Jeremiah said that, “the heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (17:9). That statement affirms the doctrine of depravity — a man’s heart might desire sin far worse and far more than one can conceive. Depravity does not mean that a man sins as much as he might; but it does mean that there is nothing that he might not do.
But there is also a corresponding truth to depravity — there is no sin and no sinner that cannot be redeemed by God’s salvation.
And the apostle Paul is just such an example, as he demonstrated in his own testimony in Acts 22:
- “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons” (v. 4).
- I “started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished” (v. 5)
- “I said, ‘Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You’” (v. 19).
- “‘And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the coats of those who were slaying him.’” (v. 20)
Paul would later summarize his standing before God as, “I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (1 Tim 1:13).
And yet, God not only applied the blood of Christ to him and saved him, but God also equipped him and called him into ministry: “He considered me faithful, putting me into service…and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Tim. 1:12, 14-15).
This is the kind of man God saves — an open enemy of God, a persecutor of God’s people, and a blasphemer of God’s truth. So the salvation of Paul serves as a hope for us, not just because Paul was saved, but because God is the kind of God who saves men like Paul: “for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Tim 1:16).