A note from our Pastor:
“Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.”1 Timothy 1:13
Good Morning Dearly Beloved,
In the prior verse, which was our study verse last week, the Apostle recounts how he was put into the ministry by God. Based on his history and prior actions this new calling must have come as a surprise, and doubtless a skeptical change, for the community of believers. In our study verse this week, the Apostle addresses his past and how he came to be a minister of Jesus Christ.
The personal history the Apostle details to start this verse was well known among the community of believers. If they were not personally impacted by Paul, known as Saul among the Jews, they likely knew someone who had been. As the Apostle himself said, he was a Hebrew among the Hebrews, a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5) and was quickly rising through the ranks of leadership. He was personally responsible for the death, persecution, and threatening of the community of believers. Not only had he blasphemed God but he had caused countless others to blaspheme as well as they sought to protect themselves or their families from torture and death.
Then the Apostle says he obtained mercy. This was and is an important statement by the Apostle which all disciples should learn from. When did the Apostle obtain mercy? From outward appearances it can be said to have started on the road to Damascus when God appeared unto him and continued throughout the rest of his life. However, for the Apostle mercy did not mean gain in a natural sense. From the point of his calling through his death the Apostle was imprisoned numerous times, given sentences of torture which were just short of the death penalty, no doubt lived in poverty, and lost all gain he had among the Jews. The mercy he obtained was not for gain in worldly measure, but for gain in knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The last statement of this verse raises many questions though. We know the Apostle’s history in his past life and we understand how only the mercy of God could change his course. But then, the Apostle says he obtained mercy because he committed the awful acts he performed ignorantly in unbelief. How can this possibly be true? The Apostle, as a Pharisee, stood and heard the message Stephen preached regarding Jesus Christ and then held the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen to death. Doubtless he listened to numerous believers who were martyred and they refused to deny Jesus Christ and his doctrine. How could the Apostle claim he acted in ignorantly in unbelief?
This question is not easy to answer and scripture is certainly not definitive, but the most plausible supposition is the Apostle performed those actions prior to his regeneration. The Apostle says he had zeal before the mercy of God was upon him, but that zeal was for the law. It was for the teachings of men and the authority which came from following those teachings. Thus, prior to his regeneration it would not have mattered how many times the Apostle heard the truth it would not have landed on his heart. He remained ignorant to the things of Christ and to his teachings.
As a community of believers we should remember how the mercy of God changes the life of a believer. The history of a person should never be a reason, if God has worked on them, to exclude them from the community of believers.
Our Prayers are with you daily,
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