Skip to main content

Why did Paul call himself “the chief of sinners”?

Quick Answer: Why did Paul call himself “the chief of sinners”? Some point to 1 Timothy 1:15 to make the argument that Christians are called “sinners” in the New Testament. However, Paul only referred to himself as a sinner in the 1 Timothy passage because of his history of persecuting the church (Galatians 1:13). He was referring to his condition before salvation. We believers are not sinners by nature anymore. We are saints who sometime sin.

Diving Deeper: Some believe Christians are simultaneously sinners and saints. To make their argument, they point to 1 Timothy 1:15 where Paul refers to himself as the “chief of sinners.” However, Paul was referring to his life before his conversion in this passage.

Before Paul was a believer, he was a zealous Pharisee and persecutor of the church (Galatians 1:13-14). It was Paul’s early life of killing Christians that led him to believe he had set a world record for heinous sin.

Consider Jack Nicklaus who has won more professional golf tournaments than any other player. Jack might say, “I’m the greatest golfer of all time”, yet he doesn’t play on tour anymore. Similarly, Paul felt that he set a record for being the worst sinner of all time, yet he wasn’t a sinner by nature anymore. He was a saint.

Being the worst sinner of all time was not the end of Paul’s story. Jesus invaded his life on the road to Damascus and stopped Paul dead in his tracks (Acts 9). After this encounter, Paul was forever a transformed man and became a leader of the very people he once persecuted.

Here’s the point of Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 1:15: If God can save Paul, he can save anybody. He can make a saint out of anyone! No sin is too great for God’s grace. Your sins are small, and your God is big. So, believe and rejoice in your new identity as a saint.

Nowhere in the New Testament are believers called sinners. If you are in Christ, you’re not a sinner anymore. You’re a saint who sometimes sins!

Let’s Make it a Conversation!
1. Have you viewed yourself as a sinner, a saint, or both?
2. React to this statement: Christians are not sinners. They’re saints who sometimes sin.
3. Is this just semantics? Why or why not?

Have more questions about identity in Christ? Check out:
101 Bible Questions - Book101 Bible Questions: And the Surprising Answers You May Not Hear in Church is now available on Amazon!

Tags: , , , , , ,