Truth On Fire

Site Search:

P.O. Box 432    |    Spring Hill, TN  37174    l    (904) 200-1671

Home  |  Gospel  |  Pastor's Pen  |  Doctrinal  |  Calvinism  |  About

The Chief of Sinners

Does Paul’s claim to be the chief of sinners still stand? The Saddam and Osama dramas currently playing themselves out on the world stage (plus the myriad of wicked men that preceded the diabolic duo since Paul made that claim) would seem to render obsolete any such designation for the apostle (1 Tim. 1:13-15). After all, to be the chief of sinners is to be top-ranked in that category—the worst of the worst! So, if the world of sinners had a Vile Championship Series (VCS), Paul would be in the title game every year—and win! Yes, there would be some close games, but the outcome would always be a “W” for the former Saul of Tarsus.

Paul prefaced his claim to chiefdom by declaring that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. His claim was a crescendo of sorts. Jesus went fishing…and caught the biggest fish! These words were no doubt meant to encourage pastor Timothy in his evangelistic efforts. The reasoning: If Jesus came to save sinners, and has already netted the chief among them, then no sinner is unsaveable…Saddam and Osama included! If all sinners are saveable, it follows that Jesus died for all, for no sinner is saveable if God made no atonement for that individual through the death of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s connect the dots.

After man’s fall, God made coats of skins to clothe Adam and Eve prior to expelling them from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:21). Adam and Eve were a microcosm embodying the whole world at that time! In making a provision for sin through the death of a substitute, God was figuratively and prophetically making atonement through the death of Christ for the ten billion or so men and women that would proceed from Adam’s loins. Therefore Isaiah affirmed: “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6). The words “us” and “all” refer to all who have gone astray, to every one who has turned to his or her own way. If we allow these words to have their obvious meaning, Isaiah envisioned every single member of the fallen human race!

John the Baptist concurred, for when he saw Jesus coming unto him, he cried: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29). Jesus affirmed the same to Nicodemus: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (3:14-15). God provided the brass serpent as an object of faith and a means of healing for those who were snake-bitten (Num. 21:4-9). God made provision for all who were perishing, but many for whom God made provision died for lack of looking in faith upon that provision. So, when Jesus continued with, “For God so loved the world”, and drew a distinct parallel between snake-bitten Israelites and sin-bitten humanity, he clearly defined the “world” as the sum total of those who were perishing as a result of sin. In others words, if you are a sinner, you are loved by God, who himself became the provision for your sin. All that stands between you and life eternal is a look of faith towards the One who loved you and gave himself for you! Beware of any man who brings his theological wrecking ball to the “world” of John 3:16, and dishonors Christ by excluding even one of the perishing that he included!

Paul was in that “world” of perishing, sin-bitten sinners for whom Christ died. He stated that Christ died for those who were sinners, without strength, and ungodly (Rom. 5:6-8). He reasoned that the death of Christ for all proved that all were spiritually dead (2 Cor. 5:14-15). Therefore Christ died for all who were spiritually dead. If Christ did not die for all men, those for whom Christ did not die were not spiritually dead. Neither were they sinners, nor ungodly, nor without strength, nor gone astray, nor turned to their own way, nor perishing. Jesus said he came to seek and to save that which was lost (Lk. 19:10). If there were some for whom Christ did not die, then they were not lost. Since all mean died spiritually with Adam and were lost in the fall, it follows that Jesus died for every man without distinction or exception. Have we connected enough dots?

In the same epistle to Timothy, Paul declared: “We trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe" (1 Tim. 4:10). “All men” represents the same “sinners” that Christ came into the world to save! In his death on the cross, Jesus represented sinners—all of them—and ordained that faith would be the delimiting factor in those who are saved and those who are lost! Adam knew this to be true, as did Moses, Isaiah, John the Baptist, Jesus, the apostle Paul, and John the beloved, who declared that Jesus was “the propitiation for our sins” and “for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2). I marvel that some men make it their business to gainsay this biblical truth, and eviscerate the gospel in the process!

Paul was indeed the chief of sinners, but why? My sense is it was the extraordinary degree of light that he rejected and trampled over in executing his atrocities against the church, and against Christ himself. In spite of their wicked and ungodly acts, neither Saddam, nor Osama, nor any of their ilk down through the centuries have sinned in the manner and to the extent that Paul did. Yet there was an unfathomable depth, breadth, and height in the mercy of God provided by Christ in his death for every sinner that eclipsed and by faith erased the sins of their chief! O what a Saviour, and what a message for a lost and dying world!


Copyright and Contact Statement