“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”
By calling Jesus “our Lord,” not only is Paul proclaiming Jesus as his and Timothy’s Lord, but also the Lord of everyone else. It’s always interesting to me how Paul refers to Jesus as “Christ Jesus” rather than “Jesus Christ,” as if he’s saying, “the Christ Jesus.” By saying that, he’s stating clearly that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior that the Jews had been waiting for for so long. “Christ” is Jesus’ title, not his name.
Paul recognizes and honors God in stating that “He has given me strength” and “He considered me faithful.” He’s also telling us that it doesn’t matter what people think; it only matters what God thinks. He then thanks God for considering him faithful and placing him in the ministry (all of God’s ministers must be faithful), as service to God is very important and honorable.
Paul admits to his own faults in the next verse, showing his own humble nature. He was “a blasphemer” ~ indicating that he was one of many ~ which means he was against God. He was also a persecutor ~ against God’s people ~ and a violent man ~ against both God and His people. To blaspheme means “to strike directly at God,” which we know Paul did by reading his story in Acts (if you haven’t read all the way through Acts before, it’s a fascinating book full of stories bursting with God’s power, and it’ll change your life ~ I know because it’s got the stories Paul told other people in his own time, and their lives were changed by hearing it too). To “persecute” is to wound God directly by hurting His people, another thing that Paul did, and something we see people doing today, not only in far-off countries, but in our own United States of America.
But there is always hope, which we see in the next little section. Paul “was shown mercy,” which, for a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, is a huge favor showing God’s grace. It’s really complicated trying to figure out who’s saved and how you know you’re saved and everything like that, and how a person who is as bad as Paul was could possibly be saved. It’s said in the Bible in various places that you will be judged for your actions here on Earth, which can cause much confusion, but hopefully this bit will help straighten it out some. Paul was shown mercy because he acted “in ignorance” ~ he didn’t know better. He didn’t know that the Christians were God’s people. So if a person knows that God is there and that Christians are His people, yet still rejects Him, he will be judged because of that. But if he doesn’t know the story about how Jesus died to save us all, he’s still got a chance.
Now we hear about the Lord’s grace. Paul said that it was poured out on him abundantly, but he doesn’t have as much grace as Jesus did because the grace in Paul is of the grace of Jesus. This grace, also, was not given to Paul, but rather literally poured onto him. Thus, the salvation of sinners is by God’s grace, and faith and love go hand-and-hand with it.
If you have been suffering from your own kind of persecution, may it be by yourself, the devil, or another person, I encourage you to read Acts and to dwell on Paul’s story. He has a lot he can teach you and I bet you’ll be greatly encouraged by his faith. And if you need someone to talk to, I wouldn’t mind at all if you shot me a prayer request or something in the comments section under this post. I’ll certainly do my best to help in any way I can.