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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Timothy 1:15

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - This is one of the most glorious truths in the book of God; the most important that ever reached the human ear, or can be entertained by the heart of man. All men are sinners; and as such condemned, justly condemned, to eternal death. Christ Jesus became incarnate, suffered, and died to redeem them; and, by his grace and Spirit, saves them from their sins. This saying or doctrine he calls, first, a faithful or true saying; πιστος ὁ λογος, it is a doctrine that may be credited, without the slightest doubt or hesitation; God himself has spoken it; and the death of Christ and the mission of the Holy Ghost, sealing pardon on the souls of all who believe, have confirmed and established the truth.

Secondly, it is worthy of all acceptation; as all need it, it is worthy of being received by all. It is designed for the whole human race, for all that are sinners is applicable to all, because all are sinners; and may be received by all, being put within every man's reach, and brought to every man's ear and bosom, either by the letter of the word, or, where that revelation is not yet come, by the power of the Divine Spirit, the true light from Christ that lightens every man that cometh into the world. From this also it is evident that the death of Christ, and all its eternally saving effects, were designed for every man.

Of whom I am chief - Ὡν πρωτος ειμι εγω . Confounding Paul the apostle, in the fullness of his faith and love, with Saul of Tarsus, in his ignorance, unbelief, and persecuting rage, we are in the habit of saying: "This is a hyperbolical expression, arguing the height of the apostle's modesty and humility and must not be taken according to the letter." I see it not in this light; I take it not with abatement; it is strictly and literally true: take the whole of the apostle's conduct, previously to his conversion, into consideration, and was there a greater sinner converted to God from the incarnation to his own time? Not one; he was the chief; and, keeping his blasphemy, persecution, and contumely in view, he asserts: Of all that the Lord Jesus came into the world to save, and of all that he had saved to that time, I am chief. And who, however humble now, and however flagitious before, could have contested the points with him? He was what he has said, and as he has said it. And it is very probable that the apostle refers to those in whom the grace and mercy of God were, at the first promulgation of the Gospel, manifested: and comparing himself with all these he could with propriety say, ὡν πρωτος ειμι, of whom I am the first; the first who, from a blasphemer, persecutor (and might we not add murderer? see the part he took in the martyrdom of Stephen), became a preacher of that Gospel which I had persecuted. And hence, keeping this idea strictly in view, he immediately adds: Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy; that in me First, πρωτῳ, Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern To Them which should Hereafter, των μελλοντων believe on him to life everlasting. And this great display of the pardoning mercy of God, granted in so singular a manner, at the very first promulgation of the Gospel, was most proper to be produced as a pattern for the encouragement of all penitent sinners to the end of time. If Jesus Christ, with whom there can be no respect of persons, saved Saul of Tarsus, no sinner need despair.

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These files are public domain.

Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https: 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

This is a faithful saying - Greek, “Faithful is the word,” or doctrine - ὁ λογος ho logosThis verse has somewhat the character of a parenthesis, and seems to have been thrown into the midst of the narrative because the mind of the apostle was full of the subject. He had said that he, a great sinner, had obtained mercy. This naturally led him to think of the purpose for which Christ came into the world - to save sinners - and to think how strikingly that truth had been illustrated in his own case, and how that case had shown that it was worthy the attention of all. The word rendered “saying,” means in this place doctrine, position, or declaration. The word “faithful,” means assuredly true; it was that which might be depended on, or on which reliance might be placed. The meaning is, that the doctrine that Christ came to save sinners might be depended on as certainly true; compare 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8.

And worthy of all acceptation - Worthy to be embraced or believed by all. This is so, because:

(1) all are sinners and need a Saviour. All, therefore ought to welcome a doctrine which shows them how they may be saved.

(2) because Christ died for all. If he had died for only a part of the race, and could save only a part, it could not be said with any propriety that the doctrine was worthy of the acceptance of all. If that were so, what had it to do with all? How could all be interested in it or benefited by it If medicine had been provided for only a part of the patients in a hospital, it could not be said that the announcement of such a fact was worthy the attention of all. It would be highly worthy the attention of those for whom it was designed, but there would be a part who would have nothing to do with it; and why should they concern themselves about it? But if it was provided for each one, then each one would have the highest interest in it. So, if salvation has been provided for me, it is a matter claiming my profoundest attention; and the same is true of every human being. If not provided for me, I have nothing to do with it. It does not concern me at all.

See this subject discussed at length in the supplementary note on 2 Corinthians 5:14.

(3) the manner in which the provision of salvation has been made in the gospel is such as to make it worthy of universal acceptation. It provides for the complete pardon of sin, and the restoration of the soul to God. This is done in a way that is honorable to God - maintaining his law and his justice; and, at the same time, it is in a way that is honorable to man. He is treated afterward as a friend of God and an heir of life. He is raised up from his degradation, and restored to the favor of his Maker. If man were himself to suggest a way of salvation, he could think of none that would be more honorable to God and to himself; none that would do so much to maintain the law and to elevate him from all that now degrades him. What higher honor can be conferred on man than to have his salvation sought as an object of intense and earnest desire by one so great and glorious as the Son of God?

(4) it is worthy of all acceptance, from the nature of the salvation itself. Heaven is offered, with all its everlasting glories, through the blood of Christ - and is not this worthy of universal acceptation? People would accept of a coronet or crown; a splendid mansion, or a rich estate; a present of jewels and gold, if freely tendered to them - but what trifles are these compared with heaven! If there is anything that is worthy of universal acceptation, it is heaven - for all will be miserable unless they enter there.

That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - The great and unique doctrine of the gospel. He “came into the world.” He therefore had a previous existence. He came. He had, therefore, an object in coming. It makes his gospel more worthy of acceptation that he had an intention, a plan, a wish, in thus coming into the world. He came when he was under no necessity of coming; he came to save, not to destroy; to reveal mercy, not to denounce judgment; to save sinners - the poor, the lost, the wandering, not to condemn them; he came to restore them to the favor of God, to raise them up from their degradation, and to bring them to heaven.

Of whom I am chief - Greek, “first.” The word is used to denote eminence - and it means that he occupied the first rank among sinners. There were none who surpassed him. This does not mean that he had been the greatest of sinners in all respects, but that in some respects he had been so great a sinner, that on the whole there were none who had surpassed him. That to which he particularly refers was doubtless the part which he had taken in putting the saints to death; but in connection with this, he felt, undoubtedly, that he had by nature a heart eminently prone to sin; see Philemon 3:6; Acts 26:4-5. After his conversion, he never attempted to extenuate his conduct, or excuse himself. He was always ready, in all circles, and in all places, to admit to its fullest extent the fact that he was a sinner. So deeply convinced was he of the truth of this, that he bore about with him the constant impression that he was eminently unworthy; and hence he does not say merely that he had been a sinner of most aggravated character, but he speaks of it as something that always pertained to him - “of whom I am chief.” We may remark:

(1)that a true Christian will always be ready to admit that his past life has been evil;

(2)that this will become the abiding and steady conviction of the soul; and,

(3)that an acknowledgment that we are sinners is not inconsistent with evidence of piety, and with high attainments in it. The most eminent Christian has the deepest sense of the depravity of his own heart and of the evil of his past life.

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These files are public domain.

Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https: 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

1 Timothy 1:15

This is a faithful saying.

The gospel in a sentence

I. The mission of the Son of God is here set forth--He “came into the world.” This expression would be an extravagance if it referred only to ordinary human parentage. The pre-existence of our Lord in a higher state was unquestionably an accepted axiom among the early Christians, a commonplace of primitive Christian belief; and we, believing in His deity, offer Him our lowly adoration as well as our thanks and love.

II. The purpose of his mission could not be set forth more clearly and concisely than in the words, He came “to save sinners.” His object was not to become the temporal king of the Jewish people, nor yet to give the light of scientific, or philosophical, or even ethical knowledge to the Gentiles; but to redeem men from the condemnation of the law, and to deliver them from their sins. To reverence Him as a kingly man, or to honour Him as a great teacher only, is but an imperfect acknowledgment of His claims.

III. The exemplification of this purpose, given by Paul, is drawn from his own experience. He says, respecting himself, of sinners, “I am chief.” The word “sinners” is the same as occurs in the ninth verse, where it denotes those for whom the law was a necessity, for rebuke and restraint. Whom the law came to condemn, Jesus came to save. When, under the influence of chloroform, some critical operation is performed, and the patient wakes up to find that it is over, a great feeling of thankfulness rises up in his breast at the whisper, “thank God it has been successful,” for he knows that life is saved; but he would feel still more thankful if he knew what the skilful surgeon does, that there was only a fractional part of an inch in this direction or in that between him and death. Paul knew better than we do what he had been saved from here and hereafter, and his intensity of feeling about sin was an element in his spiritual greatness. May God give us also humbling views of ourselves and adoring thoughts of Him who has saved us! Conclusion: The truth that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, is “worthy of all acceptation.” “It is a faithful saying,” worthy of implicit credence, of absolute reliance, for it will not give way though you lean the whole weight of your soul’s salvation on it. It is worthy of acceptance by all men. And it is worthy of every kind of acceptation; worthy of being embraced by every faculty of mind, and heart, and will. You may understand it as a theological doctrine, but that is not enough; you may love it as a familiar pleasant-sounding phrase, but that is not enough. It deserves the homage of your entire nature. (A. Rowland, LL. B.)

The object of Christ’s coming into the world

The person of the Saviour is to be considered; and “what think ye of Christ?” In the text, it is true, He is described by terms especially significant of His mediatorial character and work--He is called “Christ,”--a title of office, significant of the proper designation of the world’s Redeemer by the Father, to the distinct and essential offices of Prophet, Priest, and King--the Anointed, the Great Teacher; and who teacheth like Him? the anointed High Priest and the great High Priest who hath offered Himself a sacrifice, once for all, in His own body on the tree--and the anointed King in Zion who sits upon His throne, who rules in the midst of the earth--rules for the subjugation of His enemies, and for the protection of His friends! His advent into our world is here announced. “He came”--but the very language supposes His pre-existence--He necessarily was before He “came” into the world--yes, pre-existing with the Divine Father from everlasting; for “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” He came into our world after He had been promised, in the earlier periods of time, to the patriarchs--and this promise they saw, and this promise they believed, and this promise they embraced, and they died in the faith of the Redeemer that should come. He curse into the world after He had been shadowed forth by the various types and symbols which marked the Mosaic Institute; and at last, “when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law,” to redeem them that were under the law. “Christ Jesus came into the world.” And what a world, my friends! Not a world prepared to greet and hail Him as its Lord--not a world prepared to receive and welcome Him, no! a world of rebels, a world of sinners--a fallen world, a guilty, perishing world, a world that was going down to ruin; and to ruin it inevitably would have gone, had it not been for the intervention of this high, this almighty Deliverer! What, then, was His errand in coming into our world? When God becomes incarnate there must be some mighty object to achieve--there must be some great end to accomplish to justify such an interposition. To this inquiry the text furnishes the answer, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This was the great object. He came to procure salvation for us--He came that He might bestow salvation upon us--the former in order to the latter. Still, however, though our sin is atoned and salvation procured, an unapplied remedy, you know, is of no service. It is not enough that the ransom has been paid; we must be liberated and share the blessings of freedom. If it be true that Christ has come to procure salvation for us, by His meritorious obedience unto death, then is it equally necessary that He should be exalted to bestow it. He saves from the power of sin by the power of grace richly communicated to the heart of the believer--a power that overturns the power of sin! Yes; and “sin shall not have dominion over you,” says the apostle; “for ye are not under the law but under grace.” He saves from all the condemnation and defilement of sin, by the cleansing virtues of His blood, by the healing power of His grace. Still, however, the salvation of Jesus Christ is not merely a negative thing--it consists not merely in deliverance from the guilt and positive evils to which, by sin, we are exposed. He walks in the light of God’s countenance, he derives comfort from the great Fountain of all Consolation; now it is that the Word of God is the rule, now it is that the love of God is the principle, now it is that the glory of God is the grand end of all his actions! But then, we have to leave this world--this is not our home; here we have no continuing place of abode; and we want not only saving while we live, but when we die. The salvation of Jesus is commensurate with all our necessities, it is adequate to all our demands, it contains all that our circumstances require; and He who saves us in life will not abandon us in death! Welt do I remember--never, while memory holds her seat, shall I forget--what was spoken to me by the late Mr. Robert Spence, of York. Passing through that city, I had once an opportunity of calling upon that excellent man, who had himself been a preacher of righteousness for more than half a century; and said he, “I thought, ere now, that I would have been at the end of my journey--that ere now I should have arrived at my Father’s house; but it has pleased the Heavenly Grace to spare me a little longer, and I feel considerably stronger than I was. But when I came into this room and happened to pass that glass, I caught a sight of myself--I was struck,” said the venerable man; “I thought what a little, old, infirm creature I had become--a mere remnant of myself; but instantly,” continued he, “I lifted up my heart to the Lord, and I was favoured with such a manifestation of His grace and love that, though alone”--but he was not alone, for God was with him--“I said, ‘Well, welcome, old man! welcome, infirmity! welcome, death! and welcome, heaven!’“ Yes; and the religion of Jesus can make him rejoice in the midst of affliction, and welcome infirmity, welcome old age, and welcome death; because death, to the Christian, is but the gate of life. Then, though the body go down to mingle with the clods of the valley, the ransomed spirit wings its etherial flight to the regions of eternal day! The body, too, is to be saved! One said to me lately, “Oh, never mind the body!” but Jesus Christ remembers the body. He is the Saviour of the body as well as of the soul; and we look for Him in this way we look for Him that He may “change our vile bodies and fashion them like to His own glorious body, according to the working of that mighty power whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.”

II. What is the light in which mankind ought to regard this saying? First, as “a true saying”; and then, as “worthy of all acceptation.” Let it be remarked, then, that those whom it pleased God to employ in order to propagate this saying, in the first instance, always affirmed that it was true. Besides, the God of essential and eternal truth has been pleased to affix His broad seal to this saying. He could not give His seal to a lie. How is this? Why, He enabled those men to perform miracles in order to attest it. How do you prove, inquired another, that what you declare is true? Bring hither yon leper, excluded from all intercourse with his fellow beings, standing afar off, bring “him” hither to me, and in the name of this Jesus, and to prove that He “came into the world to save sinnners, I pronounce the word, and his leprosy shall immediately depart from him!” And it was so! The saying again is pronounced and the question is repeated. Bring hither the dead body, says an apostle, you are about to cast it forth into the tomb; but no, bring it hither; I pronounce the word, and that dead body shall start into life! And it was so! There is another way, however, in which the truth of this saying is to be ascertained, and it is, of all others, the most satisfactory and consoling. It is in the way of experiment, bringing this truth to trial, to the test. How is this? Why, here is a man, and I have now present in my mind’s eye a case which, I suppose, twenty years ago actually occurred--here is a man who in early youth begins to think it would be to his credit to begin to evince independency of mind, to throw off all the fetters of education and early impressions, and to think for himself. He associates with those who speak with great disrespect of this Divine volume, who begin to sneer, or have been in the habit of sneering, at all serious religion and serious Christians: by and by he begins to imbibe their spirit, and to acquaint himself with all the objections urged against revealed religion; by and by he begins also to sneer and laugh at the Bible, he casts off fear and plunges headlong into infidelity; he is then, perhaps, admired as a man of liberal mind, of genius, and of intelligence; and the individual I refer to was a man of fine understanding and cultivated mind; but by and by disease marked him out as its victim, he saw some of his companions in infidelity die; not one of them died comfortably--some of them died most awfully; he began to consider with himself, Whither, after all, am I going? I never disbelieved the Being of a God; but then, although I have always regarded Him as a good and benevolent Being, have I acted as I should, as a creature--as a dependent being, sustained by His power and bounty? Have I always revered and loved and served Him as I ought? This I have not done! What have I done? I go to my natural religion, as it is sometimes called; I study moral virtue, I endeavour to do good, and thus endeavour to recommend myself to this benevolent Being. But in natural religion he finds no relief for a troubled mind, no balm for a guilty conscience. What, thought he, shall I do? I will have recourse once more to the Bible, I shall begin to read it seriously. He did read it, the more he read it the deeper was the impression on his mind, that this is no human fabrication, in this book surely God has spoken: he read, and on every page he saw something of this Saviour and about this salvation. The thought flashed upon his mind, and he exclaimed, Oh, that this were but true! Oh, that I could believe this! I should find relief immediately: here is a system adapted to my condition. Oh, if it were but true, that “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners,” make an atonement for sin, and procure salvation for me! Here is a System that suits my case and provides for my necessities! Oh, that it were true! At last he resolved to make the experiment: he read this book, and sincerely prayed to God to teach him what is truth. I believe he read this very text, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Is this the saying, and is this Jesus the Saviour of sinners? Oh, help me, he prayed, to believe this, teach me to believe this, I desire to believe this, I would believe this! Lord, I believe this--help Thou my unbelief! I venture my soul on this Saviour--I cast myself on this atoning sacrifice. What happened? “His chains fell off--his heart was free!” His load of guilt was removed, his misery was banished; icy and peace and love unspeakable sprang up in his heart, and his soul began to exult, disburthened of its load. Not many days had elapsed before he met one of his old companions, who had grown gray in infidelity. What is this, he inquired, that I hear of you? I hear you have become a Christian! How do you know that there is a word of truth in the whole affair? How do you know that such a being as Jesus ever existed? Know! was the reply, know! I know it by an argument of which you never were the master, I know it by a process to which you are a total stranger, I know it is true that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” for Jesus Christ has saved me! Well, then, but it is not only “a true saying” and worthy merely of all attention, examination, and observation, commending itself to the approbation of every well-regulated mind, but it is also “worthy of all acceptation.” It is worthy of acceptation because of its truth; if not true, it could have no just claim upon--it would be unworthy our acceptation. It is worthy of acceptation, again, because it is so vitally interesting. A thing may be true and yet not interesting to me; but here is a saying which is proved to be true, and which is surpassingly interesting to all the children of men. What so worthy the acceptance of the diseased man, as some sovereign specific which shall not only remove the malady but restore to health and vigour his emaciated frame? The saying has been accepted by the great, the wise, and the good, in different countries and ages of the Church; yes, and some of the greatest and wisest of men that ever lived, of learning, too, various and profound, have received this saying--have stedfastly believed its truth and realized its power. And who art thou who art giving thyself credit for having superior lights and superior intellects? But not only is this saying worthy of acceptance, but “of all acceptation”--of the acceptance of all. If, in the next place, any portion of our race in any part of our world, could be found, who were absolutely and irrevocably excluded from all interest and benefit in this saying, I honestly confess to you, that I see not how such a portion of our race could regard this saying as worthy their acceptation. That is not, that cannot be worthy my acceptance, in which I cannot, by any possibility, have any interest. And not only is this worthy the acceptation of all, but of the highest acceptation of all. As though the apostle had said, This is no ordinary saying; it is a message from the throne--a message of mercy from the throne; oh, hail it, welcome it, receive it as coming from the throne, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners! “ And having thus realized the truth and power of this saying ourselves, let us do all that we can to circulate it--let us always speak well of this Jesus, and endeavour to recommend the Saviour to all our fellow creatures. (R. Newton, D. D.)

The faithful saying

I. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

1. Jesus Christ was somewhere in existence before He was seen here. He “came into the world.” Think of a new planet or star just created in our system and shining forth. We should never say, it is come here; we should say this of a planet or star that had travelled into our system from some distant region. And it was from a region distant indeed that Christ came here, from a heavenly one; and the place He held in that region, was the most distant and the highest. He was not an angel in heaven; He was the everlasting God. He came from the very summit, the lofty throne, of heaven to save us.

2. There are lost sinners in our world, whom it was needful for Christ to come into our world to save. Every man that breathes in our world is a sinner. And every sinner everywhere is necessarily a lost sinner. This is the nature of sin, it ruins whomsoever it touches; ruins him fatally and irrecoverably; in Scripture language, it destroys him. And on this property of sin, the ruinous nature of it, is grounded partly the necessity of Christ’s interposition in our behalf. We say that His coming from His throne to save us, shows the greatness of His love to us, and so it does; but it shows as plainly the greatness of our misery.

3. And when Christ came into the world to save sinners, He came determined to save them. He knew He could do so, otherwise He would not have come. We do not go to the frozen regions of the north to gather there the flowers and fruits of sunny climes. We never think of going into vaults and charnel houses to raise the dead. Nor would our blessed Lord have come into the world for our salvation, had He not felt as He came, that He could work out salvation for us.

II. The description St. Paul gives us here of the truth he states. He calls it a “saying,” “a faithful saying,” and one “worthy of all acceptation.”

1. It is a saying. And who says it? God Himself, Christ Himself. He might have come into our world, and never have told us that He had come here, or why He had come. And it is not God or Christ only, who says this. The prophets declared it before it took place: the glorious company of the apostles said it afterwards; the noble army of martyrs died rather than not say it; the holy Church throughout all the world has in every age acknowledged it; and as for the Church above, it says this oftener, perhaps, than it says anything else, and loves to say it better. Heaven often resounds with this saying and other sayings like it.

2. And this is a faithful saying, a true one. It is not only said, but it ought to be said, for it is true as truth itself. He had what St. John calls a testimony or witness of this truth within himself. He knew it, just as we know at this moment that our hearts are beating, and our pulses going, and that we are living and breathing men. He had experience of the fact. And valuable as are the many outward testimonies we have to the truth of the gospel, and convincing as they are to a sound, unbiassed judgment, they are all nothing in comparison with this

3. This saying too, we are told, is worthy of all acceptation. The words will admit of two interpretations. It is, first, as our com-reunion service renders the passage, “Worthy to be received of all men.” Few sayings are so. Many things which we hear are worth no man’s attention. They are either false or trifling; they are better not listened to. And others have only a limited interest. They may be worthy of one man’s notice, but not another man’s, for they do not concern him. This saying, however, concerns every man, and concerns him deeply. O how eagerly will some of us listen to some things I the news of the day perhaps, the scandal of our neighbourhood, and the trifling occurrences that fill up the trifling lives of our fellow-men!--things, it may be, in which we have little more interest than the inhabitants of some distant planet; but this saying, to which sometimes we have scarcely an ear to give, involves in it the highest interests of us all. This saying is worthy also of the utmost reception we can give it, the most entire and cordial acceptance. Some things that we hear are worth putting into our memories but not into our hearts; they are dry matters of fact. But here is something worthy of our memories and hearts also; worthy of being attended to, worthy of being remembered, worthy of being thought on and studied, worthy of being delighted in, worthy of being laid hold of by our whole heart and mind--in this sense, “worthy of all acceptation.” A feeble or cold reception of this saying is no reception at all of it. Where the gospel saves the soul, the heart first opens itself to receive it, and when it is in the heart, the heart feels it to be its treasure and its joy.

III. The view which the apostle takes of himself while contemplating this truth. Of the sinners, he says, whom Christ Jesus came into the world to save, “I am chief.” (C. Bradley, M. A.)

Worthy of all acceleration

I. It is worthy of all acceptation because it is the full development of the theme with which revelation is charged; it lies not only in the track, but it is the full outcome of all that God has been aiming at in all His providential guidance and government of men, from the first days of the creation to the hour when the “Child was born, the Son was given,” whom He had from of old promised to the world. From the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of the Apocalypse, the main thread in the Scripture is this work, the saving of sinners. And if we study it we shall find that it is the vital core of all the great movements of human society. The Bible opens with the statement that the great burden of man’s existence here is sin, and that the great need of man’s being is salvation. The inner meaning of it is true for all time, and is the key, I believe the Divine key, to human history. The theme there is sin, wilful, conscious, guilty transgression, revealed as the root of all man’s infirmity, degradation, and misery.

II. It is worthy of all acceptation, for it alone explains and justifies the whole course of human history. This life of ours is altogether too sad, too burdensome, too dark a thing to be suffered to live on, if there be no great hope for the future to lighten it. The world is very beautiful and glorious, you may say; it is a happy thing to be born with faculties finely touched like ours into a world like this. Yes, unspeakably beautiful and glorious is this earth of ours, and our life here might well be a paradise of pure delights. But sin poisons all. Despite of all the beauty, all the joy, the great masterpieces of human thought and utterance are in the minor key. Sadness is the dominant tone in all our literature, sorrow is the staple experience of mankind. I say frankly, that if I were compelled to look at life and the world, cut off from all the comfort and hope which streams down upon us through the Christian faith, I should be sorely tempted to the conclusions of the pessimist philosophy, that there has been some terrible blundering in the constitution of the world. But set in the heart of it all Christ’s mission to save, and the darkness lights up in a moment. This dread experience of sin becomes through grace a stage in an unending progress. This school of our discipline, this house of our bondage, this field of our conflict, is but a stage of development, a step of progress, and all its deepest experiences have relation to blessed and glorious issues in eternity.

III. It is worthy of all acceptation, for it is essential to the dignity and the worth of life. Is life worth the living? Yes, a thousand times yes, if it is the life of a forgiven man in a redeemed world. What man needs is not to forget sin, to make light of it, to shut out the world of spiritual terrors which it unveils. It will not be shut out. What man needs is free loving and righteous forgiveness--forgiveness which is not a weak winking at transgression, or an idle peace, peace where there is no peace, but a forgiveness resting on an atonement which reveals righteousness, magnifies law, and satisfies the deepest convictions of man’s righteous conscience on the one hand, and the holy heart of God on the other. This horrible doctrine of the absolute indelibility of transgression has been the cause of untold anguish through all the ages of human history. Sin must fruit in sorrow, and forgiveness cannot annul the act of sin, or obliterate its issues. But there is an infinite difference between the experience of the man who is working out the penalty of sin, with the sense that behind the sorrow there is the vindictive hand of the law-giver, who will exact the uttermost farthing of retribution, and that of the Christian, who knows that behind all that he endures, and is entirely reconciled to enduring, is the eye and the hand of the Almighty Father of his spirit; an eye which watches his struggles and sorrows with the tenderest compassion, a hand which is guiding and ruling all the discipline to blessed and glorious issues in eternity. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation; for through it, “where sin abounded grace doth much more abound; that, as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

IV. It is worthy of all acceptation, because, while it lends dignity and worth to life, it alone lends hope to immortality. An essential part of the benign work of love is the reconciliation of man with law. Forgiveness is a blessed fact, unspeakably blessed, but chiefly as the means of realizing a still more blessed fact--purification. On that absolutely the well-being and the bliss of the soul rests in eternity. And what is the cry of all the nobler heathen faiths? Deliverance from self. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, because it is charged for man with the promise of eternal life; not eternal existence under these dread and soul-crushing conditions, but eternal life, free, pure, noble, blessed life, finding its spring of perennial joy and fruitfulness in the sunlight of the face of God. The salvation which is by Christ Jesus offers to man not only pardon and peace, but renewing, restoration; a new heart, a new life, a new power, a new supreme attraction, drawing man ever by its sweet but resistless constraints into closest and holiest fellowship with the life of God through eternity. And this is Christianity. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)

The world small for so great a transaction as redemption

It seems a little place, this world of ours, to be the scene of such transcendent transactions. But size, as we measure it, counts for nothing on high; as far as we can see, it is the method of God every where to work from what man calls insignificant centres over vast areas of life. It is emphatically thus in history. England is but a little country, Greece was less, Judea least of all; and yet from these intense radiating centres influences have streamed forth which will be fruitful of high results throughout eternity. The cultivated homes of men are but little oases in the midst of desert and ocean spaces, of vast extent and dreary monotony; fruitless and useless in our weak judgment; though we are now beginning to see that they are essential to the high development of the limited regions which can nourish the noblest forms of life. Who shall tell what is to grow out of the transactions of which this little, but most highly developed and glorious, earth has been the theatre, to the great universe and the kingdom of heaven in eternity? (J. B. Brown, B. A.)

The gospel and its recommendation

I. The gospel. It means good news. Here is a man ill; the word that tells him how he may be cured of his disease is gospel--good news. It claims to be the best news. Such is our text, and that because it tells about three things--

1. It tells of a divinely-appointed Saviour. It tells of “Christ Jesus,” and there is gospel in the very name. I thank God for that name. I have sometimes ventured to compare it to what we are all familiar with--the sign-board above a shop-door, telling what is to be got there; or the name on the door of a lawyer or physician, telling what men may expect there. A sick man sees the doctor’s name on his door, and applies to him without hesitation. He says, “The man is a physician, a doctor; that is his profession; he is there for the very purpose of receiving and curing the sick and dying, and I have a claim on his services which he cannot, dare not, refuse.” And so here is One who has His name, as it were, on His door; His profession, His business described in His very name--“Jesus.” It tells His occupation--the Saviour. But He is also spoken of as the “Christ,” that is, the Anointed One. Let us go back to the olden times again. There is one who has been guilty of some sin, which lies heavy on his conscience and heart. He takes the prescribed offering, a lamb, and goes with it to the priest, that that lamb may suffer and die for him, as his sacrifice, his substitute; and when its blood is shed, his sin is atoned for and put away. But the question comes up, “Is He a right priest? Has He a Divine commission?” Yes; because He is “anointed,” the holy oil was poured on Him, setting Him apart to the holy office; and as He is an anointed priest, there is no cause to fear. Or take another case: a crime has been committed, and the offender is sent to the king, who alone can give pardon for such an offence. The pardon is given; the man hears it from the king’s own lips. But here, too, the doubt arises, “Has He a right to give it? Is He commissioned to grant a pardon? Is He the real king? Will the pardon stand?” Yes; because the holy anointing oil was poured on Him, which marks Him out as me God-anointed king. And like other great official persons, He carries His credentials with Him.

2. It tells of the mission and work of Christ. By His “mission,” I mean His being “sent,” His coming on His great errand of mercy and love. “Christ Jesus came into the world.” What a word of wonder is this! I have been in one of our Highland cottages, and have had the place pointed out where our Queen has sat. There is a sacredness about the spot that can hardly be told, so that you scarcely wonder that some of our humble Scottish peasants have said, “None shall ever sit on that seat again!” You can fancy the mingled pride and enthusiasm with which they tell of the condescension of the greatest sovereign in the world visiting their lowly dwellings.

She came into this humble cottage of mine! “And yet what was that to this--Christ Jesus came into the world”? There is a lazar-house for the reception of lepers in all the stages of their dreadful disease. No man who enters comes out but for burial. One of these good, devoted men, the Moravian Brethren, has his heart filled with compassion for the sufferers, and with the desire to point them to Christ and to heaven; and knowing that he bids a life-long farewell to all outside, he cheerfully enters, and the door closes, shutting him up in a kind of living grave. You say, What a marvel of love and pity! And yet, what are all these as compared with this--“Christ Jesus came into the world”? And then, in regard to the work which He came into the world to do, notice the words--“to save sinners!” Most wonderful of all! Strangers, enemies, rebels--these are some of the descriptions that you have in the Word of God of those whom He came to save.

3. It tells of the objects of His care and love. I have spoken of these, in the general, as “sinners.” We now get a step further forward--“sinners of whom I am chief,” or “first.”

II. Having spoken of the gospel itself, I ask your attention now to its recommendation: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation.”

1. It is true. The great drawback about many things that are very attractive is that they are not true. You have met with some entertaining volume. It interests you deeply, and lays thorough hold of your heart. You would rather lose a meal, or an afternoon’s play, or an hour’s sleep, than lay aside your book. And as you finish the reading of it, with the tear in your eye, and your young heart beating quick, you say, “That is a fine story, a wonderful story. I have seldom read anything like it.” Ay, but do you know it is not true; it is just “made up”; it is all unreal. Sometimes you have pleasant dreams; you are happy as can be; you have gained some object on which your hearts have long been set; but you suddenly wake up, and it is but an empty dream. Friends who have come home from India have told us, that when passing through the desert, they have seen the “mirage,” with its grassy slopes and graceful trees casting their shadow on the lake beside which they seem to be growing, most beautiful to the eye; but it is only a vision, and in a moment vanishes out of sight. But I have this to say in favour of the wondrous gospel story, that it is true. I wonder if you ever got the length of doubting it? There is an old man who is often to be found in his humble cottage, with his large family Bible spread out before him, always open at the 14th chapter of John. A youth, who is a frequent visitor, coming in to ask for him, says, “I wonder why you are so often reading these words, when you know them all by heart; I should be for reading what I did not know.” “Well, master,” is the old man’s reply, “you are right enough, I dare say; but it seems to do me good to get a look at the real words; it helps an old man’s faith, for when I see them, I say, There they be, and I cannot doubt them. You see the thought of a mansion in heaven for an old sinner like me, and my Lord going before to prepare it, and coming back to take me to it--why, it is all so wonderful, that if I could not get a look at the words sometimes, I am afraid I should be just doubting again.”

2. It is trustworthy. Paul tells here that he has tried it, he has made the experiment, and can now recommend it from personal experience. I fear to trust myself on such a slender support, and gaze with dismay upon the abyss below. I look for another way, but there is none. At length I hear a voice from the other side saying, “The plank bears; I have tried it; I have crossed it; it will bear you; plant your foot firmly on it, and you will get safely across.” I look across, and see a man larger and heavier than myself; and when I see him, I pluck up heart, plant my foot on the plank, and cross in safety; and once I am over, I too can testify, The plank bears; I can say, It is trustworthy; I can give others the benefit of my experience: “It has saved me, and now I can recommend it to you.”

3. It is all-important. It is worthy of all acceptation, and therefore of all attention. It is no trifling matter.

4. It is welcome-worthy. It is spoken of here as being “worthy of all acceptation.” “Oh, that dreary gospel,” I think I hear some one saying, “I suppose we must needs have to do with it, or we cannot be saved. It is very much like a medicine. I am ill, I must take it, or I shall not recover, but it is bitter and repulsive.” Not so, says Paul; this gospel is “worthy of all welcome.” I might compare it to those letters from beloved friends, which the arrival of the mail from some distant country brings to us. (J. H. Wilson, M. A.)

For whom is the gospel meant

I. Even a superficial glance at our Lord’s mission suffices to show that His work was for the sinful.

1. For the descent of the Son of God into this world as a Saviour implied that men needed to be delivered from a great evil by a Divine hand. You would never have seen a Saviour if there had not been a fall. Eden’s withering was a necessary preface to Gethsemane’s groaning.

2. If we give a glance at the covenant under which our Lord came, we soon perceive that its bearing is towards guilty men. If there had been no sins and iniquities, and no unrighteousness, then there had been no need of the covenant of grace, of which Christ is the messenger and the ambassador.

3. Whenever we hear the mission of Christ spoken of it is described as one of mercy and of grace. In the redemption which is in Christ Jesus it is always the mercy of God that is extolled--according to His mercy He saved us.

4. The fact is, when we begin to study the gospel of the grace of God we see that it turns its face always towards sin, even as a physician looks towards disease, or as charity looks towards distress.

5. The gospel representations of itself usually look sinner-ward. The great king who makes a feast finds not a guest to sit at the table among those who were naturally expected to come, but from the highways and hedges men are compelled to come in.

6. And ye know that the gospel has always found its greatest trophies amongst the most sinful: it enlists its best soldiers not only from amongst the guilty, but from amongst the most guilty.

II. The more closely we look the more clear this fact becomes, for the work of salvation was certainly not performed for any one of us who are saved on account of any goodness in us.

1. All the gifts which Jesus Christ came to give, or at least most of them, imply that there is sin. What is His first gift but pardon? How can He pardon a man who has not transgressed?

2. Our Lord Jesus Christ came girded also with Divine power. He says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.” To what end was He girded with Divine power unless it be because sin had taken all power and strength from man?

3. I will not omit to say that the great deeds of our Lord, if you look at them carefully, all bear upon sinners. Jesus lives; it is that He may seek and save that which is lost. Jesus dies; it is that He may make a propitiation for the sins of guilty men. Jesus rises; He rises again for our justification, and, as I have shown, we should not want justification unless we had been naturally guilty. Jesus ascends on high, and He receives gifts for men; but note that special word, “Yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God may dwell among them.”

4. And all the gifts and blessings that Jesus Christ has brought to us derive much of their radiance from their bearing upon sinners. It is in Christ Jesus that we are elect, and to my mind the glory of electing love lies in this, that it pitched upon such undeserving objects.

III. Now it is evident that it is our wisdom to accept the situation.

IV. This doctrine has a great sanctifying influence.

1. Its first operation in that direction is this: when the Holy Spirit brings the truth of free pardon home to a man it completely changes his thoughts concerning God. “What,” says he, “has God freely forgiven me all my offences for Christ’s sake? And does He love me notwithstanding all my sin?”

2. Moreover, this grand truth does more than turn a man, it in spires, melts, enlivens, and inflames him. This is a truth which stirs the deeps of the heart, and fills the man with lively emotions.

3. Besides, this truth when it enters the heart deals a deadly blow at the man’s self-conceit.

4. Moreover, where this truth is received there is sure to spring up in the soul a sense of gratitude.

5. And I think you will all see that free forgiveness to sinners is very conducive towards one part of a true character, namely, readiness to forgive others. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A faithful saying

I. Here is a wonderful saying. It was but thirty years since the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ had been preached, yet these words had become a saying, a blessed proverb. It summed up briefly and yet fully the source and purpose of the gospel--its height and depth, its length and breadth. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Look into it. No such wonderful saying was ever heard in the world before or since. The Jew was willing to believe that the God of Israel could admit into His high presence the holy men to whom He had entrusted some great enterprise, and who had proved themselves worthy of such an exceeding honour. Abraham, Moses, Elijah--for such men God might come in all the majesty of His splendour and commune with them. The Greeks believed that for the gifted and the great, for splendid heroes who had wrought prodigies of valour on the battle-fields or in the games, the gods might stoop to give some token of their favour and protection. That was familiar enough. But that God should care so much for men who had slighted Him, and forgotten Him, and insulted Him, and rebelled against Him! That God should care for coarse, low, ignorant people, whom it was a disgrace to notice, and who were incapable of any goodness! This was ridiculous, worse than merely incredible. To the Greeks such an idea was a folly, to the Jews it was an offence. Yet still more wonderful was the saying--that God, the God of Glory, should come down as a man, should become one of us and one with us, taking upon Himself not only our nature, but our curse--the awful load of the world’s sin; and that He should bear for us all shame and agony!

II. Experience has proved it a faithful saying. The early disciples passed from one to another, setting their seal to its truth, until it came to be supported by a host of witnesses. And since St. Paul wrote that, the great cloud of witnesses has ever been growing. There is nothing in the world to-day that has such testimonies to commend it as this gospel of our salvation. I call up the memory of saintly men and women in my own little native town, dear old souls, many of them poor, but with such purity in their faces, such love in their hearts, such peace in their lives. With others life was a hot and fevered unrest, but about these there was an atmosphere of holy calm. What was it that made them so bright, so happy, so hopeful, that kings might well have envied them? They are ready with the reason--“It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Go to-day whither you will, north or south, east or west, and find the homes that are happiest, the lives that are sweetest, the souls that are sunniest, the hearts and hands that are most eager and most earnest in helping others--you shall find it amongst those who set their seal to this as true--“It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Come yet again and stand by the deathbed; that rends the veil from all pretences. I see the face pinched and pale with sickness, yet is it lit up with a brightness as if the eyes did look within the veil. Fear is gone, and all is peace. Bend and listen as the lips are parted for their last utterance. “It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” My brother, this gospel is no fancy of fanatics; no delusion of the dark ages. Nothing in this world comes to us so hallowed and so commended. Can I find another Christ Jesus? Can I find another salvation which comes with such evidence of its faithfulness as this? Surely it is worth my accepting. I will take for my own that Saviour who has come into the world to save sinners. If this is a faithful saying, then are there three things that do greatly concern us every one.

1. If Jesus Christ has come into the world to save us, then we must be in great danger. Whatever is the use of trying to save a man if he is not in any peril!

2. If this be a faithful saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, then surely none but Jesus Christ can save me. My struggles and resolutions cannot avail, or Christ need not have come.

3. If this be a faithful saying that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, then He has come to save me. If He has come to save sinners He means people who have sinned--real sinners--not good people who call themselves sinners be cause it sounds humble. The desperate cases are those which my Lord ever seeks first of all. Luther tells us, once upon a time the devil said to him, “Master Luther, thou art a great sinner, and thou wilt be damned.” “Stop, stop,” I said, “one thing at a time. I am a great sinner, it is true--though thou hast no right to say so. I confess it. What next? Therefore thou shalt be damned,” quoth he. “That is not good reasoning,” said I “It is true that I am a great sinner--but it is written, ‘Christ Jesus came to save sinners’: therefore I shall be saved! Now go thy way. So did I cut off the devil with his own sword, and he went away sorrowing, because he could not cast me down by calling me a sinner.” (M. G. Pearse.)

Christ’s power to save

I seem to see Saul rising on that road to Damascus, brushing the dust from his cloak, and wiping the perspiration from his excited brow, and then swinging out his hands towards all ages as he cries, “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.” In my church in Brooklyn, at the close of the service one day, a man came from the back part of the house and sat down near the pulpit. I saw him waiting, so I came down at the close of the service, and asked him if he would not go in amongst those making inquiry for their souls. He said, “No, sir; you cannot do me any good. I came from the Far West, but you cannot do me any good. The gospel is not for me--I am a victim of strong drink.” He said, “I won’t tell you my name; you know it. I rose to be one of the first men of my State. I have a beautiful wife and beautiful children, but am bringing them all to ruin. I thought if I came here I could be saved; but find I can’t. Yesterday I was coming down on the Hudson River train. There was a man sitting beside me with a flask of strong drink. He asked me if I would have some of it. I said ‘No’; but, oh, how I wanted it! The arid tongue of the liquor seemed thrusting itself from the side of the cork, and I felt I must fly from that presence. I went to the platform of the train and thought I would jump off; but we were going at the rate of forty miles an hour, and I came back. That thirst is on me, and you cannot do me any good.” I said, “You do not know the grace of God. Come in here, and we will pray for you.” We prayed for him, and I then went to the drug store, and said to the doctor, “Can you give this man anything to help him to destroy that thirst?” Well, the physician put up a bottle to help him. I said, “Give him a little more,” and he put up another bottle. I then said to the man, “Put your trust in God, and when this paroxysm comes on take your medicine.” He passed away from me into Boston, and was gone from me some weeks, when I got a letter enclosing the small amount of money I had paid for the medicine, and saying, “Thank God, Mr. Talmage, I have got cured, and the fear of the thirst is put off, and I have not taken any of the medicine. I am preaching every night on righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, in one of our large halls, and I send you two papers to show how the Lord is blessing me.” I have heard from him since, and the Lord has seen him through, and will see him through. Oh, the grace of God! Try! Try it! (T. De Witt Talmage.)

The mission of Christ to the worst

All the great hereditary and historical religions of mankind, both of the East and the West, are religions designed for morally respect able people, for men who, in their own opinion, are good and deserving persons, or are earning merit and future bliss by trying to become so. That was and is the essence of Bhuddism, of Brahminism, of Laoutsaism, of Islam, and of the natural, philosophical religions of Europe and America. They are the religions of men who “are going about,” like the Jews of the first century--the Jews of corrupted Judaism, “to establish their own righteousness” and title to immortal life, or to Nirvana. The genuine Christianity, taught by the Lord Jesus, the Christ of God, the one genuine message of the Eternal Creator to the human race, is the one and only religion proposed to, and pressed upon, the wicked. It is sent forth over all the world, as salvation for the lost, as complete and immediate salvation. (E. White.)

The sinner’s door

When I began my ministry in Dundee, I had the privilege of meeting many of those who were blessed under the preaching of the sainted Murray M’Cheyne, I was told of one case of conversion which is rather peculiar. The person was much troubled, his mind was filled with gloomy darkness, and he had no peace nor rest. One day, as M’Cheyne was preaching to Christians, not to those outside of Christ’s fold, the man got peace. After the service he went round to the vestry to see the minister, who did not need to inquire if the visitor had got peace, it shone in his face; so he simply asked, “How did you get it?” He answered, “All the time I’ve been trying to enter in at the saints’ door, but while you were speaking I saw my mistake, and entered in at the sinners’ door.” It is the only way; you need not come to God as a saint, or a pretty good sort of a person, but simply as a sinner, wanting and needing salvation. (W. Riddell.)

A gospel text

Mr. William White, one of the London City Missionaries, relates the following interesting fact: “Some years ago, through the kindness of the late Joseph Sturge, Esq., of Birmingham, a large grant of copies of The British Workman was made to the London City Mission, a portion of which was allotted for my district. Some time after distributing my share of that grant in my district, I visited a man who was very ill. After some conversation, I said, ‘Well, my friend, the best news that any one can ever bring you is contained in this text from the Bible, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”’ His face was immediately lit up with a smile, and raising himself in the bed, he pointed to the patched window and said, “Oh, sir, I know that already. Look there: that’s a piece of the paper you once gave me. My wife tore it up, and mended the window with just that piece of it that has that text on it. And since I’ve laid here, day after day, I’ve read it over and over till I’ve got it off by heart.” The City Missionary adds: “I believe the Holy Spirit made that text on the patched window a blessing to the man’s soul.” Of whom I am chief.--

The chief sinners objects of the choicest mercy

I. The salvation of sinners was the main design of Christ’s coming into the world.

II. God often makes the chiefest sinners objects of His choicest mercy. For the last, that God doth so, observe--

1. God hath formerly made invitations to such. See what a black generation they were (Isaiah 50:1-11.) by the scroll of their sins. They were rebels, and rebels against Him that had nursed them: “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me” (Isaiah 1:2). He comes to charge them “laden with iniquity” (verse 4). They had been incorrigible under judgments. "Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more" (Isaiah 1:5).

2. God hath given examples of it in Scripture. Manasseh is an eminent example of this doctrine. His story (2 Chronicles 23:1-21.) represents him as a black devil, if all the aggravations of his sins be considered.

3. It was Christ’s employment in the world to court and gain such kind of creatures. The first thing He did, while in the manger, was to snatch some of the devil’s prophets out of his service, and take them into His own (Matthew 2:1), some of the Magi, who were astrologers and idolaters. To call sinners to repentance, was the errand of His coming. And He usually delighted to choose such that had not the least pretence to merit (Mark 2:17): Matthew, a publican; Zaccheus, an extortioner, store of that generation of men and harlots, and very little company besides. He chose His attendants out of the devil’s rabble; and He was more Jesus, a Saviour, among this sort of trash, than among all other sorts of people, for all His design was to get clients out of hell itself. What was that woman that He must needs go out of His way to convert? A harlot (John 4:18), an idolater; for the Samaritans had a mixed worship, a linsey-woolsey religion, and, upon that account, were hateful to the Jews. What was that Canaanitish woman who had so powerful a faith infused? One sprung of a cursed stock, hateful to God, rooted out of the pleasant land, a dog, not a child; she comes a dog, but returns a child.

4. The commission Christ gave to His apostles was to this purpose. He bids them proclaim the promise free to all: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). All the world; every creature. He put no difference between men in this respect, though you meet with them in the likeness of beasts and devils, never so wicked, never so abominable. This commission is set out by the parable of a king commanding his servants to fetch the maimed, halt, and blind, with their wounds, sores, and infirmities about them (Luke 14:21; Luke 14:23).

5. The practice of the Spirit after Christ’s ascension to lay hold of such persons.

III. Why God chooses the greatest sinners, and lets His elect run on so far in sin before He turns them.

1. There is a passive disposition in the greatest sinners, more than in moral or superstitious men, to see their need; because they have not any self-righteousness to boast of. This self-righteous temper is like an external heat got into a body, which produceth an hectic fever, and is not easily perceived till it be incurable; and naturally it is a harder matter to part with self-righteousness than to part with gross sins, for that is more deeply rooted upon the stock of self-love, a principle which departs not from us without our very nature; it hath more arguments to plead for it, it hath a natural conscience, a patron of it; whereas a great sinner stands speechless at reproofs, and a faithful monitor has a good second and correspondent of natural conscience within a man’s own breast. Just as travellers that have loitered away their time in an alehouse, being sensible how the darkness of the night creeps upon them, spur on, and outstrip those that were many miles on their way, and get to their stage before them; so these publicans and harlots, which were at a great distance from heaven, arrived there before those, who like the young man, were not far off from it. As metals of the noblest substance are hardest to be polished, so men of the most generous, natural, and moral endowments are with more difficulty argued into a state of Christianity than those of more drossy conversations.

2. To show the insufficiency of nature to such a work as conversion is, that men may not fall down and idolize their own wit and power. Two things are certain in nature:

1. Man’s subjection under sin. He is “sold under sin” (Romans 7:14), and brought into captivity to “the law of sin “ (verse 23); law of sin, that sin seems to have a legal authority over him; and man is not only a slave to one sin, but divers(Titus 1:3), “serving divers lusts.”

2. Man’s affection to them. Pie doth not only serve them, but he serves them, and every one of them, with delight and pleasure (Titus 3:3). They were all pleasures as well as lusts, friends as well as lords. Will any man leave his voluptuousness, and such sins that please and flatter his flesh? No piece of dirty muddy clay can form itself into a neat and handsome vessel; no plain piece of timber can fit itself for the building, much less a crooked one; nor a man that is born blind give himself eyes.

IV. God’s regard for His own glory.

1. The glory of His patience. We wonder, when we see a notorious sinner, how God can let His thunders still lie by Him, and His sword rust in His sheath. “I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God, and not man” (Hosea 11:9). If a man did inherit all the meekness of all the angels and all the men that ever were in the world, he could not be able to bear with patience the extravagances and injuries done in the world the space of one day; for none but a God, i.e., one infinitely longsuffering, can bear with them. Not a sin passed in the world before the coming of Christ in the flesh but was a commendatory letter of God’s forbearance, “To declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Romans 3:25). And not a sin passed before the coming of Christ into the soul but gives the same testimony, and bears the same record. “Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him” (verse 16). This was Christ’s end in letting him run so far, that He might show forth not a few mites, grains, or ounces of patience, but all longsuffering, longsuffering without measure, or weight, by wholesale; and this as a pattern to all ages of the world; ὑποτύπωσιυ, for a type: a type is but a shadow in respect of the substance. To show that all the ages of the world should not waste that patience, whereof He had then manifested but a pattern. A pattern, we know, is less than the whole piece of cloth from whence it is cut; and as an essay is but a short taste of a man’s skill, and doth not discover all his art, as the first miracle Christ wrought, of turning water into wine, as a sample of what power He had, was less than those miracles which succeeded; and the first miracle God wrought in Egypt, in turning Aaron’s rod into a serpent, was but a sample of His power which would produce greater wonders; so this patience to Paul was but a little essay of His meekness, a little patience cut off from the whole piece, which should always be dealing out to some sinners or other, and would never be cut wholly out till the world had left being. This sample or pattern was but of the extent of a few years; for Paul was but young, the Scripture terms him a young man (Acts 7:58), about thirty-six years of age, yet he calls it all longsuffering. Ah, Paul! some since have experienced more of this patience; in some it has reached not only to thirty, but forty, fifty, or sixty years.

2. Grace. It is partly for the admiration of this grace that God intends the day of judgment. It is a strange place: “When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe in that day” (2 Thessalonians 1:10). It is the glory of a man to pass by an offence (Proverbs 19:11), i.e. it is a manifestation of a property which is an honour to him to be known to have. If it be thus an honour to pass by an offence simply, then the greater the offence is, and the more the offences are which he passeth by, the greater must the glory needs be, because it is a manifestation of such a quality in greater strength and vigour. So it must argue a more exceeding grace in God to remit many and great sins in man, than to forgive only some few and lesser offences.

3. Power. The Scriptures make conversion a most wonderful work, and resemble it to creation, and the resurrection of Christ from the dead, etc. What vast power must that be that can change a black cloud into a glorious sun? This and more doth God do in conversion. He doth not only take smooth pieces of the softest matter, but the ruggedest timber full of knots, to plane and show both His strength and art upon.

4. Wisdom. A new creature is a curious piece of Divine art, fashioned by God’s wisdom to set for the praise of the framer, as a poem is, by a man’s reason and fancy, to publish the wit and parts of the composer. It is a great skill of an artificer, with a mixture of a few sands and ashes, by his breath to blow up such a clear and diaphanous body as glass, and frame several vessels of it for several uses. It is not barely his breath that does it, for other men have breath as well as he; but it is breath managed by art. And is it not a marvellous skill in God to make a miry soul so pure and crystalline on a sudden, to endue an irrational creature with a Divine nature, and by a powerful word to frame so beautiful a model as a new creature is! The more intricate and knotty any business is, the more eminent is a man’s ability in effecting it. This wisdom appears--

(a) In respect of Himself. There could not be a fitter time to glorify His grace than when Paul was almost got to the length of his chain; almost to the sin against the Holy Ghost. Christ suffered him to run to the brink of hell before He laid hold upon him.

(b) In respect of others. Behold the nature of this lion changed, just as he was going to fasten upon his prey. And was it not a fit time, when the devil hoped to rout the Christians by him, when the high priests assured themselves success from this man’s passionate zeal, when the Church travailed with throws of fear of him?

(a) First, the value of this sacrifice. If God should only entertain men of a lighter guilt, Christ’s death would be suspected to be too low a ransom for monstrous enormities.

(b) The virtue of this sacrifice. He is a “priest for ever” (Hebrews 7:17); and therefore the virtue as well as the value of His sacrifice remains for ever: He hath “obtained an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12), i.e., a redemption of an eternal efficacy. And those who were stung all over, as well as those who are bitten but in one part, may, by a believing look upon Him, draw virtue from Him as diffusive as their sin. Now the new conversion of men of extraordinary guilt proclaims to the world, that the fountain of His blood is inexhaustible; that the virtue of it is not spent and drained, though so much hath been drawn out of it for these five thousand years and upwards, for the cleansing of sins past before His coming, and sins since His death.

V. The fruits of converting grace, etc.

1. A sense of the sovereignty of grace in conversion, will first increase thankfulness. Converts only are fit to shew forth the praises of Christ (1 Peter 2:9). But suppose a man had been all his lifetime like a mole under ground, and had never seen so much as the light of a candle, and had a view of that weak light at a distance, how would he admire it, when he compares it with his former darkness? But if he should be brought further, to behold the moon with her train of stars, his amazement would increase with the light. But let this person behold the sun, be touched with its warm beams, and enjoy the pleasure of seeing those rarities which the sun discovers, he will bless himself, adore it, and embrace that person who led him to enjoy such a benefit. And the blackness of that darkness he sat in before, will endear the present splendour to him, swell up such a spring-tide of astonishment, as that there shall be no more spirit in him. God lets men sit long in the shadow of death, and run to the utmost of sin, before He stops them, that their danger may enhance their deliverance.

2. Love and affection. The fire of grace cannot be stifled, but will break out in glory to God. God permits a man’s sin to abound, that His love after pardon may abound too (Luke 7:47).

3. Service and obedience. Such will endeavour to redeem the time, because their former days have been so evil, and recover those advantages of service which they lost by a course of sin. They will labour that the largeness of their sin may be answered by an extension of their zeal.

4. Humility and self-emptiness. As no apostle was so God-magnifying, so none was so self-vilifying as Paul. Though he was the greatest apostle, yet he accounts himself less than the least of all saints (Ephesians 3:8).

5. Bewailing of sin, and self-abhorrence for it.

6. Faith and dependence.

1. First, the doctrine manifests the power of the gospel. God gains a reputation to the gospel and the power of Christianity, that can in a moment change persons from beasts to men, from serpents to saints.

2. Groundlessness of despair. Despair not of others, when thou dost reflect upon thy own crimes, and considerest that God never dealt with a baser heart in the world than thine was. Comfort of this subject: If God has made thee of a great sinner the object of His mercy, thou mayest be assured of--

1. To those that God hath dealt so with.

2. Often call to mind thy former sin. It hath been the custom of the saints of God formerly. When Matthew reckons up the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:3) whereof he was one, he remembers his former state, “Matthew the publican”; but none of the other evangelists call him so in that enumeration.

1. Art thou indeed the greatest sinner? I can hardly believe it. Didst thou ever sin after the rate that Paul did? or wert thou ever possessed with such a fury?

2. Suppose thou art the greatest, is thy staying from Christ the way to make all thy sins less? Art thou so rich as to pay this great debt out of thy own revenue? or hast thou any hopes of another surety?

3. Are thy sins the greatest? Is not the staying from Christ a making them greater? Does not God command thee to come to Christ? and is not thy delay a greater act of disobedience than the complaint of thy sinfulness can be of humility?

4. Were thy sins less than they are, thou mightest not so easily believe in Christ, as now thou mayest. Great sins and a bad heart felt and bewailed, is rather an advantage; as hunger is an incentive to a man to seek for meat. If men had clean hearts, it is like they would dispose of them otherwise, and rather think Christ should come to them. Men’s poverty should rather make them more importunate than more modest. If, therefore, thou art afraid of drowning under these mighty floods which roll upon thee, methinks thou shouldst do as men ready to perish in the waters, catch hold of that which is next them, though it be the dearest friend they have; and there is none nearer to thee than Christ, nor any such a friend; catch hold therefore of Him.

5. The greatness of thy sin is a ground for a plea. Turn thy sins into arguments, as David doth, “for it is great” (Psalms 25:11). If thy disease were not so great, Christ’s glory would not be so illustrious. Pardon of such sins enhanceth the mercy and skill of thy Saviour. Plead therefore--

1. The infiniteness of God’s mercy. It is strange if thy debts should be so great, that the exchequer of the King of kings cannot discharge them. Hast Thou not said that Thou art He “that blots out transgressions for Thy own sake”? (Isaiah 43:25); that Thou dost “blot out iniquities like a thick cloud”? (Isaiah 44:22). Is there any cloud so thick as to master the melting power of the sun; and shall ever a cloud of sin be so thick as to master the power of Thy mercy? Has not Thy mercy as much strength and eloquence to plead for me, as Thy justice has to declaim against me? Is Thy justice better armed with reason than Thy kindness with compassions? Have Thy compassions no eloquence? Oh, who can resist their pleasing rhetoric?

2. Christ’s, and God’s intent in His coming, was to discharge great sins. He was called Jesus, a Saviour, because He was to save His people from their sins. And do you think some of His people’s sins were not as great as any men’s sins in the world?

3. Christ’s death was a satisfaction for the greatest sins, for God could not accept any satisfaction, but what was infinite. “One sacrifice for sins for ever,” etc. (Hebrews 10:12); not one sin, but sins; not little sins, but sins without exception. Let thy objections be what they will, Christ shall be my advocate to answer for me.

4. Christ is able to take away great sins. Did He ever let any one that came to Him with a great infirmity, go back without a cure, and dishonour Himself so much, as that it should be said, it was a distemper too great far the power of Jesus to remedy? And why should there be any sin that He cannot pardon? But, may the soul say, I do not question His power, but His will. Therefore--

5. Christ’s nature leads Him to show mercy to the greatest sinners.

6. Christ was exalted by God upon this very account (Hebrews 7:25).

7. Christ is entrusted by God to give out His grace to great sinners. Christ is God’s Lord-almoner, for the dispensing redemption, and the riches of His grace.

Fourthly, the caution which this subject suggests.

1. Think not thy sins are pardoned because they are not so great as those God has pardoned in others. A few small sands may sink a ship as well as a great rock. Thy sins may be pardoned though as great as others, but then you must have equal qualifications with them. They had great sins, so hast thou; but have you as great a hatred and loathing of sin as they had?

2. Let not this doctrine encourage any person to go on in sin.

God never intended mercy as a sanctuary to protect sin.

1. It is disingenuous to do so. Great love requires great duties, not great sins. Freeness of grace should make us increase holiness in a more cheerful manner.

2. It is foolish so to do. Would any man be so simple as to set his house on fire because he has a great river running by his door, from whence he may have water to quench it; or wound himself, because there is an excellent plaster which has cured several?

3. It is dangerous to do so. If thou losest the present time, thou art in danger to lose eternity. There are many in hell never sinned at such a presumptuous rate. He is merciful to the penitent, but He will not be unfaithful to His threatenings. (S. Charnock.)

The pattern convert; or, the chief sinner saved

I. This pattern convert had been the chief of sinners.

1. He had displayed invincible zeal in opposing the gospel. He believed in the Jewish religion, and he hated and persecuted the cause of Christ. He executed his mission in right earnest. He ever felt that no arm but the Almighty arm could have reached and delivered him from this terrible depth of ruin.

2. He had been an excessively proud man. Saul of Tarsus possessed a haughty spirit. His unconquerable love to the law arose from the pride and arrogance of his unregenerate heart.

3. His mental power, too, aided him in his work. He was a scholar of no ordinary character, blended with natural energy and grasp of intellect.

II. The salvation of this pattern convert illustrates the mediatorial strength of Christ. The chief of sinners has been saved.

1. The salvation of Paul is an evidence of the sufficiency of the atonement.

2. The salvation of Paul is a proof of the efficacy of victorious grace.

3. The salvation of Paul proves the worth of intercession. Who first arrested the man on his way to Damascus? Christ--He pleaded with the persecutor and conquered him by love.

4. The salvation of Paul exhibits Divine patience. “That in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering “--patience.

III. This pattern convert proclaims the Saviour in the gospel as worthy of all acceptation. Why?

1. Because He is the revelation of the highest intelligence to man’s reason. He is the manifold wisdom of God--“God manifest in the flesh.” Reason could trace out the handiwork of God in every star that glitters in the heavens, but in Christ it sees God in human form. No such revelation of God was ever made before the incarnation as the one which we possess. Sir Isaac Newton revealed the great law that binds atom to atom, and all to its mighty centre; and angels have made glorious revelations; but in Christ we see God interested in, and saving His enemies.

2. He is the only antidote for sin.

3. He alone reveals the hope of immortality. Christ meets the highest aspirations of our nature by His resurrection and ascension; He has drawn aside the veil of futurity and “opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.”

4. This revelation is based in truth. Other books contain pretended revelations, but they have no foundation in truth. The Koran, to wit: the gospel however is “a faithful,” a true “saying.” Prophecy, miracle and history, as well as its own almighty efficacy, prove that it is true. (J. H. Hill.)

The chief of sinners

It was a characteristic of the religion of Paul, that it was eminently personal and practical. The idea, therefore, to which we direct your attention is this: That true religion, and great experience in it, cause the believer to regard himself peculiarly a sinner. We have several considerations to prove this.

I. The view which a believer has of his own heart is more minute, and more extensive also, than any view he can take of another’s. He cannot draw upon another’s memory as he can upon his own. His quickened recollections furnish him with many a dark chapter, as his mind roves back upon forgotten years; and there is a vividness and freshness in the recollection of what a sinner he has been, which throws over his own experience an aspect of peculiarity, he can number his own sins as he cannot another’s. He can recollect the smallness of temptation, and the tender, and touching, and terrible motives which would have restrained him from his sins if he would only have felt them. Conscience, with an eye of fire, will look into his soul, and the aggravations of sin, which arose from a thousand circumstances of his condition and God’s forbearance toward him, will seem to invest his sinfulness with a criminality and an abomination beyond anything that he will dare to attribute to other people.

II. Very much in proportion to the extent of a believer’s gracious attainments is pure conscience brought into exercise. We mean by this pure con science an exercise of that faculty as such, in its own nature and for its own ends, not mingled with other affections. And one great difference betwixt the convictions of a believer and the convictions of an unbeliever consists simply in this; the different impressions they have of the mere wrong of sin. A believer sees that wrong as an unbeliever does not. In sin itself he sees an evil which an unbeliever does not.

III. The rule of conscience is not a thing well understood by an unconverted sinner in his ordinary frame of mind. The deceptions of sin have been flung over it. But when the Holy Spirit justly convicted him, he saw sin in him self that he never saw before, and hope died within him. He discovered what God’s law meant and where it applied. Law reigns; and now, better and better under stood, sharper than any two-edged sword, a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart; it is no wonder that every just conception of God’s law should tend to make the grace-enlightened believer conceive of himself as the chief of sinners. He sees that that code of spiritual purity has strange applications to his erring soul. His very spirit cannot hide from it for a single moment. It pursues the soul every where.

IV. The religious attempts of a believer constitute another consideration. They have been many, and he is fully conscious that they have sometimes been sincere and earnest; but oh! how often have they been baffled! What vain purposes! How little his strength! How many sinful desires! He utters the deep-toned cry, Chief of sinners! Chief of sinners!

V. Throughout all the successful attainments of grace, a believer is invariably becoming better acquainted with God. The knowledge he has of the Divine character constitutes one of the most efficacious aids and impressive influences. The better he knows God the better he knows himself; and while his knowledge of God increases both his reverence and his attachment, his knowledge of himself fills him with humiliation and shame. Sin appears worse and worse to him as he knows God better.

VI. A Christian, especially amid his attainments in grace, is a creature of no little reflection. His knowledge increases, especially his knowledge of himself; and amid reflections and increasing knowledge in Divine things, again and again he is surprised and disappointed in a most painful and humiliating manner. Sometimes he is astounded, and disheartened, and driven to prayer by a wave of despondency that rolls over his soul. His reflection discovers sin as he did not expect, discovers it wherein he had little suspicion of its existence. He finds the imperfection of his repentance, that his very repentance (according to the graphic description of the apostle) needs to be repented of.

VII. That process of sanctification carried on in a believer’s heart by the omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit is very much carried on through the influence of two spiritual operations “first, the discovery of sin, and second, faith in the Redeemer of sinners to procure pardon and justification unto life eternal. There is the combined influence of compulsion and attraction; of violence and persuasion. The believer is driven off from himself at the same moment he is drawn toward God. But this process and these affections are some times interrupted. His soul wanders from God. And that it should ever wander seems to him one of the strangest anomalies in the universe! The conclusions from this subject are worthy of remembrance.

1. Never despair. There is mercy for the chief of sinners.

2. Never seek hope, consolation, or any comfort or encouragement to your soul by diminished ideas of sin.

3. Never judge of your Christian condition by the smallness of your humiliating convictions. Rather judge of it by the magnitude of them.

4. Never allow pride to have any place in your religion. Self-complacency all rests on ignorance and deception.

5. Never imagine that a deep sense of sin and all the humiliating ideas that grow out of it, are things of unhappiness and gloom. Quite the contrary. They are matters of peace and joy to a believer. (J. S. Spencer, D. D.)

The chief of sinners

I. I have to try and hunt out the chief of sinners. Now who are they? They come under various characters, and may be classified in different lists.

1. We will begin with those who directly oppose themselves to God and to His Christ. These are chief among sinners. Paul did join their ranks.

2. And here I ought to put down those who hold views derogatory of the Deity and the person of Christ.

3. Another group of princes and peers in the realm of evil may be described as those who attack Christ’s people, and who seek to pervert them from the right way.

4. There is another group whom you will all allow to be of the chief of sinners--those who have sinned foully in the world’s esteem; violating the instincts of nature, and outraging the common sense of morality and decency.

5. And surely I may find another class of the chief of sinners among those who have become not only adepts themselves, but the tutors to others in the school of evil.

6. In this section we include those who have had much light, and yet have sinned against it; who have been taught better, who have had a knowledge of the way of truth, and yet have turned aside to crooked paths.

7. There are those, too, who sit under an earnest ministry, and yet go on in sin--they surely belong to the class of chief sinners.

8. Drawing the bow at a venture, there is another class I would single out, those who are gifted from their childhood with a tender conscience.

9. Yet again; if you have had warning in sickness, and especially if on your sick bed you have vowed unto the Lord that you would turn to Him, then you that are covenant-breakers, you that violate vows made to the Most High, you must also be put among the first and foremost of transgressors.

II. Why those who are proverbially the chief of sinners are very frequently saved.

1. One reason is to illustrate Divine sovereignty.

2. Another reason is, that He may show His great power. Oh! how hell is made angry when some great champion falls! When their Goliaths are brought down, how the Philistines take to their heels! How heaven rings with songs when some chief of sinners becomes a trophy of the Divine power!

3. And next, how it shows His grace!

4. Again; great sinners are very frequently called by God for the purpose of attracting others.

5. And then, the saving of the chief of sinners is useful, because, when they are saved they generally make the most fiery zealots against sin. Have we not a proverb that “The burnt child dreads the fire”? I noticed my host, on one preaching excursion, particularly anxious about my candle. Now, as everybody ought to know how careful I am, I was a little surprised, and I put the question to him why he should be so wonderfully particular. “I had my house burnt down once, sir,” said he. That explained it all. No man so much afraid of fire as he, and they who have been in sin, and know the mischief of it, protest against it the most loudly. They can speak experimentally. Oh! what revenge there seems to be in the apostle’s heart against his sin!

6. And then, again, they always make the most zealous saints. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The chief of sinners

I. Why, then, did St. Paul call himself the chief of sinners? It is a startling designation, and the more you think of it the more startling you will feel it to be. It is a mere truism to say that the success of a religion depends to a large extent upon the personal veracity and goodness of its founders. Now, St. Paul was practically the founder of Christianity over a large area of the heathen world. It was he who had told them almost everything they knew of Christ. It was his version of Christ’s teaching, his view of the meaning and scope of His work, with which they were most, if not exclusively familiar. And he frequently declared that he himself was the style of man a Christian ought to be. “Be ye followers of me,” he said, “as I also am of Christ.” How, then, were they to understand him when he asserted himself to be the chief of sinners? It can hardly be denied that had such a confession escaped from the lips of any but a Christian apostle it would have produced a very perplexing, if not a thoroughly suspicious impression. Would any of the great heathen philosophers, or any one who aspired to found a religion, have ventured to terminate his career by an assertion of his own incomparable sinfulness? And if he had, would it not have discredited his mission or been considered too absurd to be serious? But it was not so with St. Paul’s confession. It gave no uneasiness to his most sensitive converts, no occasion for reproach to his most implacable foes. Does not this prove that Christianity had a way of dealing with sin peculiar to itself, and produced a type of character absolutely unique? But assuming that St. Paul used the words seriously, i.e., without any intentional exaggeration, what did he really mean? We are very apt to entertain defective and partial conceptions of sin. Many virtually restrict it to those modes of its expression which they themselves have experienced. They are troubled by some particular evil which natural inclination, or continued indulgence, has invested with special power. It may be the lust of avarice, or an envious and angry passion, or an unholy and impure desire. But whatever it may be, it is the sin which engages the attention and alarms the conscience of the man whets it attacks;. and if he be a Christian it is the sin which he struggles against, and whose very touch fills him with a self-reproach almost too heavy to be borne. It is very natural that any one in this condition should come to conceive of sin as almost identified with his peculiar temptation. It is the sin he thinks about when any reference is made to the subject. And it is entire deliverance from its defilement that constitutes his highest idea of happiness. Was it, then, because St. Paul was pressed by some special thorn of this kind that he called himself the chief of sinners? We can hardly think so, if we remember the language and style of his Epistles. There is scarcely a sin which he does not mention and tell us something about. He points out wherein the enormity of certain transgressions consists. He shows us the disposition and temper out of which others are likely to spring, and how to resist or baffle their attacks. He draws up exhaustive catalogues of offences, for the purpose of reminding us that not one of them, however much it might be tolerated in heathen society, is consistent with citizenship in the kingdom of God. But if the apostle was not likely to exaggerate in this particular way, was it not possible he might do so in another? There are not a few who know the many shapes which evil may assume, but who know them theoretically, rather than practically. The world they know is a world of respectability, and perhaps of high moral principle. But they do not know the outer circles of our social life, the broad zone of lawlessness that surrounds the region of decency. And you feel accordingly that the conceptions of evil which such people have are necessarily defective. They may be filled with an intense conviction of the guilt of the sins they know, but their knowledge does not go far. And their self-accusations, when they are expressed, strike you, for this reason, as being unreal. They have an air of extravagance, unperceived by those who utter them, but quite discernible by anybody else. Was St. Paul, then, a person of this sort? Was it ignorance of life, or of human nature, that made him place himself first in the catalogue of sinners? It can hardly have been this, either, for he lived at a time when the world was at its worst, and very few men of his day had seen so much of it as he. He had known the chief priests and rabbis of Jerusalem, and the philosophers of the Grecian schools. He had traversed the rougher districts of heathendom, where passion gave itself vent in coarse and brutal fashion. He had beat about the slums of the largest cities, and lain in the common prisons with the scum and offscouring of the earth. You may depend upon it that the man who had written the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and had lived in Rome two years during the reign of Nero, a reign when all kinds of devilry literally ran riot--knew perfectly well what he was about when he declared himself the chief of sinners. The truth is that St. Paul had a very rare and exceptional insight into his own heart, and also into the nature of sin. There was no part of him allowed to be at rest, no reserve of energy which lay idle, and which might have developed, had it roused itself up, an unsuspected weakness or liability to excess. The whole force of the man went into his work. He was always on the stretch, always expending every particle of strength in following after the one aim of his efforts. Hence he felt himself all through. Every weak place betrayed its weakness. Every temptation to swerve from his path pierced him like an arrow. Every sluggish or selfish impulse acted like a drag upon his eager limbs. The very ardour of his devotion, the keenness of his pursuit, made the least hindrance an unspeakable pain. But not only so, he saw it with an eye that penetrated farther into its depths than that of any other has done. He detected the fearful possibilities of ruin that lie wrapped in its every germ. He knew the pervasive power that enables it to infect the whole nature of a man, if it once be suffered to escape from restraint. He knew how terrible were the passions that once strove in his own heart, and still slumbered there. And above all his bright vision of the holiness of God, his sublime conception of Christ’s purity threw a white light that beat upon his sin and exposed its every line, and feature, and movement. He saw it so distinctly and plainly that other men’s sins were hazy and vague, and dwelt in the region of comparative shadow.

II. Why St. Paul appended this remark about himself to the statement in the verse. The drift of the passage leads us to believe that he meant it to confirm the faithfulness of the saying. It was equivalent to putting his subscription at the foot of it, as one who endorsed it or attested its truth. In proof of the assertion that Christ Jesus had come into the world to save sinners, he appealed to his own case as specially to the point. There was no room for despair when he had found mercy. It would not do much to recommend the skill of a physician that you declared he had healed you of a most virulent disease, if it turned out, after all, that your ailment had existed chiefly in your own imagination, and been little more than a touch of hypochondria. I should say that the most desperate man is he who is neither careless, nor a profligate, nor a formalist, but one who, earnest and correct in conduct, is conscientiously attached to a false or defective creed, and bent enthusiastically on pushing its claims. Such a one, sustained by the proud consciousness of always having done what he considered his duty, and therefore troubled by no compunctions of conscience, free from every impure or unseemly indulgence, convinced that he is right in his opinions, and so far enamoured of their excellence, or filled with contempt for their rivals, that he finds the greatest satisfaction in urging them upon the world, is not likely to be easily turned from the course he pursues. The fact is he cannot conceive any reason for a change. So there is no opening by which you can approach him. Was not St. Paul very much such a character as this? Christ proved able to accomplish what, humanly speaking, seemed impossible. He saved the man who of all men in the world seemed the least likely, and the most difficult, to be saved. And St. Paul never could look back to his conversion but with feelings of the most reverent awe and adoring thankfulness.

III. The statement itself--that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Sinners were the object of His mission, and sinners without any distinction. Now, what He has promised is not merely to rescue us from some future danger, indeed has nothing to do with the future directly at all. “Christ saves us from sin,” he says, “here and now, and my ease substantiates the statement.” And if you should ask how this can be, since he has just told us, not simply that he was the chief of sinners before his conversion, but is so still, the answer is, that Christ does not save us by any magical or mechanical process. He does not entirely sever us from the past and its transgressions, though He does secure that they shall not involve us in the destruction which is their natural result. He leaves us to fight a hard battle with the root of sin that still survives in our nature. Having robbed it of its power of irreparable mischief, He enlists us in completing its extinction. He spoils it of its old fascination. He exposes its emptiness and folly. He counteracts its force by revealing attractions that lift us above the sphere of its influence. And our present actual superiority to its rule is won through the gradual emancipation and strengthening of our character. Surely it is a much more crushing defeat to what has brought such misery upon us that it should be despised and baffled by its former victims. St. Paul, then, could say that he was the chief of sinners, and yet appeal to himself as an illustration of Christ’s power to save. Indeed, his very confession was itself an evidence of his redemption. It revealed a humility that implied the overthrow of pride and self-complacency, the very qualities in which the strength of sin resides. You are saved from its final triumph. Only see that you keep hold of the promise of mercy and of grace to help us in Jesus Christ. Let no onset of sin drive you from Him, no fresh development of its resources tempt you to distrust Him. You can only fight and overcome as you fall back on His word, and grasp the hope which it reveals. (C. Moinet, M. A.)

Fourth Sunday after Trinity

I. How are we to understand this language of the apostle respecting himself? You will, I hope, at once dismiss from your minds any thought that the apostle was exhibiting to his son Timothy what some would call a graceful humility. We ought to assure ourselves that no humility can be graceful, because none can be gracious, which has not its foundation in truth. Of all qualities, this is the one which it is most monstrous to counterfeit. He would speak of himself as he would of another man, honestly and simply. If it was the fact that he had laboured more abundantly than all the apostles, he did not shrink from announcing it. Neither must we say that St. Paul was led to give himself this title because he had a sudden and keen remembrance of his life when he was a persecutor of the faith. But he could not think himself--we know from the words which he uses when describing his previous history that he did not think himself--worse than other persecutors merely because he was more zealous than they were. He was certainly not the chief of sinners because be acted out a wrong conviction more vigorously than others did. Nor must we forget that the words, literally taken, do not warrant us in supposing that St. Paul referred wholly or chiefly to the past. If he says, “I am first, or chief,” Timothy must have understood that he was not charging himself with the crimes of other days, but was expressing what was in his mind at the time he wrote. The law proved its justice by affixing to each palpable outrage and overt act its meet recompense of reward. St. Paul had been a zealot in enforcing the law; he had never brought himself within the range of one, even the mildest, of its formal censures. “But by the law,” he says elsewhere, “comes the knowledge of sin.” It prohibits offences; it awakens a man to perceive that there is in him a disposition to commit these offences. Here then St. Paul found himself “first.” Yes, in a most awful sense, alone. He had no means of ascertaining how far other men had separated themselves from the righteous, loving mind of God. The law said, “Thou hast done it.” And by degrees he found that the law was only echoing without what a Living Voice was saying to him within. The Spirit of God convinced him of sin. And since the more he knew of the attraction of the Divine magnet, the more he knew the strength of the inclination there was in him to wander from it, the more he attributed any right direction of his spirit to its influence--he could say, with no affectation, with the inmost sincerity, “Of sinners I am first. More of this love has been shown to me than to any I know; my resistance therefore has been greater than that of others. If the light has overpowered me, there has been a struggle with it, there is a struggle with it, which I dare not say is equally mighty and desperate in them.” If this was the warrant for this mode of speech, you will not wonder that he should have used it with even more emphasis in the later days of his earthly pilgrimage, than in the earlier. You will think, perhaps, that St. Paul’s large and intimate acquaintance with the moral abuses and corruptions that sprang up in the members of the different Churches which he had planted, may have diverted his mind from this contemplation, and may have proved that there was a wickedness about him which had never penetrated within him. But you must not fancy that he thought more gently of himself as he became acquainted with the party-spirit and sensuality of the Corinthians, or when he found the Galatians regarding him whom they had once loved with such a violent affection, as their enemy because he told them the truth. I rather suppose that he detected in himself all the evils which caused him such bitter pain in them, that he understood their heresies and carnality and suspicions by the seeds of the like which he found in his own heart; that he never condemned them without passing sentence upon tendencies which might at any moment start to life in him. I apprehend that in this way the more he did this--the more he understood his relation to his flock as their minister and priest--the more he perceived that he was the first among sinners. By such processes, he was, I conceive, trained to a real, not a mock humility.

II. The words, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” sound to us like a commonplace which we heard in the nursery. There was some strange hostility between his mind and the mind of a righteous Being, his Creator. Could they be reconciled? There was some bondage upon his will. Could it be set free? This experience, this demand, is met by the broad announcement: “One is come from that righteous Being with whom thou art at war, expressly to make peace. One is come to save sinners out of their sins.” He might doubt long and ask earnestly whether news so good could be true. He must have a real emancipation, real peace with God. The claim of every one calling himself a Deliverer and Reconciler must endure the severest of all tests. Was He able to do that which none else had been able to do? Could He accomplish what the law and sacrifices, that he held to be most Divine, had not accomplished? No one could settle them for him. An archangel could not force him to accept the gospel merely on his authority. The poorest man might bring it with such evidence to his conscience that he could not but say, “It is true.” And when he had said this, the repetition of the truth to which he had given his adhesion could never become a fiat or a stale one. Was this all? Was there no brighter light coming to him every moment from that heaven into which he believed the Son of God had ascended? no clearer and deeper insight into the effects of His coming to our world than had been vouchsafed here at first? Surely there was. It is contained in the plural, “sinners.” His experience had been personal. He had known sin in himself. He had known deliverance in himself. But that sin consisted in separation from his fellows as well as from God. That deliverance consisted in reunion to his fellows as well as to God. Jesus Christ had saved him; but He had not come into the world to save him. There was not a man who had not the same needs as he had; there was not a man who had not the same Helper as he had. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)


Let us begin by thinking what St. Paul could possibly mean by calling himself “the chief of sinners.” We know very well that he did not mean, that, either before his conversion or since, his life had been anything but most decorous and respectable. “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God unto this day.” And, in writing to friends, he could describe himself in those early years before his conversion, as “touching the righteousness which is in the law blameless.” It is equally certain that he did not mean that his life had ever been careless, and thoughtless, and worldly. He speaks of himself in one of his Epistles as “profiting,” that is, making progress, “in the Jews’ religion above many my equals,” that is, my cotemporaries. He had also been a very religious man; religious after a wrong pattern of religion, it is true, but still thoroughly and ardently religious after the common type and pattern of the day. And yet this man of blameless life and strict religion, writing quietly in advancing years to a favourite friend and pupil, can speak of himself as the “chief of sinners.” What can he mean by such language? One thing is already quite clear. St. Paul must have thought of sin in a way very different from that in which most of us are in the habit of thinking of it. To us, the “chief of sinners” would be a man of utterly profligate and vicious life, who had broken the commandments of God in the most reckless and high-handed way. And so little does our notion of “the chief of sinners” agree with what we know about St. Paul, that, when he calls himself so, while we admire his humility, we barely give him credit for sincerity. He can scarcely have meant it, we think. But I am sure we shall make a great mistake, if we resolve that “I am chief” of our text into a passing pang of pain, shot into his mind by the sudden recollection of those old days, when, as the historian says, “he made havoc of the Church,” and “breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord.” None of us would dream of denying the fact of our sinfulness. That we are sinners we all confess. But the confession is often a very hollow one; means very little; means often only this--that we know we are not perfect, but we believe we are not worse than most people, and are a good deal better than some, and may reasonably expect to do well enough at the last. That St. Paul should speak of himself as the “chief of sinners,” seems to persons, who are thinking thus of sin and meaning no more than this by their confession of sinfulness, only an outrageous extravagance of language--a temporary fit of morbid self-reproach. We may be quite sure of this, that so long as we go on comparing ourselves with other people, and judging other people, we shall never come to any real sense of sin, or to any true penitence for it, or to any heartfelt desire for its forgiveness. Such comparison of ourselves with others is utterly false and misleading. Neither must we rest satisfied with judging ourselves by any external standard or rule of life, whether it be the law of God, or the law and custom and fashion of the society of which we are members. We may be models of propriety; exemplary in every department of conduct and life. And yet that may be true of us, which Jesus said was true of the religious world of His own day: “This people honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me.” For indeed, this terrible matter of sin goes far deeper than outward conduct. Outward conduct may reveal the depths of sin within, may reveal them to the man himself, as well as to the world around. But no outward conduct is a measure of sin. Judged by outward conduct one would have said of St. Paul, that he was as near perfection as a man could be. At this point of our inquiry we must try to get nearer, if we can, to St. Paul’s experience. The recollection of those old persecuting days was lying very heavily on his conscience, when he wrote the words of our text; not heavily in the sense of making his forgiveness doubtful, but heavily in the sense of revealing the possibilities of sin within. When he came to himself in the moment of his conversion, the fact that he had been a persecutor of the disciples of Christ, fancying all the while that he was doing God’s service, must have made the first rude breach in the self-righteousness of Saul the Pharisee. Time and thought would only enlarge that breach and make it more practicable. If he had deceived himself so grossly once, fancying that to be right and virtuous which was so manifestly wrong and wicked, why not again? It is often such a rude shock as this to vanity and self-confidence that marks an epoch in a man’s spiritual life, awakening, and ultimately transforming him. In this way it is that “men may,” and often do, “rise by stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher things.” We must learn humility. We must learn the bitter lesson of self-distrust. No true progress is possible until this lesson has been learned. Along with this experience--perhaps as part of it--there went another. It was part of the sorrow and humiliation of Saul’s conversion, that it revealed to him the painful fact, that his life and work had been set hitherto in a wrong direction; that he must break with his past, and begin all over again; that he had not only missed the mark, but had been aiming at a wrong one. Steadily did he set himself, nobly and courageously, to retrieve the past; to undo what he had done, and to do the very opposite. And again and again that old past rose up against him, to make the new course more difficult. In this way, I fancy--or in some such way as this (for who are we, that we should dare to gauge the experience of a Paul?)--he seems to have come to those deeper views of sin, with which his letters are pervaded. Our English word “sin” suggests little or nothing of itself to us; but the Greek equivalent, certainly, and, I think, the Hebrew also, have their meaning printed broadly and legibly upon them. To “sin” in those languages, is to miss the mark; to fall short of the mark; to go wide of the mark; to fail; to come short of the true standard. Now the moment we lay hold of this, as the deepest meaning and real essence of sin, that moment self-righteousness becomes impossible to us. There may be those here, who cannot bring the sense of sin home to their consciences with any keenness, so long as sin is regarded merely as “transgression of law”; so innocent and blameless have their lives been. But let them think of “sin” in this deeper, truer aspect, as missing the mark, failing to be that, which it is in us to be, and which God by His Spirit and His Providence is calling us to be, and who can hold out against the conviction, that he is in very truth a sinner, and a very grievous sinner, if not the very chief of sinners? And this sense of sin will become deeper, and this confession of sin will become more penitent and genuine, in proportion as we pass out of our natural darkness into the light of God, and begin to discern more clearly what our true standard is, and what our gifts and capacities are: what it is in us to be, and what God is seeking to make of us. The greater the gifts and capacities and endowments, the more keen will be the sense of failure and shortcoming. Such reflections as these, honestly pursued, cannot fail, to use St. Paul’s expressive phrase, to “conclude us all under sin”; to bring the weight and pressure of a genuine sense of sin to bear upon us all. Now, however painful this may be, it is unquestionably the first step in the right direction. We cannot become what God would make us until we are made deeply and sincerely conscious of sin and infirmity, of unworthiness and unprofitableness. But we must not leave the subject so. St. Paul could never leave it so. His own personal confession of sin, deep and contrite as it is, is set in the midst of a burst of triumphant hope. “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.” Yes--“sinners of whom I am chief”; but then “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” and, therefore, to save me. (D. J. Vaughan, M. A.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Timothy 1:15". The Biblical Illustrator. https: 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief:

Faithful is the saying... There are five of these expressions in this group of letters, the other four being: 1 Timothy 3:1; 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11, and Titus 3:8. "These axiomatic truths of Christian faith would be easily memorized; and, being frequently repeated, they soon became almost proverbial in the early church."[34]

Despite the above, however, it is precarious to identify these "faithful sayings" as any form of "proverb" in the early church. Only two of them, here and in 1 Timothy 2:11, have any definite saying in view. "In the other passages, the expression seems to be a short parenthetical formula, affirmative of the truth of the general doctrine with which the writer happens to be dealing."[35]

That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners ... is indeed worthy of being considered a proverb. The expression stands as an epitome of the whole Christian religion: (1) The deity of Christ is in it, for of no man could it be said that 'the came into the world." (2) The redeeming, saving purpose of the visitation of the Dayspring from on high is in it. (3) The universal sinfulness of mankind is in it, for his condition was such that only God could save him, and that at awful cost to himself in the sending of the Beloved.

Of whom I am chief ... "The translation should be, `of whom foremost am I.'"[36] Hendriksen based this conclusion upon the emphatic position of the first person pronoun in the original. But the question is, HOW was Paul the chief of sinners?

(1) His sin was chief in the sense of the zeal and avid delight in which he pursued it. (2) It was greatest in the diabolical results that would have been achieved if he had continued in it, possibly that of the total destruction of Christianity; surely that was his purpose. (3) Paul was the chief of sinners because his sin was against Christ himself in the person of his spiritual body on earth. (4) He was the chief of sinners in the matter of his marvelous abilities, super intellectual powers, unswerving zeal and persistent determination which augmented the threat of his operations against God's purpose on earth in Christ. (5) He was the foremost among sinners because of the particular historical position which his persecutions held in the very beginning of Christianity. A million sinners today, operating against Christianity with Pauline zeal and power, would not pose a fraction of the threat inherent in the activities of Paul at that singular period in history.

[34] Alan G. Nute, op. cit., p. 508.

[35] Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 98.

[36] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 81.

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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https: Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation,.... This is said, lest it should be thought strange, or scarcely credible, that so great a sinner should be saved; as well as to give a summary of the glorious Gospel the apostle was intrusted with; and in opposition to fables, endless genealogies, and vain jangling, and contentions about the law. The doctrine of Christ's coming into the world, and of salvation by him, as it is the sum and substance of the Gospel, so it is a "faithful saying"; in which the faithfulness of God is displayed to himself, and the perfections of his nature, his holiness, justice, love, grace, and mercy; to his law, which is magnified, and made honourable; to his word of promise hereby fulfilled; and to his Son in carrying him through the work: and the faithfulness of Christ is discovered herein, both to his Father with whom, and to his friends for whom, he engaged to obtain salvation; and the faithfulness of ministers is shown in preaching it, and of other saints in professing it, and abiding by it: it is a true saying, and not to be disputed or doubted of, but to be believed most firmly; it is certain that God the Father sent his Son into the world for this purpose; and Christ himself assures us, that he came for this end; his carriage to sinners, and his actions, testified the same; his works and miracles confirm it; and the numberless instances of sinners saved by him evince the truth of it: and it is "worthy of all acceptation"; or to be received by all sorts of persons, learned, or unlearned, rich or poor, greater or lesser sinners; and to be received in all ways, and in the best manner, as the word of God, and not man; with heartiness and readiness, and with love, joy, and gladness, and with meekness, faith, and fear, and by all means; for it is entirely true, absolutely necessary, and suitable to the case of all, and is to be highly valued and esteemed by those who do approve and accept of it. It is the Christian Cabala, or the evangelical tradition, delivered by the Father to Christ, by him to his apostles, and by them to the saints, by whom it is cordially received. The apostle seems to allude to the Cabala of the Jews, their oral law, which they sayF13Pirke Abot, c. 1. sect. 1. was delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai, and by him to Joshua; and by Joshua to the elders; and by the elders to the prophets; and so from one to another to his times: but here he suggests, that if they would have a Cabala, here is one, that is firm, and true, and certain, and worthy to be received, whereas the Jewish one was precarious, yea, false and untrue. Indeed, sometimes the words of the prophets are so called by them; so that passage in Joel 2:13 is called קבלה, "Cabala"F14Misn. Taanith, c. 2. sect. 1. , some thing delivered and received; upon which one of their commentatorsF15Jarchi Misn. Taanith, c. 2. sect. 1. has these words,

"whatever a prophet commands the Israelites, makes known unto them, or exhorts them to, is a Cabala.

And if a prophetic command or admonition, then surely: such an evangelical doctrine, as follows, is entitled to this character,

that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; Christ came into the world, being sent by his Father, but not against his will, but with his free consent: he came voluntarily in the fulness of time into this sinful world, where he was ill treated; and this was not by local motion, or change of place, but by assumption of nature; and the end of it was, that he might be the Saviour of lost sinners, as all men are, both by Adam's sin, and their own transgressions; though he came not to save all, for then all would be saved, whereas they are not; and if he came to save them, he must have then so far lost his end; but he came to save sinners, of all sorts, even notorious sinners, the worst and chief of sinners: and the apostle instances in himself,

of whom I am chief; or "first"; not that he was the first in time; Adam was the first man that sinned, though Eve was before him in the transgression: it is a most stupid notion, that some gave into from this passage, as if the soul of Adam passed from one body to another, till it came to Paul, and therefore he calls himself the first of sinners: but his meaning is, that he was the first in quality, or the greatest and chiefest of sinners, not only of those that are saved, but of all men, Jews or Gentiles; and this he said not hyperbolically, nor out of modesty, but from a real sense or apprehension he had of himself, and his sins, which were made exceeding sinful to him; or he was the chief of sinners, and exceeded all others in his way of sinning, in blaspheming the name of Christ, and persecuting his saints, otherwise his conversation was externally moral, and in his own, and in the opinion of others, blameless: he was no fornicator, adulterer, thief, extortioner, &c. but in the above things he went beyond all others, and was a ringleader in them; and the remembrance of these sins abode with him, and kept him humble all his days; he was always ready to acknowledge them, and express his vileness and unworthiness on account of them: hence he here says, not "of whom I was", but "of whom I am chief". Now such sinners, and all sorts of sinners, Christ came to save from all their sins, original and actual; from the law, its curse and condemnation; from the bondage of Satan, the evil of the world, and wrath to come, and from every enemy; and that, by his obedience, sufferings, and death, by fulfilling the law, bearing its penalty, offering himself a sacrifice for sin, thereby finishing it, making reconciliation for it, and bringing in an everlasting righteousness: and a great Saviour he is, and an only one; a full, suitable, able, and willing Saviour; a Saviour of the soul, as well as of the body, and of both with an everlasting salvation,

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Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https: 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

13 This [is] a i faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

(13) He turns the reproach of the adversaries upon their own head, showing that this singular example of the goodness of God, contributes greatly to the benefit of the whole Church.

(i) Worthy to be believed.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https: 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

faithful — worthy of credit, because “God” who says it “is faithful” to His word (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6). This seems to have become an axiomatic saying among Christians the phrase, “faithful saying,” is peculiar to the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy 2:11; 1 Timothy 4:9; Titus 3:8). Translate as Greek, “Faithful is the saying.”

all — all possible; full; to be received by all, and with all the faculties of the soul, mind, and heart. Paul, unlike the false teachers (1 Timothy 1:7), understands what he is saying, and whereof he affirms; and by his simplicity of style and subject, setting forth the grand fundamental truth of salvation through Christ, confutes the false teachers‘ abstruse and unpractical speculations (1 Corinthians 1:18-28; Titus 2:1).

acceptationreception (as of a boon) into the heart, as well as the understanding, with all gladness; this is faith acting on the Gospel offer, and welcoming and appropriating it (Acts 2:41).

Christ — as promised.

Jesus — as manifested [Bengel].

came into the world — which was full of sin (John 1:29; Romans 5:12; 1 John 2:2). This implies His pre-existence. John 1:9, Greek, “the true Light that, coming into the world, lighteth every man.”

to save sinners — even notable sinners like Saul of Tarsus. His instance was without a rival since the ascension, in point of the greatness of the sin and the greatness of the mercy: that the consenter to Stephen, the proto-martyr‘s death, should be the successor of the same!

I am — not merely, “I was chief” (1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8; compare Luke 18:13). To each believer his own sins must always appear, as long as he lives, greater than those of others, which he never can know as he can know his own.

chief — the same Greek as in 1 Timothy 1:16, “first,” which alludes to this fifteenth verse, Translate in both verses, “foremost.” Well might he infer where there was mercy for him, there is mercy for all who will come to Christ (Matthew 18:11; Luke 19:10).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https: 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Faithful is the saying (πιστος ο λογοςpistos ho logos). Five times in the Pastorals (1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 4:9; Titus 3:8; 2 Timothy 2:11). It will pay to note carefully πιστισ πιστευω πιστοςpistisπιστοςpisteuōλογοςpistos Same use of οτιpistos (trustworthy) applied to αποδοχηςlogos in Titus 1:9; Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6. Here and probably in 2 Timothy 2:11 a definite saying seems to be referred to, possibly a quotation (αχιοςhoti) of a current saying quite like the Johannine type of teaching. This very phrase (Christ coming into the world) occurs in John 9:37; John 11:27; John 16:28; John 18:37. Paul, of course, had no access to the Johannine writings, but such “sayings” were current among the disciples. There is no formal quotation, but “the whole phrase implies a knowledge of Synoptic and Johannine language” (Lock) as in Luke 5:32; John 12:47.

Acceptation (πρωτοςapodochēs). Genitive case with ηνaxios (worthy of). Late word (Polybius, Diod., Jos.) in N.T. only here and 1 Timothy 4:9.

Chief (ειμιprōtos). Not ελαχιστος των αποστολωνēn (I was), but τωι ελαχιστοτερωι παντων αγιωνeimi (I am). “It is not easy to think of any one but St. Paul as penning these words” (White). In 1 Corinthians 15:9 he had called himself “the least of the apostles” (elachistos tōn apostolōn). In Ephesians 3:8 he refers to himself as “the less than the least of all saints” (tōi elachistoterōi pantōn hagiōn). On occasion Paul would defend himself as on a par with the twelve apostles (Galatians 2:6-10) and superior to the Judaizers (2 Corinthians 11:5.; 2 Corinthians 12:11). It is not mock humility here, but sincere appreciation of the sins of his life (cf. Romans 7:24) as a persecutor of the church of God (Galatians 1:13), of men and even women (Acts 22:4.; Acts 26:11). He had sad memories of those days.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https: Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

This is a faithful saying ( πιστὸς ὁ λόγος )

Better, faithful is the saying. A favorite phrase in these Epistles. oP. See 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8.

Worthy of all acceptation ( πάσης ἀποδοχῆς ἄξιος )

The phrase only here and 1 Timothy 4:9. Ἁποδοχή Pastoolxx. Comp. Acts 2:41, ἀποδεξάμενοι τὸν λόγον receivedhis word. Πάσης all or every describes the reception of which the saying is worthy as complete and excluding all doubt.

Came into the world ( ἦλθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον )

The phrase is unique in the Pastorals, and does not appear in Paul. It is Johannine. See John 1:9; John 3:19; John 11:27; John 12:46.

To save sinners ( ἁναρτωλοὺς σῶσαι )

The thought is Pauline, but not the phrase. See Luke 9:56; Luke 19:10.

Chief ( πρῶτος )

Or foremost. Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:9, and Ephesians 3:8. This expression is an advance on those.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https: Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

This is a faithful saying — A most solemn preface.

And worthy of all acceptation — Well deserving to be accepted, received, embraced, with all the faculties of our whole soul.

That Christ — Promised.

Jesus — Exhibited.

Came into the world to save sinners — All sinners, without exception.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https: 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

I am chief. This is evidently not to be understood in a literal sense. He means thus to acknowledge the greatness of his guilt, which otherwise his expressions in 1 Timothy 1:13 might perhaps have been supposed to deny.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https: 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

15It is a faithful saying After having defended his ministry from slander and unjust accusations, not satisfied with this, he turns to his own advantage what might have been brought against him by his adversaries as a reproach. He shews that it was profitable to the Church that he had been such a person as he actually was before he was called to the apostleship, because Christ, by giving him as a pledge, invited all sinners to the sure hope of obtaining pardon. For when he, who had been a fierce and savage beast, was changed into a Pastor, Christ gave a remarkable display of his grace, from which all might be led to entertain a firm belief that no sinner; how heinous and aggravated so ever might have been his transgressions, had the gate of salvation shut against him.

That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners He first brings forward this general statement, and adorns it with a preface, as he is wont to do in matters of vast importance. In the doctrine of religion, indeed, the main point is, to come to Christ, that, being lost in ourselves, we may obtain salvation from him. Let this preface be to our ears like the sound of a trumpet to proclaim the praises of the grace of Christ, in order that we may believe it with a stronger faith. Let it be to us as a seal to impress on our hearts a firm belief of the forgiveness of sins, which otherwise with difficulty finds entrance into the hearts of men.

A faithful saying What was the reason why Paul aroused attention by these words, but because men are always disputing with themselves (23) about their salvation? For, although God the Father a thousand times offer to us salvation, and although Christ himself preach about his own office, yet we do not on that account cease to tremble, or at least to debate with ourselves if it be actually so. Wherefore, whenever any doubt shall arise in our mind about the forgiveness of sins, let us learn to repel it courageously with this shield, that it is an undoubted truth, and deserves to be received without controversy.

To save sinners. The word sinners is emphatic; for they who acknowledge that it is the office of Christ to save, have difficulty in admitting this thought, that such a salvation belongs to “sinners.” Our mind is always impelled to look at our worthiness; and as soon as our unworthiness is seen, our confidence sinks. Accordingly, the more any one is oppressed by his sins, let him the more courageously betake himself to Christ, relying on this doctrine, that he came to bring salvation not to the righteous, but to “sinners.” It deserves attention, also, that Paul draws an argument from the general office of Christ, in order that what he had lately testified about his own person might not appear to be on account of its novelty.

Of whom, I am the first Beware of thinking that the Apostle, under a presence of modesty, spoke falsely, (24) for he intended to make a confession not less true than humble, and drawn from the very bottom of his heart.

But some will ask, “Why does he, who only erred through ignorance of sound doctrine, and whose whole life, in even other respect, was blameless before men, pronounce himself to be the chief of sinners?” I reply, these words inform us how heinous and dreadful a crime unbelief is before God, especially when it is attended by obstinacy and a rage for persecution. (Philippians 3:6.) With men, indeed, it is easy to extenuate, under the presence of heedless zeal, all that Paul has acknowledged about himself; but God values more highly the obedience of faith than to reckon unbelief, accompanied by obstinacy, to be a small crime. (25)

We ought carefully to observe this passage, which teaches us, that a man who, before the world, is not only innocent, but eminent for distinguished virtues, and most praiseworthy for his life, yet because he is opposed to the doctrine of the gospel, and on account of the obstinacy of his unbelief, is reckoned one of the most heinous sinners; for hence we may easily conclude of what value before God are all the pompous displays of hypocrites, while they obstinately resist Christ.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https: 1840-57.

Scofield's Reference Notes

world kosmos = mankind. (See Scofield "Matthew 4:8").

save (See Scofield "Romans 1:16").

sinners Grace (in salvation). 2 Timothy 1:14; 2 Timothy 1:15; 2 Timothy 1:9; Romans 3:24 (See Scofield "John 1:17")

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Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https: 1917.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary


‘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.’

1 Timothy 1:15

Why should the words ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ be a ‘faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation’?

I. Because the saying is clearly made up of the words of the Lord Himself.—On two different occasions our Lord referred to the purposes of His coming into the world, and that in terms which completely bear out the words of this saying.

II. Because of the light which it throws on the character of God.—The temptation to cherish hard thoughts of God is very old, and it is also very modern. ‘I knew thee, that thou art an austere man.’ This is the language which millions of hearts have secretly held in converse with the infinitely loving Creator. The saying of the text, when it is once received by faith, is a faithful exponent of the truth about God, and worthy of our acceptation.

III. Because it reminds us of the greatness of the work of Christ.—Never can a moral being say, under any circumstances, ‘It is good for me that I have sinned.’ Physical evil, pain, want, disease, may be made to lead to moral good—moral evil or sin, never. This sin is rebellion of the will against God. If our Lord Jesus had left this master-evil untouched, He would not have saved men, in the proper sense of that expression. The salvation I of man is a different thing from an improved condition of society. Our Lord came to save men by doing three things for the human will. He gave it freedom; He gave it a new and true direction; He gave it strength. He has pardoned believing sinners: He has put them by His grace on the true road which man should follow, and He has given them strength to follow it.

—Rev. Canon Liddon.



If in other matters truth is what one needs, in matters of religion it is the supreme necessity. There are no useful mistakes in religion, no happy errors, no falsehoods that help any one to be better.

I. The biggest truth in the world.—Is it true that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners? If it is, it is the biggest of all truths.

(a) St. Paul, living in the light, beautified by the light, walking with God, inspired, illuminated by Him, says, Brethren, I have tried this truth, I have tested it with the weight of my life, ventured all on it, put it to every test; and I come to you and tell you it is a faithful saying, something that will bear your weight, and answer your hopes, and never disappoint your confidence.

(b) It fits in with all that we might expect of God. We have a taste for truth; the sheep hear the voice, and can tell the difference between what is Divine and human. Everything good in us must have had its origin in something better in God, and something answering more nobly to our pity and our compassion, and our delight in saving, and our trouble when we look upon distress; something answering, but more nobly, to all of these must be in the heart of Him that made us.

II. This gospel is worthy of all acceptation.—There is an innumerable multitude who think, and think they believe this statement—think they do, and would be shocked if they were classed amongst sceptics or unbelievers—but who immediately turn aside and think of something eighteen hundred years ago—a fact of history unimportant to them. Now St. Paul, who had seen a good deal of life, says that this gospel is worth all men’s acceptance: that the richest should take it in order to increase his wealth, and the poorest in order to dissipate all his poverty; that the troubled should take it as the cure of every care, and the untroubled should take it as the preservative of all delights; that the guilty should take it as the gleam of hope that will restore them to peace, and the innocent as that which will preserve their integrity. It is worthy of all men’s acceptance: and some accept it, binding it to their heart, making that fact the main starting-point of the plans and purposes of their life; responding to it, adoring Christ, opening the gate to let Him in, helping Him in His effort to save them.



It is of the deepest moment, especially in these anxious days, that our faith in the Incarnation should be distinct and unwavering.

I. We must unhesitatingly believe that our Lord and God did enter into our nature along its wonted pathway, and subject to all its limitations, but, so entering, remained, nevertheless, from the first moment onward of the human life He vouchsafed to live, very and eternal God, His outward glory laid aside but His attributes unchanged. The life of Jesus was thus, to use the expression of a great Christian thinker, always God-human. This is the faith handed down to us unchanged and unchangeable through ages of controversy.

II. The divine purpose of our Lord’s coming into the world was to save sinners.—The great Nicene Creed reiterates the same declaration. ‘For us men and for our salvation,’ the eternal Son laid aside His glory and came down from heaven. It was for us and for our salvation He came down, and was incarnate; for us and for our salvation that He was born as we are born, suffered—albeit in a greater and more transcendent intensity—as we suffer, died as we die.

The more we dwell on the purpose—the salvation of mankind—the firmer will be our hold on the truth and reality of the Incarnation.

—Bishop Ellicott.


‘We are at last reverting to the primary belief of the early Christian Church that God is among us, blessing and visiting the children of men. Not a God outside the world, or as for ages has been the prevailing conception of God since the days of Augustine, transcendently above it, but a God within the world, immanent and abiding. To the early writers of Christianity the Incarnation was not a new principle in the development of the world. Firmly believing in the immanence of God in the world which He had vouchsafed to create, and equally believing in Christ, not merely speculatively, but in deepest and most heartfelt reality as very and eternal God, to them it seemed no strange thing that the indwelling God should at length reveal Himself to the world and even enter it under the conditions, and in consonance with the laws of human existence and development.’

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". Church Pulpit Commentary. https: 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

15 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.

Ver. 15. This is a faithful saying] Worthy to be credited and embraced, as it was by Bilney the martyr, who by this promise was much comforted in a great conflict. So was Ursine by John 10:29. Another by Isaiah 57:15. And another by Isaiah 26:3, saying that God hath graciously made it fully good to his soul.

Of whom I am chief] Primus, quo nullus prior, as Gerson expounds it; Imo quo nullus peior, as Augustine, more worse than the worst. The true penitentiary doth not elevate but aggravate his sins against himself, is ever full in the mouth this way, as Daniel 9:5. Paul veils all his top sails, we see, and sits down in the dust; vilifying and nullifying himself to the utmost.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https: 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

1 Timothy 1:15

Your Own Salvation.

I. What was the particular sin from which St. Paul had to be saved, the salvation from which made him a new creature in Christ Jesus, that old things passed away, and all things became new? It was not a sin of morals, in the general sense of the word; it was a sin of ignorance, by which he was led into deeds of cruelty and wrong. The Christians, so it seemed to his blinded eyes, were against God and Fatherland, and anyhow they must be put down. They were unbelievers, and infidels, and destructives, and all power must be kept from them, and they must be crushed down, even if it did look cruel; the honour of God, and the welfare of their country required it. Better that a few should be imprisoned or stoned, that the whole nation perish not; and so, like many another persecutor of old and modern times, with prayer to God, and virtuous living, he went to root out the false doctrines and the false preachers.

II. St. Paul was saved by Christ from a false and mistaken view. His old ardent and upright character remained the same, but it had a new direction, a new intention, a new Lord and Master. He meant well as he rode along that noonday with Damascus in view. He was a pillar of orthodoxy, and zealous for the faith; he was, so it seemed to him, doing a service for God and religion, when suddenly the piercing words which rent his soul were heard. He saw his errors, all his terrible blunder with its sin; it pleased God to make a change in his thoughts and perceptions; it pleased God to reveal His Son within him; and not from his old virtuous and God-fearing life, but from his false views and misleading ignorance did the Heavenly Father save him.

W. Page Roberts, Reasonable Service, p. 91.

References: 1 Timothy 1:15.—J. H. Wilson, The Gospel and its Fruits, p. 23; A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, p. 124; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 284; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xv., p. 236; E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol i., p. 111; H. P. Liddon, Advent Sermons, vol. i., p. 317; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 419; Good Words, vol. vi., p. 47. 1 Timothy 1:15-17.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1837; J. Baldwin Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., pp. 305, 340; Ibid., vol. xxxi., p. 65; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 357. 1 Timothy 1:16.—R. Roberts, My Later Ministry, p. 213; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 1870, p. 476; E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxiv., p. 136; E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. ii., p. 158; T. J. Crawford, The Preaching of the Cross, p. 236; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 203; Ibid., 3rd series, vol. vi., p. 168. 1 Timothy 1:17.—L. D. Bevan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 404; A. Dunning, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 218; Bishop Westcott, The Historic Faith, p. 215.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https:

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Timothy 1:15. Of whom I am chief. As distance diminishes objects to the sight, and nearness magnifies them, so to holy men their own faults appear greater than those of others; and truth is not injured by expressions which humility suggests, because they speak their real sentiments.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https: 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Observe here, 1. What an humble apprehension this great apostle had of himself, though then the greatest of saints in the esteem of others, yet the chiefest of sinners in his own account: for he doth not say, I was the chief of sinners, but I am so; notwithstanding his repentance and remission, still he reflects upon his former unregenerate state and sinful condition.

Learn hence, That when sin is mercifully pardoned, and cast behind God's back, the penitent sinner will and ought to set it continually before his own face, to keep him humble, sensible of, and thankful for, the rich grace of God dispensed to him, and received by him: Sinners of whom I am chief.

Observe, 2. A most comfortable revelation made by the gospel concerning the redemption and salvation of a lost world by our Lord Jesus Christ. He came into the world to save sinners.

Where note, That the promised Messiah is come into the world; that Jesus Christ is that promised Messiah: therefore he was before he came, his divine nature pre-existing from all eternity; and in the fulness of time he assumed the human nature into an union with his Godhead.

Note farther, That the design of his coming was to save sinners; therefore if man had not sinned, Christ had not come into the world: what need of a mediator, had there been no breach? No need of a physcian, had there been no disease.

Farther, it was not absolutely necessary that Christ should come into the world to save sinners; but supposing God's purpose of saving sinners by way of a price or satisfaction, Christ's coming into the world was indispensably necessary; for no mere creature could lay down a price satisfactory for the salvation of lost man.

Observe, 3. The truth and certainty, together with the worth and excellency, of the gospel revelation: This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation; for what is the gospel but a revelation of pardon to condemned malefactors, a declaration of peace to proclaimed enemies, a proclamation of liberty to enslaved captives, an offer of cure to diseased persons? Oh! with what fervent zeal should this acceptable doctrine be preached by us, and embraced by our people; That Jesus Christ is come into the world to save sinners!

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https: 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

15.] faithful (worthy of credit: ἀντὶ τοῦ, ἀψευδὴς καὶ ἀληθής, Thdrt. Cf. Revelation 21:5, οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι ἀληθινοὶ καὶ πιστοί εἰσιν: similarly Revelation 22:6 [or, one belonging to those who are of the πίστις]. The formula πιστὸς ὁ λόγος is peculiar to the pastoral Epistles, and characteristic I believe of their later age, when certain sayings had taken their place as Christian axioms, and were thus designated) is the saying, and worthy of all (all possible, i.e. universal) reception (see reff. Polyb., and Wetst. and Kypke, h. l. A word which, with its adjective ἀποδεκτός (ch. 1 Timothy 2:3; 1 Timothy 5:4), is confined to these Epistles. We have the verb, οἱ μὲν οὖν ἀποδεξάμενοι τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ ἐβαπιτίσθησαν, Acts 2:41), that Christ Jesus came into the world (an expression otherwise found only in St. John. But in the two reff. in Matt. and Luke, we have the ἦλθεν) to save sinners (to be taken in the most general sense, not limited in any way), of whom (sinners; not, as Wegscheider, σωζομένων or σεσωσμένων: the aim and extent of the Lord’s mercy intensifies the feeling of his own especial unworthiness) I am (not, ‘was’) chief (not, ‘one of the chief,’ as Flatt,—nor does πρῶτος refer to time, which would not be the fact (see below): the expression is one of the deepest humility: αὐτὸν ὑπερβαίνει τῆς ταπεινοφροσύνης ὅρον, says Thdrt.: and indeed it is so, cf. Philippians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16; but deep humility ever does so: it is but another form of ἐμοὶ τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ, Luke 18:13; other men’s crimes seem to sink into nothing in comparison, and a man’s own to be the chief and only ones in his sight):

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https: 1863-1878.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



1 Timothy 1:15. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

IT is said of the Athenians that “they spent their time in nothing else but in telling or hearing some new thing.” This, to say the least, was a very unprofitable way of employing their precious hours: for of the reports that are most industriously circulated, many are false, many doubtful, many frivolous; and of those that are true and important, the far greater part do not properly concern us. But there is one report that has spread far and wide, in which we are all deeply interested; the particulars of which, together with the general character of the report itself, it is our intention to lay before you.

I. The report itself—

In general the report is, that “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” But because of its singular importance, it will be proper that we enter into particulars, and tell you distinctly,

1. Who Jesus Christ was—

[He was a man in every respect like ourselves, sin only excepted. But he was God also: he was the only-begotten Son of God, “God of God, light of light, very God of very God.” To declare fully who he was, is beyond the power of any finite being: since “none knoweth the Son but the Father [Note: Matthew 11:27.]:” yet we know infallibly from Scripture that he was the eternal [Note: Micah 5:2. with John 17:5.], immutable Jehovah [Note: Hebrews 13:8.], God manifest in the flesh [Note: 1 Timothy 3:16.], God over all, blessed for ever [Note: Romans 9:5.].]

2. How he came into the world—

[He was born like other men; but he was not begotten in the way of ordinary generation. He was formed by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of a pure virgin, that he might partake of our nature without inheriting our corruption [Note: Luke 1:35.]. He was born under circumstances of peculiar meanness: his life also was spent in poverty and disgrace: and his death was the most cruel and ignominious that could be inflicted on him. But he foreknew from the beginning all that he should suffer, and yet voluntarily took upon him our nature, that he might both do and suffer all that was appointed of the Father.]

3. For what end he came into the world—

[Never was there such an errand before, or since. His own creatures had ruined themselves; and he came to save them. Though it was his law that they transgressed, and his authority that they despised, and his yoke that they cast off; yea, though he was the one great object of their contempt and abhorrence, he came to save them. Though he knew that they would murder him as soon as ever he should put himself into their power, yet he came to save them; to save the vilest of them, not excepting those who unrighteously condemned him, or insultingly mocked him, or cruelly pierced him with the nails and spear. When there was no alternative but either that they must perish, or he come down from heaven to suffer in their stead, down he came upon the wings of love, and “saved them from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for them [Note: Galatians 3:13.].” He suffered that they might go free; and died, that they might live for ever.]

That this is “not a cunningly-devised fable,” will appear, if we consider what is said in the text respecting,

II. The character of this report—

St. Paul, who had examined it thoroughly, declares that it is,

1. Worthy of credit—

[So strange a report as this ought on no account to be believed, unless it can be proved beyond a possibility of doubt. Credulity in a concern that so deeply involves the honour of God and the welfare of all the human race, would be criminal in the highest degree. But we need be under no apprehensions respecting the truth of this report. “It is a faithful saying:” it is attested by the accomplishment of prophecies the most numerous, the most minute, the most opposite and irreconcileable; of prophecies, which no human wisdom could hare devised, no human power could accomplish. It has been credited by thousands who were at first most adverse to it: it has always appeared with more convincing evidence in proportion as it has been scrutinized and examined: and multitudes have propagated it at the peril of their lives, and sealed the truth of it with their blood. There is no species of evidence wanting to confirm it: so that it is impossible to doubt of its truth, if only we inquire into it with diligence and candour.]

2. Worthy of acceptation—

[There are many reports that are true, which yet are unworthy of any serious concern. But this is so universally interesting, and withal so precious, that it is worthy to be received by all mankind with the liveliest joy and exultation. If it be considered only as affecting the present happiness of men, there is no other report deserving of the smallest attention in comparison of this. None but God can tell, how many myriads of souls it has delivered from the deepest distress and anguish, and filled with peace and joy unspeakable. In truth, there is no solid comfort upon earth but what arises from the belief of these joyful tidings. But if we extend our views to the eternal felicity which the crediting of this report has occasioned; if we look at the myriads of saints that are already around the throne of God, and consider what numbers are continually adding to them from this lower world, and what an innumerable host there will be at the last day, that will have been rescued from hell, and exalted to glory solely through their crediting of this report, surely we shall say it is “worthy of all acceptation,” worthy, not merely to be credited, but to be entertained in our hearts with the devoutest gratitude and thanksgiving.]

We shall conclude with recommending “this saying” to the attention of,

1. Those who have lived in a wilful course of sin—

[You cannot but have some secret apprehension that “your end will be according to your ways,” How acceptable then ought these tidings to be to you! Do not despise them. Do not aggravate your eternal condemnation by rejecting them; neither put them from you, as though they were too good to be true: for Christ came to save even the very “chief of sinners;” and you, if you will believe on him, shall experience his salvation.]

2. Those who have been more exemplary in their lives—

Do not imagine that you are able to save yourselves: if you have not been such profligate sinners as others, still you are “sinners,” and must be saved by Jesus Christ, or not at all. You are but too apt to overlook all that Christ has done and suffered for you, under an idea that your moral and religious duties will conciliate the Divine favour: and hence it too often happens, that, while “publicans and harlots enter into his kingdom, persons of your description exclude themselves from it. But know, that “there is salvation in no other:” Christ is, and must be, your only refuge, and your only hope [Note: Acts 4:12.].]

3. Those who have already received it into their hearts—

[Doubtless this report has already been a source of joy and consolation to you. But you cannot even conceive how rich a source of blessings it will be, if only you continue to reflect upon it. In it are contained “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge [Note: Colossians 2:3.]:” it has a height, and depth, and length, and breadth, that no finite being can comprehend [Note: Ephesians 3:18-19.], and that through eternal ages will afford incessant and increasing cause for wonder and adoration. Let this report then be your meditation day and night, and while we, as God’s ambassadors, endeavour to propagate it with our lips, do you endeavour to recommend and confirm it by your lives.]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https: 1832.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

1 Timothy 1:15. πιστὸς λόγος κ. τ. λ.] With this formula, which is peculiar to the Pastoral Epistles (found besides here in 1 Timothy 3:1, 1 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8; only in Rev. is there a similar formula: οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι πιστοὶ καὶ ἀληθινοί εἰσι, Revelation 21:5, Revelation 22:6), the apostle introduces the general thought whose truth he had himself experienced.

καὶ πάσης ἀποδοχῆς ἄξιος] This addition is also in 1 Timothy 4:9; the word ἀποδοχή occurs nowhere else in the N. T. (comp. ἀπόδεκτος, 1 Timothy 2:3, 1 Timothy 5:4). As Raphelius has shown by many proofs from Polybius, it is synonymous in later Greek with πίστις: the verb ἀποδέχεσθαι (“receive believing”) is used in the same sense in Acts 2:41. The adjective πάσης describes the ἀποδοχή of which the word is worthy, as one complete and excluding all doubt.

ὅτι χρ. ἰησ. ἦλθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον] This expression, found especially in John, may be explained from the saying of Christ: ἐξῆλθον παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ ἐλήλυθα εἰς τὸν κόσμον, John 16:28, κόσμος having here a physical, not an ethical meaning: “the earthly world.”

ἁμαρτωλοί stands here in a general sense, and is not with Stolz to be limited to the opponents of Christianity, nor with Michaelis to the heathen. As little can the idea of σῶσαι be limited in the one direction or the other. After this general thought, that the aim of Christ’s coming is none other than the σωτηρία of sinners, the apostle returns to his own case, adding, in consciousness of his guilt (1 Timothy 1:13): ὧν πρῶτός εἰμι ἐγώ, “of whom I am first.” Paul says this, conscious of his former determined hostility to Christ when he was a βλάσφημος κ. τ. λ. (1 Timothy 1:13), and considering himself at the same time as standing at the head of sinners. It is inaccurate to translate πρῶτος without qualification by “the foremost” (in opposition to Wiesinger and others). Even in Mark 12:28-29, πρώτη πάντων ἐντολή is the commandment which stands at the head of all, is first in the list, and δευτέρα is the one following. In order to qualify the thought, Flatt wishes to translate πρῶτος by “one of the foremost,” which he thinks he can justify by the absence of the article. Wegscheider, again, wishes not to refer ὧν to ἁμαρτωλούς, but to supply σωζομένων or σεσωσμένων; and similarly Mack explains ὧν by “of which saved sinners.” All these expositions are, however, to be rejected as pieces of ingenuity. The thought needs no qualification—at least not for any one who can sympathize with the apostle’s strong feeling. The apostle does not overstep the bounds of humility in what he says in 1 Corinthians 15:9 and Ephesians 3:8; neither does he overstep them here.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https: 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

1 Timothy 1:15. πιστὸς, faithful) A very solemn form of preface. Paul knows what he says, and whereof he affirms (1 Timothy 1:7), and refutes the false teachers by the very simplicity of his language, treating, but with great beauty, of common topics, so much the rather, as others affected to treat of those which are more abstruse. So also Titus 2:1.— πάσης, all) Even faith is a kind of acceptation. This statement deserves all acceptation by all the faculties of the whole soul: ἀποδοχὴ (from δέχεσθαι, Luke 8:13), is when I am thankful, and speak of a thing as a good deed (a boon conferred on me): comp. the correlative, ἀποδεκτὸν, acceptable, ch. 1 Timothy 2:3.— χριστὸς ἰησοῦς) Christ, viz. as promised: Jesus, as manifested. Franckius, in Homil. on this passage, shows that in this sense the name Christ here is put first, and Jesus after it; comp. 2 Timothy 1:9, note.— κὀσμον, world) which was full of sin, John 1:29; Romans 5:12; 1 John 2:2.— ἁμαρτωλοὺς, sinners) great and notable sinners. He saves also those whose sins have been not so aggravated; but it is much more remarkable that He saves so great sinners. It can scarcely happen, but that they who themselves have tasted the grace of God, should taste its universality, and, in like manner, from it entertain favour towards all men. Paul draws the conclusion from his own individual case to all men.— πρῶτος, first) This is repeated with great force in the following verse [a force which is lost by the Engl. Vers., chief]. The example of Paul is incomparable, whether we consider sin or mercy. [There had been then no such example from the ascension of the Lord.—V. g.]

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https: 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

This is a faithful saying; the following saying, which is the great proposition of the gospel, is a saying that is in itself true, and wherein God hath declared his truth.

And worthy of all acceptation; and worthy to be with all thankfulness received, believed, and accepted.

That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; that Jesus Christ, being sent of the Father, in the fulness of time, was incarnate, lived, and died in the world; not only to set sinners an example of a better life, nor only to make God placable towards men, that if they would they might be saved; but to purchase a certain salvation for sinners, satisfying Divine justice, and meriting all grace necessary to bring them to salvation, to carry the lost sheep home upon his shoulders; yea, though they had been great wanderers, amartwlouv.

Of whom I am chief; and I was as great a one as any other, yea, the chief. Paul, though converted, had his former sin of persecution before his eyes. Persecutors are some of the chief sinners. Some will have the relative of whom to refer to the saving mentioned: of which sinners brought to salvation I am the great president, having been so great a sinner as I have been and yet received to mercy.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https: 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

1 Timothy


1 Timothy 1:15.

The less teachers of religion talk about themselves the better; and yet there is a kind of personal reference, far removed from egotism and offensiveness. Few such men have ever spoken more of themselves than Paul did, and yet none have been truer to his motto: ‘We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus.’ For the scope of almost all his personal references is the depreciation of self, and the magnifying of the wonderful mercy which drew him to Jesus Christ. Whenever he speaks of his conversion it is with deep emotion and with burning cheeks. Here, for instance, he adduces himself as the typical example of God’s long-suffering. If he were saved none need despair.

I take it that this saying of the Apostle’s, ‘Of whom I am chief,’ paradoxical and exaggerated as it seems to many men, is in spirit that which all who know themselves ought to re-echo; and without which there is little strength in Christian life.

I. And so I ask you to note, first, what this man thinks of himself.

‘Of whom I am chief.’ Now, if we set what we know of the character of Saul of Tarsus before he was a Christian by the side of that of many who have won a bad supremacy in wickedness, the words seem entirely strange and exaggerated. But, as I have often had to say, the principle of the Apostle’s estimate is to be found in his belief that, not the outward manifestation of evil in specific acts of immorality, or flagrant breaches of commandment, but the inward principle from which the deeds flowed, is the measure of a man’s criminality, and that, according to the uniform teaching of Scripture, the very root of sin, and that which is common to all the things that the world’s conscience and ordinary morality designate as wrong, is to be found here, that self has become the centre, the aim, and the law instead of God. ‘This is the condemnation,’ said Paul’s Master-- not that men have done so-and-so and so-and-so, but--’that light is come into the world, and men love darkness.’ That is the root of evil. ‘When the Comforter is come,’ said Paul’s Master, ‘He will convince the world of sin.’ Because they have broken the commandments? Because they have been lustful, ambitious, passionate, murderous, profligate, and so on? No! ‘Because they believe not in Me.’

The common root of all sin is alienation of heart and will from God. And it is by the root, and not by the black clusters of poisonous berries that have come from it, that men are to be judged. Here is the mother-tincture. You may colour it in different ways, and you may flavour it with different essences, and you will get a whole pharmacopoeia of poisons out of it. But the mother-poison of them all is this, that men turn away from the light, which is God; and for you and me is God in Christ.

So this man, looking back from the to-day of his present devotion and love to the yesterdays of his hostility, avails himself indeed of the palliation, ‘I did it ignorantly, in unbelief,’ but yet is smitten with the consciousness that whilst as touching the righteousness that is of the law he was blameless, his attitude to that incarnate love was such as now, he thinks, stamps him as the worst of men.

Brethren, there is the standard by which we have to try ourselves. If we get down below the mere surface of acts, and think, not of what we do, but of what we are, we shall then, at any rate, have in our hands the means by which we can truly estimate ourselves.

But what have we to say about that word ‘chief’? Is not that exaggeration? Well, yes and no. For every man ought to know the weak and evil places of his own heart better than he does those of any besides. And if he does so know them, he will understand that the ordinary classification of sin, according to the apparent blackness of the deed, is very superficial and misleading. Obviously, the worst of acts need not be done by the worst of men, and it does not at all follow that the man who does the awful deed stands out from his fellows in the same bad pre-eminence in which his deed stands out from theirs.

Take a concrete case. Go into the slums of Manchester, and take some of the people there, battered almost out of the semblance of humanity, and all crusted over and leprous with foul-smelling evils that you and I never come within a thousand miles of thinking it possible that we should do. Did you ever think that it is quite possible that the worst harlot, thief, drunkard, profligate in your back streets may be more innocent in their profligacy than you are in your respectability; and that we may even come to this paradox, that the worse the act, as a rule, the less guilty the doer? It is not such a paradox as it looks, because, on the one hand, the presence of temptation, and, on the other hand, the absence of light, make all the difference. And these people, who could not have been anything else, are innocent in degradation as compared with you, with all your education and culture, and opportunities of going straight, and knowledge of Christ and His love. The little transgressions that you do are far greater than the gross ones that they do. ‘But for the grace of God, there goes John Bradford,’ said the old preacher, when he saw a man going to the scaffold. And you and I, if we know ourselves, will not think that we have an instance of exaggeration, but only of the object nearest seeming the largest, when Paul said ‘Of whom I am chief.’

Only go and look for your sin in the way they look for Guy Fawkes at the House of Commons before the session. Take a dark lantern, and go down into the cellars. And If you do not find something there that will take all the conceit out of you, it must be because you are very short-sighted, or phenomenally self-complacent.

What does it matter though there be vineyards on the slopes of Vesuvius, and bright houses nestling at its base, and beauty lying all around like the dream of a god, if, when a man cranes his neck over the top of the crater, he sees that that cone, so graceful on the outside, is seething with fire and sulphur? Let us look down into the crater of our own hearts, and what we see there may well make us feel as Paul did when he said, ‘Of whom I am chief.’

Now, such an estimate is perfectly consistent with a clear recognition of any good that may be in the character and manifest in life. For the same Paul who says, ‘Of whom I am chief,’ says, in the almost contemporaneous letter sent to the same person, ‘I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith’; and he is the same man who asserted, ‘In nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.’ The true Christian estimate of one’s own evil and sin does not in the least interfere with the recognition of what God strengthens one to do, or of the progress which, by God’s grace, may have been made in holiness and righteousness. The two things may lie side by side with perfect harmony, and ought to do so, in every Christian heart.

But notice one more point. The Apostle does not say ‘I was ,’ but ‘I am chief.’ What! A man who could say, in another connection, ‘If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature; old things are passed away’--the man who could say, in another connection, ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God’--does he also say, ‘I am chief’? Is he speaking about his present? Are old sins bound round a man’s neck for evermore? If they be, what is the meaning of the Gospel that Jesus Christ redeems us from our sins? Well, he means this. No lapse of time, nor any gift of divine pardon, nor any subsequent advancement in holiness and righteousness, can alter the fact that I, the very same I that am now rejoicing in God’s salvation, am the man that did all these things; and, in a very profound sense, they remain mine through all eternity. I may be a forgiven sinner, and a cleansed sinner, and a sanctified sinner, but I am a sinner--not I was . The imperishable connection between a man and his past, which may be so tragical, and, thank God, may be so blessed, even in the case of remembered and confessed sin, is solemnly hinted at in the words before us. We carry with us ever the fact of past transgression, and no forgiveness, nor any future ‘perfecting of holiness in the fear’ and by the grace ‘of the Lord’ can alter that fact. Therefore, let us beware lest we bring upon our souls any more of the stains which, though they be in a blessed and sufficient sense blotted out, do yet leave the marks where they have fallen for ever.

II. Note how this man comes to such an estimate of himself.

He did not think so deeply and penitently of his past at the beginning of his career, true and deep as his repentance, and valid and genuine as his conversion were. But as he advanced in the love of Jesus Christ, his former active hostility became more monstrous to him, and the higher he rose, the clearer was his vision of the depth from which he had struggled; for growth in Christian holiness deepens the conviction of prior imperfection.

If God has forgiven my sin the more need for me to remember it. ‘Thou shalt be ashamed and confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy transgressions, when I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done.’ If you, my brother, have any real and genuine hold of God’s pardoning mercy, it will bow you down the more completely on your knees in the recognition of your own sin. The man who, as soon as the pressure of guilt and danger which is laid upon him seems to him to be lifted off, springs up like some elastic figure of indiarubber, and goes on his way in jaunty forgetfulness of his past evil, needs to ask himself whether he has ever passed from death unto life. Not to remember the old sin is to be blind. The surest sign that we are pardoned is the depth of our habitual penitence. Try yourselves, you Christian people who are so sure of your forgiveness, try yourselves by that test, and if you find that you are thinking less of your past evil, be doubtful whether you have ever entered into the genuine possession of the forgiving mercy of your God.

And then, still further, this penitent retrospect is the direct result of advancement in Christian characteristics. We are drawn to begin some study or enterprise by the illusion that there is but a little way to go. ‘Alps upon alps arise’ when once we have climbed a short distance up the hill, and it has become as difficult to go back as to go forward.

So it is in the Christian life--the sign of growing perfection is the growing consciousness of imperfection. A spot upon a clean palm is more conspicuous than a diffuse griminess over all the hand. One stain upon a white robe spoils it which would not be noticed upon one less lustrously clean. And so the more we grow towards God in Christ, and the more we appropriate and make our own His righteousness, the more we shall be conscious of our deficiencies, and the less we shall be prepared to assert virtues for ourselves.

Thus it comes to pass that conscience is least sensitive when it is most needed, and most swift to act when it has least to do. So it comes to pass, too, that no man’s acquittal of himself can be accepted as sufficient; and that he is a fool in self-knowledge who says, ‘I am not conscious of guilt, therefore I am innocent.’ ‘I know nothing against myself, yet am I not hereby justified: but He that judgeth me is the Lord.’ The more you become like Christ the more you will find out your unlikeness to Him.

III. Lastly, note what this judgment of himself did for this man.

I said in the beginning of my remarks that it seemed to me that without the reproduction of this estimate of ourselves there would be little strong Christian life in us. It seems to me that that continual remembrance which Paul carried with him of what he had been, and of Christ’s marvellous love in drawing him to Himself, was the very spring of all that was noble and conspicuously Christian in his career. And I venture to say, in two or three words, what I think you and I will never have unless we have this lowly self-estimate.

Without it there will be no intensity of cleaving to Jesus Christ. If you do not know that you are ill, you will not take the medicine. If you do not believe that the house is on fire, you will not mind the escape. The life-buoy lies unnoticed on the shelf above the berth as long as the sea is calm and everything goes well. Unless you have been down into the depths of your own heart, and seen the evil that is there, you will not care for the redeeming Christ, nor will you grasp Him as a man does who knows that there is nothing between him and ruin except that strong hand. We must be driven to the Saviour as well as drawn to Him if there is to be any reality or tightness in the clutch with which we hold Him. And if you do not hold Him with a firm clutch you do not hold Him at all.

Further, without this lowly estimate there will be no fervour of grateful love. That is the reason why so much both of orthodox and heterodox religion amongst us to-day is such a tepid thing as it is. It is because men have never felt either that they need a Redeemer, or that Jesus Christ has redeemed them. I believe that there is only one power that will strike the rock of a human heart, and make the water of grateful devotion flow out, and that is the belief in Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of mankind, and as my Saviour. Unless that be your faith, which it will not be except you have this conviction of my text in its spirit and essence, there will not be in your hearts the love which will glow there, an all-transforming power.

And is there anything in the world more obnoxious, more insipid, than lukewarm religion? If, with marks of quotation, I might use the coarse, strong expression of John Milton--’It gives a vomit to God Himself.’ ‘Because thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.’

And without it there will be little pity of, and love for, our fellows. Unless we feel the common evil, and estimate by the intensity of its working in ourselves how sad are its ravages in others, our charity to men will be as tepid as our love to God. Did you ever notice that, historically, the widest benevolence to men goes along with what some people call the ‘narrowest’ theology? People tell us, for instance, to mark the contrast between the theology which is usually called evangelical and the wide benevolence usually accompanying it, and ask how the two things agree. The ‘wide’ benevolence comes directly from the ‘narrow’ theology. He that knows the plague of his own heart, and how Christ has redeemed him, will go, with the pity of Christ in his heart, to help to redeem others.

So, dear friends, ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.’ ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https:

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

15. πιστὀς ὁ͂ λόγος. This remarkable formula is peculiar to the Pastorals. Here and in 1 Timothy 4:9 the words καὶ πάσης ἀποδοχῆς ἄξιος are added; in 1 Timothy 3:1, 2 Timothy 2:11, and Titus 3:8 we have the simple form πιστὸς ὁ λόγος. In 1 Timothy 3:1 it introduces a saying which may well have become proverbial at this stage of the Church’s development, If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. In 2 Timothy 2:11 the words which follow probably formed part of an early Christian hymn (εἰ γἀρ συναπεθἁνομεν, καὶ συνζήσομεν κ.τ.λ.). In the three remaining cases it refers to some important statement of doctrine tersely and generally expressed (as here and in 1 Timothy 4:8-9), or with more detail (as in Titus 3:8). πιστός is used in the sense of trustworthy (see below on 1 Timothy 4:3); and a ‘faithful saying’ in the Pastorals indicates a maxim (whether of doctrine or practice) on which full reliance may be placed. There is nothing in the N.T. quite analogous to the phrase. We have πιστός ὁ θεός (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:18), πιστός ὁ καλῶν (1 Thessalonians 5:24), but these do not help us much. A more instructive parallel is afforded by οὖτοι οἱ λόγοι πιστοἰ καὶ ἀληθινοί εἰσιν of Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6. The usual Latin rendering of πιστός in the phrase πιστὸς ὁ λόγος is fidelis; but at this verse r has humanus, a reading also adopted by Augustine in one place. See crit. note on 1 Timothy 3:1.

πάσης ἀποδοχῆς ἄξιος. ἀποδοχή only occurs again in the Greek Bible at 1 Timothy 4:9. It had come to mean approbation in late Greek; cp. Philo (de Praem. et Poen. 2) where the man who is ἀποδοχῆς ἄξιος is contrasted with the ὑπαίτιος. Cp. also an inscription found at Ephesus[516]:

Τίτου Αἰλίου

Πρἰσκου ἀνδρὸς δοκιμωτάτου καὶ

πάσης τιμῆς καὶ ἀποδοχῆς ἀξὶου.

The rendering acceptation gives the nearest sense here; cp. Acts 2:41, οἱ μὲν οὖν ἀποδεξάμενοι τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ ἐβαπτίσθησαν.

We thus translate: worthy of all (universal) acceptation. As always in such constructions in St Paul, πᾶς is used extensively, not intensively, and the phrase is equivalent to ‘acceptation by everyone,’ or as we have it in our office of Holy Communion (where this verse is one of the Comfortable Words) “worthy of all men to be received.”

Χρ. Ἰη. ἦλθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον. The phrase is, with this exception, only found in the Fourth Gospel (see John 1:9; John 12:46; John 16:28), and is not characteristically Pauline; it here occurs in a doctrinal formula so familiar and undisputed among Christians as to take rank as a ‘faithful saying.’ Indirectly the expression involves, as has been often pointed out, the pre-existence or προῢπαρξις of the Redeemer; but the prominent thought in the ‘saying’ is simply that Redemption was part of the purpose of the Incarnation. The ‘coming into the world’ is the assumption of human nature by the Eternal Word. It is worth observing that throughout this Epistle the name of our Lord is χριστὀς Ἰησοῦς, not Ἰησοῦς Χριστός. It is God’s Anointed who is man’s Saviour.

ἁμαρτωλοὺς σῶσαι. Parallels from the Gospels readily suggest themselves; St Luke 5:32 is the nearest in form. The statement is quite general.

ὦν πρῶτός εἰμι ἐγώ. “Non quia prior peccavit, sed quia plus peccavit” (Aug. Serm. 299); πρῶτος here applies not to time, but to degree; Paul is ‘chief,’ not ‘first’ of sinners. The phrase may seem extravagant, and indeed would hardly have commended itself to a forger; but it is quite in conformity with St Paul’s way of speaking of himself and his conversion. Cp. 1 Corinthians 15:9 and Ephesians 3:8, where the expressions “the least of the Apostles,” “less than the least of all saints,” are used by him. Such language is not to be described as mere rhetoric; it is too often found in the writings of the most saintly and most sincere to permit of any such explanation. For instance, Ignatius again and again speaks of himself as ‘the last’ (ἔσχατος) of the Christians at Antioch, among whom he is not worthy to be reckoned (Ephes. 21; Magn. 14, &c.). The Confessions of St Augustine, the autobiography of Bunyan, the letters of Dr Pusey, furnish other notable illustrations. The truth is that in proportion as a man fixes his ideal high, in proportion as he appreciates the possibilities of what St Paul calls ‘life in Christ,’ in that proportion will his actual progress in the spiritual life appear poor and unworthy of the grace with which he has been endowed. It is noteworthy that the Apostle does not say ‘of whom I was chief,’ but ‘I am,’ by the present tense marking the abiding sense of personal sinfulness.

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"Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https: 1896.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘The saying is faithful, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.’

‘The saying (or word) is faithful (pistos ho logos).’ That is, it comes from a faithful God through faithful men and is worthy of all trust. This solemn phrase, standing in its baldness, is a typical Pauline construction. ‘The word is faithful’ compares with the equally bald ‘God is faithful’ in 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13, and note ‘God is faithful’ and ‘the Lord is faithful’ in 2 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:3. It stresses that the word has come from the God Who is faithful. It is also found in 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 4:9 (along with ‘and worthy of all acceptance’); 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8, each time introducing an important truth. Compare also Revelation 22:6.

‘Worthy of all acceptance’ (compare 1 Timothy 4:9) is a phrase common in the papyri. It adds further weight to what Paul is saying. It is declaring that it is a deep truth and must be accepted as such. And the deep truth is that ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’

‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ This was something stated right from the beginning (Matthew 1:21), and was the foundation stone of the church. Although simple, it is packed full of theology. The Messiah Jesus had come into the world as its Saviour, coming from God the Saviour (1 Timothy 1:1; 1 Timothy 4:10), in order to save sinners. The fact that He had ‘come into the world’ indicates the source from which He came (compare John 9:37; John 11:27; John 16:28; John 18:37). He came from God the Saviour. The fact that He came to ‘save (deliver, make whole) sinners’ makes clear His central purpose. It was true that He had come to reveal love and to teach, but above all it was to save sinners (hamartowlous, those who were not obedient to God’s Law). In other words God was fulfilling the saving purpose that He had had from the beginning, and He was doing it in His Messiah Jesus.

There may also be intended to be a stress on the fact that He came into the world to do it. It was not done from afar. Salvation was not accomplished through a number of intermediaries. Nor was it simply offered from above. It was accomplished by His coming into the world as it is, in all its earthliness, with the saving activity being accomplished by Him on earth.

‘Of whom I am chief (prowtos - ‘first, most prominent, chief’).’ And as Paul spoke of ‘sinners’ he knew that there was one who was lower than all sinners, and that was himself. Even at this present time (‘I am’) he was aware of what a sinner he was. He had stood out as a sinner from the first. Had the Devil been choosing sinners for his team, Paul would have been the first to be selected. For he had persecuted the Lord Himself and had sought to stamp out His infant church (Acts 9:4-5). He was not declaring this out of false humility but out of a deep sense of unworthiness, and of gratitude, and as an encouragement to others. He knew what he had been and in making his ratings he knew in his heart that no one came lower than himself. He was ‘less than the least of all saints’ (Ephesians 3:8), and yet as such, and this was something which continually left him dumbfounded, he had been given the graciously offered opportunity and enablement to ‘proclaim among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ’ (Ephesians 3:8). The persecutor had been given the opportunity to become the proclaimer. Note the ‘I am’. He knew that without Christ His case would still have been hopeless. We can safely say that no one but Paul could have written these words.

‘Christ Jesus.’ An order found regularly in Paul (over 36 times outside the Pastorals and 14 times in the Pastorals), and only elsewhere in Acts 19:4 where it is in words of Paul; and in Hebrews 3:1, and 1 Peter 5:10; 1 Peter 5:14.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https: 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

15. Faithful sayingA full trustworthy proposition. This is one of the phrases peculiar to the pastoral epistles. See 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:2; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 1:9; Titus 3:8.

All acceptationAcceptation entire, and by all. This comprehensive and glorious saying lies in the apostle’s train of thought; for he had found it faithful and true in his own experience.

Save sinners—So that it is our sins that give us a claim upon this Saviour. If we are no sinners, then for us Christ is no Saviour.

I am chief—Literally, I am πρωτος, first; not, of course, in the order of time, but of eminence. Dr. Clarke seems to think it necessary to maintain that Paul was literally and accurately the greatest sinner that ever lived. But compare the similar hyperboles at 1 Corinthians 15:9, and Ephesians 3:8. Yet we coincide with Flatt (quoted by Huther) in noting the want of the Greek article before the word πρωτος, and translating it not the first, or the chief; but a chief, a first, one of the first. We agree with Huther that Paul’s words need no softening; and we may add, no hardening either. No one can doubt that the article would have increased the emphasis, and the due import of its omission must be acknowledged.

Note the present tense: not was, but am chief. For though forgiven, saved, apostled, he is still that same Saul; he is the man who sinned; the past can never be undone. Even though saved, he is forever a saved sinner.

Yet in what sense could the dying Wesley affirm:

“I the chief of sinners am,

But Jesus died for me?”

Not certainly as a literal fact, but as a profound assumption before God. He renounced all claims, and freely and fully consented to be saved at God’s estimate, even if it be as the greatest of sinners, by Christ’s atonement.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https: 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Seven times in the Pastorals Paul evidently alluded to statements that had become proverbial in the early church. They may have been parts of early Christian hymns or catechisms (manuals for the training of new Christians; cf. 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Titus 2:11-14; Titus 3:3-7). [Note: For a brief discussion of these liturgical passages that outline the essentials of salvation, see Bailey, pp349-54; or for a more detailed explanation, see Philip H. Towner, The Goal of Our Instruction, pp75-119.] They may be restatements of what Jesus said about Himself (cf. Matthew 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32; Luke 19:10; John 12:46-47; John 16:28; John 18:37). [Note: Knight, p102.] Paul probably alluded to one of these classic statements here, as seems likely from his use of the introductory, "It is a trustworthy statement." Here the great truth affirmed is that the purpose of Christ"s incarnation was the salvation of sinners.

"The repeated formula is always attached to a maxim (relating either to doctrine or practice) on which full reliance can be placed." [Note: Earle, p355.]

Was Paul really the worst sinner of all time (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8)? Obviously many people have lived longer in a more depraved condition than Paul did. He became a Christian relatively early in his adult life. Perhaps the apostle meant that he was the "foremost" sinner in the sense that his sin of aggressively tearing down the work that God was building up was the worst kind of sin. It was much worse than simply ignoring God and going one"s own way.

Note, too, that Paul still regarded himself as a sinner, though a forgiven one: "...I am foremost." [Note: See Robert L. Saucy, ""Sinners" Who Are Forgiven or "Saints" Who Sin?" Biblitheca Sacra152:608 (October-December1995):400-12.]

"The fact is that it is always the characteristic of a true saint to feel himself a real sinner. The air in a room seems to be clear, but when it is penetrated by the sunlight it is seen to be full of dust and other impurities: and so as men draw nearer to God, and are penetrated by the light of God (1John i5), they see more clearly their own infirmities, and begin to feel for sin something of the hatred which God feels for it." [Note: Ernest F. Brown, The Pastoral Epistles, p10.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https: 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1 Timothy 1:15. This is a faithful saying. Better, ‘Faithful is the saying.’ The formula of citation is peculiar to the Pastoral Epistles, and in them occurs frequently (1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8). It obviously indicates a stage of Christian thought in which certain truths had passed in a half proverbial form into common use and were received as axioms. Who first uttered them, and how they came to be so received, we do not know. What seems probable is that they were first spoken by prophets or teachers in the Church, approved themselves to its judgment, testing what it heard and ‘holding fast that which was good,’ and then became the basis of catechetical teaching for children and converts. St. Paul clearly cites them as already known to Timothy.

Came into the world to save sinners. Here, for the first time, we find St. Paul using the phrase which was afterwards so characteristic of St. John’s Gospel (John 1:9, John 3:19, John 6:14, John 11:27). It implies with him, as with St. John, a belief in the mystery of the Incarnation, and it defines the purpose of that Incarnation as being to save all who came under the category of ‘sinners’ (Romans 5:8).

Of whom I am chief. Every word is emphatic. ‘I’ more than any other, ‘am’ as speaking not of a past state only, but of the present

first not in order of time, but as chief in degree. Compare the cry of the publican in the parable, ‘God be merciful to me the sinner,’ Luke 18:13. Such is ever the cry of the conscience, when, ceasing to compare itself with others, it sees itself as in the sight of God.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https: 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

1 Timothy 1:15. πιστὸς λόγος: The complete phrase, πιστὸςἄξιος recurs in 1 Timothy 4:9; and πιστὸς λόγος in 1 Timothy 3:1, 2 Timothy 2:11, Titus 3:8.

The only other places in the N.T. in which πιστὸς is applied to λόγος in the sense of that can be relied on are Titus 1:9, ἀντεχόμενον τοῦ κατὰ τὴν διδαχὴν πιστοῦ λόγου; Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6, οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι πιστοὶ καὶ ἀληθινοί.

In Titus 1:9 the πιστὸς λόγος cannot mean an isolated saying, but rather the totality of the revelation given in Christ. Of the other five places in which the phrase occurs there are not more than two in which it is possible to say with confidence that a definite saying is referred to, i.e., here, and perhaps 2 Timothy 2:11. In the other passages, the expression seems to be a brief parenthetical formula, affirmative of the truth of the general doctrine with which the writer happens to be dealing. See notes in each place.

πάσης ἀποδοχῆς ἄξιος: Field (Notes on Trans. N.T. p. 203) shows by many examples from Diodorus Siculus and Diog. Laert. that this phrase was a common one in later Greek. He would render ἀποδοχή by approbation or admiration. See also Moulton and Milligan, Expositor, vii., vi. 185. ἀπόδεκτος occurs 1 Timothy 2:3; 1 Timothy 5:4; ἀποδέχεσθαι in Luke and Acts.

Other examples in the Pastorals of the use of πᾶς (= summus) with abstract nouns (besides ch. 1 Timothy 4:9) are 1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:11; 1 Timothy 3:4; 1 Timothy 5:2; 1 Timothy 6:1, 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 2:10; Titus 2:15; Titus 3:2.

χρ. ἰησ. ἦλθενσῶσαι: This is quite evidently a saying in which the apostolic church summed up its practical belief in the Incarnation. ἔρχεσθαι εἰς τὸν κόσμον, as used of Christ, is an expression of the Johannine theology; see reff. It is the converse of another Johannine expression, ἀπέστειλεν θεὸς … (or πατὴρ) εἰς τὸν κόσμον: John 3:17; John 10:36; John 17:18, 1 John 4:9. εἰσερχόμενος εἰς τὸν κόσμον is used in the same association, Hebrews 10:5. εἰσέρχεσθαι εἰς τὸν κόσμον is used of sin, Romans 5:12; ἐξέρχεσθαι εἰς τ. κ. of false prophets in 1 John 4:1, 2 John 1:7.

When we say that this is a Johannine expression, we do not mean that the writer of this epistle was influenced by the Johannine literature. But until it has been proved that John the son of Zebedee did not write the Gospel which bears his name, and that the discourses contained in it are wholly unhistorical, we are entitled, indeed compelled, to assume that what we may for convenience call Johannine theology, and the familiar expression of it, was known wherever John preached.

With ἦλθενσῶσαι cf. Luke 19:10, ἦλθενσῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός. For the notion expressed in ἁμαρτωλοὺς σῶσαι cf. Matthew 1:21; Matthew 9:13; see also John 12:47, ἦλθενἵνα σώσω τὸν κόσμον; John 1:29, αἴρων τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου; and 1 John 2:2.

The pre-existence of Christ, as well as His resistless power to save, is of course assumed in this noble summary of the gospel.

ὧν πρῶτός εἰμι ἐγώ: In the experiences of personal religion each individual man is alone with God. He sees nought but the Holy One and his own sinful self (cf. Luke 18:13, μοι τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ). And the more familiar a man becomes with the meeting of God face to face the less likely is he to be deceived as to the gulf which parts him, limited, finite, defective, from the Infinite and Perfect. It is not easy to think of anyone but St. Paul as penning these words; although his expressions of self-depreciation elsewhere (1 Corinthians 15:9, Ephesians 3:8) are quite differently worded. In each case the form in which they are couched arises naturally out of the context. The sincerity of St. Paul’s humility is proved by the fact that he had no mock modesty; when the occasion compelled it, he could appraise himself; e.g., Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16, 2 Corinthians 11:5; 2 Corinthians 12:11, Galatians 2:6.

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https: 1897-1910.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Christ Jesus, the true Son of God, came into the world to save sinners, of whom (says St. Paul) I am the chief, the first, the greatest. (Witham)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https: 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance”: See 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8. Hearty and full acceptance is the type of reception such a faithful saying would trigger. “This saying about to be quoted is entitled to wholehearted and universal personal application with no reservations of any kind (with no strings attached)” (Reese p. 31).

“That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”: See John 3:16; Matthew 20:28; Luke 5:32; Luke 19:10; Luke 24:46; Philippians 2:8. The word “came” infers that Jesus had a pre-existence before He came into the world (John 1:1; John 1:14).

“Among whom I am foremost of all”: Compare with 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8. Paul writes “I am” and not, “I was”. “This indicates that even now, years after his conversion, he deeply regrets his past” (Reese p. 32). In addition, Paul is saying that he still needs the blood of Christ to forgive him of sins that he still commits from time to time. Some have accused Paul of exaggerating when he calls himself the chief of sinners. Reese notes, “Be careful to observe that the word translated ‘foremost’ has no article in the Greek. He does not say ‘the foremost sinner’, but that he is one of many great sinners who need forgiveness” (p. 33). Yet, the word “foremost” does mean, “the first, most important, most prominent” (Arndt p. 726), and the argument in 1:16 is based on the fact that Paul is the chief or foremost and all those underneath him can likewise be saved as well.

After reading the previous verses one can see how God allowed Paul to make the above statement. Paul had not merely been guilty of the type of sins that everyone tends to commit, but he had actually persecuted God’s people, both men and women (Acts 22:4). How much of a sinner do we think we were? (Romans 6:21; Ephesians 2:1-3).

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https: 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

saying. App-121. This is the first of five "faithful sayings" in the Pastoral Epistles. Compare 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 4:9. 2 Timothy 2:11, Titus 3:8, Compare Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6.

acceptation. Greek. apodoche. Only here and 1 Timothy 4:9. world. App-129.

chief. Greek. protos. Here "foremost", i.e. first in position.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https: 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

Faithful - worthy of credit, because "God" who says it "is faithful" to His word (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6): the phrase, faithful saying, is unique to the pastoral letters (1 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8). Greek, 'Faithful is the saying.' The New Testament prophets' inspired sayings had the same authority as the Old Testament Scriptures, and were accepted as axioms among Christians: soon they became embodied in New Testament Scripture. John, writing to the same church, Ephesus (one of the seven), records the same expression (Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6 : cf. 1 Kings 10:6).

All - all possible: to be received by all, with all the faculties of the soul, mind, and heart. Paul, unlike the false teachers (1 Timothy 1:7), understands what he says, and whereof he affirms; he confutes their abstruse unpractical speculations by the simple, but grand, truth of salvation through Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18-28).

Acceptation - reception (as of a boon) into the heart, as well as the understanding, with all gladness: faith welcoming and appropriating the Gospel offer (Acts 2:41).

Christ - as promised.

Jesus - as manifested (Bengel).

Came into the world - which was full of sin (John 1:29; John 16:28; Romans 5:12; 1 John 2:2). This implies his pre-existence.

To save sinners - even notable sinners, like Saul of Tarsus. His instance was unrivaled in the greatness of the sin and of the mercy; that the consenter to Stephen, the proto-martyr's death, should be the successor of the same! "Devout men" carried Stephen to his burial; and "a devout man according to the law," Ananias (Acts 8:2; Acts 22:12), introduced Saul, Stephen's successor, into the Church.

I am - not merely, 'I was' (1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8 : cf. Luke 18:13). To each believer his own sins always appear greater than those of others, which he never can know as he does his own.

Chief - same Greek as 1 Timothy 1:16, "first." Translate in both verses, 'foremost.' Where there was mercy for him there is mercy for all who will come to Christ (Luke 19:10).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https: 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(15) This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation.—This striking formula in the New Testament, found only in the Pastoral Epistles, here and in 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8; and the somewhat similar expression, “these sayings [words’] are faithful and true,” Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6, were formulas expressing weighty and memorable truths, well known and often repeated by the brotherhood of Christians in the first ages of the faith. They were, no doubt, rehearsed constantly in the assemblies, till they became well-known watchwords in the various churches scattered over the Mediterranean-washed provinces of the Roman empire; and in these “sayings” we see, perhaps, the germs of the great creeds of Christianity. [1 Timothy 3:1, perhaps, as usually understood, hardly falls under this category of “watchwords of the faith,” unless St. Chrysostom’s interpretation of the text be followed, which refers “the faithful saying” to the solemn truths which immediately preceded it in 1 Timothy 2]

That Christ Jesus came into the world.—This is an unmistakable allusion to the pre-existence of Christ. He came into the world, leaving the glory which he had with the Father before the world was (see John 16:28; John 17:5; Ephesians 1:3-4). And the purpose for which he came into the world is stated distinctly in the next sentence.

To save sinners.—There are no details given respecting this salvation. The “sinners” here mentioned is a broad, inclusive term. It includes, besides Jews, the outcasts of the Gentiles without hope and without God—all the lost, irrespective of race or time. In the Lord’s own blessed words: “The Son of Man was come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Of whom I am chief.—The intense humility of the strange, beautiful character of the Gentile Apostle prompted this bitter expression. St. Paul, it has been well said, knew his own sins by experience, and every other man’s per speculationem. In another place a similar feeling leads him to style himself as “less than the least of all saints” (Ephesians 3:8). He had been in time past so bitter an enemy of the Lord that no preaching of the disciples was effectual to work his conversion. In his case, to overcome his intense hatred of the Name, it needed a special appearance of the Risen One.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https: 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
a faithful
19; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8; Revelation 21:5; 22:6
John 1:12; 3:16,17,36; Acts 11:1,18; 1 John 5:11
Matthew 1:21; 9:13; 18:11; 20:28; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32; 19:10; John 1:29; 12:47; Acts 3:26; Romans 3:24-26; 5:6,8-10; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 3:5,8; 4:9,10; Revelation 5:9
of whom
13; Job 42:6; Ezekiel 16:63; 36:31,32; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:

The Bible Study New Testament

This is a true saying. Compare Titus 1:9 and note. Christ Jesus. This is a "statement of faith!" Paul, a sinner who had been saved, was a proof of this statement. I am the worst of them. Probably his enemies said this. But Paul has no false modesty. The more you learn about God, the more you realize your sinfulness!!! See 1 John 1:8-10.

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "The Bible Study New Testament". https: College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.


Among the many things happening for the new millennium is one that recently caught my interest. It is the year of Jubilee. The Roman Catholic Church is going all out for one of their traditional holy events - the year of Jubilee. The Pope has declared 2000 as the year of pilgrimage.

We know of the year of Jubilee in the Old Testament. The Roman Church also celebrates a year of Jubilee. They feel that it began prior to Boniface VIII but his celebration in 1300 is the first officially recorded. Boniface set it to be a celebration every one hundred years, but due to the fact that many would die with never a chance to see a celebration it was decided that every thirty-three years would be good. Finally it was settled at every twenty-five years.

It is my understanding that there are four doors one in each of four basilicas. The Pope opens the door of St. Peter"s while other delegates open the other three doors at the same time.

The doors have been walled up with brick and mortar for the past twenty-five years. Prior to the ceremony of the opening masons loosen the mortar so that the doors are easily broken down. The Pope on Christmas Eve will strike the door three times with a silver hammer. The third stroke brings the door down.

The bricks, mortar and scraps are quickly gathered by guests as holy relics. Then the Pope walks through. The symbolism supposedly is that Adam and Eve were barred from the garden, and this breaking of the door symbolizes restoration and forgiveness of all past sin.

On the Christmas Eve following, the doors are again walled back up.

There are websites committed to this event. There are travel agencies offering special packages to Rome. There are special events planned all over the world. They have planned events in major cities and are calling it the "Biggest party in the world" and have set up a website for the party and its advertising.

A quote concerning the party is of interest. ""All the world sing praise" is a people"s event with a special emphasis on children whose purpose is to assist the Christian celebration of the Millennium. It can be celebrated in a variety of ways; the idea is however that we try to do something together across the World at the same time to celebrate Jesus birthday worthily. . . . "

Note "to celebrate Jesus Birthday worthily. . . . " This BIGGEST PARTY IN THE WORLD is going to be on January 1 , 2000 - thought they set it up to be the 25th of December at one time.

This December 24 , the Pope will declare the beginning of the Year of Jubilee, and four special Holy Doors will be opened in Rome with the most important being in St. Peter"s Basilica. People from all over the world an expected 30 million or more will make a pilgrimage to Rome during 2000 seeking forgiveness of all past sins by walking through the doorways, which are opened only during Jubilee years. Many will travel thousands of miles, sacrificing time and money, in an effort to obtain eternal life. For these seekers, Rome is the place to be in 2000.

The Jubilee occurs every 25 years, but the dawn of a new millennium is bringing much more attention to this particular Year of Jubilee and will bring a greater number of pilgrims.

So much trouble to travel so far! These folks will spend millions to seek salvation, while Paul only had to go to Damascus, indeed, these celebrants only have to go to their knees before God to find their free salvation - their salvation which requires no travel, which requires no doors to open, which requires no Pope to set a year of jubilee.

And we Christian"s of the born again type ought not be too smug looking down our noses at the Roman pilgrimage - many in our following are suggesting these days that we can"t really understand God fully till we have walked where Jesus walked. Many ads make this trip sound like a pilgrimage - indeed, they use the term in ads - they talk as if there is spiritual gain to be received by a trip to the Holy Land.

1 Timothy 1:15-17 "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. 16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. 17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, [be] honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen."

1 Timothy 1:15 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.

Paul says what I am about to say is a faithful saying and it is worthy of acceptance. HUMMMM! Do you think he is contrasting this statement with the teaching of the other guys we"ve been talking about - you remember - the guys that hold forth falsehood as truth - Paul says THIS IS VALID - THIS HAS VALUE ENOUGH TO ACCEPT! As opposed to some other teaching I know of.

This guy isn"t nice in his bluntness to the false teachers! Does that give you any ideas in how you should be? On the internet boards when someone stands boldly for the truth of Scripture there is always someone that will reprimand them for being unloving, yet Paul was blunt and to the point as we ought to be in our confrontation of those that put forth falsehood as truth.

George Whitefield in a message entitled The Method of Grace said the following of preachers. "As god can send a nation or people no greater blessing than to give them faithful, sincere, and upright ministers, so the greatest curse that God can possibly send upon a people in this world is to give them over to blind, unregenerate, carnal, lukewarm, and unskillful guides." He continues "As it was formerly, so it is now; there are many that corrupt the Word of God and deal deceitfully with it."

Even in Whitefield"s day he could see that there was falsehood being set forth as truth and so it is today. The believer MUST be on their guard constantly.

Kent mentions "The formula, "faithful is the word," occurs five times in the New Testament, all of them in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8). A similar expression, "these words are faithful and true," occurs twice (Revelation 21:5; Rev_22:6). Apparently during the latter half of the first century, this formula was quite generally used to emphasize important truths. Here the reference almost certainly is to the statement of Jesus, uttered on several occasions (Matthew 9:13; Luke 19:10). Such truths as these probably were often repeated in the Christian assemblies, and were thus well known." THE PASTORAL EPISTLES Homer A. Kent, Jr., Th.D.; Moody Press; Chicago; 1958; p 92. (Matthew 9:13 "But go ye and learn what [that] meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Luke 19:10 "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.")

"Acceptation" according to the dictionary means "the generally understood meaning of a word" 1995 Zane Publishing, Inc. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary 1994 by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Paul says these things I"m relating are worth acceptance - as is - nothing added.

I have read that this phrase actually stands alone in the original construction of the passage. This would draw complete attention to the coming statements.

The term world has a wide meaning. It can mean the earth proper, or it can mean the universe. Either way it is true in this case, but it might bring a slightly different perspective to your mind. Christ came into the world - as in contrast FROM HEAVEN. We all know this to be true, but have you considered that Christ left the solid comforts of heavens glory to accomplish His work among men?

He gave up a throne in glory for the hardships of living. He went from not needing sleep to having to get up in the morning, from needing nothing to needing everything, from being totally free to being dependent on others.

The term Paul chose to call himself in this text is of interest. It does have the idea of chief, but there is another shade of meaning that is significant within the context. Not only can this word be translated chief, but normally it is translated first. Thayer mentions "first in time or place . . . in any succession of things or persons ... first in rank"

The context pictures Paul as the first - the example of all to come. Now, we know that there were others that were saved prior to Paul, but the Holy Spirit via Paul sets Paul as the prime example of all to come.

Paul uses the sequence "Christ Jesus" - he uses this sequence twenty five times in the Pastoral Epistles compared to eight usages as Jesus Christ.

He came into the world - a simple statement which has deep ramifications. He came into - He came from somewhere - PRE-EXISTENCE IS THE ONLY POSSIBLE CONCLUSION! There is also the thought that He came for a specific purpose and that He came of His own accord.

Christ came into the world to save sinners. The question always seems to come up, just how many of the sinners did He come to save. Did He just come to save the elect sinners, or did he come to save ALL sinners?

Indulge me for a moment while I consider the concept of unlimited atonement.

John 3:16 Loved the world - whosoever. There seems to be no restrictions in this passage. (1 John 2:2)

Some suggest that some reject His salvation, so He couldn"t have died for them. On the contrary, He died for every single one. If a person rejects Christ then they reject the salvation that has already been provided for them.

Christ paid all costs for all mankind"s redemption! Man rejects or accepts what Christ did. This is termed in theology UNLIMITED ATONEMENT. Did Christ atone for only the elect, or did Christ atone for all mankind? Others hold that He atoned only for the elect.

This leads to the ARMENIAN Vs CALVINISM debate. The Armenians held that Christ atoned for all, while the Calvinists believed that Christ atoned for only the elect.

Where you land on this discussion well may depend on your understanding of Christ"s work on the cross and salvation itself. Is it total provision for the sin of the world or is it not?

Remember, just because you believe in an unlimited atonement it doesn"t make you an Armenian. It just means you can"t be a five-point Calvinist.

Paul mentions that he was the chief sinner. He knew what he was before Christ. Many in our own day realize well who and what they were before Christ. Others don"t really realize what they were. They have not really come to terms with what they were and now what they are.

This most likely comes from some of the easy believism that is being preached today. It is essential to believe in Who Christ was, and to believe in what He did, but it is also necessary for the person to understand who they are and why what Christ did is important.

An Independent Baptist pastor on an internet board I visit has come to the realization that he must get the people lost before he can lead them to the Lord. He has begun to use the law to show them that they are sinners. I tried to help him understand that you can show them from the New Testament that they are sinners, but he insists that you must use the law - HUMMMMMM! Well, anyway the point is that when the person realizes they are lost and on their way to hell then you can begin to talk to them of the gift of God.

I would like to read a comment from someone on this thought.

Hiebert mentions "The fact is that it is always the characteristic of a true saint to feel himself a real sinner. The air in a room seems to be clear, but when it is penetrated by the sunlight it is seen to be full of dust and other impurities; and so as men draw nearer to God, and are penetrated by the light of God (1 John 1:5 - "God is light. . . . "), they see more clearly their own infirmities, and begin to feel for sin something of the hatred which God feels for it." (First Timothy; D. Edmond Hiebert; Moody Press; Chicago; 1957; p 43.)

John Owen said once, "'He that hath slight thoughts of sin never had great thoughts of God."" (First Timothy; D. Edmond Hiebert; Moody Press; Chicago; 1957; p 7)

Reread and stop for a moment and think about that one.

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Copyright 2008. Used by Permission. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God's work and I don't want anyone to profit from it in a material way.

Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:15". "Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books". https:

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