Please read 1 Timothy 1:12-17.
Main Text: 1 Timothy 1:15 NKJV - “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
Think about all the messages we receive in a day, or in a week. Some come from people we know, and some come from people we do not know. Some are easy to understand, some are hard to understand. Some are helpful or encouraging. Some are hurtful or discouraging. Some are very important, some are irrelevant and a waste of time.
As you think about our Christian faith, our faith is based upon a message. It is based upon a message that we believe is ultimately from God Himself to us. I want us to think very simply but specifically about this “Gospel” message, this good news that is still good news for today.
This message is the message of Christmas. Sadly, even Christmas cards can express seasonal messages but miss the true message of Christmas. But we can be assured that this gospel message stated by the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15 is indeed the message of Christmas.
In the passage of Scripture that we are considering, the Apostle Paul is giving thanks for God’s grace towards him in Christ and for the privilege of being in the ministry (See 1 Tim. 1:12-17). In the midst of these personal comments he presents a “faithful saying,” which really declares the “core” of the Christian gospel. This message is worth hearing, accepting, living, and proclaiming.
Why is that the case?
There are at least three reasons why this message, which really is the message of Christmas, is worth receiving and sharing.
First of all,
1. This Message is a Reliable Message – “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance…” This is the way Paul introduces the key statement which follows. This message can be trusted.
Not all messages are worth listening to nor should they be accepted or passed on to others. This message, this “faithful saying” is worth hearing, accepting, and proclaiming.
It is true verbally: It is true in its words. When Paul says it is a “faithful” saying, that means that it can be trusted in its very words and meaning. That is certainly not the case with every message that comes across social media, the TV, or any other form of communication today. Many messages are not reliable at all. Paul’s opening clause here is saying a lot. He is claiming complete reliability.
It is true historically: It is true in what it refers to historically. Since the message has to do with something that happened historically, it is either historically true or it is false. The Apostle is affirming its actual truthfulness.
There are so many words spoken or written that are just not completely true. The words are not backed up by facts that indicate the historical reliability of what is said. Paul will not be speaking about a myth or an imaginary event. His message is about something that happened in history.
It is true universally: It is always true and worthy of acceptance by all, by everyone. The Apostle is stressing the significance of what he is about to say and claiming the message’s truthfulness for all people. This message is not limited to a context, a culture, a country, or some other sub-category.
Some social media sites give you the option of private messages, group messages or messages for everyone. But, whatever the situation, the message is only available for those who are on that social media site platform, or they happen to find it. The Apostle Paul is saying that this message transcends all limitations. It should be heard and received as truth by all people.
It is worth stressing the importance of the reliability of the Christian Christmas message. Our Christmas message is not about Santa and Elves. It is not about the North Pole or flying reindeer. Stories can be fun, but you do not want to base your life or your eternal destiny upon them. We need to received and share a message with others that is totally reliable.
So, what is this message??
2. This Message is a Gospel Message – “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,…”
By calling this message a “gospel” message, I am saying it is good news or as they used to say “glad tidings.” This message is the ultimate good news for a world that is in desperate need. For the greatest problem is sin and our greatest predicament is that we are sinners deserving the judgment of a Holy God. We’ll just ask and answer a few questions about this message to understand why it is “good news” for us today.
Who is the subject of this message? Christ Jesus: he is the answer to our problem and predicament. This message is about a specific person. Without Him, there is no message to share with us. As Christ, He was and is the long-awaited Messiah who came in fulfillment of prophecies to be the one born King and to reign as King. His name “Jesus” indicates that He came to save His people from their sins.
What did He do? He came into our world to meet us at our point of need. To say ‘’He came” speaks of His supernatural arrival. This Messiah, Jesus, existed before He came to earth. This points to His coming from heaven to fulfill His mission on earth. He was and is the eternal Son of God. He became the incarnated Son of God. His coming ultimately includes His birth, and His life and ministry, and of His suffering, death, and resurrection.
When did He come? He came over 2000 years ago as a baby born supernaturally. He came at God’s time in fulfillment of many prophecies. Indeed, He came in the “fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4).
Where did He come? He arrived specifically in Bethlehem, but as the text says, He “came into the world.” He came from His realm of perfection into our needy sin-filled world born according to the Scriptures in Bethlehem. But, let’s always remember that He came into the world, He did not come for one nation or ethnic group. He did not come to save one nation or another. He did not come for the West or the East. He came into the world to meet the spiritual need of all who would come to Him.
John 3:16 reminds us that “Go so loved the world,” and Jesus Christ, God’s Son, was sent into the world. This gospel is a global gospel because it is for the whole world.
How did He come? He came miraculously. That is what we celebrated at Christmas time. But, He came humbly. He did not come into the world of palaces, riches, and fame. He could not have come more humbly. In coming He humbled Himself as Paul teaches elsewhere (Philippians 2:5-8 Read). He let go of the privileges and prerogatives of Heaven. He became God’s servant, He became man, He became an obedient man, a man who was obedient unto death on a cross.
Why did He come? He came to save sinners; to provide an answer for the problem of sin and the predicament of God’s judgment and punishment. He came with grace, mercy, and love to provide a way of salvation for sinners. He took upon Himself our sin and received the punishment for our sin by dying for us and in our place on a wooden cross. He took upon Himself the wrath and judgment of God for the transgressions against God and His Law so that sinners who accept Him and His way of salvation could be saved from sin, judgment and eternal death. He came to save sinners. The Scripture teaches that all people everywhere are sinners before a Holy and Perfect God. This is why the coming of Christ Jesus into the world is such GOOD NEWS. Christ Jesus came to provide a way for people to be made right with God. He provided a way for people to have a meaningful relationship with God through forgiveness of sins and a living relationship with the God of the Universe. He came so that each one of us could have a personal relationship with God.
In Mark’s gospel we read that Jesus said, “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 2:17). These were Jesus’ words to scribes and Pharisees who took exception to Jesus’ eating with and having fellowship with people they considered sinners and people of bad reputation. Jesus denounced self-righteousness. The self-righteous were and are people who think they are very good compared to other people. These were and often are people who question Jesus. On the other hand, there are people who know their need of Jesus, they are like people who come to a Physician because they need and want to get well.
At the end of the account concerning Zacchaeus, Luke records, “…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
In Matthews’ gospel, as the angel is explaining the name Jesus, the angel states, “…. for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Many more texts could be listed and quoted to affirm the “why” of Christ Jesus’ coming into this world. Praise God that He came! He came to save sinners. He came to save. And we acknowledge that the grave could not hold Him. The resurrected Christ Jesus rose from the dead. He appeared to His disciples. He prepared them for His departure. Then, he ascended on high and at the right hand of God the Father He reigns as Lord and continues to make intercession for us. Salvation is in His Name and in His Name only (Acts 4:12).
And this leads to another important observation that we must make about this message. This may be the most important thought for us to grasp today:
3. This is a Personal Message – “of whom I am chief.”
This message is not a general announcement that deserves little or no response. Rather, it is a message that needs to be heard personally and accepted personally. In the Apostle’s words, “of whom I am chief,” we discover the Apostle Paul’s personal acceptance of this message, which is a model for us today. And keep in mind that the Apostle Paul is now a mature Christian as he writes these words, a man who had served much and suffered much for His Lord. But, the Apostle’s words indicate that this message needs to be accepted humbly - “of whom I am chief.”
The Apostle Paul is admitting that he was a sinner in need of God’s mercy and grace. He accepted his need of a Savior because he acknowledged his sin. He was a “blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” (vs. 13). And looking at his own life and the story of God’s grace and mercy, he could humbly say that he considered himself to be the chief of sinners. Such a declaration speaks of his humble admission of sin, his repentance, and acceptance of the salvation that could be found in Christ alone.
Have you ever come to that place in your life when you realized that you needed to get right with God?? Have you ever recognized that your goodness and your good deeds could not save you from your sins? You and I need a Savior. We need someone who could do for us what we could not do for ourselves. The Apostle was a very religious and moral person. But, when he encountered Jesus Christ, he realized that his self-righteousness did not fully please a Holy Righteous God. God sent His Son to die for our sins, and what God desires is that we understand our sinfulness and accept the sacrifice of Christ to provide forgiveness, cleansing, and new life. This is how we become Christians and it is also how we live the Christian life. We live for the Lord through the grace and the very Spirit of Christ given to us. We do not live with the motivation to earn God’s love or to earn His salvation. No, we must live humbly, depending on what Christ has done for us, and living a life dependent on His Holy Spirit to give us the clean heart and the right motivation to live for Him daily.
So, this message should be accepted with humility.
Also, this message should be lived meaningfully – Verses 13, 14, and 16.
In these surrounding verses, we gain a sense of the Apostle’s appreciation of and understanding of the gospel. He admits that he was a sinful unbeliever in need of God’s mercy and grace (verse 13) and longsuffering (verse 16). He received abundant grace (with faith and love) and obtained God’s mercy. The Apostle saw himself as a pattern for all who would believe on Christ for everlasting life (verse 16).
Becoming a Christian through repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is a complete change of life and destiny. The decision of faith is done meaningfully. There is an awareness of who Christ Jesus is. There is an acknowledgment of the need to be forgiven and a turning from our sins. There is an acceptance of the forgiveness and the gift of salvation that is available through the saving work of Christ Jesus on the cross. In this sense, there is a believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and a calling out to “the name of the Lord” to be saved (Romans 10:13).
There is a sense in which everyone who accepted Christ Jesus and the salvation offered becomes an example of grace to others. When we testify of our faith in Jesus Christ, as Paul is doing here, we are just saying that we are saved by His grace and by what Jesus has done for us. Do you see yourself as an example of God’s grace? I know that the Apostle Paul’s life was unique, but so is yours. You impact others all around you. Do they see a change in your life? Can you testify to being an example of God’s grace in Christ? You once lived apart from Christ. At one time, you were not a Christian. No one is born a Christian. You may have lived a life that was very good morally, or you may have done some very bad things. But, when you accepted Christ Jesus who came into the world to save sinners, you received God’s grace and forgiveness. Now, you are to be an example of God’s grace to others. Of course, this should be seen in our lives as people view how we live, how we act, and how we speak. And this leads us to our last consideration from this passage of Scripture.
This message should be shared thankfully – Verse 17.
The Apostle breaks into praise and doxology as he reflects on his salvation and his calling into the ministry. Both his salvation and his calling were dependent on the message. This message was what brought salvation to him, and this message was now at the core of his ministry. May we likewise be thankful for this life-changing message. As the Apostle shares this “faithful saying” and reflects on his own experience of salvation, he breaks into thankful praise. Are we thankful today?? Do we thank the Lord regularly for His love, or His grace, or His salvation? Do people see us as thankful, and living in the light of what the Lord has done for us?
The Apostle could say in another place, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” His whole life was transformed by Christ. He accepted the message of the gospel personally. He initially accepted the message humbly. He accepted the gospel meaningfully because the gospel brought meaning to his life as he lived as an example of God’s grace. And here in I Timothy he breaks into thankful praise after he shares this gospel message. We should have a humble, meaningful, and thankful acceptance and appreciation of this message.
A Pastor, Greg Groeschel, has written a book called, “The Christian Atheist.” One of his main concerns in this book is to challenge those who say they are Christians but they don’t live their lives daily with a sense of the Lord’s presence or with a desire to know Him and serve Him. The call of the book is for a wholehearted commitment to the Lord.
This is the purpose of the gospel, the Good News. It is simple. But, it calls us to trust in the Lord completely and to enter into a personal relationship that involves a humble, and meaningful, and thankful relationship with the Lord. Is that you today?
The message we have presented makes all the difference in the world. It is a reliable message, it is a gospel message and it is a personal message. It can change your life today if you will truly accept it personally, meaningfully, and thankfully. It not only makes all the difference in the world, and it can make all the difference in your world today.
At this Christmas time, let’s reflect afresh on the real message of Christmas. I trust that for many of us this message has already made all the difference. This message is the reason for a “Merry Christmas” and it is the basis for a “Joyful New Year.” If we have received this message personally, and I trust that we are thankful today. If we have not received the message personally, may today be a day of salvation for you.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31)
Contact us if you’d like to talk about this message and your own relationship with God.