The below is a special guest post by my friend, coworker, and brother in Christ, Andrew Lin.
“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
Paul begins this verse or statement with the following: “the statement is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance”. This should immediately grab your attention. Paul prefaces his upcoming statement by saying that it is not only trustworthy but also deserving of full acceptance. In the Greek, it literally reads “trustworthy is the statement”, placing the emphasis on trustworthy; this statement is worthy of banking your whole life on. In addition, Paul adds that it is deserving of full acceptance. Here I want to draw your attention to the word full, it speaks to two possibilities here in which I think Paul is emphasizing both. Full implying the attention of all peoples that would hear this, and also full implying the entirety of one’s being. On the one hand, Paul is saying that this deserves the attention of everyone, all humans. But also, for each and every one of us, it deserves our entire, full, undivided attention. What an introduction to the following statement!
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” I want to draw your attention to the subject of this statement: Christ Jesus. Paul is talking about the person of the Trinity who took on human flesh. Literally Christ meaning the “anointed one.” It was his title. And Jesus transliterated from the Hebrew, “Yahweh-saves”, God saves. It is the person of Christ that the gospel centers upon, and it is the person of Christ that Christmas centers on.
“Christ Jesus came into the world.” This coming into the world indicates not a coming into being, but rather coming from another place. This speaks to Jesus coming into this world, taking on human flesh, coming from another world. Jesus came from Heaven where He existed from eternity past in perfect fellowship with the God and the Holy Spirit. John writes in his gospel “1In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God and the Word was God… 14And the Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us.” And lets not diminish the action of coming into the world. Jesus left his place in Heaven where he experienced full joy and satisfaction to come into decaying world, a world filled with sin, a world that hated him. This condescension demonstrates the humility of Christ. It demonstrates the ultimate sacrificial love in which Jesus would leave his place in Heaven to come into the world among sinners.
For what purpose did he come? Paul continues to write that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That was His primary purpose in coming. This is what the whole Christmas story is centered upon; not only did Christ come into the world, but he came into the world to save sinners! Christmas is not about gift giving, holly, Christmas trees, fat Santa, and apple cider, but rather is about God who comes to save His people, to save sinners.
Paul is specific here, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He did not come into the world to save the righteous or the holy or the unblemished, but that he came into the world to save wretched sinners. The distinction here is not that there are those in the world that are sinners and those that are not, those that need Christ and those who do not. But rather this is the mentality that is echoed in Paul’s following statement: “of whom I am the foremost.” It is the reality, made known through the word of God that we are all sinners. “None is righteous, no not one”–Romans 3:10. It is the realization of sin in the face of a righteous God in which Paul recognizes the greatness, the infinite nature of his sin. And in this humility he cries out “of whom I am the foremost.” It is this humble attitude and recognition of undeserved mercy and grace, that demonstrates true and authentic faith in Christ.
I think that if we are all honest, Christian and non-Christian, we would concede that we are somewhat sinful. However how many of you would tell your friends that you are the worst sinner, the worst person you know? Probably not many, but this is what Paul is saying here, that in contrast to God and his infinite holiness and a proper understanding of our sinfulness, this an appropriate response. And in this humble statement, Paul is direction our attention not to himself necessarily, but to what he finds his value in. He continues in the next verse saying that he receives mercy for the reason that Christ Jesus would be the foremost. His value, his joy, his assurance is not found internally, but externally. It is found in the person of Jesus Christ.
This simple statement is the gospel message, the Christmas message. You are wretchedly sinful against a holy and infinite God. This has separated us from true fellowship with Him and your sin demands payment. The Bible informs us of our utter need for a Savior and the insufficiency of imperfect substitutes. Just look at the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. But God in his grace and mercy provides for us the perfect sacrifice, the perfect substitute as payment for our sins. And He is Jesus Christ. The Christmas message more than anything is a message about the Savior of the world who has come to save sinners, to save us.
I encourage you this holiday season to consider Christ. Consider the depths in which God condescended from Heaven to come into this world. To be born into a filthy, ordinary manger in human flesh. That he lived a perfect life so that he could be the all-sufficient solution to our dire need. He has come into the world to save sinners. Understand that Christmas is not so much about a cute baby in a manger, but a God-man who came into this world; it is not so much about giving gifts to one another, but the ultimate gift God has given in his Son; and it is not so much about warm fuzzy feelings of joy in a festive season, but a humble recognition of our sin and Christ as the perfect atonement for us.
And be encouraged as well. The verb here that Paul uses is “came”. It is past tense, it means that it has happened. The gospels each testify to Jesus coming into the world and testify to Jesus living a perfect life, and finally testifying to his death on the cross. And it doesn’t end there, but that Jesus was raised from the dead in victory over sin, and sits at the right hand of God. This has been accomplished for the purpose of saving sinners. Believe in him, trust in the Savior. Take joy in the fact that your salvation, that your assurance of faith, that your sanctification lies not in your own self, but rather in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
That is the Christmas message.