Who Could Stand?

What is it that could make Paul, the same person who said in Phil. 3 that if anyone has reasons to be confident in the flesh, he had more, also say in 1 Tim. 1:15-16 that he is the worst of sinners? This seems like a contradiction, but it isn’t…

it’s all about perspective.

In Phil. 3, Paul is looking at himself in comparison to other human beings. Those who are coming against him think that they are “all that and a bag of chips” as my daughter would say. When you look at Paul, his upbringing, and what he did for the cause of Christ, you would think that he would have cause to boast. Yet he says this later on in chapter 3:

All of his gains (see Phil. 3:5-6) he considers loss compared to knowing Jesus.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”

Philippians 3:7-9 NIV

But what does this have to do with 1 Tim. 1:15-16? How could someone who chooses not to brag about himself call himself the worst of sinners?

Are we missing something?

In Galatians 3 he is comparing himself to other humans, in 1 Timothy 1 he has his eyes on Jesus. We may see ourselves in a wonderful light when we compare ourselves to others, but what do we see when we compare ourselves to Jesus? We are all the same.

Sinners saved by grace.

“If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.”

Psalm 130:3-4 NIV

As we look at things in a diverse setting, a multiethnic church where people of ALL socio-economic backgrounds are welcome and encouraged to be a part of the body of Christ, it is important that we see ourselves compared to Jesus.

It is important that we compare ourselves to Jesus!

Not one of us can stand if the Lord were to record even a day of our sins, as sin is an affront to God. But God, who is rich in grace and mercy, offers forgiveness to all of us.

In this, regardless of our background, we should say with Paul:

“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

1 Timothy 1:16-17 NIV

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