A Jewish tax collector for
the Roman government, Matthew forsook his lucrative office to become a
follower of Jesus Christ. One of the first things he did was to
prepare a sumptuous banquet to which he invited Jesus and the other
disciples. He also invited many of his old tax collecting buddies.
When the hyper-separatists Jewish sect called Pharisees heard of this they
criticized Jesus to His disciples, "How is it that he eats and drinks
with tax collectors and sinners.?" When Jesus heard it He
said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but
those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but
sinners to repentance" Mark 2:16, 17.
When Jesus made His last
journey to Jerusalem He passed through Jericho. As He entered the
city He mercifully gave sight to a blind beggar. As a result a crown
gathered and followed Him. Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, greatly
desired to see Jesus, but because he was short and the crowd was large he
could not. Throwing his dignity to the winds he ran ahead and
climbed a tree in order to just catch a glimpse of Jesus. When Jesus
came to the tree He stopped and looked up at Zacchaeus and said, "Zacchaeus,
make hast and come down, for today I must stay at your house."
For doing so Jesus was once again highly criticized. His answer was,
"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was
lost." Luke 19:5, 10.
A FAITHFUL SAYING
The apostle Paul conformed
"a faithful saying" that had become a widely held article of faith
among the early churches: "This is a faithful saying and
worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save
sinners..." 1st Timothy 1:15.
The early churches found it
helpful to record "faith sayings." It took some sixty years for all
the New Testament Scriptures to be written and even longer for them to be
dispersed to believers throughout the nations. God's provision for
this was prophets who spoke New Testament revelation in the local
churches. Christians in these early churches coined certain sayings
from these revelations which comprised what we might call a doctrinal
statement. The apostle Paul seems to infer that some of these
sayings were tainted with error, but there was one worthy of universal
acceptance, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners..."
This faithful saying met
every test for divine revelation. It was to be held firm in the
churches and proclaimed boldly to a world of sinners. The chief
reason Jesus left the glory of heaven to enter the human family was to
offer Himself as a sacrifice for all sin in order that sinners might be
saved. No one is to change this truth; reduce it to a lesser
importance, or replace it with any other teaching. Let us take a
very close look at this statement.
"Christ" is a Greek
word meaning "the anointed One". It is the equivalent of the Hebrew
word, "Messiah". Throughout the Old Testament we find that when
anyone was to be set apart as a prophet, priest, or king, they were
anointed with oil. Jesus was prophesied to be Prophet, Priest, and
Jesus fulfilled the office
of Prophet not only by speaking the Word of God but by being the living
Word of God. (See John 1:1, 2, 14).
Jesus began to fulfill His
office as Priest by offering Himself as a sacrifice for mankind's sin on
the cross. He continues as Priest by being the "one Mediator
between God and men..." (Hebrews 2:9; 9:11, 12, 14, 15, 27, 28;
10:10-14; 1st Timothy 2:5).
During the church age Jesus
is gathering citizens for His kingdom. Those who receive a spiritual
birth by the Holy Spirit will both see and enter the kingdom of God (John
3:3, 5-7). Jesus will return to this earth as King of kings and Lord
of lords and rule over the nations of the world. (Revelation 19:11-16;
Jesus was clearly
prophesied to be anointed by God as King (Psalm 45:6, 7) and as Prophet
(Isaiah 61:1-3). He was declared a Priest by the oath of God (Psalm
It was an "angel of the
Lord" who informed Joseph that the child with which Mary was pregnant was
"of the Holy Spirit". The angel went on to instruct Joseph, "And
she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS for He
will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:20,
21). The Greek word for our English Jesus is Iesous (pronounced
ee-ay-sooce). It is the equivalent of the Hebrew word Jehoshua which
is usually written "Joshua" in English. It means
"Jehovah/Salvation." The meaning is that in Jesus we have Jehovah in
a human body for the purpose of saving all who will place their faith in
Him to save them from their sins.
It is no coincidence that
the climax of all four gospels is the death, burial, and resurrection of
Jesus Christ. This is a powerful message that Jesus received the
punishment for the sin of mankind on the cross and rose again "To save
to the uttermost those who come to God through Him..." (Hebrews
CAME INTO THE WORLD
It could not be said of any
other descendant of Adam and Eve that "they came into the world"
for their conception was the beginning of their existence. The
fleshly nature of Jesus began when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and
the power of the Highest overshadowed her. (Luke 1:35). The
spiritual nature of Jesus had no beginning for He had existed from
eternity. "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little
among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the
One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from
everlasting" (Micah 5:2. See also Isaiah 7:14; 9:6, 7;
6:1-4, 9 With John 12:37-41; Philippians 2:5-8) When Jesus was born
Mary could hold and look into the eyes of a sweet baby boy.
Incarnated within that tiny body was the eternally existent Son of God.
TO SAVE SINNERS
The words, "save" and
"saved" are common New Testament words. "Save" appears 38 times and
"saved", 57 times in the sense of "deliverance and preservation."
Both are translations of the same Greek word sozo, so we are looking at a
total of 95 times the Holy Spirit employs this word by the writers of the
New Testament. The truly sad thing is that there are tens of
thousands of "Christian" churches where these words are rarely or never
heard. How can these churches be properly representing Christ when
the Scriptures manifestly state that the purpose of His coming was "to
The means by which Jesus
saves sinners is:
1. God "made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin
for us..."(2nd Corinthians 5:21). Isaiah prophesied this over
700 years in advance with these words, "But He was wounded for our
transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities..." (Isaiah
2. Jesus clothes sinners with His righteousness the instant they
accept His sacrifice for their sin and sincerely trust Him as their
Savior. "For with the heart one believes unto righteousness..."
(Romans 10:10). "...We become the righteousness of God in Him."
(2nd Corinthians 5:21).
3. The Holy Spirit gives us a spiritual birth by which our spirit is
made alive to God and in the fullest sense we become the sons and
daughters of God. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and
that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:6).
"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing..."
(John 6:63). "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again
to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out,
'Abba, Father'. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God'" (Romans 8:14, 15).
4. Jesus comes to live within us to enable us to be what we should
be and do what we should do. "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word;
and My Father will love Him, and We will come to him and make Our home
with him." (John 14:23). "You are of God, little
children, and have overcome them (false spirits), because He who is
in you is greater than he who is in the world." (1st John 4:4)
Notice that Jesus saves
sinners. We note that in the gospel records Jesus turned away those
who were trusting their goodness, religion, or good works to make them
acceptable to God:
Nicodemus came to Jesus by
night. He spoke respectfully to Jesus but his words revealed a
latent smugness that he and his peers possessed the position, knowledge,
and authority to examine Jesus and pass judgment on Him. Jesus
answered sharply, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born
again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
The rich young ruler felt
he had kept all the commandments of God and hoped this would qualify him
to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him he lacked one thing, and
demonstrated that he was in the iron grip of covetousness. (Luke
Jesus told of a Pharisee
who thanked God that he was perfectly righteous in every aspect of his
life, and a tax collector who had so many things wrong that he was a
despised outcast. Jesus said the tax collector humbled himself and
begged God to be merciful to him as a sinner. Jesus decreed that the
tax collector went home justified before God rather than the
self-righteous Pharisee. (Luke 18:9-14).
On the other hand we note
there was not one time Jesus turned away those who took their place as
sinners seeking pardon from sin and salvation of their souls. Some
that readily come to mind are the woman of Samaria in John 4; the sinful
(Make that immoral) woman who washed His feet with her tears and dried
them with here hair (Luke 7:37-50) and the thief who died beside Jesus on
a cross (Luke 23:40-43).
The apostle Paul spent much
of his life in the confidence that he was blameless concerning the
righteousness required by the law (Philippians 3:4). Yet, it was
only when his spiritual eyes were opened and he took his place as "the
chief of sinners" that he came into a true relationship with God.
We do will to understand
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; take our place as a
sinner and trust Jesus Christ to save us from the condemnation of God's
law and bring us into the family of God.