13 February 20121 Timothy 1:1-17
"The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example of those who would believe in him for eternal life." (vv. 15-16)
Paul knew where he had come from. Here was the arch-enemy of the
Church, transformed into arguably its most influential voice and
evangelist. He remembered well the cruelty he had shown to
Christians he pursued with such vigour. It's difficult to
overestimate the brutality of Saul (as he was then), as by his own
admission he was a very violent man (verse 13).
After his Damascus road experience everything changed (Acts 9). Interestingly it is the patience of Jesus that Paul was so thankful for. Despite the damage he had done to the fledgling Church, Jesus had a plan for his Paul's life which he had to pinch himself at times to comprehend.
Paul saw his experience as an example of how great was God's patience and grace. He offered up his life as an example of a pattern that others might see in their own lives. If someone like Paul could be loved and used by God then there was hope for all of humankind!
Paul didn't claim to have chosen Christ. It was Christ who chose him at the point he was throwing his life away, and he was forever thankful that Christ not only chose him, but trusted and appointed him to be his ambassador (verse 12).
There is much within this passage which speaks of the value of all human beings. The early Christians were wary of Paul when he came to them not as a persecutor, but as servant and teacher (Acts 9:21). It was the presence and power of God's Spirit in his life, and the love he showed that convinced them he was on their side!
This is a timely reminder not to write anyone off as being beyond redemption, and also not to underestimate the grace and power of God to transform a life that is lost, into a life of service.
How often do you give thanks for the work of grace that God has done in your life and that of your Christian friends?
Have you ever written someone off as 'beyond redemption'? Is so, what does Paul's story say to you?
God calls all kinds of people to a life of service or ministry. Have you ever considered the possibility that he might be calling you? And what might that be?