Great Gospel Texts: 1 Timothy 1:15

Short and Sweet

Brevity,” Shakespeare famously wrote, “is the soul of wit.” Short, concise summaries are often the key to effectively communicating significant truths. To this, the Bible gives ample evidence; the good news of salvation and life through Jesus Christ has been expressed in brief yet powerful declarations. “Behold the Lamb of God,” “Ye must be born again” and “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” are potent examples of God’s clear and unambiguous message to sinners.

The apostle Paul, writing to his fellow-worker Timothy, provides a stellar example of gospel brevity and clarity: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1Ti 1:15 KJV). In the span of a single sentence, the great truths of the gospel are clearly expressed:

  • This world’s evident ruin – sin that pervades a fallen creation and each person within it.
  • God’s amazing remedy – full and complete salvation through a single source, Christ Jesus.
  • The sinner’s urgent responsibility – complete dependence on this reliable, God-given message and its subject, Jesus Christ.

That we have a problem with sin is evident; it is, as G.K. Chesterton tartly observed, “a fact as practical as potatoes.” Our first parents, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God, and we have all followed suit. Consequently, God’s analysis is short and to the point: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23 ESV). Sin is personal, pervasive and pernicious. And its penalty, by God’s decree, is death – first physical and then eternal (Rom 6:23). Therefore, above all else, we need the forgiveness of our sins (Eph 1:7) and deliverance from God’s wrath (Rom 5:9).

Christ’s coming into our world was not a random event; it was God’s purposeful response to our sin. Like the landowner in one of Christ’s stories, after many messengers were sent to his rebellious employees, the master finally “sent his beloved son” (Luk 20:9ff.). Correspondingly, the gospel declares that “the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1Jn 4:14 KJV). What we most desperately needed God graciously supplied! Sent to our world with all its darkness and to the cross with all its suffering, Christ willingly died as a substitute for sinners. Then, in resurrection power, He ascended to heaven, a living Savior (1Co 15:3-4).

The gospel calls for a response to what Christ has graciously done. In our great gospel text, Paul asserts that “this saying is dependable” and that “[it] should be fully trusted.” Like medication with the power to heal, the gospel must be accepted to be effective; it requires personal dependence on Christ. And for those who do, what blessing! “All who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (Joh 1:12 ESV).

Isn’t God good? In language that is understandable and memorable, the heart of the good news has been revealed. May God help every preacher to diligently imitate it and every hearer to gladly receive it!