1 Timothy 1:12-17
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
I. THANKFULNESS FOR BEING APPOINTED BY CHRIST TO HIS SERVICE. "I thank him that enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me to his service." At the close of the eleventh verse Paul brings in his relation to the gospel of the glory of the happy God. It was a trust committed to him, i.e. it was made his great business to convey the message of happiness to his fellow-men. And as He was made responsible, so also He was empowered. He was not sent a warfare on his own charges. He was supplied with all that was necessary for the discharge of the duties connected with the trust. And so he cannot refrain from turning aside for a little, to pour forth his soul in gratitude to him who empowered him as he also gave him the trust, even Christ Jesus our Lord, the great Head of the Church, from whom proceed all ministerial appointments and all ministerial qualifications. What called forth his gratitude was, that Christ reposed confidence in him in appointing him to his service. He saw that he was one who could be used and trusted for the furtherance of the gospel; and so he gave him the appointment and the qualifications. To be assured of this as Paul was is great joy. How thankful ministers should be, if they have some evidence, in their own earnestness and in the fruits of their ministry, that they have not mistaken their calling!
II. THE CONSIDERATION OF HIS PREVIOUS LIFE. "Though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief." The gratitude of the apostle was enhanced by the consideration of his persecuting career. He was before a blasphemer, his evil speaking being directed against the Name of Jesus of Nazareth. He was also a persecutor even in this respect, that he compelled others to blaspheme. And he rose to the full conception of a persecutor in the tyrannical way in which he went about the work of' persecution. At this stage of his life he was far removed from being the minister of Christ. But though he showed no mercy, he obtained mercy. There was this to be said for him, that what he did against Christ he did ignorantly. He acted under an erroneous impression. It was not that he knew Christ to be the Son of God, and hated him for his Divine credentials, especially because he manifested the Divine goodness. But he was carried away by zeal for the Jewish religion, which, he thought, was greatly endangered by the triumphs of Christianity. He was thus not in the most direct, most deliberate way, against Christ. And, so far as he was not throwing away the most sacred convictions, he was within the pale of mercy. He was within the scope of the Savior's intercession from the throne, if we are to regard it as conformed to his intercession from the cross, which was in these words: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" - words which are echoed by Peter in his address to the Jews, "And now, brethren, I wet that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers." It was in a state of unbelief that he was ignorant. This implied that he had not followed his lights as others had followed theirs, not greater than his. He had been directed away from Christianity by confidence in his own righteousness. And be had given way to the disposition, so natural to the depraved heart, to make a tyrannical use of power. He was, therefore, most culpable, standing in need of repentance and forgiveness, as Peter went on to impress on the Jews in the address just referred to: "Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out."
III. GRACE ABOUNDING EXCEEDINGLY. "And the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." In Romans 5. Paul says of sin that it abounded; here the same word is used of grace, with an addition to it which gives it the force of a superlative. He labors to express the stretch of grace which our Lord had to make toward him when he, a guilty persecutor, was saved. His salvation was accompanied by the two graces, faith and love. From being a disbeliever in Christianity he became a humble believer in it, even preaching the faith of which formerly he made havoc. From having the spirit of the persecutor he came to have the spirit of the Christian, forgiving those who persecuted him, and seeking to subdue men, not by force, but by the power of Christian truth and example. It is said of this love that it is in Christ Jesus - subsisting in him, and determined in its outgoings by him. We can understand that his own experience of salvation had to do with his eminence as a minister of Christ. It filled him with deep personal gratitude to his Savior. It urged him to labor, so as to take revenge on himself for the evil he had done. It fitted him for sympathizing with others in such condition as that in which he had been. And it enabled him the better to understand the sweet gentle spirit of the religion of Christ, that he could contrast it with his own unlovely persecuting zeal.
IV. THE GOSPEL THROUGH WHICH GRACE OPERATED.
1. Reliableness of the gospel. "Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation." When our Epistle was written, this was one of the sayings that passed as proverbs in Christian circles. This profatory formula is peculiar to the pastoral Epistles. The first clause, which occurs five times, points to the certitude of the gospel. The would-be teachers of the Law - apparently Essenes - dealt in fables for which there was no ground of certainty, and in genealogies or namings of intermediate agencies, which only ministered disputings as to the names. The apostle regards the gospel as the embodiment of certainty. Venturing our immortal souls upon the truth of this saying, it will not prove a myth, but a glorious reality. The second clause, which occurs twice, points to the saying as worthy of a universal welcome. Let all men lay hold upon it as an essentially good saying - good for the whole nature; it is only the reception it deserves.
2. Particular form in which the gospel is presented. "That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." This is the gospel in all simplicity, to which the aged apostle cleaves. The Anointed of God for salvation said of himself, "I came out from the Father, and am come into the world." The world is to be understood in the physical sense; it is the earth, however, not in the purity of the conception, but the earth as it has become the congenial abode for sinners. It could not be said of Christ when he was here, that this was his original or congenial abode. He came into the world, he came from a pure world, from the Father, and that meant a world of highest purity. And what drew him to this world, with all its uncongeniality? Jesus, the Name which he has made his own, the Name which is above every name, points to his nature as love. It is of the nature of love to find a congenial outlet in saving. But whom on this earth did Christ come to save? Men who were wronged, upon whom superhuman powers were causelessly inflicting tortures? Did he come to assert their innocence against their strong oppressors? No; men who were in the wrong themselves, who were wrongers of God, and were the causes of their own misery. It was sinners that drew the Savior down to earth. He longed to save them from their misery, from themselves as the guilty causes of their misery, from their sinful habits and associations, and to make them pure as the heaven from which he came. In saving sinners, he had to suffer from sinners, in his purity coming into contact with their impurity, and exposing him to their hate. He had especially to suffer in the room of sinners, in all the loneliness of a pure, perfect life, treading the wine-press of the Divine wrath against sin.
3. Individualization of the gospel. "Of whom I am chief." He was not at the head of sinners in this sense, that at one time he had reached a point beyond which sinning could not go in heinousness. He had not committed the sin against the Holy Ghost. He had not sinned like Judas, in close neighborhood to Christ and in clear impression of his Divinity. He had never been, in sinning, beyond the pale of mercy. Neither was he in the position to compare himself with all who had obtained mercy, and to say infallibly that he was the greatest of them all. But he was at the head of sinners in his sense of his own utter unworthiness apart from Christ. That unworthiness he viewed chiefly, we may say, in the lurid light of his persecuting career. It was so complete a self-revelation, that he could not keep it from coming up before his imagination when he thought of sell. But this self-revelation was not all before his conversion. He knew how self was ever seeking to mingle with all he did. In the whole discovery, then, of what he was apart from Christ, as one for whom the gospel was intended, he could say in all truthfulness of feeling, and with no decrease of truthfulness as he advanced in the Christian life, but rather an increase, that he was at the head of the class of sinners.
V. ENCOURAGEMENT TO SINNERS. "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his long-suffering, for an ensample of them which should hereafter believe on him unto eternal life." There was a fitness in Paul as chief in obtaining mercy also coming at an early period in the history of the Christian Church, for the sake of future generations. He was a typical illustration in what happened in his case of the fullness of the long-suffering of Christ. For the first thirty years of his life he was going in the wrong direction altogether. As he drew near the end of that period he seemed far enough away from believing, in the active violent part he took against Christ. But Christ did not, as he could have done, make his hostility to recoil upon his own head. But he treated him magnanimously, as one who is conscious of pure intention and forgiving love can do his foe. He treated him without haste, giving him space for experience, for thinking about the Divine dealing, and for seeing his error. And, in the end, Paul was subdued into believing, to the praise of the long-suffering of Christ. Whoever thinks he is far enough away from believing, in resistance to the Divine leadings, in hostility offered to Christ, Paul would have him to be encouraged by his example to believe on Christ, the certain end, of this believing being eternal life, or possession, up to our capacity, of the blessedness of the Divine life.
VI. DOXOLOGY. "Now unto the King eternal, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." The apostle concludes his personal digression with a doxology which is unique in its character, and, we may be sure, appropriate. God is styled, as he is nowhere else in the Scriptures, literally "King of the ages," i.e. Sovereign Controller of the vast periods under which centuries and millenniums are included. Outside of them himself in his absolute eternity, he sways all that takes place in them. He can be long-suffering as he is in Christ; he does not need to be in haste, having the ages in which to work out his purposes. He is also styled "incorruptible," as he is also in Romans 1:23; and "invisible," as he is in Colossians 1:15 and Hebrews 2:27. There is great difficulty in all religions in rising above gross notions of God. As a pure Spirit there is denied of him the corruptibility and visibility which pertain to our corporeal nature. There is not, therefore, permitted a corporeal representation, or any image of him, as tending to degrade our conception of him. He is further styled "the only God," as in 1 Timothy 6:15 he is styled "the only Potentate." This seems to be chiefly directed against the Essene religion, which invested their intermediate agents with Divine powers of creation. To God, as thus exalted, is ascribed, with a fullness of expression, honor and glory (as in Revelation 5:13) to the ages of ages over which the Divine existence extends. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;