The Unsearchable Riches of Christ
April 12th, 1970 @ 8:15 AM
THE UNSEARCHABLE RICHES OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-12-70 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Unsearchable Riches of Christ. God is so blessing our witness and our testimony in this teeming city. The church is so filled that I remind the ushers, as you are already doing, the people can be seated in the aisles. They are carpeted, and it is a good place to sit with an unobstructed view of the whole church congregation. And to remind us, again, if we fail to respond to what God has set before us, such an open door, I am afraid He might withdraw His blessings from us. And in deference to what God has called us to do, our people are encouraged to give to the building program to expand these ministries and these facilities, and in the pew rack you will find a pledge card.
And tonight at 6:10 o’clock at our Training Union time will be the final report meeting of our Sunday school, and then next Sunday, the final report meeting of the church as a whole. Let’s all have a part and a worthy one. Take that card and turn it in by noon today, in your Sunday school or over at the church office, or by six o’clock tonight. And then by next Sunday, let’s all of us have responded. Then we will just see if God continues His infinite and heavenly favor upon us. We are winning people to the Lord. We are baptizing them in His blessed Trinitarian name, and we are trying to teach them the mind of heaven that was in Christ Jesus. You help us.
Last night this auditorium was filled with teenagers. We had one of the greatest services I’ve ever been in, and there were many of them saved and many of them rededicating their lives to our blessed Lord. And tonight I wish we had an auditorium five times this big. We’re going to have a tremendous service tonight with that young and dedicated lieutenant of the marines, Clebe McClary. Oh, it’s going to be like heaven here today.
Now these morning services I am preaching through the letter of Paul to the church at Ephesus. And in the third chapter Paul begins:
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward,
Then number 7, verse 7:
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.
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 3:1, 7-8]
Now this is the text that I am to expound: "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."
First, I am impressed with the remarkable attitude of Paul toward his ministry. "To me," and he repeats it three times, "is this grace given." He looks upon his preaching as a great privilege. And he defines it as an unmerited favor of God extended toward him, a grace, a remembrance, a gift that he didn’t deserve it himself, but something God just bestowed out of the fullness of His love and mercy – a grace given that he should preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Well, when I think of Paul, according to the measure of a man, there was nothing attractive in his ministry. He was no Lord Bishop. He was no Right Reverend. He was no prelate or prince of the church. Rather his honors were dishonors and his gains were losses. And the only thing, he says, in which he could glory was his sufferings, trials, disappointments, stonings, imprisonments, beatings, perils, shipwrecks. These are the things in which he gloried, but he did not accept his sufferings and his assignments as a galley slave driven to his oars. He did not accept them as vile in servitude, but he accepted them as a glory for which he thanked God. One time the angels preached the gospel, just once; t midnight they made the heavens ring as they pointed out the newborn Savior of the world in Bethlehem [Luke 2:9-14]. At midnight, Paul and Silas made the jail ring as they praised God [Acts 16:25]. His whole ministry was one of joyous acceptance as a gift from the hands of God.
And his attitude toward it was one of deepest humility. "Unto me, who am less than the least of all the saints"; that’s not quite grammatical, is it? "Less than the least," yet the spirit of it is grammatical. I understand what he means, "Less than the least." In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Romans, the apostle is addressing those saints in Rome, and he says, "Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen" [Romans 16:8], they were Jews, "who were apostles in Christ before me." Paul is saying that, "While I was persecuting the church and doing despite to the Spirit of grace and wasting the household of faith, Andronicus and Junia were declaring the grace of God in Christ Jesus." And he never got away from that. The less than the least of the saints, less than Andronicus, whoever Andronicus was; less than Junia, whoever Junia was; the apostle says he is "less than the least of God’s saints." His attitude of humility is remarkable. You know the fuller a vessel is, the deeper it sinks. Empty tin cans will jostle one another and clang on the surface of the water, but the deep vessel is down, down.
In the last century in London there were two tremendous preachers. One of them was named Joseph Parker and the other was Charles Haddon Spurgeon. And the attitude of both of those men is remarkable, like that of the apostle Paul. One time a man came to Joseph Parker and asked him, "Why was it that Judas was chosen, the one that betrayed Him? qhy was it Judas was chosen?" And Joseph Parker said, "I cannot answer, but I can point you to a greater mystery. Why should God have called me?" And one time Spurgeon exclaimed, "Oh, the depths of the wonder of the grace of Jesus Christ, the elective choice of God. It makes me cry out," he says, "O Lord, why me? Why me?" This attitude of remarkable humility: "Unto me, who am less than the least of all the saints, is this grace given, that I should preach the unsearchable riches of Christ."
The awe and the wonder of God’s love and mercy were ever fresh in the life and ministry of the apostle Paul. He never got away from it. It was never used or old or trite, the wonder of God’s grace and revelation in His Son. Time and again – – and we haven’t opportunity to follow it through his writings – – time and again will Paul stop the march of his arguments and just start exclaiming on the splendor and the wonder of God’s abounding fullness in Christ Jesus.
I take just one example: the ninth and the tenth and the eleventh chapters of the Book of Romans are theological arguments of the deepest kind. He is wrestling with the problem of Israel’s unbelief. Now in the very midst of his theological argument he stops off and begins exclaiming:
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! For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen
Now can you imagine that? In the very midst of his arguments and his theological discussion, he just stops and says that.
Sometimes I think of the man of God like Paul, like unto one who is standing with his arms uplifted, viewing the splendors of the Almighty. And wherever he turns, he is dazzled by the abundance of the revelations. Sometimes I think it is as though a man were entering the New Jerusalem, and he’s overwhelmed by the iridescence and the glory there and here and yonder. Sometimes I think it’s almost like a man who is following a highway of unsurpassed glory and beauty, and that every byway is filled with the same dazzling splendor. It’s like a man who has found a house of treasure, and everywhere are jewels and jewels and jewels. It’s like a man tracing out the boundaries of a lake and then suddenly discovers it’s nothing but the arm of an immeasurable, illimitable sea. That’s the way the man of God is as he beholds the abounding, immeasurable glories of the riches of God in Christ Jesus.
So the apostle speaks of his privilege of preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ. What are those riches? We would need years; we’d need a lifetime. I have a few minutes just to point to some of those splendors. One, the riches of God in Christ Jesus; one in His person, in Himself, in the Son of glory, in Jesus. Paul preached the doctrine of Christ. All through these epistles, thirteen of them, you will find presented the truth of God, the doctrine of God; but Paul never preached the doctrine apart from the person of the Lord Himself. The doctrine is but the raiment. It’s but the robes. It’s but the clothing of the Prince of glory.
For example, Paul will preach the doctrine of justification by faith, but never apart from the atoning love of the Savior. He will preach the doctrine of the sanctification of the Spirit, but always as a part of the image in which the Spirit is seeking to conform us to the mind, and life, and soul, and heart, and thought of Christ. To Paul the doctrine is but a herald of the Lord Himself and in no wise a stone, cold, rolled upon the sepulcher that hides the Son of God within. And as Paul will present the doctrines of the faith he exhibits in those great truths the marvelous person of Jesus.
For in Christ are manifest, he says, all of the wisdom, and virtue, and grace, and glory of God, in Jesus Himself. Every attribute of God Paul finds in Jesus our Lord. He is the image, he says, of the invisible God. He is the express image, he says, of His person. In Him bodily dwells all the fullness of the Godhead [Colossians 1:14-19; 2:9]. And even the days of His flesh, the deity of God shone through. The winds knew Him and were stilled at the sound of His voice. The waves knew Him and kissed His feet [Matthew 8:23-27]. Angels ministered unto Him [Matthew 4:11]. Demons fled before Him. At the touch of His hand the sick were healed [Luke 4:40], and at the sound of His voice the dead were raised [John 11:43-44]; the riches of God in Christ Jesus, the riches of His person, the Lord Himself.
Again, the riches of His grace and power to save; did you ever consider this? Think of the thousands and the millions and the myriads who were saved before Jesus came to this earth. All of them, every one of them, all of them were saved by the bonded promise of Christ, that He would come and die for their sins and make atonement for their transgressions. Now look. If there were myriads and myriads who were saved before Christ, on just the bare promise of His coming, think of the glory of that righteousness after He has come, and after He has died, and after He has offered atonement for our sins. Oh, the riches of the grace of God in Christ Jesus! Paul preached that atoning power of Christ to save, to forgive sins, to regenerate us, to make us new. And he presented the sufferings of our Lord to that end. "He gave Himself for me, He loved me so."
Oh, the sufferings of our Savior! While He was in agony of prayer, they arrested Him. He was betrayed by one who had just broken bread with Him. He was beat with many stripes, He who deserved no beating. He was carried through the streets of Jerusalem, a city over which He Himself had wept. He was taken outside the city walls as though He were not fit to abide within the city. And there He was crucified. He who merited the worship of kings was spit upon and reviled. Oh! To a man, His sufferings may be as nothing. We pass it by. We despise it, but to God, every tear of His Son, and every drop of blood, and every suffering of soul and travail of heart, to God it is infinitely precious. And God says, "For My Son’s sake, and for the blood’s sake, and for the sobs and the tear’s sake, if anybody will love my Son, and if anybody will trust in My Son, I will exalt them forever and ever and ever."
Isn’t that a remarkable thing? To a man those sufferings may be as nothing, but to God, they are so infinitely precious that God says, "The blood avails for the washing away of sin." The sufferings avail for the atonement of all of the iniquity and transgressions of mankind; the riches of God’s love and grace in Christ Jesus.
Third: I’ve spoken of the riches of His person; I’ve spoken of the riches of His saving, atoning grace; I speak now, third, of the riches of His ascension into heaven. Look! There He stands at the right hand of the throne on high, and that is a pledge that we shall sometime stand there also. For He is our brother and our Savior; and He is our advocate and our friend. Think of it. And He is there to represent me against the day when I also shall be presented faultless in the presence of the great Glory. Think of it: the riches of God in Christ Jesus. And He is there, "able to save to the uttermost them who would come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for us" [Hebrews 7:25]. All of my prayers, all the longing of my heart, spoken and unspoken, every dream and vision, He is there to help me through. O Lord, such a Friend and such an Advocate!
And think of the grace of His presence here abounding. Like an ocean, the grace and love and mercy of Jesus fill all of the shores of our common life. It follows every little inlet, every little indentation, surrounds every peninsula; there’s no part of ordinary common human life that is not lain and touched and bathed with the presence of the love of Jesus. Why, I don’t suppose there is a memory of my boyhood that is more precious than the unconscious, unthought for, unplanned for singing of my mother, washing dishes, or cooking over the stove, or sweeping out the house. She sang all the time. And she sang such sweet, heavenly songs, always about Jesus, the songs of the church.
There are no common tasks that He does not sanctify and hallow. As the Scriptures in Zechariah say, "Yea, the time shall come when the very pots and pans shall have written on them Holiness Unto The Lord" [Zechariah 14:20]. How He enriches our lives! And in this world, now and particularly and especially, do we look upon the cinder heaps of humanity, the desert wastes of fallen boys and girls, and men and women, the flotsam and jetsam of life; and yet, He makes those barren deserts to bloom like a rose. He turns them into a garden of paradise. Where the thistle and the thorn flourished, there under His loving grace grows the orange tree and the oleander. O Lord, no wonder the apostle exclaims, "More ready to forgive than we are to sin; more eager to pardon than we are to transgress; more ready to give than we are to ask; more eager to save than we are to be saved"; the riches of God in Christ Jesus.
Why, even our sorrows He turns into rejoicings and gladnesses. Our sorrows are like dark clouds with a stream of light shining through. Our sorrows, our sorrows are like April showers that are mingled with the sunshine. "We sorrow not," as he says, "as others who have no hope [1 Thessalonians 4:13]; for in our tears we see the face, the countenance of Christ.
I’ll never ever forget in our dear church was a sweet couple. They had a little business here in Dallas, a little business, a sweet precious couple. And on Christmas day, on Christmas day, the husband, that young man, suddenly died. On Christmas day, without warning, had a heart attack and suddenly died. And I went to see her.
"Oh dear, oh," I thought, "What shall I say? Oh, what a sad, sad assignment! I am pastor of the church, but what heaviness of heart do I have to bear to go see this young wife on Christmas day, and her husband lies dead before her." Bless you, when I left the house I was in heaven, it seemed. She said to me, "You know, God gave me saving grace when I was converted. God has given me living grace through the years, and now God has given me dying grace." And she added, "Think of it, pastor. God’s Christmas present to my husband, his introduction to the saints and the angels in glory." It just takes your breath away, such a response to so sorrowful and so tragic a loss; "a Christmas present to my husband, an introduction to the saints and the angels in glory." O Lord, what a dazzling splendor! When you look at it, no wonder you say it is unsearchable and indescribable and unfathomable. There are not words to contain it.
We must hasten. One other: the riches of God in Christ Jesus in His person, in His atoning grace, in His ascension into heaven, and finally, in His coming again. Oh, if we have known and felt the riches of God in Christ in these days, as she called it, "living grace." Think of the riches abounding, splendid, iridescent, glorious, unspeakable, indescribable, unsearchable, when the Lord shall come with His own. Think of it! Here in the Book of Ephesians, and I shall preach on it when we come to "when He ascended on high, He took captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men, gave gifts unto men" [Ephesians 4:8]. Our gifts are so paltry and so feeble. When He comes to bring gifts unto men, think of those gifts! He will bring eyes for the blind to see, He will bring feet for the crippled on which to walk, He will bring life to these who have fallen into the dust of the ground. Think of it. Think of it!
Last week, one of those Young Adult couples came to see me. And there were problems, spiritual, that they wrestled with. And one of them was this: "I am afraid when I think of the Lord’s coming. There’s something wrong with me. I am afraid when I think of the Lord’s coming." I said, "Dear child, you are afraid? Oh, oh, never, never. Let me ask you: in the days of His flesh, the gentle and lowly Jesus, if He had come to see you, would you be afraid? Would you?"
"Oh, had I lived in that day and Jesus had come to knock at my door, and I open the door and there He stood, oh, how glad I would have been!" No wonder, when it was noised abroad that He was in the house, they surrounded the entire structure, you couldn’t get near the door. They brought the sick and the lame and the blind into the home. Oh, think of having Jesus say the blessing at the table! Think of it. "And you are afraid?"
The last chapter of the last prophet of the Old Testament has this verse in it: "But to you that love Him, reverence Him, shall the Sun of Righteousness rise with healing in His wings" [Malachi 4:2]. And the apostle John wrote in 1 John, "And perfect love casts out all fear" [1 John 4:18]. Our solution does not rise, "O God, take away this fear"; our solution is this: "O Lord, give me an abounding, overflowing love for Jesus; and when I have that in my heart, there is no dread and no fear, just anticipation and expectation for the glory that is yet to be."
The Lord has cast aside His robes of humility. He has taken away the towel by which He girded Himself when He washed the apostles’ feet; and He is now covered with the raiment of dazzling shekinah, the clothing of God. But oh, sweet friend, His heart is just the same. No longer girded with a towel, no longer with the robes of a peasant, of a poor servant, now girded in glory, but His heart is just the same. The Book says so: "This same Jesus shall so come in like manner" [Acts 1:11]: the Lord Himself, the One who loved us and gave Himself for us. When I am to think of His coming, I am to think of the Savior and the Lord to whom I’ve given my life, who loved me, who died for me: the riches of His grace.
I close now with the appeal. There is no exhausting of that undiminished fullness. He is so rich in grace and mercy that He keeps open house all the time, all day, all night, all the year, and we never exhaust His treasures of love and mercy. There have been millions who have partaken. There is no diminishing. How many have banqueted at the table of the Lord, but the table is still groaning with fullness? Come, don’t bring something with you. Just come empty handed. You don’t need to bring a rag with you. He has garments pure and white with which to clothe us. You don’t need to bring a crust of bread with you. He has the manna from heaven. You don’t need to stop to cleanse a single stain in your soul. He washes us pure and white. It’d be like bringing a candle to the sun to bring our feeble righteousness and our filthy rags to Jesus. Just come as you are, and let Him enrich you in His grace and love. He has more and to spare. Just take, just receive, just open heart and hand and let God bless you. Will you? Will you?
In a moment we shall stand to sing our song, and to take the Lord as your Savior, would you come? To open your heart to His presence so sweet and precious, would you come? To give your house and your home to God, would you come? As the Spirit shall lead in the way, shall open the door, shall voice the appeal, shall press the invitation, answer with your life. Come and stand by me. In the balcony round, on this lower floor, you, "Here I am, and here I come." Make it now. Make the decision now, and in a moment when you stand up, stand up coming. Do it, while all of us 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(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, 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