Will you base your doctrine and beliefs on a sentence fragment? That is what much of Christianity is doing today.
(Acts 24:16 [AKJV]) And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men.
Paul could not have been the chief of sinners and at the same time “have always a conscience void of offense toward God”. He said this and Luke wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. “a conscience void of offense”.
Not merely “considered” free from offense, but he said, “I ‘exercise myself’ to have ALWAYS a conscience void of offense toward God and toward men”.
Only a man free from sin can say such a thing and not be a liar. The holy Ghost would not endorse a lie. Paul walked in the freedom he preached which comes by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ; by the power of Christ in you; by the true grace of God.
Notice, in Galatians 1, how Paul contrasts his past when he persecuted the church, with his present preaching of the faith. We will see that he also compared his past with his present in his letter to Timothy which is below.
But first, let us read the Galatians passage and take note of vss. 13 and 23 and how Paul contrasts his past and present. That is how we give testimony. A testimony is what we were before we met Christ, how we came to know Christ, what He has done in us and how it has been since we met Christ. We give experiential evidence of what Christ has done in us.
(Gal 1:10 [AKJV]) For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
Apostle Paul cannot be the “servant of Christ” and the servant of sin at the same time.
(Gal 1:11 [AKJV]) But I certify you, brothers, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
(Gal 1:12 [AKJV]) For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(Gal 1:13 [AKJV]) For you have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
Note on the word, “Conversation“. It means conduct or behavior.
CONVERSATION G391 ἀναστροφή anastrophe (an-as-trof-ay’) n.
(Gal 1:14 [AKJV]) And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
See here how Paul is speaking of his past, before Christ apprehended him?
(Gal 1:15 [AKJV]) But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
(Gal 1:16 [AKJV]) To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
Paul says God was pleased to “reveal His son in me“. He is speaking a time after he persecuted the church.
(Gal 1:17 [AKJV]) Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
(Gal 1:18 [AKJV]) Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and stayed with him fifteen days.
(Gal 1:19 [AKJV]) But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.
(Gal 1:20 [AKJV]) Now the things which I write to you, behold, before God, I lie not.
(Gal 1:21 [AKJV]) Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;
(Gal 1:22 [AKJV]) And was unknown by face to the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:
(Gal 1:23 [AKJV]) But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preaches the faith which once he destroyed.
See the glaring comparison of past Saul and present Paul?
(Gal 1:24 [AKJV]) And they glorified God in me. He says, “they glorified God in me”.
Can god be glorified by a practicing sinner? Obviously and contrarily, God was glorified by the wondrous change he worked in the heart of the Apostle who once persecuted the church but now builds it as a chosen vessel of Jesus Christ Himself. A chosen vessel of Jesus Christ, filled with the Holy Ghost. See it here in Acts 9, see his transformation and hear the very words of Jesus who called him into service.
(Acts 9:15 [AKJV/PCE] But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
(Acts 9:16 [AKJV/PCE]) For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.
(Acts 9:17 [AKJV/PCE]) And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, [even] Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
(Acts 9:18 [AKJV/PCE]) And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
(Acts 9:19 [AKJV/PCE]) And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
(Acts 9:20 [AKJV/PCE]) And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
(Acts 9:21 [AKJV/PCE]) But all that heard [him] were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?
(Acts 9:22 [AKJV/PCE]) But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.
Now let’s look at the much repeated, “I am chief of sinners” mantra that people use to say Paul was a sinner all his life. We must keep in mind that Paul never wrote merely a verse to a church or a person. He wrote letters, entire letters. Many pick and choose verses and they twist the Apostle’s words like a media man during a campaign year.
Look at the following and notice the same contrast Paul makes of before and after Christ was revealed in him.
(1Tim 1:12 [AKJV]) And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
(1Tim 1:13 [AKJV]) Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
Note Paul is referring to his past, before conversion.
(1Tim 1:14 [AKJV]) And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
(1Tim 1:15 [AKJV]) 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.
(1Tim 1:16 [AKJV]) However, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
(1Tim 1:17 [AKJV]) Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
It is common to use present tense when making a point. Example; “I am more of a sinner than you all, just look at what I did before I came to Christ and He changed me”. This passage in no way was ever intended by the Apostle nor by the Holy Ghost to comfort us in our sin nor to say that Paul continued in sin for the rest of his life after conversion. This passage is showing a contrast between pre and post conversion of Paul.
(1Cor 4:16 [AKJV]) Why (wherefore) I beseech you, be you followers of me.
Would the Holy Ghost inspire Paul to say “follow me the chief of sinners”? or, is Paul inspired by the Holy Ghost to say “follow me” because God has so worked in his heart that to follow him is to follow Christ?
(1Cor 11:1 [AKJV/PCE]) Be ye followers of me, even as I also [am] of Christ.
(1Cor 4:17 [AKJV]) For this cause have I sent to you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.
“My ways which are in Christ“: are the ways of a ‘chief of sinners’, the ways of Christ? Of course not, Paul has new ways which are in fact the very ways of Christ. He teaches these ways every where in every church. He teaches the ways of Christ, every where in every church. The ways of Christ, which, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, Paul calls his ways. Paul’s ways are, the ways of Christ, no longer are they the ways of the chief of sinners.
…”remembrance of my ways which be in Christ“. Can Paul say this under inspiration and in good conscience if he were a sinner? If Paul’s ways were the ways of a sinner, a “chief” sinner, will the Holy Ghost inspire him to write this?
“am of Christ”… Is sin ,sinning and sinner ‘of Christ’? Paul did not say, “be followers of me, a sinner of Christ”.
(Phil 3:17 [AKJV]) Brothers, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as you have us for an ensample.
Does Paul and Holy Ghost want us to follow sinners as an example? Here too, Paul shows that others walk in such a way as to be commended as worthy of being followed.
The gospel came with power and it’s power was revealed and exhibited in the holy lives of the messenger who testified.
(1Thess 1:5 [AKJV]) For our gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as you know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
(1Thess 1:6 [AKJV]) And you became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.
(1Thess 1:7 [AKJV]) So that you were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
Paul brings their attention and calls on them to remember His blameless behavior among them
(1Thess 2:10 [AKJV])You are witnesses, and God also, how piously and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you that believe:
Can Paul say this while all the while he is sinning? Remember, he is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Paul’s conscience would have condemned him and he could never have written such a thing if he were a sinner.
Review the words of Paul in 1 Timothy Chapter 1 and refuse the twisted and lying way that this statement, “of whom I am chief”, has been fed to us and repeated until it is believed as a truth over the years. Doctrines are not based on a sentence fragment!
“War Propaganda”, in volume 1, chapter 6 of Mein Kampf (1925), by Adolf Hitler
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.
If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.
Moral of the story:
If we embrace the lie that “even Paul sinned all his life“, then we will justify our own continuance in undefeated sin. If we deny that freedom from sin is possible by embracing the lie that Paul sinned all his life and never walked in complete sanctification then how can we believe God will bring us into complete sanctification?.
(1Thess 5:19 [AKJV]) Quench not the Spirit.
(1Thess 5:20 [AKJV]) Despise not prophesyings.
(1Thess 5:21 [AKJV]) Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
(1Thess 5:22 [AKJV]) Abstain from all appearance of evil.
(1Thess 5:23 [AKJV]) And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.