Paul considers himself to be the foremost sinner. Twice in 1 Timothy 1, he calls himself such. According to his own words, he is guilty of insolence, blasphemy, and persecuting Christ and his church. And despite the serious nature of these specific transgressions, we know his personal list of sins is barely beginning. Paul is a totally depraved man; there is no part of his being left unaffected by sin.
However, despite Paul’s spiritual rebellion and odiousness, God has shown him incredible mercy. For Paul, Jesus has come to earth, walked through Palestine, marched towards Jerusalem, and taken his predetermined and fixed position upon Calvary’s hill. Jesus took one-hundred percent of Paul’s transgressions, and for all his sins Jesus was willingly slaughtered by the Heavenly Father and Holy Judge. Though Jesus was saintly, he was considered scandalous. Though he was the perfectly obedient and worshipful one, Jesus was regarded as an insolent blasphemer. And because of Jesus’ life, death, and sacrificial substitution (atonement) for Paul, Paul was considered spiritually beautiful and perfectly holy. He no longer had any sins appearing on his account. From the time of his conversion, he had no sins for which to pay — and never would. Paul was condemned no more. Paul was thoroughly saved. Paul was entirely free. He really was Saint Paul.
And why exactly did the Father, Son, and Spirit peform such for the great middle-eastern terrorist? For what reason did the Godhead show mercy and grace to this formerly horrible man?
Paul gives us the answer:
But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)
Jesus saved the monster from Tarsus because he desired to display his perfect patience. To, in, and through Paul, God wanted to make much of his long-suffering nature. He was “slow to wrath,” and he wanted to advertise his mercy to mankind.
Therefore, today, let’s cooperate with God and make much of his perfect patience.
Let us worship him for his perfect patience in withholding damnation and bringing us to salvation. Though he is perfectly holy, hates sin, and is angry with the wicked everyday; though we prove to follow the leadership of the Father of Lies, he does not quickly terminate our lives and send us to hell as we deserve. And though we have heard the Gospel over and over again, and still find ourselves skeptical and rebellious, he does not leave us be in our rejecting posture. No, he convicts, and calls, and works until he effectively wins the day. And now we are believers, not because of our proneness to respond rightly and quickly, but because of his perfect patience. Oh believer in Jesus Christ, give him praise today for his perfect patience. Praise the Lord for his long-suffering nature.
Let us worship him for his perfect patience in showing painful discipline. He is not a father like us. He is not quick to lower the boom. He never responds with rash anger towards his beloved children. Oh friends, look at your continuing sin — those transgressions that continue to raise their ugly heads over and over again. Friends, grieve over your ongoing rebellion against God and his good Law. Now, consider how your Father has generally responded. He has been tender and slow, hasn’t he? Though he hates your sin, he has proven to be sparing in utilizing his more painful rod. And when he does, even then he has proven to do so from a heart of unaffected love. Sinful believe, rejoice in your Father’s affection. Today, he looks at you as did the father of the younger prodigal son. Or he comes toward you as did the father of the older self-righteous son. He longs, waits, and encourages you to return, turn, and worship him rightly. And there he stands with sandles, robes, rings, and feast awaiting. Oh backsliding friends, as you repent of your sins today and recognize your continual testing of the Lord’s long-suffering posture, give him praise for his perfect patience in responding to your ongoing sin.
Let us worship him for his perfect patience in overseeing your sanctification and that of your loved ones. He is the one who could “zap” you and make you holy through and through. He did so in regards to your justification; he could do so in regards to your sanctification; and he will do so in your glorification. However, God has chosen a different path for his beloved children. He desires to work in you, through you, and with you, and he desires to do so slowly and progressively. Therefore, as you repent and make steady progress in the holy faith, work hard, take sin seriously, treat it harshly, but take it easy on yourself and your neighbors. Repent, apply the Gospel balm, and patiently do the next right thing. In addition, be patient with those with whom you worship and disciple. Be godly. Be slow to wrath, longsuffering, and patient. As God is perfectly patient with you, be equally patient with yourself, your loved ones, and your neighbors.
Let us worship him for his perfect patience by telling others about his long-suffering posture. The Heavenly Judge is coming again, but he has not done so yet. Why? Because he is perfectly patient, and he has not yet gathered all those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Believers in Jesus Christ, your neighbors largely confuse his patience with passivity. Therefore, let us be diligent in putting aside this myth. Be assured, Jesus will one day lower the boom. His slow wrath will surely be expressed. Yes, he will one day come with terminated patience towards Lucifer, the demons, and the unredeeemed wicked. Hell is real; eternal separation is a fact for many of your neighbors. Therefore, let us be silent no more. We have been given a great commission. Let us tell our neighbors about the longsuffering nature of the Holy Judge that they might enjoy God’s patience with us for all eternity.