That salvation is by grace alone, through faith, is the great theme of the gospel of the glory of the blessed God in Christ Jesus. It is God’s honor and glory, which He gives to none other, to save the sinner. For God commendeth his love in this that Christ died for us, in due time, when we were yet sinners; it is for the godless, the weak, the enemy that Christ died. Oh, to be sure, Christ died for the elect, and only for the elect! But even so it was for sinners that he died. For the elect are by nature children of wrath even as the others. But God being rich in mercy, for his great love, made us alive in Christ Jesus; he raised us out of sin and death. He regenerates the dead sinner, and incorporates him into Christ. All of the work of salvation must be to the praise of the glory of God’s grace. Compare Ephesians 1:6. Such is the aim of God’s elective love in Christ before the foundation of the earth!
All the blessings which Christ bestows upon us are the spiritual blessings in heavenly .places. And for these blessings we can only exclaim with great joy and gratitude, “Blessed, be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in. heavenly places in Christ Jesus, even as he elected us from before the foundations of the earth, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love.” Eph. 1:3, 4.
It is this truth that Paul touches upon in this first Chapter of I Timothy in regard to the truth of the gospel, and that, too, over against some who would teach adifferent doctrine. This different doctrine is that teaching which makes the “law” something which man must perform as the basis of salvation. That is false teaching. It intends to rob God of His glory and it would take away from the true believer his boast in Christ and sovereign mercy!
It is in this sovereign mercy that Paul makes his boast in I Timothy 1:12-17. First Paul magnifies this mercy as God has so singularly shown this in His calling him into the office of an Apostle. God found him in mercy; Christ accounted him faithful. And this accounting was not according to the rule of works and merit; it was solely based upon the foreknowledge of God in sovereign mercy. God made Paul an Apostle. It was the grace which he received. He works more abundantly than all the other Apostles, yet not he, but the grace of God which he received. Secondly, Paul sees this great mercy in his own personal faith and salvation. He is the chief of sinners. But that is no obstacle in the way. It was even for this very purpose that Christ came into the world, into this Cosmos to save it. He came to save sinners. Did Jesus not repeatedly assert over against all self-righteous and Pharisaical pretense: for the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost??! Is He not the good Shepherd who came to seek his sheep and lay down His life for them, that might take up His life again, so that none might pluck these sheep out of his hand?
This gospel truth Christ would “show forth” in the case of Paul, the chief of sinners. He persecuted the church of God even unto death; he blasphemed the Christ of the Scriptures and rejoiced in the death of the saints. He beat up the very children of God for whom Christ had died. And thus the measure of the suffering of Christ was filled up in them. Col. 1:24. Does not Christ say to Paul on the way to Damascus: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” And now, in this verypersecutor, Christ is going to demonstrate His mercy. What He performs in every sinner that is saved He will show so very clearly and indisputably in Paul. None will henceforth have any reason to doubt that “where sin abounded grace doth much more abound.” Rom. 5:20b. And Paul is not an exception to the rule of salvation; his case is an extreme example, a “case study” of the great principle of salvation by sovereignly free grace and love and mercy. It shows, that, if God can and will save a sinner, there is hope for any “sinner,” who is “about to believe unto salvation”! See verse 16.
There can be no doubt exegetically that the term “longsuffering” as here employed by Paul refers to an aspect of the love and mercy of God as this efficaciously brings the “sinner,” even the chief of sinners, to salvation and final glory.
The term “longsuffering” is a composite noun, composed of two parts in the term used in the Greek. It is the term “makro-thumia.” The term “thumia” is a word meaning: wrath, anger. It is really the explosive anger in man when his nostrils quiver with fury and, if it is not withheld, there will be dire effects. Applied to God it refers to the vengeance of God in retributive and punishing justice. It would mean in the case of Paul that Christ would have come to destroy him with the breath of His mouth. Now this “thumos” is long. The term for “long” in Greek is “makro.” Instead of this wrath and indignation being poured forth upon the head of Paul, God is merciful to him. God loves him. He loves him while he is persecuting the Church. He loves him from eternity, and loves him even from his mother’s womb, when he was born and conceived in Tarsus. And as Paul persecutes the church, the darling of God, God holds back His wrath and indignation in love in Christ, seeing what Christ “finished” for Paul upon the Cross of Calvary.
Such is the longsuffering of Christ. Christ remembers Paul in love, in His great love wherewith He loves all His own even to the end. John 13:1b. Did He not love all His own as “enemies”? Were they not all ‘”children of wrath”?
Behold, then, a demonstration of this love and longsuffering in the case of Paul, the chief of sinners!
Small wonder that Paul tells us, that, in his case, the “long-suffering” of Christ was fully revealed. The text says: “that Christ Jesus might demonstrate in me first all the longsuffering.” The Greek text literally reads: “The all (whole) longsuffering”! The term “all” in Greek is “hapasan,” meaning, “quite all,” that is, altogether. A good example of this term we have in Eph. 6:13, where we read: “and having done all to stand.”
We see the entire inexhaustible longsuffering of Christ displayed toward Paul. However, it was not simply for Paul’s sake that such a great and merciful longsuffering is displayed. It was the design and purpose of God that “all who are about to believe upon him [Christ] unto life eternal” might be encouraged. They should see how great the love of God is. Forever the myths of salvation by works of law must be dispelled. And Paul as a preacher must be an “example” in his own person of the power of free mercy and loving longsuffering of Christ.
Should anyone, looking at the greatness of his sin, have “honest” doubts about, the faithfulness and true nature of grace, Paul can and does say: Look at me! It is as if one steps into a hospital of spiritually (mentally) disturbed people, who complain of the hopelessness of salvation. In comes one who has been such a “patient” himself. What an advantage for such a spiritual counselor and advisor and “preacher” to be able to say to such a one: look what Christ did for me! He lifted me out of the miry clay and set my feet upon a Rock. What can a preacher really believe concerning his message if he does riot himself know that he is a poor sinner; that he comforts others with the comfort wherewith he himself is comforted? Paul says, quoting David, “I believed, therefore have I spoken.” He believed and it was counted to him for righteousness. And now he has boast, yet not in the flesh. He that glories let him glory in the Lord, his Righteousness, be he preacher or hearer of the Word!
God is faithful who has promised!
Wherefore this great Apostle, this redeemed sinner, upon whom so much mercy and longsuffering is bestowed breaks forth into singing. He utters a most sublime doxology to God. It is the thankfulness of a redeemed sinner who has received mercy. He has had much forgiven him and he is thankful for much.
The doxology which Paul utters here reads as follows: “Now unto the King of the ages, incorruptible (immortal, King James Version), invisible, only God, be honor and glory unto the ages of ages”!
There are many names which God gives Himself in Scripture by which we may speak to Him and about Him in adoring worship and praise. That Paul chooses the term “King” must be because he has in mind the dominion of God over all things in the Cosmos into which He sent His Son to save sinners! His is the kingdom, the power and glory forever; for His sake all things are and were created. Thus John writes in the book of Revelation 4:11: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
That God is called King of “the ages” is also significant. This does not simply refer to God’s eternity per se, God’s unchangeableness within the ontological Trinity, but refers to the revelation of God’s Kingship in and upon the Cosmos from the viewpoint of time, history in its great epochs. He determines the times and bounds of the nations, numbering them according to the number of the children of Israel. Acts 17:26; Deut. 32:53. He worketh all things according to the counsel of His will. Eph. 1:11. And He wilt presently “in the ages to come” exhibit the exceeding greatness of His goodness over His own, in a new heaven and new earth where righteousness shall dwell. Eph. 2:7; II Pet. 3:13. And in this dominion of grace of the King of the “ages” we see the multiplicity of the manifestation of the great longsuffering of mercy, not willing that any of His people perish, but that they are all brought to salvation.II Peter 3:9.
Highly exalted in serene majesty, this “King of the ages” performs His sovereign will in saving His church by grace, according to the glory of the blessed God. All things are out of Him and through Him and unto Him!
To Him be “honor,” Honor is the rightful esteem accorded God by His subordinates, the subjects of His kingdom. This is a loving service in those in whom the “end” of the commandment is wrought. It is only in those who are righteous in faith. These serve God, the King, in a good conscience and in pure hearts and in faith unfeigned. On the part of Paul this is a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of the lips; only such praise and honor is well-pleasing and an acceptable sacrifice to God. And thus it must be in all the church, and from all the angels in all the heavens.
To Him be also the “glory.” Glory is really the divine excellence of all His perfections, His love and mercy, His power and wisdom, His truth and faithfulness, His longsuffering and tender compassion. Such is His glory in the church; such is His glory demonstrated in Paul the chief of sinners, and such is His praise and glory in “all who are about to believe upon Christ” unto everlasting life!
It shall thus certainly be. Hence, Paul adds the little but significant “Amen.” That it will be thus in all the “ages of ages,” what we might call in “time and eternity,” is due to God’s being the King of the ages! And it will be thus far more sure than what we feel in our hearts that this shall come to pass, or even desire it!
Well may Timothy and all who read this letter take this tremendous gospel truth to heart, preaching it and believing it!