Who is the worst person you know? There was a pastor who did not just have one person… but an entire congregation of people that were just needling him endlessly. Finally, he could not take it any more and this is what happened.
It’s a funny take on what plenty of us would like to say. We just want to know: “Dan, what is your deal?!?” But, at the end of it all, we’re all Dan. At least, that is what Paul reminds us about in 1 Timothy 1:12-20. The passage can be a turning point for us. It drives us to recognize who we are and who we can become. But the linchpin of on the hinge of it all is found in verse 15. It says, “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.” It is our core belief. The Messiah has broken into history through His incarnation so that rotten sinners like us can be reconciled to the perfect God. It is the simplest and most complex message in existence. Paul moves through this passage helping us to see our turning point through three ideas.
1. Your past describes you but it does not define you.
Paul was the worst, the chief, the dirtiest, rottenest, and nastiest of sinners. He was The Grinch of the spiritual world. Paul blasphemed (make the sacred message into something to commonly dispose of), persecuted the church, and arrogantly believed he was fine with Christ. It is a past that he told and used to show God’s grace. Why? As the Spirit of the West character in Rango says: “No man can walk out of his own story.” It is who you are. But your past is not all of who you are. The super-abundant grace of God (verse 14) has flooded your life and defined you through His redeeming work. God’s ever-present grace overtakes your sinful past.
2. Your salvation is for God’s glory and others’ benefit.
When we are saved, it is for us but not only for us. Verse 16 teaches that Paul knew his salvation was for the purpose of God’s displaying His own character and patience. As a Christian, you are a living example for the lost that God will show patience and mercy. Every salvation gives hope to those in need of the same. Paul, me, and you are saved so that God’s glory can be put on display. His definition of grace is shown when my sin is washed away.
Your salvation is an example for the next horrible, terrible, awful sinner that they are not abandoned outside of God’s love. God’s mission did include you but it did not end with you. As the Ancient One in the move Doctor Strange reminds him: “Arrogance and fear still keep you from leaning the simplest and most significant lesson of all: It’s not about you.” When we see the doxology-like statement in verse 17, we see that even our salvation is an opportunity to praise God for His greatness and how He works in all people. Our experience of God’s character in salvation should drive us to want others to experience the same.
3. The gospel ministry is the greatest and most serious calling we receive.
In verses 18-20, Timothy’s calling to ministry is described in mysterious and serious terms. It came by the spiritual work of prophecy. It involves the serious defense of the faith against those who shipwreck themselves. Paul delivers this instruction to Timothy so Timothy can deliver it to the Ephesian church he leads. The charge to Timothy is guidance for all of us in the church. We must be active; “fight the good fight.” We must be mature; “having faith and a good conscience.” We must not be those guys; Hymenaeus and Alexander who were being disciplined for blasphemy.
The turning point we experience is for your personal salvation. But it is for so much more. I would encourage you as I have encouraged my own church that God’s Spirit is leading us to something more than just behavior modification, religious entertainment, and spiritual academia. Trust everything to God through the gospel and commit your life to nothing but God working through you for the gospel.