Paul did it ignorantly
Notice that Paul declares at the end of verse 13 of mercy:
“But mercy was done to me, because I did it ignorantly in disbelief;” (1 Timothy 1:13).
Consider with me the sense that Paul did it ignorantly. Does this mean that Paul was not guilty? No. The fact that we commit sins out of ignorance does not take away our guilt. In fact, Paul speaks of mercy and then in verse 15 declares to be the first of sinners precisely because sin is sin, even when we are so blinded by our sin and our pride that we do not recognize our sin, and therefore, we sin ignorantly.
It is important to understand this. An unbeliever, one who has died in his sins, does not recognize much of his sins. He is blinded. For him, sin is normal. He ignorantly sins in his disbelief. This does not take away his guilt. Rather, it shows how a sinner he is. It is only when the Holy Spirit opens that sinner’s eyes, and convinces him of his sin that he recognizes how much a sinner he is.
We see this in Leviticus 4, where God commands Moses what the Jews were to do when they sinned ignorantly. Explain what to do if the one sinning through ignorance was a priest, or if he was an ordinary person, or if he was one of the leaders. In any case, sin done ignorantly required a blood sacrifice to obtain forgiveness. It was a grave offense against God.
“1 The Lord spoke again to Moses, saying: 2″ Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: If anyone commits a sin out of ignorance against any commandment, doing something he should not do, 3 if the priest who was anointed, thus making the people guilty, offer to the Lord for the sin committed a bull without blemish, as a sacrifice for sin. ” (Leviticus 4: 1-3 NIV)
Every sin, even out of ignorance, required a blood sacrifice.
In Romans 10: 1-3, Paul speaks of the people of Israel, explaining that they were in sin, in that they needed Christ’s salvation and righteousness, because they had no knowledge. I read it to you.
“1 Brothers, the desire of my heart and the prayer I address to God for Israel is for his salvation. 2 For I testify to them that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For ignoring the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own righteousness they did not submit to the righteousness of God “(Romans 10: 1-3 NIV)
So, Paul’s point is that the fact that those who sinned out of ignorance did not take away their guilt. He was blinded, but still guilty. And therefore, the fact that the Lord forgave him and placed him at his service is an act of immense mercy and grace.
We too, as believers, can be blinded by our pride, and not recognize our sin. It could be said that we sin ignorantly. If you think about it, how many times has it happened that you have sinned, and maybe someone told you about your sin, but you didn’t see it. When that person spoke to you, you think he was wrong. According to you, you had not sinned. But in reality, your pride blinded you and you didn’t see your sin. Ignorance does not take away our guilt. How the heart is insanely sick and is deceitful! How humbly we must walk before God!
How great is God’s mercy, that He keeps talking to us until He makes us see our sin, so that we can repent, and He can forgive us!
I pray that we may have tender hearts to recognize our sins right away.
Grace in Christ Jesus
After Paul points out the immense contrast between the greatness of his sin against Christ, and the Lord’s mercy in making him a servant of God, in verse 14, Paul declares that this is God’s immense grace in Jesus Christ. I read verses 12-14 again. Notice specifically what it says in verse 14:
12 And I give thanks to him who made me strong, to Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me worthy of trust, placing me at his service, 13 who before was a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent one; but mercy was done to me, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief; 14 thus the grace of our Lord has abounded all the more with faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1: 12-14)
What made it possible that a terrible sinner and enemy of Christ like Paul could become a servant of Jesus Christ is the grace of the Lord in Christ Jesus. Indeed, Paul acknowledges that the grace of the Lord had abounded all the more in him, in Christ Jesus.
The words “in Christ Jesus” are very important, because all the grace of God comes to us through Jesus Christ! That is, God is a righteous God, and he must punish our sin. We are guilty. As a righteous God, God could not show us any goodness, nor do us good, nor forgive us, were it not for God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
In Jesus Christ, God forgave our sin. In salvation, God has covered us with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. And therefore, God fills us with goodness. All this is through Jesus Christ. All the good that we receive, not just the good in this life, but the eternal good, is a grace from God, an undeserved goodness, and it is all through Jesus Christ! Grace is in Christ Jesus.
And Paul, recognizing the gravity of his sin and the immensity of the good he had received, declares that the grace of the Lord had abounded in him , with the faith and love that is in Jesus Christ.
Think of the words “faith and love”. Before, Paul was a violent man, a persecutor of believers, he hated believers. Then, God’s grace made him a man full of love. Before Paul was a blasphemer against Christ, he had no faith in Christ. Through God’s work in his life, Paul became a man of immense faith!
One who hates cannot begin to love with his own strength. One who blasphemes Christ cannot become a man full of faith in Christ by his own strength. This transformation was due to God’s grace in Christ Jesus. God gave Paul a new heart. When God saves, he not only forgives, but gives a new heart. Change the person. And so Paul was transformed, as God transforms every person who truly saves! This is a fruit of true salvation.
In fact, where sin abounded, the grace of the Lord overflowed. Of course, sin can be very great, but God’s grace is even greater. I imagine Paul was thinking of himself when he wrote, in Romans 5:20:
“Now the law intervened so that transgression might abound; but where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more, ”(Romans 5:20 NIV).
I praise and thank God for God’s superabundant grace, which has also come into our lives, if we are saved. Our hope is due to God’s grace in Christ.
Paul’s life manifested God’s grace in Christ.
I pray that each of us who is truly saved can manifest God’s work in his life. I pray that each of us can be seen and recognized as one who is filled with true love and faith.
And I pray that each of us will recognize that all of God’s work in us is a work of grace, which is in Christ Jesus! Thank God for our Lord Jesus Christ.