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.1 Timothy 1:15
A friend, whose blog I follow and with whom I often agree, has recently spent multiple blog posts and thousands of words trying to show that this verse does not and cannot mean what it says… surely Paul meant to write “of whom I was the foremost.” This verse, it seems, contradicts his private understanding of Romans chapters seven and eight.
I disagree. I see no reason to twist Scripture here. Paul said what he meant and meant what he said… there is no secret, occultic meaning hidden here. What he said is plain enough and it lines up perfectly with my experience and that of every honest Christian I have ever known… The greatest Christians I have ever known spent much time confessing sin and seeking forgiveness under the Blood.
It is a shared experience among mature Christians that the closer you get to God, the more aware you become of your own weakness, failure, and sin. The closer we get to God, the more sinful we become in our own eyes. A perception that we are somehow without sin is a good indication that we are exceedingly distant from the God of Heaven.
To claim to be without sin is to lie and lying is a sin. There is a spiritual reality of having been cleansed from sin and a very real experience of being weak and sinful. Those are not exclusive; it is not one or the other, it is both. We have been saved, we are being saved, (sanctification) and we shall be saved. All those things are true. You have never been seven days without sin in your entire Christian life… neither has anyone else.
When Paul said “I am the Chief of Sinners” he was neither confused nor senile, he had not forgotten basic grammar, confusing the present tense for the past tense. He was clearly stating the way he perceived himself as he compared himself to Jesus Christ.
Be honest… in your very real and present condition, if we stood you up next to Jesus Christ, would you, in fact, really and honestly be a sinner?