SINNERS JESUS CAME TO SAVE
It is evident from the teaching of Scripture, that although it is the Lord Jesus who alone saves by His atoning death, yet it is the Father who not only has charged the Lord Jesus whom to save, but who Himself, by the quickening power of the Holy Spirit, first begins that work of grace in the heart of the sinner which distinguishes him as the special object of salvation.
Those sinners whom Jesus came to save are spoken of in the word of God under certain terms and phrases; and although some of these terms and phrases do in other relationships pertain in a general sense to all mankind, yet in this relationship they are used in a particular sense to indicate the particular persons who are the objects of divine love and salvation, even before such persons realize that love or that salvation. These phrases indicate a special and particular consciousness in the objects of salvation, which truly distinguishes them from the mass of mankind, and infallibly marks them as those for whom Christ was specially sent.
Such terms as “the broken-hearted – the captives – the blind – the bruised” (Luke 4.18) clearly indicate the special persons who were the objects of our Lord’s mission. But terms of more general signification are used with a like limitation. As, for instance, when the Lord Jesus says He came to save “that which was lost” (Matt. 18.10). The word “lost” in a general sense indicates the condition of all mankind, but our Lord does not use it in that general sense, but in a particular sense, as indicative only of those who are the special objects of His coming, and who will most assuredly be saved by Him; otherwise His errand would be in vain and His labour lost. This term also no less clearly indicates the awakened consciousness of those whom He came to save. Such know themselves to be lost ones because of their sins – that is, they are conscious that they have not only gone astray from God and true holiness and eternal happiness, but so gone astray that, left to themselves, there is for them no way of deliverance, and no other portion hereafter but eternal misery. Now it is the Father who causes this particular consciousness to arise in the heart; for He by the Holy Spirit wakens the soul from its natural unconsciousness, to understand in some measure its position in relation to Divine law and justice, and the eternity to come.
Many readily acknowledge the general position that mankind are lost because of sin, who nevertheless show, by their utter indifference and carelessness, that they have not the least heart-consciousness of their own individual danger. The general acknowledgment never truly leads the sinner to Christ, because
there is no particular sense of personal need: but the soul that is made conscious by the Father has a particular sense of need, which nothing but Christ and His salvation can fully satisfy; and thus, even before there is any consciousness of peace through Christ, there is the mark (the Father’s own mark) which indicates those for whom Christ was specially sent, and whose sins He bore on Calvary.
Sometimes a phrase is used which marks the inner consciousness of those for whom the Lord Jesus was not sent; and with it a contrasted phrase which shows the consciousness of those for whom He was sent; as, for instance, where He says He “came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Matt. 9.13). The call to repentance means eventually and effectually to Himself, as their Lord and Saviour. This phraseology alludes to the difference of consciousness in His hearers, some of whom were conscious of being righteous in themselves (Luke 18.9), whilst others, though probably but very few, were truly conscious of being sinners before God. The former were those for whom He did not come. The latter were those for whom He was specially sent.
It is true that some of the most determined in their self-righteousness might ultimately be brought by the Father, through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to the consciousness of their sinfulness; but until they were, they had not the Father’s mark upon them. Indeed, all those whom Christ came to call effectually to repentance, are naturally more or less self-righteous; but when the Holy Spirit opens their eyes to see their true character in the sight of God’s most holy law, all their fancied self-righteousness is seen in its true light, and they understand that even at their very best they are sinners indeed.
Similar is the teaching in the words of our Lord: “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matt. 9.12). The “whole” are they who are unconscious of any soul-malady. In their own view they need not the Physician, and they never come to Him, therefore His office is not for them. “They that are sick” -these are they who, on the contrary, are truly conscious of their soul’s malady, and of their need of the Physician, and it is for these He is specially sent by the Father.
Again, it is written, “Christ died for the ungodly.” The word “ungodly” in this relationship does not designate those who live and die in their ungodliness, but those to whom the Father, by the Holy Spirit, eventually and effectually shows their natural ungodliness and consequent danger. For them Christ was specially sent. For them He specially died. And His death becomes to them their only hope of salvation.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” These terms show the particular characters for whom
Jesus was sent, that in Him they might have rest; and it is the Father
who causes them, through the Holy Spirit’s gracious influence, to be
burdened with a sense of guilt.
Again, “Thy people shall be willing;” “Whosoever will;” “He that is athirst;” “Whosoever believeth.” These terms likewise show the particular people for whom the Gospel provision is made, and they indicate that the Father’s special mark is upon them. It is the Father who, by the Holy Spirit, makes willing. It is the Father who, by the Holy Spirit, creates the heavenly thirst. It is the Father who, by the Holy Spirit, draws sinners to Jesus (John 6.44, 45; Eph. 2.8).
Blessed indeed are those whom the Father has marked as His own, and who are walking in the consciousness and under the influence of this wonderful, this eternal relationship.