Mercy, Grace, Faith, and Love

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
1 Timothy 1:15

Paul wrote to Timothy, who was a leader at the church in Ephesus, giving him instructions and warnings. Some people had already begun not only to turn from God’s Word, but were leading others away from God’s Word as well. Those people were talking foolishly, babbling (called “vain jangling”), and yet they wanted to be teachers of God’s Law (see 1 Timothy 1:6-7). They had no idea what God’s Law was, what it meant, or what they really believed themselves. Paul warned that it was wrong to let people such as this become teachers. Because they did not know or understand God’s Law, they could not possibly convey the importance of why God had given the Law. “8. But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; 9. Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, 10. … and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; 11. According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Timothy 1:8-11). We are to understand that the Law was given to reveal the sin in mankind so that they could recognize the glorious Gospel message (see Romans 3:20). Gospel means “the Gospel plan of salvation, its doctrines, declarations, precepts, promises; the Gospel of God of which God is the Author through Christ.” People who did not understand that God’s Law was given to reveal sin, thereby making known the need for salvation, could not be trusted as teachers of something they not only did not understand, but also had not experienced for themselves. These people have not received the gift of salvation offered, by grace, which frees one from the confines of the Law.  

Paul never forgot from whence he had come. He understood and remembered that he was a sinful man whose sin was revealed by that Law. He was thankful that he had been forgiven and placed into the ministry of proclaiming the Gospel message. “12. And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13. Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:12-14). Just because one breaks God’s Law does not mean they will be condemned. Paul had once done it “ignorantly in unbelief.” Understand what he recognized.

  • Paul understood that he had obtained mercy. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us” (Ephesians 2:4).
  • He recognized the abundant grace that God bestowed upon him. “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).
  • God then extended the gift of faith, which must be received. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
  • Finally, Paul understood the love with which God loved him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Read what Paul then understood: “15. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (1 Timothy 1:15-16). There was a specific time in Paul’s life when he recognized that Jesus had come “to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” Note that Paul recognized that he was a sinner, but that he had obtained mercy from Jesus. After Paul received the gift of salvation by faith, he then understood that he was to be a “pattern.” Pattern means “a pattern or example.” Paul believed that if Jesus could save him, a chief sinner (remember he was complicit with murder; see Acts 7:58), Jesus could save anyone who would believe in Him by faith. It is this kind of person who can be entrusted to teach God’s Word. Teachers of God’s Word must remember they have been entrusted with the truth of the Gospel message. The salvation message cannot change. “10. Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead. … 12. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” Acts 4:10, 12).  

Has your life become a pattern, revealing the mercy, grace, faith, and love bestowed upon you through salvation by Jesus?

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