This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.1 Timothy 1:15 KJV
That sounds simple to us, yet it is very profound. All of us were mixed up, confused, bewildered, darkened in our understanding, and alienated from the life of God. Read Paul's descriptions in Ephesians about what we were like before we came to Christ. Everybody--those with brilliant minds, highly educated people--everybody is in the same boat. Christ Jesus came to take away the darkness, unveil the mysteries, remove the illusions, reveal reality, and awaken love, compassion, mercy, and ministry to others. This is the purpose of Christianity.
Then Paul says what is the most astonishing thing of all in this passage:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. If he had said,
I was the chief, we would all understand that, because certainly he was in the forefront of the ranks. But now, looking back as he comes near to the end of his life, he says,
I am the chief of sinners.
That causes many people a lot of trouble. They read those words and say,
Has he forgotten the words he wrote in Galatians 2:20, 'I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God'? Has he forgotten what he said in 2 Corinthians 5:17: 'If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!'? Surely he can't forget that he has been redeemed; he has been made righteous. He cannot call himself the chief of sinners. But he does.
Some say that this is a kind of humble exaggeration, like we sometimes say,
I'm not all that good, really. I do not think it is false humility. Paul means every word of this. He has not forgotten what he has written. What he is thinking of is not what he is in Christ (because in Him he was made righteous and delivered, the power of sin was broken), but he is thinking about himself as a total man living in a world of evil; he is thinking of himself as we have to think of ourselves, made whole in Christ and yet with the flesh still active in our lives. We still struggle against it. It is no longer us but an alien invader still able to exercise its deceiving power over us.
There is hidden here a very important principle that all of us will have to learn sometime or other. Whatever the flesh once manifested itself to be in our lives--some extreme form of evil, whatever we have done that is now, in our own sight, bad, ugly, and something we are ashamed of--we have to remember that that is an area of weakness that needs to be guarded very carefully, because we can return to that in an instant, no matter how long we have been Christians. That is what Paul is talking about.
Father, once I was blind; I could not see myself for what I was. Yet I thank you that you came and invaded my life and began to take away the veil and to help me to see what I was like.
We have met the enemy and he is us! The wonder is that Christ died for His enemies. Confession makes us eligible for His redeeming grace and forgiveness.