Wrested Scriptures Made Plain
By W.E. Shepard
PAUL, THE CHIEF OF SINNERS
"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
verse is quoted to prove that no matter how much grace one has
received from the Lord1 yet he can never get beyond the
place where he is reckoned a sinner. “If Paul said he was the chief
of sinners, then how dare we, with so much less grace and salvation,
lay claim to anything higher?
us examine Paul a little. If he meant here that he, at this time, was
the chief of sinners, let us
see how this statement harmonizes with the rest of his
Paul was an apostle. He wrote upon one occasion that he supposed he
“was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.”—2 Cor. 11
:5. It is true that in his humility he said he was “less than the
least of all saints,” when he considered what a sinner he had been,
and how the Lord had saved him and exalted him to preach “the
unreachable riches of Christ ;“
but even in this humble statement he confessed that he is a saint,
which means a
holy person, and, to say the least, it is above being the chief of
said that he was “allowed of God to be put in trust with the
Gospel.” We cannot understand how God could choose a man to be an
apostle and commit unto him the Gospel to preach, knowing that he was
the chief of sinners.
He wrote on another occasion that the mystery was “revealed
unto the holy apostles.”—Eph. 3:5. This, of course, included
himself, as he was an apostle. Here is a profession of holiness from
Paul. It sounds somewhat different from being the chief of sinners.
Paul told the Thessalonian church, “Ye are witnesses, and God
also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among
you that believe.”—I Thes. 2:10. Suppose that he had added in the
next verse, that he was the chief of sinners, how would they have
reconciled the statement?
In another place Paul made a profession of Christian perfection:
“Let us therefore, as
many as be perfect, be thus minded.”—Phil. 3:15. Paul thus classes
himself with those who had obtained this perfection. The chief of
sinners would hardly harmonize in this piece.
He wrote to the Romans and said: “I am sure, that when I come unto
you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of
Christ.”—Rom. 15:29. How can one be in the fullness of the
blessing of Christ, and at the same time be the chief of sinners?
In another place he writes that he is crucified with Christ, and that
Christ is living in him.
of the strongest expressions of full salvation. Is the chief of
sinners crucified with Christ, and possessed with the Christ life?
He won hundreds to Christ and led many into the baptism with
the Holy Ghost. How could one continually succeed in raising men to
a higher level than himself? How could one, the chief
of sinners, succeed in getting other sinners to God, and then in
getting them filled with the Holy Ghost?
God trusted Paul to write a portion of the inspired Word;
committed unto him a “dispensation of the Gospel “
through him wrought miracles of different kinds. Can we imagine
a Holy God committing such sacred works to the chief of sinners?
The very next year after Paul wrote this text about the chief
of sinners, he wrote: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the
time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have
finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up
for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge,
shall give me at that day; end not to me only, but unto them also that
love His appearing.”—2 Tim. 4:6-8. How could the chief of sinners
say, as he was
facing death, that he had fought a good fight, and kept the faith, end
was expecting a crown of righteousness? Is a crown of righteousness
laid up for sinners?
Paul wrote, “Awake to righteousness, and sin not.”—I Cor.
15:34. And again he asks the question, “What shall we say then?
Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall
we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein ?“—Rom. 6:1-2.
Strange that Paul should exhort others to quit sinning and keep right
on himself. Where would be the consistency?
We read in the Word that “Sin is the transgression of the
law.” Also, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth
it not, to him it is sin.” Now, if Paul was the chief of sinners,
then he was a transgressor of the law. This would prove hypocrisy in
him—teaching others what he himself did not live up to. If he knew
to do good and did it not, which he did if he were the chief of
sinners, then how could he be holy, and just, end unblameable, as he
declared he was? This would certainly brand him as false, if he were
then the chief of sinners.
Long years before Paul wrote the text in
Notice carefully the apostle John on sin:
abideth in him sinneth not; whosoever sinnneth hath not seen him,
neither known him.”—I John 3 :6.
“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”
is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and
he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”—I John 3:9.
the apostle Paul was, at the time of that writing, the chief of
sinners, then, according to the apostle John, he was not abiding in
Christ, had not seen Him, nor known Him. But Paul declares to the
contrary in all three of these things. Hear him:
knew a man in Christ above
fourteen years ago,” etc. 2 Cor. 12:2. This man that Paul
refers to is himself. See the context.
I not seen Jesus Christ our
I Cor. 9:1.
know whom I have
believed.”—2 Tim. 1:12. Thus, we see that Paul was in Christ; he
had seen Him, and also knew Him.
if the apostle John was correct, and Paul was the chief of sinners,
then he was of the devil, and had not had the works of the devil
destroyed out of him. But to say this of such a man would be hard
in the next place, according to John, Paul could not have been born of
God, for such, John informs us, are not the chief of sinners.
that would make out Paul as saying that he was at this time the chief
of sinners, flies in the face of reason, of the Word of God, of
Paul’s own testimony and experience. He would make him to be not
only false and hypocritical, but a deceiver.
we know that it means something, for it is there. “Christ Jesus came
into the world to save sinners; of who I am chief.” That Christ came
to save sinners there is no dispute in orthodoxy. That he saved Paul
is not a mooted question. That he was at one time the chief of
sinners, all are willing to admit that in his humility he felt. That
he was at the time of that writing such a character, either in thought
or reality, is the “bone of contention.” One may say that it was
simply an expression of humility on the part
that Paul, instead of lowering the standard, and confessing himself to
be the chief of sinners, is doing the very opposite; confessing his
great salvation, and showing that he is the chief saved one, by
formerly being such a sinner, and now by having such a wonderful
of the great delusions of the day is, that one may be a Christian, and
at the same time be a sinner. Never did the devil hatch up a greater
soul-deceiving lie. Even the expression, “I am a sinner, saved by
grace,” is not only misleading, but unscriptural. As scene one has
said, “They will emphasize the word sinner
and whisper saved.” If
one is a sinner, he is not saved. Of course, the majority may
understand what one means by it, but the fact is, salvation and sin do
not mix. To say, that I was a
sinner, but am now saved by grace, would be the truth. If we stick to
the Word of God there is no possible way to harmonize the two
states—sin and salvation. There is as much propriety in saying, I am
a liar, though truthful by grace; or, I am a corpse, alive by the
power of God; or, I am a drunkard, made temperate by the gold cure; as
to say, I am a sinner, saved by grace. The fact is, the expression a
put in the present tense, when it should be in he past, showing when
the work was done. If a man
is a corpse, he is not alive; if one is a liar,
he is not truthful; if he is a drunkard, he is not temperate.
word of God does not mix things. It puts them where they belong. If
one is a sinner, he is not
saved; he is of the devil, out of Christ and not born again. All
of this John makes plain.
Why people want to hide behind some wrested Scripture to their soul’s destruction, when there is so much light shed on the pathway, is a mystery indeed. May the Lord save the people from being sinners.