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Before his conversion, Paul was much like an Islamist jihadi; he hated Christianity and did all he could to eradicate it. God could have justly destroyed him—as He did with others who persecuted His people. Many (including Paul himself) viewed Paul as the least likely to become a Christian. He describes himself as “near the edge” of unsavable. Had he known the truth and nonetheless gone on to rage against Christ, he might not have been saved: “But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tim. 1:13). In his raging persecution of Christians, Paul believed he was doing good, just as many do today.

Considering Paul’s history, it is no wonder that Luke records a stunned response in Damascus as he began to tell others of Christ:

All who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” (Acts 9:21)

The response in Jerusalem was the same. The disciples of Jesus “were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple” (v. 26).

Why does Paul recount his own salvation in his letter? He wants Timothy to remember how “the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:14). Wonder and worship fill Paul as he thinks about who Jesus is and what He has done. Paul, a persecutor, was transformed and forgiven, filled with faith and love. If this is what Christ can do, Timothy need not be fearful and anxious about the hostility he faces in Ephesus. Jesus Christ is more than sufficient for him and the church in all their needs.

Our Lord’s desire that we share in this confident faith is clear: “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” (v. 15). This is why our Lord came, and this is what He is still doing: making the dead alive, the evil good, the guilty innocent. He reigns to save, transform, and sanctify. Paul tells us, “I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (v. 16). Paul received patience and mercy so that we would see Jesus. While Paul was pursuing evil, Jesus was pursuing His ministry, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection, and the ascension. While Paul was living in evil, Jesus was seated on the throne of glory, working and waiting for the time of Paul’s salvation. After transforming Paul, Jesus continued patiently loving and sanctifying His servant, so that we can know with gladness that this is who our Lord and Savior is, today and forever.

Hardening the Heart of Pharaoh

Zipporah Saves Her Son

Keep Reading Jewish Life in the Days of Jesus

From the February 2022 Issue
Feb 2022 Issue