Paul wanted to encourage Timothy in his difficult assignment in Ephesus, and he let him know how highly he regarded his own calling to serve. It was an inestimable blessing and privilege (12).
Paul was quick to give his testimony and glorify the ‘’only God’’ who saved him (17). He recognised that he was undeserving and he overflowed with thankfulness. He had no reason to boast. The passage opens with these words, ‘’I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus…’’ The Message. This is where we need to live our lives, in a place of humble, adoring gratitude, low at the feet of Jesus, prostrate before the throne of God. Paul recognised that the very ‘’faith and love’’ he possessed (faith to trust Christ, and love for Him and His church) were sheer gifts (14). He was not a ‘self-made’ Christian. No one is or ever could be. ‘’Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus.’’ The Message.
The central verse in this section, the pivot on which everything turns, is surely (15).’’Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof – Public Sinner Number One – of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy.’’ The Message. ’ Paul had come to ‘fully accept’ this ‘’trustworthy’’ truth, as the ‘New International Version’ of the Bible puts it, and it had changed his life. It was the heart of ‘’the glorious gospel of the blessed God’’ (11) which had been entrusted to Paul. This was his message (1 Corinthians 2:2). (By the way, the word ‘’glorious’’ in that verse can refer to the content of the gospel, or to the One who gave it, i.e. God Himself. In the context the second possibility seems to fit better.)
Paul recognised that his rescue by God, through His Son Jesus, was because of ‘’mercy’’ (13, 16) and ‘’grace’’ (14). He was struck by the abundance of God’s provision. It’s been pointed out that God in His grace gives us what we don’t deserve (salvation); and in His mercy He does not give us what we do deserve (punishment and eternal judgment). Twice Paul says, ‘’I was shown mercy…’’ He knew that but for this generosity of God everything would be up for him. But God’s mercy took into account that Paul (then Saul) didn’t fully know what he was doing in his violent and murderous former life (13). ‘’…I was treated mercifully because I didn’t know what I was doing – didn’t know Who I was doing it against!’’ The Message.
And so Paul became, you might say, ‘Exhibit A’ of the gracious and merciful saving work of God (16). ‘’And now he shows me off – evidence of his endless patience – to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever.’’ The Message. If God could save Saul of Tarsus, whose life could He not turn around.
In a sense, Paul’s story is also every Christian’s. The details of our lives may differ, but none of us could be saved apart from the mercy and grace of God. And He does not hold the details of our past lives against us when we are in Christ. Our place is with Paul, on the ground before the shining throne of God. The cross spells the death of all pride. It is not fitting before Calvary love. Paul never forgot the wonder of God’s choice of him. It will do us all good to lie and soak in this ‘bath’ of Paul’s testimony.
Prayer: Lord, may I never lose the wonder of your precious love for me.