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Read Introduction to 1 Timothy


13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.


Paul says three ugly things about himself in this verse.


although I was formerly a blasphemer,

Paul now lists three liabilities against his going into ministry. First, he harks back to his pre-conversion life when he was persecuting the church (Ac 8:3; 9:1-2) and Christ (Ac 9:5). In doing that, he blasphemed or slandered God. He attempted to force Christians to blaspheme God (Ac 26:11).

a persecutor,

Secondly, Paul persecuted the church. As a “persecutor,” he did damage to believers by putting them in jail and voting to put them to death (Acts 8:3; 9:1; 1 Co 15:9; Ga 1:13, 23; Php 3:6). He heartlessly treated the church with persecution whether men or women (Acts 8:3; 9:1).

and an insolent [violent] man

Third, Paul was an “insolent man.” Saul Tarsus was stubborn and insolent toward Christ and His church. This man acted with arrogant and violent contempt toward believers, adding insult to injury (Acts 22:4, 5, 19, 20; 26:9-11).

but [strong contrast] I obtained [received] mercy

God was merciful to Paul because he persecuted the church “ignorantly in unbelief.” He had no concept of the gospel or that God had shifted from Israel to the church in His economy. God’s mercy and Saul’s lack of it stand in sharp contrast (Tit 3:5).

because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

God’s forgiveness because of ignorance does not convey the idea that God forgives because people do not know they were sinning (Ac 3:17; 1 Co 2:8). He saves people when they come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.


And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant,

Although Paul was culpable before God, the Lord showed him mercy (v. 13) and demonstrated His grace toward the belligerent one. Paul now joins grace with mercy from the previous verse. The grace of Christ abounded “exceedingly abundant” toward Paul (Eph 3:20). Grace was the means of giving mercy to Paul. This man needed “exceedingly abundant” grace because he was an exceedingly abundant sinner. “Abundant” is a compound word for hyper-abundant (Ro 5:20; 2 Co 8:9; 9:8). In mercy, God waved judgment, and in grace, God provided the way of salvation to Paul.

with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

When Paul received mercy and grace from Christ Jesus, it was with faith and love in Christ. Faith and love result from Christ’s grace. We find faith and love in Christ Jesus.

“In Christ” shows Christ’s role in mediating salvation by mercy and grace. Faith and love are from an ultimate source—Christ Jesus.


It is important to remember the pit from which we were dug.


God saves sinners. Paul demonstrated this by showing he was utterly unworthy of salvation. He deserved only hell and judgment. God executes an act of unadulterated grace toward those without a leg to stand on before God, who have nothing in themselves to offer God for their forgiveness. He saves those who have no worthiness (Eph 2:8,9).