|Read Paul's conversion in Acts 9|
“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”
(1 Timothy 2:12-14, ESV)
The apostle Paul himself was living proof of the saving power of “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (v.11) which he preached. I imagine he burst into praise for what God had done in his life and made it all possible for him to preach the gospel “which [he] have been entrusted” (v.11). Here in verse 12, Paul gives thanks to Christ for 3 things that made him what he was:
First, he gives credit to Christ who give him “strength.” I recalls what Paul writes in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” I often heard people whining, complaining and making excuses that they don’t have this and that, and so they never did anything great for God. This is sin! If we are God’s people, He has given you everything you need according to what God’s call you to be and do. Christ will enable you, He will give you strength. Second, Paul thanked Christ for counting him faithful. The Lord “judged me faithful.” Paul was faithful, intense and zealous Pharisee who persecuted Christians. But when Christ called him, he became faithful, intense and zealous apostle of Christ. Faithfulness – this is the one virtue that is essential in God’s work. Last of all, Paul praises Christ for the privilege of being in the ministry. Christ “appointing me to his service” or ministry. He was convinced he was in the place where God had put him. Dear preachers, missionaries, pastors, teachers and all ministers, are you convince that you are where you’re appointed to be? If yes, draw your strength from Him, be faithful to the end and praise Him for calling you in the ministry.
As I read verse 13, I thought that every Christian has things of the past that he wishes had never happened, Paul included. He must have felt that his conduct was the worst of all. Just as there were 3 things for which he thanked Christ, he now mentions 3 great sins he did in the past. First, Paul says he was a “blasphemer.” Before he became Christian, Paul (in his conscious, Acts 23:1) never blasphemed against the God of Israel, he was only against the Lord Jesus Christ. But after his conversion, he understood that his blasphemed against Jesus Christ is the same as blasphemed against God. He also says he was a “persecutor” (read Acts 8-9). He was there when Stephen, the first martyr was stoned and he was the one who ‘hunted’ Christians all over Israel and beyond. If you want to see how zealous Paul was in persecuting early Christians, I recommend you to watch TV series A.D. The Bible Continues, very well acted! Lastly, the worst of all, Paul was a man of evil-harsh-violent. The word is “insolent” or “injurious” which I’m not familiar with. He was evil both in his heart and in how he treated Christians. I bet Paul was not proud of these things but he did not minimize the magnitude of his sin.
But with all of these horrible sins, Paul “received mercy because [he] had acted ignorantly in unbelief” (v.13). “Acted ignorantly” because all of it were done not intentionally against God (when I studied Book of Leviticus, there is no provision made for wilful sin against God, but for sin through ignorance, there is! See Leviticus 15:27-31). Paul, an ardent student of the Scripture, should have recognized Jesus as the Messiah but he didn’t. He was an ignorant. He said of himself “the chief of sinners” (see 1 Timothy 1:16 and Galatians 1). “But I received mercy,” he said. Not just mercy, but also “the grace of our Lord” (v.14). Not just grace but grace “overflow” or “exceeding abundant.” I like to use the word “super-abounding” – grace abounding on top of grace! That like putting superlative on top of superlative! It is said that grace is when God gives us what we don't deserve and mercy is when God doesn't give us what we do deserve. Paul experiences mercy and grace. Eugene Peterson paraphrases verse 14 wonderfully: “Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus.” Hoahhh! Wow!
Are you a sinner? Worst sinner?
There is hope, come and see, Jesus is the Saviour!
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.