************ Sermon on 1 Timothy 1:15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 28, 2004
1 Timothy 1:12-20
1 Timothy 1:15
"Christ Jesus Came to Save Sinners"
Today is the first Sunday of advent. We remember and celebrate the first coming of Christ Jesus. We prepare our hearts for Christmas. We look forward to His second coming.
As we celebrate advent and Christmas this year I want to ask the question: why did Jesus come, why did the second person of the triune Godhead take on our human flesh, why the incarnation?
I Why Jesus Did Not Come
A Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? Some say He came to be a teacher. He came to teach us about God and godly living and to answer some of our questions and warn us of different dangers. He is a great teacher like Socrates or Plato or Ben Franklin with pithy statements and inspirational thoughts that we can contemplate all day long.
B Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? Some say He came to be our example. If only we would imitate Him, if only we would ask "What would Jesus do?" then we would all get along with each other in peace and love and harmony. If only we would be like Him, then the world would be filled with truth and justice and righteousness. Imagine what would be the result if we, like Him, turned the other cheek and prayed for our enemies and fed the hungry.
C Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? Some say He came to be a social and political revolutionary. Look at how He went out of His way to upset the Scribes and Pharisees. Look at how He openly broke their rules and regulations. Look at how He exposed their hypocrisy. Look at how He threatened Herod and Rome with His talk about a Kingdom and a throne.
D Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? Some say He came to be a miracle worker. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead, fed the hungry, walked on water, cast out evil spirits, and turned water into wine. He came to make the world a better and kinder and gentler place. He came to make a difference, to lend a hand, to be of service.
E Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? Some say He came as the ultimate sales gimmick. I started to see Christmas advertisements and Christmas junk in the stores at the end of October already. Many retail businesses depend on Christmas sales to stay in business – for a store like JC Penney these sales represent 25-30 percent of all sales in a year and 50% of all profits; electronics stores do 40% of all sales at Christmas time; jewelry stores soar up to 50%
F Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? Look at what our text tells us: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." The reason for the season is this: Christ Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, in order to save sinners.
II Christ Came to Save Sinners
A Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? "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 There is so much today that would try to take our attention away from the 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. 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 – that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
A Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? "Christ Jesus came into the world to save 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 thinks 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 there are no words left to describe you and me.
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 of 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 a notorious sinner like Scott Peterson; it means He also came for me and you and everyone else in this building, for we all are sinners.
E "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." 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 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.
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, born of the virgin Mary, in order to save sinners like you and me.
A Why did Jesus come? Why the incarnation? "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
Christ not only came for sinners. He came to save them. 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.
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.
Sometimes salvation is described as satisfaction. To a certain extent most of feel a measure of satisfaction when we hear of the conviction of someone like Scott Peterson for this means justice is going to be 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.
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.
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, talk and act in a certain kind of way, participate in certain kinds of activities. When Christ saves us He makes us acceptable to God. When Christ saves us God accepts us.
C 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?!
V A Trustworthy and Acceptable Statement
A The Spirit-inspired Apostle tells us that the 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, 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 This trustworthy, faithful saying – in the words of our text – "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.
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, born of the virgin Mary, in order to save us – you and me – from our sins.
Now, congregation, I must ask you a question: Do you accept this as truth? do you believe that Christ came to save you?
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