Dear Radio Friends,
The same wonderful story is ours today. It was proclaimed first by angels to shepherds: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
It has been proclaimed by the church down through the ages. The apostle Paul spoke of it in his personal letter to Timothy. And that will form the words of our text for today. In I Timothy 1:15 we read this: “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.”
Is that what is in your heart as you consider the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem? Is that what you see? The coming of your Savior to save you from your sins — is that your comfort? Children, what do you want? Is it something that is under a tree? Is it something with buttons and that runs by a battery? Parents, what is in the bottom of your heart as your greatest treasure and your greatest need?
Reading the words of our text, we realize immediately what the most important thing is. The most important thing is that God gave us the gift, a gift upon which you cannot place a value, a gift that will never wear out. He has given to us salvation from our sins and from our sinfulness.
When that wonder is placed within your heart, then you will certainly know it. And you will know it by the evidence of two things within you. The apostle Paul, in that chapter to Timothy that I referred to, speaks of both of those things. The first is just in front of his words, “This is a faithful saying.” There are these words: “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” The apostle knew the gift of God’s love in Jesus Christ first of all because there was in him an overwhelming humility before God. “The grace of God was exceedingly abundant to me,” he says.
And secondly, you will know the presence of this gift of God in your hearts, this faith in Jesus as Savior, when this is also within you (v. 17): “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.” There the apostle Paul is expressing praise, praise from the bottom of his heart, to the God who has saved him.
When the wonder of the birth of Jesus Christ has been placed by the Holy Spirit in your heart, then these two things will be in you: overwhelming humility and overwhelming praise.
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners! That is the meaning of what we are celebrating as Christians at this time of the year in the birth of Jesus.
Children, that means that the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord, of which we read in Luke 2, was unique. There was never a birth like that one. Do you know why? It was not because of all of the poverty and all of the lowliness in itself. There was much poverty that day for Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus. But babies are born today too in mud huts. They are born where camels sleep. They are born under the stars. The wonder and the uniqueness of Jesus’ birth is found in these words: “He came into the world” — which means more than just that He was born. It means that before He was born He was. He lived before He was born. He existed. He was always God’s dear Son. He was the One, according to the Bible, who with the Father and the Spirit made the world and for whom the whole world was made. He came into the world, that is, into our flesh. He was sent into the world. No, this was not just another birth among many births on earth. But this was the coming of God. God’s own Son, strong to save. A wonder was accomplished in the virgin birth.
It was the moment that God had been planning from all eternity. He had promised this now for four thousand years throughout the Old Testament. This is what God’s children had been waiting for and hoping for those four thousand years. And everything had been arranged by God just so. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a virgin. The child within her was conceived by God Himself. She is now nine months pregnant and engaged to a man called Joseph. And they have journeyed from Nazareth in Galilee down to Bethlehem in Judea to register for a tax. This tax was made by Augustus Caesar. Augustus Caesar is known still today as one of the world’s greatest leaders. But he was just a little pawn in the hand of God. For it was through this taxation that God will see that His promise will be fulfilled, for He had said that His Son would be born in Bethlehem.
Mary and Joseph have journeyed now to Bethlehem. The moment they arrive, the contractions begin with Mary. And there is no place for them within the inn. The only shelter to be found is a stable where the animals are housed. And it is there that the wonder of all wonders takes place. Mary brings forth her firstborn son and wraps Him in swaddling clothes. We are not even told that Joseph was there. It could well have been that Mary was all alone.
Yet, this is the wonder of time. For God’s Son, remaining fully God, has now humbled Himself and has joined Himself to human flesh. He has laid aside His glory and has covered Himself with the shame and the filth of our sins. Now the eternal God stands united with flesh as Immanuel. The omnipotent One is in diapers. He who created man is now fed and taught. He has come to live with sinners. He has come to die between sinners. He has come, by the grace of God, to redeem sinners. That is why He came. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. God sent His Son to be the Savior for our sins and sinfulness. He came for no other reason.
He is not another kind of savior that men are still trying to make Him. If He wanted to be an earthly type of savior, he certainly could have been. He had many opportunities to do so. He could have joined that select number of the world’s great who have risen from poverty to great power. But that is not Jesus. At one time He showed that, as an earthly king, He could provide bread for four, five thousand people at once. He was able to eradicate poverty in the Mediterranean world — if He so desired. He had the power to heal from every type of sickness and disease and He could be an arbitrator, a champion of social causes, a tremendous problem-solver. He could bring out the best in everyone.
But all of these things He rejected. When a man came to Him one day to say, “Please resolve the dispute that I have with my brother over my earthly inheritance,” He refused to enter into it because He focused upon one thing: He was sent to save us from our sin and our sinfulness. He came as a real Savior to suffer and die, to get at the root of our problem. We could identify many problems in our life and in the life of the world: disease, aches, pains, hospitals, broken relationships — all kinds of terrible problems. Jesus came to save from sin.
That is exactly why He was born in that poverty. And that is what we have to see. The angels said to the shepherds, you will remember, “This is a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” All of the poverty surrounding Jesus as He is a little baby in a manger is a picture of the poverty of the sins of God’s people that He takes willingly on Himself.
Now that is the wonder. God has imputed all of our sins and sinfulness upon Him. Jesus came to do what He alone can do as the eternal Son of God: to bear those sins all away by His perfect suffering for them, completely. Not just my sins, but my sinfulness, the sin in which you and I are born and conceived and everything that we have ever done sinfully. Those words escape out of my mouth so easily. But, oh, the infinite and the eternal weight of sin and woe!
Jesus came to do what He alone can do
as the eternal Son of God.
You look back over your life. And as you grow older, in grace, you see more and more sin within you. And that is why the remembrance of His birth, of His death, of His resurrection becomes ever more precious. Our worship of Him deepens. A Savior is born. God has laid upon Him the iniquity of all of His children. He became sin for us, says the Scripture, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. He came to save sinners.
But, perhaps you ask, Whom did He come to save? He came to save sinners. All are sinners. Which ones? Did He come to save you?
The answer to that question was given in last week’s message, taken from II Timothy 1:9. He came to save those who were eternally given of Him by the Father’s decree of election, for those who were called according to God’s own purpose and grace before the world began, those whom God loved eternally.
But now, today, we want to know that saving grace in our hearts. We want to know how that works. That saving grace of God works in our hearts to give us to know that we are the sinners. Let us go back to the words of the apostle: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. The apostle began that verse with the words, “This is a faithful saying.” The faithful saying is not just that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and then the faithful saying stops, and then Paul adds a personal response to it. No! That is not the way you should read that verse. It is all part of the faithful saying. Every child of God makes this faithful saying. Paul is not making a personal response (of whom I am chief), but he is reciting the entire faithful saying. The faithful saying is: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Every child of God says that!
Sinners. Consciously. Deliberately. Who have turned from the purpose for which they were created and are aiming at something else which is their own sinful way. Sinners, you see, come in all sorts. There are some very obvious sinners. Even little children can say, “That’s a sinner. That’s sinful.” But most sinners come in very nice garb and with many good deeds that they like to wear as jewels for the eyes of God. Jesus Christ came for sinners who know their sin by an internal work of God’s grace. They are represented in the shepherds. They were the lowliest, most despised, and poorest class of mankind in the Lord’s day. But God gave them to know their sin, and then, when they saw the Savior, they returned with joy!
Whom did Jesus come for? Did He come for the Pharisees? Did they come to the manger? The Scribes, who searched the Scriptures and knew all the promises of the Messiah — they could talk about sin. They knew a whole lot about sin. Did He come for them? Did He come for the merchants, those businessmen? Bethlehem was crowded that night. There were all kinds of businessmen there. Did He come for them? No! No! They were too busy. They were caught up in other things. They do not believe that the most important thing in life is the forgiveness of sins. They believe that the most important thing, the bottom line, for them is this life and the things in this life. Their comfort is that tomorrow, or after Christmas, they can take their sales’ receipts and get their money back, or exchange their gift for something else if they do not like it. That is the deepest part of their comfort.
Jesus Christ came for sinners who know their sin
by an internal work of God’s grace.
Jesus Christ came for sinners, of whom I am chief.
That means that if you are, indeed, one of those sinners, by the grace of God, for whom Jesus came, you will know how to spell the word “sin.” Well, you might say, that is an easy word to spell: s i n. But, you see, we tend, almost invariably to spell the word: s u n. That is the way we like to spell the word “sin.” Listen to us talk in our living rooms. We take care of that church member, the sinner! We take care of that church and that minister. Listen to your conversation in your marriage with your wife or with your husband. We like to spell the word “sin,” s u n. But Jesus Christ came to save sinners. And He gives them to spell the word: s I n, of whom I am chief.
The saved sinner is not the one left in self-righteousness. But the saved sinner is the one who is brought to self-consciousness. They are saved by the wonderful grace of God. They see themselves as the greatest of sinners. They are made humble. To those who are the recipients of God’s grace comes the gift of God’s Son. And they are the ones who see in themselves the horrible pride of their own sin, the horrible pride of their own thinking when they say, “But I never do that!” If that is our approach, then we do not need Jesus, do we?
Rather, the child of God for whom Jesus came says, “I know myself the best.” How can anyone who is saved by the grace of God think worse of another person than of himself? The older we get and the more God faithfully works His grace within us, the higher that pile of sin becomes. And our sins go past our view. We cannot see to the end of them.
How can anyone who is saved by the grace of God think worse of another person than of himself?
But to you is born this day a Savior. You want to know how great a sinner you are? Do not measure yourself with other people. Look into the manger. Look at the Christ child. So great are my sins that nothing else than the eternal Son of God in the flesh could save me.
Now, let us pray today that the Lord will lower that knowledge from our head down to our heart. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. This is a dependable saying. This is a reliable saying: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. The child of God is given to know his own sin. But with equal certainty we are given to know the grace of God in giving Jesus to die for our sins. So we say, “I know that Luke, chapter 2, the birth of Jesus, is true. I know it is no myth, no story, no fable. It happened. The eternal Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me. God gave His Son to bear away my sin by becoming the Babe of Bethlehem. How do I know that? The Bible says so, yes, that is true. But, you see, there is also the knowledge of salvation: I know because He has saved me.”
Then, in humility we will stand before God, peaceful humility. And we will say, “Oh, the depth of the love of God.” And we will say, “This is a faithful saying, this is a true saying. I know that in the depth of my heart.” No one who by grace lays hold of this gospel of Jesus Christ will ever find this gospel to be false. You may trust your soul to it. All who, by the grace of God, come to Jesus Christ in the consciousness of their own utter unworthiness and sinfulness will find in Jesus Christ complete salvation. None who come to Him, by God’s grace, shall ever be rejected. For He will draw you and He will humble you and give to you the joy of the knowledge of salvation. That is the gospel.
Believe and be saved. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
Now, is that what is in your heart? Is that your chief and only comfort? Is that the gift from God that you have been given: salvation from your sin and sinfulness? Then we may leave the Word of God. But we leave it bearing something away with us. We bear profound humility. Oh, the grace of God was exceedingly abundant. And we bear away the beginnings of eternal praise.
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God be glory and honor for ever and ever. Amen.
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, we thank Thee for Thy Word. We thank Thee for the Word that is all of Thy grace, that Thou hast given Christ Jesus, Thy Son, to come into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Amen.