Monday, April 9, 2012

identification as a sinner

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 identified with the real human condition. He knew that he was a saved sinner. It was a way for him to identify with and appreciate the gospel in a real and truthful way. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (the gospel). And Paul was the foremost sinner (identification).

What Paul was doing was not any kind of unhealthy fixation with his sinful past. On the contrary, he is celebrating salvation and new life in Christ. But he also does not want to forget his wonderful salvation. By owning his own sinfulness and Christ's salvation of sinners, Paul is passing on his sense of hope and forgiveness. He wants others to accept the "trustworthy" statement of the gospel. And in celebrating the impact of this on his own life, Paul is adding to the appeal of a message that saved even a foremost sinner like he was.

There has to be a simple humility that must attend our preaching of the gospel. Paul was not pointing his finger at others (although he does list the unholy deeds of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:9-10). Instead, he is humbly acknowledging his own deep sinful condition and trusting Christ who came into the world to save sinners. Paul puts himself on the list of sinners... at the very top! His own personal testimony was the primary reason for the primacy of the gospel in his heart. He was not getting over grace shown to him in Jesus. By acknowledging his sinful state, he is exalting his great Savior.

Paul's example helps me understand how my own humble testimony ought to attend my telling of the gospel to others. It is not so much that I point fingers at others' sin. It is more that I acknowledge my own sin and how Jesus saves me from it. That is a powerful part of the gospel message. And I should not shrink away from identifying myself as a saved sinner.

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