“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.” (I Timothy 1:12-16 NKJV)
In his letter to Timothy, Paul is encouraging him to fight the good fight as he opposed the false teachers in Ephesus. It was his responsibility to uphold the correct doctrine while commanding others to ignore the distractions of false doctrines running throughout the city.
In this text we find Paul giving thanks for the abundant mercy of God and the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ that was poured onto him – despite being the worst of sinners. He goes on to show how God’s perfect love was designed to be an example to those who seek to believe in Jesus; demonstrating how His grace and mercy is available to all – regardless of our sinful past.
So what does all this have to do with you?
01 You = sinner
Paul is speaking from personal experience as he calls himself the worst of sinners:
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (I Timothy 1:15)
This issue of being a sinner is not exclusive to him. No one’s story begins “Once upon a time, I was a believer.” We all have sinned. We all are sinning. If you want to keep it really real, we all will sin again!
Whether you have been saved 50 years or 15 minutes, we all have a “pre-believer” past and in that past lies the worst of our sins. But thank God, our sins are forgiven through the blood of Jesus!
So if Paul aka the worst of the worst aka the chief sinner – has been washed in the precious blood, why not I? Why not YOU?
02 Mercy is available
Paul was a bad man according to Verse 15, but that’s only the beginning of his testimony. In Verse 16 he states:
“But for that very reason I was shown mercy…”
As ruthless as Paul was in his “Saul” days, he obtained mercy from God. Surely, if God extended mercy to the worst of sinners, that same mercy is mine to have as well.
You may not be as treacherous as Paul, but you may have felt like the chief of sins. You may look back over your past, or someone will gladly take you for a walk down memory lane, and the stench from your sins will have you feeling like you are the worst sinner ever. But you’re not.
Don’t let anyone condemn you to your past. Don’t YOU condemn yourself to your past. People will bring it up. So what?! As a believer, God’s mercy is available to you and your sins are forgiven. You should never feel that your past makes you unable to be used by God. Take hold to God’s mercy and keep it moving boldly in Jesus’ name.
03 God loves to save sinners
Jesus Christ’s entire mission on earth was to save sinners. Everyone is an “ex-something.”
But thank God those days are behind you. And if you’re still struggling, I encourage you to pray, stay in the midst of God’s Word and remember that God loves to save sinners.
Why does He love to save sinners? So He can use you as a “pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” God wants others to see His power working through us. Paul’s past and God’s grace made him an example of how God can take the chief sinner and turn him into a mighty soldier in ministry. Your testimony can help bring others closer to God because they see how your sinner status is covered by your saved status.
It’s crucial that we identify our sinful nature for it is the very reason Jesus Christ left His throne of grace, came to earth, died a horrible death and rose on the third day. But identifying yourself as a sinner is not so you can have a pity party or feel as though you can never change. God loves you beyond comprehension and He has made His mercy available to you. Jesus has given you salvation as a gift to replace the punishment.
You may have felt or you may feel feel that you are the worst sinner ever, but God is able to transform the circumstances of your sin into a pattern for righteousness. He can take the hot mess of your past and set a fire of praise in your soul. You may have a complicated past, but God has already sent His son to die for those complications – so your present can be saved and your future can be bright.
How amazing is it, that God can take our transgressions and use them as a beacon for His salvation and glory?! Praise God for taking the worst sinners ever and giving us the best love in the universe.