Lord, give us a living knowledge of sin and a living faith in You. Amen.
Text: First Timothy 1:12-16
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has 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. 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. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
Seldom is this heard among the children of God: “I am chief among sinners; no one can be so wretched and awful as I am.” If this is sincere in you and not idle words on your tongue, then it is a great miracle of grace by God’s Spirit. For we are by nature blind to our own defects, see the speck in our brother’s eye, but not the plank in our own eye (Mat 7:3). Only when we stand before God and see ourselves clearly in the mirror of God’s holy law are we so humble of heart that we can say with the Apostle: “I am chief among sinners;” “I am less than the least of all the saints” (Eph 3:8). Many perhaps have such feelings at certain times in their life; but I fear that only a few among us really are so God-fearing. All the division and disunity that exists indicates neither a deep knowledge of sin nor humility. But let Paul be an example to correct us. Let us, like him, go before the holy God and have the brightness of His countenance shine upon us; then we shall become less in our own eyes and forget to find fault with those who stand beside us.
However, the Holy Spirit has written this Bible passage for comfort to all who are concerned about the magnitude of their sins. The law condemns you, but Jesus does not. For that very purpose He came down to earth, to save sinners. Do you think He won’t do what He came to do? “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.” Hear then how the Holy Spirit in Paul bears witness and wants to help us to believe. But if you think your sin is great, then He has also known this and given you Paul as an example. Paul sincerely says that he is the chief among sinners. It doesn’t only seem so, but he says it with clear certainty that it is so, &ndasp; and he obtained mercy. Won’t you also obtain mercy then? He had blasphemed, persecuted, and despised Jesus and breathed threats against Him. “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem” (Act 9:13). He “did it ignorantly in unbelief,” he says; but he isn’t trying to excuse himself; on the contrary, it was his own fault that he was so blind. Yet now he can obtain mercy for this, and it is given to him as the greatest sinner, he says, so that all others, all other great sinners, may know that they too may obtain mercy. If indeed the chief of sinners obtained mercy, then it is impossible for your sin to be so great that it cannot be taken away by grace. There is not a sinner in the world who prays from the heart for forgiveness who will not receive it. For the Lord’s mercy is so surpassingly great. “For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him” (Psa 103:11). Never has Jesus sent any penitent sinner away, and He never will.
God of mercy and grace, praise and honor to You forever. Amen.
Now in this faith I will abide
Until my days are ended.
I will not fear what may betide –
I am by faith defended.
God’s Word a token doth remain
That in this faith I shall retain
The promised crown and glory.
Brorson: By faith we are divinely sure L 165:10 ELH 229:5 tr. J. C. Aaberg; Translation © 1930, 1958 Lutheran Intersynodical Hymnal Committee. Used by permission of Augsburg Fortress.;