I am always looking for trustworthy statements. They get my attention. I have missed God’s goal for my life (aka sin). Like Paul, I am one of the biggest sinners. It isn’t a contest but it is true. I beg for God’s kindness and mercy. I need his compassion. The good news is Jesus came to save all us. That means me! I am doing the happy dance on that one.
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that the Messiah Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. | 1 Timothy 1:15 (NASB)
How could the holy God ever save and forgive such a self-righteous sinner as me? The key words are “mercy” and “grace.” God in His mercy does not give me what I deserve; instead God in His grace gives me what I do not deserve. Grace and mercy are God’s love in action, God’s love paying a price to save lost sinners. It is not God’s love alone that saves us, for God loves the whole world. It is by grace that we are saved because God is rich in mercy and grace.
What did Paul’s “ignorance” have to do with his salvation? Is ignorance an excuse before God? Of course not! The fact of his ignorance is related to a special Jewish law. If a person sinned knowingly “with a high hand” in Israel, he was cut off from the people. But if he sinned in ignorance, he was permitted to bring the proper sacrifices to atone for his sins. Jesus recognized this principle when He prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. Their ignorance did not save them, nor did the Messiah’s prayer save them; but the combination of the two postponed God’s judgment, giving them an opportunity to be saved.
Paul stated that it took “exceedingly abundant” grace to save him! Paul liked to use the Greek prefix huper (meaning “an exceeding abundant amount”), and he often attached it to words in his letters. You might translate some of these as “superincrease of faith” (2 Thes. 1:3); “superabounding power” (Eph. 1:19); “superconqueror” (Rom. 8:37). This same prefix has come into the English language as hyper. We speak of “hyperactive” children and “hypersensitive” people.
Paul makes it clear that this salvation is not for him only, but for all who receive Jesus. If Jesus could save Saul of Tarsus, the chief of sinners, then He can save anybody! We admire Paul’s humility, and we note that he considered himself to be the “least of the apostles” and the “least of all saints”. Notice that Paul did not write “of whom I was chief” but “of whom I am chief.”
Paul starts this paragraph with the quotation of a saying that he describes as “trustworthy and deserving of total acceptance” because of his own experience of mercy and lavish grace.
“Trustworthy” means “worthy of belief,”
“deserving of total acceptance” means deserving to be accepted as true without a shred of doubt that it’s true. Just as Jesus considered Paul trustworthy, Paul presents this saying as trustworthy. The occurrence of “trustworthy” carries the meaning of faith, belief, trust.
“To save sinners” means to save them from the wrath of God that’s directed at them because of their sin.
“Of whom I am foremost” cites Paul as proof that Jesus’ coming into the world to save sinners is trustworthy and deserving of total acceptance. Since Jesus has saved Paul, the foremost of sinners, he’ll save any sinner who believes the message of Good News.
- 1 Timothy 1:15 (NASB) —It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that the Messiah Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
- Psalm 28:8–9 —The Master is their strength, And He is a saving defense to His anointed. Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; Be their shepherd also, and carry them forever.
- Matthew 1:21 — “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
- Luke 19:9–10 —And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
- John 3:17 — “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
- Hebrews 7:25 —Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
- Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 212–213). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (p. 834). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.