1 Timothy 1:12-17
The apostle Paul wrote a thank-you letter to God. As with all such letters, this one expressed his gratitude for some of the things the Lord had done for him. Paul was most astonished that God would choose to use him for His purposes. The apostle understood one of the most astounding facts about grace—God is willing to take a risk with us—a big risk!
Eugene Peterson paraphrased a poetic version of the Bible titled The Message. Peterson renders Paul’s expression of what Christ did as: “He went out on a limb, you know, in trusting me with this ministry.”
God goes out on a limb for us. Let us consider how and why.
God Takes a Risk Because of Who We Are
The apostle Paul took a look at himself in his spiritual mirror and was not pleased with what he saw staring back at him. There would be no preening and primping in front of this mirror. Paul wanted to squeeze his eyes shut because the image was so painful. Yet he opened his life to the cleansing effect of truth and admitted what he had been before becoming a Christ follower. He confessed: “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man” (v. 13). Later, he called himself the worst of sinners. This is not a pretty picture.
As for us, are we any better? We probably don’t have the religious history of Paul, but could any one of us claim deep virtue or spiritual innocence? Because of who we are, God’s offer of grace is a risk.
That Risk Is Warranted Because of who God Is
OK, our unworthiness is true; but it’s only part of the story. The other side is the character of God makes Him a risk taker. Look at some of the words Paul used to indicate God’s character: grace, faith, love, unlimited patience…God goes out on a limb for humanity because of who He is. Paul was so moved by this realization that he broke out into song in verse 17: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Walter Chalmers Smith understood this truth. It led him to write a hymn based on that verse. That hymn, “Immortal, Invisible” is still sung in churches around the world.
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
Of all Thy rich graces this grace, Lord, impart
Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart.
All laud we would render; O help us to see
‘Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee,
And so let Thy glory, almighty, impart,
Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.
This Risk Pays Eternal Dividends for Us
So what is the result of God going out on a limb for us? We receive eternal life (v. 16). Paul was astounded that even though he had been belligerent and hostile, God sought him out as a parent seeking a sulking child. He came to see himself as an example of others who would turn to Christ and received the universe’s most valuable gift—eternal life.
God has taken a risk on us. Will we disappoint Him?