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1 Timothy – Lasting Instruction:
Paul’s Own Testimony – 1 Timothy 1:12-17
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday December 30, 2018
A pastor pastoring a pastor – how does this make since for me?
Paul is one of my heroes of the faith from Biblical times. I tend to be drawn towards folks who are strong and sure in the face of adversity. I’ve known people like that in my own life, and read of them in scripture.
There are apologists whose ministries I’ve benefitted from and appreciated over the years like Ron Rhodes who writes “from the Scriptures” series. James White, who does debates and directs Alpha and Omega Ministries, pastors who were long and faithful in the pulpit in a single place, like John Piper and John MacArthur – but none, was like the Apostle Paul who’s ministry is amazing, but is less about Paul and more about Jesus and as we’ll see today, scripture, God’s own word, points to Paul in our text today when it says “if this guy can become God’s own, on single person is too far from God’. Maybe you’re challenged by that thought – but take it from the great thinker Levar Burton – don’t take my word for it, read the book. So we’ll study Paul’s instruction to Timothy this morning in 1 Timothy 1:12-17.
I’m encouraged by them because I know I was tough in your face when you brought these things up to me. That there was a God who created everything, and specifically and specially cared for his creation – that he extended His Son’s goodness by his mercy through salvation. And I am so thankful that God put steadfast people in my path, that he pursued me, the hound of heaven didn’t give up. And while ultimately my conversion was through seeing scripture as God’s own Word – the witness of people who sewed their Christian-witness in my life gave strength to the gospel’s call on my life.
Their gratitude gave them an infectious attitude, and God uses that visible impact on others to draw people far from him, in.
Today, we see an insight into WHY Paul was as sure as he was, why he’d stand up to people speaking negatively against his God – and as John Calvin said: “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent”
Today, we’ll see from Paul’s own testimony why he had the attitude of gratitude and we will be encouraged to have the same, because as we study this book we’ll come to find it’s a lasting instruction alive and well today. Let’s study this text together, I encourage you to take notes, go back and study then, and write down the individual scripture references outside of simply 1 Timothy 1:12-17 and consider how those add to this passage and help give its understanding shape.
1 Timothy 1:12–17 (ESV)
Christ Jesus Came to Save Sinners
12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,
“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord”. Paul here says “I thank” (Charis Echo) “I have constant gratitude to”.
Do you have something described as “constant gratitude”?
His gratitude was in the strength that God gave Him for what reason – that he would faithful to his service. Paul expresses his thankfulness in this letter that is all about loving instruction from a spiritual father to his child in the faith, a letter that is about lasting roots for the church and a lasting instruction – with gratefulness to Jesus for his calling to serve God’s gospel.
Paul isn’t unclear on what he’s thankful for, he was
- Judged faithful
- Appointed to serve
Paul here thanks the Lord and Savior who strengthened him; because he’s been recognized as faithful and allowed to serve the Gospel call – we should not believe that Paul’s ministry was a coast. I think we can feel that way with heroes, well it’s easy for them. Christ gave him strength to be applied, not to be reserved, remember that next time you’re challenged, tested or tried – strength isn’t a decoration like curls for the girls or tri’s for the guys (I’m stretching) it’s noticed and realized when applied to difficulty and the same Christ that was alive in Paul can be alive in you – this is lasting instruction.
13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,
Paul was a blasphemer, why? He denied the power of Jesus as the promised Messiah, but God reached him. God literally blinded Paul, got his attention, and changed his affections for Jesus. Paul knew in an instant that he was God’s and Christ was Lord. Paul said “I received mercy”. He was also a persecutor and insolent opponent.
A persecutor (see Acts 8:1-3) and insolent opponent I believe are both related. Describing his active hatred toward Jesus and his fledgling movement of followers. In this thought here – is wrapped up and tangled the power of God – Zephaniah 3:17, now stop here and consider this: this persecutor and insolent opponent, was aggressive and rude towards God’s mission, treating people cruelly and with violence. Now with our American mind set maybe we think aggressive rudeness is using hurtful words and generally not allowing someone to define reality in their terms – Paul wanted to have people killed who believed God’s power to save centered on Jesus.
Acts 8:1-3 (ESV)
Saul Ravages the Church
1 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.
3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison
Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)
17 The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Here is the power of God to save displayed in Paul for us to see for all generations – God used His strongest opponent, someone who hated Him, and wanted to kill anyone believing in His Son Jesus’ message, on to the one who would form the entire Church for visible worship of His Son. More than that, not only did God use him and turn his affections. He showed Him grace. What would we have for our enemies? Strife, pain, death? God had mercy, favor, and reserved special service for Him. God is graceful, Paul knew that personally and strengthened by Jesus wanted everyone to know. Most of us want to hide our faults and sins – Paul once relieved of the guilt of them wanted everyone to know how deeply flawed he was, so they’d see how all loving God is – God’s gospel is infectious and this instruction carries forward today as does grace and mercy in Jesus.
Last week, John talked a good bit against working for salvation. He talked about buying expensive scrolls, in Ephesus and feeding gods, etc. – these people were used to working to appease gods, Paul writes as a pastor to a young pastor – reminding Timothy of his own (Paul’s) salvation as a matter of mercy and that his previous behavior was fueled by ignorant unbelief, but God didn’t leave Paul there and he doesn’t leave us there either – Paul’s post is lasting – God sends His Sprit to convict us, and his Son to cleans us, and brings us to mercy – are you beginning to see why Paul was so thankful, because he was absolutely hopeless and didn’t even know it, what about us?
Paul as a leader, as a discipler, shows his needfulness to God for his a) salvation – less Timothy or even he would begin to believe in His goodness as the reason for his Apostleship and b) so that Timothy would pass on the understanding that Grace and Mercy are extended to everyone.
This is lasting instruction to us, we need to give constant gratitude, because Jesus’ grace and mercy is extended to us by God. He encourages Timothy by saying “OUR Lord” – and that instruction carries on to you, if you’ve experienced transformation in the gospel you profess with Paul and Timothy and Ephesians 4:5 (ESV)
Ephesians 4:5 (ESV)
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
And learn Constant Gratitude.
Here is Kenneth Wuest’s expanded translation of the Greek:
I am constantly grateful to the One who endued me with the necessary strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He deemed me trustworthy, having placed me in service, though I was the very one who heretofore was a reviler, and a persecutor, and an insolent, destructive person. But I was shown mercy because, being ignorant, I acted in unbelief. Moreover, the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly, together with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
More than that – here he gives Timothy insight into why his testimony is what it is, where attitude of gratitude comes from, and leaves an instruction that lasts to inspire forward the same attitude. Can we say that with Paul, “and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” if we can, I think it will encourage our constant gratitude!
And before we move too quickly here – as Paul builds up his point, that his salvation is a picture of God’s great mercy – I want to dwell here on one word. Overflowed. Sounds great right. Once when one of my children was younger (Taylor will go unnamed to protect him) he said after not really eating his dinner that he was full of dinner, but hungry for desert. With a flair for the parenting dramatics I filled a cup to the brim with water – and said this cup is full, how much more can I add to it – so we poured more in, none when something is full there is no more room. Now as you can imagine there was a mess on the table because it over flowed.
Paul did that here with God’s grace, but more than that when you write it’s more difficult to be dramatic – here is how Paul did it. Who-pear-play-a-nazo “hyperpleonazo” is “overflowed” here it means to be MORE than enough, to super abound, to be exceedingly abundant – and like a college student has those words they save for every paper when the point is coming to a crescendo or they love it so they use it sparingly for effect, this word across the NT is used on, single, time – to amplify Gods abundant grace towards Paul, over flowing HIM with faith and love.
Do you understand why Paul was so passionate for the gospel and the church? He knew of God’s great work in him, do we? This is instruction to last through to us, does it?
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.
This is what Paul wanted Timothy to communicate, to know, to ingest, to soak up, to share, and to make sure people understand what was he said in 15-16. Paul here gives a summation of the gospel:
- “Why did Jesus come”?, to save sinners (Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners) –
- “What did Jesus do” provide the way for sinners to know grace and mercy (of whom I am the foremost) – why: so that Christ Jesus would be shown strong. foot note, I the apostle Paul, your father Timothy in the faith, and planter of the New Testament church now writing to shape the forming of the church in this lost Ephesus, I need you to understand that even I am the foremost sinner, I the blasphemer, persecutor and insolent opponent – who now love God in Christ.
Here in these Pastoral Epistles, these letters from a pastor to a pastor he says 25 times Christ Jesus and 6 times Jesus Christ. This is a reflection of Paul’s emphasis on his Kinghood as The Christ and Jesus the man who lived on earth, and why in his gospel in miniature he states it this way – who Jesus is, is important to what Jesus did. This Christ specifically chose Paul, to show his great patience. Here is the question Paul lays out in this tiny two verse gospel rich statement –
If Jesus was patient with me chief of sinners, who else will he be patient with?
Church the answer is, you.
He’ll be patient with you.
He’ll be patient with your neighbor.
Maybe you ask, but even though I’ve…. Or even though I…
It’s important here to see that Jesus chose Paul, not vice versa. Paul if you know the story was not seeking after Jesus – he didn’t have a hole in his heart. He was completely on mission to find and kill followers of Jesus. This is not a guy who’s almost there but came forward during a Billy Gram rally while they played emotional music, and gave testimony after testimony designed to pull Paul’s heart strings.
He closes this section like this:
17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Church – let this be us.
Paul writes to Timothy saying: 1 Timothy 1:2 “To Timothy, my true child in the faith”, he’s leaving Timothy behind in Ephesus, a place of false teachers (John dealt with last week) he leaves him with instructions to be faithful to the witness he Paul left behind.
Paul’s gratitude was great, because Jesus mercy towards Paul was an example for all future generations to know, the pinnacle example of God’s grace meaning all of us are able to receive favor and grace from God. And the lasting instruction is that Christian gratitude gives us an infectious attitude.
So while Paul is pastoring a pastor here – the instruction is lasting and Timothy was to pass it on through the Church – Paul’s witness wasn’t one of a great man, it was of a shining example of God’s great mercy in Jesus – and Jesus’ great work in defeating and disarming sin 1 Corinthians 15:55, and the spirit’s great drawing power, bringing even the most hopelessly lost to God.
1 Corinthians 15:55 (ESV)
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
Next week we’re in 1 Timothy 1:18-19-20 seeing Timothy’s chargé from Paul.
As home groups, meet and discuss:
- Read Paul’s conversation account
- Ask, what was his mission?
- How do we know he was at Stephen’s stoning?
- How do these points amplify Jesus mercy?
- Does this communicate Jesus mercy towards me in a way that makes me grateful?