Arminian Today

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Jesus “Friend of Sinners”?

I have heard many people use this phrase about Jesus saying that He was a “friend of sinners.”  This is based on Matthew 11:19 (NASB) which reads, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!'” 

This is suppose to teach us that Jesus then was a friend of sinners and so should we be.  Sinners don’t need to hear repentance, holiness, God’s wrath against sin, etc.  They need to hear about how good He is, how loving He is, and how accepting He is.  Sinners don’t need to see our pointed fingers (as one popular song says) at them but to hear the good news of God’s love for them and that He has a wonderful plan for their life.  They need to hear good news and not bad news.

The problem is that the text doesn’t teach what they want it to teach.  I have even had people tell me that they evangelize people by being a “friend of sinners” just like Jesus and they justify drinking with their lost friends, watching ungodly movies with their sinful friends, or just hanging out with them but never communicating the gospel, never discussing the law of God.  They are just “friends of sinners.”  Like Jesus.

Let’s look at Matthew 11:19 and then let us look at other passages in the Gospels to see if Jesus was a “friend of sinners” who didn’t call people to repent of their sins or to be holy.  First of all,  Jesus is the One speaking here in Matthew 11:19.  He says that this slanderous accusation was being said by this generation of Jews (v. 16).  The point was that they were wrong in what they were saying about Him (vv.15-19).  In verse 20 Jesus even says, “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”  His point: look at My actions.  Look at My life.  If I am truly sinful, look at my life.  Look at my disciples.  Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.  I am not sinning but I live to please the Father.

Further, if Jesus is truly a “friend of sinners” then we should find Him doing what others say we should do: loving sinners as they are, not calling people to repent, not calling out sins.  But what do we find about Jesus?  In the very next verses notice what Jesus does as we read in Matthew 11:20:

“Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.”

He began to do what?  To denounce the cities?  But I thought He was good, loving, and non-judgmental?  Jesus even says in verse 24, “Nevertheless I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”  What?  How could this be from this loving, non-confrontational Man?

There is no doubt that Jesus saved His harshest words for the religious (see Matthew 23) but He did call people to repent.  He said in Luke 13:1-5:

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Here Jesus is not speaking to the religious Jews.  He is speaking to sinners.  He is speaking to the common folks.  And yet we don’t find the lowly, meek, non-judgmental Jesus here.  We find the bold Jesus calling people to repent.  He didn’t shy away from His words.  His point is clear in the text above: you all must repent or you’ll perish too.  That is tough words.  That is not a Jesus sitting in a bar drinking a tall beer and watching the NFL and just being a “friend of sinners.”  This is not the politically correct Jesus who loves all without qualifications.

In Matthew 12:30-37 we read:

He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Again tough words from such a loving, gentle, non-judgmental Man such as Jesus.  Again, is He the “friend of sinners” here who does not call people to repent?  He even says in this text that blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  What?  I thought He would accept us no matter what?

Jesus even confronted His own chosen disciples in John 6:66-71.  Here we read:

As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.

Jesus asks His own disciples in verse 67 if they want to leave Him?  That is tough.  He demanded obedience to Himself as Lord. He had just finished teaching from John 6:22-59 about Himself being the bread of life and that whoever comes to Him must eat His flesh and drink His blood.  He is demanding total submission to His entire being.  He must be our total life (see Luke 14:25-35 as well).

Finally, Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:13-14 to His own disciples (see Matthew 5:1-2):

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

His point is that many are going down the road to hell.  The narrow way is the way to life and that life is only found in Him (John 14:6).  Jesus, the true friend of sinners, is a friend of sinners in the sense that He died on the cross for our sins and through faith in His blood we can be forgiven of our sins (Matthew 26:28).  He alone is the way to God (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  He alone is the only way that we can be forgiven before God (John 3:17-18).  He alone is the way to righteousness and perfection that God requires for us to enter into His holy presence (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  His blood alone can cleanse us from sin and atone for us before God (Hebrews 9:22, 27-28; 10:10, 14).  The way to heaven is not broad.  It is not various religions.  It is only in Christ Jesus that we can be saved.  We must call people to repent (Acts 2:38; 17:30-31).  We must preach the truth of God, that Jesus is the only way to salvation (Romans 6:23).  There is no other way but through faith in His blood (Romans 5:1; 10:14-17).

Let us then not be ashamed to confront sinners.  Jesus told people to turn from sin (John 5:14; 8:11).  So should we (1 John 3:6-9).  Jesus told people to believe in Him (John 4:13-14, 25-26; 9:35-39).  So should we.  Jesus spoke of repentance (Luke 13:1-5; 24:47).  So should we.  Jesus spoke of holiness (Matthew 5:48; 15:10-20).  So should we (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16).   Let us not hide the truths of God from a lost world that is blinded by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).  Let us take the gospel to all (Mark 16:15; John 20:21).


Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/11/2012 at 1:17 PM

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  1. Jesus was the friend of sinners in the sense that He came to save sinners and made Himself available to them. They did not remain the same (Woman in adultery, woman washing His feet, Matthew the tax collector, the woman at the well) once He confronted their sin.

    James Pinto

    12/11/2012 at 10:14 PM

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