I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
- 1 Timothy 1:12-20
Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments
On Paul’s confession of sins: “This verse indicates that experience of Paul when he saw himself, in the light of God’s law, for who he really was (see Rom. 7:7-12). A ‘blasphemer’ speaks evil of and slanders God. Paul violated the first half of the Ten Commandments through his overt attacks against Christ (cf. Acts 9:4, 5; 22:7,8; 26:9. 14, 15). As a ‘persecutor’ and an ‘insolent man,’ Paul violated the second half through his attacks on believers. The Gr. word for ‘insolent man’ can be translated ‘violent aggressor,’ indicating the violence Paul heaped on Christians.”
In his ignorance and unbelief: “Paul was neither a Jewish apostate nor a Pharisee who clearly understood Jesus’ teaching and still rejected Him. He was a zealous, fastidious Jew trying to earn his salvation, thus lost and damned (see Phil. 3:4-7). His plea of ignorance was not a claim to innocence nor an excuse denying his guilt. It was simply a statement indicating that he did not understand the truth of Christ’s gospel and was honestly trying to protect his religion. His willing repentance when confronted by Christ (cf. Rom. 7:9; Phil. 3:8, 9) is evidence that he had not understood the ramifications of his actions – he truly thought he was doing God a service (Acts 26:9).”
Regarding being shipwreck: “A good conscience serves as the rudder that steers the believer through the rocks and reefs of sin and error. The false teachers ignored their consciences and the truth, and as a result, suffered shipwreck of the Christian faith (the true doctrine of the gospel), which implies several spiritual catastrophe. This does not imply loss of salvation of a true believer (see Rom. 8:31-39), but likely indicates the tragic loss that comes to the apostate. They had been in the church, heard the gospel and rejected it in favor of the false doctrine defined in 1 Tim. 1:3-7. Apostasy is a turning away from the gospel, having once known it. See Heb. 2:3, 4; 3:12-15; 6:1-8; 10:26-31..”
In delivering them to Satan: “Paul put both men out of the church, thus ending their influence and removing them from the protection and insulation of God’s people. They were no longer in the environment of God’s blessing but under Satan’s control. In some instances God has turned believers over to Satan for positive purposes, such as revealing the genuineness of saving faith, keeping them humble and dependent on Him, enabling them to strengthen others, or offering God praise (cf. Job 1:1-22; Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 22:31-33; 2 Cor. 12:1-10; Rev. 7:9-15). God hands some people over to Satan for judgment, such as King Saul (1 Sam. 16:12-16; 28: 4-20), Judas (John 13:27), and the sinning member in the Corinthian church (see 1 Cor. 5:1-5).”
- John MacArthur, One Faithful Life
“[1 Timothy 1:15] Sometimes I say things to God in prayer which are terribly bold, almost arrogant, and I’ve never been rebuked by God yet. They said about Luther (I’m certainly not drawing any comparison; I’d have been glad to clean his shoes and put them at his bedroom door!) that when they heard him pray it was an experience in theology. When he began to pray, he prayed with such self-abnegation, such humility, such repentance that you pitied him. But as he prayed on, he prayed with such boldness that you feared for him.
”Sometimes in my private prayers I’ve gone to God with thoughts that I hesitate to mention, but I’m going to mention this one. Only last Friday I said to God in prayer: ‘I’m glad I sinned, God; I’m glad I sinned, for Thou didst come to save sinners.”
- A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God
[1 Timothy 1:15] “This godly sensitivity toward sin was associated in the apostle’s mind with an equally vivid sense of the freeness and richness of divine grace. That Christ died not for the righteous but for the guilty is the great thought that is on his mind, and he has no hesitancy in declaring it and in speaking most boldly concerning the exceedingly abundant grace of God in forgiving sin. The union of these two feelings in Paul is by no means an unusual occurrence among human minds, for you will generally find that the people who are most clear in their witness that salvation is by grace are also the people for whom sin is exceedingly sinful. Indeed, all those who prize grace most are those who also feel most sorrow concerning their transgressions.’”
1 Timothy 1:17: “Paul could not help this outburst of praise. When he remembered his own conversion and pardon and his being entrusted with the ministry of the gospel, he was obliged to put down his pen and lift up his voice in grateful thanksgiving to God. So may it be with us as we remember what great things the Lord has done for us.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes
1 Timothy 1:19: “I sit a few feet from a man on death row. Jewish by birth. Tentmaker by trade. Apostle by calling. His days are marked. I’m curious about what bolsters this man as he nears his execution. So I ask some question.
”Do you have family, Paul? I have none.
“What about your health? My body is beaten and tired…
“Any awards? Not on earth.
“Then what do you have, Paul? No belongings. No family… What do you have that matters? I have my faith. It’s all I have. But it’s all I need. I have kept the faith.
Paul leans back against the wall of his cell and smiles.”
- Max Lucado, When God Whispers Your Name
In reading through this Scripture, I was impressed by the same things that many of the authors above noted, but in one respect, there is a tie between the first half of 1 Timothy 1 and the second. Paul mentions in 1 Timothy 1:8-11 that the Gospel is not for the righteous, not mentioning that no one is righteous, but he is pointing toward the self-righteous. He says that the Gospel is for sinners, for them to repent and be saved through God’s Grace.
Then Paul claims himself to be the chief of sinners. In the Scripture above he paints a picture from blasphemer to perjurer to be guilty of all the Ten Commandments, and out of ignorance – not a claim for leniency, but pointing out, as in Romans 7, that you can commit sin in ignorance and then knowledge of the Law condemns you. All of this to show how if God can give Grace to the chief of sinners, he can give Grace to you and me.
In reading Paul’s letters, the praise in 1 Timothy 1:17, as noted by Rev. Spurgeon, seems to fit at the salutation at the beginning of a letter or at the end. It is rather odd that suddenly he breaks into praise of God for having sufficient Grace to pardon him of his sin. And indeed, we should be so effusive in our praise to God, spontaneous, not waiting to the end of the letter. I have been in church where the words seemed so rote that they have lost meaning, but Paul is pouring out his heart, possibly spontaneously in the middle of a discourse on false doctrine to praise God. We don’t do enough of that, individually or corporately.
And one thing that I picked up in the MacArthur comments regarding the expulsion of Hymenaeus and Alexander was that they were removed as to not influence others within the church. Church discipline is something that is very tricky. In this case, the Apostle Paul took charge, but the pastor of a local church or the ruling elders of the church are torn between the damage being done versus a myriad of excuses to not do as the Bible teaches. We do not want to “judge.” We do not know how to confront the problem without it becoming a “confrontation.” We do not know the Scripture well enough to combat the false doctrine that others might be teaching. And the list could go on. And note from the MacArthur quote that many positive aspects can come from proper church discipline.
What do you have as a result of not forcing out the false doctrine, specifically those teaching it? A lot of the problems that the major denominations have today: lukewarm Christianity, Christianity without Christ, Salvation by works, and all sorts of other things that can split a church apart. But mainly, the church is no longer Biblical in its teaching.
Yes, the doors need to be open to all people. I could have said all sinners, but that’s the same thing. But membership must be downplayed, lest non-believers bring in false doctrine, but the message preached and taught in Bible studies must be that of Christ alone for salvation and that repentance then becomes part of our daily walk with God.
Some Serendipitous Reflections
“1. What word would you use to describe your life before you became a Christian? Since then? What does that show you about the Lord’s patience?
“2. Should our response to those who act in ‘ignorance and unbelief’ (v. 13) be different from those who ‘have shipwrecked their faith’ (v. 19)? Why? How so? Illustrate without naming names [confidentiality if in a small group].”
- Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.