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Can Even the World’s Worst Sinner Be Saved?

One of the greatest things about Scripture is that it is so honest about who is saved and who can be saved.

Many people feel that they’ve lived such a sinful life that they cannot be saved.  They’re just too bad to be forgiven. They’re beyond redemption, without hope.  But, is that what the scriptures actually teach?

Let’s look at this passage:

“But there was no one like Ahab, who sold himself to do that which was evil in Yahweh’s sight, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. He did very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites did, whom Yahweh cast out before the children of Israel. When Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. Yahweh’s word came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “See how Ahab humbles himself before me? Because he humbles himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days; but I will bring the evil on his house in his son’s day.”” ‭‭(1 Kings‬ ‭21:25-29‬ ‭WEB‬‬)

King Ahab was a wicked king of Israel. He broke every one of the Ten Commandments of the Law, both in word and in deeds. 

He is probably a person that you wouldn’t expect God to be merciful towards.

Yet, when he humbled himself sincerely and showed repentance, the Lord relented from punishing Ahab in his days, and brought calamity only to his descendants instead. 

Our God is full of mercy and love. My point of today’s devotional is that we shouldn’t judge who is worthy of being saved and who isn’t. 

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It is very tempting to look through a newspaper article about a child rapist or murderer and angrily think to ourselves, “This person deserves to die and burn in Hell!”

The Gospels are clear in that Jesus is the Lamb that took away all the sins of the world. 

“The next day, he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” ‭‭(John‬ ‭1:29‬ ‭WEB‬‬)

Yes every sin was punished in Jesus’ body, but in order to receive the benefit of this salvation, one still has to believe in Jesus first. 

It’s like I’m holding a gift in my hand and you can choose whether you want to take it or not — God doesn’t infringe on the free will that He gave us. 

If every action we take will still lead to salvation, then that’s not true free will because you don’t really have a choice in the end — it would just be an illusion.

However there is an ultimate and true choice: Eternity with God, or eternal separation from God. 

Even the most wicked sinner can be saved  if he truly receives Jesus as his Lord and Savior — salvation is a gift received through faith, based on Jesus’ finished work at the cross, not based on our works. 

If it were based on our works, no one would be saved. 

We have all broken the Ten Commandments, at least in our thoughts, and not to mention that we are all born with sin in our flesh. 

The Bible gives other true accounts of wicked people receiving mercy when they showed sincere repentance. 

Assyria was a wicked, pagan Kingdom that conquered Israel. They were Israel’s mortal enemies. Despite their sins, God sent the prophet Jonah to them.

Jonah was so unwilling to preach to them because he knew God’s loving and merciful nature and didn’t want Israel’s enemies to be spared from judgment. 

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. He prayed to Yahweh, and said, “Please, Yahweh, wasn’t this what I said when I was still in my own country? Therefore I hurried to flee to Tarshish, for I knew that you are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, and you relent of doing harm.” ‭‭(Jonah‬ ‭4:1-2‬ ‭WEB‬‬)

That’s like us today when we say that a certain person does not deserve to be saved. 

When the whole city of Nineveh believed the message that Jonah preached, God didn’t destroy the city. 

“Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried out, and said, “In forty days, Nineveh will be overthrown!” The people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from their greatest even to their least. The news reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and took off his royal robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. He made a proclamation and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, “Let neither man nor animal, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, nor drink water; but let them be covered with sackcloth, both man and animal, and let them cry mightily to God. Yes, let them turn everyone from his evil way, and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows whether God will not turn and relent, and turn away from his fierce anger, so that we might not perish?” God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way. God relented of the disaster which he said he would do to them, and he didn’t do it.” ‭‭(Jonah‬ ‭3:4-10‬ ‭WEB‬‬)

I believe that generation of people in Nineveh are saved because they placed their faith God’s message that was preached. Jesus hints at this:

“The men of Nineveh will stand up in the judgment with this generation, and will condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, someone greater than Jonah is here.” (Matthew‬ ‭12:41‬ ‭WEB‬‬)

Salvation has always been and will always be through faith and never by works.

“Because by the works of the law, no flesh will be justified in his sight. For through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” ‭‭(Romans‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭WEB‬)

Next, let’s look at another kingdom that was a great enemy of Israel: Babylon. 

King Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon, and his armies ravaged Jerusalem and destroyed the temple that Solomon built. 

The Jews were exiled to Babylon at Nebuchadnezzar’s command. 

Despite inflicting so much harm to God’s beloved nation of Israel, Nebuchadnezzar — this proud and and wicked king, was saved in the end:

“The king spoke and said, Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for the royal dwelling place, by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty? While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from the sky, saying, “O king Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you. You shall be driven from men; and your dwelling shall be with the animals of the field. You shall be made to eat grass as oxen. Seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever he will.” This was fulfilled the same hour on Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from men, and ate grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of the sky, until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him who lives forever; for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom from generation to generation.” ‭‭(Daniel‬ ‭4:30-34‬ ‭WEB‬‬)

After a humbling experience of seven years of madness and living like a wild animal in the fields, Nebuchadnezzar repented of his pride and placed his faith in the God of Israel. 

Even such a wicked person could receive salvation. 

When God saves a wicked person, He can cause a great harvest of souls to be saved for His kingdom. 

The Apostle Paul used to be a persecutor of the early church. He would travel to foreign cities to arrest believers and thrown them into prison.

He pointed to the fact that he persecuted the church. He threw Christians into jail. He breathed out murders and threatening, and then he said specifically in 1 Timothy, “God showed patience to me in order that those who were to come to faith might take heart that God will show patience with them.”

So my answer is, Yes! Absolutely yes! The most vile, corrupt, consistent sinner can find at the cross of Jesus Christ a sacrifice sufficient to cover all their sins and a righteousness sufficient to replace all their unrighteousness. 

It is one thing to be a sinner that lives a wanton lifestyle in ignorance of Jesus, but Paul persecuted the church.

The worst thing a person can do is to come directly against Jesus. 

The apostle Paul, who wrote 13 of our New Testament books, used his own life as an example. That is why Paul candidly called himself the chief of sinners:

“And I thank him who enabled me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he counted me faithful, appointing me to service; although I was before a blasphemer, a persecutor, and insolent. However, I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. The grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. The saying is faithful and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” ‭‭(1 Timothy‬ ‭1:12-15‬ ‭WEB‬‬)

Paul knowing how much evil he had been forgiven of, went on to live an incredible life that glorified God and expanded His kingdom. 

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”” (Luke‬ ‭7:47‬ ‭WEB)

Paul had a revelation that he was forgiven of so great a debt, so he loved Jesus wholeheartedly and devoted his entire life to Christ.

“according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will in no way be disappointed, but with all boldness, as always, now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” ‭‭(Philippians‬ ‭1:20-21‬ ‭WEB‬‬)

God can use a wicked sinner and turn him into a great testimony for His kingdom. Where sin abounds, Grace can abound much more, because God is greater! 

“The law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace abounded more exceedingly;” (Romans‬ ‭5:20‬ ‭WEB‬)

Let us not be like Jonah who wanted to hold back salvation from the men of Nineveh. 

We are not fit to sit as judges to decide who should be saved and who shouldn’t.

“even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all those who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;” ‭‭(Romans‬ ‭3:22-24‬ ‭WEB‬‬)

All have sinned. You and I didn’t deserve to be saved. We received eternal life freely as a gift, just like anyone else. 

Let us just proclaim the Gospel as an open call to everyone, forbidding none, and inviting all. 

“The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” ‭‭(2 Peter‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭WEB)

That’s God’s heart for mankind — that none should perish, and all should come to repentance and be saved by believing in Jesus! 

The worst of sinners can be saved by the all-sufficiency of Christ.

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