Paul, Spurgeon and then Me

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance,” says the Apostle Paul to his young protégé Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15). The worst, are you sure Paul?

Paul’s pedigree said otherwise. He was the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). From an early age, he studied under the meticulous Gamaliel. Paul said of his religious upbringing, “I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers…” (Acts 22:3). When did he have time to be a liar, a cheat, an adulterer, a thug, a murderer and whatever else you need on your resume to make you the worst sinner? Albeit he persecuted Christians (Acts 9:1-3) prior to his Damascus Road conversion; but how bad could that have been?

Our problem is that we tend to define sin externally. Few Christians ever grapple with the internal. Paul did. He knew what was inside him; it was a war that raged causing him to cry out: “What a wretched man I am!” (Romans 7:23-24). When Paul cries out as he does, he had been a Christian for some 30 plus years. No doubt, those around the apostle would have said otherwise—that he was a stand-up guy; a scrupulous and sincere follower of God. He was the recognized face and voice of Christianity for good reason. But Paul knew what was inside him.

Spurgeon comments about Paul’s assertion: “I am not going to dispute with the apostle, and yet if he were here, I should be a little dubious as to his right to the title of ‘chief of sinners.’ I would ask him whether, if he were chief, I was not the next” (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 39, p. 140). Spurgeon said this later in his Christian life, too.

What is it these two men knew? The same thing every mature Christian should know about himself; warranting each of us to lobby for the 1 Timothy 1:15 title for ourselves. If you don’t see cause to wrestle away Paul’s “I am the worst”, let it be a litmus test for you. The Holy Spirit inside you wants you to know what He sees. And He sees a lot of humanity bubbling just under the surface.

So if Spurgeon is after Paul, you and I should be arguing over why we are next.

Pastor Rich Hamlin
September 22, 2011


“Amending the Soil” Christian Education Conference

Register or volunteer for Bible Day Camp now