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1 Timothy 1:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 I thank him who has empowered me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me faithful, appointing me to a ministry,
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord – The mention of the gospel 1Ti_1:11, and of the fact that it was committed to him, leads the apostle to express his gratitude to him who had called him to the work of preaching it. The Lord Jesus had called him when he was a blasphemer and a persecutor. He had constrained him to leave his career of persecution and blasphemy, and to consecrate himself to the defense and the propagation of the gospel. For all this, though it had required him to give up his favorite projects in life, and all the flattering schemes of ambition, he now felt that praise was due to the Redeemer. If there is anything for which a good man will be thankful, and should be thankful, it is that he has been so directed by the Spirit and providence of God as to be put into the ministry. It is indeed a work of toil, and of self-denial, and demanding many sacrifices of personal ease and comfort. It requires a man to give up his splendid prospects of worldly distinction, and of wealth and ease. It is often identified with want, and poverty, and neglect, and persecution. But it is an office so honorable, so excellent, so noble, and ennobling; it is attended with so many precious comforts here, and is so useful to the world, and it has such promises of blessedness and happiness in the world to come, that no matter what a man is required to give up in order to become a minister of the gospel, he should be thankful to Christ for putting him into the office. A minister, when he comes to die, feels that the highest favor which Heaven has conferred on him has been in turning his feet away from the paths of ambition, and the pursuits of ease or gain, and leading him to that holy work to which he has been enabled to consecrate his life.
Who has enabled me – Who has given me the ability or strength for this service. The apostle traced to the Lord Jesus the fact that he was in the ministry at all, and all the ability which he had to perform the duties of that holy office. It is not necessary here to suppose, as many have done, that he refers to miraculous power conferred on him, but he makes the acknowledgment which any faithful minister would do, that all the strength which he has to perform the duties of his office is derived from Christ.
Because he considered me faithful – This is equivalent to saying that he reposed confidence in me. It means that there was something in the character of Paul, and in his attachment to the Saviour, on which reliance could be placed, or that there was that which gave the assurance that he would be faithful. A sovereign, when he sends an ambassador to a foreign court, reposes confidence in him, and would not commission him unless he had reason to believe that he would be faithful. So it is in reference to all who are called by the Redeemer into the ministry. They are his ambassadors to a lost world. His putting them into the ministry is an act expressive of great confidence in them – for he commits to them great and important interests. Hence, learn:
(1) That no one ought to regard himself as called to the ministry who will not be “faithful” to his Master; and,
(2) That the office of the ministry is most honorable and responsible. Nowhere else are there so great interests entrusted to man.
1 Timothy 1:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 although formerly I was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and a violent man. But I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief,
although formerly I was a blasphemer – This does not mean that Paul before his conversion was what would now be regarded as an open blasphemer – that he was one who abused and reviled sacred things or one who was in the habit of profane swearing. His character appears to have been just the reverse of this, for he was remarkable for treating what he regarded as sacred with the utmost respect; see the notes on Php_3:4-6. The meaning is, that he had reviled the name of Christ, and opposed him and his cause – not believing that he was the Messiah; and in thus opposing he had really been guilty of blasphemy. The true Messiah he had in fact treated with contempt and reproaches, and he now looked back upon that fact with the deepest mortification, and with wonder that one who had been so treated by him should have been willing to put him into the ministry. On the meaning of the word blaspheme, see the notes on Matt. 9:3; compare Acts 26:11. In his conduct here referred to, Paul elsewhere says, that he thought at the time that he was doing what he ought to do Acts 26:9; here he says that he now regarded it as blasphemy. Hence, learn that people may have very different views of their conduct when they come to look at it in subsequent life. What they now regard as harmless, or even as right and proper, may hereafter overwhelm them with shame and remorse. The sinner will yet feel the deepest self-reproaches for that which now gives us no uneasiness.
And a persecutor – Acts 9:1 ff; Acts. 22:4; Acts, 26:11; 1 Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13, Gal. 1:23. “Persecution was the key issue in Jesus’ confrontation with Paul, namely, that in Paul’s activity against the people of Jesus Paul was, in fact, persecuting Jesus (Acts 9:4, 5; 22:7, 8; 26:14, 15). The cognate verb is the operative word with which Paul describes his activity in Acts: “I persecuted this way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prison” (Acts 22:4; cf. 26:11). The last part of that description illustrates certain aspects of what Paul means here by ὑβριστής (Rom. 1:30 and here; cf. ὑβρίζω and ὕβρις), “violent, insolent person” (BAGD, MM), which, Parry says, “emphasizes the element of outrageous disregard of other men’s rights” (cf. again Acts 9:1, 2; 22:4, 5, 19, 20; 26:10, 11).”
And a violent man – The word here used (ὑβριστής hubristēs), occurs only in one other place in the New Testament, Rom_1:30, where it is rendered “despiteful.” The word injurious does not quite express its force. It does not mean merely doing injury, but refers rather to the manner or spirit in which it is done. It is a word of intenser signification than either the word “blasphemer,” or “persecutor,” and means that what he did was done with a proud, haughty, insolent spirit. There was wicked and malicious violence, an arrogance and spirit of tyranny in what he did, which greatly aggravated the wrong that was done; compare the Greek in Mat_22:6; Luk_11:45; Luk_18:32; Act_14:5; 1Th_2:2; 2Co_12:10, for illustrations of the meaning of the word. Tyndale and Coverdale render it here “tyrant.”
But I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief – compare notes on Luk_23:34. The ignorance and unbelief of Paul were not such excuses for what he did that they would wholly free him from blame, nor did he regard them as such – for what he did was with a violent and wicked spirit – but they were mitigating circumstances. They served to modify his guilt, and were among the reasons why God had mercy on him. What is said here, therefore, accords with what the Saviour said in his prayer for his murderers; “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It is undoubtedly true that persons who sin ignorantly, and who regard themselves as right in what they do, are much more likely to obtain mercy than those who do wrong designedly.
Paul’s “ignorance in unbelief” as, in itself, a grievous sin, He had abundant means of knowing the truth had he been disposed to inquire with patience and candor. His great abilities and excellent education are a further aggravation of the crime. It is, therefore, impossible to acquiesce in any solution of this clause which seems to make criminal ignorance a ground of mercy. The author, however, intends nothing of this kind, nor would it be fair to put such construction on his words. Yet, a little more fullness had been desirable on a subject of this nature. It is certain, that, independent of the nature of the ignorance, whether willful or otherwise, the character of crime is affected by it. He who should oppose the truth, knowing it to be such, is more guilty than he who opposes it in ignorance, or under the conviction that it is not the truth, but falsehood. In a certain sense, too, this ignorance may be regarded as a reason why mercy is bestowed on such as sin desperately or blasphemously under it. Rather, it is a reason why they are not excluded from mercy. It shows why persons so guilty are not beyond its pale. This is, we think, the true key both to the passage, and that in Luke 23:34. The ignorance is not a reason why God should bestow mercy on such persons, rather than on others left to perish, but a reason why they obtain mercy at all, who, by their blasphemies had been supposed to have reached the sin against the Holy Spirit.
Now consider the passage in this view. The apostle had just been showing how great a sinner he had formerly been. His criminality had been so great that it went near to shutting him out from mercy altogether. Had he maliciously persecuted and blasphemed Christ, knowing him to be the Messiah, he had been on the brink of the unpardonable sin, and his lot that of judicial, final stubborn refusal to change his course of action. But he had not gone to that length. He was saved from that line of being beyond repentance, and obtained mercy, because, sinning ignorantly and in unbelief, he was not beyond its range.
That Paul should set himself to excuse his guilt is altogether impossible. He does the very reverse. He has but escaped the unpardonable sin. He is chief of sinners. He owes his salvation to exceeding abundant grace. All long-suffering has been exercised toward him. He affirms, that mercy was extended to him, that, to the end of time, there might be a proof or pattern of mercy to the guiltiest. Had he been assigning a reason why he obtained mercy, rather than others left to perish, doubtless that had been what he has elsewhere assigned and defended, “God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion;” Romans9:15.
1 Timothy 1:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
14 but the grace of our Lord abounded for me with trust and love that are in Christ Jesus.
But the grace of our Lord abounded – That is, in his conversion under these circumstances and in the aid which was afterward imparted to him in his work.
With faith (trust) and love which is in Christ Jesus – Accompanied with the exercise of faith and love; or producing faith and love. The grace which was imparted to him was seen in the faith and love which it produced; see the notes, 1Co_15:10.
1 Timothy 1:15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
15 It is a trustworthy saying and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
This is a faithful (trustworthy) saying – Greek, “Faithful is the word,” or doctrine – ὁ λογος ho logos. This verse has somewhat the character of a parenthetical and seems to have been thrown into the midst of the narrative because the mind of the apostle was full of the subject. He had said that he, a great sinner, had obtained mercy. This naturally led him to think of the purpose for which Christ came into the world – to save sinners – and to think how strikingly that truth had been illustrated in his own case, and how that case had shown that it was worth the attention of all. The word rendered “saying,” means in this place doctrine, position, or declaration. The word “faithful,” means assuredly true; it was that which might be depended on, or on which reliance might be placed. The meaning is, that the doctrine that Christ came to save sinners might be depended on as certainly true; compare 2 Tim. 2:11; Tit. 3:8.
And deserving of full acceptance – Worthy to be embraced or believed by all. This is so, because:
(1) All are sinners and need a Saviour. All, therefore ought to welcome a doctrine which shows them how they may be saved.
(2) Because Christ died for all. If he had died for only a part of the race, and could save only a part, it could not be said with any propriety that the doctrine was worthy of the acceptance of all. If that were so, what had it to do with all? How could all be interested in it or benefited by it If medicine had been provided for only a part of the patients in a hospital, it could not be said that the announcement of such a fact was worthy the attention of all. It would be highly worthy the attention of those for whom it was designed, but there would be a part who would have nothing to do with it; and why should they concern themselves about it? But if it was provided for each one, then each one would have the highest interest in it. So, if salvation has been provided for me, it is a matter claiming my profound attention; and the same is true of every human being. If not provided for me, I have nothing to do with it. It does not concern me at all.
See this subject discussed at length in the supplementary note on 2 Cor. 5:14.
(3) The manner in which the provision of salvation has been made in the gospel is such as to make it worthy of universal acceptation. It provides for the complete pardon of sin and the restoration of the soul to God. This is done in a way that is honorable to God – maintaining his law and his justice; and, at the same time, it is in a way that is honorable to man. He is treated afterward as a friend of God and an heir of life. He is raised up from his degradation and restored to the favor of his Maker. If man were himself to suggest a way of salvation, he could think of none that would be more honorable to God and to himself; none that would do so much to maintain the law and to elevate him from all that now degrades him. What higher honor can be conferred on man than to have his salvation sought as an object of intense and earnest desire by one so great and glorious as the Son of God?
(4) It is worthy of all acceptance, from the nature of the salvation itself. Heaven is offered, with all its everlasting glories, through the blood of Christ – and is not this worthy of universal acceptation? People would accept of a coronet or crown; a splendid mansion, or a rich estate; a present of jewels and gold, if freely tendered to them – but what trifles are these compared with heaven! If there is anything that is worthy of universal acceptation, it is heaven – for all will be miserable unless they enter there.
That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – The great and unique doctrine of the gospel. He “came into the world.” He therefore had a previous existence. He came. He had, therefore, an object in coming. It makes his gospel more worthy of acceptation that he had an intention, a plan, a wish, in thus coming into the world. He came when he was under no necessity of coming; he came to save, not to destroy; to reveal mercy, not to denounce judgment; to save sinners – the poor, the lost, the wandering, not to condemn them; he came to restore them to the favor of God, to raise them up from their degradation, and to bring them to heaven.
Of whom I am foremost – Greek, “first.” The word is used to denote eminence – and it means that he occupied the first rank among sinners. There were none who surpassed him. This does not mean that he had been the greatest of sinners in all respects, but that in some respects he had been so great a sinner, that on the whole there were none who had surpassed him. That to which he particularly refers was doubtless the part which he had taken in putting the saints to death; but in connection with this, he felt, undoubtedly, that he had by nature a heart eminently prone to sin; see Rom. 7. Except in the matter of persecuting the saints, the youthful Saul of Tarsus appears to have been eminently moral, and his outward conduct was framed in accordance with the strictest rules of the law; Php 3:6; Acts 26:4-5. After his conversion, he never attempted to extenuate his conduct, or excuse himself. He was always ready, in all circles, and in all places, to admit to its fullest extent the fact that he was a sinner. So deeply convinced was he of the truth of this, that he bore about with him the constant impression that he was eminently unworthy; and hence he does not say merely that he had been a sinner of most aggravated character, but he speaks of it as something that always pertained to him – “of whom I am chief.” We may remark:
(1) That a true Christian will always be ready to admit that his past life has been evil;
(2) That this will become the abiding and steady conviction of the soul; and,
(3) That an acknowledgment that we are sinners is not inconsistent with the evidence of piety, and with high attainments in it. The most eminent Christian has the deepest sense of the depravity of his own heart and of the evil of his past life.
1 Timothy 1:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 But because of this I was shown mercy, that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might demonstrate all his long suffering as an example to those who were to trust in him for eternal life.
But because of this I was shown mercy – That is, this was one of the causes, or this was a leading reason. We are not to suppose that this was the only one. God had other ends to answer by his conversion than this, but this was one of the designs why he was pardoned – that there might be for all ages a permanent proof that sins of the deepest dye might be forgiven. It was well to have one such example at the outset, that a doubt might never arise about the possibility of forgiving great transgressors. The question thus would be settled forever.
That in me, as the foremost – Not first in the order of time, as our translation would seem to imply, but that in me the first or chief of sinners (ἐν ἐμοὶ ποώτῳ en emoi poōtō) he might show an example. The idea is, that he sustained the first rank as a sinner, and that Jesus Christ designed to show mercy to him as such, in order that the possibility of pardoning the greatest sinners might be evinced, and that no one might afterward despair of salvation on account of the greatness of his crimes.
Christ Jesus might demonstrate all his long suffering – The highest possible degree of forbearance, in order that a case might never occur about which there could be any doubt. It was shown by his example that the Lord Jesus could evince any possible degree of patience, and could have mercy on the greatest imaginable offenders.
As an example – ὑποτύπωσιν hupotupōsin. This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except in 2 Tim. 1:13, where it is rendered “form.” It properly means a form, sketch, or imperfect delineation. Then it denotes a pattern or example, and here it means that the case of Paul was an example for the encouragement of sinners in all subsequent times. It was that to which they might look when they desired forgiveness and salvation. It furnished all the illustration and argument which they would need to show that they might be forgiven. It settled the question forever that the greatest sinners might be pardoned; for as he was “the chief of sinners,” it proved that a case could not occur which was beyond the possibility of mercy.
To those who were to trust in him for eternal life – All might learn from the mercy shown to him that salvation could be obtained. From this verse we may learn:
(1) That no sinner should despair of mercy. No one should say that he is so great a sinner that he cannot be forgiven. One who regarded himself as the “chief” of sinners was pardoned, and pardoned for the very purpose of illustrating this truth, that any sinner might be saved. His example stands as the illustration of this to all ages and was there no other, any sinner might now come and hope for mercy. But there are other examples. Sinners of all ranks and descriptions have been pardoned. Indeed, there is no form of depravity of which people can be guilty, in respect to which there are not instances where just such offenders have been forgiven. The persecutor may reflect that great enemies of the cross like him have been pardoned; the profane man and the blasphemer, that many such have been forgiven; the murderer, the thief, the sensualist, that many of the same character have found mercy, and have been admitted to heaven.
(2) The fact that great sinners have been pardoned, is a proof that others of the same description may be also. The same mercy that saved them can save us – for mercy is not exhausted by being frequently exercised. The blood of atonement which has cleansed so many can cleanse us – for its efficacy is not destroyed by being once applied to the guilty soul. Let no one then despair of obtaining mercy because he feels that his sins are too great to be forgiven. Let him look to the past, and remember what God has done. Let him remember the case of Saul of Tarsus; let him think of David and Peter; let him recall the names of Augustine, and Colonel Gardiner, and the Earl of Rochester, and John Newton, and John Bunyan – and thousands like them, who have found mercy; and in their examples let him see a full proof that God is willing to save any sinner, no matter how vile, provided he is penitent and believing.
1 Timothy 1:17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
17 Now to the eternal King, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Now to the king eternal – This ascription of praise is offered to God in view of the mercy which he had shown to so great a sinner. It is the outbreak of that grateful emotion which swelled his bosom, and which would not be denied expression when Paul recalled his former life and the mercy of God to his soul. It somewhat interrupts indeed the train of his remarks, but the heart was so full that it demanded utterance. It is just an instance of the joy and gratitude which fill the soul of a Christian when he is led along in a train of reflections which conduct him to the recollections of his former sin and danger, and to the fact that he has obtained mercy and has now the hope of heaven. The apostle Paul not infrequently, in accordance with a mode of writing that was common among the Hebrews, interposes an expression of praise in the midst of his reasonings; compare Rom_1:25; 2Co_11:31. God is called King here, as he is often in the Scriptures, to denote that he rules over the universe. A literal translation of the passage would be, “To the King of ages, who is immortal,” etc. The meaning of this expression – “the King of ages” – βασιλει τὼν αἰώνων basilei tōn aiōnōn – is, that he is a king who rules throughout all ages. This does not mean that he himself lives for ever, but that his dominion extends over all ages or generations. The rule of earthly monarchs does not extend into successive ages; his does. Their reign is temporary; his is enduring, and continues as one generation after another passes on, and thus embraces them all.
Incorruptible – This refers to God himself, not to his reign. It means that he does not die, and it is given to him to distinguish him from other sovereigns. All other monarchs but God expire – and are just as liable to die at any moment as any other people.
Invisible – 1 Tim. 6:16. God “described God as “invisible,” but believers can view the splendid glory of God residing in the person of Jesus (2 Cor 4:6; John 1:14).”
The only God – Jehovah is the only God; it is also true that he is the only wise God. The gods of the pagan are “vanity and a lie,” and they are wholly destitute of wisdom; see Psa. 115:3-8; Psa. 135:15-18; Isa. 40:18-20; Isa. 44:10-17.
Be honor – Let there be all the respect and veneration shown to him which is his due.
And glory – Praise. Let him be praised by all forever.
Amen – So be it; an expression of strong affirmation; Joh_3:3. Here it is used to denote the solemn assent of the heart to the sentiment conveyed by the words used.
By Albert Barnes
 George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1992), 95.
 Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 77.
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