The Deep Things of God
May 16th, 1976 @ 7:30 PM
THE DEEP THINGS OF GOD
Dr. W.A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 2:9-14
5-16-76 7:30 p.m.
In thinking through the message to be delivered tonight; because it is church and because it is being broadcast over radio and over television; and because others have spoken in ways of challenge and encouragement to the young men who have been received as candidates for degrees tonight and go out of this service having had those degrees conferred upon them; I thought I would bring a message in keeping with the academic commitment that we have made to the Lord, to be good students of His Word and of the message He has given to us to mediate to the world. I am preaching, therefore, from the second chapter of 1 Corinthians, and let us turn to that passage, and we shall read it out loud together. First Corinthians chapter 2, beginning at verse 9 and reading through verse 14, 1 Corinthians chapter 2, beginning at verse 9 and reading through verse 14, all of us sharing our Bible together; let us read it out loud; 1 Corinthians 2:9-14, now together:
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.
But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in Him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
But 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: 9-14]
And the title of the message is The Deep Things of God. The text is almost the opposite of what we usually think when it is quoted. “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, neither has entered into the heart of a man, the good things God hath prepared for them who love Him” [1 Corinthians 2:9]. And we stop there. But the next verse says, “But God, but God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit revealeth to us the deep things of God” [1 Corinthians 2:10].
There has always been an eternal antagonism between what we learn in our senses and what we see by the eyes of faith in our souls. The sense of learning by what our eyes can see, and what our ears can hear, and what our hands can touch is in a different world from what we learn by the eyes of our souls, and listening to by the ears of faith.
For example, for years and for generations, men stood helpless before yellow fever, diphtheria, malaria, polio, infantile paralysis. These diseases that so destroyed or crippled were unconquerable, and we were helpless before them. Look again at the understanding of our senses. A learned man one time wrote a book describing how impossible it was for a steamship to cross the ocean because he proved in the book that the boat would sink under the weight of the coal it would have to carry.
Or look again, about a hundred years ago a famous man wrote that science had matured, that there was nothing further that could be learned or could be discovered. The telegram was an inconceivable impossibility. Radio was of a fantastic, unimaginable reality. And traffic by air was crackbrained. Eye hadn’t seen, and ear hadn’t heard, and the sensory nerves had never felt, and the consequent doubt paralyzed the great conquests of faith.
Then one day men began to look into the mysteries that lie back of what we see, and they began to probe into the realities that eye had never discovered and ear had never heard. And by faith, men began to learn the deep things of God.
Pasteur, for example, a great French chemist and bacteriologist began to probe into the causes of disease. And Pasteur said, “Diseases are caused by invisible germs.” And the people laughed and mocked, but Pasteur replied, “What eye cannot see, and what the unaided faculties cannot receive, neither know, we are microscopically able to discern”; the invisible.
Or look again: Laennec, of a great school of physicians, discovered a stethoscope, and he said, “This young man who appears to be in such fine health has a serious heart problem.”
And they would scoff. “Why, he is perfectly well.”
But Laennec would reply, “What the ear cannot hear, and what the unaided faculty cannot discern, nor does it know it; it is stethoscopically discerned.”
Or Wortheim, a great metallurgist would say, “Here is iron.” And they’d scoff.
“There is nothing here but dirt!”
But the instrument of Wortheim would point down like a finger of God, and when they dug there was iron. “For,” said Wortheim, “what the eye cannot see, and what the ear cannot discern, and what the unaided faculty cannot discover is made known to us magnetically, metalogically.”
So as time passed the great book of God’s creation began to unfold. And men began to read in that book of God mysteries and wonders beyond anything they had ever dreamed. God’s inert creation, the physical universe around us; a little grain of sand, so very small, yet in that grain of sand are multitudes of universes moving in planetary motion, for around the nucleus of an infinitesimal part of that grain of sand, around the nucleus there whirls, in unending glory and splendor and movement, electrons and neutrons that are comparatively, relatively as far apart in their orbits as the earth is ninety-two millions miles away from the sun. And in that little grain of sand, there is an infinitesimal power, force, called gravity. And when you put it together, it is a mystery of the power of God.
A week ago I was in San Diego, California, and they gave me an apartment for the week, facing the Pacific Ocean. And I would watch the great tide of the Pacific Ocean come in and then ebb out. And I remembered standing on the seashore of the Pacific in Panama, and the great tide there rises nineteen feet.
And I remember crossing several time the vast almost illimitable expanse of the Pacific. What that power is that reaches down is from the moon. And it pulls that vast Pacific Ocean up, and up, and up nineteen feet! And then when it swings to the other side of the earth, it pulls it the other way. Think of the invisible power, the hands that are able to move and lift the vast Pacific Ocean nineteen feet. And that power is resident in matter in an infinitesimal grain of sand but, ah, the wonder, the deep things of God in the biological creation that surrounds us; what God has done, the mystery of the Almighty in life.
A scientist took a fish egg that was being incubated under the heat of the sun, and he watched it under a powerful microscope, and it was as if invisible hands were shaping the life of that little embryonic fish; an intelligence like ours, guiding and shaping and wondrously making. Everything that God has done carries with it an incomparable mystery.
I was down there in the Amazon jungle along the Amazon River. In that river and on that river are little spiders. And those little spiders make a little bubble and step in it and sink in it down to the bottom of the Amazon and graze on the floor of the Amazon, and then having fed comes back up and to the land. How did it ever learn to do that?
“Well, it learned that,” you say, “from its spider parents, and they learned it from their parents, and they learned it from their parents. But if you back, and back, and far enough there must have been a first spider who figured that out for himself.” Ah, the mystery of what God has done. Or a bumblebee; by all of the laws of aerodynamics a bumblebee cannot fly. Its body is too big and heavy, and its wings are too little. But he doesn’t know it, and he just flies.
These mysteries in the great book of God’s nature are found also in the Book of God’s revelation, the deep things of God. It would be an astonishing thing if when I read in God’s Book of creation the marvelous mysteries that eye hadn’t seen, and ear hadn’t heard, and experience had not confirmed, but God has revealed them to us with the eyes of our souls; it would be an astonishing thing if I opened then the Book of God’s revelation and did not find also there the incomparable mysteries of the same Lord God. If it is in the presence of the Lord, if He is there, the signature of God is always mystery.
So it is when I open this Holy Book. It would be an astonishing thing if a man could hold in the hollow of his hand the vast Pacific Ocean. It would be no less astonishing if a man could contain in a finite mind the infinitude of the glory of the presence, and personality, and character of God. “Eye hath not seen, and ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, the deep things of God. But the Spirit hath revealed them unto us” [1 Corinthians 2:9-10].
I mention three of the great mysteries of the revelation of God that the Spirit makes known to us. Number one: the incarnation of Almighty God in heaven, that God should assume human form and human flesh. So Paul wrote in 1Timothy 3:16, “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness”—of our religious faith, namely—“God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels.” What an unbelievable thing that the great God who created the universe [Genesis 1:1-19], should have been born in a manger [Luke 2:7, 10-17], should have assumed the form of a humble servant [Philippians 2:7], and should have died the death of a felon [Luke 23:32-46]. Ah, could it be? This is God:
Philip said to Jesus, Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
And the Lord replied, Philip, he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.
What is God like? God is Christ, manifest, incarnate in human form and in human flesh, an incomparable mystery. “He is the image of the invisible God; He is the firstborn of all creation… and by Him all things consist, sunistanō, are held together” [Colossians 1:15-17], the mystery of God born in human flesh.
The second great mystery I mean: the mystery of our receiving that glorious revelation in our hearts and in our lives. As Paul continued to write it, “great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh… preached unto the nations, and believed on by the people” [1 Timothy 3:16]. What an astonishing thing. I cannot conceive of God who made this universe being born in a manger [Luke 2:7, 16], dying on a cross [Matthew 27:32-50], raised for our justification [Romans 4:25]. But when I heard it, I believed it and received it into my heart by faith. It is the mystery of the quickened heart, of the response of the soul. Eye cannot see it, the ear cannot receive it, but God reveals it to us who receive it by faith in the moving of the Spirit upon our souls [1 Corinthians 2:9-10].
It is like two men who are seated listening to a symphony, and one of them is enraptured as those musicians play gloriously. But the other sits there and is bored to tears and looks at the long program and wonders when it will ever end. For you see, what the ear cannot discern and what the heart does not receive is musically discerned. So it is, there will be two men in a service, and to one of them the preaching of the Gospel of Christ is sheer foolishness, but to another there is a moving of the Spirit of God in his heart. And with tears he opens his soul heavenward, and with eyes of faith he sees God in Jesus Christ, and is a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]. He’s born again. He’s a Christian disciple of Jesus; the mystery of our regeneration [John 3:3, 7].
And the last mystery I speak: unbelievable, our appropriation of the atoning grace of our Lord by our humble commitment in His name, our bowing at His blessed feet. How does one know God? And how does one receive the marvelous regenerating presence of the Lord in his life? He does it as a little child. He does it humbly and simply by casting himself in faith, in love, in hope, in expectancy at the feet of our blessed Lord. Paul said it like this in 2 Timothy 1:12, “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” It is mediated to us, and we appropriate all the fullness of God in the mystery of our commitment to Him.
A hunter one time said he heard the barking of dogs. And as he stood and watched, soon he saw a little fawn fleeing from the hungry hounds. And the little fawn, coming to the clearing where the hunter stood, staggered to die. And in a last desperate moment, the little thing turned to face the pursuing dogs, and turning, happened to see the hunter. And the hunter said that the little fawn came and cast himself prostrate at the hunter’s feet. The hunter said, “I took it up in my arms. I fought off the dogs. I took it home. I nursed it. I made it a household pet. For,” he said, “I learned that day what trust and faith and commitment meant between me and God” [Ephesians 2:8-9].
And that’s what happens to a human soul when the hounds of hell pursue us. Sin, and death, and the grave, and judgment that we’re helpless and terrified by what the day and the night may bring—then the Lord in mercy and in pity picks us up, and saves us, and keeps us, and protects us. “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” [2 Timothy 1:12]: the mystery of the saving grace of God, meditated to us through nail-[ierced hands of our living Lord [Ephesians 1:7].
We stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, giving himself to Jesus or placing your life with us in the circumference and fellowship and communion of this dear church, make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand coming down that stairway, walking down that aisle: “Here I am, pastor. Here I come. I make it now. I’m on the way.” God bless you and angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.