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
Paul uses the word “trustworthy” seven times in his letters: one to the Corinthians, twice to Titus, but four times to Timothy, including three times in his first letter alone! Apparently, as Paul communicates with Timothy, he is concerned to identify for Timothy what is true and what is false, what is trustworthy and what is hearsay.
There are three sayings, three pieces of advice, three holy admonitions worthy of Timothy’s faithful investment. The first is that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. The second is that holy ambition to godly leadership within the church is a noble desire. The third is that rather than be guided or driven by silly myths, we must train ourselves for godliness, we must be proactive in faith rather than reactive.
The verse we are memorizing this week is a part of Paul’s presentation to Timothy of his credentials for ministry. Paul verifies that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He acknowledges that not only is he, himself, a sinner, but he is the worst. And then he offers the reason he, the worst of sinners, should be in the position he is: I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost [worst], Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
If I may paraphrase, Paul testifies to Timothy that God saved him in order to make him an example of grace to others. God saved the worst of sinners so that the rest of us—sinners chosen and called to faith by the will of God—might not resist God but believe, trusting that if God could save, redeem, and transform a sinner like Paul, He can save a sinner like me.
Ponder that idea for a moment. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to save you from your sins in order to set you before the world as an example of soul-saving, life-changing, heart-transforming, mind-molding, destiny-deciding grace. You, sinner, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, are God’s example of His mercy, compassion, patience, and sovereignty to others who are yet to believe.
It is the follow-up thought that humbles me as I share this with you. Christ came into the world to save sinners and make of them an example of divine patience and mercy. So, what example do I give others around me—some of whom are chosen by God for faith—what example do I set for them? In the paragraph following the verse we are learning, Paul urges Timothy to “wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.”
Is that the example, in this day of COVID-19, that people around us see within us? Are we fraught with fear, and selfishness, and anger, and anxiety? Or are we fighting the good fight, holding on to faith in our sovereign God, and keeping our conscience clear of guilt and shame as a result of sin?
Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. In those whom he saves, Jesus displays His perfect patience as an example. Dear sinner saved by Christ, what are you an example of?