2003-08-19 - The Learned Selden
1 Timothy 1:15 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.
John Selden was considered one of the most learned men of the middle 17th century. While I don't agree with much of his theology, I did come upon a quote from him that I thought was very profound. He said, "I have taken much pains to know every thing that was esteemed worth knowing amongst men; but with all my disquisitions and reading, nothing now remains with me to comfort me, at the close of life, but this passage of St. Paul, 'It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.' To this I cleave, and herein I find rest." This is a profound statement and while I don't agree with his church polity especially, I can say with honesty that he really hit the nail on the head with this statement.
We might ask ourselves why Christ came into the world. Was it to give us an outstanding moral example? Was it to help us entertain more effectively and have the forks in order and the spoons and knives on the right side of the plate? (I have seen churches actually advertise sermons based on that very topic.) NO! Selden got it right. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. That was the purpose of His coming to earth. Anyone who has read the Bible either knows this or can't read. Christ came to save those who have transgressed God's holy law, snatch them from the depths of hell, and restore them to a new relationship with God the Father.
When Israel was given the manna, they basically came out in the morning and wondered, "What is this?" They probably did not understand that this was bread from heaven to sustain them. There are many today who hear the gospel and say, "What is this?" They do not understand that Christ is the bread of life. ("I am the bread of life," John 6:35.) Salvation is not meant for those who deserve it, but rather for those who are undeserving. It is even for those who continue to be undeserving. Repentance is the hallmark of the saved soul. All you need to do to see this is to read 1 John 1. It is a short chapter, but worth the time to read and ponder.
The work of Christ was one of mercy and grace. In Christ's redemption for our sins it is always the extolling of His mercy that is emphasized. "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit," Titus 3:5. Just as the doctor turns his attention to the illness, so salvation turns it's focus upon sin. We must do so also in our hearts. Salvation is deeply personal. Salvation, however, is to focus on the need of sinners for healing. We must face our sin head on and confront it without hesitation. If you have struggles, even deep struggles, in the area of sinfulness, let me tell you that the greatest victories of Christ are found in the greatest sinners. And that is the end of the verse we started with, "among whom I am foremost of all." If Paul can write that, then we also can rest our hope and trust in Christ as Paul did.
Soli Deo Gloria,