— The Preaching and Teaching Ministry of Kevin A. Pierpont

Serving With Purpose – 1 Timothy 1:12-17

In the early 1900’s a London newspaper carried an advertisement that read: “Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” The ad, signed by famous Arctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, brought Inquiries from thousands of men. Commenting on this in his book Be Faithful, Warren W. Wiersbe said, “If Jesus Christ had advertised for workers, the announcement might have read something like this: ‘Men and women wanted for difficult task of helping to build My church. You will often be misunderstood, even by those working with you. You will face constant attack from an invisible enemy. You may not see the results of your labor, and your full reward will not come till after all your work is completed. It may cost you your home, your ambitions, even your life.’” 1

Timothy was a young man who yielded to Christ’s calling to help build His church. That kind of service to Christ is not the most glamorous a person could aspire to. But many dedicate their lives for Christ’s service. And the pay-off is out of this world.

Paul was one called for service and yielded to Christ through the incident on the Damascus road. As we look at 1 Timothy 1:12-17, we’ll see that in light of Paul’s calling he speaks to Timothy about his present, his past and his purpose.

12  And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13  although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14  And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15  This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16  However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. 17  Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Paul’s Present (12)

Note with me Paul’s present situation in verse 12. What is Paul’s source of strength? In verse 12 Paul says, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me” or “strengthened me” (NASB).

Paul says “our Lord gives me strength”. Paul doesn’t take the credit for his strength. He is giving Jesus Christ the credit for his strength. He is not attributing his strength to the fact that he graduated number one in his class at the school for the Apostles or from reading 12 Steps to Becoming a Better Apostle. He credits Jesus Christ with the strength given him.

In Acts 20 Paul tells us he was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. He says in verses 22 and 23 that…

22  “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23  “except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.

Paul says he’s been warned by the Holy Spirit to expect hardships and imprisonment. What kind of a person could handle being warned that he was sure to be despised and jailed and then continues on in the task at hand? What kind of a super-human would it take to be able to face such trials? The good news is that it doesn’t take a super-human. It takes a spirit-filled human. Paul is quick to give the credit to Jesus Christ our Lord for the strength he had, strength to face sure trials.

What Paul does here is remind Timothy that he will be able to face the troubles that are certain to come and he does so with the example of his own life.

Could this be what’s missing in so many Christians these days? The Christian life isn’t just something you wear to church on Sunday. The Christian life is a daily lifestyle. And for that Christian lifestyle to be an accurate expression of what God would have displayed in our lives, the strength of the Lord must be present. Not the fact that you have been raised well or college trained or bring home a six-figure income. We have been warned that we are certain to face troubles. We can only be worry free if we place our hope in the Lord who gives us strength. And because we are reminded in Philippians 2:13 that “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” we ought to be thankful for the strength the Lord gives as Paul was.

Paul says he was also set apart for service. Still in verse 12 “He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” The Lord considered Paul faithful. The Greek word for faithful refers to one who kept his pledged faith, one who was worthy of trust, one who was reliable. Paul was set apart for service because the Lord considered him faithful. We see this principle in Matthew 25:23

23  “… ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things…”

Involvement in the ministry of Jesus Christ is a good thing. It is something the Lord expects of His children. But we must prove ourselves faithful if He is to give us greater responsibility in the work of the Church. As we prove ourselves faithful, the Lord will make greater opportunities for ministry available to us.

One of the ways we prove ourselves faithful is in the way we do the ministry already in our care.

Jim Cymbala, Pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle and Author of Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, says…

“For all of us involved in preaching the gospel, performing music, publishing Christian materials, and all the rest,… Jesus is not terribly impressed with religious commercialism. He is concerned not only whether we’re doing God’s work, but also how and why we’re doing it. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, his main questions for me will have to do not with the growth or the budget of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, but with why I pastored this church (and) in what spirit.” “If you sing in a choir, the question is not just if you’re on your note; it’s why you are singing at all.” “If you teach a class, are you doing it with a heart that radiates God’s love for the students, or for some other reason?” 2

So how do we do our singing? Is it with a desire to exalt Christ or exalt self? How do we do our teaching, our cleaning, our witnessing, our serving? Is our aim to make Christ known and exalt His name in the eyes of those we minister to or is it to glorify self. Does our service say, “Look at me” or does it say, “Look at Him?”

Notice also in verse 12 that God appointed Paul to service. The word here is ministry but it really means service. The ministry Paul was appointed to was service to God. This is a key factor in any ministry that is to be a success. God is the one who does the appointing and the work He appoints is one of service.

Is there a ministry that God has called you to that you have refused to be a part of? There are many things that God has appointed us to as believers, – if we are parents he has appointed us to nurture our children and raise them in the admonition of the Lord. If we are husbands he has commanded us to love our wives as Christ loved the church. If we are part of a family we have opportunities serve that the Lord has appointed us to.

We need to make sure we are not neglecting our duties as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and children.

In our larger family in the body of Christ, we need to be sure we are faithfully doing our part as well. What has God appointed you to? Are you faithfully serving Him in those areas?

Understand though that it’s possible there are some things in the church He hasn’t called you to do. This is something I find I have to balance in my own life. There are many things I may feel need to be done in the church, but because of my God given responsibilities there are some things I shouldn’t busy myself with especially if it hinders my preparation for the teaching of the Word.

We’ve considered Paul’s present – at the time this epistle was written, which included his source of strength and his being set apart to ministry and service. Now let’s move on to verses 13-15 and consider Paul’s past.

Paul’s Past (13-15)

Look at the reputation Paul had before he became a believer. In verse 13 he admits he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, an insolent (violent) man and in verse 15 he calls himself the worst of all sinners.

We also get a clear picture of the kind man that Paul was before his conversion, from Acts 8:1-3

8:1  Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2  And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3  As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.

Paul, then Saul, was persecuting the church. He dragged men and women off to prison. He definitely had no nice guy reputation. Paul described himself as the “worst of sinners”. And when it comes right down to it we all fall into the category of sinners. We are born into this world a sinner. In verse 15 Paul doesn’t say, “I was” the worst of sinners, he says “I am.”

The best part is that Paul’s story doesn’t end there. Yes he did have a reputation for being a rotten sinner, but let’s look at his reconciliation – the point at which he came into a proper relationship with the Lord. Look again at our text in 1 Timothy 1:13

13  although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

Wiersbe says  “…the basic causes of his godless behavior were “ignorance” and “unbelief.” Even though Saul of Tarsus was a brilliant man and well educated his mind was blinded from the truth.“ 3

Have you ever met someone like that? An individual that may be extremely intelligent but when it comes to things of God they are ignorant, in the dark?

But look, Paul was shown mercy. He says in verse 13 “I obtained mercy” and in the next verse he tells us how.

14  And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

Grace was poured out on Paul in abundance and not just grace but faith and love found in Jesus Christ. For all of us who have received Christ as Lord and Savior, the same grace, faith and love has been poured out on us. Notice that Paul says this grace along with faith and love are found in Christ. There are those we come in contact with who live their lives based on good intentions. Some of them are involved in religious endeavors or community activity. Many are involved in doing good things. But many of these people are lost and it’s because they do not have a personal relationship with Christ the only giver of grace, faith and love.

Verse 15 says…

15  This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

Early in the 16th century, England was visited by Erasmus, one of the greatest scholars of the Renaissance. While he was at Cambridge, he made a profound impression on at least one of its scholars. Thomas Bilney had been feeling the emptiness of the religion he had been taught. He felt that Erasmus had knowledge of a secret that was hidden from English eyes, and vowed he would purchase every book that came from the great master’s pen. Erasmus had translated the New Testament into Latin, so Bilney purchased a copy of it. He summarized its effect upon him by saying: “My soul was sick and I longed for peace, but nowhere could I find it. I went to the priests, and they appointed me penances and pilgrimages. Yet by these things my soul was not set free. But at last I heard of Jesus. It was then, when first the New Testament was set forth by Erasmus, that the light came. I bought the book, being drawn by the Latin rather than by the Word of God, for at that time I knew not what the Word of God meant. On my first reading I chanced upon these words, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” This one sentence through God’s inward working did so light up my poor bruised spirit that the very bones within me leaped for joy and gladness. It was as if, after a long dark night, day had suddenly broke.” Bilney knew himself to be a sinner and trusted Christ to save Him. The indwelling Christ gave him the assurance that his sins were truly forgiven, and he gave his life to unfolding to others the unsearchable riches of Christ. 4

That is the message we must deliver to the lost that think they find peace with God by being good citizens. We’re all sinners and Jesus Christ came to save us. You must trust Christ. You cannot trust in your own works. Your works are worthless to save you. But Jesus saves in spite of our worthlessness.

We’ve discussed Paul’s past and considered his reputation before coming to Christ and the fact that he was reconciled to God. Let’s continue on in our text and look at verses 16-17 as we consider Paul’s purpose.

Paul’s Purpose (16-17)

Paul’s purpose in life was to be an example to those who would believe on Christ and receive eternal life. Verse 16…

16  However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.

Paul says; I was shown mercy so that I could be an example to others.

Charles Hadon Spurgeon said “a man’s life is always more forcible than his speech. When men take stock of him they reckon his deeds as dollars and his words as pennies. If his life and doctrine disagree the mass of onlookers accept his practice and reject his preaching.”

Those who knew Paul well and the kind of man he had been were probably amazed at the transformation that took place in his life when he became a believer. What an amazing testimony Paul had. If God could transform a man like Paul, then there was hope for the vilest of sinners. We see clearly one of the purposes for God, in his mercy, reaching down and saving Paul and that was for him to be an example to others to turn to Christ.

Our own testimonies can be a powerful example to those we come into contact with so that they too will believe on Christ and receive eternal life.

There’s another purpose in verse 17 of Paul’s changed life and one we should all share – that of exalting God.

17  Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Paul exalts God. Note the word glory. In the Greek it is the word “doxa” and means, a thing belonging to God or the kingly majesty, which belongs to him as supreme.

Michael Hodgin has this to say about this idea of glory to God.

Praise is derived from the Latin word “preisier” which means to prize — praise is an expression of approval, a worship, and a valuation of that which has worth or merit. To praise is to prize; it is to glorify that thing or that one worthy of glory and honor. To the degree that something or someone is worthy of glory and honor — to that degree praise is due. God is of infinite value and glory; he is due our infinite honor, our infinite praise. The Greeks used the term “doxa” to denote this response that is due God. “Doxa” is the root of doxology — a song or expression of praise and worship. Doxology actually comes from two Greek words: “doxa,” meaning praise and “logos,” meaning logical message. How appropriate! This means that “doxology” literally defined is the logical expression of the emotion of praise. Head and heart are merged in worship through the doxology. The classical Greek philosophers — who showed great reverence to philosophical pursuits — used the word to express the holding to or the entertaining of a philosophical opinion. The Biblical writers used doxologies primarily to praise God for who he is and what he does. The Bible is filled with doxologies by men and by angels. The early church and the church throughout the ages sing and recite various doxologies. As a matter of fact, our primary purpose as Christians is to glorify God in our hearts and in our minds. This is the logic of praise. 5

Our lives are to bring glory to God. Paul wanted to glorify God and that should be our desire as well. Notice in verse 17, the praise that pours forth from Paul toward God. He has just been recalling his past and the glorious grace and mercy of God that saved him, and now he can’t help but break forth in praise for the Lord who has worked in his life in such a mighty way.

How about us? Do we stop and consider how God has saved us and delivered us from death? Do we praise Him and thank Him and acknowledge what He has done for us? All of us who are believers should make it our practice to exalt God just as Paul does here.

Paul’s present included his source of strength and his being set apart for service. His past and the vile reputation he had, was changed through the glorious reconciliation he experienced when he became a believer. Paul’s purpose was two fold, to be an example and to exalt God.

I want our study to be practical for our lives today. So here are some things we can take from this passage today and apply to our lives.

  1. Are you seeking for strength from the Lord? You will find it by reading God’s word, fellowshipping with other believers, praying and confessing sin in your life. As you are rightly related to the Lord, he will equip you and give you the strength necessary to do His work. Fathers, is the Lord your strength in directing your children? Wives, is the Lord your strength to help your husbands? Children, is the Lord your strength to obey your parents? Believer is the Lord your strength to minister to others in the body of Christ? Is He your strength to minister to your lost neighbor, friend or coworker?
  2. Are you faithful in the ministries that the Lord has appointed you to? All of us have been given special opportunities of service for the Lord. Are you doing those acts of service to glorify Christ or to glorify yourself?
  3. Have you been reconciled to God? If you are here today and have never accepted Christ as your Savior, we would gladly share with you how you can be reconciled to God just as Paul was.
  4. Are you taking advantage of opportunities to use your own lives as an example to others to show them how they can become a believer and receive eternal life?
  5. Are you exalting God? Is praise your practice or do you prefer to grumble and complain?

We have been challenged with many things from the Word of God today. Let’s do as James instructed and not simply be hearers of the word but doers as well. Let’s take time throughout this week to reflect on this passage and truly examine our own lives to see if there are things the Lord is leading us to change.

1 Our Daily Bread
2 Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind Fresh Fire, pg. 69
3 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2, Pg. 212
4 In Christ, Radio Bible Class Publications, pp. 11-12
5 (Adapted by Michael Hodgin from Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, published by G. & C. Merriam Company, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1981 & A Greek-English Lexicon Based on the German Work of Francis Passow, by Henry George Liddell & Robert Scott, published by Harper and Brothers Publishers, New York, 1856)