1 Timothy 1:12-17
Paul, an example of beholding the gospel of the glory of the blessed God
“There is embedded in the heart of this present passage one of the great gospel texts of the apostolic church and of the Reformation. The words of that text are familiar to many: ‘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.’ (1:15). This single sentence has been used to encourage countless souls on their way to Christ. It stands as a front piece to the English Reformation because of its effect upon Thomas Bilney, the early Reformation martyr.
Thomas Bilney, known as ‘little Bilney’ due to his diminutive stature, was born in 1495. Because he had a scholarly bent, he studied law at Cambridge, becoming a fellow of Trinity Hall in 1520. But neither study nor ordination brought him to peace. Then he began to read the Latin translation of Erasmus’s Greek New Testament, and as Bilney described it:
‘I chanced upon this sentence of St. Paul (O most sweet and comfortable sentence to my soul!) in 1 Timothy 1. ‘It is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be embraced, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am the chief and principal.’ This one sentence, through God’s instruction and inward working…did so exhilarate my heart, being before wounded with the guilt of my sins, and being almost in despair, that even immediately I seemed unto myself inwardly to feel a marvelous comfort and quietness, insomuch that ‘my bruised bones leaped for joy’ (Psalm 51). After this, the Scripture began to be more pleasant unto me than the honey or the honeycomb…. (quoted by Hughes and Chapell from John Stott in Guard the truth in a block quote from their commentary on 1 Timothy)
Bilney immediately became a central figure in a group of theologians who met at the famous White Horse Inn, which stood on what is now the corner of King’s Parade and Rose Crescent in Cambridge. And there his group prepared for the Reformation in England. Bilney was arrested in 1527 and was forced to recant. But little Bilney couldn’t contain himself and set off preaching again in 1531. He was again arrested, then tried and burned at the stake. His most famous convert, Hugh Latimer, who became the most prominent preacher of the English Reformation, was inspired by Bilney’s courage and reverently referred to him in his sermons as ‘St. Bilney.’ Latimer, too, died at the stake, in Oxford in 1555.
What a monumental effect 1 Timothy 1:15 has had! And well it should, for it gives us the gospel in miniature. There is no doubt whatsoever that it can make ‘bruised bones’ leap for joy.”
What we have in this gospel of the glory of the blessed God transforms sinners into saints.
Paul, who is writing this letter of instruction to Timothy (and therefore, to the whole church) is the example given at the outset of the letter as a display of what the gospel of glory accomplishes.
Let’s take a look at (in some measure, particularly in Paul and for the church at Ephesus) 1) what the gospel of glory accomplishes, 2) how the gospel accomplishes what it does and 3) why (in some measure) the gospel accomplishes what it does and finally 4) the particular fruit of the gospel of glory in Paul’s words to this pastor and the congregation.
1. What does the gospel of glory accomplish? v. 12-14
A. The gospel of glory births the Church and all the churches that make it up (All of 1 Timothy)
Paul is writing to the “church” at Ephesus and, by grace, to all churches who are truly the church doing the church’s work.
The gospel births the Church and by default, the Church does gospel work, which is establishing more churches within the scope of the Church, which is the whole earth.
1. Communion with God
3. Collision with culture
B. The gospel of glory transforms sinners into saints v. 13
“…though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent…”
“…But I received mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief…”
1. Paul’s identity was not what he used to be, rather his identity is what he
was transformed to be
a. 2 Corinthians 5:17
2. This gospel of glory releases us from our pre-Christ failures
C. The gospel of glory overflows with the grace of love and faith v. 14
Father gives to us his love and the gift of faith and then requires us to love and live by faith.
As much as Paul is an example of what Father can do for a sinner, Paul serves as an example of what real saints are contrasted with those who follow after silly myths and endless genealogies and make a shipwreck of their faith (1:19).
1. Those who shipwrecked their faith needed more than the gospel (sarcasm) and very simply refused to believe what was written. Their appetite was for this world (1 John 2:15
a. These wander into vain discussions 1:6
b. These are not submissive 2:11
c. These devote themselves to deceitful spirits 4:1
d. These are more concerned with their temporal existence 4:8
e. These neglect their family 5:3-16
f. These have an unhealthy craving for controversy (drama) and quarrels 6:4
g. These are driven by wanting more money 6:9-10
2. Paul had his worldview rocked by the gospel and wrote things like:
a. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
1. Paul’s harsh hardships are viewed as momentary and light
(from eternity’s perspective)
2. Paul views hardships as preparing him for the eternal weight of
glory (he is being trained to take in full glory)
3. Paul looks to the unseen not the seen
D. The gospel of glory takes saints and makes them servants to the Great Cause of Christ v. 12
2. How does the gospel of glory accomplish its great work? v. 15
A. Jesus came to save sinners v. 15
Jesus comes to save sinners. You see, we were born with Adam’s name. We had the guilt and stain of Adam imputed to us due to the fall. Yet, Jesus, the creator (Col 1:15-16) comes and takes on flesh and he does the most amazing thing. He dies in our place for our sin and rises that he may justify us! Forgiveness is only half of the work of salvation. Jesus wipes us clean then he credits to us his perfection.
I cannot nor will I ever get past the glorious doctrine of justification. Justification is the instantaneous legal act of God in which he thinks of our sins as forgiven and then imputing, fully, completely, all together giving to us Christ’s righteousness and declaring us to be righteous in his sight.
1. We no longer have to believe in Karma. What goes around will never come around!
2. Life’s difficulties are never God getting even for that thing we did. Rather, our good
Father graciously prunes our deadness off in order to make us more fruitful. He will
never get even. We are even! He just prunes me for my good and his glory.
3. I don’t have to work to get Father’s favor. I have it perfectly and therefore I work
because I can’t help it. Fruit just happens!
3. Why does the gospel of glory do its marvelous work? v. 16
A. To put the Father’s perfect patience on display in saving the worse case as easily as the less
worse case v. 16
4. What fruit does the gospel of glory produce in Paul in this text? v. 17
A. Doxology – praise! v. 17
“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever. Amen.”
1. To – Paul is addressing his worship to the Lord
2. King of the ages – Paul acknowledges who is in control and what he is in control over
3. Immortal – Paul acknowledges that the King is not a human king, but The King who
has no beginning and no end, the end all and be all…
4. Invisible – Paul acknowledges that his King is greater than what the unregenerate eye
can behold. He is seen by faith.
5. The Only God – Paul Acknowledges that there is no other allegiance. No other God.
6. Be – Paul is now exulting…his direction is set…he is pointed in the right place…his
heart is set on the Lord
7. Honor – Paul exults deference, respect and service for
8. Glory – Paul reflects, in all his image bearing, glory back to its source in words,
emotions, actions, and a million unmentionable glories
 Kent Hughes, Bryan Chapell, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000), p. 41-42.