GOD’S FOURFOLD GIFT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 1:30
9-29-68 10:50 a.m.
You who are sharing this service on the radio and on television are worshipping with the dear people and congregation of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message. It is a message exalting our Lord and is a textual sermon; it is a sermon on a text. And the passage, the text is a verse, and the verse is number 30 in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 30. And the title of the message is The Fourfold Gift of God in Christ Jesus.
“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]. That is the text. Then Paul concludes the chapter with a benedictory word of praise: “That, according that 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].
Frequently, the airplane will fly over a great city, located by the side of a flowing river. And as you look at the city and up and down the length of the river, that river is one of life for the city itself. It generates light; it is a flowing supply of health giving water, cooling, refreshing, sweetening. It also generates power for the manufacturing plants located on its banks, and it bears on its bosom the commerce of the world.
Just so is our Lord Christ a like river of water to us. He is the light of wisdom; He is the refreshing, sweetening gift of righteousness, the cleansing of impurity, of iniquity. He is the inward power of regeneration, and He is, in God’s grace, a redemptive glory fitting us for spiritual service. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us the light of wisdom, the refreshing cleansing of righteousness, the inward power of regeneration and sanctification, and the grace that is redemptive, that fits us and liberates us for kingdom service.
All this is Christ to us. “For of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom” [1 Corinthians 1:30]. If you will take the eighth chapter of the Book of Proverbs and read it carefully, you will find it to be a deification, a personification of wisdom [Proverbs 8:1-14]. And as you read that chapter, if you will substitute for the word wisdom, if you will substitute the word “Christ,” it will read beautifully and effectively and will carry the inspired meaning of God.
“For Christ is to us wisdom” [1 Corinthians 1:30]. In the heart of this chapter, the apostle wrote:
We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, unto the Greeks foolishness;
But unto us who are called, to 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 the apostle chose to use as he wrote that sentence are most expressive. We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews, and the Greek word is skandalon, unto the Jews a scandal; that one would think of a crucified, executed criminal as the Son of God and the Savior of the world is unthinkable! It is a scandal! And unto the Greeks, and the Greek word is mōron—we’ve taken both of those words bodily into the English language—and unto the Greeks mōron [1 Corinthians 1:23]. To an educated, cultured Greek philosopher, the preaching of the gospel of the crucified Christ was moronic idiocy! To the Greeks foolishness, but unto us who are called, unto us who are saved, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the, and the Greek word is dunamis—dynamite, dynamo—Christ, the power of God. And the Greek word is sophia, the wisdom of God [1 Corinthians 1:24].
In 500 AD Justinian, the Roman emperor, built the most glorious edifice the world has ever seen, the church in Constantinople, and he called the name of the church Hagia Sophia, the “church of the holy wisdom.” In our English language and in modern nomenclature, we refer to it as St. Sophia.
As you know, in about 1454 the Mohammedans came and captured Constantinople and changed that glorious church; it’s built in a series of domed lofts. The architect was trying to make it as though when one worshipped Christ in it he stood under the chalice of God’s blue heavens. And the great central dome is larger than a baseball diamond. All of that wrought in a day when there was no steel; its just stone masonry, the most glorious edifice in the world, the church of the holy wisdom.
You have St. Sophia as though it were dedicated to some saint––no! the church of Hagia Sophia, the church of the holy wisdom, that is a church of Christ. For unto us who are saved, whether Jew or Greek; to the Jew, He may be a scandal, and to the sophisticated intellectual, He made sound like moronic foolishness. But unto us who are saved, who have found the Lord, He is Christ the power of God and the sophia, the wisdom of God. Of Him are ye, we who are saved, of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom [1 Corinthians 1:30].
He was that from the beginning [John 1:14]. Not only before the world was made as the eighth chapter of the Book of Proverbs presents [Proverbs 8:1-14], but in the days of His flesh, He was that [1 Corinthians 1:30]. They were called wise men; wise men who passed by the palaces and the kings, and the scribes, and the priests, and the scholars and in amazed reverence fell down and worshipped before a Child born of a woman and laid in a manger [Matthew 2:1, 11].
And as Luke continues the story, he says, “As the Child grew, He was filled with the wisdom of God” [Luke 2:40]. And when the apostle John wrote his great Gospel, he said, “In Him is life, and the Life is the light of men [John 1:4]. He is that Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” [John 1:9].
And the apostle Paul wrote of Jesus “In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge” [Colossians 2:3]. Knowledge are the truths, the facts of God; knowledge, God’s stars, God’s heavens, God’s chemistry, God’s physics, God’s astronomy, God’s psychology, God’s medicine, God’s anatomy. All of the created work of the hands of the Lord, that is knowledge. To see it, to know it, to penetrate its inmost depths, this is knowledge.
Wisdom is its meaning; to correlate its facts and to find the great good and the great purpose of God in the earth. Someone said it would take one hundred forty-seven years to pursue all of the courses offered in Harvard University, but one could go through all [one hundred] forty-seven years of those courses and learn all of the facts presented in those studies and yet not find wisdom, not know God, nor the ultimate final meaning of life. The great purpose of God is that we might know Him, and these facts, these knowledges that we obtain are but signposts that point to Him—to help us make decisions that will glorify God and give meaning to our lives.
In the Ozarks, out of those hills, walked a barefooted, ragged boy, and he appeared before the master of the country school and said he wanted to enroll. He wanted to go to school. And the master of the school, intrigued by the mountain boy, asked him why, why he wanted to go to school. And the lad replied, “Sir, I want to learn to read that sign down at the crossroads.”
This is the purpose of the wisdom of God, that we might turn the right way, that we might face the ultimate good, that we might come into the procession of those holy decisions that bring us into an understanding, and into a rapport, and into a relationship and fellowship with God. Now, in this world of fact and knowledge in which we live, Christ Jesus of God is made unto us wisdom [1 Corinthians 1:30]. For the centuries and for the ages, men have groped through the blind ignorances of humanity trying to find an ultimate purpose and an ultimate meaning. They peer into the forevers that lie ahead and wonder is there life, is there immortality beyond the grave?
The old ancient Greek philosophers looked and all they could see was the dim, shadowy world of Hades and the dark River Styx. These scholars and students and scientists combed the universe to find some meaning in creation and in life. Where did it come from? Where is it going to and what does it mean? And finally come to the end of their books and write the finale to their chapters, and the end of their days, and they die never knowing, for there is no ultimate meaning and no ultimate purpose in life unless we find it in God! God, made unto us the wisdom that gives life and purpose and meaning to existence [1 Corinthians 1:30].
I copied a poem. It is reflective of a man who tries, and he studies, and he probes, and he seeks, and finally in despair falls down the stairway of knowledge and lies there helpless. And it is only when God comes to him that he finds the answer, truth, and wisdom; and the words go like this:
Oh, oh, long and dark the stairs I trod;
With stumbling feet to find my God
Gaining a foothold, bit by bit,
Then slipping back and losing it.
Down to the lowest step my fall,
As though I had not climbed at all.
[“Failure”; Theodosia Pickering Garrison]
Words never truer; you can study, and study, and study; you will never find God. You can look at a star forever, you will never learn His name. In every avenue of science open to us, in chemistry, or physics, or psychology, in any study, you can study and study and study and study forever and come to the end of that perusal just as lost, in just as deep a darkness as when you began.
Down to the lowest step my fall,
As though I had never climbed at all,
And while I lay, despairing there,
Lo, a footstep on the stair,
In that same place where I dismayed,
Faltered and fell and lay afraid.
Lo, when hope had ceased to be,
My God came down the stairs to me.
[“Found of God,” Theodosia Garrison]
This is God’s revelation to us in Christ. We can never know any other way. We can never find it out any other way. We can never be conversant with it any other way. You could study forever and never know God’s name or what God is like or who He is. But in the goodness of God, the Lord came down and revealed Himself to us [John 1:18], and in Him we find meaning, and purpose, and promise, and hope, and every precious thing that heart could desire; Jesus Christ, who of God is made unto us wisdom [1 Corinthians 1:30].
Jesus Christ, who of God is made unto us righteousness, and sanctification; righteousness [1 Corinthians 1:30]. This is the outward manifestation of a man’s character. So many times in the Word of God, it will be likened to a robe; righteousness is likened to a robe, to raiment, to dress. This is what you see in a man who belongs to the Lord. A righteous man; it is an objective word, it is an outward word, it is a manifestation that the world can see; righteousness.
Sanctification is an inward word. It is a subjective word. It speaks of the man you can’t see with your eye, or it refers to what a man really is in his soul; a regenerated spirit, a sanctified heart, and the expression of it is righteousness. Of that, Christ is made unto us righteousness and sanctification [1 Corinthians 1:30]. The outward man and the inward man; the objective man and the subjective man; the man I can see and observe, and the man who really is in his soul righteousness. Christ is made unto us righteousness, “For God made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” [2 Corinthians 5:21].
In Christ, we can stand in the temple of God’s justice; a righteous man, a justified man, not that we are righteous, not that we are holy, but God receives us as righteous, as holy [1 Corinthians 1:30]. We put on the garments of our Lord, “These are they who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:14]. We are declared righteous in God’s sight, and as we come into the presence of the Lord in Christ, we stand as though we had never sinned, had never fallen into iniquity, never had pages in the book that are black and smeared and dark and evil. He is our righteousness [1 Corinthians 1:30], the robe of holiness that we wear as we come in the presence of God. And He is our sanctification [1 Corinthians 1:30]. It is His Spirit within us. It is Christ within us [Colossians 1:27; 1 John 4:13]. It is God in us regenerating us [Titus 3:5], giving us new visions, and new love, and new aspiration, and a new dedication, a new hope. This is that inward subjective man, the sanctified man, the expression of whose life of manifestation of his deeds you see, and you say he is a righteous man. Christ is unto us righteousness, and sanctification [1 Corinthians 1:30]; the outward man that glorifies God, that walks upright in the presence of the Lord, and the inward man, the real man who has been regenerated and who is holy in the Lord’s sight [Colossians 1:22; Titus 3:5].
You could say it like this: righteousness, the paying of a man’s debts, the justification of the man, the paying of his past debts; righteousness. Sanctification, the changing of the man inwardly to turn him aside from his thriftless and extravagant habits. You could say it like this: righteousness, God delivering His Jewish people from their Babylonian bondage [Isaiah 49:25-26]; sanctification, the forever taking away of their debt to idolatry that caused their Babylonian captivity [2 Kings 21:11-14]. You could say it like this: John referred to Christ as the One who came by blood and water [1 John 5:6]. On the cross as he saw Jesus die, on the cross, the Roman soldier thrust a spear into His side, and John said, “And there flowed out blood and water. And he that saw it bare witness, and he knoweth his witness is true” [John 19:34-35]. This is He that came by blood and by water” [1 John 5:6]
By blood, that is the outward justification, atonement for our sins [Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22]. It happened in history two thousand years ago. It happened on a hill that the eye could see. It happened when His blood encrimsoned the ground [Matthew 27:32-50]. This is He that came by blood [1 John 5:6]; righteousness. “We wash our robes, and make them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:14]. We become righteous in Christ [Ephesians 1:4-8], righteousness; the objective outward atonement of God for us [Matthew 26:28]; the pardoning of our sins [Ephesians 1:7], the acceptance of His children [Ephesians 1:5].
But also by water He came [1 John 5:6]. That is the inward washing and cleansing; the man on the inside who is sanctified [Titus 3:5]; the Spirit of Jesus in our hearts [Romans 8:9]. And what you see in my face, and what you hear from my words, and what you see in my life will always be but a reflection of what is inside of me. And if inside of me, I am sanctified, I am regenerated, I am cleansed [1 Corinthians 6:11], if I am right inside, then you will see a righteous man walking in your presence.
This is Christ of God to us; righteousness [1 Corinthians 1:30]. The objective pardon of God and the robe we wear, that you can see the manifestation and sanctification, the inward man who is cleansed and washed and regenerated by the Spirit of Christ [2 Corinthians 4:16]. He of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification. “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us redemption” [1 Corinthians 1:30].
There is not in human speech, there is not in human language a word so fraught, so laden with poignant dramatic meaning as that word “redemption.” It is an old, old, old word. And it goes back and back and back through the centuries to an old, old custom. From the days of the long ago, when a family fell into debt [2 Kings 4:1], the creditor could come and take his children into slavery for the debt. In the old, old days when a family fell into debt the creditor could come and take away their possessions, their home, their little farm [Matthew 18:25].
Some of you, as I have, lived on the farm. Some of you, as I pastored for the first years of my life, have known farming people intimately. In our structured society today, we have welfare and social security and many things that soften the blow of an economic disaster. But when I was a boy, there were none of those things, and oft times, and especially where I lived, oft times there were years and years of drought. There were no crops. And the family increasingly fell into debt, and into debt, and into debt.
And the creditor could come, the tax man could come, and he could take away all that the man possessed, sell his children into slavery. Now, in that far away day, there was something else that could be done. And that was called the right of redemption [Leviticus 25:47-48]. The man could buy back his boy, or the nearest of kin could buy back the inheritance [Leviticus 25:25]. God did that [Isaiah 43:1]. To illustrate it, do you remember in the story of Jezebel and Ahab and Naboth? Naboth’s little vineyard was by the palace of the king of Samaria, Ahab, in Jezreel. And looking through his window, looking at the pretty little plot of ground, he said, “What a pretty place for a garden of herbs. I could raise roses there, and I could raise ingerns there, and garlic and all kinds of things. I could plant radishes there and lettuce there, and oh, I could just have the nicest little garden there” [1 Kings 21:1-2]
People come up to me and say, “I dare not eat these onions here. They make my breath smell bad.” Well, I say to them, “Why should you stumble at that? You don’t have to worry about your breath smelling bad eating an onion. Just eat a little bit of garlic, and the onion will all go away.” I’m a true gourmet. What a beautiful little plot here for a garden. So, he went to Naboth, and he said, “I’ll buy you another garden located in another place, or I will give you ten times what that is worth” [1 Kings 21:2].
And Naboth’s refusal was not because he was prudish, or crude, or uncivil, but his answer was “God forbid that I should give unto thee the inheritance of my fathers” [1 Kings 21:3]. God gave that possession to the family, and at the end of every fifty years, it had to go back to that family [Leviticus 25:10, 13]. And it it was sold, the nearest of kin had a right of redemption [Leviticus 25:25; Ruth 4:3-6].
One of the lawyers here in our congregation who is here this morning, one of the lawyers heard me preach about this redemption one time and went to his office and wrote me a very long legal document in which he had copied out the statutes of the state and of other states regarding redemption today. And he wrote in a letter to me, and he said, “The right of redemption is granted by every state in the union. Redemption, to buy back what a family has lost.”
Now, I say that word is so fraught with dramatic meaning. I can easily imagine, I can just see this, for it happened ten thousand times ten thousand times. I can easily imagine a son, an elder son, who had gone far, far away, and becoming prosperous and affluent he comes back home, and he says, “Where are my father and mother, and where is the family?” And the neighbors say, “They have been driven away. For the long years of drought they fell into debt, and the debtors came, and the creditors came and took away their home and their little farm.”
And I can see that elder son finding them, searching until he finds them, and being next of kin, buys back the inheritance, maybe where he was born, the little house in which he was reared, and gives it back to his father and mother. Or I can so easily imagine that elder brother coming back in affluence, and he sees his dad and mother and family, and he says, “And where is John? Where is my brother John?” And the father and mother say, “Oh, son, you cannot know! You cannot know, the creditors came and took John into slavery. We could not pay. We had naught to pay, and they came, and they took your brother John and sold him into slavery.”
That happened thousands and tens of thousands of times. But by the grace of God, there was the right of redemption; the next of kin could buy his brother back [Leviticus 25:47-49]. With all of the wretched meaning and the tears and color that time and life had poured into that word, that is the word that the New Testament will use to describe what Christ has done for us. “You are not your own,” Paul will say, “You are bought with a price” [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. Or, the most beautiful song in the Revelation, in the fifth chapter of the Revelation, the saints in glory singing “Thou art worthy, O Lamb of God, Thou are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hath redeemed us unto God by Thy blood out of every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and family under the sun” [Revelation 5:9, 12].
That’s the song that the saints sing in glory; redemption! We were sold under sin, in debt and could never pay, facing death and separation from God. And the Lord in Christ is unto us redemption [1 Corinthians 1:30]; He bought us back. He paid the debt, He redeems His people. He puts us back again into home, into house, and into the family of the Lord.
I thought this morning, at this hour, I would be done in time to speak further, but the time is already gone.
It is not just our spirits that share in that redemption. Our bodies shall share in it also. Our bodies share in the Fall [Genesis 3:1-6]. Not only are we sinful and fallen in our hearts, our souls, but we are fallen in our physical frames. “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17], said God to our first parents, and that day they died in their hearts, and in time they died in their bodies.
But bless God, praise God! There shall be a redemption of the whole purchased possession. It says so here in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans. My spirit is regenerated when I am saved, when I give my heart to Jesus, when I am born again [John 3:5-7], but someday at the consummation of the age when Jesus comes again at the great resurrection day, my body shall be redeemed also [Romans 8:11]; and body and soul, holy, perfect, pure, shall live in the presence of God [Colossians 1:22; Jude 1:24]. The whole person redeemed, his body that falls now into decay and death, his body shall be immortalized, resurrected, glorified [2 Corinthians 5:1-2; Philippians 3:21]; and his spirit, “the spirits of just men, made perfect” [Hebrews 12:23]. Now, we are bogged down in the mire of this world; someday, we shall blossom and fruit to the glory of God in the paradise of Eden. Now, we grope in the blindness of our ignorance; then, shall we be liberated in the light of the wisdom of God. Now, we are like a chrysalis coughing in the dust and in the dark; then, shall we be free as God shall make us free. Now, like a fledgling we sprawl and are buffeted by the storms; then, shall we rise up on wings of eagles. Now, like slaves we grovel in the dust of this earth; then, shall we be manifested as the sons of God [Psalm 8:5; Romans 8:19]. For in Christ Jesus, of God is He made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption [1 Corinthians 1:30]. All this, like that sweet song is Jesus to us.
We must close. While we sing our hymn of appeal, would you come and give your life and give your heart to Him? Would you do it? Would you make it this morning? A family you to come, or a couple you to come, or just one somebody you to come, in the balcony round, there is a stairway at the front and the back and on the sides, and there is time and to spare. Come, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the pastor, “I give you my hand. I give my heart to God.” As the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal, answer with your life. Make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. “Here I am. Here I stand,” do it now, make it now. Decide now and come now, while we stand and while we sing.