“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost,” (1 Timothy 1:15, ESV).
The Apostle Paul expressed that amazing truth in his epistle to Timothy. That verse encapsulates why we celebrate Christmas. This verse was the focus of the sermon preached at my church last Sunday. Just think about the phrase, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
How remarkable is that? This verse contains two primary truths:
Christ came to us.
When you look at different religions around the world they all have one thing in common. Human beings attempt to reach the divine through their works. Human beings take the initiative.
Not so with Christianity. God initiates. He comes to us. God becomes man.
We read in the Gospel of John: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14, ESV).
The Apostle Paul explains just how incredible this was.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men,” (Philippians 2:5-7, ESV).
God the son came into the world not as a conquering king, but as a baby. A baby born of a virgin, teenage mother. A son of a carpenter who will grow up in Nazareth, a town that no one respected.
This is hardly the context we would expect the King of the Universe to come to us, but yet he came. Fully God and fully man who experienced pain, suffering, hunger, temptation, exhaustion, agony, and all the while was without sin.
And few fully recognized who it was in their midst.
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him,” (John 1:9-11, ESV).
He was not accepted on this earth as the king that he was, but that was by design.
Christ came with a purpose in mind.
Christ came to save sinners.
Jesus did not come for perfect people.
The Apostle Paul explained to Timothy the state he was in before Christ came.
“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that is in Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 1:12-14, ESV).
Paul who then was called Saul, hated Christians. Hated the name of Jesus. He persecuted the Church, (Acts 8:1-3) and was present for the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who was stoned to death, (Acts 7:58).
He did this until he had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, (Acts 9). He was transformed. Saul became Paul who instead of persecuting the church instead brought the Gospel to the gentile world.
Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.
Of whom, Paul said, he was the worst, (1 Timothy 1:15).
And not just Paul, but you and I as well.
“But to all who did not receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God,” (John 1:12-13, ESV).
God took the initiative yet again because it was not in our nature to receive or believe. We could not come to him on our own initiative. We all sinned, (Romans 3:23) and God can not tolerate sin. We are all imperfect and God expects perfection. We could never meet God’s standards.
God had to act. Jesus humbled himself by becoming a human being and coming in the form of a servant, but did so much more. “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” (Philippians 2:8, ESV).
Jesus, God the son, was born to die.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him,” (John 3:16-17, ESV).
Jesus didn’t wait for us to be worthy before he died for us.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:6-8, ESV).
And he didn’t stay dead. Jesus rose again conquering sin and death. Because he rose from the dead we can have confidence that we too will rise from the dead.
“For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once and for all, but the life he lives he lives to God,” (Romans 6:7-10, ESV).
Sin could not defeat Jesus and the grave could not hold him.
And we can be saved from our sin as a result.
How will you respond?
Those of us who received and know Jesus, our response is worship. Like the Apostle Paul who spontaneously offered praise as he wrote to Timothy, “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen,” (1 Timothy 1:17, ESV).
Some reading this have never considered the true purpose of the Christ child come on Christmas morning. God loves you. He sent his Son Jesus to die for you. He wants a relationship with you. He has given you the best gift imaginable which is eternal life through his Son Jesus Christ, (Romans 6:23).
To receive that free gift we are to repent – turn from your sin and turn to Christ, and believe. Believe that Jesus Christ died for your sin and rose from the grave.
The Bible offers this promise: “(I)f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame,'” (Romans 10:9-10, ESV).
If you turn to Christ, He is the best Christmas present you will ever receive. It’s the very reason we celebrate Christmas.