Trustworthy servant-leader ∙
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service. – 1 Timothy 1:12
1 Timothy 1:12-16
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him,
13 even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief.
14 Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.
15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them all.
16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.
American baseball has a way of teaching kids a lot of things. There are lots of spoken and unspoken rules. For example, how do kids choose sides when putting together pickup baseball teams?
Most of the kids in a local neighborhood know who the best players are. Normally the best two are appointed to be the team captains. As captains, they do the choosing.
Who chooses first? There is an unspoken rule that everyone knows involving a bat. A bat is gently tossed toward vertically to one of the captains with the heavy side down. The captain catches the bat with one hand. The location where his fist grasps the bat designates the starting place for what happens next. The other captain puts his fist directly above the first captain’s fist. The two captains continue alternately gripping the bat moving upward. As they approach the top, there is not enough room for the one who makes the last attempt to completely grab the bat.
The captain with a full grip of the bat is declared the winner and gets to go first. The two captains would then alternate choosing until enough players are picked for the teams.
Of course, the third-best player would be chosen first. Then the fourth is selected, etc. Following this method, the opposing sides would be more or less balanced in skill and liability. Poor players are considered a liability. Most likely they are not that skilled in hitting, fielding, or throwing. But they would make the team also.
Another unspoken rule is taken for granted. The players never choose to be part of the team. Only the captains have that prerogative.
The apostle Paul was well aware of the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ alone chose him for service. Think about it. Never for a moment did Paul think that he chose Christ. He marveled that Christ chose him. Paul never considered himself worthy of being welcomed, forgiven, or chosen. In fact, he saw himself as a violent, hateful, proud, insolent, arrogant opponent of the truth. Paul was, after all, a blasphemer of the Father he thought he worshiped.
“It was as if, when he was heading straight for destruction, Jesus Christ had laid his hand upon his shoulder and stopped him in his tracks. It was as if, when he was busy throwing away his life, Jesus Christ had suddenly brought him to his senses” (Barclay).
How could a holy and righteous God welcome and forgive a sinner such as himself? The whole concept left him incredulously scratching his head. Initially, Paul could hardly take it all in. Pondering his relationship with the Father, the Lord God Almighty, Paul is rendered awestruck and aghast.
How could it possibly be? Rather than becoming the target of the Father’s disdain and wrath, something entirely unexpected, even shocking occurred. “[Paul] never got beyond a response of wonder and gratitude to God’s act of saving him ‘warts and all.’ We must never move beyond the excitement and joy our conversion generates in us. (Lea and Griffin)”
The Father’s amazing grace and mercy overflowed, covered, and canceled out the egregious blemishes of Paul’s sinful past. This proud, tenacious, persistent, resilient, energetic, powerful man was assuredly humbled, and deeply ashamed.
In time, Paul eventually worked through it. He was left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. His praise overflowed with thankfulness and respect. Paul thanked the Father for forgiving him, trusting him, choosing him, selecting him to service, and enabling him to carry out his appointed tasks.
What would be a natural, normal response to the realization of being so loved? What do reconciliation, restoration, and redemption yield in the human heart?
REFLECT & PRAY
Because of love, the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners from their sins, even the worst of them.
Father, I have only begun to grasp the magnitude of my sin. Open my eyes to see and fully grasp the certain eternal separation from You that loomed over me. Enable me to comprehend the incomprehensible. Your magnificent lovingkindness has made my scarlet sins whiter than snow.
Paul now saw himself as God’s man. He was all in and totally devoted to the Father. The Father’s amazing grace, kindness, and mercy had melted Paul’s heart. Paul understood as few do, that undeserving as he was, the Father had still chosen him.
Paul summed it up in a few words that echo throughout all eternity, “it is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ – and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).
Paul was brilliant, highly educated, and religiously devout. What was his problem? He was ignorant of the actual identity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“The simple mention of the word ‘sinners’ causes Paul once again to reflect upon his own life. The term “worst” is literally “first” (protos). The term refers not to the sequence of Paul’s sin or conversion but to its magnitude. This may well seem to be an exaggeration to the reader, but for Paul, it is no exaggeration (1 Corinthians 15:9, 10; Galatians 1:13; Ephesians 3:8)” (Moss).
He wasn’t using ignorance as an excuse. Rather, he realized that he had lived in darkness and had now seen the light. He comes to grips with how dark the darkness truly was. What was Paul’s great sin? “His sin of aggressively tearing down the work that God was building up was the worst kind of sin” (Constable).
Paul’s past life and despicable behavior, rather than being an impediment to service, became the springboard that propelled his devotion.
Because Paul was the chief of sinners, his salvation and redemption were totally undeserved, unmerited, and unexpected, there is hope for the rest of us.
The light still shines bright.
The Lord Jesus Christ is true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:4-5, 9).
Paul the child of darkness became a child of the light.
Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.
Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.
To read the most up-to-date version, please click on the title.