Tactics are useless unless they flow from a clear identification of problems or obstacles to the mission, a clear mission purpose, an awareness and planned process of reaching the purpose and relying on the right resources and provisions for the task. Paul lays out these tactical aspects in this opening chapter. Let’s start our boot camp and laying the necessary foundation for our tactics.
1 Timothy 1:1-20 (NKJV) - Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope,
Called by command. Paul identifies himself as the author of this letter. He identifies himself as an “apostle of Jesus Christ.” “Apostle” (Greek apostolos) simply means a messenger. The first disciples who were specifically appointed apostles by Jesus (Mat. 10) were given power over demons and to perform miracles and authority in Jesus’ name to perpetuate the gospel and to disciple those who were born again. Apostles were itinerant and went out and established churches. Though Paul was not with Jesus and the other apostles in the beginning his apostleship was equal to that of the original twelve (2 Cor. 11:5). Jesus had personally called him into the ministry of apostleship and the road to Damascus (Acts 9:15).
Paul further emphasizes his apostolic authority with the words “by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope.” This was a letter to a dear son in the Lord but Timothy was not to listen and obey based on sentimentality toward his spiritual father. Timothy was to listen and obey because of the apostolic authority of Paul. Paul had been called to be an apostle “by the commandment of God.” “Commandment” (Greek epitage) means command, decree, injunction, ordinance, or order. This word is similar to a by the order of command of a king or other authoritative figure to enforce an assertion. No one puts themselves into ministry but they are put there by God (John 3:27). This is something Paul will continue to emphasize in his letter to Timothy (cf. 1 Tim. 1:12 below). Perhaps Paul was subtly communicating to Timothy that just like Paul, it was God who had put Timothy into the ministry. The ministry for Timothy or anyone is not an accident or act of mere human choice, it is decreed by God (or at least it should be).
Paul was commanded to be an apostle by the Lord. It wasn’t as though he chose to be an apostle. God knocked him off his high horse to be an apostle (Acts 9). Jesus put him into the ministry. That command was compelling to Paul who served His Lord. That command would bolster and support Paul through his various persecutions. Awareness of God’s hand in his calling would hopefully do the same for Timothy.
2 To Timothy, a true son in the faith:
Disciples: Authority and affection; a father-son spiritual connection. After opening in authority Paul perfectly balances his authority with an expression of affection. Authority and affection need not be diametrically opposed. But affection should never be taken in a way that lessons respect for authority.
To Paul Timothy was his “true son in the faith.” Timothy had a biological father who gave him physical life. But it was Paul who God had used to give Timothy spiritual eternal life. As such Timothy was a “true son” or the greatest level of being a son because this sonship was eternal (e.g. Romans 8:12-17). Its possible Paul had stayed in the household of Timothy’s family during his first missionary journey and at that time led the young man to the Lord.
When we lead someone to Christ or invest in someone through discipleship a relationship is formed like a father to son or mother to daughter, older brother to younger brother, or older sister to younger sister. Such relationships aren’t equated in terms of physical age but in spiritual maturity. Therefore someone who has known the Lord for years and matured in the faith can be a father even though their physical age is less. Spiritual maturity is the emphasis. Just because someone has been a Christian for years does not necessarily equate to spiritual maturity. Some have a stunted spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is measured in terms of the fruit of the Spirit and knowledge of the word of God.
The point here is that when a person is led to the Lord through the gospel it should include discipleship so that the new babe in Christ is trained in how to grow in their faith. That is what Paul did with Timothy. We see Paul’s interaction, instruction, encouragement and prayers for Timothy in his letters to him. Those who lead others to Christ should follow Paul’s example in this. Sometimes a person is used by the Lord to lead someone to Christ but someone else is the one used by the Lord to disciple them. If that is the case the person who leads the person to Christ should take responsibility that the baton of discipleship is passed on for the one led to Christ. Spiritual babies should not be birthed and left to fend for themselves.
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
Mercy for the minister. Paul habitually opened his letters with mention of grace and peace. When he writes to Timothy he adds to his introduction saying, “Grace, mercy, and peace.” Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Peace is the inner assurance of being on God’s side and under His watchful loving care. Perhaps Paul added mercy to his introductory words since being in ministry puts one in the position of receiving “a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). Since those in ministry remain human and imperfect Paul may have been trying to communicate from the start that Timothy should remember and rely on God’s mercy.
The “Grace, mercy and peace,” Paul opens with is “from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” Paul never missed an opportunity to point someone to Jesus. That’s a good holy habit of Paul’s that we should copy.
3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus
This is the basis for the belief that Timothy was the Pastor at the church in Ephesus. At the very least we know from these words that at the time Paul wrote to Timothy, Timothy was in Ephesus.
The Mission Problem
Paul is writing Timothy because he is concerned of a problem that has evidently arisen at the church in Ephesus where Timothy is the pastor. Either Timothy has previously asked for counsel about this problem or Paul has heard about it from another source. Either way Paul addresses the problem that is presenting an obstacle to their ministry mission.
If you aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time. The only problem is without an identifiable target you can’t measure progress. Without identifying and narrowing down a problem, you can’t deal with it. Paul gets right to the point with Timothy and identifies the problem he has been made aware of.
that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.
The mission problem is not sticking to God’s word. Paul delegated the responsibility to Timothy to command some of the people in the Ephesian church “that they teach no other doctrine” (Greek heterodidaskaleō) which in particular refers to heretical doctrine. Doctrine simply refers to Biblical based teaching. There were evidently some in the local church there who were teaching things that were contrary to scriptures or outside the parameters of scripture. Paul mentions “fables” (Greek mythos) which are legends, myths, fables or fictions. Fables are things based more on hearsay and imagination than fact or scripture. Paul also mentions “endless genealogies” which were used by some to trace people’s pedigree and heritage. There’s nothing wrong with knowing who your ancestors were but when that becomes a source of pride from “which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith” then they should be set aside. Research into such things is “endless” (Greek aparentos) or without limit and use up time that could be much more wisely invested.
The standard or measure of what Timothy and all believers should draw the line at in determining what to get involved with and what not to get involved with is “godly edification.” “Godly edification” (Greek oikonomia theou) means that which administers growth in godliness. The root of this word (Greek oikos) is a construction term which means building up.
Fables and things based on human imagination and myth are only going to sap your time and energy. Instead we should focus on those things which build us up in godliness. Rather than focusing on or being sucked up in stories or fables we should focus on the “faith” (Greek pistei) which are the things dealing with the gospel and word of God.
Simply stick with God’s word. It’s possible that those who had gotten off track began their efforts with good intentions. Perhaps they were trying to be creative in their presentation of God’s word. Perhaps they were trying to cushion the blow of it to sinners. The minister of God should always stay with the simplicity of the word of God. It’s when we try to get creative and embellish God’s word or present it in a way that is uniquely our style that we can get into trouble. We should simply present the word in the power of the Spirit simply. The power is in the word of God (Heb. 4:12). Ministry is powerful in proportion to the presence of God’s word in it. Remember that.
By speaking to Timothy of how “some” have gotten off track he is setting the tone for communicating a clear mission purpose. He has identified the problem being faced. Now comes the solution.
The Mission Purpose – Love
In contrast to those who have strayed into other doctrine, fables, and endless genealogies that don’t profit anyone spiritually, Paul is now going to clearly lay out the target and objective of the mission of ministry.
5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,
God’s mission purpose for us is to love. The words Paul chooses to use in this letter to Timothy are important. Timothy may have been given to timidity. But Paul seems to use military terms as a means to convey the thought to Timothy that there’s no time for cowardice or timidity, it’s time to take courage and fight like a good soldier.
The word “purpose” (Greek telos) literally means the turning point, a hinge, the point at which one stage ends and the next begins. The word “commandment” (Greek parangelia) is a military term which refers to orders, commands, or mission objective. What Paul is going to tell Timothy (and us) here is the purpose upon which the success of the mission hinges. It’s as though Paul is telling Timothy to listen up soldier! Here is your mission objective.
What is the mission objective on which Paul says everything hinges, everything depends on, and success is measured by? “Now the purpose of the commandment is love.” Love is our mission purpose. Jesus said His disciples were to be known by their Christ-like love (John 13:34-35). The love of Christ is to compel and motivate us in all we do (2 Cor. 5:14ff.).And here Paul tells Timothy the mission objective of God is love.
“Love” (Greek agape) here speaks of that Christ-like selfless servant-hearted sacrificial love. Such love is not something an unbeliever can generate. Such love is not something that can be experienced or attained or administered apart from the Holy Spirit who provides those born again with such love (Romans 5:5). Such love flows from a person who has experienced a threefold transformation from God.
First, such “love” comes “from a pure heart.” The word “pure” (Greek katheros) refers to something free of dirt, clean, unsoiled. “Heart” (Greek kardia) refers to our inner most being, the place where decisions of eternal destiny are made (e.g. Romans 8:9-10; 10:9-10). Our heart is deceitful, self-deceiving, desperately wicked before it is worked on by the Spirit (Jer. 17:9-10). It is only when we put our faith in Jesus as Savior and His redemptive atoning blood is applied to our heart that we can be cleansed from the filth of sin (Acts 15:8-9; 1 John 1:7, and 9). So thorough is God’s transformative work on out heart through the Gospel that it is like receiving a heart transplant (e.g. Ezekiel 36:26). The Holy Spirit cleans our heart from selfish and sinful motives so that the love of Christ can work undeterred. Paul is telling Timothy and us if we want such love we have to be open to the Spirit’s heart surgery. Arteries clogged by sin need to be cleared. Only the flowing blood of Jesus by the Spirit can do that.
Second, such “love” comes “from a good conscience.” “Good” (Greek agatheis) means good, perfect, complete, upright, kind, benevolent, useful, acceptable, or wholesome. “Conscience” (Greek suneidesis) refers to the place of knowledge, information, and communication. The idea here is that such “love” would come from a mind that is up to date and well informed about what it is and what such love entails. Such “love” comes from a spiritually educated mind. This is why it is so important to fill your mind with holy things like God’s word, worship, and holy prayerful thoughts. The love Paul speaks about as our mission objective flows from minds that are filled with scripturally sound thoughts. Paul is telling Timothy and us that if we want this mission objective love we need to saturate our minds with the things of God and His word.
Third, such “love” comes “from sincere faith.” “Sincere” (Greek anupokritos) actually means without hypocrisy, without insincerity, or genuine. “Faith” (Greek pistis) refers to trust, reliability, confidence, assurance, conviction. Such “love” flows from genuine faith produced by genuine conversion and being born again. Such love cannot and will not flow from those with fake faith or hypocrites with sinful motives. Such love doesn’t come from the pretentious. This love flows from the person who is all in in their relationship with God. Paul is telling Timothy if he wants such love and if we want such love we need to be all in – sincere in our faith.
6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.
Paul comments further on the problem as it relates to the mission purpose of love. He states that some have “strayed” (Greek astocheo – participle) missing the mark, swerving and missed the target of this “love.” Some have “turned aside” (Greek astrepo) willfully turned from or forsaken this “love.” How have they done this? They were “desiring” (Greek thelo) or wishing or wishful thinking. There is nothing wrong with having a desire. But these were wishing to be “teachers of the law” when to be a teacher in the church is the result of the Holy Spirit’s spiritual gifting (cf. Romans 12:1-8; Ephesians 4:11-12). They desire the position of a teacher of the law but they don’t understand what they are saying or affirm.
We can only deduce from this that those Paul is speaking about here are not people of the word of God. Instead of relying on and teaching God’s word they have strayed into “idle talk” (Greek mataiologia) or empty talk, vain talk, talk with no substance. These people step into the position of teaching and figure if they talk enough something of value will eventually come out. The only problem is that the power in ministry is derived in and through God’s word (Hebrews 4:12). Power in life and ministry is in proportion to the Spirit using us to apply God’s word in our words and deeds. They have drifted and swerved into empty inconsequential items that only cloud and confuse their listeners. These teachers don’t teach in a way that leads people into the love of God. They babble on in mediocrity and a mish mash of human platitudes. Paul’s is going to show the way.
The Mission Process – Use of the Law
Paul has identified the problem before them and the clear alternative purpose of love from a pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith. Now he is going to lay out the process by which such a mission purpose can be reached.
8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully,
The mission process is using the Law. When Paul speaks of “the law” we may understand it to refer to the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). It may entail laws beyond the first Ten. In principle we could apply the idea of “the law” to scripture as a whole. Paul says, “But we know,” and in so saying he is putting his arm around the shoulder of Timothy as though he were trying to communicate we’re in this together.
Paul didn’t want anything he’s said thus far to be construed as disparaging against “the law.” “The law is good if one uses it lawfully,” or if the law is used as it was meant and intended to be used. God’s word can be taken out of context and misused. This is what cults do; they pick and choose verses out of context to support their aberrant teachings.
The proper use of the law is very important to understand. The proper use of the law is to see it as a tutor or guardian that leads a person to Jesus (Galatians 3:24). The law is holy, just and good (Romans 7:12). In our own strength we cannot live by the law. Therefore the law serves to expose and clearly identify the sinfulness of the sinner (Romans 3:1-23). No one can attain righteousness before God by keeping the law for God’s standard is absolute perfect adherence to the law; the breaking of one law one time is enough to damn a person to hell (Galatians 3:10-13; James 2:10). That is how HOLY and PERFECTLY RIGHTEOUS God’s standards are.
The wages or consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23a). But God doesn’t leave the convicted sinner wallowing in their sin and hopelessly doomed to an eternity in a tormenting place called hell. No, God sent His only Son Jesus to pay our death penalty on the cross. The punishment and sentence for sin is death. Jesus, the PERFECTLY SINLESS ONE and only One who is sinless took our place and paid the debt of death for sin we owed (Isaiah 53; 1 Peter 1:18-19). God did this as an expression of His own love (Romans 5:8). And as an expression of His grace He offers the benefits of Jesus substitutionary atonement to anyone who turns from their sin and in faith asks forgiveness based on accepting Jesus atoning work for themselves (Romans 6:23a; John 3:16).
The person who seeks and receives forgiveness for their sin through faith in Jesus is forgiven and given eternal spiritual life by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-10; 10:8-10; 1 Cor. 6:18-20). When the Holy Spirit indwells a person He pours God’s love into their heart (Romans 5:5). The evidence or fruit of the Holy Spirit in a person is love (Galatians 5:22-24). It is by only by the Holy Spirit that a person can love in a Christlike way. And what is important to understand is that the person who lives by the love of the Holy Spirit FULFILLS THE LAW (Romans 13:10). God uses the law to convict us of our sin and makes us aware we can’t in our own strength fulfill or live out the law. But then, with the help of the Holy Spirit and His love brings us full circle and through living in love helps us to fulfill that which once convicted us of sin. You can’t be loving and break God’s law. In the love of God you fulfill God’s law. The only way the Law can be fulfilled by us is through the love of the Holy Spirit poured into our heart by the Spirit when we are born again by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Romans 5:5).
The law is the beginning of this process as it brings conviction for sin and awareness of the sinner’s need for redemption. The Holy Spirit uses the law to convict the sinner of their sin (John 16:8-11). And as Paul is going to now explain, we God’s people are the ones to properly administer the law to the unrighteous.
9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person,
The law is for sinners; to convict them of sin. Paul speaks very clearly here; “knowing this: the law is not made for a righteous person.” A righteous person is a person who has sufficiently dealt with keeping the law. A righteous person is a person who is no longer condemned by the law. The law isn’t made for a righteous person.
Perhaps there were teachers misusing the law at the church in Ephesus where Timothy was pastor. Perhaps they were trying to get people to keep the law before they were saved. Perhaps they were swerving into a kind of loveless legalism or trying to obey the law without loving. Paul now dispels any such notion by clearly pointing out who the law is aimed at. He will not describe the proper use of the law and by the end of the chapter we will see how the law of God is involved in the process of fulfilling the mission of ministry.
but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.
Paul, (in contrast to those who have swerved away from scripture into empty material), is now going to present a very clear teaching on how the use of God’s law is supposed to be ministered. It is to be used with people to convict them of their sin. Sin separates us from God (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:1-2). We are created to be with God, with a need to have a relationship with God (Eccl. 3:11). Sin blinds the sinner to this need (e.g. 1 John 1:8 and 10; also 2 Cor. 4:4). The law exposes sin and reveals our need for God in our live and the solution provided by God to meet that need; the gospel; repentance and faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord (Gal. 3:24).
The catalogue of sins give by Paul here are pretty extensive. Paul lists fourteen sinful offenses that the law exposes as sin. They consist of:
1. “But for the lawless” – (Greek anomos) one who does not subject themselves to God’s law. One without law. A wicked person who refuses to submit to God’s law.
2. “and insubordinate” – (Greek anypotaktos) one who refuse to be under authority; disobedient; unruly.
3. “for the ungodly” – (Greek asebis) irreverent, impious, not respecting of Holy God.
4. “and for sinners,” – (Greek hamartolos) devoted to sin; full of sin; pre-eminently sinful.
5. “for the unholy” – (Greek anosios) unholy, impious, profane. Anti-holy.
6. “and profane,” – (Greek bebelos) heathenish, worldly oriented as opposed to interested in holy things. Living for common unconsecrated purposes.
7. “for murderers of fathers” – (Greek patroloas) patricide; a murderer of one’s father.
8. “and murderers of mothers,” – (Greek metroloas) matricide; a murderer of one’s mother.
9. “for manslayers,” – (Greek androphonos) one who slays people; one who has little value for life and willingly murders people.
10. “for fornicators,” – (Greek perneimi) one who has sex with a prostitute; engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage.
11. “for sodomites,” – (Greek arsenokoites) one who abuses themselves with mankind; one who lies with a male having sex with them as with a female; homosexual; sodomite.
12. “for kidnappers,” – (Greek andrapodistes) an enslaver; one who brings men to their knees before him; slave-dealer; kidnapper; man-stealer; a human trafficker.
13. “for liars,” – (Greek pseustes) falsifier; liar; one who breaks faith; false and faithless person.
14. “for perjurers,” – (Greek epiorkos) one who breaks an oath; falsely testifies; perjurer.
Paul then gives the general statement that covers all sinners: “and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.” The purpose of the law is to expose and convict people who are sinning. This list of Paul is a good measure of the “all” who “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:21).
The picture Paul paints here is a dire one for the person who does not know Jesus as Savior. But Paul, after clearly demonstrating the conviction for sin, now will go into the glorious provision of God’s grace that he and Timothy can both relate to.
The Mission Provision – Grace
Sin is pervasive and has saturated every person. Every person is lost in their sin. In our own strength and on our own terms there is absolutely no way to avoid judgment and a just sentence of eternal condemnation from God. But now Paul rejoices in the glorious gospel. He personally exults in God’s provision for himself and then for everyone else. This is a glorious passage of scripture.
12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry,
God uses reclamation project sinners. Who does God use to fulfill His plans? He uses those who have been redeemed and reclaimed from the junk heap of sin. No one deserves to be a part of God’s plans or purposes. All who are used should see it as an incredible privilege and opportunity. We are all a reclamation project. God takes the sinner off the junk heap of life and redeems us and repairs us and then puts us to use. We find our ultimate purpose and meaning in life in serving our Lord Jesus.
Paul thanks “Christ Jesus our Lord,” the “our” drawing Timothy into his expression of thanks. And then he expresses the reason for his thanks to Jesus is “who has enabled me.” “Enabled” (Greek endynamoo) means increased strength, made stronger, enabled. Paul is thankful that God’s callings are God’s enablings. Paul knew the change he experienced and the power in his ministry was from the empowerment of God in his life. Paul was thankful for that and as Paul expressed his thankfulness to Jesus for such an enabling he was encouraging Timothy too. Timothy, the power of my ministry is from God not myself; and it’s available for you too!
No one can put themselves into ministry (e.g. John 3:27). They can try, but the result will be empty like those Paul spoke of earlier. No, Jesus looks at and chooses those He desires to put into ministry. Jesus looked at Paul and “counted” (Greek hegeomai) or deemed, esteemed, judged, through Paul “faithful” (Greek pistis) or a man of faith. And seeing that Jesus “putting me into” (Greek tithemi) or willfully placed or set in place Paul into ministry. Paul was selected and put in ministry by Jesus. It was no accident that Paul was an apostle. It was no accident that Paul was used by God to pen 14 of the 27 New Testament letters. It was no accident that God used Paul to reach so far and wide with the Gospel. It was all the product of Jesus choosing him and empowering him for the mission. What mission are you on? What are you being used for by Jesus? Have you sensed His calling? His enabling?
13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
Paul humbly mentions what he had been in contrast to what he now had become. He was “a blasphemer” (Greek blasphemos) one who speaks evil, slanders, reproaches, rail against and abuses others. And Paul was guilty of these things against God as he persecuted the church of Jesus. He was a “persecutor” (Greek dioktes) or one who actively sought out and pursued believers in Jesus. He was “an insolent man” (Greek hybristes) a proud, relentlessly cruel, and violent man. To mention these things that once were part of who he was must have been incredibly humbling for the one Jesus changed and inspired to write chapters on love (1 Cor. 13) and grace (Romans 5; Ephesians 2).
He then says, “but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” That Paul did this “ignorantly” (Greek agnoeo) or without knowing did not excuse him from what he did. Ignorance is no excuse for sin. Paul was not excusing himself in any way. What he does do is express thanks for the mercy of God who looked on him and saved him from his blinding faithless sin.
Sincerity doesn’t save us. The issue here was not one of sincerity. Paul was very sincere in his persecution of the church, but he was sincerely wrong! A person is not saved by their sincerity. It’s not as though God will look on the sincerely wrong person and overlook their sin because of their sincerity. We can sincerely climb to the roof of a building and sincerely jump off while sincerely flapping our arms because we sincerely think we can fly. But regardless of our sincerity, we will crash and burn because we were sincerely wrong.
No, we are saved by God’s grace. The Spirit reaches out to us in our sinful state with prevenient grace. With this reach to us He exposes and convicts us of our sin. He uses the Law to do this (e.g. Gal. 3:24). As we are convicted of our utter sinfulness and bowed down in the realization that we deserve God’s just eternal condemnation the Holy Spirit gently lifts our head to see Jesus on the cross as God’s solution to our sin problem. We then are given the offer of salvation and forgiveness of our sin as a gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus. If we receive that offer and believe in Jesus we are forgiven our sin and the Holy Spirit indwells us giving us spiritual life; we are born again (John 3). Then, with our sincerity reconciled to the truth of God, we sincerely serve the Lord in love and joy unto eternal life. To that we say glory!
Imagine your worst and most regrettable sin. We can all look back and regret. But we, with Paul, can exult in the grace of God that is able to overcome our sin problems.
14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
The mission provision is grace; it’s all about God’s grace. God’s grace was super abundant along with faith for Paul and love which are all in Christ Jesus. Grace, faith and love, these are all superlatively abundant in Jesus. The only sin that is beyond the grace of God in Christ is the sin of refusing that grace. If we turn from our sin and ask God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus we will be forgiven and given purpose in Christ. That’s God’s promise. We can all count on that.
15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Paul’s testimony of God’s wonderful, wonderful grace! Have you ever asked the question “why?” “Why wasn’t I saved earlier in life? Why did I sin so severely? Why did my salvation happen the way it did?” All the answers to all such “shy?” questions are summed up in the words of Paul’s testimony, “that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” In other words, Paul and we are a “pattern” (Greek hypotyposis) a type, pattern, sketch, imitation, form or example. People can look at Paul and how far off he was from God and say, “Wow! If Jesus and his gospel can save and change someone like Paul, he can do the same for me.” And maybe the Lord wants to use you and me as a pattern to someone too. To such a glorious possibility all we can do is join Paul and sing, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” Yes, I will sing and shout that forever!
It’s interesting that Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ, greatly used by the Lord, refers to himself as the “chief” of sinners. “Chief” (Greek protos) can be translated first, foremost, leading, most or chief. How could Paul, an apostle, so greatly used of the Lord refer to himself as the foremost chief of sinners? Here is an important spiritual principle; a humbling one. The closer you come to Jesus the more clearly you see your sin. The closer you come to Jesus the clearly you will see yourself as a sinner.
Isaiah the prophet opens his book declaring the sins of Israel. But in chapter 6 as he encounters the LORD he exclaims, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). The closer Isaiah came to the LORD the more clearly he saw his sin and that he was a sinner. It humbled him.
Paul pursued and persecuted Christians (Acts 8:3). He did so until Jesus knocked him off his high horse, saved him, and called him to be an apostle (Acts 9). This encounter with Jesus humbled Paul. As he walked with Jesus he referred to himself as the “least of the apostles” (I Cor. 15:9). As he continued with Jesus getting closer and closer to Him he would refer to himself as “less than the least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8), and eventually as he refers to himself in this letter to Timothy, the “chief” or foremost of sinners (1:15). Paul exemplifies the humbling that takes place when we walk with the Lord drawing ever closer to Him. The Christian who is growing in their relationship to the Lord will become humbler not prouder. A “proud” spiritually maturing Christian is an oxymoron.
We should follow the example of Paul in sharing our testimony of God’s grace in our life. Think about God’s grace in your life. Meditate on God’s grace in your life. In your prayers thank God for His grace in your life. And like Paul, exult and worship the Lord for His grace in all our lives.
The Mission Charge
18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
A charge to fight on. Paul closes with a charge to his “son Timothy.” Timothy had apparently had a word of prophecy made concerning himself and the ministry Jesus would call him too. Paul exhorted and encouraged Timothy to remember those words of prophecy and to fight on “wage the good warfare.” Has someone uttered a word of prophecy about how Jesus might want to use you?
Paul encourages Timothy for his faith and good conscience. But he also mentions a sobering alternative of Hymenaeus and Alexander who shipwrecked their faith and who Paul had to delivered over to Satan “that they may learn not to blaspheme.” This was not a shunning by Paul. It’s not necessarily a terminal lose of salvation either. Shipwrecks can be salvaged. God’s grace can do that. But life lessons must be learned for that to happen.
There was purpose behind Paul’s discipline. He wanted these two to “learn not to blaspheme.” So in some way he prayerfully turned them over to Satan. Maybe these two were obstinate toward Paul’s warnings and so Paul said, “You want to blaspheme? Okay, go your sinful way and experience the evil consequences of your sin.” Love must be tough sometimes. But the objective of such discipline is to teach the offender in a redemptive manner.
The problem, the purpose, the process and God’s provision in Christ. These are the foundational aspects of the tactics for life and ministry that Paul opens this first letter to Timothy with. Let’s receive conviction for our sin where appropriate and God’s gracious provision in Christ as he provides. In everything let us exult and glorify Jesus! “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”