1 Timothy 1:12-17

A brief outline-

12-14: Paul’s personal testimony about how grace changed him

15-16: Paul’s summary of God’s mercy in the gospel

17: Paul’s doxology in response to these two things

 Some struggle with the flow of thought from verse 11.  Verse 11 says, “…the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.”  And that last phrase seems to remind Paul of how undeserving of this ministry he is.  So he talks about how he used to be a persecutor of the Church and how grace changed him.  And two quick notes about the “chief of sinners” phrase:  some look at this passage and think we are all supposed to say this about ourselves, namely, that ‘I am the chief of sinners.’  But Paul’s teaching is not that we are all the foremost of sinners, but rather, that he actually was the foremost of sinners.  He actually killed Christians!  And if God can save the foremost of sinners, he can save anyone.

Secondly, why does he say, present tense, “I am the chief of sinners”?  Does he still sin just as he did before he was converted?  May it never be!  He is trying to convey God’s mercy in the gospel, meaning, none of us are deserving of eternal life– especially Paul, who used to persecute Jesus!  So Christians should not call themselves “sinners” in the same way they used to be “sinners” before conversion, but we should call ourselves “sinners” in the sense that a million years from now, we will be just as undeserving of salvation as the day God gave us new hearts.

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2 responses to “1 Timothy 1:12-17

  1. I’ve heard some say that the reason every Christian can say “I am the chief of sinners” is because we are more aware of our own sins (hopefully) than the sins of others. We live with the constant awareness of our own sinful motives and attitudes, but we can usually only see the external actions that other Christians display. I don’t know if this is right, but it is an interesting way to make sense of it. And we must admit that there have been others throughout history who have killed Christians and then been converted.

    I miss you brother, and am praying for you.

  2. Well, brother, I agree that all of us are aware of our own sin more than others’ sins, and I agree that other Christians in history have comparable testimonies. I am just trying to get to what Paul is actually communicating, and I do not think he is saying ‘all people should say this about themselves’ (of course he wouldn’t condemn someone saying that either). Rather, I think the heart of vv.15-16 is ‘if Jesus would show mercy to me, no one is beyond saving!’

    I miss you too, and thank you for your prayers.

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