GOD’S FOURFOLD GIFT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 1:30
9-29-68 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message and one that is a delight to my heart. If God please and if God will bless, above anything in the earth, I love preaching a sermon that exalts our Lord. I love hymns that exalt our Lord. Many of our hymns, we sing about us, how we ought to be this and that and how we want this and that, which is fine; nothing wrong with them. We ought to be this and that, and we want this and that. But I love hymns that exalt Jesus, like “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” “Our Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned Upon the Saviors’ Brow.” I think our greatest hymns are hymns that exalt the Lord. I think we ourselves are at our finest best when we forget about us and look to Jesus. I think the reason we are so many times discouraged is because our eyes are on ourselves and not upon Him.
Anyway, this is the kind of a sermon I love to preach; it is a textual sermon, it is a sermon on a text. And the text is 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 30; 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 30, “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” [1 Corinthians 1:30]. Then Paul concludes the chapter with a little benedictory note. “That, according as it is written,” then he quotes from Jeremiah 9:23, “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” [Jeremiah 9:23-24; 1 Corinthians 1:31]. The text, “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” [1 Corinthians 1:30].
Once in a while I will fly in an airplane over a city that is located on a great river. I have in mind one now. And you might almost call that stream “a river of life”; it is that, veritably and verily to the city. It generates light. It brings in its water supply healing, cleansing, refreshing sweetness. It provides power for manufacturing, and it bears on its bosom the commerce from the ends of the world.
This is exactly what Christ of God is made unto us; the light of wisdom; the cleansing righteousness that sweetens and refreshes our sordid lives; the power of inward regeneration, and the grace of redemption that fits us for service. Who of God is made unto us wisdom, the light of God; righteousness, the character of God; sanctification, the inward regenerating Spirit of God; the new creature and redemption, the grace that exhibits us as the sons of glory. “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom” [1 Corinthians 1:30].
The eighth chapter of the Book of Proverbs is a deification of wisdom [Proverbs 8:1-14]. If you will read that chapter and substitute the name of Christ for the word “wisdom” it will be as true, it is as reflective of divine mind and inspiration as if you read it “wisdom,” for Christ is of God made wisdom unto us [1 Corinthians 1:30]. Paul speaks of that in the heart of this first chapter of 1 Corinthians.
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
But unto us who are saved, whether Jew or Greek, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
[1 Corinthians 1:23-24]
The words that are used there in Paul’s language as he writes are amazing words. We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a skandalon, that’s the Greek word, and unto the Greeks mōrian [1 Corinthians 1:23]. We’ve taken both of those words bodily into the English language. We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a scandal, a criminal executed by the Roman government; a scandal unto the Greeks, mōrian. A good translation for that word, mōrian, would be moronic idiocy. As the Greek philosopher listened to the preaching of the gospel of Christ, it sounded like foolishness, idiocy to him. But to us who are called, whether a Jew or a Greek, to us who are saved, He is Christ the dunamin, the dynamite, the power of God and Christ the sophia, the wisdom of God [1 Corinthians 1:24].
When Justinian built that most beautiful of all the churches that have ever been built—you call it St. Sophia; the Mohammedans captured Constantinople and turned it into a Mohammedan mosque, took down the cross and put above it a scimitar. But when Justinian built that beautiful church without steel, and yet the dome is bigger than a baseball diamond, just held up by masonry, you have the sense of being under God’s heaven, for it is a dome, on a dome, on a vast dome. When Justinian the emperor built that in about 500 AD, he named it Hagia Sophia, the “holy wisdom.” You have it in our English language, “St. Sophia” as though it were somebody who lived; Hagia Sophia, the holy wisdom of God. And that is a church of Christ, dedicated to Christ, “He of God is made wisdom unto us” [1 Corinthians 1:30].
It was so from the beginning of His life in the flesh [Matthew 1:20-25]. They were called “wise men,” wise men who came from the East to Jerusalem. And they passed by the palaces, and the kings, and the priests, and the scholars, and the scribes and bowed down in amazing reverence at this holy Child [Matthew 2:1, 11]. And Luke says as He grew up, He was filled with the wisdom of God [Luke 2:40]. And when the sainted apostle John began his Gospel, he started it like this, “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” [John 1:4]. The ninth verse, “And that is the true Light, that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” [John 1:9].
And Paul wrote of it like this, “Jesus in whom is hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” [Colossians 2:3]. Knowledge is facts; this is knowledge, to learn facts, observations. Somebody said it would take one hundred forty-seven years to take all of the courses in Harvard, and if a man took all of the courses in Harvard, he still might not be wise unto salvation. For wisdom is the ability to correlate facts and to know the truth, how things enmesh, and decisions that are to be made, and a way to go, and how to live. That is wisdom.
Out of the Ozarks came a barefooted, ragged boy who appeared before a principal in the mountain school, and he told the principal that he wanted to go to school. And the principal asked him why, and the barefooted boy said, “Cause I want to learn to read that sign down at the crossroads.” That is wisdom; to be able to know what facts mean and how to correlate them and to find the true purpose and highest goal in life.
In that wisdom, we find our ultimate and final answer in Christ, who of God is made unto us wisdom [1 Corinthians 1:30]. Through the centuries, men groped like blind men for the wall, going over the same ground of human ignorance, trying to find an answer; where did we come from, and where are we going to? And what is the meaning of life, and is there a God? And is there any immortality in the soul, and when we die is there a life to come?
The philosophers through the ages, and the scientists, and all of these who study and who make scholarship their pursuit, they go over harrowing that same ground of human ignorance, and all the time we have an ultimate and a final answer in Jesus Christ. He came down from heaven to drive the darkness out of our minds and to reveal to us the true wisdom of God. What does life mean, and what is its purpose? And where are we going? All of it is answered in Jesus. A philosopher can stare into the stars forever and never find an answer. A behaviorist can study human psychology forever and never find an answer. A scientist can look at the molecular structure of the world forever and never find an answer. For our answer of God is given unto us in Jesus Christ. If you would know the meaning of facts, the meaning of existence, the meaning of creation, the meaning of all that we study and learn, the meaning of what we are, if you would know, you must know in Christ. “For He of God is made unto us wisdom” [1 Corinthians 1:30].
“But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us righteousness, and sanctification” [1 Corinthians 1:30]. This is the difference between righteousness and sanctification. Righteousness is an objective word. It is an outward word. It is a manifestation kind of a word. Righteousness is the robe that we put on. It is the character of a man that you see. Sanctification is a subjective word, it is an inward word; it is the man on the inside that you cannot see. It is the real man. And the outward man, the righteous man, is but a manifestation of the inward man who has been sanctified. He has been regenerated, made holy by the Spirit of God that dwells within him [1 Corinthians 6:19; Titus 3:5].
Righteousness is our standing before God in the temple of justice. We are justified in Christ [1 Corinthians 1:30], that is we are declared righteous in Him, not that we are righteous, but we are received as righteous, we are looked upon as righteous before God in Christ, in Him [2 Corinthians 5:21]. And righteousness is this outward presentation before God and men of those who are blessed and saved and regenerated in Christ Jesus.
Paul wrote, for example, “He was made sin for us, He who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Righteousness is the outward appearance of the man, the robe that he wears. Sanctification is the inward man, what God has done in Christ, in the man on the inside of him. The expression of it is righteousness; sanctification is the inwardness of it.
And when we are in Christ and Christ is in us, that is righteousness and sanctification. There is part of the sun in an apple. There is part of the moon in a rose. There is part of the flaming Pleiades in every leaf that blows. That is Christ in us! And the beauty of a man’s life and the glory of a man’s character is the outward expression of the Lord who is within.
We could say it like this. Righteousness would justify a man who is in debt; that is pay his debts. But sanctification would cure him of his thriftless and extravagant habits. Righteousness, the outward objectiveness, delivered the Jews out of Babylonian captivity, but sanctification cured them of the idolatry that caused it.
John says that Jesus came by blood and by water [1 John 5:6]. Righteousness is the blood that pardons and justifies. It is an outward atonement. It was made on a hill that you could look at, with blood that was red and crimson, and it happened in historical time, two thousand years ago [Matthew 27:32-50]. This is He that came by blood, our justification, giving us a righteous standing before God, but He also came by water [1 John 5:6]. Water: there flowed out of His wounds blood and water. And he that saw it bare witness, and he knows that his witness is true [John 19:34-35]. When His heart was ruptured, when the Roman spear was thrust in His side, there poured out, John said, blood and water. The blood is the outward objective atonement for our sins [Romans 3:25]. The water is the inward cleansing of the Holy Spirit in our hearts [Titus 3:5]. And when Christ is in us and when we are in Christ, He is made unto us righteousness and sanctification [1 Corinthians 1:30]. The outward man is a man of God walking in the glory and light of the Lord [1 John 1:7]. But the reason he is that is because of the inward man who is made holy by the regenerating Spirit of Jesus who lives inside him [2 Corinthians 4:16; Colossians 3:10].
“But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom” [1 Corinthians 1:30]. Would you know the answer to all of the really pertinent questions you have ever asked in your life? You could never find them in a book of chemistry or of astronomy or of physics or of psychology. You can only find them in Christ. There is no other answer. The wisdom of God is given us in Jesus [1 Corinthians 1:30].
Made unto us righteousness, and sanctification [1 Corinthians 1:30]; would you stand justified though a sinner? Would you stand justified in the temple of God’s justice? Then it must be in Jesus. And would you know the power to help live right, to love God and the things of God. Then it must be sanctification, the Spirit of God within us [Galatians 5:16; Philippians 2:13]. And of God is made unto us redemption [1 Corinthians 15:30]; that is one of the most poignantly dramatic in all the words in human speech, redemption, redemption.
I can see ten thousand things when I say that word redemption. In the old law, in the law of the far gone past, a home, a family that fell into debt, their inheritance could be sold for the debt. That part of it obtains today. One of the lawyers who heard me preach one time wrote me a letter, and he had copied out of law books these statutes regarding the redemption of property. And every state, every one of them, has statutes regarding the redemption of property.
Now, in the long time ago, in the long, long ago, when a family fell into debt and the creditors came, they could take away their inheritance, their property, but they were not to dispose of it in any other way. And at the end of a certain period, at Jubilee, every fifty years, it had to go back to the family [Leviticus 25:10, 13]. It was given them forever by God [Numbers 3:6-7]. That is why Naboth, when Ahab came and said, “Your little vineyard is next to my house, I will get you another vineyard better than that, or I will give you ten times as much as it is worth. I want it for a garden of herbs, a flower garden,” and Naboth said, “God forbid that I should give unto thee the inheritance of my fathers” [1 Kings 21:1-3]. That was the command of God. The tribes were to be in their allotments forever, and the property that was given to the family was to stay in that family forever.
But, if a family fell into debt, the property had to be sold, and not only that, but members of the family could be sold. A father and a mother could take a child and sell them to pay the debt [2 Kings 4:1; Nehemiah 5:5; Matthew 18:25]. Or if the debt were grievous enough, the whole family would be sold into debt [Leviticus 25:39-41]. Now that is where the word “redemption” came from. In the law of the Old Testament, the nearest of kin could buy back what had been lost because of a debt [Leviticus 25:25]. You have so much of that in the Old Testament; the story of Ruth and Boaz is a story of the redemption of property. The nearest of kin could redeem it, could buy it back [Ruth 4:1-10].
Now I can just see, I can just see so much of that. And it happened all the time and everywhere. I can just imagine an elder son coming back home from a far country, and he is prospered of God. He is affluent, and he comes back home, and he can’t find his mother, and he can’t find his father, and he can’t find the family. And the neighbors come and say that the home place was sold for debt. And the inheritance of his father has been bought by someone else. And I can see that son say, “But this is given us of God.” And he finds his father and his mother and the family, and he redeems the home place, he buys it back.
Or I can imagine an elder brother like that whom God has prospered coming home and asks, “Where is my brother, John?” “Where is my brother, John?” And the father and mother with tears say, “The creditors came. It has been a series of famine years, and the creditors came and took your brother John away. He’s not here. The creditors took him.” Why, I can just see that, and it happened ten thousand times, ten thousand times.
If you ever lived on a farm, you’d know what I mean when I say, “And hard times can come.” There can be drought year after year and the family fall into almost hopeless debt. The creditors came. Why, said that elder brother, why? They took John? So the elder brother buys him back, redeems him, pays the price.
Now all of that is the figure in that word when it says in God’s Book that Christ redeemed us [Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9]. We were sold under sin [Romans 7:14], a debt we cannot pay. No man in himself can ever discharge himself from the judgment upon his sins; sold under sin and sold unto death. No man can escape that judgment [Hebrews 9:27].
It would be inane foolishness for a man to stand up and say, “All these around me are under the condemnation of death, but I am not. I am not. The holy righteousness and the inward purity of my life has delivered me from that judgment of death.” He would be insane who would stand up to make such an avowal as that. All of us have been sold into that slavery. All of us are under that judgment of death, all of us [Romans 5:12].
And who can redeem us? Who can pay the debt for us? That is the meaning of the word redemption. Jesus Christ, who of God is made unto us redemption [1 Corinthians 1:30]. And so often in the New Testament will you find that thought. Paul will say for example, “You are not your own. You are bought with a price” [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. Or the beautiful song that they sing, that they sing in the fifth chapter of the Revelation, to the Lamb of God, “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou was slain, and has redeemed us unto God by Thy blood out of every nation, and tongue, and tribe under the sun” [Revelation 5:9].
He is our redemption [1 Corinthians 1:30]. He bought us and delivered us and saved us [1 Peter 1:18-19]. Jesus, Jesus. That’s why they sing about Him in heaven. I had another part to this sermon, I haven’t time to preach. May I just summarize the thought? And our bodies shall share in that redemption as well as our souls, our spirit [Ephesians 1:14]. For the body has shared in the Fall: “in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17]. That day the spirit died [Genesis 3:7], and in time the body died [Genesis 5:5]. But there shall be a redemption of the whole purchased possession [Ephesians 1:14]. Jesus bought all of me [1 Peter 1:18-19]. Not just my spirit, my soul, but He redeems also this fallen frame, this human body; my spirit when I am saved, regenerated [Titus 3:5], and my body when He comes again at the great resurrection day [1 Corinthians 15:53-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. What a prospect! What a victory do God’s people face in Christ Jesus [1 Corinthians 15:55-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18].
Oh! it is beyond thought that God could have wrought so much for us. Now, bogged down in the mire; then, to fruit and to blossom in the paradise of God. Now, groping in the dark of our ignorance; then, living in the light of God’s holy wisdom. Now, as a chrysalis coffined in the dust and in the darkness; then, liberated—liberated in the freedom of God. Now like a fledgling squalling and buffeted by the storm; then, rising upon eagle’s wings. Now, groveling like a servile slave down here in this world, servants of sin and of death; then, rising into the manifestation of the sons of God [Psalm 8:5; Romans 8:19].
For Jesus of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption [1 Corinthians 1:30]. That’s why I say I love songs that sing about Him, and I love to preach sermons that exalt Him. And I love to make an appeal when I am done for Him. The sweetest thing any family can ever do is to gather around the blessed Lord Jesus. The finest commitment a home can ever make is to our precious Lord. And the most meaningful decision a soul shall ever face is when the decision is cast God-ward and Christ-ward.
While we sing our hymn of appeal, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, while we sing this hymn, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I come, pastor, and here I am.” In the balcony round, there is a stairway at the front, at the back, and on either side, come. In this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, come. As God shall press the appeal to your heart, make it this morning. Make it now. When you stand up, stand up coming, while all of us share in our hymn together.
city on a great river
River is one of life for the city itself – generates light; supplies
health-giving water; generates power for manufacturing; bears commerce
Christ to us – light of wisdom; cleansing health of righteousness; energizing
power of sanctification; redemptive grace that equips us for holy service(1 Corinthians 1:30)
II. Wisdom, light
personification of wisdom (Proverbs 8)
Christ crucified – to the Jews a scandal, to the Greeks foolishness, but to the
saved the power of God
Church Hagia Sophia – church of holy wisdom
the days of His flesh(Matthew 2:1, 11, Luke
2:40, John 1:4, 9, Colossians 2:3)
is accumulation of facts, information
1. Wisdom is its
2. Can have knowledge
and no wisdom
of wisdom of God
is made wisdom to us
1. Poems, “Failure”;
“Found of God”
III. Righteousness, sanctification
– outward manifestation of a man’s character
Sanctification – inward, subjective
is made both unto us(2 Corinthians 5:12)
In Christ we can stand before God justified, righteous(Revelation 7:14)
came by blood and water (1 John 5:6, John
19:34-35, Matthew 27:32-56, Revelation 7:14)
old law, custom of redemption(1 Kings 21:1-3,
Leviticus 25:10, 13, 24-28)
our sins sold for slavery, bound over to death
We are bought with a price (1 Corinthians
6:19-20, Revelation 5:9)