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God to the rescue

December 2001 | by Gareth Crossley

For two thousand years Christians have recognised that the words of the Bible (from Genesis to Revelation) are words inspired by the living God. All his words are reliable and true.

Here Paul is speaking about God’s Son coming to earth as a human being with a mission. But you might well be thinking: ‘Why should I take Paul’s word on this? Why, indeed, should I take anyone’s word on this? Because they believe it, that doesn’t mean it’s true’.

So let me explain why it is ‘a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’.

Great compassion

It is worthy of your acceptance because the person Christ Jesus is thoroughly good. Even the greatest critics of Christianity acknowledge that the life of Jesus Christ of Nazareth was admirable and commendable in every way.

If anyone had made up a story about a morally perfect man, they could not have written a better one. But this story is not the product of human imagination. It is the result of numerous accounts by people who saw Jesus, listened to Jesus, spoke to Jesus and spent years with Jesus.

They paint a picture of a person who was compassionate with the sick, with women, with children, with the distressed, with the disturbed. His behaviour was so commendable, his teaching so solid and useful.

He taught people how to live, how to love, how to respect each other, how to behave towards each other, how to care for each other. He taught people how to deal with emotional problems, how to accept differences, how to live in harmony.

And he practised what he preached.

Above all, he taught people the way to gain peace with God. His words about spiritual life had authenticity, the ring of truth. He talked sense!

Great purpose

This saying is worthy of your acceptance because Christ’s purpose, ‘to save sinners’, is thoroughly good. The vast majority of thinking people acknowledge that there is something seriously wrong with human beings. There is something wrong with society. There is something basically wrong with people.

Why is there so much crime? Why are people so selfish? Why are people unreliable? What is wrong? And what is the remedy?

‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’. The Son of God came to the rescue. He came to this world on an errand of great mercy. He came to put matters right.

He came to solve the world’s problems at source, that is, to change people’s lives and attitudes, to transform people radically from within.

He did not come to condemn people. He did not come to tell them how bad they were. He did not come to tell people how hopeless their situations are. He came to save, to deliver, to rescue.

Great cost

This great rescue operation cost him dearly. In fact, it cost him everything. The Son of God, Christ Jesus, came into the world to save sinners. In order to do this he died nailed to a tree.

Most people have heard it said that ‘God is love’. But they assume (wrongly) that this means he is benevolent and indulgent and will not be hard on anyone at all.

While it is true that God is love, he is also holy and righteous. He loves only what is good, what is holy, what is morally upright.

Consequently he dislikes immensely all that is not good, not holy and not moral. Loving good inevitably means hating evil. Wrongdoing and badness cannot be overlooked in a just society, and they cannot be overlooked by God.

What a problem; because none of us is perfect, we are all under God’s wrath! But in his love he provides the solution. His Son, the perfect man, takes our place, bears our sin and pays the price for it.

By trusting in Christ’s atoning work upon the cross, wrongdoers are made acceptable to God.

Great confidence

But there is a third and overwhelming reason for your acceptance of this saying. It is worthy of your acceptance because it is a message from God.

The saying, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’, originates from God. It is a message from heaven. It is a word from the Creator of all things. It is worthy of your confidence because God has said it!

But how can you know that this is genuinely a word from God? When there are so many claims made by so many people, how can you know that this saying is authentic?

Imagine you are walking up Snowdon in North Wales. The cloud is low and you can only see a few feet in front of you. You know that a sheer drop is not far away and people have fallen to their deaths.

A walker comes towards you through the mist and tells you to follow the left-hand path and you will be safe.

Seconds later another walker appears and says you should follow the right-hand path and you will be safe.

A third walker comes out of the mist and tells you to retrace your steps until you reach a pile of stones and then turn right and walk on and you will be safe.

Which one do you believe? Whose word do you trust? You need proof to distinguish the true from the false.

God has provided the evidence, and has done so in the Bible itself.

Great evidence

The key to this evidence lies in Old Testament prophecy. From the beginning of time, God communicated with human beings and taught them to expect someone special. A person was promised.

He would be a descendant of Abraham the great patriarch, a descendant of Judah the royal tribe, a descendant of David the great king, prophet and poet.

He would preach and heal people, but would be falsely accused and put to death. Over 400 predictions concerning Christ were made over the 4,000 years during which the Old Testament was written. There is no space to quote them all, but here is a small sample.

1. ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6; written around 700 B.C.).

2. ‘But you, Bethlehem Ephratha, 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 have been from of old, from everlasting’ (Micah 5:2; written around 730 B.C.)

3. ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Behold, your king is coming to you; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey’ (Zechariah 9:9; written around 520 B.C.).

4. ‘Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed … it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief. When you make his soul an offering for sin…’ (Isaiah 53:4-5, 10; written around 700 B.C.).

5. ‘For … the assembly of the wicked has enclosed me. They pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones. They look and stare at me. They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots’ (Psalm 22:16-18; written around 1000 B.C.).

6. ‘I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on me whom they have pierced; they will mourn…’ (Zechariah 12:10; written around 520 B.C.).

Great fulfilment

Jesus Christ of Nazareth perfectly fulfilled all these predictions. If you want to check this for yourself, look up the following New Testament verses written, of course, after the death and resurrection of Christ: Matthew 1:20 – 2:2; Luke 2:11-16; John 12:12-15; John 19:17-23; Acts 2:22-37.

It is, indeed, ‘a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15).

But do you accept the truth and reality of this saying? Not just by way of mental agreement, but as a truth trusted and embraced? If so, it will change your life, for you will know the living God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent.

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Evangelistic