1 Timothy 1:15. 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. 

How is a Christian supposed to see themselves? Should we consider ourselves to be sinners? Saints? A little bit of both? Paul has no problem calling himself a sinner. Even the foremost sinner. And this is a level of self-awareness that we all need.

Each of us was born a sinner. We were born into Adam with a sin nature, making it impossible to not sin. The only way to deal with the sin nature is for it to die. And that is exactly what happened to Paul and to you at the cross. Our union with Christ’s death has destroyed the sin nature once and for all. Your sins were forgiven at the cross, but your sin nature was destroyed. It no longer exists. It is not some sort of spiritual zombie chasing you around. It is a dead and buried rotting corpse.

But wait there’s more!

You were raised with Christ. Jesus brought us with him as he burst through the bonds of death, left the tomb, and entered into glorious eternal life. Now you are born again as the new creation in him. The old nature has not been changed. It has been exchanged for a whole new nature (2 Cor. 5:17). A new controlling power and principle – the Spirit of Christ. Slowly but surely you are being conformed to Christ’s likeness.

OK, if all this is true (it is) then why does Paul then say that he is the foremost of sinners? Still? In the present?

Walter White: Chief of Sinners.

Here’s the answer. Because you are still indwelt by the flesh. The old sin nature is dead, and buried with it are sin’s control and sin’s condemnation. But not sin’s presence. The cross removed the sin nature but not the sin. Sin still indwells us in the form of our “flesh” – the sinful desires that flow in and out of us by our yet unredeemed bodies. The Christian is to be keenly aware of the presence of the flesh inside of them, experiencing the strength of sin in their lives and alert to how it seeks to defeat them.

The indwelling Spirit of Christ in us battles the indwelling sin in us by constantly reminding us to live, not by strength, but by faith. Faith in the death of the old Adam nature. And faith in the resurrected new Christ nature. The Spirit isn’t putting to death the old nature. That already happened on the cross. But he is causing you to put to death the deeds of the flesh (selfishness), and to put on the deeds of the Spirit (love).

All spiritual growth now occurs within the principle of “life out of death.” Only the Christian who repeatedly experiences the wretched state of being defeated by the flesh (indwelling sin) will be able to then experience the glorious grace of dependence on Christ alone as they live by faith alone.

This is why the growing and progressing Christian will always be able to say with Paul, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. The growing and progressing Christian knows that they are living a dual reality – saint and sinner. The growing and progressing Christian knows that life only comes out of death and defeat. Trusting the Spirit to minister the death of the old and the life of the new in us as we choose more and more to trust in “to live is Christ.”


Do you see yourself as both formerly a sinner and the foremost of sinners?

You in Christ

How does your union with Christ free you from sin’s control and condemnation?

Christ in you

Where do you need to cease from your self-efforts today and simply trust the life of Jesus in you?


Playlist: Chief of Sinners.

Click Here to this playlist on Spotify!


To see today’s post from the TLIC Family blog –> Click Here

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