- Religion and Philosophy
By Harold Markham
As a young student I was fascinated with metamorphic rock. It was natural alchemy. Coal turned into diamonds, limestone becomes marble-- it was almost magical. Rock refined and crystallized by natural forces changes! What force can change a murder into a missionary? No natural process molds a persecutor into a preacher, and an ardent antagonist of the church into an Apostle of Christ yet these very things happened to Saul of Tarsus. The amazing work of Jesus Christ can change a man from sinner into saint. After all, Christ’s purpose in coming into this fallen world was to save sinners.
"The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." (1 Timothy 1:15, ESV)
Before his birth the angel told Joseph “it is He who will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). In Luke 19:10 the Lord clearly stated the purpose of His coming: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Man is in violation of God’s law; men are sinners by nature. They miss the mark of God's holy perfection. Paul considered himself the foremost of sinners. the true biggest looser. This was a healthy self-view for Paul because it was accurate. He was a blasphemer, a persecutor of His church, and enemy of Jesus and His church. But all that changed.
"I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." (1 Timothy 1:12-15, ESV)
This text is absolutely amazing! Paul shows us that when the power of Christ saves us it changes us so that we can serve Him!
What does this change accomplish? What does it look like? How exactly is a man changed when Jesus saves him?
For starters man isn't given earthly comforts. In other word just because someone become a follower of Christ does not mean that they will be wealthy, healthy, and clappy happy all the time. The change God makes in us when He grants repentance, faith and forgiveness of sins is far deeper than these external benefits. The salvation mentioned here accomplishes many things—but 4 specific aspects of service are found in our text.
I. Christ’s Changing Power Enables Us. v. 12a
Christians are given the strength to serve. The word "enables" is really strengthened or empowered-- infused with strength. It is a participle so it has the “ing” aspect—strengthening—happened in the past time but it has effects that exist at the time this was written.
The Bible is full of examples where God strengthened men to serve Him. Remember mighty Samson (Judges 13-16), the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:7-9) and Gideon's band (Judges 7).
As a Christian you have all the power that we need to serve Christ. Like Paul you have the strength to be contentment, to be faithful, to work on your marriage, to bring glory to God on your job, to train up your child and fulfill any task God gives to you. This is unnatural and produced ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts. Look to Him for your strength.
Thus says the Lord, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the Lord. “For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord And whose trust is the Lord. “For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.
Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NASB95)
My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26
On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul. Psalm 138:3
II. Christ’ Changing Power Esteems Us. v. 12b
Christians are given the standing to serve. Notice that He counts us faithful. He considered, esteemed he regarded us faithful. How can that be? We all have sinned. When God sees a believer, what does He see? If you are a Christian here today He sees the righteousness of Christ credited to your account. At the moment we trusted Christ we were considered righteous. But long before we trusted in Him God began a work of grace in our lives even in the midst of faithlessness.
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:29-30
Take heart believer! You are esteemed in Christ! It is not your merit, but it the grace of God poured out on believers in Christ! He has given the repentant believing all the merits of the Son. His A plus score was credited to you. You are empowered and esteemed. Grace should inspire gratitude. When is the last time you thanked God for His saving work? Look at the beginning of this text.: And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord.as Paul testifies of the grace God has he is filled with gratitude and needed to express it. Believer you are empowered and you are esteemed.
III. Christ’s Changing Power Enlists Us. v. 12c
We have the summons to serve.God put Paul inot ministry Notice: "putting me into the ministry" =putting me into service “the ministry” “the servanthood” διακονίαν—servanthood is ministry. The story is told:
During the days of the great Bible Conferences D. L. Moody hosted a large number of Europeans in his Massachusetts dormitory. As Moody did a final walk through the dorm that night he saw the boots of each man setting outside the door waiting to be polished by the evening shoe shine boy.Unfortunately Moody had no shoe shine boy so Moody himself gathered up the footwear and cleaned and polished them all. The host became the humble servant.
Our Lord came to serve—He girded Himself with a towel, He spent His life for others.
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.“It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28
Are you serving? When is the last time you shared the Gospel, testified of your faith, denied your flesh, served tables? It is work to serve, but it is also joy. Its no duty to serve those whom you love. Was it a joy to change the first diaper? Was it a gruesome trial to open the door for the lady that became your spouse? Was it murder to fix his favorite meal when you learned that you were his girl? I submit that it is an honor to serve God. It is an honor to be enlisted into His service. Real belief will produce real works.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13
IV. Christ’s Changing Power Endows Us. vv. 13-14
We have the support to serve. God in grace has opened His storehouse and gave us exactly what we need to serve Him!
A. Mercy. v. 13
Paul’s ignorant, pitiful, condition as the chief of sinners made him a recipient of Mercy i.e. withholding of just punishment. This merciful endowment allowed him to go from murder to missionary.
B. Grace. v.14a
This is the unmerited favor that can never be earned. Paul could never do enough good to erase his past sin. so it is with us. we need Mercy and we need grace.
C. Faith. v.14b
The ability to believe is a gift from God. Paul was visited on the Damascus road and became a believer! God graciously stooped to meet him, but did not let him continue in the
D. Love. v.14c
This love is a need based giving for the well being of the recipient. what does the recipient really need? This love expects nothing in return and has God's glory as it's chief end (cf. 1 Corinthians 13).
About The Author
Just as natural processes change rock the power of God changes a man.
Christ’s changing power enables us. v. 12a
We have the strength to serve.
Christ’ changing power esteems us. v. 12b
We have the standing to serve.
Christ’s changing power enlists us. v. 12c
We have the summons to serve.
Christ’s changing power endows us. vv. 13-14
We have the support to serve.