πŸ’‘πŸ‘‘ Was Paul the Chief of Sinners?

“What did Paul mean when he said he was the chief of sinners?”

β€œβ€¦Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Tim. 1:15)

When we think of sinners, we generally think of those who commit carnal, fleshly sins such as fornication and murder. But the Bible speaks ofΒ anotherΒ kind of sin, that of religious pride and hypocritical self-righteousness. You’d think God would hate fleshly sins more, but when the Lord was here, He was kind and patient to sinners of that genre. By contrast, He deliveredΒ blisteringΒ denunciations of the scribes and Pharisees for their religious pride and self-righteousness, and for their persecution of their Messiah.

But it doesn’t really matter which sort of sin is worse in the context of this question, for before he was saved, Paul was guilty ofΒ bothΒ varieties. Murder is the worst sort of fleshly sins, and he was guilty of murdering God’s people. But he persecuted them in religious self-righteousness, for β€œtouching the righteousness which is in the law” he was β€œblameless” (Phil. 3:6). This sinful combination certainly made him theΒ chiefΒ of sinners.

In addition, the Bible word β€œchief” can meanΒ most prominent, as it does when it speaks of β€œthe chief singer” (Hab. 3:19) and β€œchief priests” (Ezra 10:5). The word can also have the idea ofΒ leadership.Β β€œThe chief man” on the island where Paul was shipwrecked (Acts 28:7) was probably the leader of those native people, and β€œBeelzebub the chief of devils” (Luke 11:15) was a reference to Satan, who is certainly the leader of all devils.

So in calling himself the chief of sinners, Paul wasΒ alsoΒ saying that he was the most prominent leader of the world’s sinful rebellion against God (Acts 8:3; 9:1). That’s why God saved him, to prominently show His grace in him (1 Tim. 1:16), just as HeΒ judgedΒ Pharaoh, the world’s most prominent and powerful leader, to show HisΒ powerΒ inΒ himΒ (Exod. 9:16).

This might be why Paul used the present tense to say he wasΒ still the chief of sinners, even now that he was saved. He was still the world’s most prominent example of the worst kinds of sinner saved by grace. source

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God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; — Hebrews 1:1-2

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