1 Timothy 1:12-17

The Grace Notes devotions in 2024 are based on verses from 1 Timothy. Each devotion includes some Greek, touches on the pastoral ministry today, and ends with a prayer. In January, we looked at the salutation (1 Tim 1:1-2). In February, we looked at Paul’s purpose in writing to Timothy (1 Tim 1:3-11)—to encourage Timothy to preach sound doctrine in opposition to the false teachers of the law.

In 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Paul expresses thanks for everything that the Lord Jesus Christ did for him personally and explains that Christ wants to do the same for other sinners. This section can be divided into two parts: Paul’s personal story (vv. 12-14) and general truths (vv. 15-17).

12 Χάριν ἔχω τῷ ἐνδυναμώσαντί με Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν, ὅτι πιστόν με ἡγήσατο θέμενος εἰς διακονίαν, 13 τὸ πρότερον ὄντα βλάσφημον καὶ διώκτην καὶ ὑβριστήν· ἀλλὰ ἠλεήθην, ὅτι ἀγνοῶν ἐποίησα ἐν ἀπιστίᾳ, 14 ὑπερεπλεόνασεν δὲ ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν μετὰ πίστεως καὶ ἀγάπης τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.

15 πιστὸς ὁ λόγος καὶ πάσης ἀποδοχῆς ἄξιος, ὅτι Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς ἦλθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἁμαρτωλοὺς σῶσαι· ὧν πρῶτός εἰμι ἐγώ, 16 ἀλλὰ διὰ τοῦτο ἠλεήθην, ἵνα ἐν ἐμοὶ πρώτῳ ἐνδείξηται Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς τὴν ἅπασαν μακροθυμίαν, πρὸς ὑποτύπωσιν τῶν μελλόντων πιστεύειν ἐπʼ αὐτῷ εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον. 17 τῷ δὲ βασιλεῖ τῶν αἰώνων, ἀφθάρτῳ, ἀοράτῳ, μόνῳ θεῷ, τιμὴ καὶ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων· ἀμήν.

Χάριν ἔχω – This idiomatic phrase means to “have thankfulness” or to “be thankful.” Remembering what Jesus Christ has done for us and what he wants to do for other sinners like us fills our hearts with thankfulness. Thankfulness prompts us to pray and to serve.

ἐνδυναμώσαντί με – Paul is thankful that Jesus strengthened or empowered him. Jesus knocked Paul down on the road to Damascus, blinded him, and humbled him. Jesus emptied Paul of all power and pride. Then through the means-of-grace-ministry of the prophet Ananias, Jesus filled Paul up, giving him all that he needed to serve in a powerful way in the church, with an active faith and sacrificial love for the Savior and his people. Paul the blasphemer, persecutor, and violent man became a tireless champion for Christ, for Christ’s gospel, and for Christ’s people. May God continue to give us such inner strength!

ἀλλὰ ἠλεήθην – “But he had mercy on me.” Like the tax collector in the parable we pray, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” We don’t deserve to be God’s child, much less his ambassador. The Lord Jesus Christ has had mercy on us.

Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς ἦλθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἁμαρτωλοὺς σῶσαι – This is the saying that is faithful and worthy of all acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world, sinners to save.” He came from heaven. He came from God. He came on a rescue mission. He came to rescue us. This is more than just some good news. This is the greatest news ever. God sent his Son into the world to rescue us from sin, death, and hell. We marvel at God’s grace towards us.

ὧν πρῶτός εἰμι ἐγώ – Paul calls himself the first of sinners. He is not thinking in terms of time but in terms of degree. Paul was forcing God-fearing people to blaspheme God. He was persecuting Christ and his precious people. He was breathing out murderous threats even against women and children, putting them in prison. But God had mercy on such a miserable sinner with a purpose in mind: to make it clear that Jesus is the Savior of all, even the worst of sinners. If God had mercy on Saul and made him into a new creation called Paul, then he can have mercy on anyone. Let’s not despair of our own sins. Remember Paul! Let’s not give up on those who are opposed to the gospel. Remember Paul!

εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον – The result of saving faith is life eternal, life with God, life in the new order of things that the Lord will create after he destroys this sinful world. As we carry out gospel ministry, the Holy Spirit works to create, preserve, and strengthen saving faith in the hearts of people. And the result is that they have eternal life. As ministers of the gospel, we make an eternal difference in the lives of people. They will join us in the eternal presence of God.

τῷ δὲ βασιλεῖ τῶν αἰώνων, ἀφθάρτῳ, ἀοράτῳ, μόνῳ θεῷ, τιμὴ καὶ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων· ἀμήν. – This doxology, with its emphasis on the transcendence of our eternal, immortal, and invisible King, almost seems to contradict the rest of the section which emphasized God’s condescending love. This God is near. He serves sinners, giving them strength and grace, producing faith and love in them, and appointing them for his service. He is worthy of all honor and glory!

Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, you have shown us such great mercy. We thank you. We praise you. Please give us all we need to serve you faithfully and joyfully. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.