Why Did Jesus Christ Come To Earth?

When Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in a manger in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, he was on a mission. His arrival wasn’t random, as the Father purposefully sent him to earth. Jesus had a clear objective and reason for coming. So what was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth?

Jesus Christ came to earth to seek and save the lost. People who are “lost” are trapped in sin and separated from God. Jesus came to find those who don’t know God and to offer forgiveness and salvation, which he earned when he died on the cross, to those who believe.

How does Zacchaeus illustrate Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth? Why was it necessary for Jesus to seek people? Who does the Bible consider lost? What verses best express Jesus’ mission? Where was Jesus before he came to earth? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Also, see Why Did Jesus Get Baptized? to learn more.

Jesus born Christmas
Why must Jesus seek the lost for salvation? See below

Jesus Came to Earth to Seek and Save the Lost

Jesus articulates the mission statement for his life in the story of Zacchaeus, who is an illustration of a lost person. Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector who had a poor reputation. One day he told Jesus that he was willing to sell half of what he owned and pay back those he had wronged.

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

Jesus came to earth to find lost people, like the shepherd who sought his wayward sheep or the woman who worked to find her missing coin (Luke 15:1-10).

Huios tou anthropou (Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου)“Son of Man”: the most common way that Jesus referred to himself and his mission. [1]
elthen (ἦλθεν)“Came”: to come from one place into another
zetesai (ζητῆσαι)“Seek”: to seek by inquiring
sosai (σῶσαι)“Save”: deliver out of danger and into safety; used principally of God rescuing believers from the penalty and power of sin
apololos (ἀπολωλός)“The lost”: “violently/completely perish”) implies permanent (absolute) destruction, i.e., to cancel out (remove)

Seeking the Lost

That Jesus seeks out those without salvation is illustrated in the story of Zacchaeus. Although the tax collector climbed a tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus as he walked by, the Son of Man initiated the relationship. “Zacchaeus,” he said, “hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:4-5).

In similar ways, Jesus initiated relationships with Peter (e.g., Matt. 4:19), Thomas (John 20:27), and Paul (Acts 9:4-5). About Luke 19:10, New Testament scholar Darrell Bock writes, “Jesus’ mission is to initiate relationships with those who do not know God and call to them to come to know him.” [2]

For a sinner to receive salvation, Jesus must initiate the relationship because, as Paul writes in Romans, no one seeks God on their own. “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Rom. 3:10-11, ESV, emphasis added). If Jesus didn’t seek sinners, they would never be found.

The Psalmist makes a similar point when he writes, “God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” (Psa. 53:2-3, ESV, emphasis added).

Saving the Lost

No sinner is worthy of salvation (Rom. 6:23). No lost person can do enough good works to bridge the chasm between their sinfulness and God’s holiness. God’s grace and love, expressed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, are the only way a lost person can be found and saved.

In Ephesians 2:8, Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (emphasis added). In Romans, he writes that sinners are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24, emphasis added).

Also, see What Are Jesus’ Commandments? to learn more.

Jesus earth
What statement does Paul say all people should accept? See below

Jesus Came into the World to Save Sinners

In addition to Luke 19:10, the New Testament includes several similar statements regarding why Jesus came to earth. Two are quotations from Jesus from the Gospels. A third one is Paul’s description of Jesus’ purpose, to which he adds a personal reflection.

(1) The Gospel of Mark includes the story of Jesus calling Matthew (i.e., Levi) to follow him. In response, the religious legalists scoffed just as they did with Jesus’ invitation to Zacchaeus.

Jesus’ reply included his purpose statement for coming to earth, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17, ESV).

(2) Jesus expressed his reason for coming to earth differently when he appeared before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. When Pilate asked, “So you are a king?”

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37).

(3) When Paul articulates Jesus’ mission, he prefaces it with two strong statements. First, he says the statement is trustworthy, i.e., people should believe it. Second, he says that all people should accept it.

The verse reads, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15, ESV).

Everyone, regardless of nationality, gender, or social standing, would be wise to mimic Paul’s response to Jesus’ mission and confess that they are a sinner and in need of God’s grace and truth (John 1:14).

Author Kevin DeYoung writes, “We must always remember that union with Christ is possible because of the Son’s descent to earth, not because of our ascent into heaven. The basis of our union with Christ is Christ’s union with us in the incarnation. He became one with us so that we might become one with Him.” [3]

Also, see Where Did Jesus Grow Up? to learn more.

Jesus came to earth
What does preexistence mean? See below

Where did Jesus come from?

Jesus was born to the virgin Mary and her betrothed husband, Joseph (Luke 2:1-7). His birth is commonly referred to as the “incarnation,” which is a theological term that means “in the flesh” (cf. John 1:14).

Although his physical birth marked his arrival into the world, it wasn’t the beginning of his existence. “Preexitence” is the theological word that refers to Jesus’ existence before the incarnation.

As the second person of the Trinity, he had always existed with the Father, the first person of the Trinity, and the Holy Spirit, the third person. Several Bible passages make this clear.

Jesus was the Word who became flesh

John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (ESV).

John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (ESV).

Jesus existed before creation (cf. Col. 1:15-17).

1 Corinthians 8:6 reads, “Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (ESV).

Colossians 1:15-17 reads, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (ESV).

Christianity has always taught Christ’s preexistence

Orthodox Christians have always believed in the preexistence of Jesus. One of the earliest and most important belief statements of the church, the Nicene Creed (325 A.D.), expresses this understanding of the Bible’s teaching: “[Jesus came down from heaven; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made human.”

Also, see Who Did Jesus Raise from the Dead? to learn more.

[1] Holman Bible Dictionary. p. 1488.
[2] Luke 9:51-24:53 by Darrell Bock. BECNT. p. 1523.
[3] The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung. p. 98.

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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