I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
(1 Timothy 1:12-16 ESV)
What made Paul (or I should say Saul) such a grand sinner? Paul was not a former addict, merchant, fisherman, tax collector… he was a devout jew. DEVOUT! He said of himself to be a Hebrew of Hebrews. He was incredibly educated in the scriptures. What ignorance did he act in?
Paul was (like most pharisees) convinced that keeping the old covenant law could save him. Notice that Paul goes on to say that Christ came to save sinners… of whom Paul is foremost, in Paul’s perception at least. Paul had come to the realization that no matter how much he maintained the law… he could never live up to the standard.
Paul even notes early in this letter that the law is not for the just, but for the lawless and disobedient. (1 Timothy 1:8-9) The law is intended to drive us to Jesus. (Galatians 3:24) So do you know who the lawless and disobedient are? Everyone who is under the old covenant law! Everyone under the law fails! That’s how it was set up. (Romans 8:20)
But for the just… those justified through the shed blood of Jesus… the law isn’t for them! No, the law has been fulfilled on our behalf and we have been set free to live fruitful lives… not through the keeping of the law, but by the Spirit that teaches us all things!
Praise God! His grace prevails!