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2 Corinthians 9:1-5
As touching the ministering to the saints.
I. Why does God call us to give?
1. He cannot need our gifts. We can give Him nothing that we did not first get from Him.
2. It must be somehow for our sakes. Giving is God’s way of getting for ourselves the highest good. The root of sin is selfishness. God would have us grow bigger, have a larger world to live in, find a higher joy; and the secret of all this change is giving. It is a curious fact that we call a man who gets but does not give a “miser,” that is, a miserable man. The true worth of money is never learned until we begin to make others happy with it. It is just so of learning. There is joy in getting knowledge; but a higher joy it is to teach those who do not know.
II. Nature teaches us many lessons on giving. The sun exists to give light, heat, and life. The sea is always giving.
III. God measures our giving by our purpose. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart.” What did you mean to give, and what was your motive?
IV. liberal giving is perhaps the choicest, ripest fruit of the spirit. The Arab proverb says, “The water you pour on the roots of the cocoanut-tree comes back to you from the top, in the sweet milk of the cocoanut.” You may hang up a bar of slightly tempered steel, strike it with a mallet, and make it a magnet. Then with that magnet you may, by rubbing other bars with it, make them magnets too; and it is wonderful that instead of making the magnetic power of that first bar less, you increase it. (A. T. Pierson, D. D.)
I. The tact and wisdom and tenderness of Paul in presenting and pressing the subject abe worthy of unqualified admiration. The apostle does not say how much a child of God should give, simply because he regards giving as a spiritual attainment, and not as an outward function. It is to be governed by spiritual laws and to move by spiritual impulses. He cites the case of the Macedonian Christians, not as a standard of comparison, but as a heart-incentive. The true giver in blessing others will always be a large receiver of blessings. The word which in the Received Text is translated “bounty” has in the margin its more literal meaning, “blessing.” The giver is a sower of seed. His gifts are the seed of a future harvest for which he may confidently look. There is here no appeal to selfishness, but the simple statement of a Divine law, and one of widest scope. The man who puts forth little physical strength reaps little vigour of body. The man who feebly uses mental faculty gains little mental power. The man who loves little is little loved and destroys his capacity to love. As giving is a spiritual grace, it can grow and reward its possessor only by use. We are at cross-purposes with our own faculties and with God’s plans respecting us if the power of giving lies unused within us. Our selfishness dwarfs and impoverishes us. Niggardliness is a most miserable investment. Put any Divine gift under the leadership of greed or of sloth, and it is sure to err and come to no good. In the great sum of things giving has a royal place. Do we not comprehend how the giver is a receiver? It is sufficient in answer to appeal to two things: first, to the homely evidence of experience; second, to the promises of God. But this testimony of experience reaches deeper than all rewards in kind. True giving is the act of the soul; it touches character; it is a grand power of moral discipline. It cleanses conscience and purifies the heart to give rightly and generously. It awakens a higher manhood in the soul. It crucifies the low, base lust of selfishness. It strangles closeness and stinginess and all the meaner and craven lusts of our nature to get beyond and above the greed of getting and keeping into the high and Divine realm of giving. Giving enlarges a man. It develops all that is good in him. It stirs him with higher impulses. It makes him a holier and happier man. But it must be giving in Christ’s sense and after His example. But this certainty of a Divine return to the giver rests also on the direct promise of God. Here is the giver’s security. What is given is not lost. It is a deposit in the exchequer of Heaven. God loveth the cheerful giver. He is able to bless him, and He will bless him.
II. The final thought of the apostle is the connection of giving and thanksgiving. Every gift is a “bounty,” a “blessing,” a “thanksgiving.” It is a free thank-offering out of the blessings God has given. True giving rises out of the catalogue of hard duties into the rank of happy privileges. The root of all giving is love, and love is full of thankfulness. And then, as the mind and heart of the apostle are filled with a sense of what a great blessing is this spirit of free and generous giving both to the giver and to the receiver, he ends abruptly the discussion with the well-known sentence, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!” He rises from all human giving to the Divine, the gift of the Saviour. He contrasts our feeble gifts with the unspeakable one. He inspires our giving with that. He links our giving to that. To give is to be like God. (T. H. Robinson, D. D.)
It is plain that God means that His people shall all be givers. Opportunities to give everywhere surround us. The Christians at Jerusalem were at just this time in great want. In part this may have been due to their experiment of a community of goods, and in part to their repeated and long-continued persecutions. Christian giving should be--
I. Primarily, though by no means exclusively, to needy saints (2 Corinthians 5:1).
II. Prompt and energetic, that so it may be adequate and sure (2 Corinthians 9:2-5). The good name of a church is no small part of its power. It is this which makes its teachings respected, and its example a stimulus to others. It is in all things a good rule to be deliberate in planning, and then swift in execution. For thus it is that good intentions become worthy deeds.
III. Not sparing but bountiful (2 Corinthians 9:6).
IV. Deliberate and cheerful (2 Corinthians 9:7).
V. Trustful. This is enforced by the apostle by a twofold consideration (2 Corinthians 9:8-10).
VI. Mindful of the great blessings sure to come of it (2 Corinthians 9:11-14). (Monday Club Sermons.)
2 Corinthians 9:6
He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly.
The way and worth of genuine beneficence
I. The way.
1. Bountifully (2 Corinthians 9:6).
2. Deliberately (2 Corinthians 9:7). A spurious charity gives from impulse or pressure.
3. Cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7).
II. The worth. It is the most valuable thing in the universe.
1. In its issues.
(1) It confers happiness on the man who practises it. He will be “blessed in his deed.”
(2) It ensures the blessing of the Almighty.
(a) He sees that the man of charity shall lose nothing by his contributions (2 Corinthians 9:8).
(b) He sees that his beneficent deeds shall be blessed for ever (2 Corinthians 9:9). A good deed is a seed that will go on multiplying for ever.
(3) It alleviates the distress of mankind (2 Corinthians 9:12).
(4) It is promotive of universal worship (2 Corinthians 9:12-13).
2. In itself (2 Corinthians 9:15). What is the “gift” here? Has Paul a special reference to Christ? Be it so. The value of that gift was the love which it incarnated. (D. Thomas.)
Liberal charity stated and recommended on the principles of the gospel
The Scriptures abound in a great variety of the most beautiful images and figurative allusions.
I. Let us begin with calling your attention to the character here represented--“He that soweth bountifully,” in other words, the man of liberal charity.
1. This is a character formed and perfected under the influence of supreme regard to God and the Redeemer. Beneficent love to men is at once a natural consequence and proof of knowing the love of God, and loving Him.
2. The man of liberal charity is one who gives cheerfully according to his ability.
3. True liberal charity is wisely divided amongst many, and proportioned to the objects upon which it acts. It is not, it cannot be confined to near relations, intimate friends, or particular favourites. The principle which gave it birth extends its influence in every possible direction.
4. That may well be called liberal charity which is designed to promote the greatest possible good.
II. Let us now attend to the richness of his reward, expressed in the promise added, that he shall reap also bountifully. Need I here caution you against considering what shall be said on this part of the subject as holding out any deserved recompense to personal merit?
1. The truth of this great and gracious promise will be felt in inward enjoyment and spiritual improvement.
2. Add to this the blessing and prayers of those who receive your help.
3. The promise in the text holds up, as a farther inducement to liberal charity, a richly varied and extensive prospect of good to the world.
4. That he who soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully in a future and eternal state.
Let me now entreat your attention to the practical improvement of the subject.
1. In the first place, then, it may direct us in forming a just judgment of our own characters.
2. Must not the consideration of this approved character lead us to study and admire that religion from which it receives all its excellence? (R. Balfour.)
2 Corinthians 9:7-8
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give;… for God loveth a cheerful giver.
A cheerful giver beloved of God
I. What is meant by a cheerful giver? To be this one must--
1. Give proportionately, for cheerful givers reckon how much as good stewards is expected from them. If giving the tenth of one’s income to the Lord were a duty under the Jewish, much more is it so now under the Christian dispensation. But the Jew, with his free-will offerings, etc., perhaps gave as much as a third altogether. And at this present day the Hindoos give very nearly that proportion, and thus shame the illiberality of many Christians. I do not, however, like to lay down rules. Give as the Lord hath prospered you, and do not make your estimate what will appear respectable, or what is expected by others, but as in the sight of God.
2. Give willingly, and do not be “bled” or squeezed like the young grape to get the wine out because it is not ripe We ought to be like the honeycomb, dropping spontaneously.
3. Get beyond the serf-like, slavish spirit. The slave brings his pittance, which he is obliged to pay, and goes his way in misery. But the child, pleased to give its Father what it can, beholds the Father smile, and goes its way rejoicing.
4. Give very earnestly. Some give God their time, but they are half asleep. Some give Him their efforts, but their heart never seems in them.
5. Wish that we could give ten times as much. Oh that we could learn the secret of entire consecration!
II. Why does God love a cheerful giver? Because--
1. He made the world on the plan of cheerful giving, and the great Artist loves all that is consistent with His plan. Why is the sun bright? Because it is giving away its light. Why is it glorious? Because it is scattering its beams on all sides. The moon--wherefore do we rejoice in her? Because what light she receives from the sun she gives again to us. Even yon twinkling stars--their brightness and radiance consist in their giving. Take the earth; what is its excellence but what it gives? Thousands of years ago there were vast forests waving in the sunbeams, and giving themselves to die to form vast stores of coal for future use. There is not a tree but is giving perpetually. There is not a flower but its very sweetness lies in its shedding its fragrance. All the rivers run into the sea, the sea feeds the clouds, the clouds empty out their treasures, the earth gives back the rain in fertility, and so it is an endless chain of giving generosity. There is nothing in this world but lives by giving, except a covetous man, and such a man is a piece of grit in the machinery. He is out of date; out of God’s order altogether. But the cheerful giver is marching to the music of the spheres.
2. Grace has placed such a man in order with the laws of redemption as well as the laws of nature. Salvation is not a thing to be earned and won, but is the result of the free grace of God. Now the professed Christian, who is no giver, or being a giver is not a cheerful giver, is out of order with the system which revolves around the Cross of Christ.
3. He loves anything that makes His people happy; and the spirit of love to others is the surest source of happiness. He who lives for himself must be wretched.
4. In such He sees the work of His Spirit. It takes a great deal of grace to make some men cheerful givers. With some the last part of their nature that ever gets sanctified is their pockets.
II. Why we who love the Lord should seek to be cheerful givers whom God loves. Because--
1. All we have we owe to Him.
2. Recollect that the time for giving will soon be over.
3. We have need of a giving God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
When St. Paul tells us that God loveth a cheerful giver he must surely mean that in cheerful giving there is something which God approves. Had any one suggested to him that Christian men, at any rate in this world, must always need God’s pity and forbearance, and can never in anything they are or do deserve His approbation, he would have answered that they are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, and that He is able out of very poor materials to create what He Himself can regard with delight. I am thankful to believe that in those who do not bear Christ’s name there are many virtues which God honours, and that in Christian people He recognises a goodness which is hidden not only from themselves, but from other men. It was not by an accident that the apostle spoke of a “cheerful” giving, and not merely of conscientious giving, or liberal giving, or unostentatious giving. There are only two passages in which the word, which is very properly translated cheerful in this place, and the cognate word cheerfulness, occur in the New Testament; both are in the writings of St. Paul, and both texts refer to the duty of giving. The writer tells the Corinthians that God loveth the cheerful giver, and in writing to the Romans he says that he who showeth mercy is to do it with cheerfulness. There are many duties which have to be discharged with solemnity, and some which it is not a sin to discharge reluctantly; there are some duties the discharge of which makes us very sad, but the duties of giving and of showing mercy are to be discharged cheerfully. There are some people who give, but who are certainly not cheerful givers. It is impossible, I suppose, that the man who gives ostentatiously should be a cheerful giver. He has no delight in parting with his money. The satisfaction is not in the giving, but in the honour which comes to him as the result of it, and he is vexed with manifold anxieties as to whether his wishes will be fulfilled or not. The man who gives because it is the custom of people about him to give is not a cheerful giver. He would not be sorry if there were no such thing as a hospital, just as he would not be sorry if there were no such thing as an income tax. No doubt most duties become pleasanter the more faithfully they are discharged, and if any one is conscious that he has no inclination to give, and no delight in doing it, he ought still to give because his conscience commends him. It would be well for such a man to remember that there is a very intimate relation between the concience and the heart. If the heart does not long to give, the conscience is very likely to be satisfied with gifts which would seem quite inadequate if he had the spirit of generosity. I am inclined to think that by following this course, and by praying to God very earnestly for the grace of generosity, the general spirit of charity will gradually be developed. But, I believe, there are many of you whom St. Paul himself would describe as cheerful givers. I think I know people who feel grateful to every one who makes known to them some new channel for their benevolence, who tells them of want which they can relieve, and sorrow which they can comfort.
1. For cheerful giving it is necessary, first of all, that the heart should be free from the spirit of covetousness. There is no harm that I can see in a man liking the things which only money can purchase; and there is no harm in desiring to make money in order to be able to purchase them. I cannot think that God is displeased if we like the pleasant things which He has made, for He meant us to like them, or He never would have made them. And if it is no sin to like them it is no sin to desire to have them; but we cannot have them without money. But it is possible to like these pleasant things too well, to have the heart absorbed by them; it is possible to care too much for them, and to be indifferent to the great end of life, and to those supreme duties which should have our first thought and our most earnest care. Perhaps it is not so much the love of the pleasant things which money brings which is the worst enemy of large-hearted liberality, as the desire to live in style, and the wish to accumulate money for its own sake. God loves a cheerful giver, because cheerful giving proves that the spirit of covetousness is blotted out.
2. For cheerful giving there must be a hearty sympathy with the particular objects for which we are asked to give. No doubt many accidental circumstances determine the direction in which our sympathies are directed. Many of us have a deep interest in missions to the heathen, whilst some of us care most about missions to the heathen at home. Some men are specially impressed with the importance of the duty of chapel building, and some--though not many--are particularly interested in our colleges. Many of us have known people who have gone to the hospital during the year, and have come out in health and strength, and it is hardly possible for any man with a human heart beating in his breast not to be touched by the appeal which comes to you to-day. God loves a man who gives cheerfully for an object of this sort because the gift is induced by the very spirit of compassion by which the hand of Christ was moved to confer miraculous relief. When we ask to be filled with the mind that was in Christ Jesus, we desire to be filled with the compassion for human misery that possessed Him.
3. In cheerful giving our gifts must bear a fair proportion to our resources. I believe that any man who gave a shilling at the collection last year, and was unconscious of any thrill of pleasure, would find that by giving ten shillings the pleasure would come. God Himself doubtless rejoices in all the joy with which His bountiful hand enriches His creatures. He loves a cheerful giver, because when a man gives cheerfully he gives not only at the impulse of a generous love, but he gives largely enough to make his gift a real sacrifice, and by every sacrifice for others we are brought into closer sympathy with God Himself.
4. Giving becomes most cheerful when it is exalted into an act of thanksgiving and an expression of love for God as well as for man. The collection is a part of the service; and it is something for us to have one portion of the service in which we may all take a part with cheerfulness. In very much of the service, I fear, there is very little joy for many of you. When we are showing forth God’s praise some of your hearts are filled with self-reproach, because there is not more fervour and gladness in thanksgiving. But those of you who are most depressed may rejoice that to one appeal which God makes you can respond with cheerfulness. To-day He asks us what we will do to lessen their suffering and restore them to health. He will rejoice if with any thoughts of them our hearts are moved with compassion, and if we give cheerfully out of love to them. But if we remember how dear they are to Him, and give the more largely because of that, He will rejoice the more. And we too shall give the more cheerfully if we remember that by our giving we not only alleviate human suffering, but made glad the heart of God. Here is something we can do for God Himself. You serve Me if you serve My children. “God loveth a cheerful giver,” for he who gives most cheerfully, gives out of love for God, as well as out of love for man. (R. W. Dale, D. D.)
God is able to make all grace abound towards you.--
The all-ability of God
These words stand in the heart of a chapter which is almost entirely occupied with instructions about giving. It is a habit of our apostle, in the discussion of a particular subject, to lift himself up suddenly to a higher level, where he can grasp some more general principle and command a wider outlook. The language of the verse is like that of Ephesians 3:20.
I. “God is able”--a very simple proposition. A self-evident one to those who really believe in God. Is not the opinion of many something like this?--“God is not able to do much specifically. Granting His personal existence, He can only act along the line of the laws, and in conformity with the great forces of the universe.” “God is able” is our answer to this. Whatever He has done, He can do again. Is He not the Creator still, every day? Every morning He says, “Let there be light.” Every year He says, “Let the earth bring forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind.”
II. Then surely He is able to rule the world He has created, and still creates. He is the Lord of Creation, and not its servant. The “laws” of the world are but the methods of God. Nature is God’s way of acting to-day. If He acts differently to-morrow, that will be nature too. It will be another nature, another method of God made known. He can act behind all the points that are visible to us, and without altering the “order of nature” He can produce what change He desires.
III. We may therefore ask Him to give us what we think would be good for us. There are limits to prayer as to everything else. Every one is bound to say with the Master Himself--“Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” Still there is room for prayer.
1. Take, e.g., “Give us this day our daily bread.” That scarcely any would object to. Even sceptical people wish to be fed. Even the richest of men need bread. But that simple prayer is an appeal to the all-ability of God; and if answered, as it is continually, involves supernatural considerations.
2. We pray to God also about the weather. But there are some who are almost afraid to pray about it. The feeling is: “We had better to leave it; God knows best what to do. We are under physical laws. If we pray at all, let it be for the spirit of submission to them.” This shadowy phantom that men call law, which is nothing but the present amount of their own knowledge of God’s methods of action, disappears for a while when the great Presence is realised, and then it comes stalking in again and makes for the throne, and its worshippers stand around with formula and definition, with records of discoveries, with catalogues of sciences and arts, and say, “Law is king.”
3. Thus we reach the solemn dread issue--“God or no God!” For if I may not ask my daily bread from God, if I may not tell Him what I wish about the weather, then what may I speak to Him about? “About spiritual blessings”; but are they not also given according to law? If God is bound to act invariably in the material sphere, He is equally bound to act invariably in the spiritual sphere; and if we may not pray to Him in the one, we may not pray to Him in the other. It is God or no God.
IV. Prayer springs from this faith that “God is able.” For what is prayer? “Our Father which art in heaven” is the answer. Prayer is the child speaking to the Father--asking anything that seems good and needful.
1. Prayer is asking. It is not dictation. If it were, it would be liable to the objections urged against it.
2. Answers come in many ways. They sometimes come by denial of the particular request, in order that a greater blessing may be given.
3. Do you say, “I am not so much concerned about the outward things of this life, but I am borne down by a sense of guilt: I see no way of escape, for it is written, “As a man soweth, so shall he also reap’”? I answer, “God is able to forgive.”
4. Do you say, “My nature seems strengthless. I can wish, but I can do nothing”? I answer, “God is able” to make you all that He designs man to be.
5. Or do you say, “I hope I am forgiven, and yet I am in fear. The heart is deceitful, temptation is strong. What if after all I should make shipwreck of faith”? My answer is, “God is able” to guide you safely through. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
I. The exhaustless treasure--“All grace.” You know if a man has got a little money, and he lives upon the principal, he may get rid of it all and be reduced to want; but here is a treasure that you may live upon--the interest and principal too--as long as life lasts.
1. This is treasured up by God the Father in His infinite, paternal love; and it can no more be plundered than it can fail or be exhausted.
2. It is held officially and responsibly by our covenant Head. He is the Treasure, and He is the Treasurer.
3. It is imparted by the Holy Ghost. It is His province first to implant all His own graces, and then to impart supplies to those graces to call them into lively exercise.
II. The aboundings of the supply. “God is able to make all grace abound towards you.” It is of no use for a man to tell me that he has abundance of gold locked up in an iron chest, and he has lost the key; but let it be brought out, and it may be of some importance. So also with the statement of my text. God does not deal as parsimoniously with us as as we with Him. It is abounding grace that He bestows.
1. He does not always meet the caprice, the carnal desire of His people, but He always makes His grace abound in everything they really need.
2. God makes all grace to abound for the replenishing of the exhausted child of God. Those of you who have been at all accustomed to sharp exercises will be prepared at once to recognise the seasons in which you have felt exhausted, just like the man that is running a race, and bids fair to win the prize, but his strength is exhausted, just like the man that has been hungering and thirsting a long while, and is almost wishing to die. Now, in such cases as these, what is the abounding of grace for but to replenish? “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.” (J. Irons.)
Being enriched in everything to all bountifulness.--
Reasons for penuriousness self-refuting
There are some words used by people in utter ignorance of their true meaning. When appealed to on behalf of some charity the stock excuses are “I must be economical--frugal--thrifty”; by which they mean that they must be narrow-hearted, niggardly, although they do not intend you to take that as their meaning. But never were words more misused. Let us see what they really mean.
I. Economical comes from the Greek root which means “home feeding.” Now, fathers and mothers, what does home-feeding mean? Just to measure out so many ounces to your little child, and a little more to your eldest one? Is that the way we feed our children? No! We set them down at the table and let them eat as much as they like, until they have had enough--that is economy. The Mosaic economy is the dispensation of God’s abundant graces through the teaching, etc., of Moses to the family of Israel. The economy of Christ is taken, I suppose, from the miracle of the loaves, where Christ stands as the Father, breaks the bread, blesses it, and gives it out, and there is enough and to spare. The economy of grace is God giving enough for each and all--bestowing His Holy Spirit, enough for each and for all. Economy is one of the noblest and most bountiful words in the language.
II. Thrifty. You say, “I must be thrifty,” and I hope you will; for it is an adjective derived from the words “to thrive.” And thrive as fast as you can, and God’s blessing be with you. But do not attach a meaning that is “mean” to it. A thrifty table is a thriving table, and a bountiful one too.
III. Frugal. This comes from the Latin Frugis, fruitful. A frugal table is a fruitful table, groaning beneath the weight of God’s temporal gifts. (R. Maguire, D. D.)
2 Corinthians 9:13-14
By the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ.
Professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ
We have here--
I. A summary of Christian principles--“The gospel of Christ.” And what is the gospel? It is, in short, a proclamation.
1. A full salvation.
2. A finished salvation.
3. A free salvation.
4. An infallible and eternal salvation.
II. An epitome of Christian experience. “Your subjection.”
1. This carries with it a supposition that man likes not the gospel of Christ naturally. And never will depravity give way until it is brought into subjection to the gospel of Christ.
2. The proof of this subjection is the being made willing to submit to the humiliating plan of salvation, and this is illustrated in the case of St. Paul.
III. An exhibition of Christian practice--“your professed subjection.” There is then to be a profession of religion. If retirement, if solitary communion with God had been all that was necessary, He would have appointed us to live in solitude rather than in communities. (R. C. Dillon, D. D.)
What is essential to Church membership
I wish to direct attention to the declaration of those who profess obedience to Christ by joining the Church. Such a one professes to have--
I. A clear understanding of the first principles of the gospel of Christ. One cannot make a profession truly unless he makes it intelligently. There is a difference between knowledge and faith, yet when there is faith there must be some knowledge. Ignorance marks credulity, but not faith. True, there is a difference between apprehension and comprehension. We often apprehend what we cannot explain. To be a Christian it is not necessary to be a theologian; yet there must be a clear conception that Jesus Christ is the Lord, that He has suffered and died to make salvation possible. In the present reaction against creeds we must see that we do not let go our hold on the essential truths.
II. A personal experience of the gospel’s power. Men should first come to Christ, then into the Church. I do not claim that the Church member should be able to tell the moment when he was born into the kingdom of the Saviour, or the details of his conversion. The watchman may not be able to tell when the first faint gleam of the day was on the eastern sky, etc. What I ought to know is that the day has dawned in my heart. It is not claimed that the Christian is to be perfect. The little one in the primer class is just as much a student as the youth with his calculus. So no one is to be excluded from Christ’s school because he is but learning the alphabet of His doctrine.
III. A willingness to sacrifice everything that is inconsistent with a Christian life. The Christian has one Lord, Christ Jesus. If he enters where there is another ruler, call it pride, fashion, or what you will, he becomes a traitor to his Lord. Remember, the Christian can have but one king. And think of Paul’s warning, that he that doubteth is condemned already.
IV. A willingness to work with the Church in behalf of Christianity. The Church has a work to do in the world.
1. To those who have professed this subjection, Have you kept this profession?
2. To those who have not made profession, Why have you not professed Christ? (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
The Christian’s surrender to Christ
The apostle expresses his thought in military language. He speaks of the confession of Christ which the Corinthian Christians had made as a surrender, in which they grounded the arms of their opposition and enlisted under His banner. He speaks of their subjection as a subordination to military authority. This is Paul’s idea of Church membership.
I. The gospel is a great body of truth received from heaven by immediate revelation, and for this reason of a higher order and more binding authority than any truth which comes to us in a natural way. To this system of revealed truth we are to subject our understandings. We are to receive it as the Word of God.
II. The gospel is the revelation of a method of salvation--a new method, one of which man never could have conceived--an exclusive method, so that a man must discard all others if he accepts this. Church membership implies, in this second sense, subjection of the heart to the method of redemption revealed in the gospel--the renunciation of all self-righteousness.
III. The gospel prescribes a rule of practical living. So, then, he is to subject his life to the guidance and control of the Holy Spirit.
IV. The gospel is God’s great agency for the regeneration, the purification, the enlightenment of the world. Church membership involves the subjection of one’s resources to the service of Christ. A man’s time, his influence, his money, all are to be laid upon the altar to be used as the Lord has need. This is the kind of Church membership we need to-day. (T. D. Witherspoon, D. D.)
Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.--
God’s unspeakable gift
Consider Christ as--
I. The gift of God.
1. What is not implied--
(1) That there is any posteriority on the part of the Son to the Father. The Son’s goings forth are “from of old--even from everlasting.” “Before Abraham was, I am.”
(2) That there is any inferiority in nature, perfections, or blessedness on the part of the Son; for what the Father is that the Son is.
(3) Still less that there was any involuntariness on the part of the Son to come to us. The Son was as willing to be given as the Father was to give Him.
2. What is implied--
(1) The Saviour’s appointment by the Father to the work of substitution for sinners.
(2) The Saviour’s subjection, as the sinner’s Substitute, to all the consequences which His situation entailed, having undertaken to make satisfaction for us.
(3) The application of the Son to the sinner’s soul as his portion, with all the blessings that are consequent upon His mission.
II. The unspeakable gift of God. Now this word “unspeakable” occurs only twice elsewhere (2 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Peter 1:8).
1. It is unspeakably great. Its greatness surpasses all human expression, it is a Divine gift. Divinity is the sun that lightens and gilds every passage of inspiration.
2. It is unspeakably free. And, after all, it is the freeness of this gift that makes it so worthy of God to bestow, and so fit for us to accept.
3. It is unspeakably necessary. We were lost, and none but Christ could find us; dead, and none but Christ could raise us; sunk, and none but Christ could recover us; afar off, and none but Christ could bring us in; guilty, and none but Christ could procure for us a pardon.
4. It is unspeakably efficacious. A gift may be exceedingly valuable in itself--it may have been bestowed by great kindness, but, somehow or other, it may fail of answering the end intended. But here is a gift that is efficacious.
III. A gift for which thanks are to re returned to God. These thanks must be--
2. Fervent and lively.
As Philip Henry says, “thanksgiving is good, but thanks-living is better.” (J. Beaumont, M. D.)
God’s unspeakable gift
I. The gift of God.
1. Its nature. It is the gift of His beloved Son. The prophets foretold Him as the gift of God--“Unto us a Son is given.” Jesus describes Himself as the gift of God--“God so loved the world that He gave,” etc. The apostles announce Jesus as the gift of God (1 Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:2.)
2. Its excellence. It is unspeakable in--
(1) Its source. The love of God. Who can tell why God hath loved us? who can calculate how God hath loved us? or who can comprehend the beginning or the end of the love of God in Christ Jesus? Who can tell its duration or its perfections, its tenderness, or its strength? Angels stoop from their throne in glory to contemplate and to adore the manifestation of redeeming love in Christ.
(2) Its value. To form some faint idea of the value of this gift, consider--
(a) the divinity of the Redeemer’s person.
(b) The depth of the Redeemer’s sufferings.
(3) Its character. All wisdom, mysteries, and blessings unite in Christ crucified.
(4) Its application is--
(a) Free. Jesus invites all, and casts out none.
(b) Spiritual. Though offered to all freely, the Holy Spirit alone can effectually apply it.
(5) Its effects. Pardon, peace, holiness, heaven.
II. The duty of man. To thank God for the gift of His Son.
1. With the gratitude of our hearts.
2. With the praises of our lips.
3. By the obedience of our lives. (J. Cawood, M. A.)
God’s unspeakable gift
All the gifts of God are good; but there is one which, in its intrinsic value and the importance of its blessings, infinitely transcends them all, so that, without exaggeration, it is “unspeakable.” That gift is Jesus Christ. It is unspeakable--
I. In the freeness of its bestowment.
1. It was unmerited; it was a gift to those who never had the shadow of a claim. It was a gift to man, not in a state of allegiance and innocence, but of rebellion and apostasy.
2. Never was gift so entirely unsolicited. The grace which was given us in Christ Jesus God gave us before the world began.
II. In its value.
1. In itself it is unspeakable. The wondrous union of the Divine with the human nature in the person of Immanuel is infinitely more than our feeble powers can comprehend. Yet it is a truth most clearly revealed. From this union arises His ability to save; hence the incalculable value of His sacrifice. On the one hand, being human, He can obey and suffer; on the other hand, being Divine, there is an infinite merit impressed upon His obedience and sufferings.
2. Its relative value. Think of the relation in which the Redeemer stood--
(1) To the Father. Think of the glory which He had with Him before the world was.
(2) To the universe, as the Creator, the Proprietor, and the Sovereign Lord.
III. In the results of its bestowment.
1. The salvation of men. This was the great object of the Redeemer’s mission. It is a salvation from--
(1) The pollution of sin. Purity is an essential part of it.
(2) The power of sin. Sin shall not have dominion over them who, being justified by faith, are no longer under the law, but under grace.
(3) The wrath of God. God is angry with the wicked every day.
(4) The sting of death.
(5) The resurrection of damnation, the terrors of judgment, and the pains of hell.
2. The honour of God. (T. Raffles, D. D.)
The unspeakable gift
I. Illustrate this interesting doctrine. By the gift of Christ we receive--
1. The gift of religious truth.
2. The gift of conscience. Where there is no truth there is no conscience; men seem asleep; in their trespasses and sins they are dead. Such was the state of the pagan world.
3. The gift of righteousness by faith. It is only by Christ that we come to know the fact that the God whom we have offended is placable, and that it is in His gracious purpose to forgive.
4. A new order of affections.
5. The privilege of public worship.
II. Improve it.
1. This unspeakable gift, with all its resulting blessings, may have been offered to us in vain.
2. In it see the love of God; His readiness to save.
3. If the gift be unspeakable, from the very fulness and variety of its blessings, then have we presented to us the noblest view of the true life of a Christian. In every other form of religion, or in those framed out of a corrupted form of the true religion, we soon see all that they can give; the spring is soon dry, or, rather, it never flows but in the imagination of the deluded votary. But here the fulness is inexhaustible, and spreads innumerable blessings before us in time and eternity. (R. Watson.)
The unspeakable gift
It is unspeakable because--
I. It is most precious (1 Peter 2:7). Suppose I put into your hand a large jewel worth ten thousand pounds; then I show you another, and say there are only four to be seen on the face of the earth. The one is costly, the other rare, and both are precious. Christ is precious because--
1. He is most valuable. His humanity is adorned with every grace; His Divinity is enriched with every perfection.
2. He is most rare. There is only one Bible, and that is enough. We have only one sun. So we have only one Saviour, and we need no other.
II. It is most comprehensive (Romans 8:32). It comprehends all we need for time and for eternity. They who receive this gift receive--
1. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost.
2. All spiritual privileges.
3. Heaven (John 14:1).
III. It is most suitable. They who receive this Gift receive raiment for their naked souls (Revelation 7:13). Those who are spiritually hungry receive “the Bread of Life” (John 6:48). Water is to satisfy the thirsty; they who receive this Gift receive the “water of life” (John 4:1-54). They who receive this Gift receive freedom from the captivity of Satan and of the world (Isaiah 61:1).
IV. It is most satisfying. The world never satisfies. That large bag of gold contains twenty thousand sovereigns. What is that written on the outside? “Satisfieth not.” But what is Christ? A Gift so precious that they who receive it are satisfied for ever.
V. It is eternal (Romans 6:20). You see inscribed upon all earthly things the words, “Only for a time.” (A. Fletcher, D. D.)
The unspeakable gift
I. Before we consider what this unspeakable gift is, let us consider those which can be easily spoken of.
1. What a wonderful world is this! What beauty, variety, majestic presence of law, vast order, infinite adaptations to the purposes of life! Go out on a summer morning. Man goes forth to his work and his labour, creating another world of art and use, a microcosm in the macrocosm. He also is allowed to be a creator in his little sphere.
2. Life is a little day, but how it is filled with opportunity for knowledge, for work, for love!
3. And what a wonderful gift is the human soul! What mysterious powers are hidden therein, slowly evolved into grand activities! For all this we may well thank God every day and every hour. But why? He does not need words of praise. He cannot love praise as men desire it. To this many would answer, “He wishes our praise, not for His own sake, but only for ours. It does us good to be grateful.” This is true as far as it goes, but only half the truth. There is a sense in which God may enjoy the thanks of His creatures. If those thanksgivings of ours come from love, then even the Infinite Majesty of Heaven may find joy in the grateful heart of creation, for love unites the high and the low. Who can ever despise or be indifferent to sincere love?
II. Love, then, is “the unspeakable gift.”
1. The gift which makes the value of all other gifts. We do not value a gift from man unless we see in it some love. Ingratitude is inability or unwillingness to recognise love in a giver.
2. Love is “unspeakable,” for who can describe even human love, much less infinite love? But what we cannot describe we can see and know. Who can describe the perfume of a violet? Yet we know it. Who can describe the melody in the song of a nightingale or the music of a gentle voice? But we know these, and can recall them after long years. So we may know, though we cannot describe, this unspeakable gift of Divine love. Men may receive all God’s other gifts, and if no love is seen in them they will awaken no gratitude. A man of taste may be gratified, but hardly grateful, in the sight of outward beauty. The sight of vast laws may gratify our desire for knowledge; a man may do right simply because it is right, and will find satisfaction in so doing. But the “unspeakable gift” may not be in any of these blessings. It is not till we see love in God’s gifts that we are grateful; and when we see love we cannot help being grateful.
3. But is not this the wonder of wonders, that the Infinite Being should not be above the reach of love? We see power, wisdom, benevolent adaptations everywhere; but before the personal being, the great heart of the universe, there hangs an impenetrable veil. To the intellect this mystery is unfathomable. But one has drawn aside that veil--one who from the first spoke of God as Father. We can come to the Infinite Being by the broad highway of reason. But who except Jesus has revealed the deeper mystery of Divine love? There have, indeed, been mystics in all religions who have sought by ascetic practices to purify themselves so as to meet God in their souls. But Jesus brings God’s love to all, not to the thinker or the monk, but to the humblest child of the Infinite Friend. The sailor on the high and giddy mast can feel beneath him the everlasting arms. The young soldier, dying in pain on the battle-field, can say, “My Father!” and be at peace. The sinner in the midst of temptation can utter in his heart a cry for help, and be pardoned and saved. The little child can talk with this dear Father, and its childish prattle will reach the Infinite ear.
4. And this unspeakable gift is given to you and to me. To us the word of this salvation is sent. Salvation! for what can be more safe than to feel ourselves in the embrace of an infinite love? Sacrifice and offering He does not require. He says only this, “My son, give Me thine heart.” And to enable us to do this He shows how He so loved the world as to give His only Son to bring the same sense of a Father’s love to the rest of His children. (J. Freeman Clarke, D. D.)
The gift unspeakable
Nothing can so excite God’s people to give to Him as the remembrance of what God has given to them. “Freely ye have received, freely give.” Gospel graces are best stimulated by gospel motives. The gospel is founded upon giving, and its spirit is giving. God gives us Jesus--everything in fact; and then, moved by love to Him, we give ourselves back to Him and to His people.
I. Christ is the gift unspeakable.
1. No man can doctrinally lay down the whole meaning of the gift of Christ to men. The devout and studious have themselves cried out, “Oh, the depths,” but they have not pretended to fathom this abyss of mystery. It is idle to attempt a definition of infinity. Theology can speak on many themes, and she hath much to say on this, but her voice fails to speak the whole.
2. No man can ever set forth the manner of this gift.
(1) The manner of the Father’s giving the Only-Begotten to us. We swim in mysteries when we speak of the Father and the Son. How, then, shall any explain how God could give the Son to die, He being one with Himself? Or, if he could explain, can he tell us what it cost?
(2) Our Lord’s sufferings when He was made sin for us. None can declare the greatness of His sufferings. Incarnation is but the first step, but of that first descent of love who shall declare the mystery? “Thine unknown sufferings,” says the Greek Liturgy, and unknown they must for ever be.
3. None can describe the boons which have come to us through the gift of Christ. There is, first of all, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace. Then comes adoption, and all that that means. “All things are yours,” etc. Other gifts may amaze us, but this overwhelms us. If the stream be fathomless who shall find a plummet wherewith to measure the fountain?
4. When it is best realised speech about it fails. Utterance belongs not to the deepest emotion. Some feelings are too big for expression. A dear lover of Christ wished to join a certain church, but her testimony was too little to satisfy the brethren, and they told her so; when, bursting through all bonds, she cried out, “I cannot speak for Him, but I could die for Him.”
5. Even when the Spirit of God helps men to speak upon it, they yet feel it to be unspeakable. You shall not be able to soar amongst the mysteries and then come back and say, “I can declare it all to you.” No, Paul “heard things which it were not lawful for a man to utter.”
II. Christ is a gift to be very much spoken of.
1. By thanks to God.
2. By deeds of praise. If our words have failed let us try actions, which speak more loudly than words.
(1) Give yourself away to your Lord. If God has given you Christ, give Him yourself. Ye are not your own.
(2) Then, having given yourself, give of your substance to God, and give freely. Nothing can be too good or great for Him.
(3) Deeds of patience are among the thanks which best speak out our gratitude to God. If you have lost everything but Christ, yet if you have Christ left you what have you lost? Why fret for pins when God gives pearls?
3. By always holding a thankful creed. Believe nothing which would rob God of thanks or Christ of glory. Hold a theology which magnifies Christ, which teaches that Christ is God’s unspeakable gift.
4. By bringing others to accept God’s unspeakable gift. Seek out those who do not know Christ, and tell them “the old, old story of Jesus and His love.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The gift of gifts
It is unutterably precious because--
I. Of the giver.
II. It includes other gifts.
III. It improves other gifts. Through it man values--
2. Human nature.
3. The Bible more.
IV. It makes us givers.
V. It is a gift to all.
1. Not a loan.
2. Not a purchase.
3. A gift, and a gift to all. (T. R. Stevenson.)
Praise for the gift of gifts
I. Salvation is altogether the gift of God.
1. It comes to us by Jesus, and what else could Jesus be?
2. Over and over again we are told that salvation is not of works, and these are themselves a gift, the work of the grace of God.
3. If salvation were not a free gift how else could a sinner get it? I know that there would have been no hope of heaven for me if salvation had not been the free gift of God to those who deserved it not.
4. Look at the privileges which come to us through salvation! They are so many and so glorious as to be altogether beyond the limit of our furthest search and the height of our utmost reach.
(4) Oneness with Christ.
(5) The Divine indwelling.
(6) Peace which passeth understanding.
(7) Victory over death.
II. This gift is unspeakable. Not that we cannot speak about it. How many times have I, for one, spoken upon it. It is like an artesian well that springeth up for ever and ever. We can speak about it, yet it is unspeakable. Christ is unspeakable--
1. In His person. He is perfect man and glorious God.
2. In His condescension. Can any one measure or describe how far Christ stooped?
3. In His death.
4. In His glory. When we think of His resurrection, of His ascending to the right hand of God, words languish on our lips.
5. In His chosen. All the Father gave Him, all for whom He died, He will glorify with Himself, and they shall be with Him where He is.
6. In the heart here. Throughout a long life and even in heaven Christ will be a gift unspeakable. “Eternity’s too short to utter half Thy praise.”
III. For this gift thanks should be rendered.
1. Some cannot say “ Thanks be to God,” etc., because--
(1) They never think of it. There must be “think” at the bottom of “thank.”
(2) Some are always delaying.
(3) Some do not know whether they have it or not.
2. Join me in this exercise.
(1) Thank God for this gift. Put out of your mind the idea that you ought to thank Christ, but not the Father. It was the Father that gave Christ. He gave His Son because He already loved us.
(2) Thank God only. Do not be thinking by whose means you were converted.
(3) Thank God spontaneously. Imitate Paul. When he sounded this peal of praise his mind was occupied about the collection, but, collection or no collection, he will thank God for His unspeakable gift.
(4) Thank God practically. Do something to prove your thanks.
(a) Look for His lost children.
(b) Succour His poor saints.
(c) Bear with the evil ones.
(d) Watch for His Son from heaven. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Gratitude to God for the mediation of Christ
I. We are, then, to show that God is entitled to the greatest gratitude because of the unspeakable gift of His Son Christ Jesus. Gratitude is that affection of the soul which is excited by acts of kindness done to us. It should always bear proportion to the kindness shown. But how can we estimate the degrees of kindness? In the case of a gift we may do this in the following manner: In proportion as that which is given is valued by the person who gives, in proportion as it is of advantage to the persons to whom it is given, and in proportion to its being undeserved or more or less strictly gratuitous, in the same proportion is the degree of kindness shown, and in the same proportion, consequently, is the degree of gratitude due.
1. Let us first consider the great value which God must have set on the gift. It was not one of the most exalted of our own order whom God gave to men as their Saviour, neither was it one of the angelic spirits who are far more exalted beings than the most exalted of the children of men. Now, if God has such a love to good and holy men as He is represented in Scripture to have, His love to so glorious a person as Christ above must be unspeakably greater. But this is not all. The particular name by which this glorious person is distinguished in Scripture plainly intimates the nature and strength of that love which the God of love must ever feel towards Him. He is called His Son, His own Son, His only begotten and well-beloved Son. If God has such an extraordinary love to those who are His adopted sons, as we find in Scripture He has, how inconceivably greater love must He always bear to the Son of His nature, who was ever with Him, and ever did the things which pleased Him! What unspeakable kindness towards men, then, did God discover in giving His own Son, a person of such worth, and so dear to Himself, to be their Saviour! How grateful a sense of His kindness ought such a gift to produce in us!
2. Let us, in the next place, consider the vast value of this gift to men. Many and valuable are the gifts which we have received from God, but of them all there is none so valuable as the gift of His Son, and of eternal life through Him. Its great superiority appears in this circumstance, that the bestowal of it was necessary in order to convert all other gifts into blessings. For what would the gift of life in this world, with all prosperity, have proved if the Son of God had not also been given that He might become the author of eternal salvation to as many as obeyed Him?
3. But let us, in the last place, on this part of the subject, consider our entire want of claim on God for this gift.
II. To inquire what some of the causes are of that base ingratitude with which the great body of the hearers of the gospel are chargeable, notwithstanding this unspeakable gift.
1. The first cause of this base ingratitude which we shall mention is ignorance of the nature and excellence of the gift. Knowledge is the light of the soul, and by it are the various powers and faculties of the mind directed in their operation. It is the perception of what is grand that excites our admiration; it is the perception of loveliness that excites our esteem; and it is the perception or knowledge of kindness shown to ourselves that excites our gratitude, Where there is no such perception or knowledge of kindness there can be no gratitude. Whether you neglect the Bible, or contemn and deny it, in order, as you may think, to show your superior wisdom and understanding, your ignorance of the nature and excellence of the gift of God made known to you in it must be highly criminal, and consequently the ingratitude which flows from your ignorance cannot be excused.
2. The next cause of this base ingratitude which we shall mention is error, or such opinions respecting this gift as derogate from its greatness and excellence. The gift is depreciated by making Christ a mere man, which lessen also the value of it to men by denying that they are so miserable as the Scriptures represent them to be, and which depreciate it further by magnifying the merit of human conduct, as if it deserved much favour.
3. Another great cause of ingratitude is insensibility of heart. This is the principal cause. It is the parent of the indolence and inattention which produce ignorance of Divine things in general, and of this gift in particular. It is also a prime reason of that perversion of understanding which embraces error for truth.
4. The only other cause of this ingratitude which we shall mention is pride. Pride, being a high sense of our own worth, is most unfriendly to the exercise of gratitude, because it always disposes us to look upon ourselves as entitled to those favours which we receive.
We come now to conclude the subject with a few reflections on what has been said.
1. In the first place, then, from this subject we may learn that God is entitled to our warmest gratitude for such an unspeakable gift as the gift of His only begotten and well-beloved Son.
2. In the next place, from this subject we must be convinced of the propriety of the feeling and language of Paul, and of those who, like him, are ready to say, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!”
3. In the last place, from this subject we are led to contemplate the baseness and depravity of our nature. (W. Auld.)
Christ, God’s best gift to man
I. Christ is the gift of god to men. He fulfils all the conditions of a gift.
1. He is something valuable.
2. He is offered to us freely; for God was under no kind of obligation to make us such an offer.
3. He is offered to persons who have no claim to such a favour. We cannot claim the offer of Christ as a recompense for injuries received from God, for He has never injured us; nor can we claim it in return for services performed, or favours bestowed, for we have never done anything for God.
4. Nor does God offer His Son with the expectation of receiving anything in return, for we and all that we possess are already His.
5. Nor does God offer us His Son with any intention of resuming the gift; for the gifts of God are without repentance.
II. This gift may be justly styled unspeakable. Observe--
1. That the love which led God to bestow such a gift upon us, must have been unspeakably great. Though Christ spoke as never man spake, yet even He could not describe it except by its effects. “God,” says He, “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” etc., thus intimating that His love could not be described, and leaving us to judge of its greatness by its effects. And, judging by this rule, how great must His love have been.
2. Christ’s worth and excellence are unspeakably great. He is the pearl of great price. In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and grace; His riches are unsearchable. In Him dwells all fulness, even all the fulness of the Godhead. In giving us Christ, therefore, God has given us Himself and all He has; and hence those who receive this gift are said to be filled with the fulness of God.
3. Unspeakable as is the intrinsic value of Christ, He is, if possible, still more unspeakably valuable to us. The value of a gift depends much on circumstances. Money may be a valuable present to any one; but to a man on the point of being dragged to prison for debt it is much more so. Medicine or food may be valuable in itself, but when given to a man ready to perish, its value is very greatly increased. So Christ is unspeakably precious in Himself. But how unspeakably more valuable is such a gift to us, who were on the point of perishing for ever.
III. This is a gift for which we ought to thank God with the most lively gratitude. Is it necessary to prove this? Is it not evident from the preceding consideration? (E. Payson, D. D.)
Unspeakable gifts of God
It may surprise some that concerning this passage there has been considerable difference of opinion among expositors. The point in dispute is this, to what particular gift of God did the apostle refer? Most readers instantly conclude that Christ is the gift. To what other gift of God can you give this title “unspeakable.” I refer to this reasoning only to remind you how fallacious it is. It has its roots not in an exaggerated idea of the greatness of the gift of Christ, for that is impossible, but it has its roots in unworthy notions of God’s other bounties. We should not say it must be the gift of Christ, because it is called unspeakable, for that is assuming God’s other gifts are such as our finite minds can clearly comprehend. It is true that Christ is an unspeakable gift of God. In the gift of Christ God’s love did transcend all His other manifestations; but it is also true that before Christ came from the heart of God to seek and to save the lost, gifts had been lavished upon the children of men of which we would have said their greatness surpasses our description. If we take the bounties of God and set them before our minds, and try to realise what we should feel, and what our earthly life would have been if those bounties had been denied, instead of saying one of His gifts is unspeakable, we should be more likely to say they are all unspeakable. Now look at some common bounties, as we call them; common, not because we can do without them, but because in the fulness of the Divine love they come constantly and they come to nearly all. In the beginning darkness was upon the earth. God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” That command is still heard, and by Divine power every night is turned to day. Can you gaze upon the glories of each new returning morning without feeling that this one gift of light repeated every twenty-four hours through the untold ages is an unspeakable gift? Sometimes you meet a man blind from his birth; you see him groping his way in the midst of the thousand fair things whose varied beauties are a perfect blank to him. When you put that man’s darkness by the side of your light, when you put that man’s poverty by the side of your wealth, do you not feel that you can with the utmost reason exclaim, “Thanks be to God for this unspeakable gift.” Sometimes you see a poor stricken sufferer who has borne the burden of pain and weakness well nigh through his life. When you think of his pain and feebleness, and of your own soundness and bodily health, vigour, and animal spirits, would it be exaggeration if you exclaimed, “Thanks be to God for this unspeakable gift”? Sometimes you meet a poor creature to whom the light of reason is denied, human as to his bodily form, but wanting in the mind, which is man’s crown of glory. He has no reason whatever to control his instincts and to subdue the strong passions of his body. He cannot look through nature up to nature’s God. When you look at him, what name do you give to your own faculties? There is but one name for your faculties; they are an “unspeakable gift.” Those who know me best will least need to be told that it is not mine to induce you to think less of Christ, the gift of gifts. Not less of Christ, but more of God’s other benefits. Now it is more than time to seek an answer to this question. Seeing that there are so many unspeakable gifts, and the apostle refers to only one, to which did he refer? Many able expositors contend that the gift the apostle refers to was the generous, liberal disposition of the Corinthian Christians to the poor saints at Jerusalem. “God has given to you, Corinthians, the heart to feel for others, He has given to you the readiness to help others. God be thanked for this unspeakable gift.” Then comes the question: Was the apostle thinking of this when he exclaimed, “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.” Those to whom I have referred believe that in effect the apostle said, “You, Corinthians, have never seen the poor suffering people at Jerusalem, but your hearts have bled with pity for them, and your hands have been held out bountifully. Your bountifulness makes many people believe in the gospel with greater faith and love.” I am afraid that such an exposition of the passage is what some selfish people have never dreamt of. They have looked at the words, and they have thought the apostle is speaking of some rich treasure which God has put into the hands of the people for their own use and enjoyment. It never occurred to them that he might mean something which God put into the hearts of the Corinthians to make them think and care for others, to make them deny themselves for the sake of others. A quick, sympathetic nature is an unspeakable gift; they make no effort at all to get that gift. But a great many people seem as if they do wish they could be delivered from the burden of all troublesome thought and affection towards others. If they could be their own creators, they would give themselves thoughts of tenderness towards themselves, and hearts of granite towards other people. He who wrote these words about this gift himself had it in rich abundance. At first he had a proud heart, a cruel nature, and the grace of Christ came and changed that nature, and made him responsive to the touch of everybody’s trouble. Yes, we must look at this gift not only in relation to this life, but in relation to the life which is to come. Those to whom God gives a gracious heart like His own, He does not intend to leave them for ever in this world of blended light and darkness, sorrow and joy. He intends very soon to take them where all is peace, and all is perfection, and all is blessedness. I have already given you two classes of exposition of this passage. Suffer me now to say a word about a third. The late Dean Alford took this text for a Whit Sunday sermon, and he said, “I hesitate not to say at once that the unspeakable gift is the gift of the Holy Spirit.” He contended that the blessing of Pentecost--the gift of the Holy Spirit--was the one even toward which all the other events of Revelation contributed. “The other gifts,” he said, “are means to an end, the indwelling of the Spirit in me is the end itself.” Was not Christ exalted that the Spirit might be given to men? No one will question that the gift of the Spirit is an “unspeakable gift.” This world, with all its light and comforts, we owe to the gift of the Spirit. If the unspeakable gift of the Spirit had not been given to Moses, David, Isaiah, and all the inspired writers, they would never have given us a book which above all others is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Not only was the Spirit needed for those who wrote; it is needed also for those who read. We know that he “that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved,” but how do we lack the patience, perseverance, and power necessary to continue to the end. But when the human knowledge and energy fails, the Divine force may secure the victory, and bring the man off more than conqueror. I daresay some of you, while I have been talking, have been like the dove out on the wild waste of waters, you are glad to get back with a weary wing to the old familiar ark, and you say, “After all you have said, it was Christ the apostle meant.” Be it so, you cannot go wrong in saying that that gift is unspeakable--unspeakable in the love it reveals unspeakable in the glorious issue it will ultimately have. Does some one say that I have touched upon so many unspeakable gifts that I have left him in confusion and perplexity? I am glad if it is so. I wanted to make you feel that God’s gifts are not one, nor two, nor three gifts only; they are not like two or three pyramids rising out on a flat and dreary desert plain. The region of God’s bounty is a mountainous region. “Peak after peak, alps upon alps arise.” The higher we climb the broader the vision becomes.. There is one higher than the rest, and I see a cross on its summit. To that summit we should look most frequently. It is there we are nearest to God; it is there we grow most into His likeness; it is there we drink most into His Spirit; it is there where sinful men get their guilt cancelled, and receive their passport to a crown and kingdom of glory that fadeth not away. Thanks be to God for every unspeakable gift. (C. Vince.)
The pricelessness of Christ
It is a peculiarity of St. Paul that the less reminds him of the greater. The most ordinary of facts suggest to him the sublimest of truths. The apostle is here enforcing the duty of liberality by a variety of arguments which reach their climax in the text. This gift of God is unspeakable because--
I. It possesses unspeakable worth.
1. Christ is the embodiment of a perfect humanity, and is precious as perfect purity must be amidst pollution, as perfect obedience must be amidst rebellion, as perfect love must be where each man seeks his own.
2. He is God manifest in the flesh. The hands that men touched fashioned the worlds. The eyes they looked into were those from which there is nothing hid. The voice they listened to commanded the hosts of heaven, and called the dead from their graves. Not till our arithmetic can reckon the wealth of omnipotence can we estimate the preciousness of Christ. He is unspeakably precious as the Picture and Transcript of God.
II. It provides for unspeakable needs.
1. Unspeakable guilt. When the soul sees how in Christ God can be just and the Justifier of the unjust, then it echoes the words, “Unto them that believe He is precious. Thanks be unto God,” etc.
2. Unspeakable weakness. And he who accepts it discovers that while the chains of justice fall off from his limbs, a new tide of vigour flows all through his being. That is a treasure indeed which contains both the key that unlocks the prison doors and the medicine that restores the released man’s health, sending him forth on existence not only free but whole.
3. Unspeakable loneliness. Man is without friendship, or at least such a friendship as he really needs. Circumstances happen when man, however plentiful or loving his friends may be, must feel alone. There are the isolations of individual perplexity, sin, sorrow, and death. Give me the presence of One who is wise enough to say, “This is the way, walk ye in it,” in my hours of doubt--gracious enough to say, “I have seen thy ways and will heal thee,” in my hours of remorse--loving enough to say, “Cast thy burden upon Me,” in my hours of trial--near enough and strong enough to say, “When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee,” at the time when my feet feel the chill waters of death. Give me the presence of a Comforter like this; then will the heart be satisfied. This need is supplied by God’s unspeakable gift.
III. It conveys unspeakable blessings. Large as the wants are, the provisions are larger; great as man’s poverty is, greater still is God’s grace. It is one thing to take a vessel and to fill it; it is another to place it in a boundless sea, where it may ever float, and ever be brimming.
1. God not only gives pardon for guilt. Not as the offence is, so is the free gift; but where sin hath abounded, there grace hath abounded much more; and they whom God pardons He raises to infinite dignity. What other king ever translated rebels from the prison-house straight to the palace, and gave them a share in the children’s heritage?
2. God not only discloses for weakness a sufficiency of strength; in Christ there is the pledge of unspeakable victory. It were much to stand in the evil day; but those who have Christ shall be more than conquerors.
3. God not only proffers companionship for loneliness, but affords unspeakable sympathy. In Christ there is a fellow-feeling so wide that it sweeps the range of every emotion, and so true and so delicate that it can touch the tenderest and not jar.
IV. It is the evidence and embodiment of unspeakable love. Here we reach the spring and the origin of all. (W. A. Gray.)
God’s unspeakable gift
1. Christ brought us truth on the highest questions of all, and taught us that truth most fully. We prize, and justly prize, the great masters who gave us the knowledge of nature--Copernicus, Galileo, Newton; Darwin; but more momentous still are the instructions of Moses, Isaiah, and the great moral masters of the ages. Here Christ is supreme. He vindicated and disclosed the spiritual world and the spirituality of man with surpassing authority and power. He made it impossible henceforth that the race should lose itself in materialism and sensuality. In Christ we have in its fulness the precious doctrine of grace, forgiveness, peace.
2. Christ brought righteousness. He secured to us the power of purity. He inspires the strength by which the highest goodness is attainable.
3. Christ brought us hope. He came into the world in an age of weariness and despair, and He made everything to live by putting into the heart of the race a sure and splendid hope. The advent of Jesus mightily enriched the race in incorruptible treasure--in knowledge, kindness, purity, and hope. How much it enriched us none may tell. The gift is “unspeakable.” Have we received the unspeakable gift? Men do not readily believe in and accept the highest gifts. They are often strangely blind. Did they welcome Gutenberg? Did they strew flowers for Columbus? The world did not believe in these great donors; the gifts they brought were too grand. So, when the “unspeakable gift” was given, men stood aloof in insensibility or scorn. Christ came to His own, but they received Him not. The message of God’s redeeming mercy is disregarded by multitudes of nominal Christians. Every now and then we hear of a superb masterpiece being discovered in a house where for years it has been neglected and unknown. The picture has been the butt of wit, it has had penknives through it, it has been relegated to the attic. But in how many houses is the gospel, the masterpiece of God, ignored and despised! The savage living in a land of rich landscapes, of gorgeous birds, of priceless orchids, of reefs of gold, of mines of diamonds, of stores of ivory, and yet unconscious of it all, possessing nothing but a hut and a canoe, is a faint image of thousands in this Christian land who are living utterly unmindful of the boundless spiritual treasure close to their feet. Some of us have received the crowning gift of God; but we have not fully received it. That is a striking passage in Obadiah: “The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.” What a great deal belongs to us that we do not possess! It lies beyond us untouched, unseen, unrealised. Our poor experiences are not the measure of the gift of Christ. We have the dust of gold rather than the gold itself, a few rose leaves rather than the garden, grape gleanings rather than the vintage. And let us not miss the great practical lesson of the text. The theme of the chapter is that of ministering to the saints. If God has been so magnificent in His generosity to us, what ought we to deny our brother? Our thanks for Heaven’s infinite gift must be expressed in our practical sympathy with the sons and daughters of misfortune and suffering. (W. L. Watkinson.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Corinthians 9". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29