The phrase it is a trustworthy statement is unique to the Pastoral Epistles, appearing five times (cf.. 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 3:8). These statements were familiar, recognized summaries of key doctrines. That they were common in the church by the time of the writing of the Pastoral Epistles indicates that a well-articulated theology had developed. Paul indeed quotes them as if they were common knowledge. This one and the one in 1 Timothy 4:9 have the phrase deserving full acceptance appended for added emphasis.
The trustworthy statement in 1:15 acts as a condensed articulation of the gospel. In only eight Greek words is found a marvelous summation of the gospel message. Each word is chosen carefully. Christ Jesus is the word order preferred by Paul in the Pastoral Epistles. He uses it twenty-five times compared to six uses of “Jesus Christ.” Bound up in those two words is all that He is. Christ is the anointed King who came to redeem, and became the earthly Jesus at the Incarnation. That He came into the world implies not only His incarnation but His preexistence. Note carefully that it does not say that He came into existence, or that He was created. He existed somewhere else before coming into the world. This phraseology is used frequently by John, who often speaks of Christ’s coming into the world (cf.. John 1:9; 3:19; 6:14; 11:27; 12:46; 16:28; 18:37).
The world refers to the world of humanity, blind, lost, and condemned to hell because of its hostility to God (cf.. 1 John 5:19). It is into that world of sinners, of darkness and unbelief, that Jesus came. John 3:17 says, “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (cf.. John 12:46–47).
Christ’s purpose in coming into this fallen world was to save sinners. Before his birth the angel told Joseph “it is He who will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). In Luke 19:10 our Lord stated the purpose of His coming into the world: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” To save is to deliver from death and darkness, from sin, hell, and judgment. Sinners was a term used by the Jews to describe Gentiles (cf.. Gal. 2:15), but our Lord used it to refer to all of fallen mankind (cf.. Matt. 9:13). It denotes man’s constant violation of God’s law; men are sinners by nature.
In the realm of sinners, Paul saw himself as foremost of all (cf.. 1 Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8). Many in our day would hasten to correct Paul’s self-image and restore his self-esteem. But that was a healthy self-view for Paul because it was accurate. It’s hard to imagine anyone worse than a blasphemer of God and persecutor of His church. Such a view of himself also served to keep Paul humble and grateful.
MacArthur New Testament Commentary