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. 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. 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (ESV)
Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to stop the teaching of “any different doctrine” v. 3. What needed to be taught was sound doctrine that would lead to love from a pure heart, a clean conscience, and a sincere faith v. 5. This could only come about through the clear proclamation of the “glorious gospel of the blessed God” v. 11.
Paul then uses himself as the ultimate example of the power of this “glorious good news of the blessed God” to transform lives. Saul, as Paul was also known, was a very religious man, but a man consumed with arrogant pride, blasphemy, and persecution of the true children of God. He was going down the road to Damascus breathing threats and murder against those wretched Christians who were still insisting that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah who had risen from the dead after being crucified dead and buried. His encounter with Jesus on that road transformed his life from the greatest persecutor of Jesus and His followers, to the greatest proclaimer of Jesus.
Paul gets to the bottom line in verse 15: “Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This trustworthy fact should give hope to every living person. Hey, I’m a sinner. Jesus came into the world to save me! What glorious good news. What a hope that we also can be transformed from our life in darkness apart from God, into a joyful walk of faith in the light.
Paul gives even more reason for hope. He was formerly the “foremost sinner.” The absolute worst because all his energy was spent trying to keep anyone from believing in Jesus. But he became the “foremost example” of Jesus’ perfect patience with sinners. Jesus reached out to, and received, the worst sinner to show that no one is beyond hope.
Oh sinner, quit running. Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Be reconciled to God. Believe in Jesus for eternal life. Amen.