“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” (1Timothy 1:15)

The Jewish Christian Paul made that statement. Did he ever understand it! The murdering blasphemer and persecutor (1 Timothy 1:13) became a Christian because God wished to verify Jesus Christ’s patience (1 Timothy 1:16). So the man who helped kill to keep Judaism pure became the apostle to idolatrous gentiles. Gentiles were ignorant-- warping the view of deity, worshipping ridiculous things, and living by abusive morality.

Paul knew his old ways could not be defended. As a result, the Christian Paul approached the “untouchables” with the same kindness and mercy God showed him in Jesus Christ.

Did the majority of Jewish Christians appreciate Paul’s efforts? NO! (See Acts 15:1, 2, 5, 6-11. Please note Jewish Christians who did not like what they saw produced this emotional meeting.)

For a moment, let me role play as if I were one of those Jewish Christians. “What is going on? Does not everyone understand Christianity began in Jerusalem with Jewish converts? We are the ‘mother’ church! It is unthinkable that Christians would not pray at the temple or study scripture in a synagogue! Why, many of these uncircumcised people becoming Christians do not even know Jewish traditions! Surely, they can accept Jesus Christ if first they let us teach them how to do things!”

Baptizing gentile believers meant enormous change! Many first century Jewish Christians did not like it! Yet, Jesus Christ gave his life to save sinners, and that included gentiles. God was as delighted with the repentance and baptism of a gentile as a Jew. That was difficult to understand when Jews thought they held the patent on God! Nobody did God like they did God! God was theirs for 2000 years!

Would we all agree that Jesus died to save sinners? That God does not care about the nationality or ethnicity of a person? That if a person is willing to repent of sins, God does not care if you are homeless or live in a $500,000 structure? That God forgives any background, past lifestyle, or godless behavior of the believer who repents and is baptized for the forgiveness of sin? I suspect all of us would heartily AMEN all that.

We as Christians have little trouble with the “before.” Our big challenges are with “after.” If we succeeded in our God-given-mission to convert to Jesus Christ, what would success look like? I confess freely I have no idea! I know that people who “do things like me” quickly would find themselves in the minority. Faith and repentance would be considerably more important than 100-year-old traditions!

The thoughts of success in God’s objectives in Jesus Christ make me sweat a cold sweat. How about you? Do you think God is THAT serious about saving sinners?

“... The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 5 April 2007

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