Dear radio friends,
Why was Jesus Christ born in Bethlehem of Judea? That He was born is known just about throughout the whole world today. Just about everybody has heard the news that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. Do you know why He was born?
I am not going to get into the explanations that are being offered by many today. Many commentators, many wise men, spin their reasons as to why Jesus was born in the stable in Bethlehem. I am going to tell you, from God’s Word, why Jesus came.
God tells us. I Timothy 1:15, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” Do you know the answer to why Jesus came? Do you know the answer to that personally? Because, by grace, you know yourself to be that chief sinner? That is why Jesus was born — to save sinners.
That is exactly what the angels said on the night in which He was born. They sang. They said, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord.” Is that the joy in your heart today and in this morning, this Christmas morning? Is this the joy that rings in and fills your heart? Is that what you see in the Holy Scriptures as they speak to you of the wonder (Luke 2) of the birth of Jesus? Is this your comfort?
Children, what do you want today? What are you looking forward to hearing about? What do you really want? Is it something under the Christmas tree? Parents, aged, and young people, what fills your heart, what are the good tidings of great joy? Is it found in something of money, something you put on, some friend?
The most important thing is God’s gift of salvation. You cannot put a value on that. You see, you could never pay for it. It is of infinite value and you do not deserve it and cannot get it of yourself.
But still more, this gift of salvation never wears out. You do not have to return it. It never loses its luster. Jesus was born that we might be saved from our sins and our sinfulness. When that wonder is placed in our hearts, and when we see the gospel of the birth of Jesus Christ in that stable, then our hearts erupt with praise, and two things will be true of us today and every day. The first one is this: There will be in our hearts an overwhelming wonder, a humility before God and a great thanksgiving. The apostle Paul puts it this way in I Timothy 1:14 (the verse just before the one we are looking at today). He says, “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” He says that grace of God appears to me so abundant. I am overwhelmed with wonder and thanks.
And the second thing that will be true of us if we truly know why Jesus came, namely, to save us from our sins, the second thing true of us will be praise. Paul puts it this way in verse 17: “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” When you know that Jesus was born to save you, there will be praise.
We read, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” That is why He came. Children, that means that the birth of Jesus Christ, of which we read in Luke 2, was unique. There was never a birth like that one. And there never will be a birth on earth like it again. Do you know why?
It was not unique because of all the poverty and all the lowliness and all the filth — the fact that He was born in a stable. Babies today are also being born in mud huts and under the stars where camels sleep. But the wonder, the uniqueness, is found in these words: “He came into the world.” And that means more than just “He was born.” It means that He was, or lived, before He was born. He existed. In fact, I can say to you that Jesus Christ always existed as God’s dear Son. He never began. He never was born, in that sense. Jesus Christ, as God’s Son, made the world. Now He who made the world, He who holds the world in His hand, came into the world. And He came into the world in our flesh, in human flesh. He was sent of God His Father to assume flesh in the womb of a virgin called Mary. You see, His birth was not just another birth on the lists of human births. But it was the coming of eternal God, second person of the Trinity, strong to save. The wonder of God’s coming through a virgin birth.
It was the moment God had planned eternally. He had promised this for 4,000 years to His people. This is what God’s children in the Old Testament had waited for and had hoped in. The salvation promised was now revealed to them. So everything was arranged by God to be just so.
Mary is a virgin, for God gives this Son without the help of man. She is a virgin of the house of David, for the promised Savior is to be of the line of David. She is nine months pregnant. She is engaged to Joseph. Augustus Caesar, that great and reputed leader (still reputed today as one of the world’s greatest leaders) is used by God the same way you would (in a chess game) use a pawn to serve your purpose. God moves him to issue a decree of taxing. And, in obedience to the taxing, Joseph and Mary leave Nazareth and journey down to Bethlehem, where God had foretold that His Son would be born. It was that night, as there is no place for them in that town except for a lowly stable, that contractions start and Mary goes into labor and gives birth to her firstborn son.
Yes, it is God’s firstborn Son. She brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger. The wonder of God’s love had taken place. God’s Son, who lives and cannot die, who remained fully God, has now humbled Himself. He has laid aside the glory that was His. And He is now united with flesh — the flesh of the virgin. He is a newborn. He is God and yet flesh in one person. As God in the flesh He sees sin as a horror. He has come into a sin-cursed world. And He is the omnipotent, the Almighty Son of God in diapers. He who created man must now be fed. He who is eternally wise must now learn. He who eternally lived with Father, Son, and Spirit now lives with sinners. And He will die between sinners. He will make His grave in the earth.
Why? Why would God the Son, the great, the beautiful Son of God, come into this world? To save sinners. It was God’s wisdom. It was God sending a Savior for our sins and sinfulness. He came for no other reason. He did not come to be the kind of Savior that men are still trying to make Him to be. He could have been an earthly Savior if He wanted to be. If He wanted to be another kind of a Savior, He had the opportunity to do so. He could have joined the select crowd of men who have risen from poverty to great power. He could have done that. He could have been the one to provide food. No one could have done it as He did. He supplied bread for 4,000 at one time. He would have been able to eradicate poverty in the Mediterranean world. He was able to heal from all types of diseases. And if you are looking for an arbiter, for a champion who is able to go in between those at odds and bring them to peace, none could do it as He. He could have been a champion of social causes. He could have been a tremendous problem-solver. He would have been able to bring out the best in others. Oh, sure!
But all of these things Jesus Christ grew up to reject. When a man came to Him to say, “Please resolve an argument that I’m having with my brother over our inheritance. He is trying to swindle me,” He refused. He said, “Who made me a judge over you?” For He came for one thing and one thing only — the thing. He came to take away our sins and our sinfulness. He is a real Savior. He is not an artificial Savior. He came to suffer and He came to die. He came to get under the tremendous burden, the eternal guilt of our sins. He came to solve the root of our problem. We could not. We never could. He came to save us from our sins.
And that is why He was born the way He was. He was born in poverty. It could hardly have been worse. There was nothing there. It was just a hole in the ground. It was filled with manure. It was a stable where animals are. It was covered over with spider webs. That is where He was born. Why? The angel said, “This is a sign unto us.” It was a sign that a Savior was born. The angel said, “Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. It was a sign that He had come to take upon Himself the filth of our sins. God, at that moment, imputed, reckoned, all our sins and sinfulness upon His own Son. God placed it upon Him. God made Him stand where we deserve to be. God placed upon Him all the guilt of our sins — not just some of my sins — all my sins. And not just my sins, but my sinfulness. I am conceived and born as a sinner. And now, everything that I do, all my deeds, all my hatred, every evil thing that comes out of my mouth…. You look back now over your life today. As you grow up in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, you see behind you more and more and more and more sin. That is why the remembrance of Jesus’ birth and His death and resurrection becomes, oh, so precious. What a Savior. All our sins! He came to save sinners. God now has given His Son to stand in the place of sinners.
But we ask the question: Who are these sinners? Whom did Jesus come to save? Children, He came to save sinners. Who? Which ones? Did He come to save you? Now, if you remember, children, what the angel said to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, you have the answer. “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” So, from the Bible we know that God’s Son came to save those whom God had loved eternally, out of mere grace.
And that grace works in us the knowledge that I am the sinner. Notice that Paul says, “This is a faithful saying … Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” That is part of the faithful saying. You must not read that verse in I Timothy 1:15 this way, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (and that is the end of the faithful saying and then add Paul’s response); of whom I am chief.” Oh, no! It is all part of the faithful saying. The faithful saying is this: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” That is the faithful saying that must come out of the mouth of every child of God. You cannot say Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners if you do not say, of whom I am chief.
He came to save sinners who are convicted by the Spirit that they are the chief. He came to save sinners of all sorts. Some obvious sinners. Some that even children can look at them and say, “Dad, that is a sinner.” But most of these sinners are not so obvious. They come in nice garb, and they come with many good deeds that they want to wear as jewels for their attraction.
He came to save sinners who, by the grace of God, know their sins. They were represented by the shepherds on the night that Jesus was born. The shepherds were lowly and they were despised. They were poor. But God gave them to know their sin and they left the manger rejoicing and glorifying and praising God.
Who came to Jesus that night? Did the Pharisees come to Jesus? No. Did the scribes, who searched the Scriptures and knew the promise of the Messiah, come? No. No, the Pharisees and the scribes did not like to talk about sin. Oh, they could talk about the sins of other people. But they did not like to talk about their own sins. In fact, they really did not think that they had that many.
Who came to Jesus that night? The merchants, the businessmen? Bethlehem was crowded with them — all kinds of merchants, all kinds of businessmen. No, they were too busy. They were caught up. They were counting their money. They were making their plans for the next week. They did not really believe that the important thing in life was forgiveness. But the important thing in life was the dollar. Their comfort for tomorrow was that they would have, perhaps, more dollars and greater sales receipts — especially at this time of the season. That was their comfort.
Whom did Jesus come to save? Sinners who are made to know their sin. “Of whom I am chief.”
That means, as I said, that each child of God must make that confession. And it means that God has to teach you how to spell the word “sin.” Do you know how to spell the word sin? Now, in our church the fourth and fifth-grade catechism class has been taught how to spell the word sin. I wonder if we know how. You say, “That’s not a hard word to spell — s – i – n.” Yes, but when you spell it, it is spelled this way: s – I – n. Do you see the point? That is the way sin is spelled — with the middle letter a capital and the other two just small. I sin. Sin in not spelled: s-U-n. That spells sun. But that is the way we like to spell the word sin: s-U-n. If we spell the word sin: sUn, we cannot possess the joy of the gospel.
Oh, we spell it that way (sUn). Yes, we do. Listen to us talk in our living rooms. We take care of this church member, that church, that minister. Listen to the conversation as you speak with your wife in your marriage. We are constantly spelling the word sin, s-U-n. But Jesus did not come to save sUnners. He came to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
The saved sinners are not self-righteous. They are self-conscious. They are saved by the undeserved grace of God. They see themselves as the greatest of sinners. They are made humble. They know that they are the recipients of God’s great gift of His Son. And they do not say, “I could never do that. I don’t to that.” When you talk that way, you do not need Jesus. But rather, they say, “I know myself the best. How can anyone be saved by grace and think worse of others than of himself? The older we get, the pile of sin just gets higher. You want to know what kind of a sinner you really are? Then do not measure yourself with others, but today, yes, on this Christmas day, make your journey of faith to the manger and look at the Christ-child. That will tell you how great your sins are. So great are my sins that nothing but the Son of God could save me.
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. This is a faithful saying. This is worthy of all acceptation. This is, literally, a reliable saying. None who place their trust in this saying shall ever despair. I know Christ Jesus came into the world. I know Luke 2 is correct. I know this is no myth. I know it is no fable. I know it all happened. Eternal God loved me. He loved His whole church. He sent His Son to bear away our sins. How do I know? Because the Bible says so, yes. But, you see, there is also the knowledge of salvation. I know because He saved me.
Is that how you know? Then, in humility we stand before Him and with great joy, with peaceful joy, in our hearts we say, “Oh, the depth of the love of God.” We exult in God. We praise God. It is not a holiday cheer. It is not a magic moment. But it is the deep, deep work of the joy of salvation in our hearts today. That is what we have.
That is the gospel. Believe and thou shalt be saved. By the grace of God, believe in Christ the Savior of sinners. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief. Is that what is in your heart today? Is that the great joy of the day for you? Is this your comfort now and always?
Then celebrate the day! And when the day is over, bear something away with you throughout the year and to death’s door. Bear this with you: Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Father, to Thee be all praise and glory for this wonder of the gift of Thy Son to be born to save us sinners, of whom I am chief. May this glorious gospel be the thrill of our hearts and the comfort of our souls until we stand before Him who was born in a stable, when He comes as Lord of lords and King of kings. In His name, Amen.