1 Timothy 1:12-14
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
What does it mean that God used Paul, and not only used him, but gave him his specific ministry? It means that God’s mercy is enough and His grace is sufficient. Any sin can be forgiven. Any life can be changed. Paul was literally an enemy of God, as all unbelievers are counted, but he was directly opposing Christians, actively persecuting God’s people and trying to hinder that work from going forward. He did many things to hurt the cause of Christ and His church.
But all those things happened before Paul knew Jesus. And as soon as he said yes to Jesus, as soon as he believed on Christ as his Savior, he was totally forgiven of all of it. And we don’t see Paul beating himself up for the sins of his past or seeking a penance or sitting back as if he can’t be used of God. But he rests in that knowledge and understanding of what the grace of God means, what mercy does for a life. He had sinned greatly, but that was behind him now.
Now Paul goes forward in his service out of gratefulness and love and a desire to obey the one who changed his life so completely. He willingly endures whatever comes his way not to punish himself for what he had done before, but because he is fully dedicated to the one who saved his life. And as that new creature, he could be greatly used of God.
God’s grace makes all the difference. He sees us differently, and we can see ourselves differently, too. We were one thing, but now, through Christ, we can be something else. Without Christ, we are just plain old sinners with no right to serve Him or do His work or preach His Word. But in Him, we are servants of the most high with a prepared purpose, a high calling, to be ministers of our Lord. Those old things are passed, and they don’t have to define us or hold us back. So may we understand how big God’s grace is, understand His mercy, and understand how we can live now that His grace and mercy have made such a difference in our lives.