Devotional # 195. 6/21/16. 1 Timothy 1:12-17.
Intro. Last week we discussed how love was the basis of the Law. Only Jesus can point out why certain things are bad and how to be saved from them. This week we can live vicariously through Paul who will tell us about why he needed a Savior and will praise God for being that Savior!
vv. 12-13. Paul never forgets to “thank Christ Jesus.” What does he have to be thankful for? The same that we do, as we’ll read. Jesus “enabled” Paul, “counted him faithful” and “put him in the ministry.” Jesus did all of it.
What makes this more incredible was all the bad stuff Paul had done to Jesus and Christians prior to this. Paul had been “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” by oppressing believers (see Acts 9:1-2, Devotional # 50). But Paul received mercy because he did it “ignorantly in unbelief.” This means that Paul persecuted Christians because he was uninformed and didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah. But when Jesus confronted Paul about his “unbelief”, and the actions coming from it, Paul responded with repentance (Acts 9:3-20, Devotional # 50). This is how we should respond to God’s offer of grace as we’re about to see…
v. 14. The grace of Jesus “was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love.” This is interesting because His grace is more than we could want or need (“exceedingly abundant”) and is given as a gift of “faith and love.” Any “faith” or “love” that we receive or give to others is rooted in Jesus.
v. 15. This is one of the most famous and impactful verses in the New Testament. It says, “this is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Paul states that what he is about to say is both completely “true” and can be trusted. He gives us the gospel in a nutshell: Jesus came to save sinful people! This acknowledges many things: Jesus is able to save, Jesus came from somewhere other than earth, that His purpose was to save people and that people need saving because everyone is a sinner.
Paul finishes this amazing section recognizing that he’s no saint instead he calls himself the “chief” sinner or in other words, “the worse sinner.” Was he really the worse? No. Although he felt guilty for persecuting Christians technically no one’s sins are worse than anyone else’s. We must realize that if all we had ever done was stolen a candy bar or if we had murdered someone, we are still sinners. We’ve broken the law that we talked about last week (1 Timothy 1:5-11, Devotional # 194). In a sense we’re all the “chief sinner.” Also see Ephesians 3:8-13, Devotional # 101 for more.
vv. 16-17. Paul starts with “however”, reminding us to think about what he just said – that he is the chief sinner. For that reason Paul “obtained mercy.” His receiving God’s mercy was used to show others that God is “longsuffering.” We’ve talked about “longsuffering” before but it’s important we don’t just glance over it. The word might be easier understood if we reverse the two root words: ‘suffering long’. God suffers long for us. He waits and is patient, with arms outstretched as we repeatedly slap Him in the face and spit on the cross. But God used Paul “as a pattern” for his peers and for all people from that time forward. The people who realized Jesus’ sacrifice and the Father’s longsuffering “are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” I love that this sentence is written always in the present, looking toward the future! For we who are Christians, accepting Jesus’ sacrifice is past tense but for those who haven’t yet, we look forward to welcoming them to our family of faith.
Paul ends this section with a beautiful and informative doxology. We find three attributes of God, He is 1. Eternal, 2. Immortal, 3. Invisible. He is called “King”, which is a deserving title of the Being that is all three of these things but it also contrasts all of the people that Paul will talk about in a couple of verses (“all men, kings and all who are in authority” – 1 Timothy 2:1-2). Our King’s attributes in more depth are: first, He is “eternal” which means He has always existed as Job 36:26, Psalm 102:12, etc. tell us. Second, He is “immortal” meaning He cannot die as we read in Romans 1:23. I assume Paul is thinking about the phrase “everlasting life” that he just used. Jesus offers us “eternal immortality.” Who else could do this but the King who is by His very nature these things? Lastly, the King is “invisible.” I love this because God is not a man or woman because He would not be greater than His creation and He could be corrupted and enslaved; instead God is a Spirit (John 1:18). If we saw God in His true glory it would decimate us (Exodus 33:20) but this earth was given the physical representation of God through Jesus for 33 years (Colossians 1:15, Devotional # 147). When Jesus left His disciples He said it would be better for them when He was gone than when He had been there because he would send the Holy Spirit to not just be with them but in them (John 16:7-11). For more read this great article by Bob Deffinbaugh.
When Paul says only God is wise, it makes sense. Any person who has wisdom has it because God gave it to them. It’s a comforting thought knowing that our King has absolute wisdom. I’m human, sometimes I have concerns about how God can be good and let bad things happen or why it was OK for Him to act a certain way. But we are reminded that our wisdom is second to God’s understanding.
And for all these things – the same mercy Paul obtained, His longsuffering, His everlasting life, His eternal, immortal, invisible and wise attributes, for all of theses things – God deserves “honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”