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. —1 Timothy 1:15
What is your first reaction when you hear that God loves you? Do you find it difficult to believe, or does it somehow make sense to you? Whichever way you happen to react, the Apostle Paul can relate to you.
If you would have asked Saul the Pharisee if he thought God loved him, he would have said, “Of course.” He was, after all, “a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6). Saul the Pharisee found the idea that God loved him very easy to swallow.
Some of you can relate to Saul. Some of you have never found it very hard to believe that God loves you. Some of you would be far more shocked to hear that God was angry at you than to hear that He loved you. This is certainly how Saul felt.
At least, that’s how he felt until one afternoon on his way to Damascus. Out of nowhere a light from heaven flashed around him, and he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Bewildered, Saul responded, “Who are you, Lord?” Nothing could have prepared him for what he heard next. The voice said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4-5).
At that moment, Saul realized just how wrong he had been. He knew then that he wasn’t blameless before God; instead he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent opponent of the very Lord he claimed to serve. In that moment, blind, with his face pressed against the dusty road, if he had been asked if God loved him, he would have said, “How could he? How could he possibly love me after all that I have done?”
Some of you can relate to how Saul felt on that road. You live your life very aware of your sin. You have done things that simply seem impossible to forgive. For you, it is far easier to picture God being angry with you and judging you than it is to see Him loving you and working all things out for your good.
Regardless of which Saul you find yourself relating to, 1 Timothy 1:15 has an important message for you. For those of you who find it easy to believe that God loves you; you shouldn’t. We only find God’s love easy to believe when we think we deserve it, and 1 Timothy 1:15 reminds us that we don’t. Paul says “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” sinners who deserved wrath, not love.
Of course the less we think that we deserve God’s love, the harder we find it to believe. Paul understood this, remember he considered himself the worst of sinners. And he wrote this verse to comfort all those who have ever felt the same way about themselves.
That is why he begins, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.” What Paul is about to say is absolutely true. He wants you to memorize it, to cling to it, to believe it regardless of how you may be feeling. Paul wants you to brand upon your heart the truth that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”!
What gave Paul the confidence to speak so boldly about God’s love for sinners? The answer is the cross. The cross was a constant reminder to Paul about just how terrible sin was. He wasn’t blameless, he deserved the cross. But the cross also reminded him just how much he was loved. Because, you see, there on that cross the innocent Son of God hung in his place.
Ultimately it was because of the cross that Paul could write, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”
If you truly believe this verse, you won’t be proud, because you are a sinner; you won’t despair either, because Christ Jesus loves sinners and gave his life on the cross to save them.
When we truly believe this, it opens up for us a third way to respond to God’s love: worship. That is how Paul responded to this truth in 1 Timothy 1:17. Would you join Paul in declaring: “To the king of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory, forever and ever. Amen.”
What is your first reaction to hearing that God loves you? Why?
How does the cross show us that we don’t deserve God’s love?
How does the cross show us that despite our sin, God loves us anyway?
How can 1 Timothy 1:15 move you to worship?