1Timothy 1.12-20 Best Sinner

May 9, 2010 Series: 1 Timothy

Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Timothy 1:12–1:20

1Timothy 1.12-20

May 9, 2010

Sam Ford


Pastors and Wolves

Last week, we started working through Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy, a pastor of the church in the city ofEphesus.  It is clear that Timothy feels too young, ill-equipped, and inexperienced to fulfill the role God has clearly given him.  As we saw last week, the weight of leadership has become too much, he’s ready to leave, maybe go drive a hay wagon back in Lystra or some other less visible and less demanding job where more people like you than hate you.


Like a Father, Paul encourages him to stay the course and charges him to fight, not for good behavior or for good relationships, but for GOSPEL TRUTH which transforms all behavior and relationships beyond good to godly.  As people pastoring our own families, friends, or communities, we are charged with the same.  A word of caution, this is not a charge for pastors or anyone to become Wolf-hunters, marking every person they don’t like, or has caused a problem in their “church” as a wolf.  It is also not an excuse to avoid dialoguing with people about difficult things because you feel threatened by strong personalities or difficult questions.  There is definitely a difference between seeking out wolves and being aware of them.   One approach leads us to find and pick unnecessary fights; the other ensures you’re ready and equipped for the fight when it comes to you.


As we continue in the first chapter, we see that Paul is going to provide a bit of personal history to not only authenticate his position as an apostle, but to evidence the power of the gospel to redeem even the worst of wolves.  READ 1st Timothy 1.12-20


V. 12 Thanks for Strength and Call – MADE A MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL

12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,


Thankful for Strength

Following a strong charge to defend gospel-doctrine, to do something that Timothy feels incapable of doing, Paul transitions into some words of encouragement in explaining that the strength to fulfill this charge will come from Jesus.  Even when we receive clarity of what we are supposed to do, we must never become so wise or confident in ourselves, that we aren’t always desperately dependent on Jesus for all things.  If you believe that completing the task set before you is dependent on your ability to lead, your ability to control, your ability to grow, then you will fail.  You will either fail to accomplish the task and weep OR accomplish the task and boast in yourself, and in both cases you’ll fail to glorify God.  When we believe that we live and work according to our own strength, we rob God of his glory.  The sin in us leads us to feel like Timothy, judging the potential success or failure of a task or role by what I see, think, or feel.


My Appointment

Jesus gives Paul strength because it is Jesus who appointed him to service in the first place.   I believe that God equips and strengthens those he calls.   At the same time, God doesn’t call those he doesn’t equip.  In other words, if he has called you to a particular role or task, he has given or WILL give you what you need to fulfill his call (Husband, Father, Wife, Mother, Man, Woman). Relative to ministry, as Paul notes here, through Acts 29 I meet many people who desire to be in full-time ministry.  It is hard for people to qualify what that means exactly, so they’ll usually use a word like call.  But I have learned that many people have a very strong and good desire—but it is one that is not necessarily from God. There are many who take risks, pursue missions, or jobs that God has not told you to, but instead of listening to wisdom, you quote Philippians 4.13 to yourself over and over again:  13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  The woefully abused verse is not about I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT because I have Jesus, it the context it is I can be CONTENT to live and thrive in what Jesus has given me. 


V. 13-14 Paul’s Resume of Rebellion and Salvation – PRE-GOSPEL DAYS

Paul then proceeds to demonstrate how Jesus called and appointed him—one of the worst wolves of the time—to show how unlikely and undeserving he is to be in that position.  Unlike the wolves, Paul here emphasizes how he views himself in relationship to God as opposed to how he views himself in relationship to others.  His thankfulness is born out of remembering where God has taken in from regardless of where he is taking him to: (VERSE 13)  13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.


My Formerly

Paul describes his own life prior to meeting with Jesus as first a blasphemer—one who reviled or profaned the name of God.  Paul was a Pharisee who was the son of a Pharisee, a self-described Hebrew of Hebrews who loved the loved the law of God.  But he hated Jesus and those who followed them.  He was violent and wrathful, showing mercy to none.  In a defense before a King he again gave his testimony, Acts 26:9-11 9 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.  What were you formerly?  Do you remember the “old self” that died with Jesus? Paul is writing 15-20 years after his experience…things have changed.  Has there been a dramatic change or does your “formerly” only go back a week?


Acted ignorantly

And Paul’s situation was a bit unique.  In describing his “PRE-JESUS” behavior, he says he acted ignorantly in unbelief.  In Numbers 15, the law taught us that there is a difference between willful/intentional sin and ignorant/unintentional sin.  Paul’s case is a prime example for these wolves because THEY’RE THINKING THE SAME WAY.  When he persecuted the church (in his state of unbelief) he actually believed he was “offering service to God.” The truth was, he was the worst wolf alive, and he needed the gospel.  And when he encountered the gospel, the grace of God overflowed in him, God didn’t give him what he deserved.  God was not fair with us.  Every day we have been given, every breath, we do not deserve.  We are entitled to nothing, owed nothing, and yet given everything.  For Paul, grace showed him how sinful he was, and yet, how much God loved him, that he would pull him away from his pursuit of sin.   


V. 15-16 Paul’s Continuing Sanctification – LIVING THE GOSPEL

That describes Paul’s first encounter with the gospel, but we never stop mining the depths of the gospel, that is why we never stop preaching the cross.  The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom; we are not saved by the gospel and then changed by obedience though you’d think that by some of the sermons you hear preached today.  Accepting the gospel itself transforms us (II Cor. 5.17), then meditating on the gospel is the way we grow (Gal. 3:1-3) how we are renewed (Col. 1:6).  The gospel the solution to each problem and the power through every barrier (Rom. 1:16-17).  We must never stop preaching the cross to ourselves first…it is why it is my TATTOO verse. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.


The Foremost Sinner

This expression “Trustworthy saying” calls attention to an important point. It is a phrase only used in the pastoral letters (five times). It identifies what were probably familiar, recognized summaries of key doctrines.  In this case, the saying is a compact summary of the gospel:  JESUS CAME TO SAVE SINNERS.  If you have confessed Jesus as savior, you have first confessed yourself as SINNER.  Paul is constantly aware of his own unworthiness, his own rebellion, and his own brokenness.  1Corinthians 15.9-10 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God….Ephesians 3.8 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,


Beyond being the “least” among the apostles, Paul says that he is the BEST, the CHIEF, the FOREMOST SINNER.  In other words, he is the worst sinner he can imagine.  Until we choose to believe that we are the worst sinner in the room, we do not really love God and therefore we can never really love people“I AM THE WORST SINNER.”  That doesn’t silence us from speaking truth, but it filters the truth we speak.  Genuine growth in Jesus means we become increasingly aware of the depth of our sinfulness, the darkness of our thoughts, not only in hating what and how we should not, but also in not loving as we should.  We are so sinful, we become prideful when we THINK we are not sinning.  The deeper you believe and live the gospel, the more you see your own sin.   Finally, Paul is convinced that the reason God showed him mercy was not because Paul is a walking billboard for the grace, mercy, and patience of God.


Wolves & Sin

Wolves, on the other hand, are not interested in glorifying God OR publicly declaring their sin like Paul.  They admit nothing.  In fact, wolves are often blind to their own sin, but not to everyone else’s

  • A self-centered wolf view themselves only in comparison to others, either as a victim or a saint, or perhaps better described as a victim AND a saint.  They stop preaching the gospel to themselves, because they are so focused on preaching it to others.   
  • A gospel-centered individual, view themselves solely in relationship to and comparison with Jesus.  They constantly preach the gospel to themselves. 


Paul’s is not suffering from a lack of self-esteem (which the dictionary says is actually self-pride).  Paul sees himself exactly as we all should as it will impact how we interact with everyone.  John Stott wrote, “[Paul] had not investigated the sinful and criminal records of all the inhabitants of the world, carefully compared himself with them, and concludes that he was worse than them all.  The truth is rather that when we are convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit, an immediate result is that we GIVE UP all such comparisons. Paul was so vividly aware of his own sin that he could not conceive that anybody could be worse.  It is the language of every sinner whose conscience has been awakened and disturbed by the Holy Spirit.” (John Stott).


V. 17 Doxology

17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Then, in verse 17, we see what naturally results from an encounter with the gospel, from a proper view of our sin and God’s love.  Praise.  When we come face to face with our depravity, we come face to face with the cross.  In essence, the cross leads us to our sin but the cross leads us away from despair and pride and into worship of the King.  It is not a one-time prayer accepting Jesus as Savior.  He is also King, and he reigns, revealing the different parts of our lives where we don’t believe the gospel..   


V. 18-20  Wage the Good Warfare

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.


A charge to wage war

After demonstrating through his own life the power of the gospel AND teaching Timothy the attitude of humility with which he must pastor, Paul charges him again.  He does not have a choice to remain neutral on this matter—he must act.  He describes his charge to act as something to he entrusts, something Paul delivers for him to guard and protect that does not belong to him.  And knowing that Timothy is going to feel inadequate to carry the weight of this charge, TO DECLARE and WAGE WAR, Paul reminds him to rest, as a fighter, as a leader, as a pastor, as a parent, as a man, as a women, in God’s faithfulness to his call, and not his own perceived potential for “success”.  2Corinthians 3.4-6 4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.


Faith and a Good Conscience

It is noteworthy that Timothy is urged to fight, regardless if he “wins.”  And he is told HOLD THE LINES of faith and good conscience.  A conscience is that God-given voice that ALL PEOPLE have that reacts to our own behavior.  Romans 2.15 says that 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them .  So the conscience either ACCUSES or EXCUSES what we do.  In other words, it tells us whether we are doing right or wrong according to God’s law—when we sin.  Timothy is instructed to hold to a good conscience, meaning, a conscience governed by Scripture, leading to godly behavior—especially when dealing with false teachers (it is easy to make it personal and to do things you regret).  


Wolves who Reject Conscience

John Calvin wrote that, “A bad conscience is the mother of all heresies.”  Theological error that which leads you away from Gospel Doctrine, has its growth in emotion and intellect, but its roots in immorality. In other words, People often teach wrong doctrine to ACCOMMODATE their sinful behavior.  We all know once-solid Christian men, women, leaders, followers of Jesus, who have stubborn disobedience in their lives, have turned aside from truth.  Many of you were those people and, by grace, was granted repentance. 


Paul mentions two men by name who had REJECTED a good conscience.  Instead a good godly conscience restraining their sin, their sin governed their consciences.  These kinds of false teachers, wolves, have not devotion to maintaining a godliness, no commitment to what the Bible teaches, no pursuit of the glory of God especially if that means DENYING the SELF.   Belief no longer dictates their behavior, rather, behavior dictates belief.  And this kind of denial will always result in what Paul describes as a ship-wreck of faith.  ***NO ONE INTENDS TO SHIPWRECK THEIR FAITH.**  They are accidents born out of pride or failure to keep watch for storms or rocks.  And, even more tragically, there are usually other people on the boat. 



Paul closes this first chapter on DOCTRINE with some strong words about how to deal with these kind of people influencing your church or family.  They must be confronted.  When you confront wolves with the truth, one of two things happens.  They either get scared away from the flock and leave, or they get scared away from the false doctrine and repent.  Paul says that those wolves who choose to do neither, must be handed over to Satan—or kicked out of the church so that they might be taught not to blaspheme. 


And in saying that they may be “taught NOT to blaspheme”, Paul gives us a glimpse of what the final solution is for the a false teacher.  Earlier, Paul had described himself as a blasphemer before he met Jesus.  Ultimately, these wolves don’t need their emotions massaged, or their intellects engaged, they need their hearts transformed.  In essence, they need what the great wolf Paul needed, they need the gospel; they need to meet Jesus. 



2Corinthians 4.1-6

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.