Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.
1 Timothy 1:15
Paul wasn’t kidding and he wasn’t being cute. Blinded by religious fervor to prove himself righteous before God and others, he had been on a rampage arresting Jews simply for the crime of believing in Jesus. Luke was clear to point out that Paul threw no stones at Stephen, but to Paul that didn’t matter. He had presided over his death, an event that would begin an illustrious career of imprisoning Christians.
Paul is the worst sinner for two reasons. His sins catch us all. If he truly aspired to be “all things to all people,” he was so in his life before Christ as well.
He was a religious man. Paul believed, like all good Pharisees, that he had to obey the entirety of the Law or be guilty of breaking the entire Law. This was a belief not held by any Old Testament prophet or priest, but one that had been invented by the Pharisees. With their doctrines, they had stripped Judaism of its atoning sacrifice, making their religious adherence all that mattered for their justification.
How many Christians in America fall into the same pit? Have you lived in such a way that negated Jesus’ blood over your life? Have you tried to earn favor and justification before God and man by the way you live? By the way you speak? By the front you put on for others? By the lies you tell?
God was good to Paul because He forgave him for trying to earn his salvation. Salvation is found in Jesus and Jesus alone. There is no way we can be redeemed to God except by Jesus’ blood.
Paul The Terrorist
Paul also needed God’s forgiveness and goodness for his raging against God’s very people. Blinded by his own desire to prove to others that he was a spiritual leader, Paul committed atrocities, not too dissimilar to what we’ve seen in recent years in ISIS, the Taliban and other Islamic terror groups. Their aim was Paul’s aim: religious adherence or imprisonment and death.
But here again, God was good to Paul. He arrested his attention on one of his misguided assignments and transformed Paul’s life forever.
Goodness Greater Than Sin
Do you need God’s goodness like Paul? Do you need God to arrest your attention, or will you willingly surrender today? No matter what terrible things you’ve done, there is a place for you to be in good company if you surrender your life to Jesus. Paul truly was the “chief of sinners,” so there is little that you could have done that would be worse.
Even if you have done worse, God can show you His goodness by giving you a reason to compare notes with Paul when you meet him one day in eternity.
God was good to Paul, and He can be to you, too.