The Unsearchable Riches Of Christ
December 30th, 1956 @ 10:50 AM
THE UNSEARCHABLE RICHES OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-30-56 10:50 a.m.
You’re sharing in the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Unsearchable Riches of Christ. In our preaching through the Bible, we have come to the third chapter of the Book of Ephesians, Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. And the eighth verse is the text: "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" [Ephesians 3:8].
The personal attitude of the apostle Paul to his own ministry was remarkable. He looked upon it as a grace, as a favor of God bestowed upon him. In the second verse of the third chapter, he speaks of it: "If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward" [Ephesians 3:2]. He speaks of it again in the seventh verse: "Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power" [Ephesians 3:7]. Then he speaks of it again in this same little short space, in the words of my text: "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach the unsearchable riches of Christ" [from Ephesians 3:8].
Paul looked upon his ministry as being a wonderful gift from God that he was permitted to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is so different an attitude according to the measure and manner of men. For Paul was no prince of the church. He was no prelate. He was no lord high bishop. He was no right reverend. For Paul, to preach the gospel meant stripes and imprisonments [2 Corinthians 11:23-28]. His honors were dishonors. His glory was in his suffering. His rewards were losses [2 Corinthians 11:30]. In almost every city into which he entered, there bonds and imprisonment awaited him. Yet, he looks upon his ministry not as a curse, not as servitude, not as bondage, but he looked upon it as the greatest favor that God could have offered to a man [Ephesians 3:8].
The one time that the angels were permitted to preach the Gospel of the Son of God, they made the very stars to sparkle and the midnight to ring with their glorious announcement of the glad tidings [Luke 2:8-14]. It was no different with the apostle Paul. At midnight, in stocks and in chains, he and his fellow prisoner Silas made the very air a hymn of praise to the glory of God as they sang at midnight of the unsearchable riches of God in Christ Jesus [Acts 16:22-25].
And his attitude toward that ministry was one of great humility and unworthiness. He coins a word here characterizing himself: "Unto me, who am, tō elachistoterō." If a thing is the least, there’s not anything "leaser." And he coins a word. Grammar does not hold the thought he has in his heart: "Unto me, who am less than the least . . . that I should preach the unsearchable riches of Christ" [Ephesians 3:8].
Have you ever noticed, the deeper in the water a vessel sinks, the fuller it is? The emptier it is, the higher it rides. Empty-headed men, empty-hearted men may entertain fond conceits of their abilities, but the true apostle, the great preacher, the wonderful servant of God will always be the most humble and the most self-effacing.
There were two marvelous, glorious preachers in London who were contemporaries the latter part of this last century. One was the pastor of Christ Church, and his name was Joseph Parker [1830-1902]. The other was pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, and his name was Charles Haddon Spurgeon [1834-1892]. I would suppose that not in Christian history was there ever any city that at the same time had two greater giants of the faith and eloquent ministers of the Gospel than Joseph Parker and Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
This very week, reading after those men, I came across a thing that each one of them said. This is Joseph Parker. A man went up to him and said, "Good Doctor, why was it that Jesus chose Judas to be an apostle?" And the great reverend replied, "Sir, I do not know, but I will show you a greater mystery still. I cannot make out why God should have chosen me." And this in Charles Haddon Spurgeon. In one of his great messages, I read this sentence. Spurgeon says: "Oh, the wonder of the electing love of God! My own heart cries out, ‘Why me, O Lord, why me?’"
"Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, this favor bestowed, that I, that I, should preach, should be chosen of God to be a messenger of the unsearchable riches of Christ" [from Ephesians 3:8]. Isn’t that a marvelous way for a man to be? He gives you the impression of a man standing in awe and in amazement before a splendor that dazzles his eyes that he cannot describe. Speech is useless. Description is impossible. It is untrackable; it is indescribable; it is unthinkable, this unsearchable glory of the revelation of God in Christ.
That’s not an unusual thing. It is a characteristic of his ministry. Over and over again, as Paul will delineate the Gospel message of Christ, he’ll stop the march of his thought and stand in awe and wonder at the amazing riches of God in Jesus. For example, in Ephesians 1:7:
In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace [Ephesians 1:7]. –
Here again in the eighteenth verse –
That ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints [Ephesians 1:18]. –
Here again in the next chapter –
That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus [Ephesains 2:7]. –
Here in the next chapter, beside my text, in the sixteenth verse –
That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man [Ephesians 3:16]. –
That famous verse in Philippians 4:19 –
But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. –
Turn the page. In Colossians 1:27, there it is again –
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. –
Turn the page –
That your hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, in Christ, in whom are hid all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge [from Colossians 2:2-3].
Turn back again to Romans, in the ninth chapter and the twenty-third verse:
That He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy [Romans 9:23].
And that great concluding peroration in the eleventh chapter of Romans:
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! [Romans 11:33]
I say, it is as a man standing with his arms uplifted, transfigured before such dazzling glory: wherever he turns, to the right and to the left, the whole heavens above and the earth below filled with the marvelous beauty and glory of God.
It’s the same thing as a man driving down a highway, and every byway and every access road and every turn and every corner reveals some new glory of the handiwork of God. It’s as if a miner were working out a primary vein of ore, and here is another vein, and there is another, and there another, and there another, and he’s embarred with the rich profusion of the wealth of ore that’s all around him. It’s as if a man were tracking out the confines of a lake, and as he walks around the boundary, he comes just before the end to see it’s no lake at all, but it’s an arm of the immeasurable seas, and he is confronted by the ocean itself.
So Paul as he stands here in wonder and in amazement at the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. From the beginning of his ministry to the close of his ministry, that wonder, that sense of amazement never left him. On and on and on, wherever he went, there were more and more and still more of the grace and truth and wisdom and love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. "Unto me, who am less than the least of the saints, is this grace given, that I should preach the unsearchable riches of Christ" [Ephesians 4:8].
In the few moments that remain, may I speak from Paul a few of those things that he describes as being among the treasures of God in Christ Jesus – the unsearchable riches of Christ? One of them is this: the riches of Christ in His own person, in Himself. Paul preached the doctrines. Practically every great theology will mostly be filled with the writings of Paul. He preached the great doctrines of the faith, but Paul never preached the doctrines separate from the person of Christ Himself. The doctrine is but the garment. It’s but the raiment. It’s but the clothing. It’s but the vesture of the great God-Man, Christ Jesus Himself. If Paul is preaching about justification by faith, he’s preaching about the cleansing power of the blood of the cross. If Paul is preaching about our sanctification by the Spirit, he’s talking about our confirmation to the image of Christ.
The doctrine is never, in Paul, a stone, cold and hard, rolled against the sepulcher that hides the Christ inside. But it’s a herald of the great truth. It’s the glad tidings of God our Savior. In the person of Christ are manifest all of the virtues and all of the qualities of God: love, and truth, and wisdom, and mercy – all are in Christ Jesus. One of the great chapters of the Bible is the first chapter of the Book of Colossians – the fifteenth verse:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation: –
And the next verse –
And He is the creator of all things [Colossians 1:16]. –
And then the next verse –
And He is the head of the church, the beginning, the end, the first, the last, all in Him, heading up in Christ, the Head of the church [Colossians 1:18]. –
And turn the page –
and in Him dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and in Him all things consist [from Colossians 2:9]
The glory of the Godhead in the person of Christ, shown through the veil of His flesh, when He lived here in this earth among men: the winds knew Him and were silent at His Word [Mark 4:39]; the waves kissed His feet [Matthew 14:25-27]. The angels ministered unto Him [Matthew 4:11]. Devils knew Him and fled away [Mark 5:1-13]. All of the glory, and beauty, and wonder of God were seen in the person of Christ Himself. At His word, the dead would live [Luke 7:11-15]. At the touch of His hand, the blind could see [Mark 8:22-25] and the diseased were made well and strong [Luke 17:11-16] – the riches, the unsearchable riches, of Christ in His person, in the Lord Himself.
And what could one speak of the unsearchable riches of Christ in His power to save? Before the days of the cross, men were saved by the pledge and the promise that Christ would die in their stead. If the pledge and promise of Christ were able to save, how much more the riches of the atonement when the day came for Christ to die for the sins of the world? Oh, the riches of God in the atonement of Christ: God’s condescending love when Jesus died on the cross! [Romans 5:8]
Arrested while He wrestled in prayer [Matthew 26:37-57]; apprehended by one with whom He had broken bread [Luke 22:45-; John 13:21-27]; carried through the streets of Jerusalem over which He had wept [Luke 19:37-44, 23:23-33]; He who was worthy of no stripes, scourged [Mark 15:14-15]. He who deserved the homage of kings [John 18:37], spat upon and struck with mailed fists [Matthew 26:67], carried outside the city walls and beyond the gate [Hebrews 13:12], there raised between earth and heaven, a condemned slave and criminal [Luke 23:32-33]. Mind could not enter into, heart could not calculate the worth and the merit in the Father’s eyes that God places upon the tears, and the sacrifice, and the death of His Son [Hebrews 10:28-31]. Oh, the unsearchable riches of God, in Christ Jesus!
And what should I say of our risen Lord? He, at the right hand of the throne of God [Hebrews 8:1], raised from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:3-4], the firstfruits of them that slept [1 Corinthians 15:21-23]. He is the pledge and the guarantee of our own resurrection. And He, there at the right hand of God [Romans 8:34], is our assurance that some day our presence shall be there, too. What could I say? The unsearchable riches of God in His great ministry of intercession: "Wherefore He is able to save to the uttermost them who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" [Hebrews 7:25].
What could one say of the answers to prayer, the great intercessory ministry of our High Priest in glory? And what could one say of the risen Lord in His ministry among us today, reaching into every hamlet, into every heart, into every house, into every home? God’s condescending love is like an ocean filling all the hamlets and inlets round about its vast boundaries – our lives touched by the life of Christ. The thorn and the thistle, the thorn and the thistle no longer growing in hearts and in lives but the orange tree and the oleander. Here are heaps of cinders, burnt out men and women. There they stand, monuments to the love and the grace of God: He more ready to pardon than we are to sin, He more ready to forgive than we to transgress, He more willing to bestow than we to ask, He more ready to save than we are to be saved – the grace of the risen Lord among His people.
And what could I say of the consolations that abound in Christ? We rejoice in tribulations also [Romans 5:2-5]. Even there does the light shine [2 Corinthians 1:3-10]. We sorrow not, even as others who have no hope [1 Thessalonians 4:13]. But the glory of the Lord breaks upon us in our tears and in our sorrows. It’s like an April shower, mingling rain and sunshine – so the presence of the Lord among His people in their distresses and in their sorrows.
In my neighborhood is a little cleaning and pressing shop. And for these years, I have gone there at least once a week taking things to be cleaned and to be pressed. A great Christian couple run that little shop – a devout Christian man and his wife – and this Christmas, that man went away to be with Jesus. And after the Christmas holiday, I went in the little shop, and there stood his wife. She greeted me as I came into the door and then in her conversation said, "I have experienced saving grace. I have experienced living grace. I now have experienced dying grace. The Christmas present God gave to my husband was heaven itself. God introduced him to the saints in glory." That’s victory! That’s triumph! That’s glory! That is just one of the unsearchable riches of God in Christ Jesus. He gives us two heavens: a heaven above and a heaven below, one that you can carry with you into death and into the world that is beyond.
And what could I say of the riches of God in Christ Jesus in our Lord’s coming again? "Behold," He says, "I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every one as his work shall be" [Revelation 22:12].
I think of Santa Claus. To a little fellow, Santa Claus with his bag bulging with gifts, and he goes to bed at night and he can hardly sleep, turn and twist, for Santa Claus is to come down the chimney. And there’s a Christmas tree, and there’s a great big sock, and there’s all the things that makes the little boy’s eyes bulge out in wonder and a little girl’s heart beat for joy: Santa Claus with his gifts. That’s not anything. That’s not to be compared. It’s almost a travesty to say it in the same word and language.
"He hath ascended on high, He hath taken captivity captive." And remember the rest? "And He hath given gifts unto men" [Ephesians 4:8]. When the Lord comes again and His reward is with Him, what riches in Christ Jesus. Here – here are eyes for the blind. Tell me, if you were blind, if you were blind and I had in this hand all of the gold and silver of the world and I had in this hand eyes that could see, and you were blind and I stood and said, "Tell me, which hand shall you take?" Wouldn’t you say, "Oh, Pastor! That I might see; that I might see"? The unsearchable riches when He comes again and the blind can see.
Tell me, if I had in this hand all of the gems of the world and I had in this hand the life of somebody that you love, tell me, if I ask you, "Which shall it be – the wealth of the gems of the earth, or here, the life, the restoration, the resurrection of somebody whom you’ve loved and lost a while? Which should it be? "Oh, Pastor," you’d say, "that I might have back again that one whom I have lost for a while." It’ll be back again when He comes. It’s one of the riches of God in Christ Jesus. "And He gave gifts unto men" [Ephesians 4:8].
The cripple can walk again [1 Corinthians 15:51-54]. The dead shall live again [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. The poor shall be rich [James 2:5]. Oh, what things when our Lord comes once again! No longer clothed with the garments of a slave, no longer girded with a towel when He washed the disciples’ feet [John 13:3-5], but the raiment of glory flowing from His shoulders [Revelation 1:12-13], the Sovereignty of the universe, a crown upon His head [Revelation 14:14]: "and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" [Isaiah 9:6] – the unsearchable riches of Christ. I can’t say it. I haven’t eloquence to describe it. I haven’t language to contain it.
Oh, my friend and my brother, all of this is yours and more! "For ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s; and all things are yours" [from 1 Corinthians 3:22-23]. God holds open house all the time. Come any day; come any night, come now; welcome. He has more and enough and to spare. For these thousands of years, He’s been dispensing grace to the hungry hearts of men, and He still has as much as He ever possessed.
He’s been feeding His children at the banquet table of the Lord, and there still is enough spread for all. Come; come. You don’t need to bring anything with you. He is rich enough for us both. Come. You don’t need to have a rag on. Come. He has beautiful white garments to give you [Revelation 3:5, 18]. Come. You don’t need to bring a crust of bread for the banquet of the Lord. He has more and enough to spare – manna from heaven. Come. You don’t need to wash a stain out of your life. Come. He can wash us clean and white as the driven snow [Isaiah 1:18]. Come, there is riches enough for us all.
O Lord, that unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, should this grace be given to me, that I should stand in this pulpit and speak among you, even feeble and stammering tongue, the unsearchable riches of Christ. Come; come.
On this radio, in this service, if God speaks to your heart, would you come? I cannot say the word. It has to come from the Spirit of Jesus. If He does, if He calls, would you come? "Here I am, Pastor, my hand, my heart have I given to God. To hope in Jesus now, in death, in the eternity that is to come, I take Him as my Savior." Will you? A family of you to come into the church, or one somebody you, while we sing this song, make appeal prayerfully, into that aisle, down here to the front, would you come and stand by me while all of us sing this hymn together? Stand and sing.
THE UNSEARCHABLE RICHES OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The remarkable personal attitude of Paul toward his ministry
A. Felt it a great privilege to be allowed to preach gospel(Ephesians 3:2, 7-8)
1. His ministry anything but attractive
2. Yet it was not a drudgery to him(Luke 2:9-14, Acts 16:25)
3. He was filled with a sense of unworthiness(Romans 16:7)
a. Joseph Park and Charles Haddon Spurgeon
B. Sense of amazement never absent from the apostle’s life, writings(Ephesians 1:2, 18, 2:7, 3:8, 16, Philippians 4:19, Colossians 1:27, 2:2, Romans 9:23, 11:33, 36)
II. The unspeakable riches in Christ Jesus
A. In His person, in Himself
1. Paul preached the doctrine, but not apart from the person of Christ(Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:15-17, 2:9)
B. In His power to save
C. In His risen life
1. There, interceding for us (Acts 7:55-56, 1 Corinthians 2:9, Hebrews 7:25)
2. Here – His presence with us in earth