Sermon notes from a message I preached last night
Paul’s Charge: The Entrusted Gospel (Jesus Came to Save Sinners)
– 1 Timothy 1:12-17 –
Background: Timothy had been assigned to lead the church of Ephesus which was in need of some specific spiritual instruction – in regard to teaching, preaching, and worship. Paul likely wrote these letters to Timothy around 62-66 AD. Through these writings Paul counsels Timothy on matters of church leadership, proper worship, qualifications for deacons, confronting false teaching, (etc.). Paul is charging young Timothy to live and emulate Christ, therefore giving other Christians something to also emulate (Timothy being the “example” of Christ).
– In other words he is giving Timothy “practical direction” for the church that he is going to lead
– The letter specifically claims Paul as the author – the letter contains “Pauline” themes and even gives us a brief autobiography of Paul.
So there is our basic background analysis – just to give us a little bit of a better understanding about what is going on in the letters from Paul. And something that is noteworthy is the personality of Paul. And as we can see in the these first couple of verses – you will notice that before Paul gives Timothy any kind of instruction at all, he is quick to mention his personal background:
“12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”
1.) Paul’s Confession (vs.12-14)
The first thing Paul says is – what? Christ has “judged me faithful”, and he has “appointed” me. Notice those the context of this sentence – he means that Jesus was the one who had given him the enablement required to fulfill his calling (his apostolic duties). And I just think that this is an important characteristic of Paul because he is making sure that Timothy knows right off the bat – I recognize myself as a sinner, Christ has enabled me to teach you these things, and He has appointed me to His service.
And here’s why that is important – it’s in the very next verse. Paul continues and says “though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent…” – notice here, the word “insolent” meaning rude, disrespectful, and insulting. So what have we gathered about Paul to this point? He obviously recognizes that one point he was an enemy of Jesus – he was a blasphemer, a persecutor of Christians, and an insulting opponent! I don’t mean to over analyze here, he is just simply stating that he once was an enemy of Jesus, and now he is committed to the service of Jesus.
A. This is noteworthy: Paul is demonstrating his personal testimony; his confession of faith. And it only makes sense that he would do this because he is about to “instruct” Timothy about (Godly) leadership.
B. At some point – we were all opponents of God. And at some “divine” time in our life, He called us out of darkness, or sin, and into his service. (1 Peter 2:9)
But I don’t mean to make Paul sound “all” bad – because here is the core of his short confession to Timothy: “But I received mercy because I acted ignorantly in belief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me…” Now, the King James Version uses the language “grace…was exceeding abundant” Paul is attempting to contrast the difference between his former sinful life and the life that he now lives in Christ! God’s grace brought about faithfulness in Paul and “enabled” him as we talked about earlier – most of all it produced love in him!
C. Where he was once a blasphemer and violent persecutor, he was now a loving, faithful Christ follower. But it was NOT Paul’s faithfulness that created this love; rather, it was the GRACE of God that produced the love and faithfulness in Paul.
15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to
save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
2.) Paul’s Declaration (vs.15-17)
What a powerful statement here – this really puts a climax on the whole charge that Paul is giving to Timothy. What is most interesting, I think, about this passage of scripture is the unique language that Paul chooses to use. Notice the word “foremost” – now keep in mind I am using ESV, but the King James Version of the bible uses the word “chief”. I think that chief is the better term here because ‘chief’ denotes the rank or degree of “sinner” that Paul is calling himself. He is viewing himself as “chief of sinners” or the foremost sinner.
What a bold statement – this is why I love reading about Paul. He is soreal about his sin — and so what are some major thoughts here?
A. The implication is that even though Paul was the chief sinner, he was still able to receive the grace of God. And this is just a testimony to the fact that Paul didn’t have to earn grace by a means of deed or good work but through the gospel of Christ – he was brought out of a life of sinfulness and into a life of glorifying God with his preaching of the gospel.
B. The saying is trustworthy – meaning the gospel of Jesus is credible and worthy of being accepted among men as a means of salvation! (And that’s it! Nothing else saves us!)Because Jesus came to this world to save sinners like me (Paul) and he came to save you (Timothy).
C. When was the last time you told somebody about how the gospel was “trustworthy”? When was the last time you told a group of people who the gospel is deserving of FULL acceptance? We must trust Jesus’ gospel AND when we do we will find true joy in the gospel, we will find true peace in the gospel, we will find ourselves being complete satisfied in Jesus alone!
Lastly, we come to the conclusion of Paul’s charge… the last part and probably the most important of the entire passage. We read the verse but I like to read it (and think about it) this way: “Christ Jesus might display his COMPLETE patience in me as the [worst] sinner!” And so now Paul actually turns to his conversion and uses this as a form of encouragement. That is, if Christ can display perfect patience and provide grace to even the WORST sinner then surely He has the divine power to save all the others as well. He then uses names to display the majesty of God in verse 17 – “King of Ages”, Immortal, Invisible, The only God — the ONLY God that has the power to save sinners from eternal death. We should take heed the words of Paul here – God is displaying His perfect patience with you. He was then, and He is now! We get so mixed up in the formalities of Christianity and the “rules” and “legalism that we sometimes we forget the very existence of our own sinful state. WE are the reason that Jesus came to die on a cross — we sinned, we cursed God, and WE were on a path to eternal Hell with the enemy. But God, in his majesty and “perfect patience” saw it differently for us. He saw it better for His own purposes to save us.
He saw it better for His own purposes to send His own Son to die so that our relationship with Him could be reconciled – Jesus hung at the cross and pleaded for our lives – and now when we go and stand before the Lord on the day of judgment, it won’t be our sinfulness that God sees, it will be the perfection of his Son Jesus – who has paid our eternal debt and cleansed us of the sin that we committed.
3.) Conclusion & Notes
This is the charge that Timothy was given – this is the gospel message that was entrusted to him to preach and protect with his life. I don’t really need to say much more, I don’t think. The scriptures speak for themselves – right? But for our benefit – I’ve written the following resolves to help us remember the gospel that was entrusted to Timothy, which is the same gospel that has been entrusted to us as well:
• I resolve to honesty with myself and my Lord that I am a sinner, but because of Grace I have been judged faithful.
• I recognize and now confess that at some point I acted selfishly and ignorantly in unbelief – but God’s grace has overflowed for me and has created in me love and faithfulness.
• I resolve to boast only in the gospel of Jesus – for it is trustworthy and deserving of my complete acceptance! Through His gospel, I will find true joy, peace, and complete satisfaction in this life.
• Lastly, I resolve to recognize God’s complete patience with me as a broken sinner before a Holy God. Even in this physical body, I can still trip up and make sinful mistakes – but God, in His grace, has spared me and saved me for His purposes alone.