Jesus came to search out and save those who were lost (Lk. 19:10). There is a false view often taught in Christian circles that Jesus came and died only for a select few. Those who subscribe to this false view of predestination and limited atonement believe that if you are not one of the “chosen elect” then Jesus did not die for you (cf. Rom. 8:33; 1 Thess. 1:4). While the New Testament does use the language of election by God, whenever election is discussed it discusses a group of people and not select individuals.
God chose a system (grace through faith) whereby men could be saved (Eph. 2:8-10). Humans are saved by appropriating the blood of Christ to their soul. Men and women who do this are in the elect crowd, not by arbitrary choice but by cooperating with the Divine plan (Rom. 6:17; 16:25). Jesus came to save any and all who would comply with His will. The invitation is open for all, but not all will obey (Acts 2:21; 10:43; Rom. 10:13; 1 Jn. 2:1-2; Rev. 22:17). The idea that God arbitrarily selects certain individuals to be saved while others are not chosen by God to ever be saved is not found in scripture. Does God know everyone who will ultimately be saved and those who will be lost? Absolutely! However, God can foreknow without foreordaining. God can know the ultimate end without causing things to happen, human beings have free will and must exercise it properly (cf. Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10-11).
The Pharisaical approach
So now that you know the good news that Jesus died for everyone and all are invited to the table of salvation, how does this play out in our lives? The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were knowledgeable. They knew God’s Word but they didn’t know how it applied to people. On one occasion Jesus is interacting with tax collectors (the societal scum of the day) and sinners. The Pharisees didn’t like that (Mt. 9:10). The Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples why He was eating with sinners (Mt. 9:11). Christians can be this way too if we are not careful. As our society becomes more antagonistic toward Christianity, we can have knee jerk reactions to people.
We need to be sure that we don’t ostracize ourselves from sinners in the world. There is a sense in which we need to be sure we don’t cast approval on sinful actions or go along with those who do ungodly deeds (Rom. 1:32; Eph. 5:11-12). However, we need to interact with people that are sinners so that we can show them the way to Jesus. We cannot escape being involved with those who are not Christians (1 Cor. 5:9-11). We need to also remember that we were not born saved, and that we have a past (Eph. 2:1-3; 1 Tim. 1:13-16). The more we see in others what we used to be, the more kind and considerate we will be as we try and reach them with the gospel. The only difference between us and the world is the blood of Christ, while that is a big and eternal difference, we need to remember we will never look on the face of a person who Jesus doesn’t want to save (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).
The response of Jesus
Jesus heard what the Pharisees said about His association with certain people and He gave an unanswerable response. Jesus said that individuals who are spiritually well don’t need a physician, but those that are sick do (Mt. 9:12). Nobody rushes into the Emergency Room to be seen by a doctor when he is at 100% health, and doctors don’t go see people who are in great health (except for routine checkups). Jesus is the spiritual physician and He is eating with these people because they are sick and they need Him. Jesus isn’t applauding or approving sin, but He can’t give humanity the spiritual medicine they need if He never interacts with them.
We need to learn this lesson from Jesus and be willing to be with those who need the medicine that heaven offers. When people come to our assemblies that don’t “look the part” we need to welcome them with open arms. When we find out a person is spiritually sick, we need to try to get them in touch with the physician and His prescription (Rom. 1:16), whether they take it or not is up to them.
Jesus goes on to say that He didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners to repent (Mt. 9:13). He looks for mercy, and not merely religious ritual sacrifice. Jesus is trying to get the Pharisees to see that they are no better than the people He is eating with. Who can stand before God righteously without the atoning blood of Christ (Rom. 3:23; 10:1-4)? Jesus came to call people who are in sin to repentance. The kind of people that Jesus came to save are people like you and me, and all others. Just because people sin more loudly than you doesn’t make them any less of a candidate for the blood of Jesus. Just because one person’s weakness is your strength doesn’t mean that you should look down on them. It was once said, “Don’t look down on another unless you plan to lend a hand to help them up”.
We may not ascribe to the false doctrine of unconditional election, but what do our evangelistic patterns suggest? Do I only reach out to people that I think would make a “good fit” at my congregation? Do I overlook people that may be viewed as “unchurched” or “rough around the edges?” The people we have sometimes grown accustom to overlooking are perhaps the exact people Jesus would gravitate towards. I heard a quote recently which said about evangelism, “If the people that ran to Jesus run from us, we may be doing it wrong?”
I purposefully neglected to include that in the context of the Pharisees questioning Jesus’ disciples, Jesus had just recruited a tax collector to be His disciple. We know this disciple as Matthew (Mt. 9:9). Maybe the first and most familiar gospel account wouldn’t be in our Bible if Jesus had not invested in this socially stigmatized tax collector. Invest in a sinner this week, every person we encounter is a potential brother or sister in Christ. After all, these are the kind of people Jesus came to save (Lk. 19:10)!