Journal 1 Tim 1 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: “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.
But I received mercy for this reason: that in me (as the foremost) Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” 1 Tim 1:15-16
Observation: Why did Paul assert that he was the foremost sinner? That doesn’t seem like the first-place trophy I would want to talk about…
Analysis: This is a subjective analysis of redemption to the face in the mirror.
Are the Scriptures saying, in all of Man’s generations, there has been no greater, no more accomplished sinner than Paul? “If you want to be a great sinner, come to God’s Word, gaze in these pages and you will find Paul, a sinner without peer!!”
Far from it. What I think Paul is saying, that compared to His Holiness, my life is without redemptive value—I am a sinner, and I am the greatest sinner I know.
It’s true, you know. I don’t know into anyone’s heart; I don’t know what God sees. I do know that from birth I am (not have been but am) a sinner. Ok, what do I do with that?
Understanding that OBJECTIVELY first is a requirement. It is why the Gospel makes sense and has power. It isn’t that Jesus died for a group of which I am a part of; He died for me, took my sin (root: rebel and traitor to God—conduct is only a characteristic of being a rebel and traitor), substituted himself to take the Wrath I deserve upon himself.
Understanding this SUBJECTIVELY is more difficult. My inner man, the Old Self, the Sinner that I am, wants to rebel against the Gospel facts. The general thought that exists within Man is “I am not as bad as this makes me sound. I am nice, kind, go to church faithfully, give, serve, etc. etc.” Or I want to do a comparative analysis: “I am not as bad as ‘so and so’ or ‘those guys.” Or I want to do a statistical analysis: “I do more “good works” than “bad or not-good works.”
This is one of the main (if not THE main) ideas that I need to “renew my mind to prove the Will of God” about—that I need the mercy of redemption because I DESERVE the whole and complete Wrath of God otherwise. Confession: This should drop me to my knees daily in fear and gratefulness—but it doesn’t. It should, though. Right now, I am still objectively pounding my confession in faith, hopefully that it will draw tears one day.
Again, why? Paul says it bluntly: The reason I received mercy (grace) as a sinner is so that Jesus manifests/displays his abundant and perfect Patience to those who are to receive eternal life. Paul says it another way in Romans: “What if God, desiring to show his wrath AND to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath (prepared for destruction), in order to MAKE KNOWN the riches of his Glory for vessels of mercy (which he prepared beforehand for glory) …Ro 9:22-23
Why does God put up with sinners like me and to offer redemption and to adopt me as a son and to conform/make me into the Image of the Son?
For His Glory as God.
Prayer: A thread here, a thread there: all of this to weave the Tapestry of the Gospel into a picture of undeniable Beauty of your Majesty. Father: help my feeble mind to grasp deeper and deeper your Gospel (which is really a practical picture of your Sovereign character).