CHRIST THE GIFT OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 9:15
4-9-74 12:00 p.m.
The theme for our Easter services this week is “Christ the Savior of the World.” Yesterday we spoke of Christ the Power of God; tomorrow, Christ the Word of God; Thursday, Christ the Way to God; Friday Ecce Homo, “Behold the Man,” Christ the Man of God; and today, Christ the Gift of God.
There is a little exclamation of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians chapter 9, verse 15, translated in the King James Version, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift” [2 Corinthians 9:15]. What kind of a gift is that that he refers to? He does not say, nor could anyone quite know. In this section in 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9, he is encouraging the churches over there in Corinth and Achaia to take part in an offering for the saints of God, and he is in gratitude speaking words for the example of the churches of Macedonia. And after two chapters of speaking of the goodness and bounty of the Lord, he closes it with that exclamation: “Thanks be unto God for His anekdiegetos gift”; anekdiegetos, that which cannot be spoken, inexpressible. And he means by it a gift so immeasurably glorious that we could not frame our gratitude in words; anekdiegetos, an inexpressible, what cannot be expressed. “Thanks be unto God for His immeasurably glorious wonderful gift.”
Now, I would suppose he would include in that the gifts of God that bless and enrich our lives. For example, he will say in his sermon at Lystra in Acts 14, he will speak of “the living God, who made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all things that are therein. . .who left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” [Acts 14:15, 17]. The apostle Paul speaking to those pagans in Lystra pointed to the providences of God and the merciful gifts from heaven as evidences of His living being and presence: “Rain, fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”
One time in the mountains of Kentucky I heard an unlettered, unlearned, uneducated mountain preacher who could not read, I heard him speak, preach, on Psalm 104:24, “O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches.” I wish I could imitate the voice of that man. I wish I could use his nomenclature. He had lived in the mountains all of his life, and he spoke in the word and language and intonation of a mountaineer. And as he spoke on that text, “O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all,” he spoke of the coal God put there for fuel and for fire, and he spoke of the mountains that God made to break the force of the hurricane and the storm, and he spoke of the rocks that God put there to build bridges and to lay foundations for houses, and he spoke of the trees that God placed there for the people to use for fuel, and to make their homes out of, and finally for coffins into which to bury their beloved dead. It was a sermon in gratitude and thanksgiving to God for His unspeakable, inexpressible gifts.
But when we think of the gift of gifts, almost inevitably we turn aside from categorizing them as being material, or temporary, or monetary, or physical; for the highest and the noblest and the best gifts are always those that come out of the heart and out of the soul. You see that in the value we place upon some of the things we possess, far beyond their intrinsic worth: a ring, maybe very cheap; a bracelet, may be very uncostly; or a necklace, or just some little piece of jewelry or memento, but we prize it and love it because somebody endeared to us touched it or gave it to us.
I listened to a family one time as they spoke of the loss of their home that had burned to the ground. And the wife and mother said, “We can buy furniture again, and we can replace the house, but the baby picture, these things,” and she named some of them, “are lost forever; and they are our treasures.” Why? Because a lock of hair is of intrinsic worth? No, because of the love it signifies; it comes of the heart and of the soul.
This last week I was in a mansion here in Dallas, and the most wealthy, very wealthy man and wife had died, soon together, not very far apart. And the only boy that they had was killed in the last war. And the people that came into the home to distribute its possessions were friends and far-off relatives. And when I looked at the gorgeous mansion, and thought of the sorrow of father and mother in the loss of that only child, it came to my heart, “I think I would not exaggerate to say that if a man could avow, ‘I own fifty billion stars, and I own forty thousand continents, and I own a thousand oceans, I’d give them all if I could have that boy back again.’” You see, the great gifts are always of the heart and of the soul. They are bound up in us.
So, when I read the text, the exclamation of the apostle, “Thanks be unto God for His anekdiegetos gift, the indescribable, inexpressible, marvelous and wonderful gift” [2 Corinthians 9:15]. I think it refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. “Thanks be to God for the gift of His only begotten Son” [John 3:16].
Now there are several things that come out of that gift that are so meaningful to us, and explain things to us. Here is number one: the coming of our Lord to this earth forever hallowed and sanctified this planet. There is none like this little infinitesimal speck in all of the infinitude of God’s macrocosm. Our little Earth is set apart; it is hallowed because He lived here, He walked here. His presence sanctified this place, and His blood was poured out into this ground, into this soil, in this planet [John 19:16-34].
You see, it is not unusual for an infidel to speak to his class in the university, or sometimes blatantly to speak these words of unbelief and rejection. He says, “It is unthinkable, it is unimaginable, it is sheer inanity for one to say that God would come down to this little inconsequential, infinitesimal minutiae that is called the Earth. The worlds are so vast, and the universe is so infinite, that the very thought of God coming down to this little speck of dust is inanity, it is insanity.” That’s what he says. What he forgets is that the value of a thing, the preciousness of a thing, is in nowise measured by its vastness or its bigness or even its infinitude.
Going to my little village church in Kentucky, I passed by, again and again on the road, Hodgenville, and the memorial there built; it is spacious and beautiful, over the cabin in which Abraham Lincoln was born. If you go inside that memorial and look at that cabin, it is tiny; it is very, very small. And you could look at it, and you could say, “How small! How little a home!” But it all depends upon the emphasis that you place; for in that tiny cabin, Nancy Hanks lived, the mother of Abraham and the wife of Tom Lincoln. And just beyond on the wall incised in characters in stone is the word of Abraham Lincoln, “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” It all depends on the emphasis you place on the words. “What a little home. What a tiny home,” or change the emphasis, “What a little home. What a tiny home.”
So it is with God’s universe: it’s not the majesty and the bigness that makes it of value; it’s the love, it’s the presence, it is God’s heart that makes the difference.
I sometimes think of us in this tiny world, as I would think of a very wealthy man who had a mansion, say, on Fifth Avenue in New York City. And in that mansion are all the treasures that you could find in someone affluent, their home. There are beautiful tapestries, priceless paintings, all kinds of gold and silver flatware, beautiful rugs, gorgeous furniture, and inside the house a little tiny baby that belongs to him and his dear wife. And let’s say in one of those high skyscrapers on Wall Street, there the telephone rings in his office, and he picks it up, and when he answers it there’s a voice excited at the other end of the line that says, “Your mansion is one fire! Your house is burning down!” Now, what do you think—would he say, “Oh! my home is afire! It’s burning down! Well, what about my draperies? What about my French furniture? What about my rugs? What about my paintings? What about my gold and silver flatware?” What do you think? Or would he say, “That little baby boy of mine, is he safe? Is he safe? Did somebody rescue him? Is he out of the house and out of the burning? Is the little boy safe? Is the little baby safe?” Well, it would all depend upon whether he had a heart or not. If to him life is equated in terms of draperies and paintings and stocks and bonds, why, then when the word came they were burning up, he’d first ask about them. But if he had a heart, his first concern would be that little child. “Is he safe? Is he safe?”
I believe God has a heart, and He may care for the infinitude of His vast universe, but I think mostly He cares about us. And it was for us He sent His only begotten Son, the gift of God [John 3:16]. And that gift forever hallows this planet. There’s none like it, because Christ lived here, walked here, died here, and poured out His blood upon this soil.
Another thing: the gift of God in Christ Jesus forever sanctifies and hallows human life. No matter who he is, where he is, he’s somebody for whom Christ died [1 John 2:2; Hebrews 2:9]. And life, human life, is never cheap, it’s never worthless, it’s never like the flotsam and jetsam they throw out of a ship on the bosom of the ocean; but it is precious in God’s sight, all human life.
In Africa I went around with Dr. Goldie one time in a great arc. And in that arc, he had established what he called clan settlements, leper colonies; gathered those people who’d been thrown out and pushed out to die, some of them little children, and he’d gather them into what he called clan settlements, and once a month he made the rounds, bringing medicine and hope and the love of Christ—dear in the sight of God, even though they were loathsome, cast out lepers.
There has never been a publishing, that I have seen, of that beautiful song, “The Love of God,” but that the second stanza has an asterisk, and down here it will read, “This verse, this stanza was found on the side of the wall of an insane asylum after the poor wretch had died and been taken away for the burying.”
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen could ever tell.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
[“The Love of God is Greater Far,” Frederick M. Lehman]
The gift of God in Christ Jesus has forever hallowed and sanctified human life [Hebrews 13:12], even the life of that miserable wretch that died in a cell in an insane asylum. God marked it, and saw it, and knew it, and was moved with compassion by it. Christ Jesus moved with compassion is ever His enduring name [Mark 1:41].
The unspeakable gift of God in Christ Jesus [2 Corinthians 9:15], it forever brings near to earth the reality of heaven. Our Lord was here, and He is there; and whether here or there, He is identified with us. The God of the universe has a human body; and He is close, He is not far away. When He was born, angels sang [Luke 2:10-14]; that near. When He was baptized, God spoke and the Holy Spirit was visibly seen as a dove abiding upon Him [Matthew 3:16-17]. When He was transfigured, the saints, Moses and Elijah, talked to Him [Luke 9:30-31]. In the garden of Gethsemane, angels ministered to Him [Luke 22:43]. When He was raised from the dead, angels made the announcement to the women [Matthew 28:5-7]. When He ascended up into heaven the shekinah glory of God received Him out of our sight, an angel said, “He is coming back again” [Acts 1:9-11]. He is just there, as He was just here. Our Lord brought heaven close to earth. He is just a prayer away, just a request away, just a sentence away. He is as near as your breath, as your arms and your feet.
Last, the unspeakable gift of God in Christ Jesus [2 Corinthians 9:15] has placed within our reach, and the reach of all mankind, life, and hope, and heaven, and the vision of every wonderful and precious thing. Before John 3:16 is John 3:14-15: “As the prophet Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” It’s to look and to live. You see, had God said, “You can buy salvation,” some of us might have been too poor to buy it. Had God said, “Be good and you will be saved,” some of us might not be real good. Had God said, “You do penance and suffer, you can be saved,” some of us might not know to what extent our sins have so separated us from God that we could equate against them works of penance and righteousness. The cry of Micah was:
Whereby, wherewith shall I come before God, and bow down myself before the Almighty? Shall I come before Him with offerings, with calves of a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
If I were to offer my own child, the fruit of my loins, for the expiation and atonement of my sin, would that buy my entrance into heaven and my forgiveness of God?
No, you don’t buy it. “Come,” the Lord says, “without money and without price” [Isaiah 55:1]. Nor do we work for it in our own righteousness. The Lord says our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in His sight [Isaiah 64:6]. There’s no man good enough to deserve it, no man rich enough to buy it.
Then how is it God can save us? He saves us in the gift of His love in Christ Jesus [John 3:16]. It’s just that we look and live [John 3:14-15; Numbers 21:8-9], we wash and are clean [Revelation 7:14], we believe and are saved [Acts 16:30-31].
I’ve a message from the Lord, Hallelujah!
It is only that you look and live.
Look and live, my brother, live,
Look to Jesus Christ and live;
‘Tis recorded in His Word, Hallelujah!
It is only that you look and live.
[“I’ve a Message from the Lord,” William A. Ogden]
For the gift of God in Christ is eternal life [John 3:16].
And our Lord, as with the apostle, we join in his exclamation, “Thanks be unto God for His anekdiegetos gift, for His inexpressible, unspeakable gift” [2 Corinthians 9:15]. And may our lives flow toward Thee, heavenward, God-ward, Christ-ward, in thanksgiving for what Jesus has brought to us, done for us, saved us; in His Spirit, in His grace, in His love, and in His dear name, amen.
CHRIST THE GIFT OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 9:15, John 3:16
A. For His unspeakable gift
1. The gifts of God that bless and enrich our lives (Acts
14:15-17, Psalm 104:24)
2. Highest and best gifts always those out of heart and soul
B. Refers to the Lord Jesus Christ
hallowed this planet
A. Infidel questions why tiny speck be so precious to a creator
B. A thing is precious not because of size, but because of love poured
1. Hodgenville, Kentucky
2. Mansion on fire
consecrated human life
A. Clan settlements
B. Christ Jesus moved with compassion (Mark 1:41)
brings near reality of heaven
A. Our Lord brought heaven close to earth (Acts 1:11)
placed within our reach life, hope and heaven
A. It is to look and live (John 3:14-16)
1. Cannot buy it
2. Cannot be good enough
3. Cannot suffer enough (Micah 6:5-7)