God’s Most Precious Gift
February 8th, 1987 @ 10:50 AM
GOD’S MOST PRECIOUS GIFT
Dr. W.A. Criswell
2-8-87 10:50 a.m.
And we welcome the great throngs of you who share the hour on radio and on television. You are a part now of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled, God’s Most Precious Gift: and of course, it is based upon the most beautiful and most famous of all the sentences in human language, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” And we shall base our message on the word “gave.” God so loved us that He gave us the blessed Savior. Trying to verbalize the wonder of God’s most precious gift, the Lord Jesus Christ—even Holy Scripture staggers and stammers and stutters in unutterable language trying to describe the wonder of God’s gift.
For example, in Romans [11:33], “How unsearchable…” I turn again to 2 Corinthians 9:15, unspeakable, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.” I turn again to 1 Peter 1:8: “You rejoice with joy unutterable and full of glory.” Those words are most interesting. For one thing, there are no other words but that: You do not find them anywhere else. They are not even used in the New Testament anywhere else; they are double compounds with an alpha privative and alpha negative.
That one in Romans 11:33, anexeraunēta based on eraunaō which means “to search diligently.” So put that alpha privative in front of it, it is “unsearchable” and “inscrutable.” The one in 2 Corinthians 9:15, anekdiēgētō; Paul seemingly coined the word. It is not found anywhere in Greek literature. It is based on diēgēsis which is a narrative. So it cannot be narrated. It cannot be told. It is thus inexpressible and unutterable. The one in 1 Peter 1:8, aneklalētō, another double compound with that alpha privative, that alpha negative in front of it, based on the word eklaleō, which means “to speak out.” So with the alpha privative, it is unspeakable. It is unutterable. It is ineffable. Isn’t that a most remarkable thing, that even God Himself, inspiring these marvelous writers of the New Testament [2 Timothy 3:16], when they come to describe the glory and the preciousness of the gift of God’s Son our Savior, all they can speak are these words that I’ve just tried to delineate: “unutterable, unspeakable, ineffable, indescribable, unspeakable”? That’s a remarkable thing. You don’t use price, or cost, or merchandise, or buying, or selling in things spiritual, unless you buy without money and without price [Isaiah 55:1]. God gave, and all of His gifts are just like that. We don’t buy them; God gives them to us. And out of all of the Lord’s dear remembrances, the most precious one is the gift of His Son [John 3:16].
First: we shall speak of the meaning of that ineffable gift. Through all the generations there have arisen many eminent divines, gifted academicians, marvelous theologians, writing their books, and their tracts, and their tractates, and their theologies, and their studies. And yet after all of the generations and the libraries of their writings, they haven’t begun to encompass all of the wonder of the gift of God in Christ Jesus [John 3:16].
In the days of my own theological education, in my doctor’s work, I had a major and two minors. One of those minors was on the atonement. And I studied it three years and then passed an oral examination and a written examination on the atonement. I do not exaggerate it when I tell you that at the end of the study; it seemed that I was as lost before the infinitude of God’s grace in reaching down for us as when I first began the lecturing. It is indescribable. It is unutterable. It is unspeakable. There is a depth of meaning beyond what language could ever verbalize or bear in syllable and sentence.
May I speak of its preciousness? The gift of God in Christ Jesus. In most everything in human life we have a price. A diamond is worth; a fur is worth, an automobile, a villa, a mansion, a house. All of these things have a price. And they’re worth just thus and so. But how would you put a price on something dear to your heart? We’re all like that.
How much we treasure something that in itself may be worthless, but it’s dear because somebody touched it. Or someone gave it to us in love and remembrance, like a lock of hair, a wisp of hair, or a little locket, or a ring, or a bracelet, or a necklace; in itself so without worth, but dear to us because somebody dear gave it to us. That’s our Lord—priceless beyond description, precious to us [John 3:16].
I could easily imagine a man who had a mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City. And in his executive office somewhere in the top of one of those tall buildings, a man rushes in and says, “Your house, your mansion is burned up. It’s on fire.” And on the inside of that house was a little baby—his; a little baby. And when the man came rushing in saying, “Your mansion is burned up!” I could not imagine his saying, “Oh, what of my draperies?” or, “What of my French furniture?” or, “What of my Persian carpets?” But I could well imagine his saying, “The baby—is the baby safe?”
There’s no price on the gift of God in Christ Jesus His Son. I could well imagine a man saying, “I own fifty billion universes, and five hundred thousand million stars, and planets without number, and oceans and mountains, but I’d give them all if I had back my boy who was lost in the war, if he would just walk in the door, if he were alive; if I just had my boy back.” All of us are like that. There is no value, it is unutterable, it is unspeakable, it is indescribable; the endearment of what God has given to us in His Son Christ Jesus [John 3:16].
May I speak of the blessing of the gift of our Lord [John 3:16]. Fallen and raised, that’s our Christian pilgrimage. No one can describe the depths of the depravity of our fallen nature, nor is it even seen in this world the depths of the woe that we deserve. Only at the judgment bar of God, in the great separation and the eternity in darkness [Jude 1:13], could it ever be known the tragedy of our lostness, of our depravity, of our fallen nature.
But just so, it is indescribable and ineffable, the glory of the height of our exaltation in Jesus Christ. Only an angel could measure the rise from the depths of our condemnation to the height of our acceptance in the presence of God. Oh, the wonder of it! The amazing unutterable, unspeakable nature of it! Even God could not describe it, could not verbalize it.
So with the forgiveness of our sins [Ephesians 1:7], and our adoption into the family of God [Ephesians 1:4]; washed in the blood of the Crucified One [Revelation 1:5] and our names written in heaven [Luke 10:20], adopted into the family of God [Ephesians 1:4]: He is our brother and we belong in the circle of God’s sweet and precious family.
I’m so glad I belong
To the family of God.
Washed at the fountain,
Cleansed by the blood.
[“Family of God,” William J. Gaither]
O God! With what grace and mercy did the Lord reach down and lift us up and made us a part of the innermost kingdom of our blessed Lord! [Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5]. And the wonder of His presence; abiding, unchanging. I may change, but He doesn’t. I may prove unfaithful, but not He. He is always with us [Hebrews 13:5], and always the same [Hebrews 13:8]. The angels who came and announced His birth went away and back to heaven [Luke 2:8-15], but He stayed with us [Luke 2:15-16].
That is His name—Immanuel, God Is With Us [Matthew 1:23]. Poor, that we might be rich [2 Corinthians 8:9]; bearing shame, that we might have eternal glory [Hebrews 2:10, 12:2]; bound, that we might be free [Romans 6:18]; suffering, that we might know no pain or sorrow [Isaiah 53:4]; dead, that we might live [John 11:25]; buried, that we might be raised [Romans 6:4]. O God, how dear You are to us!
And the response in my heart and from the depths of my soul to the Lord Jesus—how shall I respond? In two ways: one, that I remember that He did this for me. “In remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:24-26], that it’s ever in my heart, the love and the burden of response and prayer and remembrance that I owe to Jesus my Lord.
It’s like the nations under the Arch of Triumph in Paris. There is a flame, an eternal flame, and it burns there in memory of the soldiers of the French army. Or in London, in Westminster Abbey, when you walk in the front door, the second grave will be David Livingstone, but the first one will be in remembrance of an unknown soldier. In the United States of America, in Arlington, marching up and down day and night are those soldiers before the unknown tomb. The Unknown Soldier—just in remembrance.
Right after the Second World War, I was in Germany. And somehow they had gathered together the fallen, stricken, slain bodies of the English Royal Air Force, who had fallen in Germany, from the skies in Germany. And when I went into that ragged cemetery—the whole country destroyed, desolate, devastated—in the center of the cemetery, under one of those rude crosses was a bouquet of flowers. And I went over there and there was a sentence on it. And I read the sentence. It was this: “Your wife and boys in England will never forget.” That’s the first thing that we can do for our Savior—always to remember this He did for me [1 Corinthians 15:3].
I’m thinking now—and we’re going to implement some ways here in our dear church by which we can make our Lord’s Supper more preciously, beautifully meaningful. “Do this in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:23-26]. That’s the first response. I can remember that He did this; He died for me [1 Corinthians 15:3].
My second way: I can give my life in confession and recognition of what the Lord hath done for me. “You are not your own; you are bought with a price” [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. We belong to God; we belong to the Lord Jesus. And everything we have and possess is His. We are a part of Him as He is a part of us [John 17:21-23].
When I was a youth, just beginning my ministry many, many years ago, I was a guest in a home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was a lovely couple, a beautiful couple. And at the breakfast table the next morning, just visiting with them, I learned that she grew up in this dear church here. It had never occurred to me at that time that I’d ever be undershepherd of this great church. She grew up in this church. This boy fell in love with her. This young fellow, he had nothing at all. Just starting, but he fell in love with this girl here in this church.
When he asked her to marry him, she said, “Yes, providing number one, that we have a Christian home. All the things that make a home Christian—the Bible, prayer, church attendance, all of the sweet things in kindness and forgiveness and love and grace— all the things that make for a Christian home, that we have a Christian home.
“And the second one,” she said, “no matter what you make, that we give one-tenth of it to the Lord. “I’ll be happy,” she said, “in whatever salary or whatever stipend or whatever amount. I’ll live in that and I’ll be happy in it, only that we give one-tenth of it to the Lord.”
Oh dear! Think of the blessedness of a girl like that! Growing up here in this church under the great pastor George W. Truett. And that home so beautiful and so blessed and so affluent. How God had remembered them! What a beautiful response to our Lord that I give Him the love and devotion of my heart and my soul!
I read this last week the most unusual thing. A visitor had been to Korea and had brought back a picture. And the picture was this: it was the picture of a boy pulling a plow, and his father was guiding it–a boy pulling the plow. Well, the man who brought the picture back was in a group, and he was showing it to the group and in a group was a missionary.
And the missionary looked at it, and he said,” Oh, those are my people! Those are my people.” And he said, explaining, “That boy pulling that plow, and his father guiding it, we built a little church over there in Korea. And this poor family had nothing to give. They sold their one ox and gave the price of the ox to the church. And that’s why the boy—not an ox—that’s why the boy is pulling the plow.”
When I read that, I thought, I wish I had been there. I wish I could have given that ox. I wish I could have given it to that poor family. Then, as I begin to think, I wish I had been there when Jesus sat, wearied by the well [John 4:6]. I wish I could have given Him a drink of water [John 4:7]. I wish I could have done it. Then I think of our Lord in the upper room. I wish I could have been there and washed His feet. I would love to have done that. I wish I could have washed His feet [John 13:4-17].
I don’t know whether I’ve over-persuaded. I don’t know whether I’d have the courage or not, but when that maddened throng were shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” [Luke 2313, :20-21, I wish I could have stood up and said, “What? Crucify my Lord? How could it be?” And when the one hundred twenty gathered before Pentecost [Acts 1:13-15], I wish I could have been there. I wish I could have been the one hundred twenty-first one. One hundred twenty‑one instead of a hundred twenty! I wish I could have been there [Acts 1:13-15].
All of this, of course, is just imagination, just thinking. I can’t sit by the well with the Lord in Sychar. And I couldn’t be in the upper room. Nor could I be a part of the prayer meeting before Pentecost. But oh, dear me, think of what I can do. I can love the Lord in my heart and soul. And I can confess Him openly and proudly and unashamedly.
I can belong to the family of God. I can be baptized as you saw that family a moment ago. I can love these dear people, and I do. To me, it is like heaven to assemble with God’s sweet children. I can sing praises to the Lord Jesus. I can read the Scriptures. I can listen to the Word of God with my heart as well as with my mind. And I can walk in and out with you in the love and grace and mercy of our Lord. There is so much that I can do now.
And, dear God, out of the love of Jesus and in Thy grace and mercy, this day I do give myself to Thee. And in all of these ways, God bless and sanctify and hallow as only God is able to do. Now may we bow our heads in the prayer?
Our Lord in heaven, would God we had the voice of an angel and the words of glory thus to try to describe the wonder and the glory of God’s goodness to us. But even Holy Scripture could not describe it. This marvelous outpouring of the love in Christ Jesus, even the Scriptures could not verbalize it. The very apostles of Christ found it to be unspeakable, and unutterable, and indescribable, and ineffable. And how much less Lord would we be able to delineate all of the wonder and glory and preciousness of our blessed Lord Jesus? Thank You Father that He came into the world to show us the way [John 10:10]. Thank You Second Person of the Trinity the Lord Jesus for dying in our stead [Hebrews 10:5-14; 1 Corinthians 15:3], for being raised for our justification [Romans 4:25], for coming for us some glorious and final day. And thank You and praise You Holy Spirit of God for calling us, for leading us into that faith and confession that brought to us eternal never ending life [Romans 10:9-10]. O bless God for His wonderful, indescribable, unspeakable, unutterable gift of the Lord Jesus to us [2 Corinthians 9:15]. And our Lord may our lives flow in praise, and love, and adoration, and worship toward Thee. May everyday be a wonderful day because Jesus is with us [Hebrews 13:5]. And He is going to see us through and someday open the door for heaven, for us [John 14:3]. O bless God for His unspeakable gift [2 Corinthians 9:15], in Thy saving name, amen, amen.
“Pastor, today I want to confess my faith in the living Lord. I have got it in my heart, I want to do it.” Or, “Pastor, I want to bring my family into the circle of this sweet church.” Or, “Pastor, I am answering a call of God in my heart today.” As the Spirit shall press the appeal, you answer with your life. If you are in the balcony, the top row of seats, there is time and to spare. Down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I am on the way, and here I stand.” May angels attend you and God bless you as you come, you who are going to pray with Zig and you who are coming to be with us in this dear church. Heaven look down and the Holy Spirit rejoice in His work of encouragement, and salvation, and confirmation, and affirmation today. Just loving the Lord Jesus, come, come, while we stand and while we sing.