Precious Gifts of God
September 16th, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
PRECIOUS GIFTS OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 1:18-20
9-16-73 8:15 a.m.
With us in the First Baptist Church, you who listen on radio are so welcome. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Precious Gifts of God.
There is a word that Simon Peter loves to use; in these two short epistles he uses it seven times. It is a beautiful word, a meaningful word; I would say a precious word, for that is what it is, timē, "precious." The apostle writes that the trial of our faith is precious [1 Peter 1:7]. He writes that the blood of Christ is precious [1 Peter 1:19]. He writes that unto us who believe, Christ our Lord is precious [1 Peter 2:7]. He writes that the faith is precious [2 Peter 1:1]. And he says, "God hath given unto us exceeding great, great and precious promises" [2 Peter 1:4]; the promises are precious. A Sunday or so ago, in delivering this message from 1 Peter, I spoke of the trial of our faith as being precious [1 Peter 1:7]. Today we shall speak of the use of that word as by inspiration he describes for us the other things of Christ that are precious.
First, the precious blood of our Lord: in 1 Peter, verses 18 and 19, the apostle, by God’s Holy Spirit says:
Forasmuch as ye know that Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold,
but by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without spot and without blemish:
Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.
[1 Peter 1:18-20]
The blood of Christ is precious; and the apostle compares the preciousness of the outpoured life of our Lord with gold and silver used for the redemption of slaves [1 Peter 1:18-20]. "For you were not redeemed," and that word "redeemed" refers primarily, actually, to the buying back of a slave; it is a ransom paid for a captive. And the Lord uses it to refer to His own ministry, "Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many" [Matthew 20:28]. The imagery that lies back of the word "redeemed" is very realistic, and one that is experiential, empirical, demonstrable in all of our lives.
We are sold to death, we are slaves of this world, we are bound by the chains of sin, and we cannot escape it. "In sin did my mother conceive me" [Psalm 51:5]; not that the act of copulation is sin, but that the inheritance that I received from my father and mother is one of human weakness. I have a propensity for wrong. Sin is my master and death is my inevitable judgment; I am a slave to these and I cannot break those shackles. But the apostle says, "We have been redeemed, bought back; our ransom has been paid." Then how was it paid? As usual, in ancient times with slavery, is the slave bought with money, silver and gold? No, no! He says that we have been bought with the precious blood of Christ [1 Peter 1:19]. Now I would say – wouldn’t you? – that if I were a slave, if you were a slave, and somebody bought your freedom with money, wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing?
You know, I heard a man describe a scene at an auction block. There was a beautiful, young woman who was one sixty-fourth Negro. Now you imagine this, she was one sixty-fourth Negro, and she was being sold on the auction block. A beautiful young woman, and the men who were buying there bid for her, and one man outbid them all, and bought her. And to the astonishment of the girl, there where he bought her publicly, openly he gave her her freedom. She supposed that she was bought to be used and expected it. But the man who paid the ransom price, who paid for her redemption said, "No, you are free. You are free." When I heard that I thought that was one of the finest things a man could ever do: bought with money, redeemed with silver and gold. But the apostle says, "Our redemption," buying us back from slavery in death, and sin, and judgment, "was not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ" [1 Peter 1:18-19].
I can imagine standing by the cross and just watching, as so many did, the Son of God die. And I can well imagine a man, knowledgeable, standing there. This criminal, he deserved to die, a murderer and an insurrectionist. This criminal, a murderer and an insurrectionist; but this one, this center Man, all He ever did was to love mankind [Luke 23:39-41]. We know no other thing about Him but that. He laid His hands on the sick that they might be well [Luke 4:40]. He spoke words of cleansing to the leper that he might be clean [Mark 1:40-42]. He opened the eyes of the blind [Matthew 9:27-30; Luke 18:35-43], and He preached the gospel of encouragement to the poor [Matthew 11:5; Luke 7:22]. Why His death, His execution? Well, I can hear an angel reply, "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins" [Hebrews 9:22]. This is God’s atonement, and I turn away. Atonement, this is atonement [Romans 5:11]; isn’t that a marvelous word? That is an English word; that is a compounded, put-together English word. It is a theological word that the theologians, speaking in the English language, put together to describe that; the death of Christ. The word is, "at-one-ment, at-one-ment." When you put it together, "at-one-ment," we pronounce it "atonement," "at-one-ment." This is the way we are at-one-ment with God.
I may mortify my flesh, I may be baptized, I may take the sacraments and observe the masses, I may pray until my knees are calloused, I may read devotional literature the rest of my life, I may worship in one language or in fifty, but if I am ever to be at-one-ment with God I must accept the mercy and favor of the great Jehovah through the precious blood of Christ [1 Peter 1:18-19]. There is no redemption of our souls apart from His sacrifice; it is precious. You see, it is the blood that cleanses the stain out of our soul. Come saith the Lord, Come, "Come,though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool," cleansing [Isaiah 1:18]. "These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" [Revelation 7:14]; precious blood.
Intercessory blood, for blood has a voice, blood can cry and can speak. In the Book of Hebrews, the author says that, "We have come unto Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the sprinkling of the blood that speaketh better things than that of Abel" [Hebrews 12:24]. The blood that speaketh better things than that of Abel; the blood has a voice, blood speaks. The fourth chapter of Genesis: when Cain slew his brother Abel, the Lord said to Cain, "What hast thou done? For the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground?" [Genesis 4:8-10]. The blood can speak, blood has a voice. The blood of Abel cried to heaven saying, "Look! Look! Look, the wrath and violence of Cain."
What does the blood of Jesus say? For His voice is heard in the ear and presence of God. What does the blood of Christ say? The wounds, and the sobs, and the tears, and the sufferings, and the blood of Christ pleads for our forgiveness, mercy for us, pity for us, forgiveness for us, salvation for us, at-one-ment for us, redemption for us, that we might be delivered and be saved. The precious blood of Christ; timē, beyond price, precious [1 Peter 1:19].
The apostle says, "To us who believe, He is precious" [1 Peter 2:7], everything about Him is timē, endearing, beyond price or cost. In the passage that I haven’t time to expound, he uses the word three times here, saying what Jesus is:
To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious –
Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious:
Unto you, therefore who believe He is precious: but unto them that be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner.
[1 Peter 2:4-7]
What the apostle is saying is a sad thing; that the world rejects Him. To the world He is not timē, He is not precious. They crucified Him, they reject Him [Matthew 27:39-50], and the world today still does the same. Most of them pass Him by.
And he refers to a tradition here. When Solomon’s temple was built there was a stone that seemed so out of character and out of place, the builders didn’t know what to do with it so they cast it aside; but when finally the temple began to rise, they discovered that the stone that was disallowed was the chief corner stone and became the great center of the structure of the building. And Simon Peter refers to that. "Disallowed indeed by men," of no use, of no value, no place in life for Him, "but chosen of God and precious" [1 Peter 2:4], and made the cornerstone of the new world, and the new creation, and the new temple of the Lord. He is precious in God’s sight [1 Peter 2:4]. Whatever the world may say, or whatever men may say, Jesus is precious to God. And it is for His sake that the Lord has compassion, and mercy, and pity upon us [Ephesians 4:32]. Then he says, "Unto us who believe, He is precious." However the world may disallow, and reject, and scorn, and scoff, and pass by in absolute and utter indifference, to us who believe He is precious.
Did you know, not too long ago I held a meeting in the summertime, in vacation time, in the mountains of eastern Tennessee? And while I was in that meeting, a mountaineer came to me. His boy had just been killed in Vietnam. And the mountaineer said to me, he said, "Two weeks before my boy left for Vietnam he was saved, and I took a picture of his baptism." And he said, "I took that picture and I framed it, and it’s hanging on the wall in the little living room of our mountain cabin." And he said, "Every day, every day I stand before that picture and look at it, my boy, being baptized." And he says, "Every day I thank God for Jesus and that my boy was saved, and that he’s in heaven." To us who believe He is precious [1 Peter 2:7].
We do not know of any other hope, and we do not know of any other salvation [John 14:6; Acts 4:12]. In life, in death, in eternity, to us, He is precious. It must have been someone like that who wrote this song:
Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, help me stand
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn,
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home
["Take My Hand, Precious Lord"; Thomas A. Dorsey]
To us who believe He is precious [1 Peter 2:7].
The apostle begins his second letter with that same beautiful word: "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith, timē faith, precious faith" [2 Peter 1:1]. I would suppose he uses the word "faith" there in the same way that Paul uses it, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith," the faith" [2 Timothy 4:7]. "To them that have obtained like precious faith" [2 Peter 1:1], I suppose the word refers to the whole outline and circumference of our Christian religion; the faith – the songs we sing, the worship we enjoy, the prayers that we pray, the Bible that we read, the communion, the koinonia, the fellowship of our people, the hope we have – the whole circumference of our religion. "To them that have obtained like precious faith," to us, the Christian faith is precious [2 Peter 1:1].
Did you know there was a young woman in this church who married an unbeliever, a man who had been reared in another religion? And after the passing of time they had a little boy. And then the day came when both of them came to see me, sat down in my study, and he said, "I want out. I want a divorce." Why I said, "You have the most precious wife, and the most precious little boy, how could you?" And he replied, "My wife does nothing else but want to go to church, this church. And she wants me to attend, and I have. But," he said, "I hate it. I hate everything about it. I hate the songs they sing, I hate the services, I hate the people, I hate the sermons, I hate everything about it." Well I said, "You knew that she was a devout Christian when you married her?" He said, "That’s right." Well I said, "Is it not possible just once in a while, maybe, to accompany her to church and for the sake of this precious little boy, just to maybe encourage him, and maybe to sympathize with her?" And he viciously answered, "No;" and then used that word again, "I hate everything about it," and then went through the list, "I hate the songs, and I hate the people, and I hate the sermons, and I hate everything about it."
All I could do was to cry with the girl; [she] sat there and she just sobbed. And I thought – because this has stayed in my mind ever since – I thought, "You know? I have no explanation for that." And the reason that I cannot explain it is, to me these songs are so precious, to me these services are so dear, to me the convocation of God’s people, the communion, the koinonia, the fellowship, to me it is so dear. How could it be that to him?
I love Thy church, O God,
Her walls before Thee stand
Dear is the apple of Thine eye,
And graven on Thy hand.
For her my tears shall fall,
For her my prayers ascend,
To her my toil and cares be given,
Till toil and cares shall end.
["I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord"; Timothy Dwight]
"To them that have obtained like precious faith" [2 Peter 1:1].
One other way he used it, "Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises" [2 Peter 1:4]. The promises of God are precious. I have to close; did you know, we could be here for the hours that would succeed, speaking of the precious promises of the Lord?
Somebody said that there are more than 3,500 promises in this Book, all of them for the blessing and the encouragement of God’s people. Think of that: 3,500 promises, precious promises. Promises for us here, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" [Hebrews 13:5], wherefore we say, "the Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man can do unto me" [Hebrews 13:6]. He will never leave me, nor forsake me. And promises for over there, "Where is the promise of His coming?" [2 Peter 3:4]. This they willingly blind their eyes to, "That the Lord is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" [2 Peter 3:9]. Why does the Lord delay His coming? On account of somebody you know who is lost and not ready, hoping, praying, waiting, maybe today he will turn and be saved.
Is that somebody you? Does the Lord wait and tarry thinking today you will come, you will trust, you will believe, you will respond? You will open your heart, you will be saved? If that somebody is you, in this moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, would you come? "Today, pastor, I have decided for God and here I come, here I am." To put your life in this dear church, to answer the call of our Savior, as the Spirit is pressing the appeal to your soul, make the decision now in your heart. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. "Pastor, I’m on the way, here I am," and God bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.