Monday, March 25, 2013

News Flash: I'm Not the Chief of Sinners

...and neither are you.

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.  Apostle Paul - 1 Timothy 1:15 KJV

It is easy to think that we are to view ourselves as the chief sinner.  Many have taken this verse as a recommendation from Paul to do so.  We should be at the point of seeing our sin so much more than we see the sin of others, that we can make this statement: "I am the chief of sinners."  But should this be our attitude?

It may speak of our piety; but it may equally - or more so - speak of our pietism.  Some people seem to boast in how great of sinners they are.  Should this be the case?  There's a reason Paul speaks of himself as the chief of sinners, and it's not so that we will think the same of ourselves.  It is because he really was the chief of sinners.  After all, he pursued the church, dragging people from their very homes into prison and to death in order to destroy the Christian church.  He was the most violent persecutor of Christ's body there was.

Me?  Well, although I am a sinner, I haven't done the things he did.  And you haven't, either.  On the flip side of the coin, I'm not quite the zealous apostle he was after his conversion.  And neither are you.  God turned the worst of men into the best of servants in his kingdom.  There is no fault in realizing that some people are worse sinners than we are, and some people are better saints than we are.  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I fall somewhere in the middle.


  1. Good article, Steve. It seems I remember the person who wrote a popular book on humility used to brag about being a chief sinner. That used to make me laugh.

  2. HA! Wow. I wish I had stumbled on this article about two years ago, when I was involved with a church that took this view. There was much focus on seeing yourself as more and more sinful (so that you could have a greater and greater view of God). I think to some extent that's true, but it was made out to be THE primary way of understanding the Gospel. (I thought the freedom of the Gospel means we DON'T have to focus on our sins anymore!)

    We definitely saw this belief crop up, that everyone should focus on themselves as being the worst sinner ever, because to believe that someone else was a "worse" sinner than you was actually undermining the Gospel (we had entire sermons dedicated to proving that every person, no matter where they were in life or their faith journey, was equally sinful and should not be seen with any shade of difference whatsoever--or we were getting the Gospel wrong).

    In all honesty, I believe that an intense focus on sin leads you to think more about yourself than God (even though the goal of this attitude is supposedly to make you focus on and glorify God MORE--in my experience, this wasn't how it worked out).

  3. When the law exposes us, we often feel like the worst (or best?) of sinners.

    When I look back at the train wreck that I call my past, honestly, I do see someone who, at the time (maybe) thought nothing, or little of it...but I see a real scumbag in the way I handled my humanity and in the way I hurt others along the way.

    I know it's all covered. i know that I am forgiven. But sin is so often the gift that keeps on giving.