We're turning to 2 Corinthians chapter 9 - now you may seem a bit bemused by why I'm reading a portion of scripture like this at a Gospel meeting, but it hopefully will become evidently clear as I begin to preach. There's really only one verse that I want to concentrate on, but it's found in a strange context. We'll read from verse 6, a couple of verses, and then we'll jump right to the verse that we want to consider this evening.
Second Corinthians chapter 9, beginning to read at verse 6. Paul is writing to Christians in the church at Corinth, and he says: "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work". Then the last verse, verse 15: "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift".
Father, from the very beginning of all time we read that God spake, the world came into being. Then when we come to the New Testament, we read that in the beginning was God, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. We thank You that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Lord, we are going to present to these people tonight, whatever their spiritual condition may be, the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, Your only begotten Son. We pray that if they hear the Word, and see the Word, that they will respond; and that no one will be guilty of squandering or stifling God's final call today. Lord we need Your help, and we need the endowment of power from on-high. In the Saviour's name and for His sake we pray, Amen.
I want to preach to you from 2 Corinthians chapter 9 verse 15 on the subject 'Thank God For Jesus! - thank God for Jesus, 'Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift'. Now the reason why I said it's perhaps a strange portion of scripture to choose to preach at a meeting like this tonight, is because Paul the apostle is instructing the believers in Corinth on their giving to the work of God - how they should lay aside certain financial resources and give it to the church, so that they might spread the gospel. On this occasion, as on other occasions, the apostle Paul, because he was a man so inspired with the love of Christ and a devotion to Christ, his attention very swiftly shifts from the practicalities of what it is to give financially to God's work to the great thrill that he has in knowing Christ as his Lord and Saviour. So immediately, at the end of this portion in verse 15, he shifts our attention away from the practical financial gifts of the church, to reflect on the greatest Giver that there has ever been - God Almighty - and to bring our attention not only to the greatest Giver, but the greatest Gift that has ever been given, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Now this is characteristic of Paul, as you read his epistles - sometimes spontaneously he'll just exclaim, almost out of tone to what he's already been saying, a great appreciation and exclamation of the capacity he has in his heart and mind to love and devote himself to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is exactly what we have here. He's talking to this church about giving resources to Gospel ministry, and then he says: 'And thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift'. Some might say: 'Well, it's very strange, is it not, that Paul should attempt to motivate our financial giving by recalling something as sacred as the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world?'. It's not really, because we find that he does this on other occasions. In the chapter before this one, chapter 8 and verse 9, he is talking about how the Macedonians were so liberal in their giving to the work of the church, and he says to the believers there: 'Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich'.
He's exhorting the Corinthians by the example of the Macedonians, but the motivation he gives is that: 'Your Lord was one who was immeasurably rich in heaven, and then He came in human flesh and became poor, that you might be rich through His marvellous, matchless grace'. Not long after writing the epistle to the Corinthians, Paul, addressing the Romans in chapter 8 and 32, uses the same motivation - he says: 'He', God, 'who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?'. So Paul does this on several occasions, even when he's talking about practical financial giving to others who are in need, and what he's doing is: by bringing the Lord Jesus Christ, as the gift of God, as an illustration to us, he wants to impress upon us the divine gift of God's Son that should inspire every gift. The divine gift which inspires all gifts.
In other words, he's saying: 'Can you Christians who have received so generously, and been treated so favourably by God, be anything else but generous to your fellow men?'. It's like He said to those disciples in Matthew chapter 10, when He told them to go and preach that the kingdom of God was at hand, He said: 'Freely you have received, freely give'. But Paul's thought here is not only that we should give to others because God so loved the world that He give His only begotten Son, but the thought is also here that we should be filled, as he was, with a thankfulness when we consider the immensity of God's gift in His own Son. What he's telling us is that this gift that God has given to us is infinitely transcendent above all human gifts that have ever been given. The hymn writer put it like this:
'Was e'er a gift like the Saviour given?
No, not one! no, not one!'.
So my question to you this evening as I come with this message is very personal, I want to ask you: are you thankful, as Paul was, for the Lord Jesus? How thankful are you for God's gift? Now, thankfulness logically requires a measure of appreciation. You can't be thankful for something or someone if you don't appreciate them, and so the question could very well be: do you appreciate Christ? What is your appreciation of Him? Let me say this: we could talk on a lot of themes tonight from the word of God relating to your soul's eternal destiny, but I don't think there's a more important question in the whole of the world - whether it's the religious world or just everyday mundane life, Monday to Friday - than this one. It is a question that Christ asked the religious Pharisees in His own day, listen: 'What do you think of Christ?'.
So, what do you think of Him? You see, that is the question that determines the great spiritual divide in our world today in the eyes of God. The divide in humanity that God sees is not what man sees, it's not black and white, it's not between classes of rich and poor, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Loyalist, Republican, Unionist, Nationalist - it's not even the division between Muslim, Christian and Jew. The division that God sees in our world is between two types of people, and it is determined upon their estimation of His beloved Son, and how they have allowed that estimation and appreciation to affect their life, and indeed their eternal destiny. That was the division in the day of Christ when He walked upon the earth, and that is the same division - and the only division, can I say - that God sees our world.
Indeed, when the Lord Jesus was among men it says in John 7 that there was a division among the people because of Him. How true that is of our own day. There is still a division among the people because of Christ, and their esteem or their lack of it concerning Him. But what we see here in Paul's words is that he appreciated Christ so much, and was so thankful, that he described the Saviour as 'God's unspeakable gift'. That word 'unspeakable' in the original Greek language that the New Testament is written in cannot be found anywhere else in the whole of the Bible. It actually means this is something that cannot be related. It's a similar word to one Peter used when he talked about the experience that those who trust in Christ have: 'Whom having not seen', the Lord Jesus, we've never seen Him, 'ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory'. The Christian experience is indescribable, because the Christian's Lord and Saviour is unspeakable. The Amplified New Testament puts it very well when it says: 'Thanks be unto God for His gift, precious beyond telling, His indescribable, inexpressible free gift'.
Let me share with you this evening why Paul esteemed Christ as the unspeakable gift and why, by faith, if you have not done already, you should embrace Him as such this evening - as God's indescribable gift. Here is the first reason: His birth, as we look at the New Testament, was indescribable. When we look at Luke's gospel chapter 1 and verse 34-35, we read these words - you know them well from Christmas time - 'Then said Mary unto the angel', who had announced the birth of Jesus to her, 'How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God'. Now that was something unique, a virgin conception - and it was so unique and so indescribable that Mary had difficulty understanding what the angel was pronouncing to her. Not only had she a difficulty understanding it, but I believe that the angel had a difficulty in articulating it, because he called the Lord Jesus Christ in the womb as a foetus 'that holy thing'. A strange description of the Saviour, but how can you describe the indescribable? The first ever Being in which the two worlds were blended of both heaven and earth, the Man who was very man, yet very God as His only begotten Son. The angel couldn't even describe it with words that would really grasp what was the reality.
His virgin conception was indescribable, but then we see that the whole general incarnation was indescribable. What's that? That's simply God becoming flesh. You see Christ did not begin to exist at Bethlehem, He is the pre-existent Son of God, who was with God before the world was, who created the worlds with Him as His only Son. We read in Timothy's epistle: 'Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory'. This is a mystery, it is indescribable, it is unspeakable - to imagine how God could become a man, God could take human flesh - but this is the message that Paul is so excited about: 'Thanks be unto God for the gift of giving to man His Son as a man in human flesh'.
Does that not blow your mind? The gift that God has given to humankind - it is the greatest gift that has ever been, I believe the greatest miracle that God has ever performed was the incarnation of His own Son. As Wesley put it: 'God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man'. He put it in his carol: 'Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see'.
His birth was indescribable, but secondly we see that His life was indescribable. Oh, there are so many occurrences and examples of His indescribable life in the gospels that I would have you here for weeks! But if I can concentrate on four: first of all, there's the indescribable nature of His words. In fact, on one occasion the Pharisees and the High Priest actually sent out guards and officers to arrest the Lord Jesus Christ, and when they went to arrest Him His words arrested them! They came back to the religious authorities, and they said: 'Where is He? You were to bring Him to us!', and the officers answered 'Never a man spake like this man'. His words were indescribable.
His works were indescribable also. The disciples are out in the middle of the lake, and the squall erupts, and there's a great storm. They think that the Lord Jesus is ignorant of their plight, and they go and waken Him, and they say: 'Lord, save us'. We read this wonderfully dramatic account, He stands in the boat, and He puts His arms out, and He stills the storm: 'Peace, be still!' - and they marvel, and say 'What manner, what kind of man is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!'. That was only one of His works, but it was indescribable.
Then there is His worthiness, the worthiness of His life - because the Lord Jesus lived 33 years before men, and three years in His ministry. Then when He came before Pontius Pilate we find that He was examined for any faults, whether it was concerning the law of Moses or the law of the land, and people, religious people came and others were paid to come and bring false accusations against the Lord Jesus Christ - and Pilate, who was no friend of Jesus, said: 'I find no fault in this man'. His worthiness - and if I was to sum up His whole life in a fourth point, it would just simply be: His wonder. Isaiah chapter 9 says that His name shall be called 'Wonderful', He is Wonderful - how else could you describe Him?
Nicodemus came, one of these religious crowd, at night - but he realised there was something in this Jesus man, and he went to Him and under the cover of darkness he said: 'We know that thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that you do, except God be with him'. The wonder of Christ, His words, His work, His worth - do you see it? A blind man was given his sight, and they started to cross question him, the theologians and the doctors of the synagogue. They said: 'Who did this? How did He do it? When did He do it? Where did He do it?', and the man just stopped all their cross-questioning and said, 'Look, I don't know an awful lot, but one thing I know is this - once I was blind, but now I see'. The wonder of the Lord Jesus Christ, the wonder of His life - do you see it?
Paul saw it. This was a man, remember, in His lifetime who didn't have any time for Christ, in Christ's lifetime - because when Christ died and rose again and even ascended to heaven, the apostle Paul who is writing these words was not converted, he was still persecuting Christ's church. Yet here, because God reached him and he began to hear the indescribable words of Christ, and he began to revel in His works, see His worth, and be overtaken by His wonder, he could say: 'Thanks be to God, thank God for Jesus'.
Then thirdly there is His death which was indescribable. Who could describe the death of the Son of God? On a mere political and legal level it was greatest miscarriage of justice that has ever occurred: trumped up charges under illegal conditions during the night and so on and so forth. The greatest crime that has ever been committed in all of human history. But, my friend, I want you to see something that is more indescribable than that, because Christ in His death, the Bible declares - and this is the Gospel - was the substitute for sinners. You see Him going up the Via Delarosa, and you see all the blasphemy and the sacrilege and the spittle that drips from His blessed face. You see Him as the Roman soldiers pummel Him with their fists, and beat Him, and strip Him, and mock Him putting a crown of thorns on Him, putting a reed in His right hand and a scarlet robe. Whilst you see all that, and you see the deep bedded scars in His hands and His feet and His side, because of their abuse of Him, as they lift Him high between heaven and earth - but friend, see more - that all can be described and has been...what is indescribable is how He became the sinner's substitute. God brought a darkness over this whole world as He was making His Son an offering for sin - that is indescribable. What God did to His Son there as a punishment, in order that you might go free - God did it willingly, His Son did it willingly, and all of it was done out of great love for you. Is it any wonder Paul could say 'Thank God for Jesus!'. The hymn puts it like this:
'But none of the ransomed', the saved, 'ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost'.
Indescribable was His death, because He died as a substitute - but also He endured the wrath of God as our substitute, this God who is almighty, who can do anything, who will punish sinners for all eternity. In three short hours He compressed the chastisement, the punishment of all men's sins, and placed it in His wrath upon His own Son - the almighty, the eternal wrath of God. Isaiah said: 'He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all'. Indescribable, is it not?
Then the motivation for it all as He died was the love that He displayed. That's why He did it, for love of you and love of me. In Ephesians Paul tries to communicate to the church and says he prays for them that one day they may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and the length, and the depth, and the height, and to know more and more the love of Christ - as you were singing - which passes knowledge. It is indescribable! The greatest artist with the greatest oil and the greatest brush cannot portray it. The greatest director on the greatest celluloid screen, with the greatest amount of money cannot portray it. The greatest poet, the greatest novelist, the greatest hymn writer, the greatest preacher cannot grasp the reality, the unspeakable nature of God's love in Christ at Calvary. F.M. Lehman tried to do it one day in a hymn, and he basically expired and gave up, but he did leave us with this verse:
'The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell'.
Do you appreciate the love of God for you, my friend? Does His indescribable death not cause you to exclaim, as another at the side of the cross, the Centurion, when he saw all that was happening - the rocks rending, the darkness in the sky, the cry of the Lord Jesus 'Forgive them, for they know not what they do. Tetelistai, it is finished' - he said: 'Surely this must be, all these indescribable things must mean that this Man is the Son of God'.
Fourthly, His resurrection was indescribable. Some people will say: 'Well, He wasn't the first person to be raised from the dead' - and, of course, He wasn't. You have a number of occasions in the Old Testament, and even the Lord Jesus Himself raised Lazarus, the widow of Nain's son, and so on from the dead - but none of those ever were raised in the power of an endless life. What do I mean? They all were raised, but they died again. Lazarus had another grave one day, the widow of Nain's son had another funeral and another coffin, but never Jesus Christ! He was the firstborn of all creation, a new race who would never die, indescribable! Science hasn't got a formula for it, neither will they. History tries to blot it out, yet it is the most historically proven fact of all that Christ, when He rose again, defeated death, the grave, hell, and sin forever - so that we can say: 'O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?'. We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us - but not only has Christ defeated much, but He has gained much for us because He has said to us: 'I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live'.
Is that not indescribable? One day there's going to be a resurrection of the dead, some unto life, some unto damnation - and what will determine which crowd you're in is your appreciation of Christ and what you have done with Him. Fifthly, His grace is indescribable. In the Greek language this word 'thanks' that Paul uses is actually the word 'charis', which some people are given as a name, and it is the Greek word for 'grace'. In 2 Corinthians 8:9 that we've quoted, Paul said: 'You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor'. Paul is using this word here to describe the indescribable grace of God in giving us His Son.
'What's grace?', you say. A lot of people think it's what the ballet dancers do, or the ice skaters, gracious movements - that's not what it is. Grace, in a biblical sense, is God's unmerited favour, God's free gift. Paul put it in Romans 6:23: 'The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ'. What we have in the gospel is God burying His Son, just like a seed in the ground, and from His death and His resurrection He has reaped an abundant harvest for all those who believe in Him - a harvest of grace! Newton put it like this: 'Amazing grace' - forgiveness, the slate being wiped clean, God's favour. Not earned, you can't buy it, you can't work it, you can't pray it, you can't live for it, it is just freely received from God with empty hands.
John Newton, who wrote that famous hymn, 'Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me' - he had a very godly mother who prayed for him and instructed him in the things of God, but at seven years of age she died. He was turned over to relatives who soon forgot to teach him the Scriptures. He went on to become an apprentice seaman, and later joined the British Navy. After joining the Navy it wasn't long until he earned the reputation of being able, listen, 'to curse for two solid hours without repeating one word'. Because he couldn't stand the Navy's discipline, eventually he deserted and fled to Africa so that, in his own words: 'I might sin my fill'. 'I might sin my fill' - is that the way you live? Get as much enjoyment out of life, but it's through sin that will leave an indelible, fatal mark upon your soul. He did that, he went to Africa, and among the slaves he sinned his fill. He got so debauched and distant from God, that eventually he fell into the hands of a Portuguese slave trader, and for months the chief foreman of the traders treated him like an animal. He beat him, and forced him to grovel in the dirt for his every meal. By that time he was a skilled navigator, and eventually he earned the position of a first mate, but while the captain was ashore on one occasion Newton broke into the ship's rum and got the entire crew drunk. When the captain of the ship came back, the captain punched him and knocked him over into the water, and he would have been drowned if a sailor hadn't jumped in and saved his life. Do you know how they pulled him out of the water? They threw a boot hook over the side, and pulled him out like a fish - and there was a gash left in his leg big enough to put your fist into.
Then, one day, as the ship some weeks later was off the coast of Scotland, it sailed into a storm and almost sank. Newton manned the pumps, trying to get the water out of the deck of the boat and the bowels of it. At that point he thought to himself: 'What would God do with someone like me if I were to die?'. Then and there he cried to God as a helpless wretched sinner, and God heard his cry. You say: 'That's not fair!' - that's what a lot of people say today: 'That's not fair that a man as wicked as that should be forgiven by God' - that is the grace of God, my friend. It's not about being fair, or what you earn, it's about a free gift that Christ has earned at the cross for you. That's why he could write: 'Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me' - that's what grace is, if you could earn it it wouldn't be grace!
He later became a chaplain to the English Parliament. He preached one day before the King. This vile blasphemer wrote the wonderful hymn, as we have said, because to his ears there was nothing sweeter, there was nothing more unspeakable and indescribable than the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Newton could say: 'Thank God for Jesus! He saved me!' - has He saved you from a life of sin, a life of degradation, a life that will eventually accrue the judgemental wrath of God?
Sixthly and finally: His return will be indescribable. His birth is indescribable, His life is indescribable, His death is indescribable, His resurrection is indescribable, His grace that He offers freely in the Gospel this evening is indescribable - but one day very soon His return will be indescribable. It will be indescribable for every child of God, every member of the church. The Bible says that is a day that we look forward to, we will be caught up to be with the Lord in the air. Paul described one time being caught up into Paradise, he didn't know whether he was in the body or out of the body, but he said that while he looked upon heaven that he heard unspeakable words, which it's not lawful for a man to utter. What he saw, what he heard was indescribable! God's word says it has not entered into the heart of men, eye hasn't seen, ear hasn't heard, the heart has not conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.
Is that what you look forward to? The prospect of glory, being one of the redeemed children of God? Can I say to you this evening that the alternative is indescribable, for the Bible teaches that it will not be glory, but it will be torment for those who are lost. The opposite to heaven is not purgatory, there is no such thing in God's word - it is hell, and it is an indescribable place, that is described even with conflicting metaphors that don't make sense; because we can't describe it. It's described as a place of fire, yet it's also described as a place of darkness. It is so awful that we cannot imagine it! Revelation says that the smoke of the torment of those that are there ascends for ever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night. Indescribable!
Which place will you be in? You could be saved from hell and judgment this evening, and your exclamation - would it not be: 'Thank God for Jesus!'? Is it any surprise that Paul burst into thanksgiving. Horatious Bonar exclaimed Paul's sentiment in the verse of a hymn that he wrote that went like this:
'Blessed be God, our God!
Who gave for us His well-beloved Son,
The gift of gifts, all other gifts in one -
Blessed be God, our God!'
Do you appreciate Christ? If you appreciate Him in His birth, and in His life, His death, His resurrection, His grace, His return - there's one more step that you need to take, and that is to appreciate Him by accepting Him by faith, repenting of your sin, leaving it, being willing. You say 'I can't' - I know you can't, but if you're willing to turn from it, God will give you the power to leave those things and turn to Him and accept His grace, which is free. Just say: 'Lord, I confess I am a sinner, and I thank You that the Lord Jesus died for me to be my Saviour. Save me now, make me Your child' - and I'll tell you, what will result is indescribable.
Will you say: 'Because of this, I will give my life, my all, to love and follow Him'? He gave His all for you, my friend.
Lord, we thank You for Jesus, the Lord and Christ, the Saviour of the world - 'all the glorious names of wisdom, love, and power: all are too mean to speak His worth, too mean to set my Saviour forth'. Lord, we don't appreciate Him as we should, but we want to thank You for the Saviour this evening; and we want others here tonight, by Thy Spirit, to see the wonder of Him and what He can do for them if they will repent and submit to Him, and believe in Him for eternal life. Lord, strive this evening with those who are lost, with those without an appreciation and a thankfulness for the Lord. Bring them into the fold this evening, as we return thanks for our salvation and, more than that, for our Saviour. Thank God for Jesus, Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording, titled "Thank God For Jesus!" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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