Written by R. Fowler White |
Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Even while declaring his continuing knowledge of Christ his Savior, Paul confesses a continuing conviction of his sin. Paul’s point, however, is not merely self-referential. No, he wants us to understand that, as aggravated and heinous as his sins against Christ and His Bride were, his salvation was no one-of-a-kind novelty. Quite the contrary. Christ had made him an example for those who are going to believe upon Him for eternal life (1 Tim 1:16b). His point is that, because it is true that Christ came to save the chief of sinners, it is also true that Christ came to save those who are going to believe upon Him for eternal life as Paul did.
It’s Christmas season again, and since we’re bombarded every year with things that have little or nothing to do with the Bible’s celebrations of Jesus’ incarnation, it’s good for us to be reminded of the basics by looking at key Bible passages. Usually we get our reminders from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. But the Apostle Paul also has something to say, at least by implication, about Christ’s incarnation in First Timothy 1:15. There he writes:
It is a trustworthy saying and deserving full acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost.
Before Paul tells us why Christ came, he tells us that He came into the world. These simple words take us into the background to the coming of Jesus, His arrival, His advent in the flesh. He came into the world, the place where we human beings live and sin, the place where there are human needs to be met and humans to be saved. The Apostle’s point is that Christ’s origin is not in this world but is from outside of it. In Gal 4:4, Paul makes clear that Christ Jesus is the Son whom the Father had sent forth into this world from outside of it. We speak rightly of Christ’s Great Commission to His Apostles and the church, but the Father’s Commission to the Son is greater still.
John the Apostle agrees with Paul’s statements and adds to them. In his Gospel, John tells us that Jesus was the Word who was with God and was God (John 1:1). Before He came into the world, indeed before the world even had come to be, Christ existed as a Divine Person and, at that, as a Divine Person communing with and also distinct from God the Father and from God the Spirit. To use the Evangelist’s phrasing, God the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. That Child in the manger existed before He came into the world, before He was born, before He was given the name Jesus. He came into the world from His glorious invisible dwelling with the Father and the Spirit and became man. As a result, our duty is at least twofold: 1) to understand that He is now and will forever be one Person with two natures, divine and human, and 2) to make sure that we are settled on the origin of Jesus. He was sent by His Father from glory and came into our world (cf. Heb 1:6a; 10:5a).
Now that Paul has told us that Christ Jesus came into the world, he tells us why He came: He came to save sinners.