Hope for the Worst of Sinners
by Gil Rugh
A billion years from now, what will you be doing? Does it matter? Can you know?
Yes, it matters, and yes, you can know. How you recognize and respond to the following facts will determine your eternal destiny.
FACT: Nearly 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crucified on a cross.
FACT: Three days later that same man, Jesus Christ, was raised from the dead.
The Bible says, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).
FACT: Jesus Christ came into this world for one purpose—to save sinners! Who are these sinners who need to be saved?
The Apostle Paul, a man uniquely prepared by God to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ, identified himself as a sinner when he said: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Tim. 1:15).
The Worst of Sinners
Paul, the great persecutor of Christians, saw himself as the worst sinner who ever lived. God had declared that the penalty for sin is death, and Paul fully understood that he deserved no mercy or grace from God. Yet when Paul believed in Jesus Christ, his sins were forgiven and he received eternal life. Why would God save a sinner like Paul?
“For this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16).
God saved Paul—the chief of sinners—so the rest of humanity might have hope.
The Best of People
No one would question that the person who does vile, wicked deeds needs a savior. However, what about those individuals who are pretty good, the religious people who have been baptized or confirmed or received the sacraments, who have done their best? Aren’t those people acceptable to God?
Examine the other side of the Apostle Paul’s testimony. This same man who called himself the greatest of sinners wrote, “If anyone has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more” (Phil. 3:4). If anyone had reason to be confident they would be accepted by God on the basis of their efforts and religious activities, Paul was that man. Paul was considered among the best of men because he was:
- circumcised on the eighth day
- of the nation Israel
- of the tribe of Benjamin
- a Hebrew of Hebrews
- a Pharisee, the strictest of the religious Jews
- zealous in persecuting the church
- blameless concerning righteousness, which is in the Law
God demands righteousness from people. As much as was humanly possible, Paul maintained that standard. But as long as Paul saw himself as the best of men, one who had accomplished something by his own efforts, he could not receive God’s salvation. He was lost and on his way to eternal hell.
After his salvation, a grateful Paul looked back and said, “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:7-9).
The best of men came to see himself as the worst of sinners. All his best efforts, all his religious activities, all his accomplishments were nothing but rubbish. They were utterly worthless.
Tragically, millions of people will never make the transition from seeing themselves as good people to seeing themselves as hell-deserving sinners.
Hope for You
The wages of sin is death. You, like Paul and every other person ever born, are a sinner, on your way to an eternal hell. There is nothing you can do to change that before a holy God. There is no bargaining with God on this point.
The good news is that the eternal Son of God came to earth and died so that you—the best of men or the worst of sinners—can receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life in God’s very presence.
When God’s Son hung on a cross, your sins were placed on Him. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for you. When you place your faith in Him, you are given new life, forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life in His very presence.
How can you know this is true? Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is God’s testimony that He alone has provided salvation for everyone who will believe in His Son. There is no other way. Eternity hangs on your response.
In a billion years it will make a difference how you personally responded to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Will you believe in Him today?