God’s Great Gift

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” —II Corinthians 9:15

THE HOLIDAY SEASON toward the end of the year is when the spirit of giving is more universally manifested than at any other time. How appropriate that Christians should, now and always, remember that in God we have the greatest of all examples of unselfish giving. Indeed, the gift of his Son is so far beyond our ability to comprehend fully that it can be truly described as ‘unspeakable’. How very practical is Paul’s reference to God’s great gift, for he reminds us of it as a climax of an appeal to the Corinthian church for funds to be used on behalf of their brethren in the famine-stricken land of Judea.

Little mention is made in the New Testament of the financial needs of the brethren, or of the Lord’s work in the Early Church, although the subject is not entirely ignored. Jesus and the apostles had a treasurer. For a time after Pentecost, the disciples put all they had into a common treasury, to be used as needed by the brethren and for the work. This arrangement, of course, did not continue long.

When famine conditions arose in Judea, Paul did not hesitate to collect funds for brethren elsewhere to help supply the needs of the brethren in the stricken areas. He complimented the brethren at Corinth for their generosity, and assured them that the Lord loves a cheerful giver. (II Cor. 9:7) In all these various references to finances, however, there is no indication that the brethren of that day engaged in specially planned campaigns of money-raising, nor that every meeting of the disciples for study and worship was made an occasion for taking up a collection. They were not ashamed to mention the subject when the need arose, but money-raising was not the major business of the Christian life.

In the Early Church, gifts of money were an obvious manifestation of the true spirit of Christ in the hearts of those who had consecrated themselves to follow in his footsteps. In setting forth the terms of discipleship Jesus told the rich young ruler that he should sell all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor. As the Early Church understood it, consecration to the Lord meant giving everything to him, even life itself, and that the Lord in turn made them stewards of that which now belonged to him, including their time, strength, money, their all, to be used in his service.

So we find that the subject of giving to the Lord, whether it be for the furtherance of the Gospel, or for the spiritual or material needs of his people, was far from taboo in the church. Indeed, quite the contrary is true, for in our text the Apostle Paul lifts it up to a sacred position in the hearts of the Corinthian brethren by likening it to what our Heavenly Father has done for us and for the world by the gift of his Son. It is after using such expressions as: ‘He which soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly’; ‘Let him give, not grudgingly’; and, ‘Your liberal distribution unto them’, that he closes his appeal, saying, ‘Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift’.

The apostle reminds us that God’s gift of his beloved Son to the church and to the world is the most precious of any and all gifts ever bestowed, costing our Heavenly Father more in sacrifice and suffering than has ever been equaled by any disciple of Christ; approached only by Jesus, who, in following the example of his Father, gave himself to die on the cross that all might have an opportunity to live. It is this principle of giving, this true spirit of charity, or love, that is emphasized in the New Testament, and its outworking in the details of our Christian lives will of necessity cause us to be unselfish and liberal in the use of whatever resources may come under our control as the Lord’s stewards.


In the act of giving, both the giver and receiver are made happy. We know how much joy God’s gift to us has brought, and we believe it must be true of our Heavenly Father, as stated by Jesus, that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) The joy of both the giver and receiver is enhanced when the gift is specially examined and appreciated. Should not our joy, then, be increased by refreshing our memories concerning some of the virtues of God’s unspeakable gift to us, for in doing so we are sure to find in him the one who “is altogether lovely, the chiefest among ten thousand.”

Who, then, was Jesus, this one whom the Heavenly Father gave to be the Redeemer and Savior of the world? John identifies him in his prehuman existence as the “Logos,” or ‘Word’, declaring, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with [the] God, and the Word was [a] god. … All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. … And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”—John 1:1-14

In Revelation 3:14 we read, “Unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the Creation of God.” The Heavenly Father himself, speaking to us through the psalmist concerning his Son declares: “I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.” (Ps. 89:27) In another scripture, where the Logos is personified as ‘Wisdom’ he is quoted as saying, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. … Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.”—Prov. 8:22-30

The scriptural testimony is clear that the one whom our Heavenly Father chose to be his gift for the redemption of the world was the highest of all his creatures, and the very beginning of his Creation, and that he participated in all the remaining Creative work. The Scriptures also indicate that the association of the Father and the Son was a very intimate one, that the Son was constantly a delight to his Father, doing always those things which were pleasing to him. This fellowship of interest is revealed in the Genesis account of Creation, where we find the Father saying to his Son, “Let us make man in our image.” (Gen. 1:26) Who among us today would not thrill to have our Heavenly Father speak to us in such an intimate manner. Surely the partnership of the Father and the Son must have been hallowed and sweet, and their love for each other deep beyond the ability of the human mind to grasp.

It was this beloved Son whom the Heavenly Father elected to give for the redemption of the sin-cursed and dying race. No wonder that John, in writing about such a gift, emphasized the extent to which it manifests God’s love for the world, saying that he “so” loved the world “that he gave his only begotten Son.” (John 3:16) Among the angelic sons of God there were doubtless many who would gladly have served their Creator in this manner, and the ‘gift’ of any one of them would not have been without cost to God—for he loved them all—but he chose to give the one who meant the most to him, the one dearest to him of all his obedient and treasured creatures.

A gift reveals the love of the giver, not so much because of its intrinsic value as by what it represents to the giver. This is why Jesus called particular attention to the widow’s mite. To the wealthy, the mite had little value; but, because it was all that the widow had, her giving it to the Lord represented a spirit of devotion and self-sacrifice far beyond that sometimes possessed by those who out of their abundance are able, without sacrificing their material comforts, to give large sums.

We know that in the very nature of things our Heavenly Father is not ‘poor’. Poetically, the psalmist, in describing God’s riches, declares that the “cattle upon a thousand hills” are his. (Ps. 50:10) “For every beast of the forest is mine.” The entire universe is God’s creation and is owned and controlled by him. There is nothing that we can give to God to make him rich, nor does our withholding make him poor. How, then, could any gift which he might make be akin to the widow’s mite?

The Logos was God’s only direct creation, so from this standpoint, giving him to be the world’s Redeemer meant the giving of all that he had. While the Logos in his prehuman existence was not on the Divine plane of life, and could not reach up to the great heights of his Father’s thoughts, he was the highest of all in the spirit realm, hence in him the Creator enjoyed a larger measure of fellowship and companionship than with any of his angelic sons. To give him up to die, then, meant the giving of that which costs the Creator more than anything else, for as we have seen, in a sense, the Logos was all that he had.


The Logos was “made flesh, and dwelt among us” wrote John, “and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” (John 1:14) We may be inclined to think of the natural process of begettal and birth as being something which our finite minds are capable of understanding and explaining, but in reality they cannot. All life is a mystery to us and, from the standpoint of our inability to understand it, is in the realm of the miraculous. Nor can we understand the manner in which the life of the Logos was transferred to Mary, and in due time born as a babe in Bethlehem.

In Philippians 2:8 Paul speaks of Jesus as being “found in fashion as a man.” This suggests that to the heavenly hosts the Logos was ‘lost’ for a while, and discovered only when they recognized him as having been made flesh. This, of course, emphasizes how completely he was given up by the Father for a time, and yet his being made flesh was only the first step in this supreme sacrifice of the Father, the ‘unspeakable gift’ which so effectively reveals his boundless love for his fallen and dying human creatures. The Logos, now made flesh, was yet to give his flesh in death for the life of the world.

As a child, and until he was thirty years of age, Jesus seemed to have an increasing understanding of the fact that he had been born into the world for a special Divine purpose. This is indicated when, in the Temple at the age of twelve, he inquired of his mother, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49) Not, however, until he was thirty years of age, when he presented himself to John at Jordan to be baptized, did the Father communicate directly with him. At that time Jesus was assured of his true relationship to God by hearing the voice of his Father saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”—Matt. 3:17

Here a sweet fellowship between the two was established, and later Jesus said to his Father, I know that “thou hearest me always.” (John 11:42) But of necessity it was a limited communion. Jesus was no longer living on a high plane of spirit life. His ability to comprehend his Father’s thoughts was limited by his human mind, and although it was a perfect human mind, it was still greatly circumscribed as compared with the intelligence he possessed as the Logos, that mighty one who shared in all the work of Creation.

While in the former association of the Father and Son great works were done by them—Creation and otherwise—there is no reason to suppose that sacrifice and suffering were involved. But now it was different. Jesus was being offered in sacrifice, and the manner in which this must have affected the Heavenly Father is well represented by the experience of Abraham in offering up Isaac as a burnt offering to God. It was a three days’ journey for Abraham and Isaac before they reached the land of Moriah where Isaac was to be offered in sacrifice, and the account says that “they went both of them together.”—Gen. 22:6

So it was with the Heavenly Father and with Jesus. They went ‘together’ toward Calvary. While Jesus had a general idea that he was to die, he seemingly did not understand all the details involved until he reached Gethsemane. But the Father did, and in the unselfish and complete giving of his ‘unspeakable gift’, his sympathetic and loving heart must have ached as he witnessed the hardships through which his Son was passing —sufferings which he knew would increase until he would hear his beloved one cry out, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”—Matt. 26:39

Just as Isaac in the type displayed no opposition to his father, and willingly allowed himself to be placed on the altar to be sacrificed, so it was with Jesus. As he walked ‘together’ with his Heavenly Father during the three and one-half years of his earthly ministry, his chief concern was to do always those things which pleased his Father. Jesus was also conscious of the fact that the Father was close to him. (John 11:42) This companionship of the Father and the Son, though limited by the fact that one was on the Divine plane, and the other on the human, must, nevertheless, have been sweet and blessed.

Only the Father understood fully the painful and ignominious end for Jesus to which this journey toward Calvary was leading. Only the Father knew that eventually, and for a few awful moments at the end of the way, he would withdraw the sunshine of his smile from his beloved Son, forcing him to cry out in bitterness of soul, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) Surely, when we consider all that was involved in this complete giving up of his Son by the Father, it should help us the more to understand the depth of what Paul had in mind when he described it as God’s ‘unspeakable gift’, for truly it was a gift which was precious and costly.


Jesus’ own part in humbly submitting to his Father’s will in the great redemptive plan for the recovery of the fallen race is also an important consideration. He said, speaking of his Father, “I do always those things that please him.” (John 8:29) This was so completely true that he was able to say on another occasion, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” (John 14:9) His obedience would in itself make the Father’s part in the sacrifice more difficult. Obedience merits reward and blessing, not ignominy and suffering; but the Father endured seeing his Son suffer so severely, knowing that thus on him would be laid the iniquity of us all, and a way of escape from sin and death provided.

From the time of his baptism, when Jesus said, “Lo, I come: in the volume of the Book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart,” he began to realize the true purpose of his coming to earth. (Ps. 40:7,8) During his forty days in the wilderness he no doubt learned that he was to die for the sins of the world. Later he explained to his disciples that he expected to give his flesh for the life of the world. (John 6:51) He knew now that in being “made flesh” the body which had been prepared for him was “for the suffering of death.”—Heb. 10:5; 2:9

We know, however, that Jesus’ understanding of the Divine plan, and of his own part in that plan, was progressive. Near the close of his ministry he acknowledged to his disciples that he did not then know the time of his Second Advent. Seemingly, also, he did not fully comprehend the extent to which he was to suffer in connection with his death until very near the end. Thus each painful experience which came to him would serve as a further test of his obedience to the Divine will; and how wonderfully victorious he was in them all!

One of the most crucial tests came in Gethsemane. He knew that he was to die. He knew that this had been written of him in “the volume of the book” (Heb 10:7), and symbolically speaking, he had, like Isaac, willingly and gladly placed himself on the altar to be slain. But now circumstances closed in around him which perhaps he had not foreseen in detail. He was to be accused of blasphemy against the God whom he loved more than life itself. His sonship and kingship were to be denied.

Jesus prayed, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” However, even in this there was not the slightest tendency on his part to hold back from full obedience, for he added, “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matt. 26:39) As his Heavenly Father heard this impassioned cry deep from the heart of his beloved Son, how it must have pained him not to ‘let this cup pass’. He did, however, grant comfort to the Master.

We cannot be too sure of all that may have been involved in Jesus’ crucial test in Gethsemane. Paul explained that he “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears” (Heb. 5:7), to him who was able to deliver him from death, and that he was heard in that he feared. It seems unlikely that Jesus asked to be delivered from dying as man’s Redeemer. The ‘death’ from which he sought deliverance was probably the “second death” (Rev 20:6), a death into which he would fall if he had not faithfully carried out every detail of his covenant of sacrifice. And he ‘was heard in that he feared’—yes, favorably heard, and given the assurance that his Father was pleased with him, and by this he was comforted.

The value of God’s gift, in terms of suffering, becomes even more apparent as we note the manner in which the Father and Son continued to walk ‘together’ through the hours of the Redeemer’s trial before the High Priest and before Pilate. Each grim scene during those hours of ridicule and scoffing further enhances the value of that ‘unspeakable gift’. Jesus was given opportunity to gain his freedom and to escape crucifixion, but he did not accept it. He voluntarily “poured out his soul unto death,” and allowed himself to be “numbered with the transgressors.” (Isa. 53:12) Since in Jesus we see the Father, we know that his part in this offering was no less costly, that he suffered with his Son.

Perhaps one of the most crucial moments in this whole ordeal was when Jesus was hanging on the cross, and the crowd cried out, “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (Matt. 27:40) Again they cried, “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” (vs. 42) Here was a final opportunity on the part of the Father to take back the gift. The Father had said concerning Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17) Must he not have yearned to demonstrate to this sin-stained crowd that the one whom they were jeering and crucifying was indeed his Son! Certainly Jesus also would have been glad to convince them that their conception of him was wrong, that he was not a blasphemer, but he did not, instead he “endured” this “contradiction of sinners against himself.”—Heb. 12:3

“Let him save himself,” the rulers shouted. (Luke 23:35) How little they realized that by his refusal to save himself, Jesus, in cooperation with his Heavenly Father, was providing salvation for them and for all the families of the earth. What a Savior! What a gift—truly an ‘unspeakable gift’.

When Abraham and Isaac ‘went … together’ to Mount Moriah, the final test upon them was when Isaac was stretched out on the altar, and his beloved father raised the knife to slay him. Could we imagine anything that would place a greater test upon a father’s love, or upon a son’s confidence in his father? It must have been something akin to this that Jesus and his Heavenly Father experienced when finally, on the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) It was as though, having trusted his Father all along the way—and even as recently as in Gethsemane being assured of his love and confidence—he now saw him, as it were, raise a knife to slay him.

This cry of anguish was a quotation from the prophecies, but this does not mean that it was any the less real. (Ps. 22:1) Perhaps the recognition of the meaning of this prophecy indicates that by it the Master was made to realize even more deeply that his Father had actually forsaken him. True, the fact that this final test had thus been foretold would assure Jesus that nothing had gone wrong in connection with the offering, still he was forsaken. The sunshine of his Father’s smile had disappeared under a cloud, and now he was alone.

Perhaps Jesus’ recognition that this crucial moment in his experience had been foretold in prophecy served to give him strength to endure the remaining moments of his suffering. In any event, his last outcry was one of confidence in his Father, as well as full surrender to his will—“Into thy hands I commend my spirit,” my life, my all. (Luke 23:46) Now the ‘gift’ had been fully given. The Heavenly Father had not only given his Son to be made flesh, but had traveled with him all the way to his cruel death on the cross, had sympathetically endured and suffered with him, and voluntarily so, for by design, and because he ‘so loved’, the Father had laid upon his Son “the iniquity of us all.”—Isa. 53:6


Our appreciation of God’s ‘unspeakable gift’ is thus greatly increased by the costly manner in which the atoning blood of the Redeemer was made available for the church and for the world. The great principle of Divine love represented both by the gift and by the manner in which it was given is held out in the Word of God as the only proper motivating power in our lives as we endeavor to be conformed to the pattern set before us, in both the Father and the Son. We, too, are to give all, and are never to take our sacrifice off the altar regardless of the suffering which may be involved in our offering.

An understanding example of how this principle operates in actual practice is the unselfish love of the Philippian church for Paul, as manifested by sending him a gift while he was in prison at Rome. Of what the gift consisted the Scriptures do not disclose. This is not important. Our interest is in the fact that the Philippian brethren loved Paul, and demonstrated their love by sending him a gift. Paul appreciated this, and indirectly alludes to it in his epistle, saying, “I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more.” (Phil. 1:9) This was not a solicitation for another gift, but a compliment to their unselfish interest in him as a servant of God and a brother in Christ. Their love had prompted the gift, and Paul wanted their love to abound in all ways approved by their knowledge of the Divine will.

The gift itself meant much to the apostle. But that gift was even more precious because of the great cost involved in its delivery. It had been brought to him by Epaphroditus, a member of the Philippian church, who, because of the hardships involved in making the journey to Rome, had become seriously ill—‘nigh unto death’. In sending this faithful servant back to the brethren at Philippi, Paul wrote, “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.”—Phil. 2:29,30

No wonder Paul appreciated that gift. In this sacrifice he saw the same spirit as that manifested by the Father in the ‘unspeakable gift’ by which his love is so wonderfully demonstrated. This gift truly is ‘unspeakable’, but the further love of the Father as manifested in his manner of giving, and the great cost in suffering attached thereto is so overwhelming in its implications that our finite minds are lost in their effort even to comprehend it, much less to describe such love.

The only adequate expression of appreciation we can make at all, in the face of the love manifested by God’s ‘unspeakable gift’, is in the offering of our all to him—life itself—with no reservations as to what may be involved in the way of hardship and trial as daily we present our offering on the altar of praise to him who is the greatest of all givers.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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