Title: Jesus Came to Save Sinners
Text: 1 Timothy 1.12-17
Introduction: One of the things I miss about having church on Sunday night is that it is so relaxed. The music, the conversation… really everything. I miss people sharing Scripture and the specials from children and others who might not normally sing on a Sunday morning. But what I miss most is the testimony time. Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, testimonies were more about the person rough life than about the grace and mercy of Christ. But that is more the exception than the rule. I tell you, I worship when I hear a powerful testimony to the grace and mercy of God. I really do. Something in my spirit is moved.
As we’ve made our way through 1 Timothy we’ve seen Paul charge Timothy with the task of confronting teachers who present unsound, unhealthy doctrine. But now Paul takes a break to insert this… almost parenthetical statement about the joy and privilege of serving Christ and this statement culminates in a glorious doxology.
Transition: But get this, that even in Paul’s Testimony, the story isn’t about him. It is about Christ. This is what Paul wants you to see – He wants you to see Christ. First, he wants you to see:
I. The Mercy of Christ (12-13):
exp.: rd v 12; Paul expresses his Gratitude toward Christ for his incredible mercy in appointing Paul into Christian Service: Look at how Paul points to Christ…The Mercy of Christ is evident in the following actions:
- Christ has strengthened him (lit.; empowered me): rd v 12; Timothy, you’ve been called to this work and this is my experience in the work: Christ has empowered me to do this ministry which he has called me to do.
app.: I know I usually give my applications at the end, but can I just stop right here and say, wow! What an incredible application for us. Christ will give you what you need to accomplish the mission he tasks you with! Provision is such an important lesson to learn.
ill.: Phil 4.10-13; context – the context is God’s provision for Paul; that also means strength to enure when it seems you have nothing;
- Christ has judged him faithful (lit.: considered or thought me faithful; NASB)
- Christ has appointed him to this ministry; this echoes v 1; an apostle; commissioned; And this is where we see the mercy of Christ; appointed to this ministry, this service (διακονίαν) in spite of the fact that…
- All of this in spite of the fact that he, himself felt that he was so undeserving of Christ’s mercy. Rd v 13; He says: I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent
- The Reason: He had acted ignorantly and in unbelief
ill.: we saw that in the passage John read for us earlier; there at the stoning of Stephen, giving approval Acts 7.54-8.3;
app.: Mercy is such a beautiful word – mercy displayed through equipping Paul and empowering him to do this blessed ministry.
t.s.: So first, Paul wants us to see the Mercy of Christ in his life – in spite of who Paul was and how he had acted as a non-believer. Secondly, Paul wants us to see
II. The Grace of Christ (14-16):
exp.: Paul’s displays his Attitude toward the Gospel because of the grace of Christ toward him: (Christ’s Amazing Grace toward Paul);
exp.: rd v 14a; overflowed like, in superabundance; According to Gordan Knight, this grace, which overflows in superabundance, not only forgives and strengthens, but it moves one into a sphere of faith and love – and better, it keeps one in that sphere. But listen, to Calvin on this…
faith and love may be referring to God… I opt for a more straightforward exposition. Faith and love bear witness to God’s grace that has just been referred to, so nobody will conclude that Paul is boasting for no good reason. Faith is contrasted with Paul’s unbelief (v13); Love in Christ is contrasted with the cruel persecution Paul had handed out to believers. It is as if he was now saying that God had transformed him and he was now a new person.
That’s pretty deep if you ponder on it for a bit. Christ, in all of his mercy and grace, gives the believer the faith and love he or she now needs to live this Christian life. I think this matches what Paul teaches to the Romans in Romans 5.
And to add strength to this, Paul now seems to quote a popular saying: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
Ill.: Philip Ryken tells of how modern-day worship leaders have taken to changing words in hymns to make them more palatable. One example he gives is: Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound, that saved and strengthens me. Which, sounds harmless at first. But, the point Ryken makes is that people don’t want to be considered wretches. They’re basically saying God’s amazing grace reaches to them, but that they’re pretty good people – not wretches. And then Ryken goes on to quote Brian Ragan: Grace is amazing because it saves wretches, not because it puts a final polish on nice people.
What we need to do is see ourselves as Paul sees himself. He, himself, was an example of Christ’s incredible patience toward the hardest sinner. I think the way you and I do that is to see ourselves in light of Christ. I think you do that when you see who Christ is in all of his holiness and purity and glory. And, we then see ourselves in comparison to him – then, we’ll understand the term wretched.
Ill.: it is kind of like having a standard for jumping. We might think we’re pretty good jumpers for someone our age, but the truth is there is someone who jumps higher and farther than we do. Jason, or Blake. If we were that way we’d be happy to jump high and we’d compare ourselves to others that we’re better than and strive to be like those who are better than us.
Back in Harlingen, we had a gym. I’m sure they still do. I was minister of youth and recreation, so I hosted a basketball game at lunch. We had a group of guys who would take lunch and come to play basketball. It was so much fun. There was always a lot of trash talking and fouling, traveling – basic rule-breaking. But, nobody ever believed he was actually at fault. Including myself! So I set up a camera to record our game. I placed it up on the 2nd floor and videoed our lunch hour game. Afterward, I told everyone what I did and most of the guys wanted to stay and watch. I knew I recorded it and was still embarrassed at what I saw. That was at least 25 years ago and I couldn’t believe how pitiful I looked. I’m so used to seeing the pros move and jump and run.
But here’s the thing: the standard in jumping is to jump as high as Lebron James! The stand is to jump up and touch the moon! And no one can do that – we all fall short of the standard – if that were the case.
The reality is that the standard is Holiness – and all of us fall short of the glory of God in that category, too! Only one person met the standard: Christ! But look at how incredible this grace and mercy is toward him in v16; rd v 16; Wow! That’s’ a beautiful picture of the Messiah.
Transition: Once we see ourselves that way and we realize just what He has done for us – his incredible patience toward us, we can’t help but break out in Worship… and that is exactly what Paul does in v 17.
III. Doxology: The Magnitude of Paul’s Praise to Christ for His great mercy and grace.
exp.: we see that in v 17; rd v 17; this is a sermon in itself. We could set aside this verse, break it down phrase by phrase, word by word and create a sermon series on the glory and majesty of the Father. That actually sounds fun! 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
So, what did we learn today? What will you take with you when we go our separate ways?
- I want you to think about the attributes of Christ as Paul presents Christ in his testimony: strengthens, empowers, provides, patient, loving, faithful, He doesn’t give us what we deserve and He gives us what we don’t deserve. You’ve probably heard this little ring before:
- Mercy: not getting what we deserve; Paul describes his experience of calling to this incredible service as ‘mercy’. He deserved was what he had dished out to others. He counted it as a blessing to suffer for Christ.
- Grace: getting what we don’t deserve; Paul describes his experience of salvation as ‘grace’ toward him. He did not deserve salvation or the privilege of serving the Master. But really, who does? Who is?
- I’m glad Samaritan’s Purse was here today with us. I’m grateful for their ministry and the opportunity we have to participate. But I want to caution you: don’t think that the sum of your Christian service is sending shoeboxes filled with Christmas gifts to children. Because serving can feel good. Helping out at helping hand can stroke your ego. Those are good things, but that isn’t what saves you. It should be what you do because of who you are.
- The Trustees and I are planning to meet soon to talk strategy for the upcoming year. We want to encourage missions and evangelism. That is all part of the plan. But don’t rely on that to make you feel good about yourself and your Christianity.
- It isn’t that you don’t do them then, but that you do those ministries with the right intentions.
- Isn’t it odd or peculiar that Paul considers it ‘mercy’ that Christ would allow Paul to suffer as he had caused others to suffer? It brings up a great question about what does it mean to suffer and do we see that as God’s mercy in our lives?
- I think we often see mercy as God doing something wonderful in our lives – but what about suffering for him in accomplishing the ministry he’s called us to…
- What does it mean that the disciples… left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. Or, when Paul says… 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
- How crazy, right? To see God’s mercy in suffering for Him and His glory! It’s Gut-check time.
- I think of Paul’s statement about the perfect patience of Christ. Peter says the same thing – it isn’t that the Lord is slack in returning, it’s that he is displaying his perfect patience toward us. If you sit here today and you’ve never committed your life to Christ, that should move you, that he has delayed his return to give you more time.