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The Chief of Sinners. 1st Timothy 1:15-16


The Chief of Sinners
Text: 1st Timothy 1:15-16

Throughout the pastoral epistles there are five sayings that begin with the words, ‘This is a faithful saying…’ This is the first of them. I want to look at the effect that this mission of Christ to save sinners, had upon Paul himself; for it is in that very context that he makes this ‘faithful saying.’ Look firstly at:-

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! Don’t let that make you think that you are better than he was! Paul was a remarkably religious man! If mere religion could get you to heaven, if church going was enough to be assured of a home for eternity, Paul would qualify! Philippians 3:4-7
Yet despite all his religious fervour and enthusiasm, he was still a sinner outside of God’s mercy! As a sinner:-

  1. Paul was entirely ignorant of the plan of salvation. He was trusting in his own self-righteousness, and in the supposed goodness of his own heart! He had no idea that there is only one way to God, and that way is through Jesus Christ, the crucified Saviour!
  2. Paul was an unbeliever! Paul was alive at the most remarkable time in the history of mankind! Yet 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!
  3. 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!
  4. Paul was a bitter persecutor of Christians! His soul burned with zeal against Christians, and against Christ. He breathed out threatenings against the disciples. Acts 26:9-11
    Paul was detrimental to the church. As well as persecuting the church he would have blackened its name, ruined the reputation of the saints, taken away their belongings and property, taken their liberty and their life. He brought great distress to the believers who met him in his unconverted days!

Such was Paul, the chief of sinners! You may well ask, “How could such a man ever be saved!” But we are all sinners! We may not have the depths of sin that we see in Paul, but we certainly have a great breadth of sin, for sin has afflicted every single part of our being! Our minds and our emotion and our will are dreadfully affected by the inborn sin that dwells within us! There is the great barrier – no sinner can enter the presence of God! Not now and not in eternity, for God is HOLY! To approach God in prayer, to approach Him in worship, to dwell in heaven with him, our sins must firstly be removed! 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.

  1. He had 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!
  2. 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!
  3. 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! He had been a vulture, now he was a dove! He had been a lion, now he was a lamb! 2 Corinthians 5:17,
  4. 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. It had plunged him into wretchedness and misery! But when he obtained mercy,
  5. 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

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 Paul did try to resist. Later he spoke of how he had kicked against the pricks! God’s great patience prevailed and eventually Paul yielded to the grace of God and came to the Lord!
  2. God demonstrated the free gift of His grace! Who can say that they deserve God’s grace? No-one! Yet he freely gives it to us without money and without price!
  3. God indicates to us how He saves sinners. The 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 me!

© Bob McEvoy

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