“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”—1 Timothy 1:15 (KJV)
The Apostle Paul, after planting numerous churches in the Gentile world and taking the Gospel of God’s free forgiveness of sins to places it had never been heard before, still thought that he needed saving.
After healing the sick, going through all forms of persecution, and spending the most part of his life in the cold, you’d think that he would at that moment consider himself “arrived.” He didn’t. Towards the end of his life and ministry writes to his Spiritual son, Timothy, he calls himself the chief of sinners.
With his influence, Paul still knew that he was weak. He was aware that because of the body of flesh he was putting on, he still needed daily saving. He was mindful of the fact that no matter his achievements, he was not beyond God’s saving grace. In other words, it rang true in his heart that Christians don’t grow by moving away from the Gospel to something else but by moving deeper into the Gospel. That the cross and blood which ushers us into salvation at the beginning is the same that keeps us in until we get home.
He was also acutely aware that the life which justifies him is not his own. He had died with Christ, and now he lived in Him, no wonder he could afford to sound ridiculous. Robert Capon has an eloquent way of saying it:
“The life of grace is not an effort on our part to achieve a goal we set ourselves. It is a continually renewed attempt simply to believe that someone else has done all the achieving that is needed and to live in relationship with that person, whether we achieve or not. If that doesn’t seem like much to you, you’re right: it isn’t. And, as a matter of fact, the life of grace is even less than that. It’s not even our life at all, but the life of that Someone Else rising like a tide in the ruins of our death.”
Regardless of what you are going through right now: relational tension, addiction, the crisis of faith, sickness, pain, fear, guilt feelings, etc., be reminded that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom [you] are the foremost.” For you the chief of sinners he came to die. You are hidden in him. He knows your struggles by name. Take heart, it is finished.