Study 3 THE GOSPEL IN MINIATURE
PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO TIMOTHY
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Luke 2:1-15
E. K. Simpson’s commentary on the Pastoral Letters describes 1 Timothy 1:15 as containing “the very soul of the Gospel.” This is the theme of this study, and here is God’s message for all people; and it is God’s message for the days in which we are living. No-one will question that they are days of need. In every direction it is apparent – internationally, nationally, morally, spiritually and individually. What wonderful but terrible days they are! Has God anything to say to this age and generation? Is there any word from the Lord? Yes, God’s word for this age and time is that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” The message is 2000 years old and yet it is up-to-date, appropriate and applicable, and it does not need changing; it is the very message that we all need. Notice that the apostle tells us three things about God’s message:-
- (1) What God says is Authentic. He says, “Here is a trustworthy saying…” It is a reliable saying, it is absolutely true and you can depend upon it. Now here is something really worth knowing – that God has given us a word which we can rely upon. We need have no doubts about it. There are many ‘sayings’ that are false, but here is something that is reliable.
- (2) What God says is Acceptable. Paul says it “deserves full acceptance”. Why is this? There are two main reasons: first of all, because it is Divine in its origin. This is what God says. This is a message that God declares. But, second, because it is Good News, and good news is always acceptable. The Devil has tried to blind the minds of men and women to believe that the Gospel is bad news, but he is a liar.
- (3) What God says is Adaptable. Paul says, it “deserves full acceptance”. We are reminded of the message of the angels at the birth of Christ – look up Luke 2:10. This message of God will meet the needs of all people. Although the people of the nations are running after other gods there is only one true God and Lord; Jesus is “the desired of all nations” – look up Haggai 2:7.
These are the three things we are told about God’s message; but what is God’s message, and what does He say to us? He says that, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” What God says is that 2000 years ago He sent His own Son into this world for the express purpose of saving sinful men and women (1 Timothy 1:15). Notice, then, what we are told about the coming of Christ to save sinners:-
1. THE CERTAINTY OF HIS COMING
This is indicated in the words “Christ Jesus came…” That is, He did actually come. Is there any need to emphasise this fact? Not really, because there are four conclusive proofs that Christ came: (1) there are all the prophecies of the Old Testament which pointed forward to His coming, all of which were literally fulfilled when He came; (2) there is the testimony of both secular and religious history; (3) our calendars bear the date which testifies to the coming of Christ; and (4) millions of people have been able to say, “We know also that the Son of God has come” (1 John 5:20). Two thousand years ago He really came. The fact of His coming is absolutely certain. But how did He come?
2. THE CHARACTER OF HIS COMING
He “came into the world…” – but how? Most of us know the story very well: the story of the annunciation (Luke 1:26-35); and the story of the birth at Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-14). John tells us how He came in language that is theological but explicit (John 1:14); and Paul tells us also (Galatians 4:4). These words of scripture refer to the incarnation of our Lord, to that great act of God when Christ Jesus, the eternal Son of God, stepped down from the throne of His glory and became man and lived among us. This is the character of His coming.
3. THE COST OF HIS COMING
Did it cost Him anything to come into this world? The following words in 1 Timothy 1:15 tell us how much it cost Him:-
- (1) The word “came”. Where did He come from? He came from the glory of Heaven, from the bosom of the Father – look up 2 Corinthians 8:9.
- (2) He came “into the world”. He was God’s first missionary. He came “out of the ivory palaces into this world of sin”. Think of it – the Creator came into the world He had created, and He came as a little baby! Think of the physical limitation of this. God…in a human body. And think of the fearful humiliation of it. Think of the reception He received (John 1:11). Think of His trial…and of Calvary…
- (3) He came and bore the names “Christ Jesus”. This means that He who came to be the Saviour of the world was the One whom God anointed to undertake this holy task.
4. THE CONSTRAINT OF HIS COMING
Why did He come? What made Him come? What was His purpose in coming from Heaven to earth? The answer is – “to save sinners”. Jesus came and died upon the Cross of Calvary and He rose again in order to save us from sin, death and Hell, and to take us ultimately to Heaven and to present us faultless…(Jude 24). He did not come primarily to educate or reform us, to put before us a code of ethics or simply to be our hero or our leader, but He came to save us, because the one thing above all else that sinners need is to be saved. He came to save all kinds of sinners (Matthew 9:13); sinners like Paul (the end of 1 Timothy 1:15), and compare verse 13 with verses 9 and 10; sinners like John Newton and John Bunyan; sinners like you and me, for none are too bad to come to Him. How glorious are the words – look up Luke 15:1-2! He still receives sinners!
5. THE CHALLENGE OF HIS COMING
Has He saved you? The certainty, the character, the cost and the constraint of His coming constitute a challenge. Jesus came to save sinners. Are you saved? Have you accepted Him as your personal Saviour? If not, will you do so, and will you rejoice in the glorious truth of 1 Timothy 1:15, which Dr R. F. Weymouth renders, “True is the saying, and deserving of universal acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; among whom I am foremost.”