The Worst Person in the World seems to change every day, at least according to Keith Olbermann. Now that he no longer pontificates for MSNBC, lambasting conservatives as hatemongers merely because they espouse different views, we are still left trying to figure out who is the Worst Person in the World?
Mark Berndt may be a good candidate. A man who bound young children to engage in nefarious tasting games, exploiting them for his own perverse purposes. After repeated complaints against the man, he was finally removed from the classroom and formal charges were indicted against the man who had preyed on many children throughout his career.
Perhaps Phillip Garrido. This vile man kidnapped a young girl, repeatedly raped her and abused her, fathered two children with her, and held her captive from her distraught mother and the state for eighteen years. Maybe every child abuser who has ever harassed, tortured, or induce great suffering in a child.
Then some would point out malevolent serial killers like Charles Manson or the Boston Strangler. Perhaps the mass murderers Harris and Klebold of Columbine fame would also head the list for "Worst Person in the World."
Yet the nature and manner of these killings is nothing compared to the outrageous totalitarian evil of Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Ze-Dong, and the rest. The damage that these men wrought upon the earth is incalculable for all of its enormity, devastating entire classes, races, and nations. We linger with the effects of these wicked men's policies to this day.
Yet the Bible teaches that only one man takes the rank of "Worst Person in the World" or rather "Chief Sinner": Saul of Tarsus, who later became Paul:
"Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." (Ephesians 3: 8)
Yet Paul goes even further to state his deplorable state before believing on Christ Jesus:
"But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,
"To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:" (Galatians 1: 15-16)
Paul makes it very clear that it is the Grace of God that makes him what he is in Christ:
"But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Corinthians 15: 10)
But the final touch exemplifying the unsearchable riches of God's grace in turning the worst of sinners into the finest example of what the Christian life develops in a believer, Paul writes to his young charge Timothy:
"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.
"Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." ( 1 Timothy 1: 15-16)
In his own words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he writes that he is "the chief" of all sinners. Worse than pedophiles, mass-murderers, and other strange and unbearable criminals. This serves as great comfort to all who seek salvation because:
" for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting."
Not just a pattern of what life would look like, but a pattern that no matter how bad our sins may be, none would ever be counted worse than Paul's. His depraved state comes from the fact that he was the most zealous concerning God's law, fully convicted within himself of his own righteousness, a stance which Jesus despised, for Christ demonstrated great anger only toward the hard-hearted and self-righteous Pharisees:
"And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other." (Mark 3: 5)
In this passage is the only record, of all the Gospels, which records that Jesus was angry. Not with tax collectors, not with prostitutes, not with Samaritans, not even toward Judas Iscariot the betrayer, but at the the cold, self-righteous Pharisees. And Paul was the best, and thus the worst, of the religious sect:
"But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question." (Acts 23: 6)
He would lay out his impeccable credentials at length to the Philippians:
"Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
"For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
"Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
"Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
"Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." (Philippians 3: 2-6)
He was the best of the Pharisee class, and thus certainly one who grieved Jesus the most. The Savior said as much when He confronted him on the road to Damascus:
"And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
"And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
"And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." (Acts 9: 3-5)
Paul, the worst of sinners because the best of Pharisees, fully typified the superabundance of God's Grace!
If he could save a sinner like Paul, then you can rest easy knowing that nothing that you have done will ever disqualify you from being saved and received into the Body of Christ by the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit!