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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Christ Jesus Came to Save Sinners
Text:1 Timothy 1:12-17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Forgiveness of Sins

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

I Will Sing the Wondrous Story

Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord           

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
“Christ Jesus Came to Save Sinners”
1 Timothy 1:12-17
The busiest time of the year is the advent season leading to Christmas. Beginning with “Black Friday” our culture in the United States makes every effort to impress on us how busy we should be. This is the time to buy gifts, mail cards and attend all the holiday parties that a secular culture celebrates, (even under COVID restrictions where the rule-makers often break the rules they have imposed on celebrations).
But amid all the hype and advertising of a secular holiday, our text from 1 Timothy 1:15 puts our focus on “a trustworthy saying.” The apostle Paul writes, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.”
What makes the saying trustworthy is that it is a promise from the word of God. From the time that Adam and Eve plunged all humanity into sin God promised to send a Redeemer. We read of that in the opening chapters of Genesis, where in Genesis 3:15 God said to the serpent, that is, the devil, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and first; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Theologians refer to that verse in Genesis 3:15 as the Protoevangelium, which means the first mention of the gospel. Throughout the Old Testament, the good news of a Messiah is woven throughout the Scriptures, which also clearly show humanity’s need for salvation.
Many people, even Christian people, don’t like to read the Old Testament because it records bloody and violent scenes.  But as it records bloodshed, sorrow and all the other results of sin in the Old Testament era, it also paints a vivid picture of our culture today. It is strikingly similar to what we hear on the news, isn’t it?  All around us we hear of murder, violence, war, famine, and disease.
The point is that whether you lived back in the Old Testament times in Israel or whether you live today in the United States or any other country, you and I live in a corrupt, sinful world with a desperate need for a Savior.  And our text is saying that it is trustworthy because it points us to the only Savior the world can ever know, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Old Testament Prophecies
The Old Testament’s prophecies concerning Jesus Christ are astounding in their accuracy.  Isaiah, for instance, prophesied that he would be born of a virgin, that he would be a man of sorrows, acquainted with suffering, pierced for our transgressions. And the prophet Micah predicted the exact place where the Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, would be born.
You may recall that when the wise men came to Herod and asked, “Where is the one who is been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the East end of come to worship him,” Herod was greatly disturbed. He called together the chief priests and teachers of the law, and he asked them where the Christ was to be born. Immediately they replied, “In Bethlehem in Judea.” 
How could they give such a quick and accurate reply to the puzzled and perturbed king? It was because, as they went on to say, “For this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” (Micah 5:2)
Do you see how trustworthy the saying is regarding the birth of Jesus Christ? The Lord promised Abraham that the Messiah would come from his seed, his lineage.  We see its fulfillment in the birth of Jesus Christ.  God promised David that his heir would have an eternal kingdom. We see its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. God promised Moses that He would raise up a prophet greater than him.  That prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
The trustworthy sayings of the Old Testament describe, among many other realities, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem; Zechariah foretold it long before it happened. The betrayal of Jesus Christ by one of his own disciples is described in Psalm 41:9. Even the exact number of silver pieces that Judas would receive for betraying Jesus was foretold in the trustworthy sayings of the Old Testament (Zechariah 11:12).
There are many other prophesies that could be added to the list of trustworthy sayings; many other Old Testament prophesies point us to Jesus Christ. For example, it was foretold how soldiers would cast lots for his garment, how his side would be pierced, he would be given gall and wine vinegar to drink, his hands and feet pierced. It was prophesied that his body would not decay and that he would rise again on the third day after his crucifixion. All these events and many more are described in the trustworthy sayings of the Old Testament. All those who carefully examine those prophecies find that in every case their predictions are fulfilled with pin-point accuracy. 
No wonder Paul wrote about a trustworthy saying. He uses that expression five times in his various letters. The expression of a trustworthy saying is uniquely Pauline. However, the expression applies to all of Scripture. All of Scripture is trustworthy as it reveals the perverse depravity of humanity and the great need for the only Savior from sin.  And in doing so, all of Scripture points us to the true meaning of Jesus’ birth.
Christ Jesus Came into the World to Save Sinners
The trustworthy saying of Scripture is that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” That is the purpose for the birth of Jesus Christ.
Whenever we take the Lord’s Supper, we recognize that what is pictured before us in the bread and the cup portrays the reason why Jesus was born in Bethlehem so long ago.  You will not find a Christmas manger scene or decoration that more clearly depicts the reason for Jesus’ birth than the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  In the sacrament God nourishes us spiritually, but it is also another way of portraying the reason for Jesus’ birth.  It causes us to remember the reason Jesus came into the world. That is why Jesus commands us to “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Jesus wants us to remember specifically that he came to save sinners from their sin. The only way that salvation could be accomplished was by the eternal God, Christ Himself, taking on the human flesh. Jesus must be truly human to represent us. But he also must be truly God to forgive us and redeem us.
No mere human can redeem themself or another.  In the birth of Jesus, we see where he who is eternal God, creator of the cosmos, is now born in the most humble of places as he comes to earth so that we who believe in him may one day be in the glory of heaven, forgiven and redeemed by the gift of saving faith in Christ alone.
But it wasn’t enough that Jesus was born in the manger as true God in human flesh. In order for Jesus to save us from our sin he also had to do what no other human being throughout history had ever been able to do: he had to live a sinless, perfect life. 
The Old Testament records the lives of wonderful people of faith such as Abraham, Enoch, Noah and Moses and many others. Their lives are reflected on in Hebrews 11. They were lives of faith.  But all of them were blighted with sin, even Enoch who walked with God and was swept into glory. Even though the Old Testament believers had the gift of faith they could not save themselves or anyone else. 
In order to bring salvation, Christ Jesus had to live the perfect life of obedience that no one else had ever been able to live.  He did so, even though he faced every temptation that we have faced, and so many more as the devil attacked Him face-to-face as well as with subtle temptations in a vain effort to trip him up.
Having lived that perfect life, Jesus didn’t keep the perfection just for himself, but rather he imputes, that is, credits, his righteous perfection to everyone who, by God’s grace, has saving faith in him alone. That is why the Scripture tells us we are justified by faith. Our justification comes by faith in Jesus Christ as his righteousness is imputed to us.
However, not only did Jesus have to live that perfect life for our sake, but he also had to die a sacrificial death in order to take upon himself the curse of the sins of his people.  Scripture is clear, in Romans 6:23a, that “The wages of sin is death.”  Galatians 3:10 explains why: All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’”  And then Galatians 3:13: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
That act of Jesus becoming a curse for us, bearing the curse of our sin, is portrayed before us in the elements of the sacrament. The bread represents His body, pierced upon the cross. The cup represents His blood, shed to cover our sins and to properly propitiate the righteous, proper wrath of Almighty God against our sin.
Full Acceptance
The text before us is a wonderful text; it is trustworthy, unlike much of what we hear today.  It is centered on the greatest person in the entire universe: Jesus Christ, true eternal God, born in human flesh in Bethlehem so long ago. And thirdly, the text assures us that Christ came for the worst of sinners. He came to save all those who acknowledge their sin, repent of their sin, and trust in Christ alone for salvation.
No wonder the text says that it deserves full acceptance. Did you notice that?  It says, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.”  
But there are many who would take issue with accepting our need for salvation. Most people will admit to some shortcomings in their lives and perhaps even to some sin. But they don’t really accept that the only way of salvation is found through faith in Jesus Christ.
Many people, if they think about judgment at all, picture God as having a scale. On one side of the scale, he weighs our sins and shortcomings, and on the other side of the scale, he weighs our good deeds. Most people who look at the judgment that way believe that their good deeds will outweigh their bad deeds. They believe that God will welcome them into his kingdom based on their own goodness, their own self-righteousness, which outweigh – in their minds – their shortcomings and sins.
Another way that people picture the imaginary scale of God’s judgment is to picture someone very evil on one side of the scale and picture themselves on the other. The human mind can so easily compare itself to others and say, “I’m not perfect by any means, but I’m not nearly as bad as some other people I know.  I’m no Adolf Hitler.  I’m no Osama bin Laden. I’m not a bank robber. I haven't murdered anyone. I haven't actually committed ‘the deed’ with my neighbor’s wife or husband, and I know people who have, so I must be okay in God’s sight because I’m better than others. I’m certainly not like that apostle Paul who called himself the worst – the chief – of sinners.”
However, God does not measure our sin on some make-belief scale that people imagine in their mind. Instead, our sin is seen in the light of God’s law. God’s law is the standard, the rule, by which he measures all humanity.  And all humanity, with the exception of Jesus Christ, fails to measure up to the law of God.
We see that whenever we go through the Heidelberg Catechism together. We see that each time we come to the section of the catechism which explains God’s law. Every time we look at the law, we see that we come up short. We see that we have broken all the commandments, if not outwardly, then we have broken them inwardly, in our thoughts and attitudes.
And then we come to the tenth commandment. We see that it is broken before any of the others, as we often covet before breaking the other commandments, whether related to God in the first table of the law, or to others, as related in the second table. In other words, through the penetrating light of the law, we see that our sin is far more pervasive and evil than we thought.
If that is all that we see in the law, our own inability to keep it perfectly, it would be truly depressing. God requires perfection.  Jesus said, in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  None of us measure up. None of us come close to that perfection, to that holiness and righteousness that God requires. But as Paul wrote to the Galatian church, in Galatians 3:24, he points out one of the reasons for God’s law: “The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”
When we see our sin in the piercing light of God’s law, and by God’s grace repent of our sin and turn in saving faith to Jesus Christ, then his righteousness is imputed - credited - to our account. We are saved from our sin even though each one of us is, in the light of God’s law, the worst of sinners.  It wasn’t just Paul who was the chief of sinners.  That description applies to each one of us in the light of God’s law.
That is where the full acceptance comes in. It comes when we look at ourselves and acknowledge our sin, and then look at Christ and acknowledge him as our only Savior. 
It was the same way for all those Old Testament believers, too. They were people of faith, but time after time we read of their sin. For instance, Abraham, doubting God’s ability to protect him, told his wife to say that she was really his sister. It was a half-truth, but it revealed a lack of faith in the “father of the faithful.”  Moses murdered a man. Noah lay drunk and naked in his tent.  David committed adultery and arranged for the murder of his lover’s husband.
But each one of those people were justified, not by comparing themselves to others, or by accumulating enough good deeds to outweigh the bad.  No, each one was justified by faith in the promised Messiah.  Each one was justified by faith in the eternal Christ who was born in human flesh at the fullness of time in Bethlehem.
The same is true for you and for me. It doesn’t matter what sins are in your past. It doesn’t matter what temptations you struggle with now. When you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with a saving faith, you are saved from your sin and the Holy Spirit works his transforming power upon you, and upon me, as he sanctifies us and equips us to serve God day by day, all the days of our lives.
In Romans 4 Paul describes how Abraham trusted God’s promise to make him the father of many nations, to make him the human father of the lineage from which the eternal Christ would be born.  Abraham looked forward in faith to the birth of Jesus. The Pharisees were shocked and dumbfounded when Jesus told them, in John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
And because Abraham believed, he was justified by faith.  Romans 4 describes how “he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  (Romans 4:20-25)
We read about Christ Jesus all through Scripture.  We see his sacrifice visibly portrayed for us in the elements of the Lord’s Supper. May we then, by God’s grace respond as believers throughout history have, rejoicing to see the day of Jesus Christ - not just his birth, but his perfect life, sacrificial death, glorious resurrection and the certainty of his return.
Then, through saving faith, we will rejoice as did the Apostle long ago, and exclaim in our heart of hearts,  “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.”  Amen!
                                     - bulletin outline -
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus
came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. -  1 Timothy 1:15
                         “Christ Jesus Came to Save Sinners”
                                         1 Timothy 1:12-17
I.  Amid all the hype and advertising of a secular holiday season Scripture puts
     our focus on:
     1) A trustworthy saying (15a)
     2) The purpose of Jesus’ birth: To save sinners (15c)
     3) Our status in the light of God’s law which reveals you and me
          as “the worst of sinners” (15d)
II. The true meaning of Jesus’ birth - to save sinners from their sin - deserves
     full acceptance (15b), and when believed, by God’s grace, is credited to us
     as righteousness (Romans 4:23-25)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2014, Rev. Ted Gray

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