In response to I’m Right! Part:1 I had a reader ask me about Paul and his statement about being the chief of all sinners. Here is something I wrote before alancetotheheart. I think you’ll like it and it should answer those nagging questions. As a side note I think it is funny how the religious will find these kinds of verses to create an argument to make God a liar. God said we are a new creation. Paul was born again. We are His temple, His dwelling place. If we really were “evil little sinners” as “born again believers” then God picked a pretty rotten place to live. The enemy is really crafty and wants us to stay beat down. He doesn’t want us getting up and actually bringing the Kingdom to Earth. That would suck for him. Praise God for Jesus (as Paul says in Romans 7). So check this out. I called it “Sin and the Child of God.”
1 John 3:4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
1 John 3:7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
Ouch! I believe that sin is not our default mode as a new creation in Christ Jesus. I believe we are no longer slaves to sin. I believe we are slaves to righteousness. I believe we “get to” live a right life in Christ. We may make mistakes every now and then. We may forget who we are. We may listen to a lie. We may have all sorts of temptation. To say that “I always sin and can’t go without it” is to deny all that Jesus has done, is of the devil (v8), or the person has not been regenerated. Notice I didn’t say “not saved.” That is a heart condition of belief between the person and God. Maybe we haven’t pursued His transforming power instead of ours. Just a thought.
There is always the one verse, if you know what I mean, the one that seemingly topples all other arguments. Here are a few translations of the same passage.
1 Timothy 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise,[a] be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (NKJV)
1 Tim 1:15 stedfast [is] the word, and of all acceptation worthy, that Christ Jesus came to the world to save sinners — first of whom I am; (Young’s Literal Translation (YLT))
1 Tim 1:15 Faithful [is] the word, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom *I* am [the] first. (Darby Translation (DARBY))
1 Tim 1:15-19 Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever. (The Message (MSG))
1 Tim 1:15 A true word and worthy all receiving, for Christ Jesus came into this world to make sinful men safe, of which I am the first [of whom I am the first]. (Wycliffe Bible (WYC))
This one is fun. In so many places the Holy Spirit calls the believers saints, holy, sanctified, but in this one remote passage some have said “even Paul says he is a sinner” implying Paul can’t help it but to keep on sinning, it is his nature. That is a pretty big stretch given the preponderance of scripture contrary to that interpretation. But just in case you still aren’t sure…
The Greek word for chief is prōtos. It is most commonly translated first. The first what? In this case “the what” could be sinners or could be the saved sinners. So one interpretation is Paul is the number one sinner (which doesn’t explicitly state he is predisposed to sinning). A more accurate interpretation is to say that Paul is the first of the saved sinners in the context of the passage. He is talking about how grace and mercy were applied in Paul’s case. Verse 13, 14 and 16 are past tense. In verse 16 Paul says he is the first as an example to others.
1 Tim1:16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
Lastly is this passage from Galatians. I think it really clears it all up including the Romans 7 discussion.
Galatians 2:18 Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. 19 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
So what if believing is really what all this is about. Over and over Jesus says we need to believe. Repentance actually means “to change our minds.” Right thinking leads to right behavior. What if we actually believed we were born again and a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). The word in the Greek for “new” is kainos. This word means fresh, not used or unworn. That doesn’t sound like remade or cleaned up or dusted off or repurposed or piles of poop. What if all we need to do is agree with God that His plan was to make us a new kind of creation that gets to live a righteous life filled with His Spirit? What if it is really about a relationship with Daddy? What if it is really about getting to be His son? What if God is really supernatural and still has power to make stuff? What if it is no big deal for Him to regenerate us, birth us again, make us new, conform us to His son’s image, make us His temple, make us the holding tank for His glory, be His ambassadors? What if grace is true and it’s not about what I do but what He already did? What if it is all contingent on our believing? What if faith is the guaranteed title-deed to His promises and the spiritually revealed evidence of all His workings in the spirit? What if faith is belief in something I don’t understand?!? What if my understanding is what limits my belief? What if I just trust my Papa to do exactly what He said He would do?
This will forever change your understanding of “born again.”
P.S. I wrote this two years ago before I really plunged head first into a Grace revelation. Now it is obvious to me. Paul is making a strong point about who he was and what God has done to him and through him. He is apart from the law and is looking back. Lawlessness is a product of law keeping. Grace is apart from the law. Paul is trying to show us that if we insist on law we will be nothing but miserable sinners for the rest of our lives. When we live from Grace and the POWER of the Gospel, we are transformed. The default mode of the born-again believer is Jesus. We are joined to Him, one with Him and He lives in us. It isn’t a war. It is peace, righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit. It is living in the Kingdom and bringing the Kingdom. If you insist on calling yourself a sinner, I am so sorry. There is freedom in Jesus. He said so.