Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief (1 Timothy 1:15).
Jesus didn’t come to be a good example, to make bad people into good people, or to bring about social justice through political revolution. He came into the world to save sinners.
One of those sinners was the Apostle Paul, who said of himself, I am [present tense] the chief of sinners.
Many pastors, psychologists, and Christian people would correct Paul for his poor self-image and low self-esteem. We’ve developed a theology where everyone is great to the point of mediocrity. We’ve moved beyond the seriousness of sin. Instead of sinners saved by grace we are“King’s kids” as if we no longer sin and no longer depend upon a Saviour. Once we are regenerated by the Spirit in the new birth, we are saved to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25), but we continue to sin and require a saving Advocate in Jesus (1 John 2:1-2). What Paul had was actually a realistic, healthy, honest, godly and Biblical view of himself.
In Paul’s eyes, he was the greatest of sinners in the world. He knew the awfulness of his own heart, the deceitfulness of his motives, and the darkness that lurked in his mind. Reminding himself of the sin he continually committed not only made him humble, but affirmed his daily dependence upon a Saviour. He wasn’t a sinner who needed grace and mercy to get saved once upon a time, Paul was a sinner in constant need of a constant Saviour to keep him saved. There was no moving to the “next level” beyond his own utter sinfulness and God’s gracious mercy.
If God could save someone like Paul had been – and continued to be because of sin – then Paul knew that God’s grace was sufficient to reach any person. Everyone has hope if he has Jesus!