1 Timothy 1:12-20: Worst of Sinners

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1 Timothy 1:12-20: Worst of Sinners

August 2, 2023


Ezra 3Proverbs 2Luke 13:10-211 Timothy 1:12-20

1 Timothy 1:12-20:

Paul is writing to Timothy to give him the necessary instructions to deal with the false teaching that had arisen in the church at the key city of Ephesus. Previously, he outlined what those false teachings were and how they were contradictory to the gospel. Now in this section, he illustrates from his own experience the power of the gospel – the true gospel – to produce changed lives. The false teachers were saying that human legalism and rules were what were needed to produce change and spiritual growth. But Paul is saying, no, such legalism and mysticism does not generate holiness or Christlikeness. It is Jesus himself by his Spirit through faith (the gospel) that produces such change. Well, now he illustrates that from his own life.

What could possibly be a greater example of the power of the gospel to change a person than the life of the apostle Paul? He was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man. But by the grace of Jesus, with faith and love, Paul was transformed to be a new man! He was the worst of sinners, and yet God had mercy on him. Why? So that his life and experience could stand as a permanent testimony to the extraordinary power of God.

Still today people often say that Christ and faith in him is insufficient to change people. That if you just preach the gospel, if you just believe the gospel, then you will not have the practical power you need to live a different life. But then let us look at Paul: he was once Saul, a violent persecutor of the faith, and then by grace he became Paul. This is the great example that proves that the person of Jesus is sufficient and that his gospel can make someone right with God and live in right way before God.

And so at the heart of this passage – and this “command” that he gives to Timothy – is to preach the gospel, correct the false teachers. So Paul gives Timothy a short saying to remember, and it is one that we would do well to learn by heart as well. This is the way Paul puts it:

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.”

Of course, in a sense we can all truly confess that we are the worst of sinners. That is something of the nature of the gospel and the true conviction of sin that when the Spirit comes upon us we are horrified by what we have done and who we are outside of Christ. A true Christian knows that he is the worst of sinners. What could be worse than what I have done? It was John Newton who said as he was dying that he could not remember much but this he could remember: that he was a great sinner and Christ was a great Savior. What else do we need to remember? Christ is sufficient.

So let us learn this verse from this passage and take it to heart. When Paul begins a sentence with this characteristic phrase, “Here is a trustworthy saying,” he is wanting us to pay especial attention to it, and even perhaps commit it to memory. Could you memorize (if you haven’t already) this passage, or at least repeat it out loud if you are able where you are when you are reading this, or at the very least say it over in your mind.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.”

Paul is saying, “That, Timothy, is what I want you to remember. I want you to remember it as you face your own sins and difficulties and trials. I want you to remember it as you face the shortness of this life and the eternal expanse of life after death to come. That it is Christ who saves, as my life (says Paul) proves: for he who can even transform me, the worst of sinners, can also transform you who come to him in faith and trust and commitment today.”


Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.


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