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THE APOSTLE SPEAKS OF THE REAL CHRISTMAS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, December 22, 2019

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (I Timothy 1:15; p. 1274 Scofield).


This is a very important verse of Scripture. It tells us why Jesus came into the world. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” His birth on the first Christmas was not to give us another holiday. It is a twisting of the Scriptures to say that Jesus was born to give us another holiday! He did not come into the world to do that at all! “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” He did not come to give us yet another “holiday.” Although He did do that, if we celebrate Christmas in church. But Christ Jesus did not come to give us an excuse to get drunk, or go to a wild party. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Christ Jesus did not come into the world to be the greatest teacher, although He also did that. But it was not His main purpose. Christ Jesus did not come into the world to be a great moral example, although He also did that. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

Some people try to get me to brag about myself. I must never do that. I did not become a missionary because I was a good boy. When I give my testimony I never emphasize how “good” I was. I always start out telling people how bad I was. Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “When you give your testimony make sure you don’t tell people how wonderful you are or all that you have accomplished. Tell them you were a sinner and that Christ saved you. That is very important” (note on I Timothy 1:15). “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

On the first Christmas an angel told Joseph, “She shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21; p. 994). The angel told Joseph that he should name Mary’s Son “JESUS,” because JESUS means “Saviour.” Our main text says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” So, Jesus means “Saviour.” But the Apostle calls Him “Christ Jesus.” “Jesus” means Saviour, but “Christ” means “the anointed.” “Christ” is the title of the Messiah in Greek. So the Apostle Paul tells us that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – that is, “The Messiah Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Jesus told Zacchaeus that He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10; p. 1102).

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I love to read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. But when I read it, I always wonder if Dickens was a real Christian. Why? Because it gives us a false idea of how a man is saved. Old Scrooge is “saved” after several angels show him the truth about himself. That is a perversion of the real Gospel. I have never known anyone who was saved by an angel showing them the truth about their lost lives. Everyone I know, who was truly saved, was saved by “Christ Jesus [who] came into the world to save sinners,” as the Apostle Paul told us in our text,

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (I Timothy 1:15).

I tried very hard, very hard to be saved by being a good boy. But I knew in my heart that this didn’t work. No matter how hard I tried, I knew I couldn’t do it! Something was missing! I even went to Bible College to become a missionary! But something was missing, and I knew it! What was missing? Christ Jesus was missing!

I was failing in Bible College and I knew it. More than that, I knew that I had failed miserably as a Christian. Then one morning I started attending a series of chapel services. Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge was preaching each of these chapel services. Before he spoke each morning we sang a hymn, written by Charles Wesley (1707-1788). The last few words of the refrain not only caught my attention. They changed my life. Here is some of that hymn.

And can it be that I should gain
   An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
   For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all! Th’ Immortal dies!
   Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
   To sound the depths of love divine!
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
   Let angel minds inquire no more.
Amazing love! how can it be
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

He left His Father’s throne above,
   So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
   And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
   For, O my God, it found out me.
Amazing love! how can it be
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
   Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray,
   I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
   I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Amazing love! how can it be
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
(“And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

I was awakened by those words of the refrain.

“Amazing love! how can it be
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

Jesus was God! God in human flesh! And He, God in human flesh, had died for me! I copied down some of the words – and sang them every afternoon on my job on a parking lot in downtown Los Angeles. Jesus had bled on the Cross to cleanse a sinner like me from all sin!

“Amazing love! how can it be
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

I sang it over and over, until my heart was overflowing! The Gospel of mercy, through the atoning Blood of Christ Jesus, brought tears to my eyes, and peace – at last – to my soul! I had been such a hypocrite! Now I had failed in everything. I was an abject failure! I was a sinner indeed!

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (I Timothy 1:15).

I was saved by the Blood of Christ Jesus, shed for me on the Cross!!! “I rose, went forth, and followed Jesus!” A few weeks later I was baptized by Dr. Timothy Lin at the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles!

“Amazing love! how can it be
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

“I've found a Friend, O such a Friend!
   He bled, He died to save me;
And not alone the gift of life,
   But His own self He gave me.
Naught that I have my own I call,
   I hold it for the Giver;
For I am His, and He is mine,
   Forever and forever!”
(“I’ve Found a Friend” by James G. Small, 1817-1888).

I have lost many close friends since then, for I was only 19 when Jesus cleansed my sin with His own Blood. But I have never lost Jesus! Thank God! He is mine forever!!!

“Amazing love! how can it be
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

May I quote our text for you from the New International Version – a modern translation of the Greek text?

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst” (I Timothy 1:15 NIV).

The Apostle Paul was indeed a terrible sinner when he met the risen Christ and was saved by Him, and cleansed by the Holy Blood the Saviour shed on the Cross. And so, that is the true meaning of Christmas!

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”
         (I Timothy 1:15).

Miss Marie Monsen was a Norwegian missionary to China in the first part of the 20th century. Miss Monsen knew that many Chinese church members and even pastors of the Chinese churches were orthodox but lifeless. They had given mental assent to Christianity without actually experiencing newness of life.

This is only one of the stories. The pastor was a kind man, always busy in church work. He was a good preacher and a true shepherd of his church. Finally Miss Monsen asked him, “Are you born again?”

Very seriously he answered, “I wish I knew. That question has been a problem to me for a long time.” Miss Monsen asked this pastor to tell her what he was thinking.

He said, “I feel as if I was living in a large, empty house without either doors or windows. I am always groping along the walls trying to find a way to escape.”

Miss Monsen had to tell this pastor that he was an unsaved man!

He said to her, “I have never been a sinner who needed the Saviour.”

Miss Monsen told him, “You have been a blind leader of the blind.”

He came back to speak with her a few days later. He said, “I have been a hypocritical pastor.”

Miss Monsen said, “He entered into the experience of receiving mercy as a sinner, and was set free by Christ.” After that he attended many meetings and gave a wonderful testimony of his sin and the mercy Jesus gave him. He said over and over, “I who was totally blind now see.” His testimony helped many others to find that

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners...”

That, and that alone, is the real message of Christmas! Please stand and sing the last song attached at the end of your song sheet, “Hallelujah, What a Saviour!”

“Man of Sorrows,” what a name For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood; Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

Guilty, vile and helpless, we; Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement” can it be? Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

Lifted up was He to die, “It is finished,” was His cry;
Now in heaven exalted high; Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

When He comes, our glorious King, All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew this song we’ll sing: Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
   (“Halleljuah, What a Saviour!” by Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876).