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“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15).

EVEN BEFORE JESUS DIED, PEOPLE DISAGREED AS TO WHAT HIS PURPOSE WAS. And those disagreements continue today. Whatever He may have done or not done, what was it that He intended to do? What was His mission (and His apostles’ mission) in this world? What is the main point of the gospel of Christ? In other words, if the gospel is the solution, what is the problem that it was meant to solve?

Writing to his young coworker Timothy, Paul left no doubt about the object of Jesus’ work: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). This echoes Jesus’ own words, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

Many secondary benefits flow from the forgiveness of our sins, but we must never forget the message Christ commanded to be preached in His name. Paul never forgot it, because many years later he recalled that Christ had sent him to the Gentiles “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18). Christ ordered Paul to preach a specific message — and that message was about the forgiveness of sins.

But going back to 1 Timothy 1:15, did you notice what Paul said about himself? Christ came into the world to save sinners, “of whom I am the foremost.” If we see the gospel as providing what others need most, the forgiveness of their sins, each of us should see our own need for the gospel very personally. And when forgiven, we must not suppose it took any less of God’s grace to forgive us than might have been required for a really “sinful” person.

So let’s not misunderstand what Jesus came to do, and in our preaching, let’s not misrepresent what the gospel offers. Tempted to get lost in details and side issues, let’s come back to the center. The cancer the gospel proposes to cure is this: our sins against God.

“We shall never understand anything of our Lord’s preaching and ministry unless we continually keep in mind what exactly and exclusively his errand was in this world. Sin was his errand in this world, and it was his only errand. He would never have been in this world, either preaching or doing anything else, but for sin. He could have done everything else for us without coming down into this world at all; everything else but take away our sin” (Alexander White).

Gary Henry — +

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