MORE ON EXCEEDINGLY ABUNDANT GRACE FOR TRANSFORMATION
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man . . . And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant. (1 Timothy 1:12-14)
By His bountiful grace, Jesus Christ transformed Saul of Tarsus into the Apostle Paul. The Lord did this by enabling Paul, making him a man of faith, and putting him into ministry. As we consider what Paul was before the Lord began to change his life, we will see even more on exceedingly abundant grace for transformation.
Before he became a follower of Jesus Christ, Paul engaged in blasphemous behavior. “I was formerly a blasphemer.” Through uninformed religious zeal, he said and did much that insulted and opposed the Lord. “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9). Part of his sin of blasphemy was incurred attempting to force Christians to speak evil of the Lord. “And I punished them often . . . and compelled them to blaspheme” (Acts 26:11).
Related to this, Paul severely persecuted believers in Jesus Christ before he came to salvation. “I was formerly . . . a persecutor.” He aggressively searched out anyone he could find who followed Jesus, hoping to imprison them. “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:3). He was so enraged against the followers of Jesus that he even obtained authorization to pursue them into distant cities beyond Israel. “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2).
In light of such brazen aggression, it is no surprise that Paul confesses to being an arrogant man before he was saved. “I was formerly . . . an insolent man.” His religious success clearly led him to a prideful estimation of his own spirituality. “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:4-6).
Nevertheless, all of this godless religiosity could be transformed by God‘s bountiful grace. “And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant.”