The True Message of Christmas

 

Text: "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" (1 Tim. 1:15).

Thought: As we approach the Christmas season, there are many words, greetings and messages shared. But, there is no message that matches the message of Christmas itself, a message found in these words of Scripture. The Apostle Paul is giving thanks for God's grace towards him in Christ and for the privilege of being in the ministry. In the midst of these comments he presents a "faithful saying," which really declares the "core" of the Christian Gospel, indeed the Christmas message. This message is worth hearing, accepting, living, and proclaiming. Why?

I. This Message is a Reliable Message
"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance." 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-its words are true. It is true historically-its facts are historically accurate. It is true universally-it is always true and worthy of acceptance by all.

II. This Message is a Gospel Message
"That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." This message is the ultimate good news for a world that is in desperate need. For ultimately, 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. What did He do? He came into our world to meet us at our point of need. To say He "came" not only speaks of His supernatural arrival, but of His perfect 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.

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. He took upon Himself the wrath and judgment of God so that sinners who accepted Him and His way of salvation could be saved from sin, judgment and eternal death.

III. This is a Personal Message
"Of whom I am chief." This message, though, 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 words, "of whom I am chief," we discover the Apostle Paul's personal acceptance of this message, which is a model for us today.

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.

This message needs to be accepted meaningfully. In the surrounding verses (13-14, 16) 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 even saw himself as a pattern for all who would believe on Christ for everlasting life (verse 16). This means that the Apostle himself believed on Christ Jesus, and by grace he was saved unto eternal life.

The Apostle Paul not only understood this message of Christmas, he accepted it personally. He accepted the message personally before he declared it publically.

This message needs to be accepted thankfully. In verse 17, the Apostle breaks into praise and doxology as he reflects on his salvation and his calling into the ministry. But, both his salvation and his calling are dependent on the message. This message of Christmas was what brought salvation to him, and this message was now at the core of his ministry. May we likewise be thankful for the true message of Christmas.

Thrust: The True Message of Christmas makes all the difference in the world. Have you ever really understood the message of Christmas? 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.

David L. Olford teaches expository preaching at Union University's Stephen Olford Center in Memphis, Tennessee.

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