Hold on to the truth! – 1 Timothy 1:12-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 8, 2017
Like a lot of things in our society today, the truth has become subjective; truth depends upon how one feels, whether or not one thinks they are justified in whatever perverted proclivity they desire for the moment, or the deliberate movement of society’s moral boundaries. In a world where truth can be a slippery slope of a mixed bag of tricks one many wonder where in the world does the truth lie? What truth do we hold on to in our day and age?
Paul was a convert to the Christian faith and it wasn’t an easy thing for him to do. He knew where he had come from and in the Book of Acts he related “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.” (Acts 26:9-11 NIV) That was the truth Paul had known but he now had learned to hold onto a different truth, one that was revealed to him by Jesus. Let’s see how he tells Timothy to hold on to the truth…
I could never figure out how in the world my parents could figure out what I had been up to until I got to be parent and then I realized it was because, as hard as it could be to fathom, they had been kids at one time as well! Nothing is hidden from someone who has already been there and done that; it was then I realized like Paul did in his relationship with Jesus that…
I. The truth exposes ignorance and unbelief! (Vv. 12-14)
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 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. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
1. Far from persecuting believers Paul had become one himself and now he could honestly relate that “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord”. The Messiah had saved him for a purpose. His purpose would be to reach the non-Jew, the gentiles of Asia Minor. It was Jesus who had given him “strength” to face those who now would doubt his conversion or question his integrity to the faith. In fact Jesus “considered” Paul “faithful”. So much so Jesus called Paul “to his service”. No greater endorsement could Paul have been given than that of Jesus and Paul had it “even though [he] was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man”, he was “shown mercy” by Jesus “because [he had] acted in ignorance and unbelief”! What had turned Paul around was his exposure to the truth in the form of Jesus! Remember while Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Jesus had already affirmed, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV) Paul had a face-to-face meeting with the Messiah while on his way to Damascus to persecute the church! But now he could boldly proclaim that “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” What Paul had once held dear in life no longer mattered compared to knowing the truth of Jesus as his Messiah! Paul knew the truth exposes ignorance and unbelief!
EXAMPLE: These past few weeks have been kind of different for me. I suppose it happens whenever anyone has to be examined in such an intimate and personal way. Being a very private person it was really embarrassing especially when I had to be in my birthday suit! I had to undergo a biopsy for the possibility of prostate cancer. After they took sonograms I told the doctor they had better not end up on Facebook! I am sorry if that makes you uncomfortable but I share this to say that sometimes total exposure can be totally disconcerting. Paul understood because the truth exposes ignorance and unbelief!
Sometimes in life we all need forgiveness for something. Compassion and understanding comes when we realize we need God’s forgiveness. Remember Paul said he was “shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief” and that the “grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love”. Paul clearly understood that…
II. The truth gives mercy to sinners! (Vv. 15-17)
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. 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. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1. From where Paul had come from and where he was now in his life was a complete 180 degree turn around. He knew his past of being the “worst of sinners” and so “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance”, namely that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. He now realized that his personal vendetta against believers had come from his own selfish ambition. Remember he described it as an “obsession”. In fact Paul “began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3 NIV) Whole families were taken away from their homes and persecuted by him in the past and the early church had not trusted him at first. “But for that very reason [Paul] was shown mercy so that in [him], the worst of sinners” Jesus might be glorified by the “display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life”. Paul now understood that Jesus loved sinners like him and had died and rose again for them and therefore him! What an extremely unimaginable thing to have happen! Paul would write, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9 NIV) Paul knew that Jewish tradition taught a strict adherence to the Mosaic Law and therefore taught a completely different view. Paul now realized that the truth gives mercy to sinners!
EXAMPLE: We live in a world where folks want to be loved but few understand unconditional love. Many think love is found in lust, feelings, or by getting others to do things for them that they like. In fact there is a false notion that if couples live together first they will fall in love and their cohabitation will therefore be stronger. Contrary to the liberal mythos out there that wants you to think that this is true, it isn’t. In fact living together creates unresolved issues of trust, consistency, and commitment. Plus children created from these inconsistent relationships have problems of trust, consistency, and commitment in life. No wonder many in our day and age have a problem understanding that Jesus loves them unconditionally. Paul teaches us the truth gives mercy to sinners!
The message that Jesus brought is powerful not only because of what it offers but what it actually does. Paul would write that “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24 NIV) this is the truth of God and Paul teaches us that…
III. The truth never allows a lie! (Vv. 18-20)
Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
1. Paul knew Timothy and knew him well enough that he could confidently write to Timothy as if he were his own child and so he writes “Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you”. Timothy had been called to the ministry and those around him evidently had testified and spoken to this fact. Later we will learn that Paul would tell Timothy “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic (or uttered) message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” (1 Timothy 4:14 NIV) More about this later, but we see that Paul had come to know Timothy personally and intimately enough he could write him in this way. Paul also knew Timothy was young and inexperienced and immature in some areas of his ministry. Timothy needed to be reminded that he needed to remember the spoken words of others that were made concerning him “so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience”. Paul would use the metaphor of being in a fight several times in his letters. He understood the consequences and the spiritual battle involved because “Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” For whatever reason some of the early believers either never believed, were easily swayed, or were threatened to the point of denying their faith! Evidently “Among them [were] Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom [Paul had] handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme”. To deny Jesus after saying you believed in his sacrifice and salvation was the height of blaspheme, in fact Jesus taught to know he was the Messiah and then to deny him “would never be forgiven”. (Mark 3:28-29 NIV) Were these men redeemable? Perhaps this is why Paul spiritually handed them over to Satan “to be taught not to blaspheme” literally lie about Jesus when they had said they had believed the truth of Jesus! The truth never allows a lie!
EXAMPLE: For my father one of the worst things a person could do was to lie especially when it was to cover up something they knew could harm others. My sister could lie about anything, anytime, to anyone when she thought it benefited her. She was a rebellious teenager. We were all lined up and questioned about who had broken my mother’s prize cookie jar. We all said we did not do it. In fact I was wondering just when Mom made cookies to put in the cookie jar so that it might be broken when someone was stealing them! Since each of us said it wasn’t “me” all of us suffered the consequences. Many years later my brother and I learned it had been our sister who had done the deed. Even at 64 I still struggle that she was willing to throw us all under the bus by lying. We learn from Paul that the truth never allows a lie!
The truth exposes ignorance and unbelief! The truth gives mercy to sinners! The truth never allows a lie!
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.