"Praise Him, Praise Him !"
             1 Timothy 1:12-17
                By Paul Robison

Ever watch one of those TV shows where the defense lawyer is the hero?  The prosecutor says: "Your honor, this pistol is the murder weapon.  It was found at the scene of the crime, and the accused fingerprints were found all over it.  I'd like it to be marked as the prosecution's Exhibit A."  That object then becomes a very important part of the trial, and the defense lawyer will explain later how that evidence isn't as incriminating as it sounds.
 
Last week we began looking at 1 Timothy.  Paul was free and on the move again.  Timothy was in Ephesus and faced a difficult situation. Paul's predication that some of the elders would become savage wolves and teach perverse things to gain a following has come true. Timothy's job is to strengthen the faithful brethren and to help get through this chaotic situation.  Paul hopes to come to Timothy soon (3:14), but for now his letter will have to do.  We also saw how Paul skips his customary prayer for others and gets right down to business.  He charges Timothy to warn faithful members not to teach what the heretics are promoting and not to be led astray by their teachings on celibacy and fasting based upon the Law (1:7; 4:1-5).  He then defends the Law by stating it is good if one uses it properly (1:8).  The heretics are just as guilty for their misuse of the Law as those who blatantly disobey it (1:9-10).  So Timothy and the Ephesians members should stick with healthy teaching or sound doctrine and with the glorious Gospel that they had been taught (1:11).  This gets us up to the next section which goes from verse 12 to verse 17. Let's read that section again: "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent [or violent] man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.  And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  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.  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.  Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."  Four great truths are found in this passage, three directly and one indirectly.
 
The first great is this: God provides abundant grace and wisdom to the ignorant!  Verse 14 declares that the grace of God was exceedingly abundant.  Literally, Paul joins two words together, the word "grace" and the word "excelling" or "super".  There's a football game called the Super Bowl because it's supposed to be the biggest game with the best teams.  Paul says that even though he was a blasphemer, someone who misuses God's name, a persecutor, someone who tortured and killed Christians, and a violent man [or "a hotheaded bully" is what we might say], even though Paul was all those things, God's “super-grace” came into his life and changed it for the better!  And he was shown mercy because he acted ignorantly in unbelief.  As a Pharisee, Paul did not see Jesus as the Messiah, and he was firmly against the church.  Listen to what Paul said to King Agrippa II in Acts 26:9-11: "Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.  And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities."  It took God's super or excelling grace to convince one who was exceedingly enraged. Paul's character was thoroughly wicked, but he still received mercy. God provides abundant grace and wisdom to the ignorant.  How could Paul say he had done this ignorantly in unbelief?  When the mob asked Jesus to be crucified and when the Romans condemned Him and crucified Him, what did Jesus pray?  "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34).  Neither the Jews nor the Gentiles realized that they were actually killing the Son of God!  What did Jesus ask Paul as he was approaching Damascus in Acts 9:4: "'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?'  And he said, 'Who are You, Lord?'  The Lord said: 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'  So he trembling and astonished, said: 'Lord, what do You want me to do?'" Paul was astonished to discover that he had been working against God and His Son!  But even in his ignorance, he was shown mercy and was told to go into the city to receive further instruction, which he obediently carried out.  And the Gospel was preached to Him by a fearful disciple whose name was Ananias.  Listen what he was told in Acts 22:14-16: "The God of our Fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One [that's Jesus] and hear the voice of His mouth [which He did on the road].  For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.  And now why are you waiting?  Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord."  The light of truth now illuminated the one who had lived and acted in ignorance!  God provides abundant grace and wisdom to the ignorant!  Now look at Paul's declaration in 1 Timothy 1:17: "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, ..."  What a mighty God we serve! He is the supreme Ruler, the One who is from everlasting to everlasting, the One who is immune from decay, the One who is Spirit and dwells in unapproachable light Whom human eyes cannot behold (1 Timothy 6:16).  Then notice how Paul describes God as the One "who alone is wise".  This sounds much like the last verse in Romans where Paul exclaims: "To God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen."  Friends, God is the Wise One, and He knows what best for us.  He reveals His wisdom to us in His Word and will help us to become wise too if we will but ask Him (James 1:5)!  God provides abundant grace and wisdom to the ignorant!  Now why is that important in this context? Look again at the final warning of this letter in 6:20-21: "O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust [stay with the Gospel], avoiding profane and idle babblings and contradictions [the heretic's gospel] of what is falsely called knowledge—but professing it some have strayed concerning the faith."  What did the heretics call themselves?  We are "the knowledge party"; we can give you "the inside story."  Paul has just shown very clearly that God provides His abundant grace and His wisdom to those who have acted ignorantly.  Nobody here today is beyond the reach of God's grace and wisdom.  Up to this point, you may have lived a life just as wicked as was the apostle Paul's.  You may have acted ignorantly against Jesus and done many foolish things.  But you don't have to become a rocket scientist in order to become a Christian.  All you have to do is believe the Gospel and obey the Gospel, and your sins can be washed away too, just like Paul's were!
 
Now let's look at a second truth: Jesus provides everything that a sinner needs. Let's reread our text again, but this time, you'll notice that I've underlined some phrases on the screen: "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent [or violent] man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  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.  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."  Look at all that Jesus can provide a person.  Paul says that it was Jesus who enabled or empowered him.  In verse 11, Paul had just mentioned how the blessed God had committed the glorious Gospel to his trust.  Jesus had told Paul that He would be His witness to the Gentiles; Jesus' very words are found in Acts 26:17-18: "I will deliver from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me."  Now Jesus gave Paul a big job didn't He?  But Jesus didn't just give Paul the task and then abandon him!  No, Paul says that He enabled, empowered, or strengthened him to do the job.  And Paul further proclaims in Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Jesus strengthened him in the past, and He continues to strengthen Him daily.  What bad habits do you need to break and what sins do you need to overcome?  Jesus can empower you to do it!  Then Paul marvels that Jesus considered him trustworthy enough to give him the task of preaching the Gospel to others.  "He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry." Look at 1 Peter 4:10: "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."  Isn't that passage saying that God has graciously blessed each member in the church with a gift, and it's not a miraculous gift.  We can call it a talent or an ability.  Now look, we are to take whatever that ability may be, and we are to use it to do what?  To minister or to bless others who are in the church!  Jesus gave Paul a purpose, and Jesus gives you a purpose too.  Take that voice of yours, or your mechanical skills, or your accounting skills, or your farming skills, and use those abilities to bless the church!  "With faith and love which are in Christ Jesus."  The more you study and pattern your life after that of Jesus, the more you'll learn what true faithfulness and true love are all about (and it's not about the sensual).  "Christ Jesus came to the world to save sinners."  Jesus Himself declared in Luke 19:10: "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost, of whom I am chief."  Remember Exhibit A in our introduction?  Paul says that he was Exhibit A!  If Jesus could save him, He could save everybody else!  One commentator noted: "The reason for Christ's saving Paul, the worst of sinners, was that He could thereby set Paul forth as a primary exhibit of for all other sinners who would believe ..." (Fee).  So if you consider yourself a sinful, wicked, wretched person who is beyond the realm of salvation, think again.  You are still in the ballpark according to Paul.  Jesus can save you!  Then notice how Paul says: "I obtained mercy."  Paul was amazed by Jesus' mercy.  He knew that he did not deserve Christ's pardon after he had so severely persecuted His people.  But Jesus did not give up on Paul, and He has not given up on you either!  Jesus will give you mercy and won't hold your past against you.  He wants to forgive you and give you a clean slate! Jesus was longsuffering with Paul, and He is patient with you as well.  There are some here today who know what you need to do to be saved.  Jesus has been waiting weeks, and months, and years for you to act upon what you know.  He must wonder at times: "Why do they keep ignoring My invitation?  Why do they think slavery to Satan is better than slavery to Me?  Why do they think sensual pleasures are of greater value and spiritual joys?"  Jesus has been so patient with you, so why do you cling to your stubborn will?  And then notice that Paul affirms that those who believe in Jesus will be given eternal life.  "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent" (John 17:3).  How badly do you want eternal life after your death? "And the world is passing away, and the lusts of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:17).  "For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (Galatians 6:8).  You see, Jesus provides everything a sinner needs: strength, purpose, faith, love, salvation, mercy, patience, and eternal life!  Why, oh why, do you want to reject and refuse those blessings?
 
The next truth is an implied truth.  Remember the context.  We have a church in chaos because heretics are teaching doctrines of demons and claiming that they have gospel which is "in the know". One commentator perceptively observes: "Lingering just behind every word are the erring elders and their 'diseased' teaching (1:11), with its emphasis on Law and speculations, which stands over against the pure gospel of grace that produces faith and love" (Fee).  So the implied truth is this: We should not seek another Savior nor another gospel.  Whatever the heretics were teaching, Paul shows that Jesus is all-sufficient for people's abundant life here and their eternal life in the hereafter.  We do not need another Savior.  The apostle Peter affirmed in Acts 4:12: "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."  Jesus is the only Savior and Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).  And there is but one true Gospel.  In fact, Paul explicitly affirms this in Galatians 1:8-9: "But even if we or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed."  False teachers and heretics who promote gospels different from the true gospel stand condemned before God!  We should not seek another Savior nor another gospel.
 
The next truth is this: We should provide continual thanksgiving and praise.  "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord" (verse 12) ... Now to the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen" (verse 17).  "This marvelous praise was Paul's response to the glorious fact of his joyous salvation in Christ to which he had just referred" (Coffman). One commentator rightly observed: "This passage, which began as a quiet thanksgiving but rose to heights of emotion as Paul recalled God's amazing mercy to himself, reaches its natural climax in a solemn doxology [or praise]" (Kelley).  When there was "Amen" written in a passage, the one reading the passage to the congregation of old would often slow down and then stop.  Then the congregation would respond with a vocal "Amen" as well.  We also should be thankful for God, for Christ, for the Holy Spirit, for the church, for the Bible, for forgiveness, and for the hope of heaven! All these blessings come from God, and He deserves our highest praise.  The apostle John wrote this praise to God in Revelation 4:8 and 11: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come! … You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, honor, and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created!"  A modern hymn writer puts it this way: "Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus our blessed Redeemer.  For our sins, He suffered, and bled, and died.  He, our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation.  Hail Him!  Hail Him!  Jesus the crucified!  Sound His praises!  Jesus who bore our sorrows; love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong.  Praise Him!  Praise Him!  Tell of His excellent greatness!  Praise Him!  Praise Him!  Ever in joyful song" (Crosby)! We should provide continual thanksgiving and praise.
 
Jesus Christ is the only Person who can save us from our sins and give us abundant life.  But someone will object: "Isn't 'Jesus only' being terribly narrow?"  Yes, indeed it is!  But, you see, reality is often terribly narrow.  How many suns give light and heat to the earth?  How many birth canals did it take to bring you into this world?  How many places can your body be at one time?  How many formulas are needed to make Pepsi-Cola?  How many caskets does it take to bury a dead body?  Reality is often narrow.  So what is so strange when Jesus affirms that there is only a narrow road out of the forest and that the only way to get to God is through Him?  Jesus affirms in John 15:5: "I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me, you can do nothing."  Did you hear that?  Jesus is the foundation for a productive life, for an abundant life.  Jesus did not say, "Without Me, you can do a little" nor did He say, "Without Me, you can probably make it pretty well on your own."  No, He said, "Without Me, you cannot even begin to make a start at real life, at real love, at real joy."  Jesus' longs for your salvation and productivity.  The wise God sent Him into this world to bear our sins, to restore our friendship with Him, and to teach us how to live abundantly!  Paul said that if Jesus could save him, then he could save anybody!  Paul is Exhibit A.  Will you become Exhibit B and let Jesus, the only way to God, save you as well?  Don't reject Him again! Let Him be your Rock and your hope of eternal life!