A Biblical word study in ESV. May God grant me the endurance to see this study carried out.
1 Timothy 1:12-16 — “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 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.”
I wonder how Paul got to the point in his heart where he truly considered himself the “foremost” of sinners. He did persecute Christians, yes, but our fallen human nature–together with the voice of the enemy–tends to prevail in our hearts (or at least in my own) by creating a mental comparison between ourselves and those who are ‘clearly’ worse sinners. I’m sure Paul could have done the same and sought worldly consolation of his offenses. But he seems to hold fast, as far as we can tell, to his profession. This is an example of true, God-given humility.