The Unsearchable Riches of Christ
A merchant from Covenanter times told friends that at St Andrews he heard a Mr Blair preach – “that man showed me the majesty of God”; at Irvine he heard a certain Mr Dickson – “that man showed me all my heart”. Elsewhere he encountered Mr Rutherford – “that man showed me the loveliness of Christ”. A hearer of Jonathan Edwards spoke similarly – “he always speaks so sweetly of Christ”.
The apostle Paul loved to speak of his Saviour too – the sun of righteousness was the centre of his spiritual universe. In Eph 3:8 he uses this remarkable expression: “the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Only God is unsearchable. There is a vast chasm between the Creator and the creature and one difference is seen right here. All creation is finite – even the depths of the ocean or the length of the horizon can be measured. The Creator alone is infinite and even when we have spent aeons of eternity in glory we will still confess that we only know the border of God’s ways. The riches of Christ are as unsearchable as God himself. They are “untraceable”, “unfathomable”, “inexhaustible”, and so on. They can be known, but never fully known. Paul spent his entire life searching them out (Phil 3:10).
The Unsearchable Riches of Christ’s Person
Prior to the Damascus Road Saul of Tarsus believed that he worshipped the God of the OT and that the life of Christ was discontinuous with that revelation. He was not in the line of prophets and not the anticipated Messiah. Saul’s main objective was to rid the world of all such notions. In spite of his miracles and the wonder of his teachings, the Person of Christ had no attraction for Saul. Christ was the one person he hated with all his heart. But from that moment at Damascus this arch persecutor was persuaded of the unsearchable riches of Christ’s Person.
The man who formerly denied the deity of Christ became its foremost proponent. Saul knew that it was the Lord who appeared to him from the Shekinah glory (Acts 9:3). However, he had to ask about his exact identity, “Who are you Lord?” (9:5) “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting”. That word “Jesus” must have thrust Saul’s soul like a dagger – the last thing he wanted to hear. From that moment his entire world turned upside down as he learned that Christ possessed undiluted deity as well as true humanity. He could soon describe Christ as “God blessed forever” (Rom 9:5), the One in whom “dwells all the fullness of the godhead in bodily form” (Col 2:9). Is this a truth you rejoice in? Christ had to be both man and God, otherwise we have no salvation. While a true man had to endure punishment in our stead, since that was the realm in which sin entered, only God could bear the penalty due to “a great multitude which no man could number” and rise gloriously from the dead.
The Unsearchable Riches of Christ’s Work
Before the Damascus Road Saul thought that Christ’s work was the work of a madman. He believed that Christ got his come up upon the cross because of his wickedness. This is how he would have understood the teaching of Deut 21:33, “he that is hanged is accursed of God”. The Damascus Road changed all that, for in a flash Saul learned that Jesus was alive and that it could only have come about because God had raised him from the dead. What a shock! Saul came to see that the Father was well pleased with the work of his Son. The resurrection was proof of that. That was God’s way of saying “Amen” to Calvary.
Even a cursory study of Paul’s epistles will show that this was one of the “unsearchable riches” that Paul preached – Christ’s finished work. He rejoiced in the truth of Christ’s substitutionary curse-bearing atonement. Christ’s cross-work was redemption, “a deliverance from bondage by payment of a price”, for all who believed on him: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). It was a propitiation, averting the wrath of God from over the heads of those who trust in him: “whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood”. (Rom 3:25) It reconciles us to God when we call upon him for “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (1 Cor 5:19). It is also the basis of our justification, enabling God to pronounce us righteous before the crown court of heaven: “therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). Sin and its problems can ever be resolved through the “unsearchable riches” of Christ’s work.
The Unsearchable Riches of Christ’s Grace
The Damascus Road taught Saul that Jesus Christ is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Far from seeking salvation on that road, Saul was in the throes of eradicating Christianity with an intensity and bitterness probably never been equalled. Having done all he could in Israel to exterminate the faith he turned his attention to Syria with authorizing letters in his pocket. Yet while Saul was closing in to kill, God was seeking him out to save him! Here is another of these “unsearchable riches” the “unsearchable riches” of Christ’s grace and central in the message he preached: “by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). Salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy” (Tit 3:5). Doubtless Paul frequently ended meetings with his own benediction, and what did he emphasize? “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ ... be with you all” Grasp this unsearchable truth. What channel does salvation flow in? Grace alone! In 1 Tim 1:16 Paul urges us to consider Christ’s own grace towards him as a motive to believe: “However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life”.
The Unsearchable Riches of Christ’s Union with his People
Here is yet another truth that Saul discovered on the Damascus Road. Christ said: “Saul, Saul ... why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Saul had never persecuted Christ directly but in persecuting his people Saul was persecuting Christ. Such is the solidarity between Christ and his people and Saul saw it again a day or so later when Ananias greeted him with these beautiful words: “Brother Saul” (9:17). Now that Saul belonged to Christ, he had become one with his people and the phrase “in Christ” became one of his favourites. This was one of the unsearchable riches of Christ that Paul preached. “Now are ye the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Cor 12:27). There is only one organisation which endures for ever: the believers’ union with Christ.
What do the unsearchable riches of Christ mean to you? “What think ye of Christ? is the test to try both your state and your scheme. You cannot be right in the rest unless you think rightly of him”.