“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”
These words were penned by Paul in a letter to his prodigy and disciple, Timothy; we refer to these words as 1 Timothy 1:15. The words were penned by Paul, but they certainly could have been written by me as well.
The weight of sin is devastating, so much so that in our shame and guilt, it is simple to decide that we’re not worthy. We chose our sin, we walked in it, and so we distance ourselves from our Creator. I know that sometimes, in my blatant and unconfessed sinfulness, I will sit and attempt to pray, and no words come out because I can’t stand the thought of the name of Jesus on my lips when I’ve done such unworthy things.
Oh yes, the worst of sinners.
Yet, we are so quick to isolate the phrase, to specifically zoom in on the reference to awful sinners- ‘of whom I am the worst’. I think this is a sign of arrogance. We put so much weight on the fact that we’ve done something wrong, that WE are a mess, that we take the glory and focus of the story away from Christ.
No, 1 Timothy 1 doesn’t preach a hopeless, self-centered, ‘woe is me’ message. Paul wrote,
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:15-17)
You see, I may be an awful sinner, but that’s exactly who Jesus stepped into the world to save. Ray Ortlund once wrote,
“The gospel is not the story of Christ loving a pure bride who loves him; it’s the story of Christ’s love for a whore who thinks He has nothing to offer, and keeps giving herself to others.”
That quote is caustic, it’s bold, and it’s absolutely true. When we, in our little universe, dare to think that what we’ve done makes it so that we shouldn’t be able to be anywhere near Christ, we act as if WE are our own heroes!
Are WE the living sacrifice? Are WE fully God incarnate? Did WE dwell in unfounded fleshly perfection just to be slaughtered on a cross? Did WE rise on the third day just to be taken into Heaven and be seated at the right hand of the throne of God? Do WE mediate between God and sinners?
No, we do not. Yet we’re living like we do.
Paul wrote in Romans 5:20-21,
“The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
We should strive to be holy, strive to be closer and closer to Jesus. Yet, we shouldn’t dare, not even for a second, to think that his grace is not sufficient. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and indeed-I think I am the worst. But yet, he showed mercy in order that his glory and immense patience may be displayed.
We are sinners, and sin reigns in death. Yet, we are saved, and his grace now reigns in righteousness to bring us eternal life. Our sin won’t change that. Let us drop our chains that we keep holding, let go of the guilt and shame that keeps us from doing so, and run to him.
We will never be worthy, but he loves us dearly anyway.