Daily Devotional: 1 Timothy 1:12-17
The human propensity to boast is both conspicuous and prevalent. We like to boast about anything and everything: knowledge, abilities, accomplishments, financial status, influence, etc. Although called to be humble followers of Christ, we struggle with even a desire to impress our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with our accomplishments in the faith and in the church. However, when we allow ourselves to wander in this treacherous direction, we place ourselves decidedly outside the bounds of the truth and protection of the Gospel. This is a dangerous place to be, which could end with us making “shipwreck” of our faith (1 Timothy 1:19).
In 1 Timothy 1:12-17, the apostle Paul shows us how he stays on a course of health in the Gospel. He starts, in verse 12, with what seems like a boast as he refers to how God has strengthened him, judged him faithful, and appointed him. These words, left alone, could seem boastful. But Paul quickly turns a corner as he reminds us of his former sins, how he was a “blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” (verse 13). Not a great resume! And then, as if to shock us all with hyperbole, he calls himself the “foremost” of sinners. Paul? The great Apostle? Foremost of sinners? Yes, Paul like the rest of us was a filthy, unclean and disgusting sinner who stood unworthy of being in the presence of the pure, holy, and sovereign God of the universe. This is no hyperbole. It is an essential truth of the Gospel that we all must realize about ourselves.
But, this is not the end of the story. As a foremost sinner, Paul “received mercy” (verse 13). Mercy is that great attribute where someone looks upon another in their helpless and even vile state and extends grace to that person to help him. And grace is exactly what the vile, sinner Paul received, so much that it “overflowed” (verse 14). This was the grace of forgiveness, justification, redemption, reconciliation, and adoption into sonship to God through Jesus Christ. Believing in the Gospel, these are the lavish blessings all of us undeserving, foremost sinners have received from the hands of our gracious, almighty God.
Paul gets to the focus of his thoughts in verse 15, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” This concise statement carries with it, in simple yet profound form, the full spectrum of Gospel truth: man is abhorrently sinful, yet Christ, God’s perfect and holy Son, came to save such sinners. So the only boast we then have is not in ourselves, but in the magnificent mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Within these truths, we stay safe in our faith as our hearts avoid the treacherous waters of the glory of man and instead stay tethered safely in the harbor of God’s unparalleled glory.
So, let us join with Paul in this boast, and this boast alone: “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (verse 17).