A message in favor of religious tradition

by Michael Fischer

And all good Baptists hear that title, raise their deflector shields and think, "Hold it right there! If itís not from the Bible, we donít want to hear about it from the pulpit!" Relax, I wonít lead you astray. Turn in your Bibles to I Timothy 1:15:

"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."

There are four passages of Scripture that Paul describes as "faithful sayings." This is the first one. I hope to do a message on each of them, if the Lord permits.

There are three parts to this verse: the preface to the saying, the saying itself, and Paulís comment on the saying. This will be the first time I have ever preached a traditional three-point message, so who knows what will happen?

1 Ė the preface to the saying

"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation"

What Paul is telling us here is that the saying is unattributed Ė we donít know who first said it.

It must have been a current saying in the church at that time. We have current sayings in our own church, like, "What would Jesus do?" or, "If itís new, itís not true, and if itís true, itís not new." We donít really know where these sayings came from. They arenít in the Bible. But they do reflect Biblical truth as we understand it. They are our religious tradition.

So in Paulís time, this "faithful saying" was religious tradition. Paul is setting his seal of apostolic approval on the saying with his preface to it.

So, for us, it isnít religious tradition; itís part of Godís Word. (Everybody can relax.)

2 Ė the saying

"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Thatís what we call a foundational truth of our faith. Letís take a moment to consider each section of that statement.

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

Thatís what the Bible says. Thatís why He came. If you ask worldly people why Jesus came, they have lots of interesting ideas. Too bad theyíre all wrong. Iím sure youíve heard a few of these:

3 Ė Paulís comment on the saying

"Of whom I am chief." The NIV says, "of whom I am the worst."

This isnít part of the faithful saying.

Why did he think he was the worst? He tells us why Ė

Also notice, he didnít say, "of whom I was chief." In spite of his amazing testimony after his conversion, and in spite of the fact that his sins were forgiven by the blood of Christ, he still thought of himself as the worst sinner who ever lived.

Was Paul the worst sinner who ever lived?

No. He couldnít be. Paul wasnít the worst sinner who ever lived, because I am.

Okay, Mike, youíve got your nerve. Holy Scripture says Paul was the worst. Where do I get off, saying Iím worse than Paul was? Iíve got my reasons:

Donít answer this out loud, but consider it: Do you think youíre the worse sinner who ever lived?

The entire point and purpose of this message is: because this faithful saying is worthy of all acceptation, I would like all of you to adopt it into your own lives, and Paulís comment on it as well. I would like you all to become convinced that you, each of you, individually, are the worst of sinners.

Why? Is there any great value in believing this?

I donít think so, but there is a great danger in believing the opposite.

What I mean is this:

If you donít believe that you are the worst of sinners, that means there is another sinner out there, somewhere, maybe in this room, who is a worse sinner than you are.
That means thereís someone whom you think youíre better than.
That means thereís someone whom you might be looking down on.

And whatís that called? Thatís pride. That is the satanic opposite of how we ought to live.

The way we ought to live is, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under Godís mighty hand." (I Peter 5:6a)

A man who is humble does not look down on anyone.
A man who is humble does not think he is better than anyone else is.
A man who is humble puts himself at the bottom of any comparison between one man and another.

Is that because we really are worse than everyone else is?

Thatís not the issue. Thatís not even worth discussing.
Godly humility puts a man at the bottom of any comparison because Ė

There are no degrees of goodness or badness when Christ is our yardstick. Thatís like quibbling over a quarter of an inch when youíre measuring the distance between galaxies.

There are those who will quibble over that quarter-inch; there are those who canít rest at night until theyíre sure who theyíre better than and who theyíre worse than. What does Scripture say about people like that? Donít go there with them. Or, to put it precisely, "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." (2 Corinthians 10:12) And if they are not wise, what are they? Foolish.

But what if the other person weíre comparing ourselves to is Adolf Hitler? Or the Emperor Nero? Or maybe one of the Popes who carried on the Inquisition? Surely weíre better than they were? They were monsters, by any definition.

Thatís not the way we like to think. We like to derive comfort from thinking, "Yes, Iím a sinner, but Iím not as bad as [fill in the blank]." How do you fill in the blank? But that is how God sees us. Thatís why it took the cross to pay for what weíve done. Thatís why Christ Jesus came into the world: to save sinners.

This sounds like a very negative thought. But actually, itís very liberating. As soon as you stop looking for someone whoís worse than you, you also give up looking up at anyone, because you know weíre all on the same level Ė rock bottom.

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.

If any of you wants to argue that Iím not chief, because you are, I wonít fight you for it. But I will pray with you, because I know where youíre at. I donít know like Jesus knows. And I donít need to know what youíve done. But, as one chief to another, can we seek Godís mercy and favor together?

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