By Joshua Greever, PhD
College of Theology
January 26, 2017
In 1 Timothy 1:12-17 the Apostle Paul recounts his story of conversion from Judaism to Christ Jesus. Before his conversion experience on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9), Paul had been a persecutor of Christians, yet this did not keep Jesus from granting Paul “the grace of our Lord” that saved and transformed Paul into an apostle for Jesus. As a result, Paul could affirm, “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” (1 Timothy 1:15). Further, Jesus’ grace toward Paul was not arbitrary or random, but was intended to “display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1:16). Paul’s conversion story was to serve as an illustration to highlight and magnify Jesus’ “perfect patience” toward sinners.
Perhaps today you are feeling the weight of your sin. You are all too keenly aware of your shortcomings and failures. You recognize the many ways you have failed to love God with all your heart and to love others as you love yourself. And the truth of the matter is the weight you feel is real, not imaginary. Sin is real and runs deep in your life, and it scares you that God really is a judge who hates your sin even more than you do.
If this describes you today, let Paul’s conversion story sink deep within your heart and mind. Paul was not being falsely humble when he labeled himself the worst of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15. As a persecutor of the church, Paul truly had imbibed the essence of sin as he mustered all his strength to fight against Christ and his church in the world. And yet, Christ showed “perfect patience” toward Paul in granting him repentance and faith that leads to eternal life. The point of Paul’s conversion story is not merely that Jesus can save sinners, but that Jesus can save even the worst sinner.
This is not to say, of course, that you can continue in your sin and presume that Jesus will still grant you eternal life. Rather, the lesson from Paul’s story is that no sin is too deep to be forgiven by Jesus. Jesus’ patience toward sinners is boundless, limitless and inexhaustible that any sinner—no matter how often or how grievously they have sinned—can call on him with faith and repentance and be supremely confident that he will abundantly pardon. Therefore, let the intent of Paul’s conversion story have its full effect in your life, causing you to find fresh courage to repent of your sin and to look in faith to Jesus, who died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead for our eternal life. Like with Paul, Jesus loves to magnify his perfect patience toward you by forgiving your sin and transforming you into one of his faithful followers. No matter how sinful you may have been, today may you find hope and joy in the perfect patience of Jesus.