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Summary: Paul never got over Jesus’ choice when instead of sending him to hell, he saved him and put him into his service. Foreknowledge and grace came together when God turned the terrorist from Tarsus into a saintly servant of righteousness.

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Unlimited Patience, Indescribable Grace

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service;

13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief;

14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.

15 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.

16 And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order 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.

17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

18 This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight,

19 keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.

20 Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.

When you think of Jesus Christ saving you personally are you impressed?

This section of this letter to Timothy shows what Paul thinks about Jesus’ decision to save him. It fits in right between two warnings about those who teach false things about Jesus. And it recenters our thinking on God’s love for sinners. Do you see that? God doesn’t want us to miss the point of the gospel by getting lost in some other details. To make this clear we are told some personal things about Paul’s conversion. Let me ask this question: When does the Bible tell us that Paul called by Jesus to be saved?

By that I’m asking: what condition was Saul of Tarsus in spiritually when he met up with Jesus and was called to follow him? What kind of guy was he? Let’s explore that today, because here the Bible tells us that Paul’s conversion is a display of the unlimited patience of Christ and an example for those who would believe in Jesus and receive eternal life. Here’s a good comparison…

Does any of us here expect Saddam Hussein or Osama Ben Laden to become a Christian and do mission work in Saudi Arabia for Jesus? Why not? Well, nobody in the church thought Saul of Tarsus had a prayer either. He was by all intents and purposes the worst enemy the church knew. Listen to his own description of himself in Acts 26:9f

9 "So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

10 "And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them.

11 "And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.

12 "While thus engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests… Folks this is 150 miles away when travel was slow and hard. Saul is obsessed with ridding the world of Christians!

Earlier we read about when Stephen was stoned and find that Saul was right there holding the coats of those that stoned him, probably cheering them on, because right after that in Acts 8:1f it says, And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

2 And some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him.

3 But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house; and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.

Again listen to is attitude in Acts 9:1 Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,

2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Do you see anything in this man that deserves God’s grace? Has Saul of Tarsus done anything to indicate that there is any hope for his conversion? No! Listen to Ananias’ assessment of Saul when Jesus told Ananias to go to him and heal him from blindness.

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Robert Higgins

commented on Oct 18, 2006

I am impressed by your statement "But the truth of the gospel is not centered around our obedience. It’s centered around God’s love for sinners before they even know him. We need to get that clear and straight before we rush into telling someone how to obey the gospel. Let’s be sure to present the gospel that is to be obeyed first." Many preachers are afraid to state this, for fear of the response from the legalists in their congregation or denomination. It remains the truth...the gospel is Jesus centered and not me centered. His love motivates me to be baptized and to obey. I want to do nothing else. Any other response is merely salvation by works.

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