Last week we looked at this passage in Matthew and we thought about how this passage was there to convince us that Jesus is God’s Son who has come down and become flesh. I do think that we could spend much time delving into every nook and cranny of this passage. It does present us with many truths that are good for the soul. But I want to come back today and next week to one particular verse, verse 21.
I have said before that when we think of Christmas we are to think of nothing more than Christ. Christmas is not about presents. It is not about family. It is not about feeling jolly. It is about Christ. But the verse before us this morning tells us what Christ is all about.
“You will give him the name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
We Americans like our options. We like having a lot of choices and a wide variety of things to choose from. You need only to go to the grocery store or the fast food joint to see that. When you go to the store you have a whole aisle of breakfast cereals to choose from. When you go to the Wendy’s you have a plethora of hamburgers to choose from and a schmazzel of things to choose from to fill your combo meal. There is no doubt about it, we don’t like being limited.
But when we turn our eyes to the Bible we find ourselves being faced with salvation. Though we would like it otherwise, we find that the Bible says that salvation is limited. When we look at the Bible we find that salvation is not a wide and varied thing. A lot of things can be said about this salvation, but one thing is very clear: Salvation is exclusive.
That is what the passage before us tells us anyway. This verse deals solely with our salvation and it tells us of its exclusivity. It tells us that salvation is exclusive because it tells us there is one particular savior, and He saves one particular people.
Since salvation is the most important question that one has to deal with, it is imperative that we address it thoroughly. And it is good for us to begin by asking, “Who is it that saves?”
I. Who is it that saves?
In the verse before us we find that the one who saves is the one who is given the name Savior. That is what Jesus means. The angel bids Joseph to give the baby this name because this name identifies who he is and what he is to do.
The Savior then is Jesus, and we may (and should) emphasize this by saying “Jesus alone.”
This is a critical issue: An issue that has been attacked throughout history and continues to be assailed even in our day. If there is one thing that is found to be abominable in the eyes of the world, it is that there is only one Savior of men.
This was one of the issues that sprouted during the time of the reformation. The Reformers emphasized, over against the Roman Church, “Sola Christos.” What they meant by that was that salvation was through no other means except through Jesus Christ.
Rome taught that, yeah Jesus was the savior, but he alone couldn’t save you totally. Rome said—and continues to say even to this day—that if you are going to be saved, you must add to Christ’s work. Christ can save you from some sin (or Christ can take you so far), but you must do the rest: You must take the Lord’s Supper and offer penance. In their view, these are works that you do to add to Christ’s salvation. You have to do other things to keep that salvation and complete that salvation.
And then there is the whole doctrine of Purgatory. The doctrine of Purgatory was developed because Rome believes that Christ did not satisfy all our sins. They believe that after death a Christian goes, not directly to heaven, but to a place where they must make satisfaction for the sins that Christ did not atone for. And that satisfaction comes in the form of suffering. It is only after this unknown period of suffering that one can enter into heaven.
So, it is not a stretch to say that Rome believes there are two saviors: Jesus and yourself.
This you see flies in the face of our verse. The verse says, “He will save his people from their sins.” It does not say “He will help save his people” or “He will help his people save themselves.” It says, “He will save his people from their sins.” And we can say, “He alone will save his people from their sins.”
Jesus is the sole savior. Just like it says in Acts 4, “There is no other name under heaven by which you must be saved.”
Unfortunately, Rome is not the only one who errs on this doctrine of Jesus being the only savior of men. In our pluralistic culture, we are told that there are many roads to God.
Just this week I heard how big the religious melting pot has become in our society. Nancy Pelosi, the House representative from California, gave a speech this past week (I’m not sure exactly to whom and when). At the conclusion of that speech she wanted to bid the people good tidings. She ended her speech by saying, “May you all have a happy holiday—Merry Christmas, happy Hanukah, or Kwanza—or whatever else you may be celebrating.” Basically, she was affirming that all of these religions are legitimate, and each of them offers a legitimate way to salvation.
But we cannot stand with Pelosi on this matter. Jesus is not “One among many Saviors.” The Bible says of Jesus, “He [and he alone] will save his people from their sins.”
But really, should we be so exclusive? Isn’t there any room to fudge? Are there no other options? The Bible tells us there is no other way. Jesus himself even said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Some of you may remember the old TV show, “Let’s Make a Deal.” In that show people were given three doors to choose from. Behind one of those doors there was the grand prize. Behind the other doors there was nothing of much value. So people had to make a choice, and there was only one right answer.
In our day there are many religions to choose from. There is Buddha, Mohammad, and a bazillion other options. One of the steps of AA is that you must choose a “higher power” to assist you in your recovery. But what AA doesn’t tell you is that there is only one who is able to save. The good news is that you don’t have to guess which one is it like those contestants on “Let’s Make a Deal.” The one who can save has been revealed to you. He is Jesus.
No doubt people make thousands of objections to the Bible’s declaration that Jesus is the only way of salvation. One of the most popular things people say is that “It doesn’t really matter what you believe, just as long as you are sincere.” But this is nonsense.
A while back a woman who was a nurse in a hospital was changing an oxygen tank for one of her patients. She sincerely believed that the tank was full when she changed it. But when she went to check on her patient a while later, she found him dead.
Was she sincere in her belief? She sure was. But though she was sincere, she was wrong. And that had terrible consequences.
And there are terrible consequences for those who think your religion doesn’t matter. There are terrible consequences for those who do not receive Jesus Christ as their sole savior.
So, if we are to receive salvation, we must receive the one who God appointed as our Savior, and him alone.
Our verse points out not only who the savior is, but it points out who are the recipients of this salvation. The Lord tells us not only who is the Savior, but he tells us whom is to be saved.
II. Who is it that is saved?
The passage says. “He will save his people from their sins.” If he is to save his people, then it necessarily means he is not going to save those who are not his people.
There is a belief called Universalism” that is widely held today. This belief, which is held by even many in Ashland (religious leaders included!), says that everyone is saved in the end. A universalist believes that everyone is going to go to heaven when they die. This belief is so widely held that RC Sproul has said that today we believe in justification by death. He says that so many people believe that the only thing we need to get to heaven is to die.
Don’t think that sounds silly either. I received an email after 9/11 which basically said we shouldn’t be too upset about the twin towers falling because 2000 people entered heaven that day! In other words, they were saying that everyone who died that day was saved.
But the Bible clearly teaches that not everyone is saved. Throughout the Bible you see that humanity can be divided into two groups: Those who are God’s people, and those who are not God’s people. Those who are God’s people are the one’s who receive God’s special favor. They are the apple of his eye, the desire of his heart, and the objects of his affection. He is for them. He is a hound who searches them out, saves them and brings them into his fold.
Those who are not his people are not favored in this way and will not be saved. To some people Jesus will say, “Depart from me, you wicked person, I never knew you.” These people will be subject to his unrelenting wrath for all eternity.
Even now God cannot stand them. They are not his people, and he loathes them beyond all comprehension.
I wouldn’t doubt that this sounds very strong to you. We have been taught ever since we were small that we are to be nice to everyone and accept them for who they are. This is true. We are. But we should never think then that God accepts everyone. God cannot stand wicked people. He is incensed by them at every minute and holds them in the greatest contempt. And when he deems it proper he unleashes his wrath upon them.
Of course his wrath is like a damn that has a bit of a leak. Throughout this life ungodly people experience his judgments as they trickle forth from heaven. Every misery that one of them experiences is a small instance of his judgment. Every headache, every sickness, every sorrow, every calamity is but a sip of his eternal curse that is yet to be unleashed.
None of these people who are not of the Lord’s assembly will be saved. The Lord’s salvation is an exclusive thing. It is reserved only for his people.
You might wonder then, “How do I get to be one of those people?” Or you might be asking yourself, “Am I one of those people?” Well, the Bible tells us that God’s people are those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. They see their need for him, they embrace him, they pledge to follow him and make every effort to heed his word. God’s people are those who are defined by those two traits of godliness “Faith and repentance.”
I’m afraid there are a lot of self deceived people out there today. They are not one of God’s people because they do not have both of these traits.
I hear so many say, “I believe in Jesus.” But their lives do not prove that they are one of God’s people. They make no effort to follow Christ. In all actuality they could care less about Christ’s word. So their lives reveal them to be numbered among the ungodly. They tell me, “I went forward at a meeting and got saved. I prayed the prayer! Now I got a free ticket to heaven.” To that I always want to reply, “If you are saved, then I’m a millionaire!” By that I mean you can claim anything you want, but you don’t have anything to back that up. I can claim that I am a millionaire, but if there is no money in the bank to back it up, then I am not really a millionaire.
Anyone who thinks he is one of God’s saved people but does not act like one of God’s people is foolish. His salvation is as real as one of my daughter’s imaginary friends.
But what about the person whose life is pretty clean? There are many people in the world who are, for the most part, very moral people. Are these people God’s people? Not necessarily. They may have a life, but if they do not have faith, then they are just as deluded as the other person. If he does not receive the Savior, he too is damned.
How can you tell if you are one of those people? You know if you possess those two great traits of God’s people: Faith and repentance. If you posess them, then you may have the full assurance that you are one of God’s people. And you can know that you are eternally secure.
“No,” somebody says. “I could never be one of God’s people. I am just too wicked. I have too many sins.” But that is not so. Christ came to save his people. The depths are not too deep for him. He is the savior, and he is able to save even the chief of sinners.
George Whitfield had a brother who would often grieve over how wicked he was. He was so distressed by how helpless and unworthy he was that he would sometimes become deeply despondent. On one such occasion a lady was able to speak to him about his soul’s salvation. She tried to induce him to come to Christ. But he answered all of her urgings by saying, “It is of no use. I am lost!” She piped up, “Well thank God for that!” The man looked at her in astonishment and asked, “Why do you say that?” She replied, “Because Christ came to save the lost. If you are lost, he is just the one who can save you.”
It doesn’t matter how lost you are or how sinful you are. Christ is the Savior of his people.
“But I don’t have enough faith,” cries somebody else. That is not a worry. It is not your faith that saves you. Christ is the savior. You are not to put faith in your faith. You are to put your faith in Christ. And no matter how miniscule you faith may be, Christ is greater—He will save his people.
You see then that I was not lying when I said that Salvation is exclusive: There is only one savior of sinners and he will not save everyone—He will only save his people. This is not to say that salvation is totally exclusive though. There is one thing that is not exclusive: It is the invitation to receive this savior and become one of God’s saved people. And perhaps that is the greatest thing about Christmas. Anyone who hears this message may become one of God’s people and be saved, if they only turn to this sole savior, Jesus Christ.
 Some of you reading this sermon should check to see where your pastor stands on this issue.
There once was a minister who had made it his mission to preach to a certain group of slaves. He dedicated himself to them and preached quite passionately and persuasively to them. Yet despite his continual persistence he did not have much success among them. After inquiring into the reason, he came to find that his status was the hindrance.
Everyone likes to announce the arrival of their long expected child. When my wife and I were expecting our daughter my wife set about creating birth announcements. I’m sure you have seen (and even received) these special greeting cards.
If you feel a little tired after reading this portion of Scripture, there is a reason for that. I don’t know if you realized it or not, but in those 7 verses you traveled almost 3,000 miles.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.