Bible Catechism: The Doctrine of Jesus

Question Why did Jesus come to earth?

Answer God sent His one and only Son from heaven to earth to seek and save the lost. Jesus came to make the Father known and provide eternal life in His name.

Scripture John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Explanation| Throughout the last few questions and answers, we’ve already begun to explore this question. But, let’s look at it a bit more directly. Why did Jesus come to earth?

God sent His one and only Son from heaven to earth. As obvious as this truth may be, let’s start here. First, the Son was sent. Specifically, the Father sent the Son, and He sent Him on a mission. The Father initiated this mission, and the Son completely obeyed His Father’s plan. The Father didn’t just send anyone. He sent His Son. His one-of-a-kind Son whom He loves.1 Now, because God is One—meaning, there is only one God—we can rightly say that God sent Himself. Afterall, no one else could accomplish this mission (for example, see Isaiah 59:16). But also, because God is Three-in-One—meaning, the one God is three Persons—we can also rightly say that God sent Someone who was most precious to Him, His own Son (for example, see Luke 20:13). Second, the Son was sent from somewhere to somewhere else. That is, God the Father sent the Son from heaven to earth. Among other things, this means that heaven and earth areboth real places, that Jesus came to earth and not somewhere else, that heaven is the dwelling place of God, and that the Father’s mission for His Son wasn’t simply an idea. The Son actually did come to earth from heaven. But, this also means further, that the Son’s dwelling place is heaven, too. We might say that heaven is His homeland. He is from heaven and He returned to heaven.2 Why does this matter? Let me give you an example. I think it’s possible that we can emphasize Jesus’ humanity, while diminishing His deity. We can forget that He isGod—He was fully God, is fully God, and remains fully God forever.3 But similarly, I also think that we can forget that we are much farther from God than perhaps we know or we’d care to admit. The Father sending the Son to earth was not like a trip across town to see your friend, or even traveling hundreds of miles to visit your Grandma. It’s a bit more like being sent by your dad to become like the ants and to live with the ants. And that still doesn’t come close enough in describing the distance between God and us. For, the Creator was sent to His creatures. The perfectly holy God was sent to imperfect sinful humans.4

Jesus came to earth to seek and save the lost. So, we just learned that God sent His Son on a mission. But, why did He do so? What was the Father’s purpose in sending His Son from heaven to earth? To be clear, God’s plans often accomplish many things. But, while the same can also be said for Him sending His Son, it would be helpful for us to focus on the reason most frequently referenced in the Bible for why Jesus came to earth. Jesus, Himself, knew why He came. He understood that Hismission was “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). That is, He came to do something. But, He didn’t come to do everything. Nor did He come to do simply whatever others wanted Him to do. Rather, He came to do the will of His Father.5 And the Father’s will was for Him to save.6 He came to seek and save the lost. What does it mean to be lost? Again, using Jesus’ own teaching, to be lost is to be away from the Father by one’s own doing (Luke 15:11-32). To be lost is to be a sinner deserving of God’s judgment. What does it mean to seek and to save? The lost needs to be found. The sinner needs to be saved. And the lost sinner can’t be found—can’t be saved—on their own, or even with the help of other people. But, Jesus came to seek them and to save them. So, while Jesus did do good things, amazing things, and beneficial things while on earth, He didn’t come to be a do-gooder. He came on a rescue mission to save sinners. He came to call “sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). 

Jesus came to make the Father known and provide eternal life. Now, this isn’tso much another reason for why Jesus came, as much as it is another way of explaining lostness and salvation.  Meaning, when I say that Jesus ‘came to make the Father known and provide eternal life,’ I am saying that this phrase helps us understand something of the nature of being lost and of being saved. Both my predicament (lost, sinner) and Jesus’ solution (seeking, saving) ultimately come back around to the Father. To be lost is to be lost in reference to God, the Father. To be a sinner is to be a sinner against God, the Father. But, what if people don’t know they are lost? Or, what if they have a hunch they are, but don’t really know what it means? Or, what if they suspect they are, but don’t care or don’t think anything can really be done about it? Or, what if they think others are, but are mistakenly confident that they are not? So, Jesus came to make the Father known. Jesus came to provide hope to those who acknowledge their lostness, and He came to warn those who deny their lostness. He came to make known the way to the Father and to be the way to the Father.7 Now, what does it mean to be saved by Jesus? It means to have eternal life. It means to not perish because of our sins.8 But what does this have to do with the Father? Well, what does our verse above say? Notice that Jesus is speaking. And in fact, He is praying to the Father. In His prayer, He says that eternal life is knowing the only true God. Eternal life isn’t just living forever. It’s being rightly related to the Father forever. So, Jesus came to earth that He might “bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

This is what the Bible teaches about Jesus.

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1 Matthew 317 And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (See also, Matthew 12:18; 17:5; John 3:35; 5:20)

2 John 1628 “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

3 Revelation 1“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (See also, Revelation 22:13)

4 Romans 8For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.

5 John 434 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

6 John 638 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (See also, Matthew 18:14)

7 John 14Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (See also, John 6:44)

8 John 1028 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (See also, John 3:16; 1 John 4:9)