“To Save Sinners”
12I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. 16But 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. 17To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.” NRSV
he Apostle Paul had been around the missionary trail several times. He had established local Christian Churches in many cities and towns. Since he could not continually ride such a wide circuit, he ordained pastors and continued to communicate with them, and teach them. His chief concern was that none of them would vary from the orthodox teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church.
Today, we hear Paul dealing with the basic concept of Christian Theology which is plainly stated for all to read and understand that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (v.15)
Paul even admits that before he met Christ and had his sins forgiven, he was the chief of sinners. This is the motif of today’s text. This is the main thing that Paul is trying to drum into our minds. We might say that this point has been well made over the centuries and that most Christians believe that this should be our main theological truth.
These first fourteen verses of I Timothy, underscore the fact that before Paul experienced a new spiritual life through Christ, he had been the chief of sinners; but, when he came to understand the simple process of salvation, forgiveness and new life, he became a forgiven and “former sinner.” As a result of his salvation, enthusiasm and genuine faith, Paul who had been the chief of sinners became the leader of the rapidly expanding network of local churches.
Most copies of the Bible have a list of maps showing the expansion of the churches as Paul made many “Missionary Journeys.” He has been an example of the hard work and perseverance that is required in order to take the Good News of salvation to every corner of the world.
Our Gospel reading for this week records the beautiful analogy that explains God’s great concern for Jesus’ lost sheep by saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” (Luke 15:6)
The Good News today is that Christ still loves us as much as the Shepherd loves his sheep and wants to find every one of us. It is said that shepherds have a bond of love for his sheep but the sheep have a tendency to wander away looking for greener grass, of a new adventure. That’s how we operate. We get far out away from the good shepherd, perhaps perilously close to falling off of the side of a mountain.
As we look back upon our lives we can see how we ran from Christ. Off in a far distant military base on the other side of the earth, Jesus somehow found our soul and we made a fast walk to the Chaplain’s office.
In my situation I was in college, at a frat party of all places, when Jesus' Spirit found me. The Good Shepherd must have some kind of celestial tracking device in order to keep up with all of our movements and hiding places.
We have several military chaplains from our own conference who have been stationed in the various Middle East conflicts. I have talked to several and they both have reported how the young soldier’s hearts are open to hear the Good News of Salvation. Often these chaplains use the analogy of Jesus reaching out for the Lost Sheep as a way of explaining how He seeks us.
Today might be you day to be found by the Good Shepherd of our Souls.
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor