June 03, 2020 – Wednesday
1 Timothy 1:12-14 NIV
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that He considered me trustworthy, appointing me to His service.
13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Last night during a mentoring session on Divorce and Remarriage in the Church using a booklet of that title written by Larry Taylor (sadly no longer in print) verse thirteen came up. It came up during a discussion on if a divorced man who has remarried could be an elder or a pastor in a church.
If you are curious on the direction our discussion went consider verse thirteen above when Paul is writing about himself, Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. Paul was indeed a persecutor and a violent man. He was also likely a murderer or at least involved in a murder as an accessory. Remember he was the one watching over the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen to death. Later he was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison Acts 8:3. Shortly before his encounter with Jesus Paul (then known as Saul) was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem
Yet this was the man God chose to bring the Good News of His Son to the Gentiles. Paul here, in his first letter to Timothy, still seems overwhelmed by the grace he received from Jesus. It is no wonder, being the recipient of such grace he became such a great evangelist. Peter Pett tells us the following about Paul’s unbelief and what it meant: It was his ‘not believing in Christ’ that represented unbelief, even though outwardly among his fellows he had a reputation for ‘loving God’. For to Paul any position outside of believing in Christ is ‘unbelief’. It is to reject God’s clear revelation. He is thus saying that it is not enough to have ‘sincere faith’, for he had had that, but that it must be faith in what was true, in ‘Christ Jesus’.
But Paul in his faith in Jesus no longer sought to have those he saw as unbelievers jailed. Instead he saw them as those who needed to hear the good news of Jesus. Paul also noted the source of the faith and love in his life was Jesus and Jesus alone. It was Jesus who transformed Paul from a zealot without love, into a man who wanted everyone to know of God’s love through His Son.
Paul surely took Jesus’ words to heart when He said You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:43-45a). Jesus shows us through Paul anyone can be changed by the love of God and one’s past does not make a person unable to be used by God. I know of one man who continually turned from God until he was working as a prison guard and a man who would never be released from prison began preaching in prison. The guard was used to seeing those seeking parole turn to God, but not lifers. The story of the lifer led this guard to eventually give his life to Jesus as well because the story of the lifer told was the same one his son, a pastor, had been telling him for years.
Jesus is real and so is His mercy. Examples abound. Paul is only one of them. Remember to pray for your enemies and those who persecute you or other Christians to come to know Christ, for that is love.