He Will Save His People From Their Sins
By Shawn Thomas
C.S. Lewis wrote of a funny experience his brother Warnie had while riding on an English double-decker bus one day during the Christmas season. The bus passed a church with a manger scene outside of it, and Warnie overhead a woman exclaim: “’ Lor’, they’re dragging religion into everything these days: look, they’re even dragging it into Christmas now!”
But celebrating Jesus is not “dragging” religion into Christmas; the true meaning of Christmas is what God did for us in Jesus Christ, the baby in that manger. What did He do? Matthew 1:21 gives us the answer, as the angel told Joseph: “You shall call His name ‘Jesus’, for He will save His people from their sins.”
What is the significance of this saying? The name “Jesus” (or “Yeshua”) means “Yahweh is salvation,” an indication that God was saving His people through Him. But the angel specifically said that He would save His people “from their sins.” What does this mean?
The basic meaning of the word “sins” in Matthew 1:21 is “to miss the mark” — but not in the way many of us would think of it: like an archer, who was trying to hit the right target, but just couldn’t do it. No, this word means “to miss the mark” of the standards God set for us regarding the way that we should live:
— God commanded us to love Him with all our hearts and souls, but we didn’t; we “missed the mark,” and chose to love other things in His place.
— God commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, but instead we “missed the mark,” and chose to be selfish and self-centered in our decisions.
We could go down the list of all the commandments, and see that we have all continually fallen short of them. Romans 3:23 summarizes this when it says: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
And because we have sinned, we must pay the penalty for our sins. One of the clearest, most consistent messages of the Bible is that there are consequences for our sins:
— God told Adam & Eve regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil, “The day you eat from it, you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)
— “the wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23 says.
— Ephesians 5:6, speaking of sins, says: “because of these things, the wrath of God rightly comes upon the sons of disobedience.”
But the Bible tells us here that Jesus came “to save His people from their sins.” The baby Jesus grew up to die on the cross as the sacrifice which paid the penalty for our sins. I Peter 2:24 says “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.” Jesus paid the penalty for our sins so that we could be reconciled back to God.
A few years ago there was a judge in Great Britain, who had a homeless man before his court on a charge of stealing two Christmas cards. The man had clearly stolen them; he was guilty. The judge was compelled to be just and uphold the law. But he also felt compassion for the penniless, homeless man. So after finding the man guilty, the judge then reached into his own pocket, and took out the money that was required, and paid the man’s fine for him.
This is what the God of the Universe has done for us. He is a just Judge, who could by no means just ignore our sins. But He also loved us and wanted to forgive our sins. So He made the only payment that would suffice to atone for them: a payment which only He could make, by dying on the cross for our sins. And when He did, He completely paid the penalty for our sins. When Jesus died on the cross, He cried out, “It is finished” — in the original Bible language a commercial expression which means that a debt was “paid in full.” Jesus was declaring that the penalty for our sins was paid in full by His death on the cross.
Many people think of religion as doing enough good religious deeds to make yourself right with God. The problem is, the Bible tells us we can never do enough good works to save ourselves. Instead, it teaches that salvation is a GIFT bought by Jesus for us on the cross. If you will repent of your sins and receive Jesus as your Lord & Savior, you can be made right with God – NOT because of the good deeds you have done, but by what HE did for you on the cross.
I was in a restaurant with my wife Cheryl one time, and when we were about to leave I looked around and didn’t see a check, so I asked the waiter for it. He said it has already been taken care of. I asked, what do you mean? He said someone else has already paid the bill! So we could walk out of that restaurant — fully justified in doing so – because the price had been paid for us. There was no need for me to pull out my wallet, and get some cash or a credit card, or to offer to do the dishes, or anything else. That would have been totally unnecessary on my part because the price had already been paid.
This is how it is with us and God. You don’t have to try to perform a multitude of religious works to atone for all of your sins and make you right with God. Jesus has already paid the price. If you will repent of your sins, and receive His sacrifice, He will “save you from your sins” and make you right with God. Romans 8:1 says: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Jesus came to pay the penalty for our sins. If you will trust Him as your Lord & Savior, then you can say with the old hymn:
“My sin, o the bliss of this glorious thought;
my sin not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more!
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul!”
This is what we celebrate this Christmas season: that Jesus came to “save His people from their sins”!
Shawn Thomas has been a Southern Baptist pastor for almost 35 years, he currently serves as Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Angleton, Texas. You can read more from Pastor Thomas Here.
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