I was talking to the builder this week

Hearing about what was going on

He talked about how the brick peers

Were meticulously placed, precisely the same distance apart

Even though it’s not really necessary that they be

The floorboards there were 300mm thick, normally they’re 22mm

It was a sound structure, it needed to be with those heavy pews

And the footings they are laying for new floor

Are being constructed so they can take the weight of 300 people at

Foundations can be sound, providing the most options

For what you will eventually build on something

But the quality of the materials that you build with

Will determine the strength of the structure and the load it can bear

I wonder how strong you feel you are

How do you go carrying a heavy load

Where do you find strength, what do you with weakness

Try harder or try and hide it?

We began our series last week in 1 Timothy, looking at God’s building

Not the church as a physical building but a spiritual community

Having established that the foundation of the church should be Jesus

We consider the strength of a church, what makes a strong church

Having contrasted sound foundation with weak ones

Paul is going to unpack in more detail God’s building materials 

As he outlines the origin and nature of the churches strength

Last week we say Paul’s affirmation of Timothy’s leadership

He directed Timothy to address some wayward teachers

Here he provides a personal example of where his strength is found

And contrasts his example with the example set by the other teachers

Those in Ephesus he’s asked Timothy to silence

Are people that Paul can personally relate to 

His story is not too dissimilar to theirs

They aren’t beyond hope, but the very people that God can work in

Paul’s confident of this because he’s personally experienced it

Paul is intimately aware of the way God’s changed him

He’s earnestly thankful, and clearly focused

About the extent and reason for God’s work in his life

This clarity empowers him to live with purpose

It provides strength against doubts and resistance

And it drives the encouragement and direction he has for Timothy

God who strengthened Paul has also appointed Timothy

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, 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.

As Paul moves into his personal testimony, his dependance on God

Is shown in his thanks and acknowledgement of God

God’s the source of his strength, from God’s initial call to his ministry,

to the gifts he’s received and strength that enables him to use them

If you look at v12 in isolation it can seem a bit facetious

Like some award recipient , I’m so grateful you considered me worthy

But in light of his own personal evaluation from v13

How can he suggest that God considered him trustworthy?

Well it seems that Paul doesn’t claim to be worthy in himself

As though he had earned the status and appointment

But rather that by God choosing and appointing him

The God renders him worthy for the task

And that’s what so completely baffles Paul

And is at the heart of his personal testimony

Paul points out how especially gracious and powerful God is

God had decided to choose Paul, even though

He was a blasphemer, noticeably seen in his rejection  

Of the early Jesus followers who claimed Jesus divinity

He was a persecutor, in that he hunted down those early Christians

And violent seen in Acts when he approved of Stephen’s death

Despite his obvious failings, God counted him trustworthy

Paul is overwhelmed at the magnitude of God’s grace shown to him

And the point of this conversion is the point with all conversions

That God’s mercy and grace changes people,

So here Paul is holding up his own life as an example

An example of how God’s mercy and grace has strengthened him

And that God has done this work in Paul’s life

Because of the work that God has planned for Paul to complete

The task that Paul was commissioned by God for was extreme

To be an apostle to the Gentiles, to take the word out to new areas

The strength Paul would find to complete that task

Would come from the breaking and rebuilding that God completed

Breaking as admits being guilty, different from just not perfect v14

the withholding of deserved punishment, have mercy your honour

Paul says he was shown mercy because he acted in ignorance

It’s not as a defence, I didn’t know it was a clearway 

Paul isn’t saying that he deserved mercy because he was ignorant

Paul is pleads for mercy because that’s what guilty people need.

The Jewish law distinguished between intentional and accidental

Paul here relates to the false teachers in Ephesus

Paul himself had done the wrong thing in ignorance

Paul had previously refuted, pursued and harmed those

Who called Jesus as Lord, he did so as service to God

He thought he was doing the right thing

Like those in Ephesus he was zealous but without knowledge

Paul then became an example of God’s grace and mercy

If God can change even a person like Paul,

Then God’s grace and mercy can extend to the opponents in Ephesus

And it’s not just change that God has the strength to do

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. 

Now it might seem melodramatic for Paul to say he’s the worst

But it’s all a matter of perspective, 

Paul isn’t saying that He’s the worst person whose ever lived

He recognises He was doing the worst kind of thing

Pauls’ aware how wrong his orientation and response to God was

A blasphemer, persecutor is quite the opposite 

Of the pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith of v5

It makes him culpable before the eternal, immortal invisible v17

Paul’s aware how this orientation to God places him before God

This wrong orientation and attitude towards God is sin

Sin separates us from God,

Sin is something that we need rescuing from

The good news is that Jesus core business was saving 

It’s the reason that Jesus came into the world

It’s the work that He has completed

And the offer of salvation is now available to all people

Which Paul reaffirms by his own example in

16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Paul had been considered trustworthy v12

And so entrusted with the good news of Jesus v11

Even though he acted in unbelief 13,

God graciously poured out faith to Paul v14

So that Paul now becomes an example for those who’ll believe v16

It’s all built of the same Greek word here, about faith

And the example that Paul’s life presents to all people

Follows a harder to easier paragadim

If God’s grace could change this man, if he could have faith

Then it’s possible for anyone to believe, no one is too far gone

Paul’s life is a testimony to God’s powerful work

And Paul describes God’s immense patience

God patiently waits for sinners to turn to him in faith, to believe

To trust that He is for them and not against them

And when people make that turn towards the only one God

Then the praise, honour and glory are all His

Because we can’t turn to God until we realise how broken we are

No strength in God until we realise how weak we are without Him

And this is what Paul wants to remind Timothy of

18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 

Paul’s testimony is to be an encouragement to Timothy

That God’s mercy and grace that strengthened & appointed Paul

Will hold Timothy well for his appointment also

Pauls validation of Timothy isn’t isolated but in line with prophecies made about him earlier, others also seeing God at work in Timothy

This encouragement comes in battle terminology

A troop entering conflict, encouragement and warning also

19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

Paul encourages Timothy to hold a good conscience

Which his opponents we later find in 4:2 have seared their own

Internal compromise eventually manifests outwardly 

Timothy must hold onto his faith, to manifest a good conscience

which will translate into outward behaviour

Paul contrasts that with a couple of people he names

Those who’ve acted in ways that show a destruction of their faith

People whom he describes as being handed over to Satan in v20

Which I take as describing their excommunication from the church,

A response to their false teaching and desire to do what they want

Was to expel them from the church community 

Now again this sounds a bit harsh and quite intense

But the purpose here is love 

Love for God that His church maintains integrity

Love for these wandering souls, that they might return to Him

By expelling them there’s no chance of confusion

The expulsion from the church is the last resort 

And it’s not a slam the door and never come back

But rather to be done out of care, as a warning sign

They’ve wandered from pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith

The aim of expulsion isn’t annihilation but restoration

Restoration that comes with a right perspective of God

A right perspective of where we stand before God

What How WHY

So….. What God is building

Faith and love in individuals

Strength that is found in acknowledgement of weakness

The strength of God’s church is found in vulnerable people

People desperately aware of their need for God

Because this is how God builds His community

Building by grace and mercy

The giving of forgiveness the withholding of judgement

Individuals receiving and being strengthened by grace and mercy

That’s what should characterise a strong church

Openness about failings and inadequacy without despair

Security not in self esteem but in personal salvation

Strength that comes from the outside in

Individuals and a community recognising their need for God

And then receiving what God provides

The church is strengthened as we permeate that

Not being scared to either admit vulnerability or receive God’s gift

Not denying sin, but also not accepting it

Not downplaying grace or abusing grace

Not claiming to deserve mercy or discounting our need for it

Why God is strengthening HIs church this way

Because He is patient. 

He wants us to engage with the building project

God builds strength in relationship with us

Like a parent building a tree house with a child

Rather than just building it for them

God is strengthening His church this way

So that we’re engaged and deliver honour and glory.

We’ll do that as we realise the degree of our weakness

And the extent of HIs love and power

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