Author: Ron Graham
Verse by verse study of Paul's first letter to Timothy. In this lesson we examine chapter 1 verses 12-20 looking at Paul the sinner’s experience of Christ.
These three verses are like a sandwich. Verses 12 and 14 are the slices of bread. They speak of the love and grace of the Lord Jesus which he showed in his attitude toward Paul. They wrap around verse 13, the filling of the sandwich. Verse 13 speaks of Paul's credentials to be chosen for salvation and service.
Paul's credentials are not very good to say the least. He was a blasphemer, persecutor, and violent agressor. He was an active enemy of Jesus. The best Paul can offer are two qualities: (1) He was ignorant, (2) He was unbelieving.
Imagine that Paul was applying for the job of an apostle of Christ, and Jesus was interviewing him.
Jesus: "What fits you to be a minister in my church, Paul?"
Paul: "Well I used to blaspheme your name and persecute your church. I killed and jailed an awful lot of Christians."
Jesus: "Good! Now tell me, Paul, how well versed are you in my gospel?"
Paul: "I'm ignorant of it and don't believe it."
Jesus: "Very well Paul, you've got the job!".
Doesn't seem to make much sense, does it? Paul seems a most unlikely candidate even for mere membership of Christ's church, let alone leadership. Yet Christ's attitude to Paul transformed Paul into one of Christ's most faithful and worthy servants.
These verses show how God's grace can turn things upside down. The very thing that seemed to make him a most unlikely candidate makes him, by God's grace, the most likely candidate.
Here is the logic: Christ came into the world to save sinners. I am the chief of sinners. Therefore Christ came to save me foremost of all.
What better example of grace and mercy and patience could Jesus give us than the way he treated Paul? He is the Saviour not just of good men, but even more so of wicked men.
Of course, when confronted by Christ, Paul had no sensible alternative but to believe, admit his error, and be transformed. But he thanks Christ for taking hold of him (Philippians 3:12) and strengthening him to make the transformation.
Christ did not treat Paul with partiality. He will give the same consideration and opportunity to any sinner to take hold of eternal life, although he may do so with less drama.
Verse 17 is a doxology (a word of praise) to Christ.
The last of these is really a commandment. Men ought to give glory to Christ, and honour him in their hearts, their words, and their lives. This is really what Paul is urging and charging Timothy to do.
Timothy has a specific charge to remain in Ephesus and guard the church against false teachers. However, that's just Timothy's small corner, that's just Timothy's personal time and place and opportunity to give glory and honour to Christ the King eternal and the great Saviour.
We each have our different small corners, our individual tasks, our unique place. However, we all have one common purpose, to glorify the Lamb (Revelation 5:9-13).
One day we will leave our small corners, and be in a bright new world. But we will never stop giving honour and glory to Jesus. We will do that for ever and ever amen.
So Paul entrusts all this to Timothy. Paul regards this young man as his son in the faith, so he already has confidence in him. However, there had apparently been some inspired utterances made about Timothy which caused Paul to be even more confident in his trust of Timothy.
Paul characterises the work of the ministry as a fight. It is no easy work. It's a battle, because one has to contend with the enemy. Sometimes the enemy is within. Sometimes the enemy is without. Often the enemy has a foot in both camps.
Paul names two particular enemies giving the church in Ephesus trouble. They were Hymenaeus and Alexander. They are mentioned again in Paul’s next letter (2Timothy 2:17, 2Timothy 4:14, Acts 19:33).
Hymenaeus and Alexander apparently became converts to the faith, but they went astray and became spiritually shipwrecked.
Paul must have thought of himself when he said, "They must be taught not to blaspheme" (1Timothy 1:13,20).
So Paul’s "delivering them over to Satan" is not a hypocritical, vindictive, or unkind thing to do, but something that hopefully will turn out to be for their benefit (cf 1Corinthians 5:5).
In handing these men over to Satan, one measure Paul would take is to stop praying for their forgiveness and protection (1John 5:16).
Hard this last resort may be, but let them experience what it is like to be a sinner left alone in the hands Satan. Let them compare that with the experience of being a sinner in the hands of Jesus. Maybe then they'll realise whose friend and whose enemy they should be.