1 Timothy 1:12-17
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 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. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
I would dare say that you probably do not think of yourself as the worst (foremost) sinner in this family. Let alone our church, our city, our state, or our world. Even when we find ourselves in a group of three, we don’t think of ourselves as the worst sinner in the group. Paul, on the other hand, thought of himself as the worst, or foremost sinner to have ever been born. We can learn a lot from his humility and his right perspective of himself. But what prompted this statement of his?
Paul was formerly Saul of Tarsus. He was one of the leading up and coming Jewish leaders in Israel. He had been trained by the leading teacher and was on the path to become one of the most respected Pharisees in the land. He had been the one who was at the stoning of Stephen in the book of Acts. He thought of Christians as being blasphemers, persecutors, and insolent opponents to the truth of God. He led destructive missions which plucked family members apart from one another if Christ was named in their home. He was out to destroy the name of Jesus and everyone who named his name.
Paul received letters of authority from the governor to go to Damascus to do the same thing to christians that he was doing in Jerusalem. While he was on the road, Jesus Christ came to him, knocked him off his donkey, blinded him, and asked “why are you persecuting me Saul?” Saul was blind for three full days as he lay in recovery and neither ate or drank anything. After that time, a disciple of Jesus named Ananias came to Saul and told him the gospel. The eyes of this persecutor of Jesus were opened and he soon afterward became one of the foremost preachers of the truth of Christ to have ever walked the face of our planet.
During the time of his blindness, I would imagine that he had some good times of reflection. He thought he had been doing the work of God by destroying the followers of Christ; and yet he was the one who was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent man. He was the monster who was seeking to destroy the name of God.
This is the reason why the Apostle Paul could say of himself, “I am the foremost sinner in all of the world!” He had the right perspective that you and I desperately need. Thankfulness overflowed out of his mouth because he knew what he once was. He knew that apart from Christ, he could do no good thing. Yet he also now knew, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; and if Jesus would save the very worst one to have every lived, then surely he would save you and I today if we would just believe. This drove him to preach and share the only good new that will save!