Jesus Came to Save Sinners: Part 2 :: By Gene Lawley

Jesus Saves

In the previous Part 1 of this article, we were exploring how Jesus goes about saving sinners. We looked first at how He pointed to the non-religious people, the tax collectors and publicans, as “sick” and needing a physician, but the religious leaders as “well” and not needing a physician. Yet it was clear that the “sick” wanted to be with Him, while the “well” did not. The “well” were self-righteous and did not welcome Him in their midst.

In another place, John 5:39-40, Jesus laid the truth at their feet in an open challenge:

“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

But not all of those Jewish leaders were so fixed in their resistance to the penetrating truths with which this troubling Person flayed them so much. There was a man among them named Nicodemus whose heart was stirred enough that he sought Jesus out during the night, secretly, to learn more of what He had to say.

Rather cautiously, Nicodemus faced Him, saying, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Jesus responded with a direct truth: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

It was a totally foreign concept to Nicodemus, for he had no insight into spiritual matters, even though he was a ruler of the Jews. He only thought of physical realities, and this one was certainly not possible! Jesus explained, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:7-8).

Not unlike the thief on the cross, later, who acknowledged Jesus for who He was, Nicodemus approached Him with that same responsive attitude, and Jesus honored him with further revelation of truth. That other faction of religious leaders, later at the trial of Jesus, cried out, “Crucify Him; let His blood be on our hands and those of our children!” (Matthew 27:25).

John 7:50-51 and John 19:39 indicate that Nicodemus had become a quiet follower of Jesus Christ. The largely rejection of Jesus by the Jewish leaders evidently did not include all of them, for there is no doubt that among those who believed when Peter preached to the multitude of many languages at Pentecost, there were many Jews, perhaps most of them. Remember Paul’s declaration in Romans 1:16, that the gospel was meant for the Jew first, then the Gentile.

So it is established here again that where there is a responding heart, the Lord is very present and ready to open His heart to that one. Again I quote from Part 1, Revelation 3:20 because it so plainly says exactly that action: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” And one surely cannot deny the clear picture of these thoughts being presented in John 1:11-13, of the difference in result between rejecting and receiving Jesus:

“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

One daysoon, no doubt—those of His own Jewish heritage who have not received Him will do so in that “time of Jacob’s trouble” in the Tribulation. Zechariah writes of that time in Zechariah 12:10, expressing the Word of the Lord, “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.” They will recognize and accept Jesus, the Messiah and their atonement.

So the question that begs for an answer is, “If ‘many are called but few are chosen’ (Matthew 22:14), why are just the few chosen?”

Let’s look at it this way: Paul told the philosophers at Mars Hill this: “He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Corinthians 6:17).

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

And Peter backs that up in 2 Peter 3:9 with this undeniable truth:

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

When Adam and Eve chose to disobey the Lord and eat of that tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they lost their innocence and became guilty and condemned before God, but they gained the knowledge of good and evil. Death came upon them, both spiritually and physically, but imbedded in their consciences was that moral knowledge of good and evil. As a result, every person thereafter possessed that imbedded moral law. Romans 2:14-16 brings it right home to everyone today and reveals God’s secret weapon that He uses to draw a person to Himself:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”

The law of God troubles the consciences of mortal men, calling them to repentance, where grace and faith enable him to do so. But many do not make that choice. It is so displayed in the case of Cain and Abel, in that early beginning. They were not children, but responsible adults bringing their own offerings for sacrifice. No doubt, having learned from their youth the practice of their parents, they knew what was right and what was wrong. So Cain deliberately chose to disobey God’s provision for forgiveness of sin and sought to furnish his own way of salvation.

The fact that Abel was a shepherd of sheep did not make him more righteous than Cain. It illustrates how, perhaps, a person living in the midst of believers and righteousness does not give him any special privileges for salvation, such as being born in a Christian family. He must personally attend to his own sacrificial offering.

Romans 5:18 connects the problem with its solution:

“Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”

Some, like Cain, chose to reject God’s provision and will suffer the consequences of that choice; others will resist and fight against that drawing power of the Spirit of God, but the words of 2 Peter 3:9 still hold firmly to God’s patience:

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

We must not overlook that declaration of God’s position on the matter of salvation. But the problem is with what repentance means to most people and even as shown in the Scripturesthat is, “turning away from your sinful acts and habits.” (When the Scriptures call for repentance and naming evil deeds, it is bringing the force of the law into play because mortal man cannot do it, and thus proves himself the sinner that he is.)

One can do all of that, as much as his carnal nature will allow, of course, but the problem is more basic. It is not what you do but what you are. You—we—are born of Adam, spiritually dead and physically dying. Jesus said, “You must be born again!”

`Then, as 1 Corinthians 6:17 says, “He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” Then one day, when our time is up in this mortal life, we will be “absent from the body and present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). We cannot, we must not think lightly of nor count as insignificant the magnetic power of what John wrote in 1 John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us.”                                                                     

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