18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant from the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. 20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” — Matthew 1:18-21
He Will Save His People from Their Sins
by Jason Dukes
“God helps those who help themselves.” This is a commonly expressed phrase, but it stands in contradiction to the gospel of Immanuel. If it were true, there would be no need for a manger holding Jesus or a cross on which Jesus hung.
The good news is that God helps those who realize how helpless they are. God rescues those who come to their senses at the end of their waywardness and cry out for rescue. God heals those who come to terms with how sick they are and how healing will come from no one or nowhere else. God saves those of us who desperately need to be saved from ourselves.
“He will SAVE His people from their sins.” The word “save” can also be translated as I did in the previous paragraph—rescue or heal.
It’s interesting that even in these few short verses, Matthew highlights humanity’s need for salvation as well as humanity’s two dilemmas out of which we need to be saved. Mary, although not self-indulgent, would have been considered as such. She was pregnant outside of marriage, carrying a child not begotten by the man she would call her groom. Joseph, although noble and kind, would have been esteemed among the self-righteous, not only for thinking he needed to do the right thing with Mary, but also for asserting himself to actually do it and not disgrace her. Humanity’s two dilemmas—self-indulgence and self-righteousness.
God intended humanity to indulge in, to delight in, and to partake abundantly of His creation—but not for the sake of self. Destruction is sure for all of us who seek to experience life on our own terms, for our own gains. God did not intend us to self-indulge, but rather to indulge WITH Him. He entered our broken story as God-WITH-us to resurrect His original intention.
God intended humanity to be righteous and holy and to become one with His purpose—but not for the sake of self. Unexpected condemnation is certain for all of us who seek to do righteousness through our own efforts—and especially to be noticed doing it. Rather than becoming self-righteous, God intended us to believe ourselves righteous WITH Him. His presence is our good (Psalm 73:28). And so He entered our broken story as God-WITH-us to restore His original intention.
Mary bore the Groom who would bring unmerited salvation to her groom, while Joseph loved his bride who would give birth to the One who would forever love His bride despite our sins.
God does not help those who help themselves. God helps those who can’t help themselves, whose only efforts prove to be self-indulgent or self-righteous. Immanuel saves us from both of our sinful dilemmas.
- Where do you find yourself? Stuck in a spiral of indulgent sin upon sin upon sin? Standing on the unstable pedestal of self-righteous, self-improved and sinful pride?
- This Christmas, may we simply cry out in utter desperation, and then respond with abundant gratitude to the One who saves us from our sins.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.