known by us cannot be imported to others.
Those same philosophers would say things like this: “A thing cannot move where it is. If it moves from where it is, it’s not there. So a thing cannot move where it is. A thing cannot move where it is not. Now the place where it is and the places where it is not are all of the places there are. Therefore a thing cannot move.”
The most unreasonable man in this world is the man that seeks to reduce everything by reason. The most illogical man in this world is the man who seeks to build everything on the basis of logic. In exaltation of reason and of logic, they make the whole world irrational. There is a faculty that God has given to man that goes beyond fact, and form, and weight, and substance. It is that intuitive understanding of the mind, of the soul, of the heart, the faith that takes wings to fly.
A hen that has hatched out ducklings walks with them to the water’s edge, and she stops and looks around in amazement as those little creatures she has hatched go right on into the water. You see, logic and reason have a place beyond which they cannot go, but a man’s intuitive understanding, his wisdom, his capability of knowing can go far beyond what reason and logic could ever understand. Reason and logic are the feet upon which we stand in the earth, but faith and intuitive knowledge and wisdom are the wings upon which we fly up to the very throne of God.
That’s why in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews and the third verse the author says, “By faith we understand” [Hebrews 11:3]. By faith we know, and without that faith, without that intuitive wisdom, without that inner understanding, no man can ever know, ever. So Paul writes under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, those who would know God must have the gift of sophia, of inner understanding [Ephesians 1:17].
Second: he says he must have the gift of apokalupsis, of revelation [Ephesians 1:17-18]: to see with the eyes of the heart, of the soul, of the mind. One time a woman was watching Titian as he painted one of his gorgeous sunsets, and the woman said to Titian, “I don’t ever see any sunset like that.” And Titian turned and replied, “But don’t you wish you could?” To see with the eyes of the soul the uncovering of another and a greater and a spiritual world: the apokalupsis [Ephesians 1:17-18].
An architect has to have that gift of seeing with his soul, with his mind, with his heart. He creates the whole building, and he sees it when there’s not a figment of it in the earth. An engineer has to have that gift. Before he builds a bridge, he must see it in his mind’s eye. And the great thing, and the important thing, and the vital thing, and the significant thing in life is not the stone, and the steel, and the fact, and the substance, and the materiality, but the meaningful thing is that invisible, unseen idea that gives fact and substance meaning. Isolated fact and substance and materiality have no relevancy and no pertinency whatsoever.
When I was a lad, once in a while I would go to the printer’s shop in our little town where our little weekly paper was printed. And all of it was done by hand, and in every one of those trays, boxes after boxes of them, were those letters, the types, the alphabet. Now, that is the substance, that is a reality, but they are without pertinency until an idea takes them and sinks them into a message that has meaning. Same way about scattered bricks, and scattered timbers, and scattered glass, and scattered plumbing: it has no meaning at all except as a man with an idea gathers it together and gives it pertinency.
If you were to go through a dissecting room, and here are arms, and legs, and heads, and trunks, it has no meaning at all except in the creative idea of a living man. The great truth in life is never in form and in substance. The tremendous truth that makes life life is the idea, the principle, which is always invisible. We must have the gift of apokalupsis, seeing with the eye of the soul [Ephesians 1:17-18]. The stone is the fact, but the house, the temple, the bridge, the paper, the treatise, the poem is an idea. And the pursuit of truth actually is the pursuit of the idea of the meaning.
That’s why in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews again the author, speaking of Moses, said, “He endured, as seeing Him who is invisible” [Hebrews 11:27]. What a contradiction in terms, seeing the invisible.
Now a third gift Paul says we must have if we would know God: we must have the gift of epignōsis. We must have the gift of experiential knowledge [Ephesians 1:17]. All of the mathematical formulae ever concocted, all of the mathematical working out of sound could never in the earth give one an idea of what music is, music, music. You must also have a musical ear. You must listen. This is music. It’s a something, it’s a response of the soul, and the mathematical realities that enter into the theories of sound could never give one an idea of music. You must listen.
All of the formulae that one could present in wavelengths of color, metrical weights, and measurement textures could never give a man an idea of an orange. Eat it. Taste it. That’s the only way you’d ever get an idea of an orange.
All the logic in the earth could never demonstrate the beauty of a sunset. You have to look at it with the soul. Nor could all of the logic in the earth give one an idea of a beautiful noble character. Look, meet one, see him, come in contact with him. Experiential knowledge; so God wrote in the Psalm: “The secret of the Lord is with them that reverence Him” [Psalm 25:14].
The Lord said to Andrew and to John, “Come and see. Come and see” [John 1:37-39]. The Samaritan woman said to the people of Sychar, “Come and see. Come and see” [John 4:29]. Try it for yourself. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” [Psalm 34:8]. That’s why we read that psalm. Try it. Taste it. See for yourself. Not because he said so, or he said so, or you read from somebody who said so. Try it yourself. Come and see [John 4:29].
Now Lord, I ask for the gift of sophia, that I might have that intuitive wisdom [Ephesians 1:17]. I ask for the gift of apokalupsis, that I might see with the eyes of my soul the unveiling of God [Ephesians 1:17]. I ask for the gift of epignōsis, that I might experience the reality and the power and the presence of God [John 14:23]. Now Lord, how is it that I come into the possession of these precious gifts? Two ways. One: God reveals Himself in sophia, and in apokalupsis, and in epignōsis [Ephesians 1:17-18]. God reveals Himself to those whose hearts are right with Him, to those who are regenerated. Jesus answered and said unto him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see, except a man be born anōthen, from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God” [John 3:3]. Only those who have a regenerated spirit, only those who have a committed heart can ever see and know and enter into the great secrets of God [Ephesians 1:17-18].
The natural man cannot know God. The natural man cannot understand the secrets and the mysteries of God. When you divorce heart from intellect, all life, here and life to come, loses its meaning. Intellect says, “I don’t know God. I don’t see God.” Intellect is right, correct, and what intellect says, these Holy Scriptures also say. Listen to the Word of the Lord, “The natural man, the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” [1 Corinthians 2:14]. I must have a spiritual heart, a regenerated soul. I must have a holy affection and reverence for God if I am to know Him, and to see Him, and to experience His power in my life. That’s the first thing. To know God, I must be saved, be given a spiritual disposition. I must commit my heart, my life, and destiny to Him.
Second: I must be illuminated. I must be taught by the Holy Spirit. If you will read some of the versions, they will capitalize this “s”: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the”—capital “S”—“Spirit,” the Holy Spirit [Ephesians 1:17]. If that is true, then what Paul is saying, these are operations of the Holy Spirit of God, the gift of sophia, and apokalupsis, and of epignōsis [Ephesians 1:17]. These are endowments, enduements, bestowments—they are gifts of the Holy Spirit of God.
If I am to know God, the Holy Spirit must illuminate my mind and give me the faculty of understanding and receiving beyond what my intellect could ever explain. And that is the work of the Holy Spirit: to know truth that I cannot intellectually explain. For example, I was in the office one day of a dean of the state college. He was a very learned and brilliant man. He had on his desk a book written by a famous scientist in his field. He picked up the book and turned to the last page and said, “I want you to read this,” and I read there one of the most astonishing things. The man said this; that great scientist said this. He said, “I have been an atheist all my life. I have not believed in immortality; not in my life. I have certainly not believed in the resurrection of the dead; not in my life.” But he said, “I grew up in a devout Christian home.” He said, “Recently, my mother died and my father died.” And then he wrote, “I cannot intellectually explain it, but somehow I know that somewhere my mother lives and my father lives; that someday I shall see them again when God shall raise them from the dead.”
There is a truth of God that becomes a man’s highest and better reason. Plato said that in the most beautiful way that you could imagine. Plato said this truth of God: “The intuitive inner spirit understanding of a man can salute it as something akin to himself before he can intellectually account for it,” and I think that says it exactly. Before I can intellectually account for it, nay, though I may never be able intellectually to account for it, there is intuitive truth that comes from the illuminating Spirit of God that I recognize, though, as I have said, I cannot rationally explain it.
I believe in the resurrection of the dead. I never lay into the heart of the earth one of our sainted dead but as I stand by the open grave I have the conviction and the persuasion that out of the heart of the earth, out of the dust of the ground, even out of the depths of the sea, God shall speak life to these whom we have loved and lost for awhile. Just exactly how would you intellectually defend that? Just exactly how would you logically, logically write an apology for that, a defense of that? It’s one of the intuitive revelations of the Holy Spirit of God, and when I read it here on the sacred page, my heart says, “Glory to God. Amen. Amen.” “If we die with Him, we shall also live with Him” [2 Timothy 2:11].
God shall not leave in the dust of the ground the least of His saints who place their trust in Him. How logically, reasonably, rationally, intellectually to explain that or defend that, no man in the earth can. It is a revelation of God. Just like the Lord says, “No man can come unto Me . . . except the Spirit draw him” [John 6:44].
God has to give us, we who are capable of it—and I had a passage in my sermon, that I don’t have time to preach, of the capability God has given a man made in His image that a brute doesn’t possess. God has given us that capability, that opening of the eyes of the soul to the truth of the revelation of God, that we might know Him [Ephesians 1:18]. The Spirit of God is able to fathom the mysteries of the Lord. And it is the Spirit of God that illuminates our minds to understand the meaning of the things we see in this world in providence and in life.
Like the builders of Solomon’s temple, the architect had shaped each piece, and the builders of the temple just took the pieces shaped with their meaning in place, and they built the great structure unto God without the blow of a hammer, without the ringing of an axe! [1 Kings 6:7]. That’s human life and human meaning.
God has a place for every one of the providences of life, and the Holy Spirit will reveal it to us if we will open our souls unto Him. This is the truth of God, beyond what logic, or reason, or substance, or fact could ever avow; it is seeing with the eyes of the soul.
Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hand the wondrous key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me,
[Open My Eyes, That I May See, Clara H. Scott]
Lord, teach me, teach me.
I want you to bow your head. O God, O blessed Lord, O Spirit of understanding and light, O effulgence, iridescence, glory of the presence of Jesus, Spirit of God, O Lord, O Lord, thank Thee for these who have already come, already come. Oh, teach us, Lord. My soul wants to be taught, to understand, to see, to know. And, Master, as we stand and sing our hymn, maybe somebody else to join these who have come, may they make that decision now as the Spirit of Christ shall speak the word, make the appeal, lead in the way. In His saving name, amen, while we stand and while we sing.