God’s Most Precious Gift
February 8th, 1987 @ 8:15 AM
GOD’S MOST PRECIOUS GIFT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-8-87 8:15 a.m.
The title of the sermon is The Preciousness of Christ, God’s Most Marvelous Gift. And it is based on the word “gave” in the most famous text and sentence in human speech: “God so loved us, that He gave, He gave to us His only begotten Son” [John 3:16]. One of the interesting things, as I pore through the New Testament, even though the Word is infallible, celestial, heavenly, comes from God Himself, yet these who try to express the ineffable virtue and celestial meaning of the coming of Christ in the world stagger before it; they cannot verbalize it. And I want to show that to you.
I have chosen three: one is in Romans 11, translated in the King James Version “unsearchable” [Romans 11:33]; a second in 2 Corinthians 9:15, translated “unspeakable”; and a third in 1 Peter 1:8, “unutterable.” Those words are double compounds with alpha privative, alpha negative; and they are not found anywhere else, and one of them seems to have been coined by the apostle Paul. The one in Romans 11:33, anexereunētos, anexereunētos, based on the verb eraunaō, which means “to search diligently”; so those compounds, “unsearchable.” “Indescribable,” the one in Corinthians, anekdiēgētos, anekdiēgētos, another double compound built upon diēgosis, which means “a narrative”; so the alpha privative, it cannot be narrated, it cannot be told; it is inexpressible, it is unutterable [2 Corinthians 9:15]. And then the third one I picked out, 1 Peter 1:8, anegklētos, another double compound, another alpha privative, and based on the verb [egkaleō], which means “to speak out”; so, the alpha privative, it is “unspeakable,” it is ineffable, it is unutterable [1 Peter 1:8]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing about the gift of God in Christ Jesus? Even these who are inspired and they speak from heaven, they can’t describe it. They say it is inexpressible, it is unutterable, it is unspeakable, it is unsearchable. And what we have in the Bible is just an attempt on the part, even of inspiration, to describe what God has given to us in our blessed Lord Jesus.
In things spiritual, we don’t buy or sell or merchandise unless we buy and sell without money and without price [Isaiah 55:1]. God’s gifts are of His heart and of His love and of His grace; and they are bestowed upon us. We’re not worthy of them. We don’t secure them with any kind of vested interest on our part; they are just given to us of the Lord. And of all of the gifts of our precious and heavenly Father, the most endearing is His Son, our Savior.
First I speak of the meaning of that gift. There are oh, an endless generation of divines and scholars and theologians; and yet with all of their theologies and all of their books and all of their many academic presentations, they do not begin to encompass the meaning of the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ. In one of the minors—I had two minors and a major in my doctor’s work—one of my minors was the atonement, the sufferings of Christ for our sins. And as I studied that for three years, three years, at the end of the three years, and taking a doctor’s examination on the course, I felt at the end of the study that I was as far away from encompassing the true meaning of the atonement as when I began the work. How do you place in language or in speech, or even in the heart, all that is meant, all that is encompassed, all that is defined in the love of God in Christ Jesus?
Not only the meaning, but its preciousness: the value we extend to things just because somebody touched them, or gave them to us is a remarkable thing in life. It may be worthless in itself, like a locket of hair, or it can be just a small remembrance like a ring or a bracelet or a necklace, yet because of who it was who gave it to us it is increasingly dear. That’s God’s gift to us. You couldn’t express it in terms of currency, or diamonds, or furs, or automobiles, or villas, or mansions; it is inexpressible, it is unspeakable, it is unutterable. And that is our response to the love of God in Christ Jesus.
God has a heart. And the most precious of all His gifts are not these planets, and the world and all that’s in it, but it’s in the gift of His Son, the Lord Jesus. You know, I could easily imagine, and you can, I can easily imagine if a man had fifty million solar systems, and five hundred thousand planets, and oceans and mountains, and all that is in them, and he lost a boy in the war, the lad didn’t come back: I can easily imagine that man saying, “I would give all of my fifty million planets, and all of my solar systems, and all of my mountains and oceans, I’d give it all if I had my boy back.” That’s right. In terms of the response of our hearts, there is nothing comparable to the gift of a child, or a life. And that is God’s gift to us: the most precious of all of His endowments and investments and bestowments, the Lord Jesus; He loved us, and gave us His only begotten Son [John 3:16].
May I speak of the blessedness of that gift? We are fallen, and in Him we are raised up, we are glorified [Philippians 3:21]. Not in this world is it possible to see the extent of the depravity of our fallen nature. It is only at the judgment bar of Almighty God [1 Peter 4:5], and in the great separation [Matthew 25:32], and finally into the eternity of darkness beyond [Jude 1:13] that we ever come to realize the woe that we deserve. But as fallen as we are, in Christ, in the love of God and in the grace of our Lord, we are exalted and glorified [Romans 8:30]. Not even an angel could measure the distance between our fallenness and our exaltation. Thus God hath been good to us.
And in forgiveness and in adoption: He has washed us clean and white in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 1:5], and He has adopted us into the family of God [Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:5]. We are joint-heirs with Christ [Romans 8:17]; we are as much a member of the family of the Lord God as the Lord Himself. He is our Brother. It is unthinkable. It is unimaginable. It is unutterable. It is inexpressible. It is unspeakable. That’s what God Himself says of the wonder of the gift of the grace in the Lord Jesus.
Not only that, but His presence with us: unchanging, ever faithful. I may change, but He doesn’t. I may be unfaithful, but He isn’t. He is always with us, and just the same. The angels who announced His coming into this world went away and back to heaven; but He stayed. And His name is Immanuel, “God is with us” [Matthew 1:23].
He became poor, that we might be rich [2 Corinthians 8:9]. He suffered shame, that we might be glorified [Philippians 2:8-10; Romans 8:30]. He was bound, that we might be free. He died, that we might live [Hebrews 2:9-10]. Oh! The wonder of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And as we think of this sublime and unutterable and ineffable gift of the love of God in Christ, how do I respond? I can do it in two ways. One: in a remembrance of Him. This is what He did for me, and I must never, ever forget it. I must ever remember it; like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris: it’ll be a flame, an eternal flame that burns under that Arch of Triumph. In England is Westminster Abbey; when you go into the abbey, first is that Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, then will be the tomb of David Livingstone. In the United States, in Arlington Cemetery just on the other side of the Potomac from Washington, there will be a soldier day and night, walking up and down in front of the tomb of this American boy who laid down his life for us. That’s a beautiful thing to do, a beautiful thing.
Right after the Second World War, I was in devastated Germany. And in the heartland of that devastated land, unutterably destroyed, was an R.A.F. cemetery, a cemetery, where whoever it was had gathered up the remains of English soldiers, the Royal Air Force, and had brought them and buried them there in that cemetery. In the middle of the cemetery, I saw a bouquet of flowers at a cross, a crude cross. And I went over there, and it had a sentence on it. And the sentence was this: “His wife and children in England will never forget.”
That’s we. That’s our hearts. We could never, ever forget what the Lord has done for us—lifted us up [Ephesians 2:1], forgave our sins [Ephesians 1:7], wrote our names in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], keeps us in His love and grace [1 Peter 1:5], and walks with us to the end of the way [Matthew 28:20].
What else could I do? One other thing: not only to remember that He did this for us, He came, He suffered, He died, He did this for us [1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 2:20; Romans 5:8], and we don’t forget. Right now I am thinking of a way—and God’s going to help us in it—whereby we can make our Lord’s Supper, “This do in remembrance of Me” [Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25]; we can make our Lord’s Supper more beautiful for more of our people, not only a remembrance, but also a recognition, a confession. Oh dear! How marvelous to give our lives to an expressed tribute, love, gratitude, confession, recognition of the Lord Jesus in our lives!
Long time ago, many, many years ago, I was a guest in a home of a beautiful couple, an affluent couple, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At the breakfast table the next morning, I was visiting with them. He began to tell me about their life. He was just beginning as a young fellow, had nothing in the world, and had fallen in love with a girl in our church, this church. She had grown up here under the great pastor, Dr. Truett. And he asked her to marry him. He had nothing at all. She said, “I will marry you if two things: one, if we shall have a Christian home, a Christian home; second, that out of all that God gives us we’ll remember and give one-tenth back to Him.” I never dreamed in the world that I’d ever be pastor of this church at that time. And I have thought of that girl oh how many, many times, growing up here in this church under that great pastor, and, “I’ll marry you if we can have a Christian home, and if one-tenth of everything we make we’ll give to Him.”
And he said, “We married, and I committed myself to those two things.” And he added, “God has so wonderfully blessed, so marvelously blessed.” How He must be pleased in the response of our hearts like that!
There was a man who came back from Korea, and he had a picture of a boy plowing, pulling a plow, and the father was guiding the plow, and the boy was pulling the plow. Well, he was showing his picture to a little group and in the group was a missionary from Korea. And when the missionary saw the picture, he said, “These are my people. These are my people. That boy you see pulling the plow and that father guiding it, these are my people.” He said, “What happened was, in building our little church over there in Korea, this family had nothing; and they sold their ox, they sold their ox to give its price to the church. And that’s why the boy is pulling the plow.”
When I read that, I thought, “O Lord, I wish I had been there. I would have given them the money for that ox. I’d love to have done it.” And then I began thinking, you know, when the Lord sat weary by the well, I wish I had been there, I wish I could have given Him the water to drink [John 4:6-7]. And then I thought in the upper room, I wish I could have been there: I would have loved to have washed the feet of our dear Lord [John 13:4-15]. I wish I could have been there. And I thought of the group gathered before Pentecost. The Book says they numbered one hundred twenty [Acts 1:12-15]. I wish I could have been there, and have been the one hundred twenty-first. I wish I could have been there. I can’t wash my Savior’s feet. I can’t give Him well water by the well of Sychar. And I can’t be the hundred twenty-first in the upper room before Pentecost. But I can be here with you; and we can be in the love and communion and fellowship of our precious Lord. I can love the Lord. I can give Him my heart and life. I can be baptized. I can walk in and out with God’s sainted people. I can go to heaven with you. I can sing and rejoice. I can pray. I can read His Holy Word. I can come to the house of Jesus. I can openly, publicly, unashamedly stand in the presence of men and angels and confess my faith in the blessed Lord Jesus. I can do that. And I do, by God’s grace and in His love and mercy and help, I do.
Here I stand, Lord Jesus. Take all the strength of my life, and use it, Lord, to further Thy cause and kingdom in this dark and lost world.
And that’s our invitation to you. Come and join us. Giving your heart to the Lord [Romans 10:9-13], or coming into the fellowship of His dear church, walking with us, singing the songs of Zion, with our faces lifted toward heaven, loving Jesus more with each passing day, do it. It will be the sweetest, dearest commitment you’ve ever made in your life. Do it. And in this moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand, here I come.” Welcome. In the name of the Lord, welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
MOST PRECIOUS GIFT
I. Trying to verbalize the wonder of
God’s most precious gift
unspeakable, unutterable (Romans 11:33, 2 Corinthians 9:15, 1 Peter 1:8)
1. These words
only found once in New Testament, nowhere else
B. We do not buy the
gifts of God
II. The meaning of the gift
A. We have not begun to
encompass all the wonder of God’s gift in Christ
atonement for three years
B. Depth of meaning
beyond what language can express
III. The preciousness of the gift
A. Most everything in
human life has a price
1. Some more
treasured because someone dear gave it to us
B. Our Lord is
priceless beyond description, precious to us
IV. The blessing of the gift
A. Our Lord fallen and raised
1. Forgiveness of
our sins and adoption into family of God
B. God with us
V. The response to the Lord Jesus
A. Remember what He has
done for me (1 Corinthians 11:24-26)