The purpose of our salvation
When we think about the ‘worst sins’ a person can commit, we immediately jump to all the atrocities that people commit against other people. While humans have done horrific things to other humans throughout the centuries, alongside every event is an act of rebellion against the One who created us. When we look at the motivation for our sin, many sinful actions are the result of our own selfishness taking precedence over the well-being of others; however, some sinful actions are a full-frontal assault on God, with people being the collateral damage.
When Paul was describing the ultimate purpose of his conversion to Timothy, he gave a saying of the time his own personal twist:
1 Timothy 1:15
This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance:
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”
and I am the worst of them.
A few sentences before, Paul admitted to directly challenging God when he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man. He did everything in his power to exterminate the belief that Jesus is the Savior that for centuries God had told the Jews to watch for. Paul had used all available means – jail, torture, even death – in order to eliminate the teaching of Jesus as Messiah.
If there was anyone on the planet who could be considered a ‘lost cause’, someone who had absolutely zero chance of believing that Christ could give him eternal life – it was Paul. Paul was so dead-set against Jesus that no one could reach him. Any time he heard the gospel message, he set out to kill the person who delivered it. Only a dramatic, direct encounter with the risen Jesus could convince Paul to change his mind…there was no other way.
No wonder the first century believers were afraid of him! The church had their reservations and doubts about Paul’s conversion…think about it…why would God save that guy? I’m sure there were more people praying that Paul would be hit with a lightning bolt than there were people praying that God would reach him.
However, God had other plans for Paul. In fact, his conversion wasn’t only for his own personal salvation, it wasn’t just a means to avoid eternal separation from God:
1 Timothy 1:16
But I received mercy because of this, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate the utmost patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
Because of Paul’s conversion, no one has the excuse of being “too bad” or “too unworthy” or “too far gone” for Jesus to save. This worst of all sinners became a ‘first copy’ to all future believers.
God accepts and forgives people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Each one who believes in Jesus for eternal life will demonstrate some aspect of God’s character to the world around them. What does your story show? Perhaps you’re from a certain segment of society, or you’re in a particular socio-economic class, or you struggle with a specific kind of sin…God can point at each one of us, as an example, and say “See my generosity? I will even give eternal life to someone like that.”
When we recognize the great privilege and honor it is to partner with God in this way – as an example of His love – we can confidently say, along with Paul:
1 Timothy 1:17
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen