Lord! Save Us!

He Shall Save His People

JESUS SHALL SAVE His people from their sins (Matt.1:21). But even after speaking to them of the perfection enjoyed in this salvation and its high standards of thinking and acting (Matt.5-7) there seemed to be no interest in this great operation, at least as the Saviour’s achievement. A leper came to Jesus for cleansing from leprosy (Matt.8:2). A Roman centurion came, requesting healing for his boy who was dreadfully tormented in paralysis (8:5-8). They brought to Him many demoniacs, “and He cast out the spirits with a word, and all those who have an illness He cures” (8:16). But no one came to ask for salvation from sins.

The people may have forgotten this mission of the Lord’s, if indeed they had ever given it much thought. But Jesus was fully aware of the work He was involved in and the hardships it involved along the way (cf Matt.8:20), as well as the ultimate humiliation needed in order for this salvation to be gained. The cleansing of the leper, the healing of the paralytic and curing of the diseased were pictures of that fuller cleansing from sins that God would accomplish through His Son.

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No one approached Jesus, saying, “Lord! Save us from our sins!” even though all were perishing with that most universal and devastating of diseases. But His disciples who had followed Him aboard a ship approached Him when a storm from an earthquake threatened their lives. They roused Him, for He was drowsing, and cried out, “Lord! Save us! We are perishing!” (Matt.8:23-25).

What the disciples said here is what all Israel will say when their eyes are opened to the dangers they are in and to their helplessness in themselves and need of the Saviour. But the disciples lacked one essential element that they and all Israel will possess when they are saved from their sins. That is the blessing of faith in the Saviour and reliance on His goodness, power, and love. Jesus criticized the disciples for being “timid” and “scant of faith” (v.26). This will not be so under the new covenant when they all shall know the Lord from the smallest of them to the greatest (Jer.31:34). Then the Rescuer will come out of Zion, and He will establish His covenant and eliminate their sins, and all Israel shall be saved (Rom.11:26-28).

The disciples were right in recognizing this helplessness and in going to Jesus for salvation, but they were wrong in their lack of confidence in the Saviour. To be sure this was a very human sin, and something that we all are guilty of time and time again. But that does not make it right and only indicates that the disciples were not yet saved from their sins. Their sin of unbelief was not as great as the sin of unbelief shown by the scribes and Pharisees, but we must not suppose that the Saviour is concerned only in saving from small sins. The fact that Jesus was the Saviour of these disciples from the churning sea and will save them from all their sins, including that of unbelief, is evidence for, not proof against, the eventual salvation of the unbelieving leaders of Israel from their sins including the sins of unbelief and enmity.

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In Matthew 9:1-8 we read about the faith of some in the Lord’s ability to heal. These “brought to Him a paralytic, prostrate on a couch,” and perceiving their faith, He healed this paralytic with the words, “Courage, child! Pardoned are your sins!” This took the people by surprise, and some of the scribes, who correctly associated pardon of sins with God, immediately inferred that Jesus was speaking blasphemy. Powers for healing were sometimes given to certain people, but the power to pardon sins was something most unusual except in prophecy concerning the Messiah. “[Yahweh] is pardoning all your depravity, Who is healing all your ailments” (Psa.103:3; cf Isa.43:25; Jer.33:8).

The pardon of sins is not the same as salvation from sins, but it has this great blessing in view. By saying “Pardoned are your sins,” Jesus was employing His authority as Saviour. He would be saving His people from their sins, and in view of that certain achievement He could speak the present pardon of the paralytic. For the paralytic, this pardon was the basis for his present physical healing. The healing was given to one who exhibited even more faith than the disciples had shown on the Sea, but the faith of the paralytic was not the cause of his healing, but rather only a means or channel by which the Saviour brought His work of saving from sin (itself in the restrictive form of pardon) into his life.

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Some of the scribes who heard Jesus pardon the sins of the paralytic and witnessed this work of healing were “brooding wickedness” in their hearts rather than being invigorated by faith (Matt.9:3,4). They had even less faith than the disciples who were “scant of faith” (8:26). But those (excluding Judas) who were so often scant of faith will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (cf Matt.19:28), and these scribes will likely be included among those sons of the kingdom who will be cast out into outer darkness with lamentation and gnashing of teeth (Matt.8:12).

Furthermore, Jesus called many who were “tribute collectors and sinners” (Matt.9:10-13) rather than the Pharisees who were more diligent in heeding the law. Obviously, this was not because the tribute collectors had been meeting the standards laid down in Matthew 5-7. Their careers were full of disobedience to laws that were not at all the least of the precepts (cf 5:19). But, like the lepers and the crippled and the diseased, many of the tribute collectors and similar sinners, were aware of their need of a Saviour.

Jesus explained to His disciples, “No need have the strong of a physician, but those having an illness . . . . For I did not come to call the just, but sinners” (Matt.9:12,13). Yet the Pharisees also were sinners. They did not admit it, at least outwardly, but more to the point, they had not been given that righteous honesty to recognize their need; they were not granted even that scantness of faith that was given to the disciples.

We observe in this that the lepers and diseased, and the tribute collectors and noted sinners, were more “fortunate” than the highly disciplined Pharisees and the healthy and prosperous leaders of Israel of that day. There was more opportunity in the lives of Matthew and Peter for the display of God’s power for salvation, and His mercy to sinners, than in the lives of the scribes and Pharisees. We rejoice in this operation of divine wisdom and glory. But all this glory is obscured and confused by the teaching that the outer darkness reserved for these Pharisees is an everlasting punishment in hell, both for them and for all who are not called into faith.

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Jesus did indeed make it clear that there would come a day of judging. For Sodom and Gomorrah, it would be more tolerable in that day than for the cities of Israel where the message of warning and hope carried by the disciples would be rejected (Matt.10:15). Those who would persecute and kill the disciples will face the future prospect of the destruction of their soul and their body in Gehenna (Matt.10:28). And those who would disown Jesus in front of men will be disowned in front of His Father (10:33).

In fact, Jesus indicated that even those who start out following His commission of Matthew 10:5-10 but do not endure under persecutions “to the consummation” might not be saved (10:22). Not only must they have faith, but they also must have endurance in faithfulness.

Still, in the end, faith and endurance must be seen as gifts of God, connected to His providential placings and shapings of individuals. A woman was given a hemorrhage for twelve years and so was led to seek healing outside of herself and her own efforts (Matt.9:20-22). A tribute collector named Matthew experienced the disdain of his own people and was given the honesty of knowing some of his sins, such as, perhaps, greed and cowardice. We do not know all the factors that were involved, but it is clear that he was well prepared for a deeper revelation of salvation, one that went beyond physical healing or deliverance from earthquakes on the sea.

On the other hand, many in Israel were calloused and given a spirit of stupor (cf Rom.11:7,8). The fact that God determined the course of Peter’s life, with all his scantness of faith, and that of the scribes who brooded wickedness in their heart, does not change the fact that each will be judged in accord with his acts. And James the brother of John will be given a throne in the kingdom, while Herod who instigated the assassination of James (Acts 12:1,2) will be condemned to the destruction of his soul and body, as we may well infer from our Lord’s words in Matthew 10:28.

Exactly how the Judge will judge all these matters, in consideration of all the factors of each one’s life, is beyond our comprehension. Like David we thankfully leave this to God, Who alone knows all these things. But we must not confuse judgment with the work of the Saviour in saving from sin, and certainly not think of condemnation in the eons ahead as a final state that keeps Jesus from being the Saviour of His people from their sins, and that keeps God from being manifested as the Saviour of all mankind.

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It is a great source of frustration that our commonly used translations of the Bible should have rendered certain scriptural terms in such a way that our Lord’s teaching concerning judgment confuses and even contradicts His teaching concerning salvation from sins. The fact is that none of the warnings and prophecies of Jesus concerning judgment make it impossible for Him to save all His people and all sinners of all time from their sins. Those who are condemned will be brought to a recognition of need for salvation that surely will surpass the recognition of need possessed by the disciples in the fierce tossing of the Sea, and the paralytic in his seeking out of Jesus, and Matthew the tribute collector in the awareness of his disobedience and disloyalty, and Peter after denying the Lord.

It is beyond such judgment and condemnation that the most stubborn and calloused of sinners out of Israel and all mankind will be blessed with both a realization of their need of a Saviour and appreciation of Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Then, they also will look to Jesus and cry out in faith “Lord! Save us from our sins!” And He will do so on the basis of His death for sinners. Then, in accord with God’s own timings, they will join Matthew and the ex-Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, in acclaiming the Lordship of Jesus the Saviour, Who is the Christ, and this for the glory of God, the Father (Phil.2:10,11).

Dean Hough

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