************ Sermon on 1 Timothy 1:15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 22, 2002
1 Timothy 1:12-17
"He is Coming: As Savior"
At Chapel this past week I asked the children to imagine ET landing in his flying saucer a couple of days before Christmas. He asks to see the sights and sounds we associate with Christmas. And, he becomes totally confused by what he sees and hears. So he asks:
-What's the connection between the fat man in the red suit and the manger?
-What does "Jingle Bells" have to do with "Joy to the World"?
-What does Christmas Sales have to do with shepherds and wisemen?
-What does the lights and decorations and trees have to do with peace on earth?
-What does 6 shopping days till Christmas have to do with "O Come, All Ye Faithful"?
His confusion is understandable, isn't it?
I wonder, sometimes, whether our boys and girls get similarly confused. It is so easy to get all caught up in the worldly, secular view of Christmas – so caught up that we forget the reason for the season.
At the heart of Christmas lies the comforting thought of our text for this morning: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." The reason for the season is this: Christ Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary in order to save sinners.
I Christ Came to Save Sinners
A "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." This statement sums up the entire ministry and life of Jesus – to save sinners. This statement explains the incarnation, why God became man – to save sinners. This statement lies at the heart of what Christmas tells us – that Jesus came to save sinners. This is the crowning expression of God's love for us – Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. This statement is the foundation of the Church's message. On this witness the Church is built and by this teaching the people of God live.
Isn't it wonderful that the heart of the Gospel, that the thrust of Christmas, can be stated in such simple terms – "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." This statement is equally clear to the young and old, the educated and uneducated, the wise and the fool – "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
B "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." There is so much today that would try to take our attention away from this heart of the Gospel. I'm not just thinking about the world and its secular view of Christmas. I think also of the prevailing materialism of the age we live in – the accumulation of earthly goods and treasures; this has always diverted attention away from the heart of the Gospel. Furthermore, I think of those within and without the Church who would focus all our attention on issues: issues like women in church office, creationism, the threat of war, weapons of mass destruction, the slaughter of baby seals or whales, the ethical treatment of animals, the abolition of abortion. We have to beware of this, congregation, because people who are focused exclusively on issues are no longer focused on Jesus.
Whenever we find our attention wandering or our faith wavering, whenever we find ourselves becoming confused about the true meaning of Christmas, whenever we seem to have lost sight of the Gospel message, then we should spend a few moments reflecting on the teaching that is in front of us this morning, a teaching that sounds so simple and easy to understand.
C "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." This teaching is of vital concern to every person here. Let me explain.
In His Law God says to us, "Love Me above all and love your neighbor as yourself." And, do you know what our natural, sinful response is: "I will not. I cannot. I am not able to." God wants us to love but our natural tendency is to hate.
You get the point, don't you? Yes, Christ Jesus came to save convicts, murderers, thieves, rapists, drug dealers, prostitutes, and alcoholics; but He also came to save you and me. Our acts of hate and our failure to love means we are sinners; they mean we are the sinners Christ came to save. They mean we stand guilty before God and lie under the condemnation of God. They mean we deserve everlasting death – physical and spiritual death.
D "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." We know that Christ had to come because if He didn't, none of us could be saved. We know that all of us need saving and that none of us can save ourselves. We know that none of us can perfectly do the works of the law that God requires us.
We need to keep reminding ourselves of why Christ came, of why He was born of the Virgin and conceived by the Spirit. Why did Jesus come into the world? Did He come to be a teacher? Did He come to be an example? Jesus was all of these things and more, but the reason He came into the world was to save sinners like you and me.
E "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." What does it mean to be saved? It means forgiveness of sins. It means reconciliation with God. It means being granted the righteousness of Christ. It means redemption – being bought by the blood of Christ. It means satisfaction of God's justice. It means acceptance – God accepts us for the sake of Christ. It means the darkness of sin being replaced by the light of Christ's presence. One of the things it also means, as I told the boys and girls, is everlasting life. Because Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary and went the way of the cross we can have everlasting life.
One of the stories that always fascinated me in history class is that of Ponce de Leon. From 1513-1521 he and his men tramped through the Florida Everglades in search of the "Fountain of Youth." Ponce de Leon actually believed there was a spring or stream in Florida whose water would keep one young forever. To stay forever young is perhaps the dream of every heart. Or, to put it another way, to never have to die of old age is a dream as old as sin.
The Christian knows that the only way to live forever is in and through and by Christ. In Christ we have everlasting life – just like the evergreens of the Christmas wreath.
As we get ready for Christmas let us remember that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. As we get ready for Christmas let us remember that Christ Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary in order to save us from our sins.
II A Trustworthy and Acceptable Statement
A "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." The Spirit-inspired Apostle tells us that these words of our text are "a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance."
Five times in the pastoral epistles we find the phrase "trustworthy saying" (1 Tim 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim 2:11; Tit 3:8). It is to be found nowhere else in Scripture. This formula or phrase always introduces a statement about salvation or faith that was popular in the early Church. Probably it introduces a formula or statement taken from early creeds and confessions of the Church.
The Greek language allows us to translate this phrase as a "faithful saying."
What is a faithful or trustworthy saying. It is a saying one can depend on. You know it is true, reliable, and inerrant. It is the Spirit-inspired apostle's way of saying, "I do solemnly swear that what I say is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God."
In front of us this morning is a trustworthy or a faithful saying. In other words, there can be no doubt, it is Gospel truth, it is absolutely reliable, "that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." There can be no doubt, it is Gospel truth, it is absolutely reliable, that Christ Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary in order to save us from our sins.
Of course, in the final analysis this saying is trustworthy and faithful not because Paul can swear it is but only because it comes from our God Who is faithful and trustworthy. Because we can depend on Him we know we can depend on what He says to us in His Word.
B "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." This trustworthy, faithful saying "deserves full acceptance," our full acceptance. We must believe it with all our heart. We must live it with all our being. We must never doubt its truth or question its validity. It must be the source of our comfort in life and in death. In fact, if it does not have your full acceptance then the central thrust of Christmas has escaped you.
I want to ask you, I need to ask you: do you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus came for you, a sinner?
C "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Let me tell you, if you believe and accept this trustworthy saying then you are in awe of God's grace. You know that you, a sinner, deserve nothing but death. But, instead, you get life – everlasting life. You know that you are so unworthy of this. You know it is only by grace you are saved – something undeserved, unearned, unmerited.
The best example here is the Apostle Paul. In our Bible reading he describes himself as the "worst of sinners." And yes, it was awful what he did. He can say about himself,
(1Tim 1:13) Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy ...If Christ came to save Paul, the worst of sinners, then He has also come for you and for me. If Christ brings Paul from everlasting death to everlasting life, then He also brings you and me from everlasting death to everlasting life. Isn't that awesome and wonderful and great?
D "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." This trustworthy saying deserves full acceptance – by you, by me, by our unbelieving and secular neighbors who spend Christmas Day without ever once thinking of Jesus. Everyone in the whole wide world should know that Christ came for them; not only that, but they should know they need to believe this, they should know they need to accept this, they should know that they need to confess this or else they can't and won't be saved. This is a call for missions, to witness, to evangelize: we need to let the whole world know the reason for the season, we need to let the whole world know that Christ came into the world to save sinners, we need to let the whole world know this deserves full acceptance. We need to call the whole world to believe and to accept the Good News of Christmas: that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
I want you to notice that Paul ends our Bible passage the same way he starts it: with a word of praise and thanks and doxology to God:
(1Tim 1:12, 17) I thank Christ Jesus our Lord ... (17) Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
But of course Paul starts and ends this way. Because at the heart of Christmas lies a most beautiful and comforting teaching: that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners;" that Christ Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary in order to save us – you and me – from our sins.
If you believe and accept this trustworthy saying then you want to join Paul in bringing praise to God.
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