Summary: The life of experienced grace is a life of relaxed patience with ourselves and others.
I Am the Worst of Sinners
Pastor Daniel J. Little
The Landmark Church, Binghamton, NY
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ESV
15 Here is a saying you can depend on as being true; everyone should believe this: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.
When Paul wrote to the Roman believers saying “Nothing good dwells in me.” he had been walking faithfully and powerfully with Jesus for 22 years.
By the time he wrote to Timothy saying “I am the worst of sinners.” he had been walking with the Lord for about 29 years.
I mention this because you could read these words and think they came from a new Christian suffering from low self-esteem, or filled with self-loathing because he or she was struggling to get the hang of living the perfect Christian life. Of course no one lives the perfect Christian life. It’s just that we have a perfect Savior.
But these are not the words of a young believer or a discourage old man.
In fact in both Scriptures they are part (A) of Paul’s testimony. He is simply saying that in my natural-born self I am a sinner start to finish. But in part (B) Paul speaks of the source of his stamina over the years and his life of victory over shipwrecks, snake bites, people bites, criticism, lies, stonings, beatings, loneliness, hunger, nakedness and thirst and imprisonment.
In the Romans passage Paul ends the paragraph by answering his own question of who will save him from the law of sin and He breaks into something like a song of gratitude saying; 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! …that’s who!
In the Timothy passage Paul gives us the same conclusion saying; verse 17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.
Paul is giving us his testimony to the faithfulness and ability of Jesus. He says; “When it comes to victory over the life of sin I lean all my weight on the Savior who came for me. I walk in this confidence—He loves me.”
Paul is a man who knows from a first hand encounter with Jesus that he has been set free from the exhausting and impossible task of conquering sin by self-effort.
Look at what he says to us; (1 Tim 1:15); What I am telling you is absolutely true, and anyone reading this letter should believe what I am saying: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them all.
This is not what you would expect to hear from a 29 year veteran of world-changing evangelism. This kind of raw honesty causes religious folks to cringe and cover the ears of their children. We must keep them from hearing such as this while we teach them how to look good.
In Luke’s Gospel narrative we read of Jesus in His hometown synagogue in Nazareth. He is asked to read from the Scriptures. He rolls the scroll open to Isaiah where the great prophet some 700 years earlier heard by the Spirit Israel’s (not yet born) Messiah/Savior speak these words;.