Am I the ‘Chief of Sinners’?

“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.” 1 Timothy 1:15 (KJV)

Here, St. Paul is not writing about high regard nor humility, but about grace. He uses his own experience as proof of God’s forgiveness and love. Everybody can experience the same, if they open themselves to Christ’s Gospel message. He is thankful to Christ.

“I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who come into the world to save sinners, of whom I am Chief.” – From the Divine Liturgy, before the Holy Communion

Fr. Stephen Freeman states, “The confession is not an exercise in comparative morality – but an exercise in humility and true contrition before God. Dostoevsky’s famous character, the Elder Zosima, speaks of “each man being guilty of everything and for all.” The mystery of iniquity, spoken of in Scripture, is just that – a mystery. Our involvement in sin is itself mysterious. Our culture has made of sin either a moral failing, and thus a legal category, or a psychological problem to be treated as guilt. Both are sad caricatures of the reality and neither image allows us to say, “Of sinners I am first.” Morality would reassure us that we have not done as much as others and would leave us as unjustified Pharisees. Psychology would assuage our guilt by warning us that such feelings are bad for us.” (

Look at today, have we changed our definition of ‘morality’? Have we changed our definition of who is a ‘sinner’ and what ‘sin’ is? The world may have, but we Orthodox Christians have not. The Orthodox Church has not. The world is changing.

When a young aspiring monk came to St Macarius the Great, seeking how he might find salvation, St Macarius informed him to go to his cell and stay there weeping for his sins. Have we forgotten how to weep and pray for our sins. Not our brothers, but our own. Have we forgotten how to take responsibility for what we do or have not done?

We can raise our voices in anger against the wave of anti-traditional Christianity all we wish. But as temporary citizens of America and ultimate citizens of the Kingdom of God, we have to confront our own demons and live opposite of our own faults. Paul and the apostles, Macarius and the early fathers and mothers understood the need to point the finger at themselves first and foremost. This is why the early church fathers taught us to consider ourselves as they did, chief among sinners. Unless we “good Christians” do and act likewise, any complaining and protest we offer in this temporal nation will fall on deaf ears. If we prove to be hypocritical, we won’t even make it into the kingdom to come. (

Here is what Abbot Tryphon has to day about this topic:

Lord have mercy on me and forgive me, a sinner!

About padrerichard

I am a Priest with ROCOR.
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