Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Paul?s life is a powerful testimony to us that ?Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.?
Has your heart ever been stirred by someone?s testimony of Christ saving them?
- Just recently, a good friend of mine shared her testimony in front of a group of people. She grew up spiritually confused. She believed in eastern religious philosophies. She also grew up confused about her sexuality. When she got to college she really struggled. At one point she considered suicide. She eventually got into the party scene and also ended up in a lesbian relationship.
- But during those dark times, Christians were witnessing to her. Someone gave her the book \"More Than a Carpenter,\" which God used to convince her about who Jesus really is. For the first time, she believed in Christ, and slowly, her life began to change. And the changes have been dramatic. She\'s a solid Christian today, and she\'s married to a great Christian guy and has kids.
- Her life is a magnificent testimony to the truth that Christ came into the world to save sinners. And she\'s sharing that testimony with people. After listening to her, I found my heart was so moved by the grace of God.
Why is it that personal testimonies can be so powerful? Isn?t it because testimonies help us see the truth and power of the gospel in real life? The gospel\'s not a mere theory, or some religious principle to follow.?
The gospel is a trustworthy message that tells us what God has done for us in Christ. And testimonies are the real-life stories that demonstrate that it\'s true.
You?ve seen infomercial testimonials, where people testify to the quality of some product. I almost bought a set of like 60 knives after watching one. I don\'t know why I watched it. But it looked so amazing. Cut a tin can in half. Then slice a tomato with the same knife. The claims they made for the knives were actually demonstrated. It made their claims more compelling.
Our lives as Christians are testimonials. They demonstrate the claims of the gospel. Personal testimonies point people to the gospel.?
This is what this passage in 1 Timothy is all about. It?s Paul?s testimony. His life is a powerful testimony to us that ?Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.??
And, there are three parts to Paul\'s testimony: the insolent enemy of Christ; the merciful mission of Christ; and the perfect patience of Christ.
I. The Insolent Enemy of Christ (12-13)
The first part of it is that Paul was an insolent enemy of Christ.
In verses 12 and 13, Paul talks about conversion and commissioning to serve Christ. Paul describes himself before his conversion as ?a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent?. He was a self-declared enemy of Jesus and his followers. We get fascinating insight into the life of Saul of Tarsus in the book of Acts and through portions of Paul?s other letters.
????????? Acts 9 begins by saying that ?Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord?s disciples.?
????????? In Acts 22, Paul says, ?I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death.?
????????? Paul wrote in Galatians 1: ?For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.?
He thought Christians were heretics and blasphemers. Yet here in 1 Tim. he admits that it was him who was a blasphemer because he spoke against Christ.
Paul was an enemy of Christ. And so were we. We may not have hated Christ and his followers with the same passion that Paul had. But before we were reconciled to God through Christ, we were as Romans 5 says: enemies of God.
You didn?t have to persecute Christians to fall into the same category as Paul.
???????? If Christ meant little or nothing to you, you made yourself his enemy.
???????? If sin controlled you, you made yourself an enemy of Christ.
???????? If you thought your own good deeds got you points with God--like going to church--you made yourself an enemy of Christ, because if you trust in your own righteousness, you\'re saying the cross is worthless. You\'re saying, \"I don\'t care about that. I don\'t need Christ.\"
All believers--you and me--were in the same camp with Paul. We were enemies of Christ. But thank God, everything changed because of what Paul says in the 2nd part of his testimony, which is about?the merciful mission of Christ.?
II. The Merciful Mission of Christ (14-15)
A. Christ is the source of overflowing grace, faith, and love (14)
Look at verse 14: \"The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.?
Paul was Christ-enemy #1, and what did Christ pour out on him? 3 things:
????????? Grace: The forgiveness of sins and the free gift of eternal life
????????? Faith: Christ filled Paul?s heart with faith, even though he?d been full of unbelief
????????? Love: Christ filled Paul?s heart with love, even though he?d been full of hatred for him and his followers
This is an amazing transformation! A lot of people today are indifferent about Jesus. \"What do I think of Jesus? Oh, he was a good guy, I guess.\" Paul wasn?t just indifferent to him. He hated Jesus with an unbridled passion. And yet, Christ had mercy on him. What amazing mercy, to show kindness and love to someone who hates you!
The story of Paul?s conversion is told in Acts 9. Paul was on the road to Damascus, on his way to arrest Christians. The resurrected Lord Jesus appeared to him in glory and asked Saul why he was persecuting him. At that point, he learned that Jesus was in fact the true Messiah. And the man who was a bitter enemy of Christ, now became the great apostle Paul?the man of whom Christ said: ?This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.? What an amazing transformation of grace!
I know a Jewish man who in college was a militant atheist. He liked to argue with Christians and ridicule Christianity. And then one day on campus some Christian students came up to him and shared the gospel. The Spirit cut open his hard heart, and he accepted Christ. The very next day he was out in the plaza telling students about Jesus. And he?s been an evangelist for over 30 years now. I look at him like a modern day Paul.
It?s only by the power of the gospel that such a transformation can take place?from a heart full of unbelief and hatred, to a heart full of faith and love?from being a persecutor of Christ, to a proclaimer of Christ.
And it?s only by the sheer mercy of Christ that any of us are saved from God?s righteous judgment. You can?t claim that God looked into your heart and saw something he liked, and said, ?I could really use that person in my kingdom. What a pure heart! What a talented person?and to top it all off--how good looking ! Yeah, that person has what I?m in need of for my kingdom. I think I?ll save him. I think I?ll save her.?
How do we know that it?s only by the sheer mercy and grace of Christ that we?re saved? Verse 15 tells us. ?
B. Christ came into the world to save sinners (15)
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. It?s a merciful mission because we deserve punishment for our rebellion against God. But Christ came for mercy. Salvation is wholly dependent on Christ?s mercy.
This saying is a concise summary of the gospel. And what does he say about the gospel? Three things:
1.????? The gospel is trustworthy. It\'s true and reliable. Not everything you hear is.
2. The message is for all people and it deserves to be accepted by all. It\'s not a take it or leave it kind of thing.
We live in a culture that says all religions basically teach the same thing. And everybody goes to heaven. It\'s like saying, \"Do you like ice cream? We?ve got mint chocolate chip, pecan, Rocky Road, and a bunch of others. You choose. They?re all equally good. In fact, if you want, mix them all together and make your own.\"
But the gospel isn\'t just one kind of religious ice cream that\'s no better or worse than any other ice cream. Truth isn\'t like Coldstone Creamery where you mix and mash as you please.
- It\'s accurate to put it this way: Your heart is failing. You\'re going to die without a heart transplant. Trust me. You need the surgery. Nothing else you do is going to save your life.
- The gospel isn\'t like ice cream. It\'s like a heart transplant. Without it, you die. With it, you live. And there\'s a surgeon I know who\'ll do it for free, right now! Accept the offer! It\'s live or die for you.
If you\'re here today and you\'ve never accepted this gospel message, I\'m here to tell you, the message is true and you should accept it. Receive God\'s mercy, not his judgment.
3. The heart of the gospel is that Christ came into the world to save sinners.
The third thing from this trustworthy statement is this: the heart of the gospel is that Christ came into the world to save sinners. We\'re in the Christmas season. Christmas is about the incarnation: God becoming a man to save sinful humanity.
This is why we talk about a \"mission of mercy\"--because Christ came to save sinners. Let me ask you: who needs to be saved? Someone who\'s doing just fine? No. The person who needs to be saved is the one who\'s in a desperate situation. That\'s all of humanity.
\"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,\" and, \"the wages of sin is death.\" So who gets the death sentence for their sin? All. But! \"The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.\"
Christ came to save sinners. But not everyone\'s convinced they\'re a sinner.
- I have a friend who believes in God. She prays to God. She believes that God is good. And she\'s right about that. But what I don?t think she understands is that God is holy and that she?s a sinner in desperate need of a savior. She wrongly assumes that everything\'s ok between God and her.
- So, she doesn?t accept the true gospel. Because the gospel\'s about a holy God saving bad people. But she doesn\'t think she\'s bad.
But the more you grasp God?s absolute holiness, the more you will grasp your sinfulness and your need to be saved. It?s at this point that Paul?s testimony powerfully points us to the gospel.
????????? As he reflects on the fact that he was an enemy of Christ
????????? As he reflects on the merciful mission of Christ
????????? ?the more he becomes conscious of his own sinfulness.
In verse 15 he calls himself the worst of sinners.
How can Paul say this? Are we to believe that the apostle Paul was claiming to be the worst of all sinners? He doesn?t say, ?I was the worst of all sinners? referring to his life prior to his conversion. He writes, ?I am the worst??
Clearly, Paul wasn\'t the absolute worst sinner in the world. How could he even know that? But, when the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, and you honestly face into it, you don?t bother comparing yourself to anyone else, because in reality, your standard of comparison is Christ, not anyone else. And Christ is sinless.
- A young guy might imagine himself to be a pretty good swimmer, if he\'s competing in swim meets against guys in his own town. But put him in the pool with Michael Phelps and see what he thinks of himself then. He might as well just get out of the pool and spare himself the embarrassment.
As Paul grasped the magnitude of God?s holiness and mercy to him, he became so vividly aware of his sin that he couldn?t think of anyone else being worse than him.
Let that sink in, and all of your spiritual pride should fly out the window.
III. The Perfect Patience of Christ (16-17)
A. Christ?s mercy on Paul is an example to us of Christ?s perfect patience??? (16)???????
Now, why does Paul say that Christ had mercy on him? Why was Christ merciful to Paul? The answer is in verse 16: \"I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.\"
This is the third part of Paul\'s testimony: the perfect patience of Christ.
Christ?s mercy on Paul is an example to us of Christ?s perfect patience. Here is where the personal testimony of Paul moves us into the heart of the gospel. The worst of sinners was shown mercy in order to put Christ?s perfect patience on display. Paul?s salvation is an exhibition of Christ?s patience with sinners.
- It\'s like a sculptor boasting that he can sculpt something beautiful out of anything. To prove his point, he decides to create a sculpture for exhibition. But instead of using clay or marble, he goes to the dump and gets a load of trash, and out of it sculpts something beautiful that everyone marvels at.
This is what the Lord did with Paul. He took a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent, arrogant enemy of Christ and had mercy on him. By that, he displayed his patience toward sinners.
2 Peter 3:9 says: ?The Lord is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but to come to repentance.? He is patient.
It?s like Paul\'s saying: ?Christ was patient with me and had mercy on me, the worst of sinners! If he can show mercy to the worst of sinners, he can show mercy to you.?
There\'s nothing that you\'ve done that puts you beyond the scope of God?s patience and mercy. Look at the people who have received God?s mercy and salvation?the big names, the heroes of the faith:
????????? Abraham. He worshiped false gods before God called him. He was an idolater.
????????? Moses. He murdered a man.?
????????? David. He murdered a man and committed adultery. He shed barrels of men\'s blood.
????????? Isaiah. He was a man with a sinful mouth.
????????? Paul. He was a blasphemer, persecutor, a self-declared enemy of Christ.
Sometimes I think back on things that I?ve said, done, and thought, and I shudder, and shame washes over me. I trust that most of you can relate. But then we remember Paul, who received mercy so that we who were to believe in Christ would understand the perfect patience of Christ. He didn?t want us to perish under judgment, but to believe in him for eternal life. Instead of overflowing shame and guilt, we?re flooded with grace and mercy.
No one is beyond the mercy of Christ. The only ones who won?t be shown mercy are those who refuse mercy. It?s like a feast that all are invited to. Only those who refuse to come will go hungry and die. Will you come to the feast?
The heart of the gospel is that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Paul shares his own testimony to demonstrate that this message is true and trustworthy, deserving of full acceptance.
If you?re not a believer in Jesus, or if you?re a lukewarm, nominal, fence-rider: this gospel message is trustworthy and deserves your full acceptance. Paul?s testimony, in tandem with the gospel, is meant to call you to believe in Jesus for eternal life and receive his mercy. He?s being patient with you, not wanting you to perish, but to come to repentance. If Christ had mercy on Paul, he can have mercy on you too.
If you are a believer, then allow Paul?s testimony to remind you that Christ is full of overflowing grace and mercy for you, a sinner. The next time you begin to feel your past come back to haunt you, or Satan accuse you of guilt, remember that Paul is writing as a changed man, a free man, a new man, because of the mercy of Christ. The gospel declares your freedom and transformation.
Allow Paul?s testimony to help you see the truth and power of the gospel. Let it cause your heart to be filled with wonder and gratitude for the grace and mercy of Christ.
B. The grace and mercy of Christ should move us to praise God (17)
It?s this magnificent grace and mercy of Christ that moves Paul to glorify God with beautiful and exalted praise in verse 17.
It should lead us to do the same.
Paul began his personal testimony with thanksgiving in verse 12. He ends it in verse 17 with this praise that should resound in our own hearts:
?To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen?