Wednesday, September 24, 2014

GOD'S GLORIOUS GOSPEL (1 Timothy Chapter 1)

1 Timothy 1:11, “…in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” 

The “gospel of the glory of the blessed God” is here spoken of in contrast to the “different doctrine” promulgated by false teachers (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:3).  They wanted “to be teachers of the law” thought they didn’t know what they were talking about.  In contrast to the falsehoods they were espousing, it is the gospel alone that is powerful to save and transform (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:6-10; Romans 1:16).

This passage represents one of at least five in Scripture which speak to the details related to Paul’s conversion (Cf. Acts 9:1-19; 22:3-21; 26:2-18; Galatians 1:12-17; 1 Timothy 1:12-17).  Each has a unique emphasis related to its specific context.  Here the emphasis is on the “by grace” nature of salvation exemplified in Paul’s conversion experience.

In this respect it is amazing to consider who Paul (Saul) was before he was saved.  Every lost person is radically depraved and undeserving with respect to salvation, but that is not always as obvious as it was in Paul’s case (Cf. Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 1:21).  He was “breathing threats and murders against the disciples” (Acts 9:1-2).  When they were being “put to death (he) cast (his vote against them” (Acts 26:10).  In “raging fury against them (he) persecuted them” (Acts 26:11).  “(He) persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13).  He was “a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” (1 Timothy 1:13).

Saul was not in any way seeking after Christ.  He was engaged in his murderous activities at the time of his conversion.  He would have undoubtedly been voted “least likely to be saved,” had any such vote been taken.  So repugnant was his reputation that God had to convince Ananias to go to him (Cf. Acts 9:10-14).  It was to such a man that Christ appeared.  How are we to account for his salvation?  Obviously there was no Pauline contribution to it--no goodness of heart or work of his own which led up to it.  He was headed in the wrong direction when God turned him around.  Years later Paul himself explained that which transpired—“But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:13a-14).  By what means was Saul saved?  By the love, grace, and mercy which are found in Christ Jesus.  We deserve judgment.  Through Christ’s mercy and graced we receive forgiveness instead.  The distance between what we deserved and what we have received is infinite and speaks to the “overflowing” nature of the grace of God revealed to us in the gospel.

Paul spoke of God’s saving work in terms of a “trustworthy saying deserving of full acceptance,” saying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).  Jesus came into the world to save lost sinners like Paul.  And Paul explained why he himself was shown mercy: “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16).  In other words—if Jesus Christ could save Paul, He can save anybody.  His ability to pardon exceeds our ability to comprehend (Cf. Isaiah 55:6-9).  Paul’s was a glorious and radical transformation and speaks to Jesus’ ability to “save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him” (Hebrews 7:25).  Paul was evermore speaking of the glorious nature of God’s grace.  His proclamation of the gospel was not theoretical, his own personal testimony was, in fact, very personal (i.e. He “loved me and gave himself for me;” Galatians 2:20).  “By the grace of God I am what I am,” he said (1 Corinthians 15:10).  By God’s grace he was radically transformed from a hate-filled persecutor into a loving Apostle.

John Newton, the writer of “Amazing Grace,” once said, as he was nearing the end of his life: “When I was young, I was sure of many things.  But now that I am old, there are only two things which I am sure of:  That I’m a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior!”  As with the Apostle Paul, that former slave-ship-captain-turned-pastor experienced, by grace, a miraculous salvation and transformation through the glorious good news of the One who came into the world to save sinners!

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