Why the Gospel Matters to Me
In 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Paul writes about his own salvation. It is to help the newly-installed pastor Timothy understand what is most important about leading his congregation.
12 I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry— 13 one who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man. But I received mercy because I acted out of ignorance in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord overflowed, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate His extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
The gospel applies to three types of people: those who haven’t heard it, those who have rejected it, and those who have accepted it. For each one of us, we need it and we need to respond to it. Jerry Bridges once wrote, “The gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history.” Paul’s testimony of thankfulness for the gospel certainly uncovers a similar perspective.
1. We are clueless unbelievers.
On our best days, we barely know what we are doing. If you doubt me, just drive in rush hour traffic while there is a thunderstorm. Paul knew that in his bid to be a better person and give Israel prominence again, he had miserably failed at life. As a blasphemer, Paul had denied and insulted God’s sovereign place in his life. Like Paul, we all act out of ignorance but God reveals our depravity. Assessing his own state of affairs, Paul looks around at the sinners of the world and says, “I am the worst of them” (v. 15). We are clueless about the insult we make against God. But, in His mercy, God alerts us to reality.
2. We have a sacrificial Savior.
The phrase “sacrificial Savior” seems redundant… until you consider some of our modern superheroes. For instance, we prefer heroes like Superman where bullets just bounce off and he is never scarred by battle. He is impervious to all harm. God sacrificed His imperviousness to become a fragile man and experience an undeserved death. Again, we turn to verse 15 to see the truth: “Christ came into the world to save sinners.” He did not arrive to establish a better government, protect your rights, or make you a nice neighbor. Instead, He arrived to die. At the time of Jesus’ life, there were numerous leaders in the Roman Empire who desired to rule. To do so, they had to be ruthless and often kill their rivals. The one thing that they all had in common with Jesus was the idea that every problem in the world can be solved with a bit of bloodshed. The only question is this: whose blood will be spilled? Jerry Bridges once again helps us to get scale of it all when he wrote, “Grace is never cheap. It is absolutely free to us, but infinitely expensive to God.”
3. He has called us by an extraordinary grace.
It is grace that reveals our sinfulness and shows us our need. It is grace that extends Christ’s sacrifice to our need. It is grace that helps us understand the mercy we receive when God’s wrath is turned away. Grace has a depth to it that we will experience forever. On your worst days, you are not beyond God’s reach. On your best days, you still need salvation. The grace of Christ has not an iota of ordinary element to it. He works in a way that has eternal implications so that we might be saved and might be used in the mission of saving others.