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the trustworthy saying

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost.    1 Timothy 1: 15


It is becoming increasingly difficult to trust the words that are written or spoken about anything at all these days. Newspaper cartoonists (in free societies like ours) are often braver in pointing this out than their columnists. Even the JEP cartoons, in poking fun, carry truth about untruth. What, then, gives anyone any confidence to give special attention to someone who says, "This saying is trustworthy ...."?   

An even bigger problem arises with a statement that is claimed to be deserving of full acceptance - acceptance by everybody in every way at every time. The Conservative Lib-Dem coalition in the UK seeks to persuade but does not expect (or receive) full acceptance of their statements of policy, never ask for it - and are happy if those who disagree just keep quiet so as to maintain a semblance of party unity. But this saying is different: it is so valuable that it deserves full acceptance.

Strangely, it's the final five words that help a great deal. Somehow it is easier to believe a man or woman who says "I am THE foremost sinner and I have found this statement about all sinners, sinners like me, to be totally true". That man loses everything by his statement – but the statement gains credibility through his personal loss.

The man who wrote this was Paul and he wrote it around AD 60 in a letter to a young Christian Minister - Timothy - to encourage him to keep broadcasting the good news: Jesus Christ had, from elsewhere, come into the world (in Bethlehem) in AD 0 to save sinners. He had died and had arisen from the dead (in Jerusalem) in AD 33. This faithful saying gives the reason why He came. 


Paul was an Israelite from one of the foremost of the 12 tribes that descended from the sons of that man, Israel, who has given his name to that country that is today in such turmoil in the Middle East.


Paul was a zealous Pharisee - a very religious Jew. But he had been born a Roman citizen in a major Roman city, Tarsus (now in Turkey), a centre of learning and scholarship. He was very well educated both there and at the feet of Rabban (higher than Rabbi) Gamaliel, a doctor of the law and member of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, its Ruling Council..

Why didn't Paul back up his trustworthy saying with his academic credentials – with many letters after his name so beloved of academics today? Why did he back it up with a statement that demeaned him in the eyes of everyone who read it?

The answer must be that the saying, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" was, indeed, trustworthy and true - for Paul in particular.

But, but ... it still cannot be right that this saying deserves full acceptance, can it? That the saying is true for all people at all times? After all, our culture today is clear: what is true for you is true - but that doesn’t make it true for me. I don’t have to accept it. 

Actually, objective truth does still exist. For example, the glorious beauty of Jersey today is, indeed, true - and truly here. And Jesus Christ, historically and geographically and physically, did come and did rise from the dead there in Jerusalem. There are probably no better researched and studied facts of history.

Not surprising then that it is sinners today in Jersey who are broadcasting the good news. They are sinners who agree with Paul that this is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom (neck-and-neck with Paul) I am foremost".

"What is truth?" - Pontius Pilate AD 33
"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners." (Jesus Christ, AD 30) 
Richard Syvret

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