From Paul to us — ‘overwhelming, extravagant grace’

Published 2:25 pm Thursday, December 3, 2015

In this letter (1 Timothy 1:12-17) Paul is writing to Timothy, the young man who has been with him for so long and now is on his own.

Timothy is staying in Ephesus while Paul continues on his journeys, and he’s giving Timothy instructions and warnings. In the midst of these warnings and instructions comes this passage, a passage of thanksgiving to Jesus for his grace and mercy.

“I am grateful, I thank Christ Jesus, the one who has strengthened me, I thank him for considering me faithful and appointing me to his service, even though — and Paul here acknowledges what he had been — I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, a violent man.”

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The Greek here comes from hubris, a man of pride and self-importance. Even though I was all these things, Paul says, Jesus showed me mercy, the grace of our Lord overflowed, was poured out abundantly.”

Extravagant and overwhelming, that’s how Paul sees Christ’s grace  — stunning, amazing grace, that this miserable sinner and persecutor of Christians was saved and given such a role of trust and faith.

And here’s a trustworthy saying, says Paul to Timothy. I was the worst of sinners, yet Christ in his unlimited patience showed mercy on me. Christ’s extravagant, overflowing grace doesn’t save just me, it saves all — anyone who believes on Him will receive eternal life. 

Paul says that’s the reason Christ came into the world, came down into the dust to save the miserable sinner that he was and to save us — miserable sinners that we are. Abundant, overwhelming, amazing grace that saved a wretch like me.

Paul ends this passage as he sometimes does when he is just overwhelmed by what he is writing. He has to stop and give glory to God, to burst out with a doxology, “Now to the King of the ages, immortal, invisible God, only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 

The wonderful thing about God’s grace, that overwhelming, extravagant, overflowing grace, is that it is free. All we have to do is acknowledge our sin, repent of it, and God’s grace is there to save us by the same Christ who saved Paul. He is the Christ who died on the cross for us, who was raised again so we would have eternal life, and who sits on the right hand of God the Father, interceding and praying for us. 

It is overwhelming, extravagant and overabundant grace.

DALE BROWN is the pastor of Cumberland and Guinea Presbyterian churches. His email is