Who was the worst sinner of all time?
If we create a list of historically significant sinners, I have a feeling our list would be filled with people like Stalin and Hitler. We’d fill our list with the figures behind mass murders, bombings, terrorism, or serial killing. And rightfully so, when it comes to the atrocities of the evil that these people committed, it is unparalleled.
If we were to ask the Apostle Paul, it seems that he’d consider himself as a part of this list. He writes, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life." (1 Timothy 1:16-17)
Paul knows exactly about the immensity of the sin that he got saved from. He was a mass murderer, with a zeal for killing Christians. The hymnwriter William McComb wrote based on this line of Paul’s, "Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me.”
Many of us might even feel the need to add our own names to this list.
We know ourselves and our own hearts and minds and realize the depths of evil within us. We understand the significance of our failure to obey God’s laws; James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”
But here’s another fascinating question, how many of you would include Jesus on your list?
Luther in his commentary on Galatians writes brilliantly:
I am told that it is preposterous and wicked to call the Son of God a cursed sinner. I answer: If you deny that He is a condemned sinner, you are forced to deny that Christ died. It is not less preposterous to say, the Son of God died, than to say, the Son of God was a sinner.
Whatever sins I, you, all of us have committed or shall commit, they are Christ's sins as if He had committed them Himself. Our sins have to be Christ's sins or we shall perish forever.
If Christ bears our sins, we do not bear them. But if Christ is innocent of our sins and does not bear them, we must bear them, and we shall die in our sins. "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we hear that Christ was made a curse for us, let us believe it with joy and assurance. By faith Christ changes places with us. He gets our sins, we get His holiness.
The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us.”
On the cross we find an unfair trade. Jesus gets the raw end of the deal as we receive victory, righteousness, joy, and holiness while Christ receives all of our evil and sin. On the cross Jesus becomes the chief of sinners so that you and I might become sons and daughters of the Father. On the cross, the atrocities of our own sinful flesh become the atrocities of Jesus. Our sin and rebellion become his and with him they are put to death.
And as Jesus rises to life, the sin is left buried and we are raised to life.