Advantages of Humility
1 Timothy 1:11-20
The advantages arising from humility are
generally acknowledged, and yet it is a thing not easily to be
met with. – Chrysostom.
We consider now the apostle’s position – that of
The blessings of humility
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because
He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I
was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.
Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and
the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and
love which are found
in Christ Jesus.
(1Ti 1:12-14 NASB)
What Christ has done for me
In this short passage we see Paul’s testimony
first about what Christ has done for him. Consider well, and see if
you recognize something in your own life.
Christ has strengthened
him – which of course carries with it the implication that
his own strength was not sufficient. Most of us are willing
to tackle something within our own strength, but it takes
real humility to start by saying, “I can’t do it” – and then
receive strength from God.
Christ has considered him
faithful. Do you not see that this means that Paul’s
faith, alone, was not sufficient for the task? We know that
if you ask God for faith He will give it; here, God gives
him credit for it in advance. Humility says, “I don’t have
the faith to do it.” God responds by crediting that faith to
you – as you will certainly grow into it.
Finally, Christ has put him
into service. Despite what he has done, God has put him
on the team – and not just to warm the bench. The high
calling of God is placed on those who deserve it least – so
that all will see God’s doing, not man’s.
All this we may sum up thusly: God had mercy on
Paul – not just for forgiveness, but to turn him into a warrior for
What Paul did to Christ
We sometimes gloss over this, at two thousand
years away – but it should not be so. Paul has some very good
reasons to be humble, if you consider how this relationship with
He was a blasphemer. To
us this means nothing but casual obscenity, but to the Jew –
especially to the Pharisee – this was one of the worst
things you could say about a man. It made him look like
More than that, he was a
persecutor of the church. Paul got to do that literally,
but the concept has not vanished. One of the reasons my
children went to Christian schools was so that their faith
would not be hounded by the careless cruelty of “good”
children. The bitterness of such a life is long remembered,
and hard to forgive. Think now what it must be like to be
the person doing the hounding.
He was a violent aggressor.
To be a violent man is to pick up the weapons of Satan; to
pick up the weapons of Satan is to join his side. To do so
against the Gospel of peace is the worst of all violence. To
realize that’s what you are – is deeply humiliating.
The message is … grace
We often forget that the word translated “grace”
can also be translated “gift”. The grace of Christ is the gift of
Christ. Does that mean “gift from Christ” or “gift of Christ?” The
answer, it seems, is yes.
Like all that Christ gives us,
it is given abundantly. Indeed Paul characterizes it
as more than abundant – “hyper-abundant” would be the
transliteration. That is how Christ gives his gifts; that is
how He gives himself.
And what grace, what gift did he
receive? The faith found in Christ; the love found in
Christ. Not the faith and love relating to his own efforts –
no, these are gifts. Do you lack faith? Ask. Do you lack
Speaking as one so blessed
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am
foremost of all.
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. Now to the King
eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God,
honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
(1Ti 1:15-17 NASB)
The thesis is rather simple: Jesus came to save
sinners. We often forget that, but it is the purpose of his coming
Our translation calls this a
“trustworthy statement.” But if you look behind the
translation at the original Greek, you will see that
“trustworthy” is from the same word as “faith”. “Statement”
also hides a Greek word – logos, the Word. Jesus came
to save sinners – a trustworthy statement of the faithful
There is a message hidden in the
word “acceptance” as well. It has a technical meaning – that
implies that the person doing the accepting at the same time
acknowledges the terms thereof. If I rent you a house, and
you pay the rent and I cash the check, I have accepted all
the terms of the lease agreement. Acceptance means more than
intellectual head-nodding; it means commitment.
Just to make the point clear, Paul points to the
one sinner he’s most familiar with: himself. As with each of us,
Paul is the leading expert on his own relationship with Jesus
Christ. Paul knows what Christ has done for him; the nature of this
testimony is personal.
Why would Paul refer to himself as the foremost
For one reason, he deserved it.
For another, it brings up the
subject not of Paul’s sin but Christ’s patience.
Indeed, the word for patience here does not mean
the attitude of standing around, waiting for something to happen. It
means longsuffering, endurance – and in this instance it is called
perfect. The word means “complete” in the original. So we have a
picture of the longsuffering Christ, whose patience is perfected and
complete, waiting for the moment to turn Paul’s life upside down.
Why would Christ do this? So that Paul might be
an example – to those who believe. The favor of God often is
unbelievable, and the cynic will point to any possible explanation.
But when you know the love of God, you often see how lavish He is in
dealing with the sinners.
The entire discourse is so high, so holy in these
few verses that Paul feels compelled to end it with a benediction.
For the moment he will stop talking about Paul and what God has done
for him – and pass to the subject of what Timothy should do. But not
without rounding off the words preceding. It is as if Paul has been
awed by what he just wrote. It happens sometimes – when the object
his High and the writer low.
He begins with praise for the
nature of God – the King, eternal, immortal, invisible – the
complete “other-ness” of God.
He then – as the Psalms do so
often – commends and commands glory and honor, now and
Sometimes I wonder: does the casual nature of our
worship (“casual attire is emphasized,” as it says on our church’s
web site) keep us from the awe of God? And does that keep us from
giving praise and honor to Him outside the church walls?
Entrusted to You
This command I entrust to you, Timothy,
son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning
you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good
conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in
regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom
I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to
(1Ti 1:18-20 NASB)
Fight the good fight
May I vent just a little about this?
First, please realize that it
really is a fight. This is not a Sunday morning only
activity; the assault of Satan will carry through the week.
This is combat whether you want it to be or not.
Second, it is the good
fight. You are not permitted to fight dirty – that is, to
pick up the weapons of Satan. They may slander you; you are
not permitted to slander them. Rather, you are to use the
weapons of Christ.
Third, this is the good
fight – you are struggling for God’s good purposes, not your
If you’re going to war, a little personal
preparation is required. Paul gives Timothy a neat synopsis of this:
He tells him to keep the
faith. God has no “catch and release” program in mind. He
is expecting his people to stay faithful to the end of their
lives, no matter what is thrown at them. Indeed, as their
trials rise above what they can stand God will provide
strength and faith to rise with them.
He is also to keep a good
conscience. We seldom hear that word these days,
conscience. Modern life sears the conscience so that it no
longer bothers us. Is it wise for us to become, like the
modern world, too cynical and worldly to have so
old-fashioned a thing as a conscience?
All this is according to
prophecy concerning Timothy. It sometimes comes as a
surprise to know that God has a plan for your life. For
some, he reveals that plan, for they need to know to carry
such burdens. For others, He does not reveal it.
But occasionally he offers us a hint. When my
wife and I were at our prior church, I received an offer from my
employer for relocation. That was odd, in my view, as the job was in
the same area. But it met the criteria for relocation, and so the
offer was made. I thought and prayed about it, and – over my wife’s
objections – I decided to say no. I thought this was a test to see
if I would throw away a good ministry for the comforts of the
suburbs. Before I could send in my rejection, I was scheduled to go
to a conference in Nashville. The hotel was right across the street
from the Baptist Sunday School Board bookstore – a teacher’s heaven!
I bought some books, and some tapes.
One such tape was in the player when I heard God
say, clearly, “Listen. This song is for you.”
“Beyond the open door lies a new and fresh
anointing; hear the Spirit calling you to go. Walk on through the
door, for the Lord will go before you, into a greater power than
you’ve ever known before.”
We moved. Despite all objections from the staff
here, I began to teach. What God has planned I do not know; but I
know He knows, and that should be sufficient.
The grim alternative
We cannot leave this topic without a word of
warning. If you will not follow the charts of Scripture, shipwreck
will soon occur. Indeed, the word used for shipwreck is the root
word for our word, “navigate.” If you will not keep the faith in
good conscience, the shipwreck will occur.
What does that mean? It means that you have
ignored His warning signs, his lights, and have gone off on your own
God’s way of dealing with this is different than
ours. He lets you go off course – in the hopes that what you get
from your own way is sufficient to convince you to come back. It is
a matter of church discipline. You start with a one on one
conversation; then bring a couple of friends – and then the whole
congregation. It is a serious thing to throw someone out of the
church. It is also a serious thing to defile the conscience.
Our best hope is in this: The Light of the World
can be clearly seen – but sometimes we need the light that is closer
to us. The lower lights, which so clearly outline the channel at
night. We cannot be the Light, but we can and should reflect it for
all to see. Let us have the grace and humility to keep that mirror