Monday, September 9, 2013

Christ's Perfect Patience Extends Even to the Chief of Sinners

But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.  (1 Tim 1:16)

See how he further humbles and depreciates himself, by naming a fresh and less creditable reason.  For that he obtained mercy on account of his ignorance, does not so much imply that he who obtained mercy was a sinner, or under deep condemnation; but to say that he obtained mercy in order that no sinner hereafter might despair of finding mercy, but that each might feel sure of obtaining the like favor, this is an excess of humiliation, such that even in calling himself the chief of sinners, "a blasphemer and a persecutor, and one not worthy to be called an apostle," he had said nothing like it.  This will appear by an example.

Suppose a populous city, all whose inhabitants were wicked, some more so, and some less, but all deserving of condemnation; and let one among that multitude be more deserving of punishment than all the rest, and guilty of every kind of wickedness.  If it were declared that the king was willing to pardon all, it would not be so readily believed, as if they were to see this most wicked wretch actually pardoned.  There could then be no longer any doubt.  This is what Paul says, that God, willing to give men full assurance that He pardons all their transgressions, chose, as the object of His mercy, him who was more a sinner than any.  For when I obtained mercy, he argues, there could be no doubt of others: as familiarly speaking we might say, "If God pardons such a one, he will never punish anybody."  And thus he shows that he himself, though unworthy of pardon, for the sake of others’ salvation, first obtained that pardon.  Therefore, he says, since I am saved, let no one doubt of salvation.  And observe the humility of this blessed man.  He says not, "that in me he might display" His "patience," but "perfect patience;" as if he had said, "Greater patience He could not show in any case than in mine, nor find a sinner that so required all His pardon, all His patience; not a part only, like those who are only partially sinners, but 'all' His patience."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Timothy

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