From foremost to the uttermost

In Sunday School we we looked at John 6:41-42 where the Jews were grumbling about what Jesus had said [which, BTW was that if they believe they should have eternal life – go figure].  It went something like this:

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” (42)  They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  [Jn 6:41-42}

They disbelieved that Jesus could be the Messiah come down from heaven because they knew who his folks were and by extension who he must be.  The question was; how often do we judge others in the same way and even judge who – can be or is worthy of  – salvation by what we know about them or their families?  And after writing them off as unworthy, a waste of time, and / or a hopeless case we move along and put the matter behind us. 

Marshall Segal makes a good observation that nuances the point I was trying to make on Sunday morning. Read it lightly edited for my purposes:

I want to remind believers of the weighty and joyful responsibility we have to take good news of reconciliation to sinners of every stripe — however serious and repulsive.

It’s not enough for Christians to condemn sin. The work of Christ, the power of our gospel, and the scope of the Great Commission are simply greater than that.

The world needs to hear that sin of every kind is evil and unacceptable before a Holy God. But much more than that, they — like the rest of us — need to hear that they can experience real forgiveness and reconciliation, but only in and with Jesus. It’s not a cliché or spiritual punch line. God really has and does save sinners like them [and us].

This means we have a mission from God to race after the racists — after the murderers, rapists, and vile criminals. It’s a real mission, and it’s filled with real hope.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15–16)

Who will take the gospel to the world? Or — maybe more relevant for you — who will take the good news to the hardened, unrepentant, offensive, estranged sinner in your family or workplace or neighborhood?

Are you one of the foremost [15]?  If you can feel good about answering “no” then I worry about your soul.  When Christ is merciful and by faith through grace becomes the foremost in your life [16] and saves you to the uttermost; you will recognize your sinfulness compared to God’s holiness and repent. Then you will realize from what you have been saved.  And then be drawn to race after foremost sinners of whom you once were to 

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