“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).
This passage brings us to the first of five “faithful sayings” that appear within the Pastoral Epistles of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus. In this instance, the faithful saying given to us here in 1 Timothy 1:15 points us to Jesus’ primary mission: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (NET).
Much like the directional reference offered by a compass, this statement serves to orient our thinking regarding Christ. For instance, there are those who simply view Jesus as an influential leader, a great teacher, or a great man of God. Others acknowledge Him as a wise man, an advocate for justice, or a person who showed us the way to live a more fulfilling life.
While there is truth in each of those statements, we should not lose focus of Jesus’ principal objective. As Jesus Himself once said, “…the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). We should also note that there is a larger principle behind this salvation message that also merits our attention…
“Here we come to the very heart of the difference between true Christianity and all other teachings. False religions tell man that there is something he can do or be in order to win favor with God. The gospel tells man that he is a sinner, that he is lost, that he cannot save himself, and that the only way he can get to heaven is through the substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus on the cross.
The type of law teaching which Paul described earlier in this chapter gives a place to the flesh. It tells man exactly what he wants to hear, namely, that he can somehow contribute to his own salvation. But the gospel insists that all the glory for the work of salvation must go to Christ alone, that man does nothing but the sinning, and that the Lord Jesus does all the saving.” (1)
Thus, we can say with the Apostle Paul, “This statement is completely reliable and should be universally accepted:—’Christ Jesus entered the world to rescue sinners'” (Phillips). This was more than just an abstract truth for Paul- it was something he understood from personal experience. We’ll take a closer look at Paul’s candid admission in this regard next.
(1) William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary 2 Thessalonians 1:15, pg.2141