“I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry– one who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man. But I received mercy because I acted out of ignorance in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:12-13 HCSB).
This passage offers a highly personal self-assessment of Paul the Apostle’s life prior to his encounter with Christ. This appraisal is especially instructive for those (like Paul) who came to Jesus later in life.
For instance, Paul was an accessory to murder prior to his conversion (Acts 7:54-8:1). The Biblical book of Acts also identifies Paul (then known as Saul) as a person who was so opposed to Christianity that he searched from house to house in an effort to identify Christians and imprison them (Acts 8:1-3).
If that wasn’t enough, the Scriptures tell us that Paul was planning to expand his persecution of Christians in an attempt to lay waste to the church (Acts 8:3). One source reveals the extent of Paul’s malevolence by observing, “The word wasted is very strong. It referred not merely to an attempt to devastate or ravage, but to ruin and destroy. It applied not only to cities and lands, but also to people…” (1)
Despite these things, Paul did not attempt to deny his past in this letter to Timothy. Neither did he dwell upon his prior lifestyle or sensationalize the life he led before he came to Christ. Instead, Paul maintained a sober, realistic view that reflected the truth regarding who he once was. As we’ll soon go on to learn, Paul also viewed his life as an example to others whose pasts seemingly made them unusable by God.
While Paul could have been consumed with regret over the road of life he once traveled, he chose instead to take a far more God-honoring and productive approach that we would do well to emulate…
“I don’t mean to say I am perfect. I haven’t learned all I should even yet, but I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us” (Philippians 3:12-14 TLB).
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Galatians 1:13) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.