You Shall Call His Name Jesus,
For He Will Save His People from their Sins:
A Fourfold Salvation
Journey Church, Hartsville, Tennessee
Greg Wright, December 15, 2013
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Good morning Journey Church. Today we will be taking a break from our expository, verse-by-verse studies in Ephesians in order to consider one of the great seasonal themes: the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We will return to Ephesians soon. Meanwhile, this is an exciting day for me. I think this will be the first time I have ever preached a sermon that might be called a Christmas sermon where I actually used verses regarding the birth of our savior.
Christmas is a joyful season, and the events that took place around the time of the birth of our savior have been fertile ground for some of our favorite songs. The song O Little Town of Bethlehem commemorates the humble town of Jesus’ birth. The song Hark the Herald Angels Sing remembers the angels who announced the birth of our savior to humble shepherds. The song We Three Kings paints a glorious picture of the visitation by the wise men. And the song Away in a Manger transports us to the place of his birth with the rich imagery of animals and stables. These are songs that bring awe and wonder to our hearts, and along with you, I very much enjoy singing them.
Today, however, I am drawn to a different kind of Christmas song. It is a song written in a minor key, which means it sounds sad when it is played. Even some of the words are sad. The song is O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. One verse says, “O come thou dayspring, come and cheer, our spirits by thine advent here; disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.”
The song highlights one of the consequences of sin, which is death, and it looks forward to the day when Jesus will put death to flight and bring peace to the world.
How will Jesus do this? How will Jesus get rid of death? Jesus will get rid of death by taking care of our sin problem.
You might ask, but hasn’t Jesus already taken care of our sin problem? He died on the cross; he has risen; and those who trust in him go to heaven when they die.
I would say, amen! For believers Jesus has taken away the sting of death, which is Hell. But Friend, Jesus has done much, much more. Jesus has saved us from sin in ways that are comprehensive and thorough. Jesus has saved us from sin in ways that can bring us great joy right now, even before we die.
This salvation is best described, I think, in a book written by A. W. Pink called A Fourfold Salvation. Pink was a Baptist pastor who lived from 1886 to 1952. I appreciate him mostly for his ability to deal with complex theological subjects in clear and concise ways. The book I mentioned is only about 50 pages, and it is freely accessible on the web. Just type in “A Fourfold Salvation” and Google will provide several places where you can read it on-line or download it. In that book Pink discusses our salvation with respect to the past, the present, and the future. That is to say, we have been saved; we are being saved; and we will be saved. However, the thrust of the book is the list of the aspects of sin from which Jesus has, is, and will save us. They are:
I can’t be as thorough today as Pink was in fifty pages. However, I think we can cover this subject in enough detail to where in days ahead, when we consider how big our sin problem is, and how comprehensively Jesus has, is, and will save us from our sins, your hearts will be filled with joy, and your souls will be encouraged.
Although Pink actually ends his book with Matthew 1:21, that verse is, today, our starting point and primary text. Matthew 1:21 says, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
I want to bring out a few features of this verse. After that we will talk about how big our sin problem is and how Jesus saves, using the headings Pink provided. Then we will close with some brief application points.
First we note the name of Jesus. You are probably familiar with the Hebrew name Joshua. That name means Yahweh saves. The name Joshua comes into Greek as Iesous, and Iesous comes into English as Jesus. So the name given to the Son of God means Yahweh saves.
In the Bible, the name of a person, especially when given by God, has great significance. Contrast that to our culture. When I was named, I doubt that anyone considered that my first name, William, meant helmet, and my second name, Gregory, meant watchful. Otherwise, my name might have suggested that I was destined to be hardheaded and paranoid.
In the Bible, however, the name of a person often indicated their primary nature and function. The eternal Son of God was born into this world with the name Jesus to indicate his primary role towards us, to save his people from their sins.
I regret to say that many people try to downplay this role of Jesus. They say it is too man-centered. I even heard one preacher say that it was bad theology to say that Jesus died for the sins of man; that saying such things made Jesus’ work too much about us. Of course any regular reader of the Bible would be familiar with 1 Corinthians 15:3 where Paul says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” In other words, for Paul, Jesus dying for our sins and rising again was of first importance, or as the HCSB puts it, most important. Now, if it was that important, I don’t think we are likely to overemphasize it.
Moreover, this purpose of Jesus was so important that when Jesus came to save us from our sins, the entire Trinity was involved. Jesus was sent by the Father, and he was conceived in the womb of Mary through the Holy Spirit. In other words, when Jesus was born to Mary, it was the combined outworking of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus loves us because the entire Trinity loves us. We see an example of this love in the Trinitarian formula in 2 Cor. 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
So, to summarize that point, Jesus came to save, his name emphasized his purpose, and his coming was a Trinitarian effort. Next, who was it that Jesus came to save? The verse says he came to save his people – not all people but his people.
His people, who are they? I believe when Joseph heard the words, his people, he was thinking of the Jews. He was possibly thinking of the Jews under the iron fist of the Roman Empire. But the writer Matthew is quoting an angel, and surely that angel knew that the term his people, would include, not just believing Jews, but everyone God would, from eternity, sovereignly elect to save. The language seems very similar to John 6:37 where Jesus speaks of a people given to him by God saying, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” So Jesus did not come to save all people; he came to save his people. As for what is meant by his people, we will consider that further momentarily.
Also, we note that Jesus came to save his people from something in particular – their sins.
The effect of sin on mankind is huge. It affects what we do, what we experience, and what we have become.
First, it affects what people do. It affects what people do in society in general: murders, theft, political corruption, bad laws that encourage immoral behavior, and driving in ways that endanger other people.
It affects what people do in interpersonal interactions: gossip, slander, adultery, fornication, lust and deception.
Second, it affects what we experience. Natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, typhoons, landslides, forest fires, and floods did not kill people before sin entered our world. Nor did mankind experience the kind of frustration experienced today. Man was created to work, but before the fall, work was pleasant. Not only that, but people were naturally happy. Now people get so depressed that sometimes they take their own lives. Nor did we have pain before the fall. Now even younger people experience all kinds of pain: back pain, foot pain, cramps, and broken bones. Nor did people get sick. Now we have cancer, heart trouble, tumors, and a host of other things. Then, at the end of our lives, we die. But the affects of sin do not end, even at death. Those who die in their sins go to Hell, where they will be miserable forever.
All these things – what we do and what we experience – are bad enough. But it gets worse. The worst part of sin is what we have become.
God is the supreme source of all happiness and blessings. But sin has alienated us from God. Before the fall, man walked with God. After the fall, man had to leave the Garden of Eden. Before the fall, Adam was given a simple command, which we find in Genesis 2:16-17, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Of course, you know what happened. They ate and they died. You might say, wait a minute, Adam continued to live for hundreds of years. That is true, but in the Bible death is sometimes a comprehensive thing, pertaining to more than just the separation of the body from the soul.
Consider 1 Cor. 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Consider also Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” (CSB)
The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks the question: Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell? The answer, the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.
This aspect of spiritual death is commonly called Original Sin. It is to be distinguished from Actual Sin. Original sin is a tendency that you are born with. Actual sin consists of the sins that we commit, but the tendency to do them arises from original sin.
Left in this state, no one savingly responds to the Gospel, no one! Man is able to hear the gospel preached. But to believe it and embrace it, that is beyond his capabilities. Yes, man is able to make choices. The Gospel should be freely preached to all people, and no one who sincerely comes to Jesus is locked out of heaven. Man is free to choose, but his choices are restrained by his nature. We are prisoners of our nature. Man chooses according to his strongest desires, but his strongest desires are for everything except the God who can save his soul.
We call this the Total Depravity of Man. By this we do not mean that man is as bad as he could be. Even Hitler could have been worse than he was. No, we mean man is as bad-off as he could be. He lacks the spiritual capacity to come to God, on his own, for the salvation of his soul. No one chooses God on their own. Their situation is so desperate that unless God does something special to change their heart, they all go to Hell when they die.
Thanks be to God, he does do something. And that something brings us to the first major point – God saves us from the pleasure of sin.
III. Salvation from the Pleasure of Sin.
Pink writes, “God saves us from the pleasure or love of sin before he delivers us from the penalty or punishment of sin.”
In fact, God made a decision to save his people long before they were even born. We see this in Ephesians 1:3-4 where we read, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
God choosing us for salvation before we were born is what scripture calls Election. It is also what is meant in Matthew 1:21 by the reference to “his people.” His people are the elect. They are not chosen because of any good foreseen in them. No, only God knows why he chooses some people and passes over others. Of course, left to themselves, everyone sins against God, everyone would reject God, and everyone would go to Hell. God, who is not morally obligated to save anyone, chooses to save some, and those people are his people.
One of the first things God does in order to reach his people is cause them to be troubled over their sins. They hear someone preaching the Gospel or preaching against sin. Although they had easily ignored such preaching in the past, now they begin to be troubled by their sins. Sometimes these people initially respond by just trying to be better people. They think they can be acceptable to God just by being better and more moral than most people. However, if God is working in them, they see how sinful they still are, they begin to come to the end of themselves, and they cry out to God. This is called conviction, and the Puritans called it deep plowing. Although the person is not yet born again, he is beginning to realize what a Hell-deserving creature he is.
God’s actual saving work begins with Regeneration. It is so radical that it transforms the person’s mind and heart. Ezekiel 36:25-27 says, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. “
This new heart so profoundly affects the person that he does not fail to repent of his sin and believe the Gospel. This conversion is the result of what is called Effectual Calling. It is said to be effectual, because it always produces the effect God intends – that the person will turn away from his sins and believe the Gospel. Yet, when he does repent and believe, there is no coercion whatsoever. He is merely doing what he most wants to do. His strongest desires are different, because his heart is different.
All of a sudden, sin does not look the same. Ezekiel 36:31 captures this change of attitude towards sin, “Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations.”
IV. Salvation from the Penalty of Sin.
This brings us to the next heading, salvation from the penalty of sin. This newfound faith changes everything regarding your relationship to God and the penalties for sin.
While repentance and faith are not meritorious with regard to our salvation, they are instrumentally essential. Since they are required for salvation, we want to clearly understand what they are. Pink describes them this way, “Repentance is the hand releasing those filthy objects it had previously clung to so tenaciously; faith is extending an empty hand to God to receive His gift of grace. Repentance is a godly sorrow for sin; faith is receiving a sinner’s Savior. Repentance is a revulsion of the filth and pollution of sin; faith is a seeking of cleansing therefrom”
And who is the object of this faith? Jesus Christ, of course. Jesus did all that was required to save us from Hell.
In Jesus’ work of saving us from the penalty of sin, two things stand out: Justification and Adoption. Justification has to do with our legal status before God. United to Christ through faith, his righteousness is credited to us. Thus we read in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We read further in Isaiah 53:5-6, “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
In addition to a new legal status with respect to our sin, we also receive a new legal status with respect to our sonship. We are adopted as children of God. We see this in John 1:12-13, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Now, I want you to know that Jesus takes our adoption very seriously, so seriously, that when Mary Magdalene visited his tomb and found the risen Jesus he said to her in John 20:17, “. . . Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Jesus called his disciples brothers, and he said that his father was now their father too.
What a change! Man kicked out of the garden. Man no longer walking with God. Man no longer talking to God. And now, we find the believer not only restored from the guilt of his sins but adopted into the very family of God.
But there is more. Even though we are justified and adopted we still struggle with sin. The difference, now, is we don’t have to let sin win.
V. Salvation from the Power of Sin.
This brings us to our next point, salvation from the power of sin. We are not slaves to sin any longer. However, we are not rid of sin yet; we still have to fight it. We do have a new heart. We do have a new nature. But inside of us we have a remaining disposition to sin which, although greatly and progressively subdued, will never completely die out in this life.
You might compare it to Bermuda grass growing among the stems of a coreopsis plant. Once that Bermuda grass is under the plant, I can’t get rid of it without digging up the coreopsis plant, and if I do dig it up I might destroy it. We have the same problem with some of our blueberry bushes. However, I can break off the Bermuda grass stems as I see them, thereby keeping them from taking over the whole area. That is hard work, but so is living the Christian life.
Before we were Christians, we could work hard to be good people and still be slaves to sin. The good news, now, is we don’t have to be slaves to sin any longer. This is clearly set forth in Romans 6:6-7 where Paul says, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
Not only are we no longer slaves to sin, we are commanded to resist sin. Consider Romans 6:11-14, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
You might ask yourself, okay, if I have all this new power to overcome sin, why do I still sin so much?
Part of the answer is this: we are still learning. That is why we call it Progressive Sanctification. We make progress over time.
The other part of the answer is sometimes people try to do this in their own strength. Paul knew better. In Philippians 4:13 he wrote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” And also in Colossians 1:29 Paul wrote, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
So we struggle, but we have the Holy Spirit helping us in our struggles. This is further described in Romans 8:13 where Paul says, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (emphasis mine)
This progress in overcoming sin is called Progressive Sanctification. Another aspect of being freed from the power of sin is something called Perseverance of the Saints. Another way people talk about perseverance of the saints is the term Eternal Security. The short form of confessing eternal security is to say “Once saved always saved.” I believe in eternal security and this church believes in eternal security. However, my next statement might surprise you. Everyone who believes in the perseverance of the saints believes in eternal security, but not everyone who believes in eternal security believes in the perseverance of the saints.
Again, everyone who believes in the perseverance of the saints believes in eternal security, but not everyone who believes in eternal security believes in the perseverance of the saints.
Some, not all, but some who believe in eternal security believe that a person can, at the end of his life, deny Christ and depart from the Gospel and still be a Christian, all because at some point in his life he made what he thought was a sincere profession of faith. However, those who believe in the perseverance of the saints believe that if you deny Christ and never return before you die, you were never saved in the first place. You don’t lose your salvation; you just never had it. 1 John 2:19 supports this position, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”
So what about us? What a scary thought, that we might go through life worhipping God, only to deny him at the end! What is to keep us from denying Christ in the end? Once again, our helper is the Holy Spirit. Consider Jude 24 and 25, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
Power over sin – we have it; the Holy Spirit helps us, and as we struggle, depending on the Holy Spirit for strength, we will progress in sanctification and persevere to the end. Praise be to God – we are no longer slaves to sin.
VI. Salvation from the Presence of Sin.
But oh for the day when sin will be gone forever! It’s coming, sooner than we think. Heaven is just a breath away.
I dream of my first day in heaven. I dream of talking to hundreds of people, embracing them and rejoicing with them, without sinning even once. No more concern about whether I misspoke or was misunderstood, no more anxiety about whether I had exposed my pride and pettiness for everyone to see, because all pride and pettiness will be gone. Everything will be pure, everything will be sincere. There will be full, undiluted joy with nothing to undermine it.
I will search around the crowd to find my son. Our communication will be effortless: no generation barrier, no education barrier, and no interest barrier. I loved him, and he loved me, but that is nothing compared to how people will love one another in heaven. God will be our supreme love and joy, and every other love and joy will flow from that. Sin will almost descend into a vague memory, but we will never forget what it cost Jesus. We will remember the cross every time we see our Savior’s hands and feet. Only, I don’t think it will make us sad anymore. Instead, we will see how even sin was used to reveal the glory and love of God in ways that we otherwise never would have know.
How else would we have known the tenacity of his love? How else would we have known the depth of his compassion, the sweetness of his empathy, the strength of his courage, or the impregnable fortress of this righteous character? How else would we have known it?
Sin, what a huge problem, destroying our lives, damning our souls, and corrupting our very natures! Jesus, what a huge Savior, planning our redemption from eternity past, dying for us, living through us, and carrying us forward into an eternal future.
Is that not reason for joy? “Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive her king.” Are you tired of sin and, yet, still holding onto it. Come to Jesus. He will give you true joy.
Do you still fear the penalty of sin; do you still fear Hell. Are you afraid to die? Come to Jesus.
Maybe you are a believer. Yet, you are depressed, because sin so often gets the best of you. God has given you power over sin. Don’t give up the fight. Come to Jesus.
Let us pray:
Dear heavenly Father I pray for two things: I pray that we will never forget how big and evil the problem of sin is. And I pray that we will more fully appreciate the magnitude of what Christ has done for us. May a greater understanding of the magnitude of his outpouring of love for us warm our hearts, feed our souls, calm our fears, and make our hearts rejoice. In Jesus’ name, amen.