A sermon on 1 Timothy 1 v. 12- 17, first published in the Baptist Times on May 13th 2010

For many people, Christianity is little more than a supermarket choice from the shelf of available religions. It might be as good or as bad as any other, but it just happens to be the brand they selected. If this view is to be challenged, Christians have to be clear about those things which make their faith different from other world religions. For a start there is the inexplicable generosity of God. Paul, who wrote this letter to Timothy with the blood of early Christians still on his hands, was more aware of this than most. His description of himself as the ‘worst of sinners’ (v.15) reflects the depth of emotion even years later. Then there is the intemperate grace of God too. Unlike our temperate climate, which tends to avoid any kind of extreme, and our mild temperament which neither grieves nor rails to extreme – God is different. His grace is utterly undeserved and altogether inexplicable. No wonder Paul all but bursts into song describing him as the King, ‘immortal, eternal and invisible’. (v.17)

Scriptural issues

• Paul describes himself as the ‘worst of sinners’. Is there any such thing?

• Paul feels that his conversion displays God’s patience in particular. What element of God’s character is shown in yours?

Current issues

• What aspects of our church life make what we do seem more like a religion than a faith?

• The reasons why people attend a particular church might range from the spiritual to the social. Why do people attend your church?

• For Paul his particular mission is evidence of his forgiven status. Do we treat service as a proof of our loyalty or evidence of God’s

 ‘It is utterly unreasonable for God to forgive a man like Paul. It is just as unreasonable as it was for the father to throw a party for his wayward prodigal son, or for Jesus to use his last few breaths asking God to forgive those who were taking his life and breath away from him. This is the unreasonable grace of God which sees the best given for the least, and by it we are saved.’