Christ Came To Save Sinners
I Timothy 1:12-17
Phil Callaway article.
Paul would agree and in I Timothy 1:12-17, he gives his testimony and teaches us the wonderful truth that Christ came into this world to save sinners.
I. A Testimony Of Grace I Timothy 1:12-14
A. I Am A Sinner
1. Was A Sinner
Paul begins his testimony by admitting that he was a sinner. He gives three words which describe his sin.
He admits that he was a blasphemer. He said the same in other places. In Acts 26:11, another time when he gave his testimony, he said, “Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme.” In saying this, he admitted that not only was he speaking against Jesus, but he was trying to get other people to speak against Jesus.
He also says that he was a persecutor. In the same passage in Acts 26:11, he goes on to say, “In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.” He worked very hard against Jesus and anyone who claimed to know Jesus. It seems that persecution was not just something that he did once in a while, perhaps teasing a neighbour who was a Christian. It was his life vocation to persecute Christians.
He also admitted that he was a violent man. In Acts 9:1, we read, “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” “Murderous threats” reveals the violent nature of his work, passions, indeed his life.
As we see what kind of a sinner Paul was, we wonder what could ever become of such a man. Most people wondered what could become of such a man and even after he changed, many were afraid of him because of what he had been. In Acts 9:13, when Ananias was sent to show Paul the way of salvation, he was afraid and said to God, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done…” Then later in Acts 9:26 we read that, “When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him…”
Paul was a sinner and from our perspective, we would say he was a sinner for whom there wasn’t much hope.
2. Am A Sinner
But isn’t it interesting that Paul never changed his view about who he was. Although he says in verse 13, “I was…” he says in vs. 15, “I am the worst…” Notice that he says, “I am,” which is present tense and tells us that at the time of this writing, a time when he was getting old and had been a Christian for a long time, Paul still thought of himself as a sinner.
He never viewed himself as righteous or perfect, but knew that he was nothing but a sinner who needed God.
B. Christ Poured His Grace On Me
But sinner does not define all of who he was. In verse 13, we read the wonderful experience he had when he says, “I was shown mercy.”
1. Because I Acted In Ignorance
He explains why he was shown mercy when he says, in verse 13, that it happened “because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.”
Is he saying that ignorance is an excuse? Does that mean that if we sin and don’t know it we don’t need salvation? Not at all, rather it reveals the basis from which salvation can come to a person. In claiming ignorance, Paul was recognizing that there is a difference between “unwitting” sins and “presumptuous” sins.
When Jesus talked to the Pharisees, he accused them of presumptuous sins. We read in John 9:40,41, “Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” The problem with the Pharisees and with us sometimes is that we know the right thing, but refuse to do it. That is presumptuous sin. Presumptuous sins are like the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. It is knowing what God wants and deliberately rejecting God.
That was not what Paul was doing. Paul was blind. He sincerely believed that he was doing the right thing. In giving his testimony in Acts 26:9, he said, “I was convinced that I ought(to persecute).” That was still sin and still required forgiveness, but it was a different nature of sin, it was unwitting sin. The difference, however, is not in knowing or not knowing that we sin, the difference is how we respond when we know our sin. When Paul met Jesus on the Damascus road and literally and spiritually saw the light, he repented of his sin. Unwitting sin did not become presumptuous sin when knowledge came, but rather became repentance and that is why He was shown mercy.
2. Christ Poured Out Grace, Faith and Love
And so Paul indicates in verse 14 that this was exactly his experience. God did this amazing work in his heart. His testimony is, “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” We notice that there are three things poured into Paul’s heart when he repented of his sin.
First of all, grace was poured out on him. Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death” but God reversed this solemn condemnation for Paul. He knew that he did not deserve salvation, and he recognized that it was only God’s grace that could forgive all the things he had done wrong against God.
He also indicates that faith was poured into his heart. In place of the unbelief that had been in his heart previously, now there was faith in his heart. This also was a gift of God, as we read in this verse. We think that faith is our part, and it is, but if we incline our hearts towards God in the slightest, God helps us to believe and that gift of God is what Paul recognized.
The third thing that happened was that in place of the hatred that had been there as a persecutor and a violent man, God poured His love into Paul’s heart.
What a great change! What many thought could never happened, did happen because of the grace of God. Often we tell our testimonies to describe what we have done. “I changed my mind,” “I put my trust in Christ.” Paul does not do that. He recognizes that the only reason he is now called a child of God is because of what God did. God poured out grace, God gave him faith and God put His love into Paul’s heart. How many of us think we have saved ourselves? Paul knew that he had been saved by Jesus.
3. Appointed Me To Service
The evidence of God’s grace in Paul’s life is that Paul was not only forgiven, but, as we read in verse 12, he was also allowed to be a servant of Christ. So Paul thanks God for appointing him to service.
What a radical change has taken place in this man. What an amazing thing God has done. He has taken a man who was a terrible sinner - a murderer, a blasphemer and a persecutor and has turned him into a highly regarded servant of Jesus Christ.
Only amazing grace could accomplish such a thing. Paul shares His testimony of what God has done for Him and gives Him the glory for it.
II. The Truth About God’s Grace I Timothy 1:15-17
After giving His testimony, Paul universalizes it. What happened to me, he says, is a truth about God and can happen to everyone. He uses this interesting phrase in verse 15, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.” He uses this kind of a phrase several times in Timothy and Titus. Each time it speaks of a different issue, but it always reinforces a significant point which we need to take note of. The significant point here is that the grace which Paul experienced in his own life and has just shared with us, is a grace which all of us can experience.
A. Why Christ Came!
The universal truth is that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
This is what God is like! Even from Old Testament times, in passages such as Exodus 34:6, 7, God’s mercy is demonstrated. When God passed in front of Moses, he declared, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”
Because it is in the foundational nature of God to extend mercy, He sent Jesus into the world to do just that. The Christmas story, which we review every year in December is a story of Christ coming into the world. The Easter story, which we just reviewed less than a month ago, is a story which tells us the purpose for which Christ came into the world and that is to save sinners. Jesus said as much to his disciples in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Are you lost? Do you know that you are a sinner? Are you tired of the fear, hopelessness and burden of sin? The good news is that Jesus has come into the world to forgive sins. He has come not just to save good people, not even only special people like Paul. He has come to save sinners, so if you know that you are a sinner, Jesus came into the world to save you.
B. His Unlimited Patience
Perhaps you might feel as if your sins are too terrible - that there are too many and that they are of such a nature that God could never forgive them.
When we were planning to build the addition to this church, drawings were made to plan for it. One set of drawings made by Daniel Friesen were a series of three dimensional rough sketches, on computer, of what the building would look like when completed. Now that we have the church and look back at the rough sketches we see that they were a good picture of what was to be built. It was a true likeness of what would be done.
Paul says, in verse 16, that his life is a rough sketch, or, if you will, an example of how God’s grace operates. Paul is making the point that if he, the blasphemer, persecutor and violent man, could find grace from God, then surely every other person, no matter how sinful, can also find grace from God. That is what Christ came to do and Paul’s life is the example of God’s unlimited patience for sinners who come and repent and find salvation.
In other words, it does not matter how bad you have been. What matters is your attitude. We read earlier that Paul received mercy because of his ignorance. Mercy was shown because sin was not wilful, but it was still sin and it still required forgiveness and mercy. Mercy was forthcoming because of the recognition of wrongdoing. When there is deliberate or wilful sin, that is a different situation, but when you know that you are a sinner and repent of your sin, no matter what that sin has been, then you are ready to receive and will receive the grace of God, because Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - even the worst.
From the testimony of Paul we learn that our past life of sin does not hinder us from receiving grace and even serving Christ once we have repented. Paul was a blasphemer, a violent man, a murderer - but was forgiven and became a servant. He is an example of what God can and will do for us. There are many other examples of what God does. Some are in the Bible like Jacob who was a deceiver and manipulator, but became the one to carry the promises of God; like David who was an adulterer and murderer but was blessed by God and was His servant; like the woman at the well who was an adulteress and divorced but became the voice of salvation for her people and like Peter who was impulsive and a denier of Jesus but became the first witness in the church. Others come to us from modern day experiences like Nicky Cruz who was a gang member in New York but became a preacher and evangelist.
C. Believe On Him
How do we receive that grace? As we have already noticed, the first step is to have a repentant attitude about our sin. Then, we are promised in verse 16b that God’s mercy is poured out on those who believe.
Paul had experienced God’s mercy by faith. He preached that God’s grace is poured out on those who believe in Acts 16:31 where he says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved...” The same message comes to us. If we believe that Jesus is the son of God, that He died on the cross for our sins, we also will have God’s grace poured into our life.
When we read Paul’s testimony, it becomes very clear that in becoming Christians, our part is very small and God’s part is the great part. Recognizing that is what faith is all about. Faith is not a work we do, or a merit we possess, it is simply an acceptance of what God is willing to do for us.
D. Receive Eternal Life
The promise is that if we believe, as verse 16c says, we will “receive eternal life.” What a glorious promise that is, it is an assurance that we will not die, but will live eternally. The other day in my devotions, I was reading Revelation 21. Do you know what is in store for those who receive eternal life? It is marvellous! The passage speaks about the eternal victory of righteousness. It promises that there will be no evil in God’s eternity. It assures us that every tear which now breaks our heart will be wiped away. It demonstrates that the most luxurious and ornate place on earth will be a shack compared to the glory and wonder of the eternal kingdom of God. If we believe and receive the grace of God, then all that will be ours.
As Paul shares his testimony and then universalizes his experience, we realize that this is an invitation to all of us to receive grace. Are you tired of your sin? Are you afraid of having gone too far? Are you fearful of eternal death? Then for you today is the day to receive God’s grace. I invite you to admit your sin, believe in Jesus and receive the wonderful promise of God’s grace.
The passage is also an invitation to celebrate God’s grace. In the last verse of this section Paul is so overwhelmed with the marvel of what God has done in Christ that he breaks out into a song of praise to God. He says, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Has our heart been touched by the wonder of God’s grace and the mercy which permeates his gift? Then may our response to Him be equally excited and thankful at what He has done, not just for Paul, not just as a universal principle, but what He has done for us. Do you recognize the wonder of your salvation? Are you filled with gratitude to the one who has given it to you? Then may praise be your response today.