The Son of Man Came to Seek and to Save the Lost

by Mike Ratliff

9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10 ESV)

If you listen to the vast majority of “gospel” preaching these days, the statement by our Saviour in the passage I place at the top of this post will appear to be somewhat backward. The reality that is preached from those pulpits is that salvation is a product of Human reason after hearing a sermon that shows the wonderful benefits of allowing Jesus to come into the hearer’s life. It is all Man’s choice or decision based solely upon a person’s own ability to reason.

The result of this form of preaching the gospel is that people do respond to the call to become a Christian based upon Jesus coming into their lives just to make them better. It is like those Long Distance Phone wars several years ago. At that time I had switched our L.D. service to one that advertised that they were Christian based. One Sunday afternoon I received a call from a tele-marketer who offered to switch me back to A.T.&T. at a much reduced rate. I told him no. He then asked me, “Don’t you want to save money?” I told him that money was not the issue. The issue was that his company actively promoted certain things that I was against. His response was a total disbelief that anyone could make a decision like. All of the bullets in his gun were based on saving money. He was used to everyone jumping ship from whatever L.D. company they had a contract with just to save a few bucks. “Don’t you want to save money?”, he asked. The 21st Century preacher asks, “Don’t you want to go to Heaven when you die and for Jesus to make your life better?”

Genuine salvation is not a transaction to trade in one set of values to acquire new ones that guarantee a better life. We don’t add Jesus to our lives thereby becoming Christians. We don’t take Jesus out for a test drive to see if we really want to be a Christian or not. Let’s look at a Biblical example of salvation coming to one who was lost and bound for Hell until He met Jesus.

1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. (Luke 19:1-2 ESV)

The “He” in v1 is Jesus Christ. He was traveling to Jerusalem for the last time. The Last Supper, His arrest, trial, and crucifixion awaited Him just a few days hence. His journey took him through Jericho. The New King James renders the words from v2, “And there was a man named Zacchaeus” as “Now behold there was a man named Zacchaeus.” The words “there was” are in italics. That means there are no corresponding Greek words in the manuscripts for them. The correct reading, therefore, for v2 would be, “Now behold, a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.” I like that rendering because it shows the dramatic coming together of Jesus and this man named Zacchaeus as something that took place in a way that was no accident or coincidence. It was a divine appointment. Tax collectors mentioned in the New Testament were considered by the Jews to be traitors and the worst type of sinner. They were assigned a certain amount to collect by the Romans who allowed them to collect as much as they could above that amount to keep for themselves. This assured the Romans that their tax collectors would be motivated to keep the coin flowing into the government coffers. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. That means that the normal tax collectors reported to him. Because of the practice of cheating the people and skimming off personal profits, Zacchaeus became very rich.

Something out of the ordinary happens though. He heard a commotion. He saw a great crowd. He knew that there must be someone very important traveling through his city so he desired to see who it was.

3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. (Luke 19:3-4 ESV)

The more he tried to see who this Jesus was the more frustrated he became. He was short and could not see. He was rich and important, but the drive to see Jesus was so strong that he cast his self-importance aside and climbed a tree so he could possibly get a look at this important person. Never forget, he was an rich, important man who had servants and, more than likely, a personal bodyguard.

5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. (Luke 19:5-6 ESV)

Zacchaeus didn’t know who or what he was seeking. He simply went to catch a glimpse of the focus of the great crowd. All he wanted was to see Jesus. However, Jesus looked upon him, called him by name, and mandated that He would stay in his house that day. This was not a request. It was a command. Jesus invited Himself into Zacchaeus’ hospitality. What was the reaction of this very wealthy man? He hurried and came down from the tree and received Jesus joyfully. Was Zacchaeus looking for a Saviour? Was he looking for Jesus to make his life better? He was simply trying to see who Jesus was. Jesus had other plans.

7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” (Luke 19:7-8 ESV)

The people knew who Zacchaeus was. He also heard their grumbling, but Jesus was with Him. We see something remarkable from this man. He was wealthy and in a position to become one of the wealthiest men in Israel. However, he forsakes that and declares that he will make restitution fourfold to all whom he has cheated. Also, he vows to give half of his wealth to the poor. I have heard some say that he is trying to earn his salvation with these good works. Nonsense! This is what happens when God regenerates a heart. Christians are new creations. All things are new. The old has passed away. Zacchaeus is a believer now. His old heart of stone has been replaced with a heart of flesh. He is a partaker of the divine nature. His joy is overflowing because it is the joy of the Lord. How do we know this?

9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10 ESV)

Zacchaeus was saved because Jesus Christ sought him out. When he believed and repented our Lord declared Him saved. Why did he believe? Was it by Human reason? Was it to have a better life? He was already rich. He believed when our Lord called Him. He received Jesus. That was followed immediately by repentance. He didn’t run into the street and climb a tree looking for any of this. He was simply trying to see Jesus. He didn’t even know who He was. However, Jesus knew him, called him and saved him. Why would we think that our salvation would be any different? Genuine salvation is always accompanied by repentance. They are locked together. Without repentance there is no salvation. It isn’t the repentance that causes salvation. Instead, it is our response to God regenerating our hearts. We are saved by grace through faith. It is a gift from God that always results in a new life that is marked by repentance.

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10 thoughts on “The Son of Man Came to Seek and to Save the Lost

  1. It is really strange t me as an “emergent” that I teach what you have taught here and am called a heretic by your “folk”.

    “If you listen to the vast majority of “gospel” preaching these days, the statement by our Saviour in the passage I place at the top of this post will appear to be somewhat backward. The reality that is preached from those pulpits is that salvation is a product of Human reason after hearing a sermon that shows the wonderful benefits of allowing Jesus to come into the hearer’s life. It is all Man’s choice or decision based solely upon a person’s own ability to reason.”

    I point out time and time again that the influence of Platonism/Dualism with it’s focus on human reason is a Gnostic heresy that was taught against by John, Paul, Peter, Jude.. as well in the writing of Iraenius and other early church fathers.

    Yet, I am called a heretic over and over by people from the John MacArthur camp… I am told that I teach a “wimpy girly god gospel” and other silly accusations.

    In fact I have two people who have taken it on themselves to point out how much of a heretic i am… all the while as they prove this about me teach “humanistic rationalized reasoning” that man can get saved without “revelation by the Holy Spirit” to understand the bible… they teach man can reason their way to God…

    I point that out and again am told I am the heretic… because I “have a link to Brian McLaren”.

    I have seen little to no true discernment at CRN… mos the writers research is nil and is more slanderous attacks and hearsay. I do not see how anyone with any real integrity and that believes as you have taught here can associate with divisive men and women that gather a CRN. If you truly believe you can by blanket attacks and innuendos bring unity to the Kingdom of God… you have missed the very message of the Gospel and our ministry of reconciliation.

    I hope better from you.

    Titus 3:10

    Blessings,
    iggy

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  2. Wow! The Scriptures reveal His order and source of salvation everywhere! This was a cool drink of water, Mike. I’m so thankful for brothers and sisters who give God all the glory! What an encouragement of the reminder that He controls everything…even his occupation, which in the end brought God glory because of the complete turn around from a greedy little man to a giving, loving man. I also enjoyed how you took those two words out and the explanation! Is it with all italic words?

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  3. iggy,

    Our reason is a part of our salvation, but only after regeneration. We cannot reason our way to God unless God is drawing us to do so and enabling us to do so. I have read much of John MacArthur and I admire him very much. I know that he does not teach what you have attributted to him in your comment. Perhaps some do that, but I know that John is Reformed in his theology and, therefore, teaches that our salvation is God’s work not ours.

    You claim that you have been called a heretic. By me? I don’t think I have ever done that. However, I will rebuke anyone who teaches a different Jesus than the one we find in the Word of God. A heretic teaches different attibutes for God than what He has revealed about Himself to us in His Word. Have you done that? You claim not to be a heretic, but you said that you link to Brian McClaren on your blog. He is a heretic who teaches that there are multiple ways to God and that Isalm and Hinduism and Buddism, etc. are just a valid as genuine Chritianity. That is heresy and we must separate from such as these.

    Unity at all cost is compromise. Compromise is disobedience which allows false teachings to pollute the clear teachings of scripture. From your comment I see that we agree on some key points, but I don’t know you nor have I have ever read anything you have written. Your defense of Brian McClaren is troubling. That hints of compromise and I pray that the Lord will lead you from that deception.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  4. Sarah,

    Yes, when you see words in italics in scripture, they were placed there to make the text more readable in English. If you take them out you will often read a much more intense or dramtic rendering of the text.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  5. A person cannot be saved unless he is drawn by the Holy Spirit to Jesus the Christ. During that drawing the sinner is convinced that Jesus is the only way to heaven and in Him alone is found forgiveness for sins. When I was saved in 1975 I never even thought about earthly benefits, as a matter of fact this world little by little had no appeal to me.

    You are correct, Mike, this car salesman approach to presenting the gospel is a new and unbiblical approach. Many preachers are ashamed to preach Christ and Him crucified because that has little appeal to today’s hedonistic sinner. They completely discount the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

    Anyone who links to MacLaren is greatly deceived. A rule of thumb that Solomon taught us is that there is nothing new under the sun. Brother Roloff used to say “If it’s new it’s not true!”. These new wayshowers are nothing more than repackaged versions of liberal theology which Ken has rightly discerned. I used to wonder why Ken equated the emergents with the liberals but then it made sense to me.

    They question the essence of Scripture, they believe salvation can come to sincere people of different faiths, they believe that humanitarian works help with salvation, and they also muddy the waters about the substance of who Jesus was and is. There you have it, liberalism with a post modern 8 X 10 glossy cover and with the title Emergent. Always was and always will be heresy and getting worse with each new conference, book, and blog!

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  6. This is Bless’ed Scripture…and the response troubles me a bit.
    Perhaps too much emphasis is put on the “stars” in the different church groups, instead the “Morning Star” (I have been guilty of this, too).
    Jesus said many things, left as instructions for us, even in these modern times.
    Anyone of us that can read, can pick up a Bible, and read for ourselves. In the above referenced Scripture, Zacchaeus dealt directly with Jesus, not some teaching by some other man. The Lord is still capable of directing His people.

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  7. Excellent Post Mike. It is the Spirit that works in us to change our reasoning and minds. The Spirit blows where it wills, not where we will it to go, nor can we manipulate its course. This way of looking at Scripture is so out of vogue in American Evangelicalism. We are so pragmatic in our reasoning that we think we can influence the working of the Spirit. God has ordained the {manly} means of evangelising . That is through the spreading and hearing of the Word. The {Godly} means is through the Spirit’s regeneration. We share in this great work, but we have no control over the souls of men.

    This does not mean that we hit people over the head with truth. Jesus was full of truth—but also grace. Many of us that hold to the Doctrines of Grace should also remember that we need to temper truth with grace ourselves. The Emergents are great on exhibiting the grace part, the deeds part. But they lack dramatically on the truth, the creed part. We are created mind and body–unity–not one over the other. Let us all imitate our Master who is full of Grace and Truth. Thee is not a time for one and a time for the other. I believe they are both unified in love and in Christ. Let it be so with us.

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  8. Brian McClaren has also agreed with a comment made by another proponent of the emergent movement that the cross was “cosmic child abuse” this is blasphemy…

    Mike…keep preaching the truth…

    Iggy…I think sometimes when we put labels on ourselves or others that is when the term “heretic” is so easily thrown around, is this right? Absolutely not. We need to be careful that we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, but we also must be careful who we associate with as well…

    When you say you are emergent and you link to McClaren, in my opinion, you are starting down a slippery slope. Will I call you heretic? Absolutely not without knowing your personal convictions, will I call McClaren a heretic…absolutely.

    He preaches damning doctrine in my opinion…

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  9. Rick,

    Amen Brother!

    Kathy,

    We are saved by dealing directly with Jesus. There is no other way. Amen!

    Fred,

    Thanks Brother – Amen!

    Seth,

    I will brother! You Too!!!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  10. Seth and all,

    I think there is room for great diversity in the Body of Christ… what the “Child abuse” comment is about is (again, notice you even said Brian did not say this but “agreed” with someone who said it… which I have not ever read from Brian’s own books.) Again, This is call “Christus Victor” which is the idea the Jesus was the suffering servant who was sent to bring the Kingdom of God to us. Though many who understand the scripture that way do not lean toward the Penal Substitution. Christus Victor was taught by the early church fathers way before the idea of penal substitution was even developed…

    I think that there is room for both views and understand why some cannot accept that God poured His Wrath out on His Son… If I poured my wrath out on my son many would view that as abuse… If I poured my wrath out on people in general, I would be a sociopath… (don’t twist this to mean I am calling God this.) What i am saying is that there is a great volume of history that has been lost and not even accepted or taught and it seems we only accept people at the Reformation and deny anyone before that might have had knowledge of the Truth Who is Christ Jesus…. we are as you exampled, Seth, that we are quick to judge without actually researching the facts and history behind a statement. Again, Christus Victor was taught by Irenaeus, Origen, and Augustine to name a few… later about 1090ish the idea was expanded upon over the teaching of Irenaeus where he taught the idea that Jesus became what we are so that we could become what he is.

    Remember also Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was discipled by John the Apostle… this is a very clean line of heritage to glean from. I think we should take head to his wisdom over much that was taught later… especially after Constantine.

    This is also an Eastern Orthodox view… which if we are not careful we may fall into the guilt of condemning our brothers in Christ in other traditions just because we lack any real understanding of the topic at hand.

    So again, before one casts the stones of “heretic” one should look at the actual thing spoken of and do some research before we decide our “right” is more “right” than another… for we are to not lean on our own “righteousness” but on Christ’s alone.

    Blessings,
    iggy

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