Paul never got over the fact that at one time he had been determined to destroy God’s church. Yet to him, the memory was not an occasion to revisit guilt, but one of great thankfulness to the merciful God who transformed him from a persecutor of Christ’s body to an apostle of the church.
The apostle knew very well that his experience was not a solitary one; God lavished divine mercy and grace upon him in order to demonstrate what he longed to do for others. Perhaps one reason Paul wrote of his own experience at the beginning of this letter [1 Timothy] was to remind Timothy that the same grace and power God used to transform Paul was also available to him. No problem—no matter how difficult or agonizing—is beyond God’s reach. Paul was a living example of this truth.
Passages in Detail
Once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man (1:13). Paul, then called Saul, was a feared enemy of the church before his encounter with God. (See Acts 7:59-8:3; 9:1-5; 22:2-5, 26:9-11; Galatians 1:13.)
Trustworthy saying (1:15). Literally, “faithful the word.” The phrase is found only in the pastorals. See 1 Timothy 3:1, 2 Timothy 2:11, Titus 3:8. It is used to describe statements that ought to be regarded as fully reliable.
The worst (1:15-16). Literally, “first” or “chief.” No doubt the apostle gave himself this title because he was the man at the forefront of the efforts to destroy the church—the heart of God’s redemptive plan for the world. Paul could think of no sin worse than to attempt to destroy the very thing for which Jesus gave his life.
Unlimited patience (1:16). A divine attitude of moral restraint that holds out under provocation. If anyone had provoked God’s wrath, it was Paul; and yet he was shown mercy instead of judgment.
1. Note that Paul calls Christ Jesus “our Lord” in 1:12. What does he mean by this? What other title does he use for Christ throughout this book (see 1:1, 2:5)? What significance does each have?
2. In what way did Christ give Paul “strength” (1:12)? What connection does this have to Paul being considered “faithful”?
Study Skills—Observing and Interpreting
To study a passage in the epistle, begin by noticing every detail, even the seemingly trivial; Paul was appointed to God’s service; he called himself the worst of sinners; he was an example of the Lord’s unlimited patience; etc. From these observations, decide which are the key words in the text.
For Further Study
We can learn a lot simply by studying the various titles used to describe God and His Son, Jesus. Look up the following selection of titles and decide what each one adds to your understanding of and appreciation for our Lord: Psalm 2:2; Isaiah 9:6; Luke 2:25; John 6:48; 1 Corinthians 15:45; Ephesians 2:20; Hebrews 3:1, 12:2; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 1:8.
Do you consciously depend on God’s strength to make it through your days and weeks? If so, how? If not, why not? What strategies do you use to consciously depend on God’s strength and not your own?
You’ve been reading an excerpt from 1 Timothy, part of the LifeChange Bible study series. Covering all 66 books of the Bible, LifeChange Bible studies can help you develop the skills to draw out Scripture’s life-transforming truths in every book of the Bible.