Saturday, June 2, 2012

Missions in I Timothy

I Timothy is a letter written by Paul to his son in the faith, Timothy. At the time of the writing, Paul was most likely under some sort of house arrest in Rome. Timothy was in Ephesus, living as part of the church there. The apostle writes to Timothy to exhort him to stand up for correct doctrine in both belief and practice within the Ephesian church.

(To read the first post in this series, please click here.)

In the midst of this epistle on corrective doctrine, is there anything worth noting about missions? The answer, not surprisingly, is yes. Paul says the following in 1:16 (several translations provided):

“But 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.” (ESV)

“Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” (NASB)

“However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” (NKJV)

“But that is why God had mercy on me, so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” (NLT)

In 1:15 Paul refers to himself as the “foremost” or “chief” sinner. He’s using hyperbole to make the point that his sins against the church were grievous. In 1:16 Paul explains that God has shown him mercy. Why has God done this? One of the reasons is so that Paul would be an example Christ’s perfect patience to those hearing and responding positively to the gospel.

The book of Acts shows us that Paul traveled from place to place proclaiming the gospel. If those hearing the gospel needed an example of the mercy and patience of God, Paul was right there. He could share his experiences with them. They could see a concrete example of God’s forgiveness right in front of them. There could be no doubt that God does in fact forgive since He was willing to use a former church-persecutor as His foremost missionary.

What can we learn from this? The answer is that we are also examples of God’s patience and mercy. When we proclaim the gospel to the lost, we should share our own stories with them. It makes the truth of the gospel real to people when they hear where we were prior to Christ and where we are now.

In gospel proclamation, we must first and foremost share biblical truths in a manner that is understandable to those listening. However, we should also take advantage the real-life illustrations that we are. We’ve all sinned terribly against God. He’s forgiven us. Let’s tell others about it.

To read any or all posts in this series, please click here.

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