The Mission of Christ
By Milburn Cockrell
Published in the Berea Baptist Banner, February 5, 1990.
“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost”(Luke 19:10). The mission of Christ into the world was associated with astonishing wonders and inexplicable mysteries. Never in any respect was there anything like it. Conquers have visited countries, but their footsteps have been marked with blood, war and death. Travellers have explored dis-tant lands, but their object was to discover the wonders of nature. But Jesus Christ came into the world to submit to shame and endure death for guilty rebels. He came to seek and to save that which was lost.
Our Lord had just saved Zacchaeus and announced He was going home with him. The enemies of Christ had just murmured, “saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner” (Luke 19:7). My text is a part of Christ’s reply to the uncharitable remarks of His critics. They were ignorant of the great purpose for which He came into the world. He had come to save sinners. He was not ashamed to visit the home of Zacchaeus and to receive him as one of His disciples. By saving Zacchaeus He was doing what He came into the world to do. I wish to call attention to five truths in my text. They are as follows:
HIS POSITION TO MAN
The position of Christ to man can be seen in the words: “The Son of man. . .” As the Son of God He is the offspring of all that God the Father is in Himself. As the Son of man He is the offspring of humanity. Divinity and humanity are both represented in Jesus who is called the Christ.
We know from Scripture that Jesus Christ expressly called Himself “the Son of man.” He personally used this title of Himself on 32 occasions in Matthew’s Gospel, always preceded by the definite article. By use of this title He identified Himself with the sons of men. Although His sinless nature and life were unique among the sons of men, He was a son of man in that He was bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. He was the Son of Adam, the son of Abraham, and the son of David. He was the Son of man more than He was the Son of Mary. By using this title some 80 times in the Gospels He identified Himself as the Messiah of the Old Testament who was called “the Son of man” in Daniel 7:13.
The title “Son of man” speaks of the incarnation of the Son of God. As the Mediator it behooved Him to assume the nature of man. “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4). “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same. . .” (Heb. 2:14).
In order to be man’s Savior, Jesus Christ had to become a man. To save sinners in the flesh He had to be made “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3). He that was “in the form of God” had to take “the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:6-7). To qualify as our kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ found it necessary to have interest in both parties. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5). He was God with God, and man with man.
The Redeemer had to become the Son of man to suffer and die for man. God could not suffer and die. If the Re-deemer was to die He must assume a reasonable soul and a true body that He might offer Himself a sacrifice for sin. “. . .Christ. . .hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor” (Eph. 5:2). The Mediator had to assume the same nature that had sinned and was condemned. Romans 8:3 tells us: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in
the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.”
HIS POVERTY ON BEHALF OF MAN
My text sets forth Christ’s poverty on behalf of man in the words: “. . .is come. . .” This implies Christ’s pre-existence and that He was at some other place before He came. So let us ask three questions: First, where did He come from? He came from the Third Heaven, the royal palace of Jehovah. Christ declared: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” ( John 3:13). In John 8:42 He said: “. . . proceeded forth and came from God. . .” Christ left the throne of the father and the glory of the celestial state to become the Son of man. Having left the bosom of the Father to be manifested in the flesh, He did not lose His Divine per-sonality, for He “is the Lord from heaven” (I Cor. 15:47). Truly, “He that cometh from heaven is above all” ( John 3:31).
Christ had been with the Father and the Holy Spirit from eternity passed. He was Jehovah’s fellow. He had been “as one brought up with him” and “was daily his delight” (Prov. 8:30). He was loved by the Father and had a glory with the Father before the foundation of the world ( John 17:5,24). By Christ all things had been cre-ated. He was the first-begotten of the Father, the firstborn of every creature, the heir of all things, the righteous Lord. This glorious person came from the heaven of heavens to this sin-cursed earth.
Second, where did the Christ of God come to? He came to this planet which was inhabited by Adam’s fallen race. He came to a world blasted, blighted by sin and Satan..The Mission of Christ by Milburn Cockrell – Page 2
He came to a world in a state of revolt, misery and death.
What condecension! What sovereign grace! How He humbled Himself. He left the bosom of the Father for the bosom of a woman. He made His footstool His dwelling place. He came to live among the sinners of earth for 33 years.
Third, in what manner did He come? He did not come in all His glory. He did not visit with regal pomp, nor with a train of celestial attendants. He did not come to dwell in stately palaces among the highest of earth. A poor village in Palestine was His birthplace and a stable His first residence. His mother was a poor virgin. Christ Him-self well said: “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28)
HIS PICTURE OF MAN
The picture of the Lord’s people while in a state of na-ture is seen in the words that which was lost,” or “the lost thing.” Here the whole number of the elect is spoken of as a body. By the fall the world had become a lost world. The word “lost” means all that man had lost—the garden of Eden, the way to the tree of life, the visible fellowship of God, the moral likeness of God, etc. It also speaks of man himself as a lost one. Man as a spirit is lost to Heaven and to God as long as he is enslaved by the power of sin. The elect were not irrevocably lost. Some emblems will assist us here. First, the elect were lost like a poor sheep. A sheep is lost when it strays on a dark and distant moun-tain, exposed to the beasts of prey. Separated from the sheepfold he is subject to the elements of nature such as cold and storm. Such was the case of the elect: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. . .” (Isa. 53:6). Like a lost sheep, we would have never returned on our own; we would have wandered on in an endless maze lost for eternity.
Second, God’s people were lost as a city is lost when it has revolted to the rebels. A rebel has renounced his gov-ernment and dares to resist it by force. Man is a rebel against God. “We were enemies” (Rom. 5:10). We “were sometimes alienated and enemies in our mind by wicked works” (Col. 1:21). As rebels we had trodden under foot the Son of God, had trampled His holy laws, had counted the blood of the covenant as an unholy thing, and had done despite to the Spirit of grace. We deserved the wrath of the great King as we were lost to His moral rule in the world.
Third, the elect were lost as a traveller is lost when he has missed the way in the wilderness. The traveller does not know where he is, or where he is going, when he is lost. In describing the ruin of man Paul wrote: “They are all gone out of the way. . .And the way of peace have they not known” (Rom. 3:12,17). Hebrews 5:2 speaks of “them that are out of the way.” Sinners were out of the way and thus are lost to God.
Fourth, man is lost as a mariner. His vessel has been smashed against the hidden rocks. He has escaped to a barren and rocky shore. He is lost, for he cannot long
survive as he is unable to cross the trackless deep. Such is the state of man. He is in the barren and desolate rock of the world without the Water of Life and the Bread of Life. Without these he is hopelessly lost.
Fifth, the sinner is lost like a man is lost who has an incurable disease. Look how the cancer has spread in its desolating foulness through the whole system. There is no remedy. The physicians have done all they can. The disease is deepening and spreading. Is the patient not lost? So is the case with man: “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundnes in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither molified with oint-ment” (Isa. 1:5-6).
Sixth, he is lost like a prisoner is lost when the sentence of death has been passed upon him. He has committed to pay with his life. He in the eyes of the law is a dead man. This is the plight of the sinner. Sin has made him “guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19) and unbelief has caused him to be “condemned already” ( John 3:18).
Jesus Christ as the great Shepherd came to seek the lost sheep out and to bring him back to the fold. He came as the great King to give peace and pardon to the rebels in the city of Destruction. He came as the Seeker to find the lost traveller and to show him the way to Heaven. He came to visit the desolate mariner on the rock, to give him the life-boat of salvation, and to guide him to the shore of immortality. He came as the great Physician to heal the sinner of all his soul’s diseases by giving him the balm of Divine grace. He came as the Judge of all the earth to the condemned prisoner to open the prison doors and grant a free pardon.
HIS PATIENCE TOWARD MAN
In the text I see Christ’s patience toward man. “He came to seek. . .” Sinners had lost their way utterly, their way from the home of God, from the path of holiness, from the fountain of joy. They were wandering, blind and mis-erable, in forbidden ways. They were stumbling on the dark mountains of error and sin. Jesus Christ came to seek out these erring ones, to lead them back again, to restore them their heritage in God. In Ezekiel 34:16 the Lord said: “I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick. . .”
In his famous hymn, E. E. Hasty of the nineteenth cen-tury so well wrote:
Jesus, my Saviour, to Bethlehem came
Laid in a manger to sorrow and shame;
Oh, it was wonderful, blest be His name,
Seeking for me, for me.
No one who knows the Scripture can deny that man is responsible to seek the Lord. In Isaiah 55:6 this command is found: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found. . .” In the New Testament Christ delivered this command: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righ-.The Mission of Christ by Milburn Cockrell – Page 3
teousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). Men need to go out of themselves to seek elsewhere for eternal life and everlasting happiness.
To seek God is to respect and adorn His sovereign maj-esty, to search the Scriptures, to obey His holy command-ments, to approach Him in prayer. Before any of this can be done man must seek God by repentance and place confidence in Him. This is where the problem is. Man does not desire to repent and believe the gospel. He will not seek God with his whole heart until regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
On this point the Scripture is plain: “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Rom. 3:11). There is none acquainted with His character, that endeavours to know and do His will. They all neglect and forget Him. This disposition not to seek God is full proof of total depravity. Adam, sinning, turned his back and fled from the holy God. Since that day no human being has ever sought a righteous God. Conscious of his inward depravity and guilt, he is filled with terrors of conscience at any thought of God. Ever since Eden, God has had to take the place of the seeker, persuader, convicter and final perfecter of man’s salvation. His sovereign grace goes ahead of, and brings into being, all human response to the gospel of Christ. Christ had to seek man because man would have never sought God.
Our Lord Jesus Christ left heaven’s glory to come to earth to seek His lost sheep. He patiently seeks them out because He loves them ( Jer. 31:3). He patiently seeks out each lost sheep because He died to save them. He pa-tiently seeks those who were not worth seeking, those who sought Him not as Zacchaeus. He will seek each lost sheep until He finds it, and He will not cease in His work until He brings every one of them home to God (Luke 15: 4-7).
HIS PURPOSE WITH MAN
Our Savior’s purpose with man is seen in the words “to save that which was lost.” The same ones that Christ seeks He also saves. He seeks them out for the expressed purpose of saving them. His great design is to save, for there is no salvation in any other (Acts 4:12). He uses ev-ery means at His disposal to effect the salvation of sin-ners. Men desperately need salvation, yet they spend their time upon trifles with no consideration for the safety of their own souls. They admire and make provision for this vile body while their souls are dropping into Hell. This is like painting the door when the house is on fire. Men
need to forsake their sins and to come in tears for their sins to Christ for peace and pardon. Upon coming to Him in this manner, they will discover that He came to seek and to save poor sinners like they are. Please re-member that He said: “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost” (Matt. 18:11).
1. Christ came forth into human history on a seeking and saving mission. His was a seeking and saving life and ministry. He is the great heavenly Seeker and Savior. While on earth He sought out and saved sinners. He still has this same seeking and saving attitude in Hevaen which He formerly had on earth. Many are the places He has sought and found His lost ones—one on a cross, one by the well, one in a boat, and one in a sycamore tree!
2. The Lord from Heaven seeks and saves only those who have been brought by the Holy Spirit to see they are lost. Man is lost in respect to separation and distance from God. He is lost in regard to future hopes. It is a wonderful time for you if the Holy Spirit has brought you to see that you are lost. If this is your case then know for a fact that the Son of man is come to seek and save you. He is bent on doing this. It is His errand and mission. No matter how lost you are He is determined to seek and save you. Thank God that He came to seek you instead of leaving you to seek Him!
3. There are but three classes of persons in the world. First, those who have found Christ precious to their souls and serve Him. John told Peter: “We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ” ( John 1:41). Second, those who, not having found Him are seek-ing Him. These are earnestly seeking him with their whole heart because the Lord has already given them a new heart. Third, those who neither have found Him nor seek Him. Such incorrigible wanderers will be lost for ever.