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Paul’s Confession – Christ’s Forgiveness.


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)

Throughout the pastoral epistles there are five ‘faithful’ sayings. In this study, we will look at the effect that the mission of Christ to save sinners, had upon Paul himself, for it is in that context that he makes this ‘faithful saying.’

1. The Barrier between Paul and God! sinners; of whom I am chief
Paul describes himself here as ‘the chief of sinners.’ What a barrier there was between Paul and His Creator. Yet Paul was a religious man! (Philippians 3:4-7). Despite all his religious fervour and enthusiasm, he was still a sinner, still unsaved, still outside of God’s mercy! As a sinner:-
• Paul was entirely ignorant of the plan of salvation

! He was a religious man, a Pharisee at heart, a professor of religion, and he seems to have had no idea that there is only one way to God, and that way is through Jesus Christ, the crucified Saviour!
• Paul was an unbeliever! Despite all the marvellous events of his day, he did not believe! Like thousands of his countrymen he totally closed his eyes to the truth of God’s salvation, and closed his heart to the Gospel.
• Paul was a blasphemer! He openly vilified the name of the Saviour! How many do that today! We often here the name of the Lord, and the Name of God taken in vain, used only as a swear word or an oath!
• Paul was a bitter persecutor of Christians! His soul burned with zeal against Christians, and against Christ. He breathed out threatenings against the disciples. Listen to his own testimony in Acts 26:9-11
• Paul was detrimental to the church! He brought great distress to the believers who met him in his unconverted days!
Such was Paul, the chief of sinners! We may well ask, “How could such a man ever be saved!” But we are all sinners! Our minds and our emotion and our will are dreadfully affected by the inborn sin that dwells within us! There is the great barrier! So, in Paul’s case notice:-

2. The Mercy that Broke the Barrier Down! Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy
Paul had OBTAINED mercy! Now, mercy is the exercise of favour to the guilty and the unworthy.
a) He obtained SPARING mercy! God was long-suffering with Paul. Paul deserved God’s wrath, and should have been struck down for his murderous actions, but instead God spared Him!
b) He obtained PARDONING mercy! God forgave all his sin! His mountain of iniquity, built up over all his years, became as flat as a plain! Jesus saved him from his sin and guilt and blotted it out! Now there is pardoning mercy in the Lord!
c) He obtained RENEWING mercy! For that which changed him gave him a new heart and made him a completely new creature! He had been an enemy, now he was a true friend! 2 Cor. 5:17,
d) He obtained EXALTING mercy! Now think what this sin had done in Paul’s life.

Not only had it erected a barrier between Paul and God, but it had degraded him, and dragged him down. Now:-
a. He was exalted in knowledge! He could say in Philippians 3, That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
b. He was exalted in status! He had been a wretched sinner, now, in Christ, he had been made an apostle!
c. He was exalted in experience! What a rich experience the Christian has! To know Christ!
d. He was exalted in usefulness! He became a missionary, and carried the Gospel message to thousands of other sinners in the Gentile countries!
e) He obtained SUSTAINING mercy! Paul had many dangers, many foes, many sufferings, yet at the end of his life languishing in a Roman prison he could write to Timothy in 2 Tim. 4:6-8 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.

3. The Example that God Created in Saving Paul!
Now there are lessons for us in the conversion of Paul. In Paul’s conversion:-
1) God shows us his own patience with sinners! How easily God could have stopped Paul in his tracks and broken him in pieces! But God loved Paul, and he slowly called him to himself.
2) God exhibited the free offer of His grace! Who can say that they deserve God’s grace? No-one! Yet he freely offers it to us, without money and without price!
3) God demonstrated the on-going pattern of Salvation. They way that God saved Paul is the way that God still saves sinners today! Salvation is still only by Grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone and for the glory of God alone! That is how Paul was saved, and that is how we must be saved also!

Do not despair! There are many who believe that God could never save them, that they are too sinful, that they are well beyond the reach of God’s grace! Or perhaps they believe that God is entirely indifferent to the plight of human beings like us! But if GOD CAN SAVE THE CHIEF OF SINNERS, He can save us! If God is concerned about the chief of sinners, He is concerned about us!

This is truly a faithful saying, and worthy of acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!

From → Sermon Notes

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