************ Sermon on 1 Timothy 1:15 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on September 14, 1997

1 Timothy 1:1-17
vs 15
"Jesus Came to Save Sinners"

"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." What does this text mean? On this Lord's Supper Sunday what does it tell us about Him Who is our Lord and Savior?

I The World
A We start off with the phrase "came into the world." The Greek word for "world" has two basic meanings. First, it can mean the universe, the sum of all that is created, the heavens and earth and everything that is in them. Seen this way, Paul is reminding us that Jesus physically entered into the universe when He was born. Or, as John puts it, He "became flesh and made His dwelling among us" (Jn 1:14).

The Old Testament has a word for this: "Immanuel," which means "God with us." When Jesus entered the physical universe God became one with us in the flesh. Think of what this means: the almighty, ever-glorious, eternal God took on frail, humble, human flesh. According to C. S. Lewis, that is like you and I becoming a slug. Or, we can compare this to you and I becoming a worm.

B The Greek word for "world" also has a second meaning. It can also mean that part of the universe that lies under sin and death. It means that part of the Creation that was shattered by the fall and stands under the judgment of God.

Our text tells us that "Christ Jesus came into the world" a world of sin and fallenness and evil. Think of what this means: the pure, righteous, and holy God entered our sinful world and took on sinful, human flesh. The Apostle Paul speaks of this when he says,
{2 Cor 5:21} God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
That's like you and I going to prison and taking on the identity of Timothy McVeigh. That is not a nice thought, is it?! Yet, that is what Christ did when He "came into the world."

II Sinners
A "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Let's now look at the last word of our chosen text: "sinners."

In our Scripture reading Paul calls himself the "worst" of sinners. He tells us exactly why he calls himself this. First of all, he things about his past: "I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" (vs 13). Before his conversion Paul hated Jesus Christ and His church, he persecuted Christians, and he was at the forefront of those who stoned them to death. Paul thought nothing of cursing Christ. This certainly makes Paul a sinner.

Secondly, Paul is thinking not only about his sinful past but also about his sinful present. You know what he writes in Romans 7:
{Rom 7:15,19,21} I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do ... {19} For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing ... {21} So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
Paul clearly identifies himself as one of the sinners Christ Jesus came to save. In fact, he was so aware of his sin, of the evil in his life, of his fallen condition apart from Christ, that he called himself "the worst of sinners." Very few people, today, would ever say that about themselves.

If Paul calls himself the "worst" of sinners, what are you and I? After all, Paul was one of the Apostles, a real saint of God, someone who agonized over his relationship with the Lord. I think you see my point. If Paul is the "worst" of sinners, then you and I are nothing, low-lifes, and the vilest sort of sinners.

B Now, what is a sinner? A sinner (and this may sound a little simple to you) is someone who sins. But now we need to ask, "What exactly is sin?" We hear about sin often enough, but do we really know what it is?

The Bible has many words to describe sin. Sometimes it is described as unfairness or injustice or iniquity when you don't treat others as equals. This is the sin of a rich man who kills a poor man's single lamb.

Sometimes sin is described as trespassing or transgressing. God's holiness is pictured as a piece of land. When we step across the border of it, we trespass. We tread on holy ground. We go beyond our limits. This is the sin of Adam and Eve who took the forbidden fruit and tried to be like God.

Sometimes sin is pictured as missing a target, or stumbling and falling, or getting all dirty, or wandering off the right path and getting lost. This is the sin of the lost son who left home with his share on the inheritance.

C When it comes right down to it, sin is disobedience. It is disobedience against God. This is a reminder that all sin is sin against God. Yes, we may sin against our wife or husband, our children or parents, our neighbor, our church, our friends. But ultimately, all sin is sin against God. Think of Joseph when confronted with Potiphar's wife panting to take him to bed. This was sin against Potiphar, and Joseph knew that. But he knew this was first sin against God. So he said to Potiphar's wife, "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" (Gen 39:9). Or, think of King David after his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah. He cried out to God:
{Ps 51:4} Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

D "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." We need to remember that sin is not just something man does but it is also something man is. You see, some might say men are sinners because they sin; but the truth of the matter is that men sin because they are sinners. Sin is something man is born with. It is something all men inherit. It is something that corrupts from within so that words, thoughts, and deeds are all infected. In other words, Jesus came not only for notorious sinners like Timothy McVeigh, Jeffrey Dahmer, Susan Smith, Adolf Hitler, and Saddam Hussein; it means He also came for me and you and everyone else in this building, for we all are sinners.

III Save
A "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Let us now look at that word "save." This word tells us why Jesus came into the world: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Jesus saves! But, what does this mean? What is it that Jesus does for us? To put it plainly, Jesus brings salvation. He brings salvation from sin.

You all know how He does this. He does this through the cross and the grave, through the crucifixion and the resurrection, through His precious life-blood draining away until He died and through His triumphal escape from the tomb. Because Jesus died and arose He brings salvation from sin.

B What exactly is salvation? What do mean when we say "Jesus saves"? The Bible uses as many words for salvation as it uses for sin. Sometimes salvation is described as reconciliation. Think of a lost son who returns home and is greeted with a kiss. Or, think of a husband and wife who make up after a big argument. In saving us, Jesus reconciles us to God. He removes the anger and the hatred and the enmity that exists between us and God.
Topic: Forgiveness
Subtopic: Examples of Human
Index: 1316
Date: 3/1993.23

There's a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.
On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.
When Christ saves us He reconciles us to our Father.

C Sometimes salvation is described as redemption. To redeem something is to pay a ransom. Think of a slave who is bought so the master can set him free. In saving us Christ has redeemed us from evil, sin, death, emptiness, and the powers of this world.

D Sometimes salvation is described as satisfaction. To a certain extent most of feel a measure of satisfaction when we hear of the punishment or death of someone like Timothy McVeigh (Okla homa City bombing), Jeffrey Dahmer (who ate the flesh of his victims), Susan Smith (the young mother who drowned her two children), Adolf Hitler, or Saddam Hussein for this means justice is satisfied. In saving us Christ satisfied the demands of God's justice. In saving us Christ satisfied God's demand for obedience and holiness and punishment.

E Sometimes salvation is described as forgiveness. Forgiveness means the sin is not allowed to come between us and God; further, it means God will not accuse us on the basis of the sin; finally, it means God will not dwell on the sin, nurse it, or harbor a grudge on account of it.
Topic: Forgiveness
Subtopic: Examples of Human
Index: 1316
Date: 9/1991.23

An officer in the army of Russian Czar Peter the Great was involved in a plot against the ruler. But though tortured terribly, the officer refused to confess. Realizing that pain would not break him, Peter went up to the man, kissed him, and promised him that if he confessed he would receive not only a full pardon but a promotion to colonel. The officer was so unnerved by Peter's tactic that he embraced the czar and made a full confession. True to his word, Peter forgave the man and made him a colonel!
Although this example is certainly an imperfect one, the ending is worth noting. Full confession, full pardon and a promotion! That's just what God has done for us because Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

F Finally, sometimes salvation is also described as acceptance. All of us hunger for acceptance. And, we are willing to do all sorts of things if we think it will gain us acceptance: we wear a certain kind of clothing, have a certain kind of house, furnish it in a certain kind of way, drive a certain kind of car, and talk and act in a certain kind of way. When Christ saves us He makes us acceptable to God. When Christ saves us God accepts us.

G When we think of this salvation in the light of how Paul views himself as the "worst" of sinners, we see a miracle of grace. If God can save Paul, the worst of sinners, then He can save anyone. The message here is that no sin is too big, no sinner too sinful, no conscience too stricken, and no guilt too great to be beyond the reach of Christ's act of salvation. Isn't that wonderful and comforting?!

Today we celebrate the Lord's Supper. Today we celebrate we remember and believe that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, sinners like you and like me.
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