Editor’s note: This content was taken (and updated) from the Sunday School lesson that I had prepared (and taught) for September 13, 2020.
Today’s passage is from the first chapter of 1 Timothy. Paul is reaching out to a younger pastor (although Timothy may have been in his 30’s, so maybe not “young” like we think of that term) with some guidance and God-given wisdom. In the first chapter, Paul describes some of his own background.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.
1 Timothy 1:12 NIV
Taken by itself, this verse is a great statement of praise to God. Paul gives Jesus the credit for his ministry, and acknowledges that it was Jesus who called Paul to that work. Paul didn’t come up with it on his own, for sure. He was on a very different course until Jesus met him on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-31). Paul writes about the source of what he taught (after Jesus changed his life), in the letter to the Galatians (see Galatians 1:11-12).
I could imagine most any pastor putting verse 12 up on a little plaque in their office, or maybe as a screensaver for their computer. This is a great reminder of God’s calling and the power that He offers when we are doing His will. In fact, thanks to the YouVersion App, we can do just that:
(You may be able to do better. I’m an engineer, after all, and definitely not an artist.)
However, the next few verses start to expand upon this, and show that Paul was commissioned into God’s service from a place that was pretty far away from Him. He wasn’t just ordained out of Bible college, despite having gone through religious education.
Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
1 Timothy 1:13 NIV
This is what Paul was called out of: blasphemy, persecution, and violence (pretty ugly stuff!). He was passionate and sincere, but being committed to the wrong thing is perhaps worse than not being committed at all. It’s like driving in the wrong direction, versus not getting started. God is all-powerful, though, and people who have gotten off-track, far from the life that God created us to live in, can be brought back to fellowship with Jesus.
The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy 1:14 NIV
There are four great things that Paul was given by God here:
- Mercy: Here, Paul didn’t get what he deserved. The wages of sin is death (as we learn from Romans 6:23), but Paul was spared from the eternal punishment that was merited by his actions. That’s God’s mercy, which is available to you and me, too.
- Grace: More than just releasing Paul from the wages of sin, God blessed him with all sorts of privileges that he hadn’t earned. Sometimes, those privileges included things like suffering for his faith, but they also included the joy of leading people to Christ. This is God’s grace, when we get blessings that we don’t deserve.
- Faith and Love: We might even consider these two things to be two parts of the same thing. When we have faith in Jesus – not just a belief, but a true faith that results in specific choices and actions – the result is to love. We can love God and love other people, not as an arbitrary requirement or the cost of being part of God’s family, but because we want to be like Jesus, and we want to to show Him our love and gratitude through our obedience. In fact, when we truly believe (i.e., when we have faith) that Jesus wants the best for us and that He is all-knowing about what that is, we find that His instructions (and example) of love are the logical result of our faith.
So, even if you aren’t a pastor, minister, or teacher like Paul, remember that we can all enjoy God’s mercy and grace, along with His gifts of faith and love. And, as God brought us from being far away from Him, to adopting us into His family after we were given righteousness from Jesus, we too can extend these same blessings to those around us, today.
- Christian Standard, Volume CLV, Number 9, pages 83-84. © 2020 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, 1, 2 Timothy & Titus, by C. Michael Moss. Ph. D. College Press Publishing Company, © 1994.
- IVP New Testament Commentaries, via BibleGateway.com.
- The Reformation Study Bible, English Standard version, by R C Sproul, © 2015 Reformation Trust,