“Beloved: This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life. To the king of ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:15-17). Indeed, this is a trustworthy statement. And it deserves full acceptance by all who call themselves Christians, followers of Christ Jesus.
Paul is writing to Timothy here to give him further instructions on how to lead his community in the faith. He counsels him about reigning in false teachers and their controversial speculations. He reminds him that the goal is always love, which must come from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. He then refers to the goodness of the law if used properly. He reminds us that the law is not for the righteous, but for the lawbreakers and rebels. He then lists a series of the sins of those who break and rebel against the law. Then he gives Timothy a powerful example of how he must lead from a humble awareness of both his own sinful tendencies, and the gracious mercy of Jesus toward him. He is teaching Timothy (and us) the importance of self-reflection by way of his own experience.
Paul knows who he is and what he has done. He remained aware of these things the rest of his life, always turning to Jesus in faith, for his abundant grace. And because of this he can give joyful thanks to Christ Jesus for his patient and enduring love toward him. Why? Because, as he says of himself, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (verses 13-14). You see, he recognized in his own experience the thing that he says “deserves” full acceptance, that is, that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” He sees the truth. He is a sinner, yet, Jesus Christ had come to him in the middle, indeed, in the height of his sinfulness and because he came to believe in him, Jesus poured out his love and his grace upon Paul “abundantly.”
This story is our story. We are the sinners that Christ Jesus came into the world to save. Do we understand this? Do we believe this? As Paul tells us, for a Christian, this saying “deserves full acceptance.” In other words, this is a central understanding to our Christian faith. It is the truth. God’s love was given to us in Jesus for our sake. Remember, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We must never forget that we are sinners too and that we are in continuous need of Jesus’ patience, his mercy, and his grace. We must imitate Paul in this so that we might be more able to preach the Good News to others, and in order to learn to love others as Jesus loved us with kindness and mercy and patience, rather than with judgment and condemnation from a false sense of self-righteousness.
Lord, We are humbled by your love and patience toward us. It is for this reason that we give you our thanks and praise and ask for your continued and abundant graces to help us to be you good and faithful servants in our daily lives. In your name, Jesus, we pray. Amen!
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