John T. Willis

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Who Is The Greatest Sinner?

For some strange reason, throughout history, and even today, many religious people want to know: Who is the greatest sinner? I am suspicious that such a question is so that the questioner can be sure that "I am not as sinful as other people." I am reminded of the Pharisee in Jesus's parable when he said: "God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, of even like this tax collector" (Luke 18:11).

For a very brief exercise, who would YOU say the greatest sinner is.
  1. Some might say: Jezebel, because she brought her prophets into Israel to get rid of the worshippers of Yahweh and exalt her own deity Baal. 1 Kings 17-21.
   2. Some might say: David, because he committed adultery, murder, coveting, deceit, conniving, etc. 2 Samuel 11-12.
   3. Some might say: Adolf Hitler, because he arranged the murders of approximately six million Jewish until Hitler's rule in Germany.
   4. Some might say: the people who murdered the innocent students at Columbine High School in Colorado.
   5. Some might say: Herod the Great, because he murdered many children, and murdered some of his wives.
   6. Some might say: Judas Iscariot, because he betrayed Jesus to hand him over to the Jewish authorities so he would be crucified.
   Just a little thought would certainly list several others that might be considered to be the greatest sinner.

It might be a big surprise to know that Paul the Apostle thought that he was the greatest sinner. At least three times in three different letters now preserved in the Bible, Paul declares to his fellow- Christians that he was the greatest sinner. Here are these texts briefly:

1. 1 Corinthians 15:9-10: "I am the LEAST of the apostles, UNFIT to be called an apostle, BECAUSE I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain."

2. Ephesians 3:8: "Although I AM THE VERY LEAST OF ALL THE SAINTS, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ."

3. 1 Timothy 1:12-17: "I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judges me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a BLASPHEMER, a PERSECUTOR, and a MAN OF VIOLENCE. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save SINNERS--OF WHOM I AM THE FOREMOST. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in ME, AS THE FOREMOST, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."

Paul thought he was the FOREMOST of sinners, the worst sinner who ever lived. The truth is: "ALL HAVE SINNED and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). If anyone feels covered with sin, think of Paul. God saved the most foremost, Paul, and he can certainly saved everyone else.

Share YOUR insights and shortcomings and doubts and successes and failures with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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