“I’ve sinned too much to be saved.” “I’ve sinned too much to serve.” Ever had these fears? I have. The first fear, “I’ve sinned too much to be saved,” makes me feel hopeless. The second fear, “I’ve sinned too much to serve,” makes me feel useless. Hopeless and useless are paralyzing feelings. I’m sure you’ve felt one or both of these paralyzing feelings before.
In 1 Timothy 1:13-17, Paul encourages us by encouraging Timid Timothy that great sin is no barrier to salvation or service.
GREAT SIN IS NO BARRIER TO SALVATION (13-14)
Overflowing sin (13)
“Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.”
Paul had been speaking of what God had made him, but he never forgets what he once was. His past life further magnifies God’s grace in putting him into the ministry.
Overflowing grace (13-14)
“But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief.”
The biblical principle behind this statement is “Less knowledge is less responsibility.” In contrast to the false teachers who knew Christian truth and had made a Christian profession, Paul did not know the Gospel and had not professed faith when he did what he did.
"And the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus."
This is what it took to save Paul – superabundant grace, exceedingly abundant grace, torrential grace, overflowing grace. That's not all, because grace of Christ brings two bonuses: faith in Christ and love for Christ.
God drowns us in grace to save us from drowning in guilt.
"That's wonderful that my great sin is no barrier to salvation. But it's too great to be permitted to serve Christ."
GREAT SIN IS NO BARRIER TO SERVICE (15-16)
A Faithful Saying: This was a catchphrase, a soundbite, a Tweet, a short pithy saying that helped people remember some of the most important teachings of Paul. Faithful means “reliable, granite rock, tested by experience, by the flames of persecution, by time.”
An Acceptable Saying: All should accept all of this with all confidence. No doubt or reserve or qualifications or reserve.
An Astonishing Saying: He didn't come just to set an example, to show he cared, to strengthen sinners, help sinners, improve sinners, but to save sinners. That he came into the world is amazing; to save, even more amazing; to save sinners is past amazing.
A Proven Saying: Paul’s Gospel CV: Least of the apostles, less than least of all saints, and greatest sinner of all the sinners saved by God’s grace.
An Exemplary Saying: Given my bio, you might think that it was impossible that someone like me should be saved, but Jesus had a special aim in saving me. I am a pattern, specimen, prototype, exhibit of who God saves, how God saves, and why God saves. The ultimate sinner became the ultimate saint. The chief sinner became the chief apostle.
God can use our great sin to motivate great service.
LIVING THE BIBLE
Great sin can make us feel hopeless and useless. Great sin is no barrier to great salvation. Great sin is no barrier to great service. Indeed, God uses great sinners to show his great salvation and to do great service. Great sin qualifies us for great salvation and great service. It’s no wonder that this great salvation and great service leads him to great praise (17). Give God great praise for his great salvation and great service despite our great sin.