“Because We Need Him:” Historical Sermon Illustrations from Matthew 9:12

“But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” – Matthew 9:12 (NASB)

 

“I try to be as good as I can”

From Charles H. Spurgeon’s “The Great Physician and His Patients,” 1865

A minister, when he had done preaching in a country village, said to a farm-labourer who had been listening to him, “Do you think Jesus Christ died to save good people, or bad people?” “Well, sir,” said the man, “I should say he died to save good people.” “But did he die to save bad people?” “No, sir; no, certainly not, sir.” “Well, then, what will become of you and me?” “Well, sir, I do not know. I dare say you be pretty good, sir; and I try to be as good as I can.” That is just the common doctrine; and after all, though we think it has died out among us, that is the religion of ninety-nine English people out of every hundred who know nothing of divine grace: we are to be as good as we can; we are to go to church or to chapel, and do all that we can, and then Jesus Christ died for us, and we shall be saved. Whereas the gospel is, that he did not do anything at all for people who can rely on themselves, but gave himself for lost and ruined ones. He did not come into the world to save self-righteous people; on their own showing, they do not want to be saved. He comes because we need him.[1]

Self-Diagnoses of a Spiritual Ailment

From the diary of William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce lived in Great Britain from 1759 to 1833 and is most known for fighting a long and hard battle to end the slave trade in the British Empire which eventually happened in 1807. He also struggled with his own spiritual deliverance in his early adulthood. In the days leading up to his heartfelt conversion to faith in Christ, Wilberforce struggled mightily with the weight of his own sin. He identifies a big part of his problem when he admits that “pride is my greatest stumbling block.”[2]He knew that when he thought he was fine without God, he lost sight of his own need for a savior. In the midst of this experience he writes:

“I hope as long as I live to be the better for the meditation of this evening; it was on the sinfulness of my own heart, and its blindness and weakness. True, Lord, I am wretched, and miserable and naked. What infinite love, that Christ should die to save such a sinner and how necessary is it He should save us altogether that we may appear before God with nothing of our own! God grant I may not deceive myself, in thinking I feel the beginnings of gospel comfort.”[3]

 

“Apply the Remedy”

Augustine of Hippo (354-430)[4]

“When we see a lame man who has the opportunity of being cured of his lameness, we of course have a right to say: That man ought not to be lame; and if he ought, he is able. And yet whenever he wishes he is not immediately able; but only after he has been cured by the application of the remedy, and the medicine has assisted his will. The same thing takes place in the inward man in relation to sin which is its lameness, by the grace of Him who came not to call the righteous, but sinners; since the whole need not the physician, but only they that be sick.”

**Want more historical sermon illustrations? Check out these from Matthew 5:13-16.

[Cover Photo Original Caption: “Armed with his trusty Gladstone bag, Dr. Ernest Ceriani makes a house-call in the small Colorado town of Kremmling. Photograph taken in 1948,” from: www.throughouthistory.com]

[1]Charles H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol XI (Passmore and Alabaster, 1865), 141.

[2]William Hague, William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner (Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2007), 84.

[3]Ibid., November 28, 1785.

[4]Augustine of Hippo, Anti-Pelagian Writings, Chapter III, “The Fifth Breviate.” Click here for the Ebook Edition.

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