The Lord’s Day Morning
July 11, 2004
I Timothy 1:15-17
“The Savior of Sinners”
Dr. Derek Thomas
Turn with me to First Timothy, chapter one, and verses fifteen through seventeen. We continue this morning in our series in First Timothy. It’s a wonderful, wonderful text, as you’ll see in a minute. Before we read the passage together, let’s come before God in prayer. Let’s pray.
Our Father in heaven, we once again turn to You, because without You we can do nothing. Even our worship is in vain unless You come and own it. And we pray now as we read Your holy word, that by Your Spirit You would give us understanding and illumination; and we pray that You would so minister to, not only our minds, but also our hearts and affections and wills. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
This is the word of God:
“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate her perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.”
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
This morning I want us to see three things and two applications. Three points of doctrine, if you like, and two applications.
I. The gospel is true.
The first point that Paul wants us to see here is that the gospel is true. The gospel is true. “Here is a trustworthy statement...” “Here is a trustworthy statement...” Now Paul has already warned us in this chapter, in verses three and four, of those who teach false doctrines; of those who propagate myths; and, those who take themselves to endless genealogies. And in contrast to all of that, this, Paul says, is a trustworthy statement. He’s already warned us in verse six of some who have wandered away and turned to what he calls “meaningless talk”, but here is something entirely different. Here are words, here are truths, that are entirely trustworthy. You can stake your life on these words. They have all of the truth of God behind them. Jesus, who said, “I am the Truth”; who in His high priestly prayer said “Thy word is truth”; and again, “...the Scriptures cannot be broken.”
For Jesus, if it was written in the Scriptures, it was sufficient for Him. You remember on three occasions, before the devil, He would say “It is written....” And Paul seems to be saying, ‘Yes, that’s true of all of Scripture, because “...all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine and reproof and correction, and instruction in the way of righteousness, that the man of God might be thoroughly furnished unto every good work...”’--but pay heed to these words, because these words are utterly trustworthy.
II. The gospel is for all sorts
and conditions of men.
The second thing I want us to see here is that the gospel is for all sorts and conditions of men. Here is “a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.” Now, without getting too technical, the grammar of what Paul is saying could be pointing backwards, as though Paul were saying that these words are worthy of being accepted because they are true; or, as I think Paul is saying, pointing forward, that these words are true, and, therefore, everybody should accept them. No matter who you are, no matter what your background may be; no matter what your nationality; no matter what age you are; no matter what educational distinctions may differentiate you from someone else, here are words deserving of full acceptance. There is no reason...there is no valid reason... why you shouldn’t accept these words--these words that Paul is about to tell you.
Imagine for a moment a world in which these words were not given. Imagine a world without the Bible. Imagine you woke up one morning and there was no Bible. Not just that you’d lost your own personal copy of the Bible, but there was no Bible. Imagine a world in which all of the influence of the Bible had dissipated, and you’d be confronted by a world in which the great literature would be well nigh unintelligible. Shakespeare would be unreadable, Newton would make no sense, everyday speech would be stammering, and halting and faltering; a change would come over the whole temper and tone of the nation. Life would become hectic and hurried, and vulgar. All restraints would suddenly be thrown off, leaving us to instinct and appetite. Values would be blurred. Life would become meaningless, tragic, tedious, and make no sense...and have no goal and no direction. And here is Paul saying ‘this is what gives life purpose, and this is what gives life meaning, and this is what gives life a foundation. Here are words that are worthy of all acceptation.’
III. The gospel is about Jesus
And the third thing that I want us to see is that the gospel is about Jesus Christ. The gospel is about Jesus Christ. This is what Paul says is worthy of all acceptation. This is what Paul says is true: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. You understand that all theology is contained—well, almost all of theology is contained—in that one little sentence.
You know, do yourself a favor this afternoon. When you’ve had your roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and you’ve had your little nap, take these words and mull them over in your mind. See how much theology, how much truth, you can draw just from these words. “Christ – Jesus—came—into the world—to save—sinners.” You understand, there’s a seven- or eight-point sermon in there somewhere...I don’t have time for that this morning.
Let’s take a little of it. His statement that’s worthy of all acceptation is about Christ Jesus. It’s about the Messiah of the Old Testament Scriptures, the seed of the woman who would crush the head of Satan, God’s gospel remedy for sinners. It’s about Jesus. It’s about King Jesus. It’s about Jesus, who is sitting at the right hand of God: that He came into this world, He became incarnate. The Christmas story... I know we’re in July, but this is the Christmas story. “He who thought it not robbery to be equal with God made Himself of no reputation...” that He humbled Himself; that He became obedient as a servant in fashion as a man. “The Lord of glory was,” in Wesley’s words, “contracted to a span.”1
At least one of you has held a little grandson in your arms in the last couple of weeks, and I’m sure you’ve rocked that little grandson back and fore and sung sweet nothings into his ear. And imagine that the Lord of glory became an infant. He became a human being. He came into this world, He came into this fallen world. He came to Bethlehem. He came and lived in Nazareth, where people said “no good thing comes out of that place.” Not into a palace, not into the White House, but into a lowly stable in Bethlehem. He came into this world. He wasn’t in this world, He was outside of this world. He was the Son of God, He was at the right hand of the Father, but He became flesh and blood. He was tempted in every point like as we are, yet without sin. He knows what it is to be thirsty; He knows what it is to be hungry. He knows what it is to be tired. He knows what it is to be tempted by the devil. He knows what it is to be let down; He knows what it is that your own family doesn’t understand you; He knows what it is to desire another path than the one that is laid before you, and to pray a prayer, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” He came into the world, and He came into the world to save sinners.
Men took Him and they crucified Him. They nailed Him to a tree; they killed Him. And why? Because, as the Bible tells us from Genesis to Revelation, over and over and over, He died for sinners like you and me. The just for the unjust. That “by His stripes we are healed”; that “all we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” That Jesus died in our stead. He took the punishment that our sins deserved, and took it upon Himself. He took the wrath that our guilt deserves, and He took it upon Himself. And on that cross, He cried in dereliction, as the darkness of the wrath of God covered His face, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And He did it for sinners. He did it for sinners like you and me. He was without sin. He was the just and holy one. “Which of you convinces me of sin?” He would say. But He came into this world to save sinners, not just to die for sinners, but to rise again for sinners; to go to the right hand of God for sinners; to intercede for sinners; to call sinners like you and me out of darkness and into His most marvelous light. He died to give us new hearts. He died so that the Holy Spirit might come and indwell our hearts. He died so that He might witness with our spirits that we are the children of God, and if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. He died to rescue us.
He died to deliver us from the darkness and into the light, so that this morning, my friends, this is the true statement. This is the statement that is worthy of all acceptation. This is the statement that every single one of you should believe in, that Jesus came for sinners like you and me. It doesn’t matter who you are this morning, doesn’t matter where you are. It doesn’t matter what sins you’ve committed, what dark sins, what black sins, what secret sins, what sins that you’d be ashamed to speak about—doesn’t matter. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners like that, to rescue sinners like that. And Paul draws two conclusions, two points of application
You notice that Paul calls himself “the chief of sinners.” The chief of sinners. Paul seems to have gone through somewhat of a revolution. When he writes to the Corinthians—in, roughly speaking, about 55 A.D.—he calls himself “the least of the apostles.” When he writes to the Ephesians about five years later, he calls himself “the least of the saints.” But when he writes to Timothy, about another five years again, he calls himself “the chief of sinners.” Do you understand? It looks as though the Apostle Paul, as he grew in grace, also simultaneously grew down in his estimation of himself.
You know, as you come to the table this morning, and you’ll praise the name of Jesus, and your heart will be lifted into the presence of Jesus, who is sitting at the right hand of God, may it also be true that you’ll see something of the blackness—yes, the blackness—of your heart, and the undeserving-ness of your heart. So that, like the Apostle Paul, you’ll be coming to the table saying, ‘nothing in my hands I bring, because I am the chief of sinners. God was merciful to me.’
II. Reflection and meditation on
the gospel elicits praise.
Now, the second point of application that Paul seems to draw is this: that reflection and meditation on the gospel elicits praise. “Now to the King eternal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.” You can’t—you see, if you’re a child of God, if you truly know your sins to be forgiven, you can’t help but praise God for the gospel. You can’t utter the words of the gospel without praise following on its heels.
“Praise, my soul, the King of heaven; to His feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven; who, like me, His praise should sing?
Praise Him, praise Him, praise Him, praise Him! Praise the everlasting King!”
And may God enable us so to do
In 1517, there was an English reformer called Thomas Bilney.2 He went to Cambridge University. In the year before Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, he read Erasmus’ Greek New Testament, just hot off the press. And he came to this text: “This is a trustworthy statement and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” And he was converted. And he began to preach the doctrine of justification by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. In 1528, he was arrested, put in prison, tortured for two days. He reneged on his confession. And then, a few years afterwards, was so ashamed of what he had done, he began to preach with even more earnestness the doctrine of justification by faith, and was again arrested, and burnt at the stake in 1531. This text, First Timothy one, and verse fifteen, was the text that brought him into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Let’s meditate on those things now, as we prepare our hearts to come to the Lord’s Table.
A Guide to the Morning Service
true communion with Christ in the Lord’s Supper
Reformed confessional teaching on the nature of the sacraments (itself based on Scripture) may be epitomized as follows: God’s sacraments or covenant signs/seals are “visible words” (Augustine). In them we see with our eyes the promise of God. Indeed, in the sacraments we see, smell, touch, and taste the word. In the public reading and preaching of Scripture, God addresses our mind and conscience through the hearing. In the sacraments, He uniquely addresses our mind and conscience through the other senses. In, through, and to the senses, God’s promise is made tangible.
The Themes of the Service
The text for today is one of those “Gospel” texts that should make us desire to give praise with all of our hearts. There is nothing more beautiful than the Gospel! Praise is the main theme of today’s worship.
Hymns and Spiritual Songs
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (Psalm 46)
We open our public praise today with Martin Luther’s rousing rendition of the great 46th Psalm. How does one adequately characterize this battle cry and theme song of the Reformation? Luther wrote both the text and tune. By the way, the popular assertion that the melody was borrowed from a common tavern song of the day is a myth. The confidence of this hymn is inspiring.
Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face
We sing this hymn “on either side” of the Lord’s Supper as we have done at First Presbyterian on many occasions. It was written by Horatius Bonar in the middle of the 19th century at his brother’s request. Its first public appearance was in October 1855 in Horatius Bonar’s church. Later that same year, St. Andrew’s Free Church in Greenock, Scotland, issued it is pamphlet form. The hymn represents the very finest sacramental theology and would serve us well to read and pray over in preparation for the Supper.
The Apostles’ Creed
Since the Lord’s Supper is for professing believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who have “discerned the body of the Lord” — that is, the Church — (1 Corinthians 11:29), it is appropriate that we confess our faith together before we take it.
The Ten Commandments
By reciting the Law directly adjacent to the Gospel ordinance of the Lord’s Supper we are reminded of our need for the forgiveness of sins and the rich provision we have in Jesus Christ’s perfect obedience (see Romans 5:20).
There are two great impediments to man's salvation. The first is the justice of God, and the second is the sin of man. Both these two must be satisfied or removed for a sinner to be saved. Justice cries out against our sin, "The soul that sinneth shall surely die." So all the world lies guilty before God. Who can deliver a world? Only its Maker, without whom was not anything made that was made. Creatorial might become incarnate — think of it — born in our low condition, and under the law. The Lord Jesus keeps its commandments for us, and bore the curse of the broken law for us. God's wrath is satisfied, and sinners are saved by the life and death of He who came. All by Himself He saved sinners, by coming, by obeying, by dying, and by rising He has taken those great impediments to salvation out of the way. There is nothing on God's part for which to accuse us or to condemn us. There is nothing left to hinder salvation. He has saved sinners.