General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, “I never forgive and I never forget.” To which Wesley replied, “Then, Sir, I hope you never sin.” (Source unknown).
The thing which stands out in this passage is Paul’s insistence upon remembering his own sin. People can feel so guilt ridden by their past that they think God could never forgive and accept them. But consider Paul’s past. He had scoffed at the teachings of Jesus (“a blasphemer”) and hunted down and murdered Christians (“a persecutor”) before coming to faith in Christ (Acts 9:1-9) God forgave Paul and used him mightily for His kingdom. No matter how shameful your past God can forgive and use you.
The grace of God turned the persecutor into a preacher, and the murderer into a minister and a missionary. God gave Paul his ministry; he did not get it from Peter of the other apostles. He was called and commissioned by the risen Christ in heaven. God saw that Paul was faithful, and so He entrusted the Gospel to him. Even as an unbelieving rabbi, Paul had maintained a good conscience as he lived up to the light that he had. So often those who are intensely wrong as lost sinners become intensely right as Christians and are greatly used of God to win souls. Paul was the proof that the grace of God can change any sinner.
Paul tells how thankful he is that God had confidence in him when he had been so opposed to God’s Son (vv. 12-14). He had cursed Jesus and called Him a fake and went after the followers of Jesus as one who chases an animal. He had not deliberately acted against what he knew was right but had blindly and mistakenly thought he was doing God a service. Even with all this in Paul’s life God knew that he would be “faithful”. He desires each one of His children to be faithful (See I Corinthians 4:2). This is what God wants each one of us to be in His family and is certainly a quality we need in our own family. The memory of his sin was the surest way for Paul to keep his gratitude aflame. To remember what we have been forgiven is a sure way to keep our life on fire for the Lord.
It is easy for me to think that my faith in God and my love for Christ and others is inadequate. But, I can be confident that Christ will help my faith and love grow as my relationship with Him deepens.
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.
View this passage in NIV (Bible Gateway) »
I Timothy 1:1-7Don’t Let False Teaching Deceive You!
I Timothy 1:8-11The law reveals sin but doesn’t take it away
I Timothy 1:12-14Can a person be forgiven for murder?
I Timothy 1:15-17Paul’s experience on the Damascus road
I Timothy 1:18-20Like it or not we are in warfare
I Timothy 2:1-7The priorities of prayer
I Timothy 2:8-15The place of women in the Church
I Timothy 3:1-7The qualifications for a pastor
I Timothy 3:8-13The qualifications for a deacon
I Timothy 3:14-16Who we are, what we believe and how we behave
I Timothy 4:1-5False teachers are a threat to the Church
I Timothy 4:6-10One of life’s greatest needs
I Timothy 4:11-16The rewards of meditation