Why Did The Apostle Paul Call Himself Chief of Sinners?
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Why Did The Apostle Paul Call Himself Chief of Sinners?

Dear friend, if you have ever wondered why the Apostle Paul referred to himself as the “chief” of sinners, this post is for you. We will explore the background behind Paul’s statement, the meaning of it, and what we can learn from it today. Get ready to gain some valuable perspective on this remarkable follower of Jesus Christ!

Paul’s Background Before Christ

To understand why Paul considered himself chief of sinners, we must first understand his background before becoming a Christian. Paul was originally known as Saul of Tarsus, a Jewish Pharisee who fiercely persecuted the early church. Here are some key details about his past:

  • Zealous persecutor – Saul was zealous in persecuting and ravaging the church (Philippians 3:6; Galatians 1:13). He breathing threats and murder against Christians (Acts 9:1).
  • Present at Stephen’s stoning – Saul was likely present at the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:58; Acts 8:1).
  • Imprisoned Christians – Saul imprisoned both men and women who belonged to the Way (Acts 8:3; Acts 22:4).
  • Tried to destroy the faith – He tried to destroy the Christian faith and vigorously tried to force Christians to blaspheme (Acts 26:9-11; Galatians 1:23).
  • Furious oppressor – Saul was a furious oppressor bent on destroying the church (1 Timothy 1:13).

As you can see, Saul was dangerously opposed to Christianity prior to his conversion. He persecuted, imprisoned, and approved the killing of Christians. By his own admission, he was a violent aggressor against the faith.

Why did the apostle paul call himself chief of sinners?

Paul’s Dramatic Conversion to Christ

Saul’s anti-Christian crusades were cut short when Jesus Christ directly intervened in his life. While on the road to Damascus to arrest more Christians, Saul had a life-altering encounter with the risen Christ:

  • Blinding light – A brilliant light and a voice from heaven left Saul blind for three days (Acts 9:3-9; Acts 22:6-11).
  • Life-changing message – Saul heard the message “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He realized he was persecuting Jesus Himself (Acts 9:4-5; Acts 26:14-15).
  • Immediate turnaround – Instead of arresting Christians in Damascus, Saul was baptized and began preaching Christ (Acts 9:20-22).
  • New identity – Saul became known as Paul, an apostle called and commissioned by Christ (Acts 13:9).

What an incredible testimony of the transformational power of an encounter with Jesus Christ! In an instant, Paul went from being Christianity’s fiercest adversary to its most vocal advocate.

The Meaning Behind Paul Calling Himself Chief of Sinners

After his life-changing conversion, Paul viewed his past mistakes in a whole new light. Hesaw himself as the worst of sinners for persecuting Christ:

  • Hyperbole – Paul uses hyperbole to emphasize his grievous errors against the church (1 Corinthians 15:9).
  • Contrast – It contrasts his sinful past with God’s gracious mercy (1 Timothy 1:12-16).
  • Humility – It reflects Paul’s humility and gratefulness for grace (Ephesians 3:8).
  • Identity – It shows his identity changed from persecutor to preacher (1 Corinthians 15:10).
  • Example – It provides an example that God can save anyone, however terrible their sins (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

So in summary, this phrase “chief of sinners” communicates Paul’s hyperbolic yet sincere view of his past sinfulness contrasted with Christ’s abundant grace and mercy. It was a stark reminder that no sin is beyond forgiveness for those who turn to Him.

Key Lessons We Can Learn from Paul

Paul’s statement that he was chief of sinners is rich with application for our lives today. Here are some key lessons:

1. God can save anyone

Paul was as vicious an enemy of Christianity as one could be. Yet Christ’s glory changed him into the greatest missionary ever! We must never underestimate what God can do in the most hostile heart.

2. Shame over past sins leads to gratitude

Paul never got over his past. His shame and contrition made him grateful for grace. We must not take forgiveness lightly or forget what Christ saved us from.

3. Our identity in Christ replaces our past

Paul’s conversion gave him a new identity in Christ. No longer was he a persecutor, but a preacher! We are not defined by our past sins, but by our new life in Him.

4. Boasting in weaknesses magnifies God’s strength

By boasting in his weakness, Paul highlighted God’s surpassing power at work within him (2 Corinthians 12:9). We can rejoice that He works through our flaws.

5. There is hope for the worst sinners

The “chief” of sinners became an apostle! No matter how far we have fallen, God offers full restoration through Christ. It is never too late to turn to Him.


In summary, Paul considered himself chief of sinners because of his dramatic conversion from leading persecutor of the church to greatest apostle of Jesus Christ. This shocking testimony of God’s grace left Paul with a profound sense of both his sinfulness and God’s mercy.

As modern readers, Paul’s bold claim reminds us that God delights in saving even the worst of sinners who turn to Him in faith. Just like He transformed Paul, He can forgive us, redeem our past, and give us a new identity in Christ. Praise be to our merciful Savior!

So dear friend, take comfort today if your own conscience is burdened by sins and regrets. Turn to Jesus and let Him wipe your slate clean. He loves to take sinners like us and make us saints through His boundless grace. You have not gone too far for God’s forgiveness and healing touch. Be transformed by His love!

Pastor duke taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.