1 Timothy 1:12-16, “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 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. 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.”
Entrusted with the Good News of Salvation
One of the most fundamental doctrines of our faith is the truth that God has revealed the good news of His salvation by His Word. It cannot be discovered through nature or any other means; rather, our God delivered the faith “once for all” to the saints (Jude 3).
The way that Paul writes this section of his letter, it is clear that he is well aware of this reality. He describes the message of salvation as the good news, which God entrusted to him (1 Tim. 1:11). What this means is the gospel is not something we are free to rework as we see fit. The gospel, as Paul puts it, is a charge that we receive from the Lord through the preaching of His Word. It is also a charge that we keep only when we pass the gospel on to others unchanged (vv. 18–19; 2 Tim. 1:14).
As Paul states that the gospel has been entrusted to him, so he writes his letter to remind Timothy of the circumstances surrounding God’s calling of him to preach the good news (1 Tim. 1:12–14). Notice that Paul does not hold back the truth of his life before meeting Jesus. Instead, he is upfront about his persecution of the church. Paul goes so far as to even declaring himself a blasphemer during the period he was “ravaging the church” and dragging believers from their houses to prison (Acts 8:3).
Let me present a side-note here just for a brief moment. In academic circles, there is some discussion on whether the Apostle Paul truly penned this letter. Paul’s blunt confession of his past helps support his authorship. This profession indeed supports that Paul wrote this first letter to Timothy, for surely a person trying to broadcast his own views in the name of the Apostle would leave out embarrassing facts that could defame Paul’s character, potentially hurting his case. Paul himself is never afraid to proclaim the contrast between his life before and after Christ appeared to him.
The “Hyper-Plentiful” Grace of God
Paul is always concerned with magnifying the Lord’s grace. So, Paul reminds us of his past with this confession because there is no better way to proclaim the God’s gospel, which is soaked with grace than to show how God in His good pleasure took the chief of sinners and made him the chief advocate of the message he once sought to destroy.
One commentator writes that such is the nature of God’s “hyper-plentiful” grace. He writes this as he explores the original Greek and shows that this is another way to translate the Greek verb hyperpleonazō, which is translated as “overflowed” in the ESV (v. 14).
Our Father’s grace is not merely sufficient or plentiful — it is more than sufficient, it is overflowing! When our God, who abounds in steadfast love (Ex. 34:6–7), decides to set His favor on even the vilest sinner, there is nothing that can keep Him from turning that heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26).
Jesus Came to Save Sinners
As Paul talks about his radical change that took place when he met Jesus on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1–25), he displays his life as the proof of God’s intent in sending His Son. Paul writes, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). This further underlines that if the Lord could redeem Saul, His passionate enemy, then He can save anyone.
For this reason, Paul saw his transformation as an example for all who would believe after his conversion (v. 16). The Psalmist proclaims that our God is patient and slow to anger (Ps. 103:8). It is clear from this testimony written here that God was patient with Saul. The Lord preserved him, even in his darkest sin, so that He could accomplish His saving purpose. Such is the way He has dealt with all of us. Our God patiently endured our hatred of Him as His enemies until that day He made us His children (Rom. 5:8; James 2:23).
John Calvin writes, “The more any one is oppressed by his sins, let him the more courageously betake himself to Christ, relying on this doctrine, that he came to bring salvation not to the righteous, but to ‘sinners.’” God’s saving purpose is at the same time the most necessary element of the gospel and the most profound. It is so simple a child can understand it, yet it continues to blow the minds of seasoned believers.
Believer let me ask you today, have you fully embraced the Lord’s desire to save sinners through Jesus Christ? Have you declared this purpose to others?
Let us preach the gospel to ourselves day by day. As we do let us find our joy overflowing to the point where we cannot help but proclaim it to everyone we see.