God’s work in us

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

1 Timothy 1:12-17


  1. Confusion reigns

Have you every found yourself confused and that the confusion was made worse by someone who was meant to be teaching you. Did you ever do a subject at school or at uni or college where the teacher or lecturer only seemed to make you more confused. We expect teachers to be able to clear up the confusion rather than make it worse, but sadly, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes teachers don’t know what they’re talking about. They bluff their way through a topic which they really know nothing about. They pretend to be experts when they really aren’t. They can say a lot of things but none of them might make sense to the student.

1.1 In the classroom

While away on holidays I spoke to a teacher who admitted to me that sometimes High School teachers find themselves teaching subjects that they were never trained for and really don’t understand. He spoke about a teacher friend who found themselves teaching physics who had never really understood physics themselves and so was no help to the students when they became confused. When asked to explain something all that this teacher could do was point to the text book and go back over the example in the book. The teacher really didn’t understand what they were talking about and they just ended up confusing the whole class.

1.2 In the church

Last Sunday in the first 11 verses of chapter 1 of Paul’s first letter to Timothy we heard that this was the problem in the church of Ephesus. Timothy had been sent there by the apostle Paul to command certain men not to teach anymore because they had no idea of what they were talking about. They were confusing people and people were wandering away from the faith. These men wanted to be teachers, but instead of promoting God’s work which comes through faith in the gospel they had wandered from the faith and chapter 6 says that they had pierced themselves with many griefs and they were a danger to others.

Today/tonight we are looking at verses 12 to 17 of chapter 1 where the apostle Paul begins to clear up the confusion about how God’s work is done in us and what it looks like. We want to look closely at this passage today and spend time hearing what Paul has to say to Timothy because the same sort of confusion still exists today. We still have people who want to be teachers who think they are doing God’s work in this world, but they don’t know what they are talking about and they just end up confusing and leading lots of people astray. We even have them on TV. There are many churches who are not clear what the work of God is and although they might be doing lots of good things and helping people in lots of different ways, they might not necessarily be promoting God’s work which is by faith (1:4) What Paul does in these verses is that he shows us what God’s work in us is like by using himself as an example..

  1. God’s work in us

What is God’s work like?

Last Sunday we saw that these guys who wanted to be teachers were saying that it had something to do with the law and what they did with it. It may have been that they thought they were promoting God’s work by teaching people to follow the law more strictly or do certain things that they thought the law required or by being let in on certain hidden truths that you need to uncover in it. We don’t know exactly what they were saying, but that isn’t a problem for we don’t need to know this, we just need to be very clear about what God work in us is like (and that’s what we have in these verses). If we know this then we won’t be confused by those who don’t know what they are talking about.  I believe that it was John MacArthur who illustrated this point by pointing out that in the US that “Federal agents don’t learn to spot counterfeit money by studying the counterfeits. They study genuine bills until they master the look of the real thing. Then when they see the bogus money they recognize it.”[1] Paul, in verses 12 to 17 is making clear what God’s work in us is and how its done and what it looks like so that we might not be taken in by those who don’t know what they are talking about. The first thing that Paul wants to make clear about God’s work in us is that that it is a work of grace. It’s not what we do, it is what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

2.1 It’s a work of God’s grace

In verses 12 to 14 Paul thanks the Lord Jesus for showing mercy and grace to him for appointing him into his service.

1 Timothy 1:12-14

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.[2]

Here Paul is arguing that there was nothing to recommend him. He wasn’t appointed because he had done anything to deserve being called by Christ and appointed to his service. It was all the grace of Christ. Paul mentioned three things about himself to highlight just how underserving he was to be called into Christ’s service so that he might be a faithful servant. He wrote that he was appointed even though he was a blasphemer, and a persecutor and a violent man.

  • A blasphemy, persecutor and a violent man

These three things were not qualities that made him fit for the job of serving Jesus. These were blemishes and black marks on his record that he had no way of getting rid of himself. They were not the sort of things that one would want on their resume. You wouldn’t want them to come out at a job interview. You wouldn’t say, “By the way I thought I would let you know that I am blasphemer and that I do tend to persecute the people around me and I can even get a little violent at times.” You would soon be shown the door. These were not life experiences that made Paul a more suitable candidate to be chosen by Jesus, except that they highlighted just how underserving that Paul really was, and how the grace of God in Christ can save anyone no matter what they have done.

In Israel, under the old covenant blasphemy was something that if you were guilty of you could be sentence to death for it. It was to hold God in contempt and to rebel against him (see Lev. 24:10-22). If blasphemy wasn’t bad enough, Paul added to his resume that he was also a persecutor and a violent man. Before Jesus had called Paul on the road to Damascus, he had gone house to house dragging out believers and throwing them into prison[3].

  • Ignorant and unbelieving

Paul wanted us to understand that God’s work in us is a work of mercy and grace. Even when Paul mentioned his ignorance and unbelief I don’t think he was mentioning these things because he thought that somehow these things excused his behaviour. They were not reasons for the Lord to show leniency in his case and to go a little bit easier on Paul. You must remember that Paul was an Israelite. He was a member of God’s people and he himself had grown up immersed in the Word of God. For an Israelite who had been entrusted with the oracles of God to be ignorant and an unbelieving wasn’t an excuse, it was an indictment. It was evidence against him. It was proof of his stubbornness of heart.

  • Abundant grace

What Paul wants us to understand is that God’s work in us is a work of grace and mercy. Paul says that he was shown mercy. He writes that the grace of the Lord Jesus was poured out on him abundantly. The idea here is that it was poured out on him until it overflowed.

Maybe you have been distracted while doing the washing up or running the bath. I have done this once or twice. I’ve put on the tap and then gone off to do something that I thought would just be for a moment. Of course, what has happened was I became distracted and forgot that I left the water running and only realised that something was wrong when the water started to overflow and I could hear it falling on to the floor. You end up with the bath or the sink so full that can’t even put your hand into it pull the plug. That’s the idea here with the grace of Christ being poured out on Paul (and us) in abundance. Our lives are so full of the grace of Christ that they overflow with grace. There is no room for anything for us to add. It is all of him.

The work of God that goes on in our lives isn’t something that we have ourselves to thank for. Paul thanks the Lord Jesus. It doesn’t come through us fixing ourselves up a bit and doing a few good things or going on a journey of self-reflection or through making sacrifices in our lives that grabs God’s attention or by learning to meditate and discover that so called that spark within us or by discovering some secret truth or having some sort wonderful spiritual experience. God’s work in our lives happens through the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus.

When others tell you that in order to have God working in your life that you need to have this or that experience or to do follow this or that set of rules, don’t be confused. Tell them that the abundant grace of the Lord Jesus is more than enough for you. He has saved you and there nothing more for you to but to trust him.

2.2 It’s a work of salvation

This leads us to the second point about God’s work in our lives. It is secondly a work of salvation.

In verse 15 Paul gives the first of 3 trustworthy sayings (see also 3:1 and 4:8-9). A saying is a short pithy word that encapsulate something that is good to remember. The NIV has used the word “saying” to translate the Greek word logos, which often is translated “word” and I think this is fair enough. Here is a faithful word that we need to remember. These trustworthy sayings are truths that believers are to hold on to and trust no matter what others around you might be saying. The first trustworthy saying has to do with the work of salvation. It’s a concise summary of the message of the gospel.

1 Timothy 1:15

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

Paul says that this is a trustworthy (or faithful) word and this word that deserves full acceptance. Here is the truth that everyone is to know and believe and accept. But here Paul is saying more than just it needs to is be accepted by everyone. It is to be accepted completely or entirely – without reservation. It deserves full acceptance.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”.

This is a saying that we need to remember for it is at the heart of what we believe – why not say it with me. In this saying you get reminded of what God is doing in our lives in this verse. Just ask yourselves a few questions and you will see what I mean. Write down the answer to the following question: What did Christ come into the world to? Who saves sinners? Who do you think the sinners are (see Romans 3:23 if you are not sure)?

How Christ rescues sinners isn’t explained here but it is a little later in chapter 2 when Paul writes that Christ gave himself as ransom for all men.

1 Timothy 2:3-6a

This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.

Christ paid the penalty that our sin deserved, and he has brought us peace with God. It’s not about us following the rules or discovering some sort of hidden secret or having some sort of mystical experience of the Spirit or being baptised. We can be forgiven and have life only because of the grace of Christ. He gave his life a ransom for all people taking the punishment that our sins deserved. He is the only way that people can be saved and for people to be saved and that why Paul writes that that people need to come to a knowledge of the truth.

2.3 It’s a work of the gospel

This leads me to the third point that I believe that Paul seems to be making in this little section. God’s is working in this world through the message of the gospel. The first trustworthy saying is just a summary of the message of the gospel. It’s the gospel message in a nutshell. It’s what we need to accept and believe. But for people to come to a knowledge of this truth so that they can believe it they need to clearly hear the gospel and we need to be telling them it. Paul makes this clear to the Romans in chapter 10. He wrote…

Romans 10:14-15

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Like Paul and Timothy, we need to be telling others the good news and guarding against those who would confuse message for others. We are to guard this message by having nothing to do with those who are teaching false doctrines and by reminding one another of what is true and trustworthy. We are to be speaking and living out gospel of the Lord Jesus in a way so that as Paul says in chapter 4 people might put their hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men (4:10). We want to see everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth so that they might believe.

For this to happen we must know the gospel ourselves and be clear about what it is about. We need to know how to sum it up. We need to know some trustworthy sayings to pass on to others. Maybe something you could think about doing today is committing to learning a verse like 1 Timothy 1:15 that sum up its message in a nutshell. Let me give you some examples…

John 3:16

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 6:23

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Peter 3:18

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

Verses like these are little gospel gems – that give us a place to start talking from. Out of these three which of them do you think best sums up the gospel for you – why not tell the person next to you which one you think would be good to learn if you were to learn one.

I also want to ask you today whether it might be possible for you to just learn one verse that just reminds you of the heart of what we believe. Would you be willing to commit to that today? I know that some of us think that we could never learn a verse, but as my old piano teacher used to say it is just a matter of putting in the time to practice it. When I used to turn to up to my piano lessons after school without having learnt the piece of music she would ask me, Philip did you practice it? Most things are just putting the effort to practice them. Could you do that? Would you be willing to do that? If you are could you write down what that verse would be or if you have the notes circle it. If you already know one why not add another one. If you are willing to learn it then when you will learn it by. You will need to make a plan otherwise you will never get around to it. Why not tell someone today what you are planning to learn and get them to hold you accountable – to ask you about out next Sunday or in couple of Sundays or month’ time? [4] Why not also think about praying for the opportunity to be able share it with someone else? These small verses are of great value in reminding us of what’s important and helping us to share the good news with others.

2.4 We are examples of God’s grace in Christ

Paul lastly says that he is the perfect example of God’s handiwork.  He was the perfect example of God at work for he was the worst of sinners and God saved him.

1 Timothy 1:16-17

16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

Paul believed that Christ had saved him so that he might be an example for other sinners who would believe on him and receive eternal life. If God could even save Paul, the worst of sinners then he could save anyone no matter what they have done. The overflowing grace of Christ is more than sufficient for anyone and everyone who believes. We don’t have to worry that it isn’t going to be sufficient for us. We just need to believe on him who died for us.

We are too are examples of the work of God’s grace. I think that is how we are to see ourselves – as little examples of how God can save anyone. Our lives should point people to the fact that God is at work in the lives of sinners. He saves sinners like us and how pours out his grace on people who don’t deserve it. We should be little walking and talking advertisements for the grace of Christ.


The Vision personal training gym down near me often in Willoughby send out two of their trainers with banners strapped to their back and they run up and down through the streets of Willoughby with their banners strapped to their back. They are perfect advertisements for what Vision personal training is all about. That’s what God has done with us. He sends us out into the world advertising his grace in Christ. We are meant to be advertisements for what the grace of God can do in lives of sinners and when we people stop and ask us about this grace then we need to be able to tell them of the one who came to save sinners.

I want to ask you today whether you see yourself as walking and talking advertisement for the grace of the Lord Jesus? Do we act like people who have had God’s grace poured out on us or do we act like being saved is about keeping the rules and managing to get it all together or by becoming some sort of spiritual giant or having some sort of spiritual/mystical experience? Don’t give a wrong impression to those around you. Help people to see that the work of God in us is God’s work of grace through Christ. Help them to understand that if he can save sinner like us then he can save anyone. Be ready with the trustworthy sayings of the gospel because God is the Saviour of all people and he wants them to come to a knowledge of the truth so that they too can be believe on him and be saved.

[1] Tim Challies, on his blog,  quotes MacArthur and talks about how he went about verifying MacArthur’s point. See https://www.challies.com/articles/counterfeit-detection-part-1/

[2] All Scripture citations are taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version—Anglicised. (1984). (electronic edition). London: Hodder & Stoughton.

[3] We also know from Acts that Paul had been there when Stephen, the first Christian martyr had been stoned. He hadn’t thrown a stone himself, but he held the coats of those who had watching and approving of what they were doing.

[4] I’ve used business size cards that I’ve carried with me in the past, but lately I use an app to help me learn and review memory verses. I currently use the app called “Remember Me”..