“TO SAVE SINNERS”
First Timothy 1.15
1. “when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman.” “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” He “grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” Thus, a span of thirty years in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ is described in the Bible.
2. “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.” “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” After His temptation in the wilderness “John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
3. And with these events the earthly ministry of Jesus begins, which will last some three years, and which will culminate with His crucifixion outside Jerusalem, His burial in a rich man’s tomb, and His glorious resurrection from the dead three days and three nights later.
4. But let us not pass too quickly over our Lord’s passion. After all, the writer of Hebrews points out that since Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame,” we should “consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself.”
5. What did the Lord Jesus Christ endure during His earthly sojourn, but especially during the last 12 hours before he gave up the ghost? We can divide up His experiences into two categories; that which He suffered at the hands of men, and that which He suffered at the hand of His Father.
1A. WHAT DID JESUS SUFFER AT THE HANDS OF MEN?
I cannot be exhaustive here, but I do seek to give some idea to you.
1B. Hebrews 12.2 labels it shame, which is a way of saying disgrace
1C. My friends, the Lord Jesus Christ endured shame and disgrace at the hands of creatures of His Own making.
2C. Think of it. This same Jesus, prior to His incarnation, “formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
3C. Yet this same Jesus, Who could have called ten thousand angels to His aid, Who could have called down fire and brimstone, Who could have opened up the earth to swallow His enemies as He’d done when Korah opposed Moses, did nothing.
2B. Isaiah chapter 53 predicted it
1C. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
2C. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
3B. The gospels carefully recorded it
1C. Of course, Jesus was arrested without legitimate cause, tried in the middle of the night illegally, condemned by the testimony of false witnesses, and turned over to the Romans for execution.
2C. Pilate had Jesus scourged and then delivered Him to be crucified. When that was done the Roman soldiers took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered around Him the whole band of soldiers.
3C. There they stripped Him, and put on Him a scarlet robe. And when they had made a crown of thorns, they put it on His head and placed a reed in His right hand. Then they bent the knee before Him, and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
4C. But they weren’t done. They then spit upon Him, and took the reed and hit Him on the head with it. And after they had mocked Him in that way, they took the robe off from Him, and put His Own clothes back on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.
5C. After they had crucified Him, while He was still alive on that cruel cross, they divided up His clothes and gambled for them. But the Romans weren’t the only ones who sought to s0 hame Him. Those who passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads. As well, the chief priests came and mocked Him. And if that wasn’t enough, even the thieves He was crucified with ridiculed Him.
4B. On the day of Pentecost Simon Peter summarized what Jesus had suffered at the hands of men
1C. In Acts 2.23, only fifty days after Jesus had been crucified, Peter told the thousands who had been gathered by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and by the sound of the mighty rushing wind, and by the sight of the cloven tongues as of fire, that they had taken Jesus, and by wicked hands had crucified and slain Him.
2C. Think about this, my friend. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the omnipotent God, the One Who fashioned Adam and Eve, the One Who delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage with a strong right arm, the One Who but spoke the universe into existence, Who cast the stars into the nighttime sky, allowed Himself to be shamed, degraded, humiliated, and ultimately crucified. All this suffered at the hands of men.
2A. WHAT DID JESUS SUFFER AT THE HAND OF GOD?
1B. “The LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all,” Isaiah 53.6
1C. We flinch when a preacher speaks of the beard of Jesus being plucked from His face, or when graphic description is made of the crown of thorns pressed onto His head and digging into His scalp. We cringe at the thought of lashes lacerating the blessed Savior’s back.
2C. But how are we to understand the foul stench of our iniquities being placed on His holy soul, on His pure spirit, on His pristine conscience? Many consider the weight of the cross on Him without ever pondering the weight of man’s sin.
2B. Isaiah 53.4 says, “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Verse 5 says, “wounded, bruised”
1C. These words all refer to God’s wrath being poured out on His Own sinless Son. You see, sin against an infinite God is an infinite sin, requiring corresponding punishment and justice. So, when God placed upon His Son, Jesus, the sins and iniquities of all mankind, your sins and iniquities and mine, God’s holy character demanded that sin be punished, even though that sin was now Jesus, His Son.
2C. So, on the cross, as Jesus hung between heaven and earth, rejected by God and rejected by men, He received the full weight and fury of God’s pent up rage. All the anger, all the resentment, all the punishment, all the vengeance, all the retribution, all the fire and torment that humanity’s collective wickedness and guilt deserved, would be in a moment rained down on God’s Son, Jesus.
3B. But before that would happen, culminating in Jesus’ death on the cross, something else would have to happen
1C. You whining compromisers who feel sorry for the wicked, but who feel no responsibility toward the innocent. You, who are willing to crucify your loved ones so that you might feel good about dispensing your putrid brand of fake mercy. You, who are too gutless or too foolish or too lazy to make a break from those you know who are wicked and evil and foul and, most of all, dangerous to you and your kids and your families.
2C. You think you can play both sides of this fence. You think you can go to Church and salvage the kids you bring to Church, while still trying to hold on to the wicked children who insist on doing evil, who insist on defiling the nest, who would lower your family’s spiritual standards. And you others who think you can play with the bad boys at school or at work, and then pretend to be holy when you are around your parents or at Church.
3C. You think God’s going to let that slide by? You think God’s not going to remember what you are doing? You think God just ignores your refusal to put Him first before your wicked family members, before your wicked friends, before your wicked coworkers? Think again.
4C. Throughout the Bible we see God admonishing His people to separate from sin and to distance ourselves from sinners. “Be ye holy for I am holy” is a message that resonates through God’s Word and down through the centuries. And you think God is pleased when you refuse to choose Him over sinners, when you refuse to choose communion and companionship with Him over communion and companionship with the evil and the rebellious? Think again.
5C. When God’s Son, Jesus, became sin, when He took upon Himself your iniquities and mine, what did God then do? Matthew 27.46 shows us what God then did. Please turn there: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
6C. You who will not separate from the wicked ones you know, who will not distance yourselves from those who have turned their back on God and have chased after sin as fast as their feet will carry them, pay attention to what God did. When Jesus sinned God turned His back on Him. Now, Jesus did not sin by personal conduct or behavior. But when Jesus became a sinner by imputed sin, by taking on Himself our sins, God separated from Him.
7C. So, what God demands of His Own, that we separate from those who are ungodly, that we no longer companion with those who are fornicators, with those who are covetous, with those who are idolaters, is what He Himself did when Jesus became sin. Yes, Jesus experienced separation, isolation from His Father, Who then poured upon His beloved Son His wrath.
1. Oh, my, what Jesus suffered on the cross of Calvary. Thank God, Who reigns above in majesty supreme, that Jesus rose from the dead after three days and nights. Amen?
2. Thank God we can celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ every year at this time. Amen?
3. But the question that must be asked is “Why?” Why did Jesus suffer such contradiction of sinners? Why did He let those men do those horrible things to Him? And why did God to do Him those things that God did to Him?
4. Those are the questions that will be answered after brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song. Let’s stand and sing together, shall we?
1. The question before you this evening is “Why?” Why did Jesus suffer His creatures to do to Him what we did to Him? And why did God the Father do to Him what He did to Him?
2. These questions, this one question, really, is answered in our text for today, First Timothy 1.15. Please turn there and stand with me for the reading of God’s Word: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Let’s stop there.
3. The focus of our attention is on that last phrase, which reads in our English Bible, “to save sinners.” The “Why?” behind the doing and dying of Jesus Christ can be explained in this one simple phrase.
4. Notice, if you will, the components of this phrase.
1A. First, THERE IS THE PREPOSITION
1B. We read the word “to.” The word “to” shows us that there was a purpose to Jesus Christ’s coming into the world. And by His coming into the world is meant all that He purposed to do, culminating in His crucifixion and resurrection.
2B. You see, Jesus Christ’s coming was no accident, it was no afterthought, it was no chance occurrence. Remember, He is the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. We never see God in any way responding to an unforeseen turn of events or striving to recoup after a setback.
3B. Go back to Daniel 9.25-27 and you will clearly see that the precise time of Messiah Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem just prior to His crucifixion was predicted, more than seven centuries before the prophecy was finally fulfilled. And the purpose of His coming was explained in Isaiah chapter 53, while the stunning details of His crucifixion are found in Zechariah 12.10: “and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”
4B. But when did Jesus decide to do what He did? When did He plan and purpose to come and offer Himself a ransom for sin? When were these things all worked out in the counsel chambers of the triune godhead? James tells us in Acts 15.18: “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.”
5B. So, Jesus came into the world “to save sinners.” Not something sudden. Not a reaction by God to an unanticipated rebellion by first Satan and his angels and then Adam and Eve, but something that had always been in the mind of God and on the heart of His Son, Jesus.
2A. Next, THERE IS THE VERB
1B. There are certain words that mean more to some folks than to others. And those words mean more at certain times in history than at other times. Such a word is “save.” Because there is so much confusion about words these days I usually make it a point, when I am counseling sinners, to ask what the word “save” means. You would be flabbergasted how many times people just shrug their shoulders and say, “I don’t know.”
2B. Let me tell you, people who are dug out from under an avalanche of snow by the Ski Patrol know what the word means. The swimmer who gets caught in an under tow and panics, and then is pulled to safety by a life guard, knows. The little girl who slipped down an old pipe in texas some years back, who was pulled up after being trapped for days, knows. The soldier who was wounded by a mine in Viet Nam, and then carried to safety under a withering barrage of machine gun fire, by then captain Norman Schwartzkopf, knows what the word means.
3B. My friends, there are times when you are in trouble. Your life is in danger and if someone doesn’t come along and pull you to safety, if someone doesn’t come along and lay hold of you to pull you up from the quicksand, or to lift you to safety off the face of that cliff, or to snatch you from that burning automobile, or to reach down into the water to hoist you up where you can breathe, you’re going to die.
4B. In the same manner does Jesus save. Here you are, helpless and hopeless, in a canoe on a rapidly flowing river with no paddle, heading for a thundering waterfall, about to be plunged over and dashed onto the rocks below. The river is sin, that sweeps you along no matter what you do. The waterfall is God’s judgment.
5B. My friend, when it comes to salvation, you don’t need Jesus to help you. Help implies that you can do part of the saving yourself, and you can’t. You’re standing at the edge of a cliff after a volcano erupts. And all around you is red hot lava, moving toward you inch by inch. To the front of you, to the left of you, to the right of you is lava. And behind you is a cliff. You don’t need help, you need deliverance, you need rescuing.
6B. Only with Jesus the saving isn’t salvation from physical danger. It’s not even salvation from Hell. What you need, and what Jesus provides, is salvation from sins. Oh, my friend, don’t you want to be saved from your sins this evening? That’s why Jesus came. To save from sins.
3A. Third, THERE IS THE NOUN
1B. “Sinners” What is a sinner? A sinner is a person who sins, by doing things that are wrong.
1C. It is wrong to lie. It is wrong to cheat. It is wrong to steal. It is wrong to have sex to someone you are not married to. It is wrong to think sinful thoughts. It is wrong to hate someone. It is wrong to murder someone. It is wrong to treat your mother or your father dishonorably. It is wrong to do what your parents tell you not to do. It is wrong to take the name of the Lord in vain. It is wrong to drink liquor, beer, and wine. It is wrong to take illicit drugs.
2C. It is wrong to encourage others to do wrong. It is wrong to be lascivious, to make yourself look sexy and alluring and enticing. It is wrong to dress immodestly. It is wrong to be worldly, to appear to have the values of a Christ rejecting world. It is wrong to have the appearance of evil. It is wrong to do what God doesn’t want you to do. A person who does these things is a sinner.
2B. But that’s not all a sinner is. A sinner is also a person who sins by not doing right.
1C. It is wrong to not love God. It is wrong to not love your neighbor. It is wrong to not do your best in school. It is wrong to not give tithes and offerings to God. It is wrong to not love your wife. It is wrong to not serve God in your Church. It is wrong to not attend Church. It is wrong to not take communion.
2C. It is wrong to not read your Bible. It is wrong to not hide God’s Word in your heart. It is wrong to not witness to the lost. It is wrong to not invite the lost to Church. It is wrong to not spank your children when it’s needful. It’s wrong to not train your children to be servants. It’s wrong to not break your willful child’s will. A person who does not do these things is a sinner.
3B. But even that’s not all a sinner is. You see, a sinner is not only one who does wrong and who does not do right. A sinner is also one who is wrong.
1C. Quite aside from your actions, your behavior, your impulses, your deeds, your thoughts, your motives, and your aspirations being onerous to God, unpleasant to God, irritable to God, noxious to God, vile to God. It just so happens that you are onerous to God, irritable to God, noxious to God, unpleasant to God.
2C. And if you examine the problem of sin carefully in God’s Word, you will see that the fundamental issue that separates you from God, that alienates you from God, that outrages God, isn’t what you do, but what you are.
3C. For you see, just as Jesus is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, you are unholy, harmful, completely defiled, and you actually are a sinner. If ever a human being deserved the wrath of God, it’s you. If ever a person’s nature warranted the flames of God’s vengeance, it’s yours.
4C. And what compounds your wickedness, your guilt, your culpability, is your self-righteous and hypocritical insistence on comparing yourself with other people, your despicable efforts to justify yourself by saying “Well, at least I’m not as bad as . . . .” “Comparing themselves among themselves,” you are not wise.
5C. Yes, you are a sinner. You are as guilty as guilty can be, as deserving of Hellfire as any man or woman who has ever lived. As well, you are the kind of person Jesus Christ came into this world to save.
4A. WE CLOSE WITH A LOOK AT THE ADJECTIVE IN THIS PHRASE
1B. Adjectives, of course, are words that modify nouns, that set limits and boundaries on nouns, that inform us what the limitations and the scope covered by nouns is. Take a close look at this phrase which comprises our text and take note of the adjective. “. . . to save sinners.”
2B. Have you noticed that there is no adjective here? That’s right. No adjective modifying the noun in this phrase, no adjective telling us what kind of sinners Jesus saves.
3B. Think about that. No adjective! The word “sinners” is not modified in any way. What can that mean?
1C. It means that Jesus Christ came to save sinners just like you. You see, if an adjective had been used to modify this word “sinners,” then the scope of Christ’s mission would have been limited. He would then have come to save only certain kinds of sinners. But that’s not what we have here at all.
2C. That means, Jesus came to save sinners like you, even if you are not a penitent sinner. “Oh, pastor, I don’t feel bad enough about my sin.” Though all sinners should feel bad about their sins, you can still get saved if you don’t, because Jesus didn’t come to save penitent sinners. He came to save sinners.
3C. It also means that Jesus came to save you, if you are not a particularly awakened sinner. “Oh, pastor, I don’t feel spiritually awakened to my sinfulness.” Though it would be good for sinners to be spiritually awakened, you can still get saved if you’re not, because Jesus didn’t come to save particularly awakened sinners. He came to save sinners.
4C. It also means that Jesus came to save you, if you are not a grieving sinner. “Oh, pastor, I don’t grieve over my sinfulness.” Though it would be good for sinners to grieve over their sinfulness, you can still get saved if you don’t grieve, because Jesus didn’t come to save grieving sinners. He came to save sinners.
1. When I deal with sinners I usually try to persuade them to come to Jesus immediately. But they usually won’t unless they are more penitent, or unless they are more awakened, or unless they are more grieved, or unless something.
2. When I see that’s the case I try to get them to become a bit more of what I think will be helpful to them in their particular case. But understand this: All that’s really needed to be saved by Jesus is to be a sinner.
3. If you know you are a helpless, hopeless, Hell-deserving sinner, no matter how you may feel about yourself, Jesus came to save you. I declare this on the authority of God’s Word, which says that Christ Jesus came to save sinners.
4. Are you a sinner? Then come to Jesus, my friend, and do not delay. Come to Jesus right this moment.