1 Timothy 1:12-17
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 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. 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. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Greatest hinder to gospel in the middle east: the lack of Christian's confidence in the gospel (see Romans 1:16). Is there any evident mark that our life displays a deep and unshakable confidence in the gospel? Do you have confidence that the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ can transform those who we consider farthest away?
Consider the person that triggers fear in your heart. Can the gospel reach them? Is there something more that's needed for that person? Is Romans 1:16 really our boast and is that obvious? We must rest all of our confidence on the broad and powerful shoulders of the gospel.
The Great Change in One Terrorist’s Life
When Paul mentions in verse 11 the glorious gospel which he was entrusted, the gospel seems to have a certain effect on him. Paul gives us a before and after in verses 12-17. Verse 12 starts with the after. Paul after is a servant and steward of the gospel. He is an apostle called by a command of God. He is strengthen through Christ (a frequent theme in Paul's writing).
Verse 13 shows that Paul had a past. He was once a blasphemer and a violent man. He slandered and opposed God organizing attacks against Jesus's church. Paul was a terrorist. Acts 7:54-8:1 Stephen faithfully preaches the gospel and Paul hears his words and presides over his execution. Visions of rapture burst from Stephen, while visions of murder burst forth out ofSaul's heart. This kind of persecution was Saul's career. He was systematic, indiscriminate, and thorough. Paul creates this position and then argues that he is the best man for the job.
Years later when Paul was arrested in Acts 22, he recalls this period of his life. He says he persecuted Christians unto the death and then he recounts those same murders unto King Agrippa in Acts 26. He was in stark opposition to the name of Jesus. He had obsession with murder and execution. Big question? Why do you suppose Paul continually remembers these things? Some sins are not easily forgotten. He remembers the faces of those he has dragged off to kill. "Sin has left its crimson stain."
Those who are far need us to be confident in the gospel. They have no confidence in themselves. "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus." Why did Paul throw himself into this persecution? Because he was utterly lost. What happens when Christians lose key words like lostness in their gospel vocabulary? We lose certain words and we lose truths. Lostness is a convinced blindness and a misdirected love which terminates in eternal damnation. Paul felt like by killing Christians we was offering a service to God. Paul wasn't just wrong-headed; he was wrong-hearted. By losing "lost," we lose repentance, substitutionary atonement, the covenant love of the trinity, wrath & hell, missions & evangelism. We lose the concept of lostness and the gospel will slowly unravel before our eyes. Real lostness puts people in real danger with a real God. Let's get real about the gospel.
The Great Cause of That Change
What brought about this change? The gospel. The terrorist became an apostle. Paul then encourages us to put our confidence in the gospel because...
1. The gospel supplied his need (vv. 13-14)
Paul views God's grace as a Niagara falls. He received these things in Christ. These things were sweet to Paul. Paul meditates on grace because he remembers the bankruptcy of life without Christ.
2. The gospel is trustworthy bearing the weight of our confidence (v. 15)
Verse 15 is a succinct statement of the gospel. It's like a strand of DNA which can be condensed into the size of an ice cube but unraveled and fill an entire a library. Verse 15 is the gospel in a nutshell but if it were unraveled it would fill all of eternity.
3. The gospel reaches the worst of sinners and makes them trophies of grace and God's power (vv. 16-17).
Paul is an example that God can and will save the worst of sinners. Paul's life is an object lesson for us inspiring us to believe and inspiring confidence to preach the gospel boldly. all of our testimonies are different but the same in that they are pictures of one God reaching down and saving sinners.
What should that reliance look like?
9 marks of our gospel confident ministry.
1. Position ourselves around the worst of sinners looking for gospel opportunities.
2. Share the gospel slowly and clearly.
Are we trying to unleash the gospel or rehabilitate it?
3. Redirect our fears from man to God.
Fruitfulness lies in God's hands, while faithfulness lies our hands with God's help.
4. Preach the gospel in every sermon.
When Christians not need the gospel? When do the lost not need the gospel? God has one sermon from Genesis to Revelation.
5. Be careful with new converts and our evangelistic methods.
Not all of us are struck down on the Damascus road? But often the gospel rises slowly like the sun. Evangelistic methods often focus on making a decision now for Jesus but the NT often shows a different picture. Are we choosing methods of evangelism betray the reality that we sometimes don't think the gospel is working?
6. Study the gospel in deeper and varied ways.
We must commit our lives to be a student of the gospel. Take one truth of the gospel and study, search, and unearth those truths inScripture
7. Preach to open eyes, not just to convey information.
8. Ask ourselves, "Is my confidence in myself? Or in the power of the gospel itself?" It's a subtle danger.
9. Encourage faith that relies on the power of the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:5).
The Great Celebration: "To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen" (v. 17)!