1 Timothy: The Savior of Sinners

Sermon by Derek Thomas on July 11, 2004

1 Timothy 1:15-17

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
Christ.
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

Application
I. The more you understand the gospel, the more you
realize that it’s all a work of grace.
The
first is this: that the more you understand the gospel…the more you understand
the gospel, the more you realize that it’s all a work of grace. The more
you understand the gospel and…is there someone here this morning…? Is there
someone here this morning saying, “Oh! Not the ABC’s of the gospel again!” My
friend, the more you understand and repeat to yourself gospel truth, the more
you’ll understand how deep a sinner you really are, and how sovereign a work
grace really is.

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.


  1. http://www.ccel.org/w/wesley/hymn/jwg06/jwg0665.html

  2. http://3.1911encyclopedia.org/B/BI/BILNEY_THOMAS.htm

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