The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.
It is an interesting and challenging fact that we nowhere find in the Gospels, nor in all the New Testament for that matter, certain words which are widely used today, and often as though they really provide the key to the ministry of the Lord Jesus. Such terms as “the social order,” “social service,” “the social gospel” are conspicuous by their absence. Our Lord did not attempt to overturn the social order of His day by some new system of ethical instruction. He did not take into consideration the mass as such. He dealt with the individual. And He showed that personal sin was the root of all the trouble in the world. But He did not merely attempt the reformation of the sinner. He came not to reform, but to save. He did not come to help the race to better its condition. He came to bring in an entirely new creation through the regeneration of individual sinners.
This program adhered to necessarily makes for improved social conditions. If individuals are saved, they will affect in a marked way the environment in which they live. Consequently, the social order has been wonderfully improved through the coming of Christ and the proclamation of His gospel. But the important thing is to put first things first; preach the gospel to the individual, and when he is saved set him to work seeking the salvation of his neighbors. It was in this way that the Christianity of the first three centuries overturned the paganism of the Roman Empire. To reverse this order is fatal.
Not what these hands have done
Can save my guilty soul;
Not what this toiling flesh has borne
Can make my spirit whole.
No other work save Thine—
Nought save Thy blood will do:
No strength, save that which is divine,
Can bear me safely through.
—Herbert G. Tovey
H. A. Ironside, The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1994), 215.