“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus
came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
1 Timothy 1:15
In the books of First and Second Timothy and Titus, the Spirit uses the
phrase, “This is a faithful saying” several times. I want us to look at each of those Scriptures and learn why they are so important and what we can learn from them. In part one, we noted that this phrase is saying:
“Here is something absolutely trustworthy. It is to be accepted and
believed by all Christians without hesitation or doubt. It is to be
remembered as something important and fundamental.”
The first of five faithful sayings appears in 1 Timothy 1:15:
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
Let’s think carefully about this faithful saying…
The First Faithful Saying…
Notice first of all, that what is said is “a faithful saying” and it is “worthy of all acceptance…” This is what we talked about last week in part one. Not only is what is going to be said fundamentally and completely true, it is “worthy of all acceptance.” The NIV, ESV, and NASB all translate this similarly to “deserves full acceptance”. When things are totally and clearly true, they deserve to be accepted. Everyone should not only acknowledge that they are true, but they should accept them, believe them, be changed by them. That’s the whole point of saying that something is faithful or trustworthy. We can trust that it is true, but even more importantly, we can trust in what is said. We can build and depend on what is said. This is why these things are so important. This is why the Word of God is so important!
What Paul is talking about…
The Book of First Timothy begins with a normal greeting and then a reminder of how Timothy had been left in Ephesus to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Ti 1:3). Some had “turned aside to idle talk” (1:6), and it was Timothy’s job to fight against threats to pure faith that were present in Ephesus (1 Ti 1:18-20).
Some may ask who Paul is to hold people accountable to “sound doctrine” and the “glorious gospel” that he preached (1 Ti 1:10-11). So, Paul says, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (1 Ti 1:12-14).
The message Paul preached wasn’t his own, it is the Lord’s. Paul was put in this position, given this ministry, by Jesus Himself. The radical change and sacrifice we see in Paul’s conversion attests to the fact that he is a true believer and disciple of Jesus. And finally, the standard he is holding others to and the changes it requires are no different than what the Lord requires of Paul. The repentance and forgiveness that brought the mercy of God to Paul is what will bring the mercy of God to everyone. This is the message of the gospel.
This is a faithful saying…
After charging Timothy with the task to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine” and then showing that he himself obtained mercy through this same doctrine, Paul writes, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Ti 1:15).
We tend to skip ahead to the chief of sinners part (we will look at that in a minute), but we need to first feel the impact of the faithful saying that deserves our full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!
There are so many things that get our attention that the real purpose for Jesus’ coming can get lost. We see so many needs in this world that the salvation of sinners can be devalued in our thinking. Jesus said and did so many things and we may fail to see how they tie into the one, foundational thing we must accept: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!
This statement deserves acceptance because there are eye-witness historical accounts of the life of Jesus Christ – from His entrance into the world to His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. His worldwide climb to fame is unprecedented and unexplainable. His worldview was and remains radically different from any other philosophy or leader. His pure life of peace and His willing substitutionary death sacrifice for His enemies is unlike anything anyone else has ever done or could ever do. This is why we accept it. This is why it is worthy and reasonable for all to accept it!
Paul humbly confesses that he had been a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent (violent) man but obtained forgiveness by God’s mercy and grace. He therefore calls himself the “chief” of sinners. I don’t believe Paul is downplaying our sin by saying he was “chief.” He is humbling himself and saying he is who and what he is because of grace. I believe he is inviting us to do the same – to see ourselves needing God’s forgiveness through mercy and grace, even if we think we are the worst of the worst. Christ came into the world to save sinners. Accept that He came to save you. It’s certain. It’s worthy of your acceptance.