1 Timothy 1:12-17
Christ Came to Save Sinners
The Apostle Paul rarely shied away from waxing personal when it came to exalting God’s grace and mercy, and this is what we see in this passage. He loved recounting how God saved him on that road to Damascus (Acts 22:1-21; 26:12-23; Galatians 1:11-24), and he never forgot what he used to be: a zealot blinded by hate, a persecutor of the church, and a blasphemer. But God saved him because that’s why God sent His Son into the world—to save sinners. And Paul considered himself the worst of these. And then the Apostle goes on to say, “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” In other words, Paul felt like, “If God can save me, he can save anybody, and hopefully people will see that and receive the gospel.”
I believe it is incumbent upon every Christian to take up a similar attitude. In other words, I see Paul’s confession in this place as a prism through which we all must view ourselves. Paul looked upon his past life and despised himself. Yes, he had acted in ignorance, but that did not excuse him, as he makes abundantly clear in Romans 1:18-32. Paul never saw himself as anything but a sinner saved by grace. He did tell the Corinthians to imitate him, but only because they needed an example of Christian living to follow as they had so few among themselves (1 Corinthians 11:1). So we too should be examples for others.
But the Christian always remembers that but for the grace of God, he too would be chief of sinners. Indeed, each Christian should even go so far as to see himself in that light—as the chief of sinners. We each know our own heart, our own shortcomings and matters about ourselves which make us cringe. We would be horrified if others could peer into our minds and perceive our thoughts. It’s best if others not know us too well. We each have our own pain and suffering due to sin both before and after our rebirth. Past sins cast long shadows. But then, like Paul, we lift up our heads, not because we are going to get our acts together and next time triumph over our foes, but because we have been saved by grace, and we are trusting this God to preserve us in His grace unto the end. “There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10); the only righteousness we have we acquired through Jesus Christ who is our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). And we prefer it this way, that we may join Paul, “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”