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Amazing grace from Paul

In this devotional, I would like to look at I Timothy 1: 12-17. Paul is writing this letter to Timothy, the young man who has been with him for so long, and now is on his own, staying in Ephesus while Paul is continuing on his journeys, and he’s giving Timothy instructions and warnings.

But in the midst of those warnings and instructions comes this passage, a passage of thanksgiving to Jesus for his grace and his 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” — the Greek here comes from hubris — “a man of pride and self importance. Even though I was all of these things,” Paul says, “Jesus showed me mercy, the grace of our Lord overflowed, was poured out abundantly, extravagant, overwhelming, stunning grace.”

And here’s a trustworthy saying, says Paul to Timothy, here is something you can bank on, something you can rely on and that is that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Paul says look at this example, I was the worst of sinners, yet Christ in his unlimited patience showed mercy on me, and Christ’s extravagant, overwhelming, overflowing grace doesn’t save just me — it saves anyone who believes in him will receive eternal life. Abundant, overwhelming, amazing grace that saved a wretch like me.

Paul was reminding Timothy of what would sustain him during his work — that this same grace that saved Paul was there for Timothy too in his work, and it is a reminder that this same grace is available to each of us as well.

But there is a lesson here. Paul admits he was a sinner. He doesn’t sugarcoat it — “I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, a man of violence, proud and spiteful.” There is a sense of shame. Today in our society we’re missing that. This is an age of victims, it is always someone else, something else’s fault. We find someone else to blame, but Paul didn’t do that. He admitted his guilt. And we too need to acknowledge our sin to receive this overabundant grace.

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 drench us.

Rev. Dale Brown is the pastor of Cumberland and Guinea Presbyterian Churches. His email address is dalembesq@aol.com.