“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:15.
So said the apostle Paul, calling himself “foremost” among sinners, even though most of his outward life was a seeking after and suffering for righteousness. Almost no one, reading of Paul’s experiences and exhortations, would consider him even a baby sinner, let alone the worst. What did he understand about himself and about God’s mercy, that the rest of us need to understand?
When I use the word “sinner” in this context, I am not referring to the hurtful words and actions we use against each other. Our transgressions only appear to be against other people, but Paul, and King David, understood that all transgressions are ultimately against…whom? David was a “hero of the faith”, a “man after God’s own heart”, yet he sinned grievously. I am not going to tell the story, but if you want a really juicy tale of adultery and murder, read it here.David and Bathsheba
God sent a prophet to David to confront him about his sins. It would be rare indeed if a king listened to a prophet, but David was not any old king. (The following story will make a lot more sense if you read the account at the link, above). 2 Samuel 12: 1-7. And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” Nathan went on to describe the various punishments that the Lord would levy against David and his family, including the death of his son about to be born, and the rebellion within his own household. What was David’s response to this accusation, and the prophecy of the disasters that would be fall him? He responded “I have sinned against the Lord.” But even then, he knew that God would forgive his grievous sins. If you are reading this and can’t accept that your sins can be totally forgiven, you may fall into one of these two categories.
1. I don’t need to be forgiven, because there is no God to forgive me, or sin doesn’t exist, it’s just illusion or fear or ignorance, or there is nothing but the material world.
2. I don’t deserve to be forgiven, because what I did was too terrible, or I am too bad a person for God to love, or I haven’t repented or done enough to be forgiven.
ONE OF THESE IDEAS IS FALSE! EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE FORGIVEN….AND NO ONE DESERVES TO BE. BUT NO ONE NEEDS TO BE DESERVING, BECAUSE GOD OFFERS THE FREE GIFT OF UNMERITED MERCY THROUGH THE ATONING SACRIFICE OF JESUS CHRIST.