Unspeakable blessings beyond understanding.

A close look at 1 Peter 1:8; 2 Corinthians 9:15; 12:4

George Eliot, who in real life was Mary Ann Evans, wrote “Scenes in a Clerical Life” in 1858, but it could have been written today for it concerns a real danger facing the Church in the 21st century. The problem involves believers saying all the right things yet not having a corresponding Christological experience. It is possible today to have a good understanding of Christian doctrine, be able to express your beliefs is an accurate manner and yet never have experienced the reality of those truths. How many people sing every Sunday hymns that speak of God’s amazing grace and the power of His presence and have never actually experienced either? That a person can talk about God and go to church, is no proof that they actually know God or have a relationship with Him.

Another problem with the Church in the 21st century is that of having an experience with Christ that you can easily reduce to a few words. Such experiences are so commonplace, one wonders if they are really experiences at all. Shame on us if we are able talk about being in God’s presence as easily or effortlessly as we talk about being around our neighbors.

Consider the greatest things of human life and how difficult they are to put into words: a mother’s love, for example. Who can adequately describe that? Or what about the profound grief one experiences at the loss of a loved one. Is that experience easily put into words? Yet how glibly we speak about our relationship with Christ!

In the Bible, we have recorded for us three instances where men of God experienced something so profound as to be “unspeakable.” Let’s consider all three of them.

1. An unspeakable gift, 2 Corinthians 9:15. The NIV translates this verse as God’s “indescribable gift.” Weymouth renders it His “unspeakably precious gift,” and the KVJ reads, God’s “unspeakable gift.” The wording may be slightly different, but the sense of the verse is clear: there is a gift from God that is beyond description. This verse might be considered another Pauline doxology. This was a common technique Paul employed in his writing; in the middle of an important discussion, he would pause and give God praise or worship. In this case, however, the doxology is intimately connected to what the Apostle had been addressing. He had been discussing the gifts of the Macedonian believers and holding them up as an example worthy to be copied by the Corinthians. The thought of God’s grace and goodness overwhelmed Paul and he burst forth with verse 15.

There is something wrong with a believer who is not moved at the thought of God’s love, grace and mercy. There is something wrong with us if, once in a while, we are not similarly affected. One infallible test of a mature believer is a growing appreciation of the love of God expressed in Christ, and of His substitutionary, atoning death on the Cross. God’s gift of salvation cannot be overestimated and surely the love of God is something unfathomable. God’s gift to man is a Person; a wondrous Person. When was the last time YOU thanked God for His unspeakable gift. Is the Gift unspeakably precious to you? Does Jesus thrill you? If not, why not?

2. Unspeakable words, 2 Corinthians 12:1—4. Paul is writing here of his own experience. He is disclosing a personal secret has had kept for 14 years. At that time, Paul would have been stoned, just outside Lystra (Acts 14). It is very possible Paul was actually killed during the stoning, and while his body lay there he found himself caught up to Paradise. As his work on earth was not finished, God performed a miracle and raised the Apostle from the dead. While he was in heaven, Paul heard words he could not possibly repeat, perhaps because there were no “human words” capable of describing the things he heard.

An interesting sidelight here is the effect the death and resurrection of Lord had on Paradise. Before the Cross, Paradise was “beneath,” according to Luke 16:19—31, in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40). This is where Christ went at His death. When He rose from the dead, He transferred Paradise to the third Heaven, the immediate presence of God (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4; Ephesians 4:8—10), though leaving the place of the departed souls of the ungodly just as before.

For the believer, today, our Paradise the knowledge that beneath us are His everlasting Arms; our Paradise in the future will be the immediate presence of the Lord.

3. Unspeakable joy, 1 Peter 1:8. That’s how the KJV translates it; another version goes like this: “Ye exult with a triumphant happiness, too great for words.” There are joys that may weaken the soul and distract the mind, but not this joy—it is crowned with glory. To whom was Peter addressing when he wrote these words? He was speaking to poor, despised and persecuted folk, many of whom had been robbed of their property for the sake of Christ. They were believers in Christ who were suffering on account of their faith. Joy, therefore, does not depend on what we have, but on what we are; not on circumstances, but on communion with Christ.

This is not an exhortation, but a statement of fact. Peter was not urging them to rejoice, but rather simply stating what had already taken place in their own experience. Evidently, this was their normal experience. How many believers today fall short of an experience of this sort?

Notice the order of these three “Unspeakables.” First we have the unspeakable Gift, then the Words and finally the Joy. Before the experience, you must receive the gift. The first thing you must do is receive the gift. Then it is our privilege to walk and talk with God in fellowship and communion. That will be the possession of a joy that cannot be described.

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