Grace Causes a Complete Turnabout
Text: 1 Tim 1:12-17
Few Could Exceed Saul in His Opposition to Christ Prior to His Conversion
In 1 Tim 1:13 Paul calls himself a blasphemer (blásph¢mos which is derived from bláptœ, to harm, or bláx, stupid, and phêm¢, report). Either derivative fully describes Paul’s activity before becoming a Christian, although he had been trained under one of the greatest religious teachers in Jerusalem, Gamaliel (Acts 5:34; 22:3). Paul showed his ignorance not only by rejecting Christ Himself, but also by attempting to arrest Christians and cast them into prison (Acts 9:1,2). He was tireless in his purpose to defame Christ and His followers.
Paul next describes himself as a persecutor (diôkt¢s, one who pursues others). Meaning to harass or maltreat, this particular Greek word is used only in 1 Tim 1:13. Speaking about himself as an unbeliever, he wrote in Gal 1:13: “For ye have heard of my conversation [conduct] in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God and wasted it.” The verb translated “wasted” is epórthoun, which means to destroy. In Acts 9:21, the same verb is used describing his persecution of the church in Jerusalem. Likewise, he kept the clothes of those who were stoning Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:58).
Finally, in verse 13 Paul refers to himself as injurious (hubristên, indicating a person who abuses his power). In Matt 22:6, the verb form is used preceding murder. Thus, the progression of sin goes from giving evil report to actually harming those who represent good. Evil is never static.
But God’s Mercy Reached Him
The miraculous conjunction “but” contrasts Paul’s inexcusable behavior with God’s inexplicable mercy.
“I obtained mercy” in Greek is ¢leêth¢n, the second aorist passive of eleéœ, to show mercy.
- The verb form used indicates that God took the initiative in granting mercy (Acts 9:3-8).
- God acted suddenly (Acts 22:6).
- Jesus’ call to Paul was accepted in a way that any man who is a stranger to Christ can believe and be saved (Acts 9:5,6).
- The mercy God showed Paul is irreversible (John 10:28,29). We, likewise, are secure in Christ.
Mercy (éleos) is that miraculous power of Christ to eradicate or alleviate the consequences of our sin. God’s mercy made it possible for Paul to be used by Him in spite of his terrible past.
The mercy of God became effective in Paul’s life because he acted in ignorance and unbelief: “Because I did it ignorantly in unbelief ” (v. 13). It is not so, however, for those who sin knowingly and willfully (Heb 10:26).
The Grace of God Changed Paul (1 Tim 1:14)
Whereas God’s mercy deals with the consequence of sin, His grace actually changes the sinner in order to reconcile him in God.
Paul experienced not only God’s mercy (v. 13) but also His grace, and in great abundance (v. 14). Huperpleonázœ means to superabound and occurs only here. There is enough grace for the worst sinner, and then a surplus.
God’s grace affected two great changes in Paul’s life: “faith and love.” Can such a turnabout be seen in our lives?