“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 (1 Timothy 1:12-17 ESV)
The words of the Apostle Paul written to Timothy should serve as great encouragement to those of us who have been saved by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. As I read those words, I was reminded that, despite my wretched sinfulness, despite having no good thing in me that would cause God to desire me, He demonstrated His love for me in that He sent Jesus Christ to redeem me.
Like Paul, we should see ourselves as the chief of sinners. Daily we should remind ourselves that our very sins put Jesus on the cross. That it took the shed blood of the Son of God Himself to pay the price we owe to God. Yet He did so willingly, of His own accord, so that He might bring glory to the Father. That in doing so, He might demonstrate His mercy by redeeming vile, wretched, rebellious sinners for His use.
In fact, it is Paul’s statement that “…Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example…” really caused me to stop and think. Jesus Christ saved us to be examples of His perfect patience to those He will save. In other words, when we are saved by God, we are cleaned up for His usefulness and put on display as His craftmanship. When God saved me, I was a rebellious sinner, even though some thought I was a “nice guy.” Yet, I lied, cheated, blasphemed and other sins I do not wish to mention. Those that knew me then would know I was not really all that “nice.” Yet, today, God’s sanctifying work in me is put on display by Him for one reason, to show the perfect patience in transforming a vile sinner into a tool useful for His work.
That is what God does when He saves us, He transforms us for His use! If you are anything like me, it is very easy to see all the faults, failings and sins that we still struggle with while we are in this flesh. We may even begin to wonder if we are truly saved because of that. Yet, here in Paul’s pastoral epistle, we see that the issue is not about us and what we can do, but in God’s finished work of salvation and his ongoing work of sanctification. It is not about us being able to say what we have conquered in our flesh, it is about God being able to boast in his sanctifying work alone! We weren’t saved so we could claim there was something just awesome about ourselves, which there never was, but so that we could be a light, a signpost pointing others to the very Savior they didn’t even know they needed, Jesus Christ.
I encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ, if you struggle with your walk, if you have trouble in finding assurance, look the this passage by Paul. You were saved and are being sanctified for one reason, to be evidence of the amazing work of your Savior. Find peace and comfort in knowing that “…he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 ESV)