Please turn to 1 Timothy 1:12-14. Paul is giving thanks to the Lord in this passage, and he is reflecting on what the Lord has done in his life. As Paul reflects on his conversion, he gives testimony to God's grace at work in his life. Specifically, Paul desires to remind Timothy and us what the gospel does in the lives of people. Paul is also wanting to contrast the nature of gospel ministry with the false teaching that was being presented to the church at Ephesus. As a result, Paul teaches us three things in the testimony included in this letter to Timothy. First, in verse 12, he tells us about the nature of gospel ministry. Then, in verse 13, Paul teaches us about the weakness of the law. Finally, in verse 14, he shows us the effect of God’s grace in the believer’s life.  

 

I. The true gospel minister is thankful for the underserved privilege of serving Christ and His people.

 

In verse 12, Paul says, “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service.” The thought that God had called Paul not only out of darkness and into the light, not only from unbelief to belief in the one way of salvation, not only from being an enemy of the church of Christ to being the pre-eminent missionary of the church of Christ struck wonder into Paul's heart. As Paul tells Timothy about his experience, he is showing Timothy the nature of gospel ministry. In doing so, Paul also teaches us four things about gospel ministry in verse 12. First, Paul reminds us that gospel ministry is a thankful ministry. Specifically, Paul says that he thanks Jesus Christ. Paul is staggered by the fact that one like himself who had persecuted Christians could be called into the service of Christ and Christians. He is absolutely mind-boggled that Jesus our Lord has entrusted him with the privilege of serving and suffering for Him. And so, Paul is thankful for his gospel ministry. Secondly, Paul says that gospel ministry is a dependent ministry. Paul knows that it does not matter how smart, zealous, or faithful he is. What makes the difference in the success of his ministry is the strengthening of the Lord. In the gospel ministry the final determining factor is not our abilities nor our capacities, it is what the Lord does. Thirdly, Paul says that gospel ministry is an undeserved ministry. In this passage, Paul is saying, “I am staggered that God would look down at me, and would count me trustworthy to take care of His people. I cannot believe that the Lord, in His mercy, would not only save me, but that He would let me minister to people that I had once harmed.” Finally, Paul teaches us that gospel ministry is service. In this verse, Paul says that Jesus appointed him to His service. Thus, Paul is saying “I am a servant.” In that regard, Paul is also reminding us that, as believers, we too are servants of the Lord who serve one another in the gospel. 

 

II. The true gospel minister remembers what he was apart from the grace of Christ Jesus.

 

In verse 13, Paul says, “though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief.” Paul is saying that for all his zeal and knowledge, he was just a blasphemer and a persecutor. And Paul also says that he acted ignorantly in unbelief. In other words, Paul is saying to Timothy, “I kept the law. I was more zealous than anybody in Israel for the law. I killed Christians for the law. I thought I was doing God a favor. And when God showed me what I was, I realized it could all be summed up in this: I am an unbeliever, and I am ignorant.” He is also saying, “I found out that law keeping in my own strength led me to the exalted pinnacle of being an ignorant unbeliever. But the grace of God in my life worked faith and love. Timothy, if anybody could have been right with God by the law, it was me. But I found out that I needed a righteousness of God apart from the law. And I found it in the gospel. I found it in Jesus Christ.” 



Paul is telling us in verse 12 not only of the nature of the gospel ministry, but also in verse 13 of the weakness of the law, and therefore of the need of the gospel. We need to understand our sin. We need to understand the inability of trying to be good and of keeping the law to make us right with God. And we need to understand our need of mercy. Those things have to be understood in order to minister the gospel. As a result of God’s grace, Paul understood those things. Therefore, Paul says to Timothy and to us, “You need to understand that the only way of being declared right with God is the gospel. It is the work of Jesus Christ. It is the work of the Holy Spirit drawing us to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel.” 

 

III. The true gospel minister is always mindful of the transforming power and sufficiency of the grace of Christ. 

 

In verse 14, Paul says, “and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” Paul wants Timothy to know the difference between a gospel ministry and a legal ministry. The true gospel minister is always mindful of the transforming power and sufficiency of the grace of Christ. Paul was not only forgiven and declared right with God; he was changed! Paul says, “When God's grace got hold of me, the grace of God in the gospel did what the law had never done in me. That is, made me one who believed in God, in His promises, in His word, and one who loves as Christ had called us to love. In other words, God's grace in me produced faith and love.” 

 

When grace works in a Christian heart, there are always two fruits which are faith in Jesus Christ and love for others. Therefore, Paul is saying, “Only in Jesus Christ can we believe on the promises of God and love as He has called us to love. If we say that law keeping is the way into that relationship, then we will never get to the point where we can obey God's command to love. But if you will trust in Jesus Christ, then you will see that God, in His grace and mercy, gives you the ability to trust and to love.” That is the only way that we can be what God has intended us to be. May God work in our hearts, by His Spirit, that we may believe and love to His glory.