A brief outline-
12-14: Paul’s personal testimony about how grace changed him
15-16: Paul’s summary of God’s mercy in the gospel
17: Paul’s doxology in response to these two things
Some struggle with the flow of thought from verse 11. Verse 11 says, “…the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.” And that last phrase seems to remind Paul of how undeserving of this ministry he is. So he talks about how he used to be a persecutor of the Church and how grace changed him. And two quick notes about the “chief of sinners” phrase: some look at this passage and think we are all supposed to say this about ourselves, namely, that ‘I am the chief of sinners.’ But Paul’s teaching is not that we are all the foremost of sinners, but rather, that he actually was the foremost of sinners. He actually killed Christians! And if God can save the foremost of sinners, he can save anyone.
Secondly, why does he say, present tense, “I am the chief of sinners”? Does he still sin just as he did before he was converted? May it never be! He is trying to convey God’s mercy in the gospel, meaning, none of us are deserving of eternal life– especially Paul, who used to persecute Jesus! So Christians should not call themselves “sinners” in the same way they used to be “sinners” before conversion, but we should call ourselves “sinners” in the sense that a million years from now, we will be just as undeserving of salvation as the day God gave us new hearts.
Hope this can help anyone who is wrestling with the logic of 1 Timothy chapter one. In this sermon I am preaching tomorrow, Lord willing, I am skipping over vv12-17 because it looks like a tangent that the Apostle goes on to help explain the unbelievable mercy God showed him in order to entrust him with the gospel ministry. A brief outline:
Guard the Truth with Love
1. Know what the truth is- the fact that Paul tells Timothy to charge certain ones not to teach a different doctrine (v3) means that there is a right doctrine; and that right doctrine is the “stewardship from God that is by faith (4); and that stewardship is the gospel that God entrusted to the Apostles (11). If you want to guard the truth, then know the gospel very well.
2. Confront those who do not promote that truth- Paul’s initial charge is to stop certain men from teaching different doctrines (3); and then he says this charge is in accordance with previous prophecies about Timothy, that by the prophecies he might “wage the good warfare” (18). The teaching ministry is warfare! Don’t take the pulpit unless you’re willing to fight.
3. Sometimes we must use tough love- Paul mentions two men that he had to “hand over to Satan.” This means to put them out of the church (cf. 1 Cor 5.1-5). This is tough love– but it is love! This was so that “they may learn not to blaspheme.”
1 Timothy 1.5- “The aim of our charge is love.” It is loving to confront false teachers– so they know they are in error and to protect the sheep. It is loving to discipline people when needed– because God may use that to bring them to repentance. The goal of our gospel-truth-guarding-ministry is love!
I have an opportunity to speak at a Sunday night service at Live Oak Baptist Church in Crestview, FL, the church Natalie grew up in. I have been meditating on 1 Timothy this year, and I have come to enjoy preaching from the first chapter of epistles when given these types of opportunities. 1 Tim 1.8-11: “Now we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the Law was not laid down for the just, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for the those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.”
My main challenge from the text is to use the law lawfully, and the two ways I see how to do that is to (1) put the law before lawbreakers and (2) always make sure you have sound doctrine. One interesting thing of note from the end of verse 10: Paul says that the law is supposed to be laid down before those who practice wicked things, “and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” So wicked things is contrary to sound teaching. And ‘sound doctrine’ is clarified by verse 11, “in accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God.” So sound teaching is whatever points to the gospel. Let me try and paraphrase these four verses: The law is for those who do wicked things, and wicked things are contrary to the gospel. You either do wickedness, or believe the gospel. Those are the two things pitted against each other here. You are either believing rightly, or doing wrongly. Theology drives everything! May sound teaching– the gospel– keep you from sin.