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My favorite Bible verse

| Monday, May 1, 2023

For my final column, I would like to share my favorite Bible verse: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15 ESV).

The eternal Son of God, “through” and “for” whom “all things were made … and in [whom] all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17), came into the world for a specific purpose, one that was decided before creation itself: “to save sinners.” God came to bring salvation. We so often treat this with a yawn, as something simply to be expected of God as an owed right. But rather than deserving heaven, we all — no exceptions — deserve hell.  “None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

It is not that we simply aren’t perfect, though that is what God demands (Matthew 5:48, Galatians 3:10), and to deviate in one way is to “become guilty of all of” (James 2:10) God’s law and to deserve God’s curse and eternal condemnation. It’s that man is utterly evil and wicked. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls anger, murder and lustful thoughts adultery (Matthew 5:22, 28). We don’t understand how terrible the things we do every day and every hour are, and even the most cursory glance of one’s life reveals the blackness and utter corruption of their heart. The sin that man loves is precisely what God hates (Luke 16:15, Romans 1:32). The natural man is anything but deserving of heaven. Instead, he is an enemy of God (Romans 5:10) and a “[child] of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). Sodom was such an evil city that it was wiped off the map by “sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven” (Genesis 19:24), yet Jesus told the cities that saw “most of his mighty works” but “did not repent” that “it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (Matthew 11:20, 24). Let this be a sobering warning for all who do not believe in Jesus yet study in a country filled with Bibles and churches.

While this should make us despair of any ability to save ourselves, whether by our own works, service or piety, it should not make us despair of hope of salvation, for we read that “Christ Jesus came … to save sinners.” He has come to save us from the wrath of God and the punishment our deeds deserve! Dear reader, are you a sinner? Are you an ungodly wretch, who has rebelled against the Lord all your life and are without any hope of salvation except by Jesus’ atoning death that “cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7)? You can be saved. Is your only qualification that you are a terrible sinner? Then you qualify to come to Jesus for salvation, for it is “not … the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13) that Jesus came to call and save. Come to Him as a sinner. Do not hide your sins, but come to Him in all your uncleanness, and He will wash you “white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). “ … [W]hoever comes to me I will never cast out,” Jesus says (John 6:37). How do we come to Him? By believing and trusting Him and His finished work alone as wholly sufficient to cleanse us of our sins and reconcile us to God, bringing nothing in our hands but simply clinging to the cross alone. As the Bible says, “Now to one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:4-5).

“But,” you say, “you don’t understand how terrible I am.  How can there be any hope for me?” You are quite right that you are a terrible sinner, but, again, we read that “Christ came … to save sinners.” He “bore our sins” (1 Peter 2:24) — all of them (Colossians 2:13-14) — in our place. He has “[removed]” them “from us” “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12), and we now stand completely reconciled to God (Romans 5:10-11). Christ is the wholly sufficient sacrifice (Hebrews 9:12, 10:10-18), and those who believe in Christ “have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19), not because they aren’t sinners but because Christ died for their sins, and they now stand righteous in Him. But if that does not satisfy you, Paul calls himself the “foremost,” or “worst” (NIV), of sinners. This is not false, pious deprecation. It is true. That’s why he says God’s mercy to him “as the foremost” serves as “an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16), that they would not despair but have confidence that, if God has saved the worst of sinners, He can save them, too. Remember the tax collector who “went down to his house justified” (Luke 18:14) despite his miserable past. Indeed, the Bible is filled with terrible sinners coming to Jesus and finding salvation. Do not despair, then, but say with John Bunyan to the voices telling you to hide from Christ because of your sin, “I am Magdalene, I am Zaccheus, I am the Thief, I am the Harlot, I am the Publican, I am the Prodigal and one of Christ’s Murderers: Yea, worse than any of these, and yet God was so far off from rejecting … me, (as I found afterwards) that there was music and dancing in his House for me, and for Joy that I was come home unto him.”

Oh, that you would believe in Christ, and that those who are Christians would praise God for their own great and wonderful salvation and that of all their brothers and sisters! And would Christians find hope, peace and comfort in seeing the heart of Jesus in this verse, knowing that their Bridegroom loves them in a way “that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19), not just in their conversion, but throughout every moment and turn of life, until we are with Him in glory.

Andrew Sveda is a senior at Notre Dame from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, majoring in political science and theology. In his free time, he enjoys writing (obviously), reading and playing the piano. He can be reached at [email protected] or @SvedaAndrew on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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