CHIEFEST AMONG SINNERS… AND “BLAMELESS”? Does that seem like a contradiction to you?

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Edward O’Hara Sat 7/11/2020 10:13 PM…

The apostle Paul said of himself “that Christ came to save sinners of whom I am chief”. And he also said that “touching the righteousness that is in the law(he was) blameless”(1Tim.1:15, Phil.3:6). Does that seem like a contradiction to you? How is it that Paul could say of himself that he had been both “chief” among sinners, and at the same time “touching the righteousness which is in the law blameless”? Is it possible that both of these could be true at the same time? Is it possible that Paul kept the law blamelessly as he said he did and was chief of sinners too?  

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I remember hearing the pastor of a church I once attended, after reading this passage in Phil.3, say that he could not understand how Paul could say he was blameless according to the righteousness that comes through the law. I knew he was having trouble with this because he had accepted the false sin nature and original sin doctrines he learned while in seminary. And could only think in terms of a naughty/nice system of salvation by works. But, these are antithetical to Paul’s teaching. So much so that when Paul made statements like this one they find it impossible to reconcile it with these false doctrines. The beauty of it was that this pastor could see the problem between his theology and what Paul taught. While so many others do not. Even though he could not come to grips with the right answer to fix it. But, if they would simply believe what Paul plainly taught instead of these false doctrines they are indoctrinated with in their seminaries then they would have no trouble with what Paul said. Let me show you what I mean. 

One important thing to note is that when Paul says “of whom I am chief” regarding his being a sinner he is referring to his life before he came to faith in Jesus. And not his life in Christ. The righteous are not sinners. And sinners are not righteous. In this passage he is contrasting his life when he was under the law saying he “was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” With his life after he came to a personal faith in Jesus saying “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” And he declares in Phil.3:8 that any righteousness gained from keeping the law was “dung” and “loss” in contrast with the righteousness of faith that resulted in his relationship with Jesus and receiving eternal life. He made this distinction because the former was based on works(dung and loss) while the latter is based on relationship. Love that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Love for God because He first loved us. 

So Paul shows us that it was in the context of his “persecution of the church” that he understood himself to be chief among sinners. And not some sin nature that he had by inheritance from Adam as so many believe. Something we see Paul saying of himself in the same verse where he says he kept the law “blamelessly”. 

His perception of himself is much the same as David’s was after he came to terms with his sin with Bathsheba. David despised himself for what he had done so much that he said “surely I was born in sin” and “shapen in iniquity”. But, Paul was no more chief of sinners than David was born in sin or shapen in iniquity. These were just expressions they used to show how disgusted with themselves they were for the things they had done. And in all of this we see that both Paul and David sinned by choice. Not by nature. Paul out of ignorance. And David out of lust, covetousness, and the fear of being found out. So anyone who tries to create a doctrine like sin nature or original sin based on these kinds of statements is doing so because they have an antichrist agenda. And not because it is what God teaches in His word. 

So the answer then to why Paul believed himself to be both of these at the same time before he knew Jesus is because of his persecution of the church. Also found in Acts8:3 & 9:1. And his rejection of Jesus because he considered Him a blasphemer according to the law. He says it was his zeal for keeping the law that compelled him to persecute the church in Phil.3:6. Paul’s reasoning here is based on the fact that the law demands capital punishment for the sin of blasphemy. And since his perception of what was happening during Jesus’ ministry and His torturous execution made Jesus a blasphemer to him, all who followed Him therefore were also worthy of death because of blasphemy. So Paul was actually keeping the law by doing what the law demanded when he persecuted the church. Not having yet realized that Jesus was indeed who He said He was. Which is why Paul said God had mercy on him because he did these things in ignorance in unbelief(1Tim.1:13).

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This also shows us that Paul was as one of those Israelites that Isaiah53 speaks of who looked upon Jesus as He was being tortured and crucified saying, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not… we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” And because of this he not only despised Jesus, but he also persecuted the church that followed Him. Which after he came to faith in Jesus made him see himself as chief among sinners. But, because he did these things in ignorance not knowing that Jesus is God. Paul really was keeping the law “blamelessly”, and at the same time could consider himself to be “chief” of sinners. 

Have you believed in this Jesus that Paul preached that puts these things in the past that you may think makes you the chief among sinners? It is only this Jesus that can make this happen for you because He does not condemn you any more than He condemned Paul or David. Rather He has mercy for you just as He does all mankind. John3:17 says He did not come into the world to condemn the world. But that the world might be saved through Him. He loves you and wants you to know His love. Because only Jesus’ love saves from death to life. This Jesus Paul preached came in the same flesh all men have just to join with us in our death. He did this so that He could He conquer man’s death by His resurrection. And now if you will trust in Him you can join with Him in His eternal life. If you do believe in Him and want to have this eternal life that only Jesus can give then pray this prayer with me now.

Dear Jesus, thank you for dying for me. Thank you for joining with me in my death so that I could join with you in your eternal life by trusting in you and your resurrection. I believe you are my Lord. And that you rose from the dead. Thank you for saving me from death to life. Thank you for giving me a spirit born of God so that as His child I am now heir to my Father’s kingdom. And will live eternally with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

God bless you in your new life in Christ. If you prayed that prayer please leave a comment in the section below so that we can rejoice with you. 

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Edward O’Hara

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Edward O'Hara

4 Comments

  1. Edwitness on July 14, 2020 at 9:05 am

    Amen! Jesus is our righteousness. Because when we see Him we see our example of faith that justifies/makes righteous. He came to take away the sin of the world. What sin did Jesus say that Is? He said it is that “They believe not on me”. John16:9. So when we believe in Him as He believed the Father saying, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done” our sin is gone and we are righteous just as He is. By faith. This is our righteousness attained by our free will choice to trust in Jesus just as He trusted in the Father. To receive the gift of faith that God gives to those who believe the gospel so they can receive His gift of eternal life. A truth proclaimed in all of Paul’s teaching. A truth plainly stated in Gal.2:16 where Paul makes it clear that no flesh shall be justified by works. Not Jesus’ or anyone elses.

    So rest in the righteousness that is yours because you trust in Him. Rest in Him. Because once we have trusted in Him we have entered into His rest. “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”Heb.4:3,10,11. See how simply believing as Jesus believed the Father is righteousness? Now you can see how it is that you can be holy even as He is holy. By trusting in Jesus as He trusted the Father.

    Definitions of things like righteousness and holiness that come from a works paradigm lead to death. Because they are based on works and not grace. Grace that is defined as God’s love in action. A love for His creation that brought Him to become a man so He could join with man in our death so that we could join with Him in His life.Heb.2:14.

    Even so… Maranatha!!

  2. Patrick Galasso on July 13, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    We are JUSTIFIED in the eyes of God by faith, just-if-I’d never sinned. The precious literal blood of Jesus (sprinkled on the heavenly Mercy Seat) takes our sins away forever (1st Peter 1:18,19; Hebrews 9:12,24). This is true righteousness, and it is found ONLY in Christ Jesus! We are commanded to seek HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS if we want to enter into the Kingdom of God. “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and RIGHTEOUSNESS, and sanctification, and redemption” (1st Corinthians 1:30). The Lord Jesus Christ is our righteousness through faith in Him!!!

  3. Edwitness on July 12, 2020 at 7:33 pm

    We are justified by the faith of Christ. This does not mean that He gives us His righteousness. It means that we must believe in Jesus just as He believed in the Father to be righteous just as Jesus was. The law was done away with the sacrifice of Christ.

    The only sin that sends a man to hell is no faith in Jesus. This is why Jesus said He sent the Holy Spirit into the world(John16:9). To reprove it of that one sin. And when a man trusts in Jesus he is no longer a sinner. He is righteous because he has believed in Jesus just as Jesus believed in the Father. A belief that prompted Jesus to say “Nevertheless not my will but thine be done. This is the faith of Christ Paul said justifies men in Gal.2:16,20.. When we believe in Him as He believed the Father we are righteous.

    As long as you remain under the spell of the naughty/nice paradigm created by believing the doctrines of Augustine you will not perceive the kingdom of God.

    Even so… Maranatha!!

  4. Patrick Galasso on July 12, 2020 at 5:23 pm

    You see my friend, we have no righteousness of our own to offer God. Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and ALL OUR RIGHTEOUSNESSES ARE AS FILTHY RAGS; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” No amount of good works on your part can undo, or make up for, the sins you’ve committed throughout your life. Even one sin can send a person to Hell forever (James 2:10). That’s why we all need HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, i.e., the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:9, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” That is beautiful. We are saved solely through faith in Jesus Christ, believing that He died on the cross for our sins and was raised up bodily the third day (i.e., the Gospel). We are saved by GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS through faith in Christ, and not by any self-righteousness or goodness of our own.

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