The Unsearchable Riches of Christ

  “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given , that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hidden in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.” – Ephesians 4:8-9 Introduction             Many in the world today, indeed, many in the Church are in search of “life,” “joy,” and “fun.” Many leaders in our churches seem to be obsessed with the idea of communicating to their congregations that we “just want to have fun.” In other words “we can have fun” and design the worship service so that “pagans” will want to come and join in the “fun.” Consequently, many churches have opted to design their worship services around an “entertainment format” where they refrain from preaching Christian doctrine, refrain from talking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, refrain from telling people of the crucifixion and the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from all sin and refrain from singing what many believe to be “stodgy old hymns out of the hymnal.” Rather, they have opted for a form of moralism in their preaching, indeed, sometimes patriotism, and the use of essentially what could be best described as “rock music” where a particular phrase such as “we love you” is repeated in what is known loosely as “contemporary music.” Many leaders of these so called “worship services” proclaim a particular kind of political involvement or preach morality and ethics and may even preach a form of religion, or even godliness in general, but lacking the power that only Christ gives.             In the third chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Church at Ephesus, Paul reveals to the church (and to us) the mysterywhich at that time had not been made known to the sons of men as it was only then being revealed by the Holy Spirit to His Holy Apostles and Prophets, to wit, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of God’s promise in Christ Jesus through (and only through) the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul also reveals that he had been made a minister of this gospel according to the gift of the grace of God given unto him by the effectual working of God’s mighty power. This mystery was being revealed to the church at Ephesus (and to us) at that time, and is still being revealed as we see later on in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians church, “to the principalities and powers in heavenly places according to God’s eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So, how does this relate to what is being taught in our churches today? Paul reveals the answer to this question in part in the 8thverse of the third chapter of his letter to the church at Ephesus where he says:                       “Unto me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given that I should preach among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” I.                    The Gift of God             Paul has revealed in the second chapter of his letter to the Ephesians that they had been dead in their trespasses and sins by nature.They had been as he was, children of wrath by nature. The critical transition begins in the fourth verse of the second chapter where the apostle says, “…but God has made us alive together in Christ Jesus; by grace you have been saved.” Grace of course is God’s unmerited favor. A sheer gift of God to make us alive in Christ. It cannot be earned, bartered for, or acquired by any other means other than the sheer gift of God. “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God.”Note the negative; It is not of works lest any man should boast. Again, here in verse 7 of the third chapter, Paul elaborates that not only had he been “made alive” in Christ Jesus by the sheer gift of God, he has also been made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto him by the effectual working of God’s mighty power. He repeats it again in this seventh verse where he describes himself as the least of all saints and repeats that this grace is givenunto him. This is the word then that introduces the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Any hope of salvation for any person in the world now, or who has ever been in the world, or who ever will be in the world is God’s grace. Life is given! Life abundantly is given! Faith is a sheer gift! Repentance unto life is a sheer gift! It is given. Thus, it is all of grace, it is all given. Paul doesn’t even feel himself to be worthy of anything as he describes himself as being “the least of all saints.” Therefore, he is absolutely amazed that God has freely given him salvation, love, mercy and compassion. Indeed, we see from the Old Testament that it is because of God’s tender mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.” A.     The Power that Accompanies the Gift             Not only does Paul make sure that these Ephesian Christians know that he is telling them that he has received all of this as a sheer gift, but he also wants them to understand that this sheer gifthas been given in a particular manner that is by “the effectual working of God’s mighty power.” The apostle has already said in the first chapter of his epistle to the church at Ephesus that we have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. “What can make the foulest clean? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Therefore, we see that the fundamental question confronting any preacher who claims to be a preacher of the Gospel of Christ is to recognize what Paul is preaching here, to wit, what is it that can turn any man from being a hater of God, a blasphemer, a hater of the Lord Jesus Christ, to one who loves the Lord God? In the first chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth he tells the Corinthian Christians that Christ had not sent him to baptize but to preach the Gospel of Christ “not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.” He identifies that the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, indeed, “the message of the cross of Christ is foolishness to those who are perishing…” Therefore, the question is what is it that can turn those who believe that the Gospel of Christ is foolishness, or for one reason or another have abandoned the preaching of the Gospel of Christ even to the extent of designing church worship services for the pagans, into those who delight to tell others of Jesus and  want to know more of Jesus. It’s not just knowing facts about Christ, but to know Him.  To know “the fellowship of his sufferings if by any means he can obtain unto the resurrection of the dead”, and who want to live for Jesus. What can do that? According to Paul, there is only one answer; the effectual working of God’s mighty power through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is nothing else! II.                  The Gospel of Jesus Christ             To be “born again,” to become a “new creation,” to be made a “new man;” only the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ driven home by the effectual working of the power of God can accomplish these mighty works. Only the gospel of Christ which is “God’s Power unto salvation to everyone that believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” can change a heart, or change a life. Only the Lord God can create. It is this effectual working of the power of God through the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that makes anyone a Christian. One cannot design a worship service for pagans and thereby make Disciples of Christ! One maygarner disciples, increase numbers, increase followers, but they are not disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ! A.     The Will of God             After John, the apostle whom Jesus loved disclosed that Jesus is “the bread of life,” “the true bread from heaven” “the bread of God…who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world,” we see the Lord Jesus Christ himself state that the will of the Father who sent Him is that all that the Father has given Him shall come to Him and none shall be lost. Jesus declares that He should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. He also declares, “This is the will of Him that sent me, that everyone who sees the son and believes in Him may have everlasting life, and I will raise Him up at the last day.” Jesus also declares in chapter 6 of the Gospel of John, “No man may come unto me unless the Father who sent me draws him unto me.” The promise is that Jesus will raise him up at the last day. Again, Jesus declares in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, “He who believes in me (the Lord Jesus Christ) has everlasting life.” He declares himself to be the bread of life. He declares himself to be the bread which comes down from heaven. He is the living bread, and He declares that He is “the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes unto the Father but by me (Jesus).” B.      The Content of the Gospel             This quote “Gospel of Christ” which is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes…” tells us that in the fullness of time God sent forth His only Son, born of a woman, into the world. He describes His Son as the Eternal Word of the Living God, that is, God the Son. He was sent forth unto His own, but His own received Him not. “But as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on His name.” Jesus lived among men and they beheld His glory, the glory like unto the only begotten of the Father. Jesus did many things in the presence of His disciples which are not written in the Bible but the apostle John records that the things that are there are written that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” In the fullness of time, Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem knowing His mission. He voluntarily surrendered His life a ransom for many. “For He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” He took our sorry records and gave us His perfect record that in Him we might have righteousness and peace and eternal life. He voluntarily, went to the cross and shed His blood for us in obedience to the will of His Father, delighting to do the will of the Father. The third day He rose again from the dead. He walked among His brethren and was eventually taken up out of their sight into the clouds, and the Lord sent  an angel to tell His disciples that He would come again in the same manner in which He had departed. What an amazing statement. What amazing love.  “Amazing love how can it be? That thou my God has’t died for me.” III.                The Mission of the Ministers of the Church of God             The mission of the minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to do exactly what the apostle Paul reveals here in the third chapter of his letter to the church at Ephesus. It is to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. No minister can preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in his own strength or in his own power. He can perhaps talk and even talk eloquently, but talk is not preaching, and it will lead to absolutely nothing. Only the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, pressed home by the “effectual working of God’s mighty power” can change a heart. A man can attempt to preach with all of his eloquence, with all of his power, with enticing words of man’s wisdom and it will remain ineffective to change a heart. Indeed, the apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2 that his preaching was “not with enticing words of man’s wisdom,” but “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Paul was not dependent on any human gifts or methods or contrivances. Paul was a well-educated rabbi, having studied at the feet of Gamaliel. He was a well-educated, apparently eloquent man, who was a citizen of Rome; nevertheless, he did not rely on his own strength. Indeed, we see in Philippians 3 where he says, “we should worship God in spirit and in truth and rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ and place no confidence in the flesh.”  Therefore, the apostle Paul set his mind and set his heart to preach “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Obviously, this is a magnificent phrase. Even the great expository preacher of the 20thcentury D. Martin Lloyd-Jones said, “I do not hesitate to assert that the test of all preaching is its conformity to this definition of the message, and to this standard.  The business of any man who claims to have been called to be a minister of the gospel is to preach ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ.’” [1][1] IV.               What This Is Not                       This is not preaching about current events, international or national problems, political, industrial, and economic situations. All of these matters are what many so-called ministers in the Christians church believe to be relevant and think that they are required to deal with directly. Martin Lloyd-Jones says, “I repeat that is not the primary business of the Christian minister. “ “It is dangerous for ministers, whether their position in the church be exalted or otherwise, to express their opinions on such matters. The Christian minister is called to preach ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ’.”             D. Martin Lloyd-Jones also says that, “It is not the business of the Christian minister to be a stand-up comedian, to be a cheerleader for his favorite sports or athletic team, nor is it the business of the Christian minister to preach patriotism.” Many in the past have seemed to be some kind of “chaplain” mouthing vague generalities of morality or some general “do-good” ethic. The Jews have done that. Indeed, the Jews of the first century were teaching morality. Even pagan philosophers have “preached” morality. This is not a call to preach religion, nor even godliness in general. There are men who may be “religious” who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. Muslims call on people to pray “religiously and to conform to certain standards requiring them to discipline themselves in a very stern way. They proclaim a worship of Allah so there is a form of religion that one might even believe to be godliness, but it is not preaching Christ. V.                 The Unsearchable Riches of Christ                       Thus, what we see here in the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is that the Christian minister is called to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. What is this unsearchable riches of Christ? First, it is Christ himself. Christ himself is “the unsearchable riches.” This is what is revealed in the first three chapters of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. These “unsearchable riches” are in Him. He is the mystery of the incarnation. The message of Christianity is Christ himself. Paul says in his letter to the church at Philippi that “for him to live is Christ.” Later in his letter to the church at Philippi, he says, “Apart from Christ I can do nothing.” Jesus says, “Apart from Him we can do nothing.”            D.  Martin Lloyd-Jones also says that, “In many respects, the word “unsearchable” means untraceable, a mystery.” Although the riches have been revealed, nevertheless, unsearchable certainly means that no individual can ever find and lay hold on these riches in and of himself. Indeed, on January 7, 1855, the minister of the New Park Street Chapel in Southwark, England opened his morning sermon in part as follows:            “It has been said by someone that ‘the proper study of mankind is man.’…It is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mindin a contemplation of the divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self content, and go our way with the thought, ‘behold I am wise.’ When we come to this master science, finding that our plumb line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn exclamation, ‘I am but of yesterday, and know nothing’. No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God…            But while the subject humblesthe mind, it also expandsit. He who often thinks of God will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe… the most excellent study for expanding the soul is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the deity.            And, whilst humbling and expanding, the subject is eminently consolatory. O, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in His immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning…” – Charles H. Spurgeon, January 7, 1855. Thus we see and gain some insight into this phrase the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” Indeed, as Martin Lloyd Jones said, “We shall spend our eternity in discovering fresh aspects and facets of the unsearchable riches of Christ, unsearchable, untraceable!” A.     The Revelation of Someof the Unsearchable Riches of Christ.             A review of some of these unsearchable riches discloses that God is able! He is able to do all things. In chapter nine of second Corinthians Paul says, “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you always having all sufficiency in all things may abound unto every good work.” I have heard men who proclaim themselves to be ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ declare that Jesus is not sufficient. Poppycock! He is our “All in All.” He is able to make all grace abound toward us. In the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he states, “God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think…” The riches of Christ are inexhaustible. Whatever my need, Christ has it. In 1 Corinthians Paul says, “…God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”  (1 Corinthians 1:30) He gives us trust. He gives us wisdom.  He tells me how a sinful man can stand before God. (Job 9:2) He is our righteousness. He is also our sanctification. He is our redemption. He is our life. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) Of course, this means spiritual life, and a relationship with the living God and to enjoy His fellowship. Jesus says in John 5, “Most assuredly, I say unto you, he who hears my word and believes on him who sent me has everlasting life, and shall not come unto condemnation, but has passed from death unto life. Most assuredly, I say unto you, the hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the son to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this for the hour is coming when, all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come forth – those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation.” (John 5:24-39) Do you know Him like this? Have you heard His word and believed in Him who sent Christ and you now have everlasting life and shall not come into judgment but have passed from death unto life? If not, ask Him to draw you unto Christ. Ask Him to give you faith to believe His Word and repentance unto life, all as a sheer gift. All because He gives unsearchable riches in Christ.            Christ himself is the unsearchable riches. Jesus said in the Gospel of John Chapter 17 verse 3, “And this is eternal life that they might know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” It is as I know him and possess him that I am a participant in these unsearchable riches. Jesus is our hope. Paul writes in Colossians “Christ in you the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) He comes into our life and into our heart and he dwells there. I have heard men professing to be ministers of the Gospel of Christ state that Christ does NOT dwell in our hearts. In this very chapter, chapter 3, the apostle prays that God would “grant according to his riches in glory that we be strengthened with might by his spirit in our inner persons, that Christ would dwell in our hearts by faith, that we would be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and know the fullness of Christ which surpasses knowledge.”            Christ gives us rest. Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Christ gives us peace. He is our peace. Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace give I unto you, not as the world gives give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid.” Therefore, no matter what is happening in the world, Jesus gives us peace. He is our peace. He is our joy. The apostle writes in Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let all your requests be made known unto God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Jesus gives us contentment. We see in Philippians 4 that even Paul tells the church at Philippi, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know how to be abased and I know how to abound… I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13) We are joint heirs with Christ we see in Romans 8, “Wherefore, we see this magnificent statement that Paul had been made a minister of the Gospel of Christ by the effectual working of God’s mighty power and the message had been given unto him to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. This is the message that is given to every person who professes to be a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and he isto preach it. D.     Conclusion                       Those of us who know the Lord Jesus Christ, know Him for one reason only. It has been givento us as a sheer gift. We have both the opportunity and the duty to tell others of the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” We must learn to be not only hearers of God’s Word, but also doers of God’s Word. As we are being watched and observed, many people judge what we saythat we are by what we are actually doing. The old proverb, “Actions speak louder than words” tells us that actions are important. We should realize that we are being watched by our children, by our grandchildren, by our friends and neighbors, as well as, by our enemies. Our lifestyle, our actions, if we know the Lord Jesus Christ, should manifest Christ. What we believe should result in governing our actions. In reality it does. Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Proverbs tells us that “as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” How do you think in your heart? Are you amazed that God has commended His love toward you in that while you were yet a sinner Christ died for you? Do you know Him? Do you want to know Him more? As the quote from Charles Spurgeon stated above, are you contemplating Christ for there is in His contemplation a balm for every wound; are you musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost there is a balsam for every sorrow. Do you want to know more of Him? Do you want to know more of the unsearchable, untraceable, riches of Christ? The world judges Christ by what they see in us. If we give the impression that at the first sign we are wringing our hands “like a chicken with its head cut off,” the world will not listen to your message, nor will it look to Christ. If they see in you the peace that passes all understanding, the realization that Christ is our sufficiency for all things, the fact that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can even ask or think; the calmness, the balance, the peace of Christ; the poise, the joy in the midst of the hurricane of life, we gain the very means perhaps of opening their eyes and telling them of Jesus who is mighty to save that God may grant them repentance unto life and saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.            Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ that Great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the everlasting covenant make you perfect in every way to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ our Lord, and may you teach and preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, to whom be glory and praise and honor forever and ever. Your friend in Christ,  


[1][1]Ephesians 3, Page 56 D. Martin Lloyd Jones. 

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