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Gratitude for Mercy

12 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. 16But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. 17To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

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12. The honor done him in having the Gospel ministry committed to him suggests the digression to what he once was, no better (1Ti 1:13) than those lawless ones described above (1Ti 1:9, 10), when the grace of our Lord (1Ti 1:14) visited him.

And—omitted in most (not all) of the oldest manuscripts.

I thankGreek, "I have (that is, feel) gratitude."

enabled me—the same Greek verb as in Ac 9:22, "Saul increased the more in strength." An undesigned coincidence between Paul and Luke, his companion. Enabled me, namely, for the ministry. "It is not in my own strength that I bring this doctrine to men, but as strengthened and nerved by Him who saved me" [Theodoret]. Man is by nature "without strength" (Ro 5:6). True conversion and calling confer power [Bengel].

for that—the main ground of his "thanking Christ."

he counted me faithful—He foreordered and foresaw that I would be faithful to the trust committed to me. Paul's thanking God for this shows that the merit of his faithfulness was due solely to God's grace, not to his own natural strength (1Co 7:25). Faithfulness is the quality required in a steward (1Co 4:2).

putting me into—rather as in 1Th 5:9, "appointing me (in His sovereign purposes of grace) unto the ministry" (Ac 20:24).

13. Who was beforeGreek, "Formerly being a blasphemer." "Notwithstanding that I was before a blasphemer," &c. (Ac 26:9, 11).

persecutor—(Ga 1:13).

injuriousGreek, "insulter"; one who acts injuriously from arrogant contempt of others. Translate, Ro 1:30, "despiteful." One who added insult to injury. Bengel translates, "a despiser." I prefer the idea, contumelious to others [Wahl]. Still I agree with Bengel that "blasphemer" is against God, "persecutor," against holy men, and "insolently injurious" includes, with the idea of injuring others, that of insolent "uppishness" [Donaldson] in relation to one's self. This threefold relation to God, to one's neighbor, and to one's self, occurs often in this Epistle (1Ti 1:5, 9, 14; Tit 2:12).

I obtained mercy—God's mercy, and Paul's want of it, stand in sharp contrast [Ellicott]; Greek, "I was made the object of mercy." The sense of mercy was perpetual in the mind of the apostle (compare Note, see on 1Ti 1:2). Those who have felt mercy can best have mercy on those out of the way (Heb 5:2, 3).

because I did it ignorantlyIgnorance does not in itself deserve pardon; but it is a less culpable cause of unbelief than pride and wilful hardening of one's self against the truth (Joh 9:41; Ac 26:9). Hence it is Christ's plea of intercession for His murderers (Lu 23:34); and it is made by the apostles a mitigating circumstance in the Jews' sin, and one giving a hope of a door of repentance (Ac 3:17; Ro 10:2). The "because," &c., does not imply that ignorance was a sufficient reason for mercy being bestowed; but shows how it was possible that such a sinner could obtain mercy. The positive ground of mercy being shown to him, lies solely in the compassion of God (Tit 3:5). The ground of the ignorance lies in the unbelief, which implies that this ignorance is not unaccompanied with guilt. But there is a great difference between his honest zeal for the law, and a wilful striving against the Spirit of God (Mt 12:24-32; Lu 11:52) [Wiesinger].

14. AndGreek, "But." Not only so (was mercy shown me), but

the grace—by which "I obtained mercy" (1Ti 1:13).

was exceeding abundantGreek, "superabounded." Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Ro 5:20).

with faithaccompanied with faith, the opposite of "unbelief" (1Ti 1:13).

love—in contrast to "a blasphemer, persecutor, and injurious."

which is in Christ—as its element and home [Alford]: here as its source whence it flows to us.

15. faithful—worthy of credit, because "God" who says it "is faithful" to His word (1Co 1:9; 1Th 5:24; 2Th 3:3; Re 21:5; 22:6). This seems to have become an axiomatic saying among Christians the phrase, "faithful saying," is peculiar to the Pastoral Epistles (1Ti 2:11; 4:9; Tit 3:8). Translate as Greek, "Faithful is the saying."

all—all possible; full; to be received by all, and with all the faculties of the soul, mind, and heart. Paul, unlike the false teachers (1Ti 1:7), understands what he is saying, and whereof he affirms; and by his simplicity of style and subject, setting forth the grand fundamental truth of salvation through Christ, confutes the false teachers' abstruse and unpractical speculations (1Co 1:18-28; Tit 2:1).

acceptationreception (as of a boon) into the heart, as well as the understanding, with all gladness; this is faith acting on the Gospel offer, and welcoming and appropriating it (Ac 2:41).

Christ—as promised.

Jesus—as manifested [Bengel].

came into the world—which was full of sin (Joh 1:29; Ro 5:12; 1Jo 2:2). This implies His pre-existence. Joh 1:9, Greek, "the true Light that, coming into the world, lighteth every man."

to save sinners—even notable sinners like Saul of Tarsus. His instance was without a rival since the ascension, in point of the greatness of the sin and the greatness of the mercy: that the consenter to Stephen, the proto-martyr's death, should be the successor of the same!

I am—not merely, "I was chief" (1Co 15:9; Eph 3:8; compare Lu 18:13). To each believer his own sins must always appear, as long as he lives, greater than those of others, which he never can know as he can know his own.

chief—the same Greek as in 1Ti 1:16, "first," which alludes to this fifteenth verse, Translate in both verses, "foremost." Well might he infer where there was mercy for him, there is mercy for all who will come to Christ (Mt 18:11; Lu 19:10).

16. HowbeitGreek, "But"; contrasting his own conscious sinfulness with God's gracious visitation of him in mercy.

for this cause—for this very purpose.

that in me—in my case.

first—"foremost." As I was "foremost" (Greek for chief, 1Ti 1:15) in sin, so God has made me the "foremost" sample of mercy.

show—to His own glory (the middle Greek, voice), Eph 2:7.

all long-sufferingGreek, "the whole (of His) long-suffering," namely, in bearing so long with me while I was a persecutor.

a pattern—a sample (1Co 10:6, 11) to assure the greatest sinners of the certainty that they shall not be rejected in coming to Christ, since even Saul found mercy. So David made his own case of pardon, notwithstanding the greatness of his sin, a sample to encourage other sinners to seek pardon (Ps 32:5, 6). The Greek for "pattern" is sometimes used for a "sketch" or outline—the filling up to take place in each man's own case.

believe on him—Belief rests ON Him as the only foundation on which faith relies.

to life everlasting—the ultimate aim which faith always keeps in view (Tit 1:2).

17. A suitable conclusion to the beautifully simple enunciation of the Gospel, of which his own history is a living sample or pattern. It is from the experimental sense of grace that the doxology flows [Bengel].

the King, eternal—literally, "King of the (eternal) ages." The Septuagint translates Ex 15:18, "The Lord shall reign for ages and beyond them." Ps 145:13, Margin, "Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom," literally, "a kingdom of all ages." The "life everlasting" (1Ti 1:16) suggested here "the King eternal," or everlasting. It answers also to "for ever and ever" at the close, literally, "to the ages of the ages" (the countless succession of ages made up of ages).

immortal—The oldest manuscripts read, "incorruptible." The Vulgate, however, and one very old manuscript read as English Version (Ro 1:23).

invisible—(1Ti 6:16; Ex 33:20; Joh 1:18; Col 1:15; Heb 11:27).

the only wise God—The oldest manuscripts omit "wise," which probably crept in from Ro 16:27, where it is more appropriate to the context than here (compare Jude 25). "The only Potentate" (1Ti 6:15; Ps 86:10; Joh 5:44).

for ever, &c.—See note, above. The thought of eternity (terrible as it is to unbelievers) is delightful to those assured of grace (1Ti 1:16) [Bengel].