Paul reaffirms the cornerstone of our faith; “Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (verse 15). He charges Timothy to keep the main thing the main thing!
Paul is a perfect example of God’s grace and he knows it. He recognizes where he would have been without that saving grace. “Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted in ignorance in unbelief, and the grace of the Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (verses 13-14).
Something I just noticed is Paul’s statement that he “acted ignorantly in unbelief.” When Paul was persecuting the church he thought he was well informed. I would go so far as to say he was arrogant in his belief in his right-standing with God. But he was ignorant of the truth. He was blind because the Spirit of God had not revealed the truth to him.
On the road to Damascus he “heard” more than the few words recorded in Acts. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.
“Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
He heard the truth through the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:3-6).
The last line is what removed his ignorance, not the light or the voice alone, but the Holy Spirit revealing the truth to him. Then he was no longer ignorant or an unbeliever.
Timothy knew the truth. He had heard Paul’s testimony and had a testimony of his own to share. He also had a prophecy given over him regarding his calling. I wonder what those words were. Was he given a specific direction like Paul was or a general prophecy about becoming a leader in the church? Paul was told to take the gospel to the Gentiles. He took it to mean Gentiles EVERYWHERE he could possibly get to. Did Timothy’s prophecy tell him to minister in one specific place? Was it a word about the body he was serving at that time?
Sorry, got off my original thought. In the end of our reading Paul mentions two people by name whom he “handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (verse 20). Paul had been a “blasphemer” in ignorance. These two individuals had done so with full knowledge of the truth. They were believers.
I don’t believe Paul condemned their souls to Hell but that he removed their spiritual protection. The picture that comes into my mind is of someone giving a cat a mouse to play with. The person doesn’t really want the cat to kill and eat the mouse, just scare him enough that he will never DARE to enter the house again. The person watches over the “play” to ensure the mouse’s ultimate survival, but just barely. That mouse will NEVER again come anywhere near a cat!
These men needed to learn there was a definite consequence to blaspheme. I pray they learned the lesson BEFORE it cost them their lives, and possibly eternal lives. “To him who knows to do good and does it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). Jesus still forgives sin, that’s why He came into the world in the first place, but He expects better of those who know the truth.
Another verse comes to mind: “Whoever is faithful in very little will be faithful in much, and whoever is dishonest with very little with be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10). I know this verse’s context is in relationship to earthly wealth but I believe it applies to spiritual principles too. Jesus even said so in this parable. “If then you have not been faithful with worldly wealth, who will entrust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:11). Little purposeful and willful sins lead to bigger ones. Obedience in the little things leads to obedience in the big things.
Father God, thank You for Your plan of Salvation. Thank You Lord Jesus for taking my punishment for sin. Thank You for forgiving my sin, ignorant and aware. Thank You for reminding me of these verses. I believe You are working with me on my “faithfulness in the little things.” There are areas of my life that I need to hand fully over to You so YOU can clean them up. I’ve tried and I keep coming up short. I need Your Spirit to work on those areas; one of them being the lead food I spoke of earlier. You bringing these verses to my mind confirms that it is YOU speaking change into my life instead of Satan trying to find ways to beat me up.
I don’t know what lies ahead but I feel like You have a purpose for addressing the “little things” in my life. Is there a point of “much” coming my way where “faithfulness” will be required? Only You know. But I recommit to preparedness regardless of what lies ahead. Thank You for never giving up on me and for working in my heart until I’m ready to turn whatever it is over to You. (Remind me beforehand to leave more travel time in my plans so I don’t become rushed and resort to old remedies.)