I have often read this verse of Scripture where Paul talks of being the chief of sinners, of being the foremost in rank or the utmost sinner (1 Timothy 1 v 15).
My previous perception was that this was because he persecuted and murdered Christians.
But the revelation came to me this morning that this was not why he was chief of sinners, it was because he was the best or the foremost in religion.
Paul was taught the law in the best school of the day and was a religious zealot, and he was the best at it.
After coming to Christ Paul was taught about grace, about the unconditional love and mercy of God, about the finished work of Jesus Christ.
This is what he went on to preach and teach and to encourage many others to follow.
He spoke out about religion and warned against religion.
When Paul says he was the chief of sinners he was referring to his previous religious attitudes and actions.
Religion is dangerous.
When I was involved in Healing Rooms I saw more atheists and agnostics healed than people steeped in religion, confessing to be believers; their religion (man made actions reaching out to try and seek God) was stopping them from receiving the free gift of healing through the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Religious people (believers in the church trusting in their own efforts and actions to come to God) are my greatest persecutors.
Preach grace today and you will soon see religious people coming against you.
I say it again, religion is dangerous, and this is what Paul is talking about when he says he was chief amongst sinners.
Religion is putting your trust in self rather than Jesus and it is a sin!
Stay away from it and its bondage; keep to the truth and freedom in Jesus and in grace (Galatians 5 v 1).
Speak this out today…..”Thank you Lord for the freedom found in grace and in the finished work of Jesus Christ, and thank you for Paul and his example of how to move from religion to grace”.
1 Timothy 1 v 15…..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