In his letter to Timothy, Paul acknowledged that he was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man, all sins for which he should have been condemned. But Paul gives thanks to God because he wasn’t condemned, but instead was shown mercy and grace.
And so the first thing that I want to note here is that we often think that we can come into relationship with God once we have “gotten right”. In other words, we come into relationship with him once we have cleaned up our lives.
However, the truth is that God has already acted, even before we even began to think that we should clean up our lives. God acted thousands of years ago, and he spoke of his plan thousands of years before that. And he made his plan somewhere in eternity past. So what does that mean? God knew what was going to happen. He knew that you were going to sin and rebel against him. He knew that Paul would be a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man, and yet out of his grace and mercy, he came to save him anyway.
This is what Paul acknowledges as he writes to Timothy. He tells Timothy that this is a trustworthy statement:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners —of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.1 Timothy 1:15-17
Paul says that he will be an example to others, that because he was the worst of sinners, others could also believe in Christ because if Jesus came for him, Paul, then he would have also come for other people. If Paul was the worst of sinners and yet Christ saved him, then clearly he would also be both willing and able to save others.
God gives glory to God
And yet there is a reason for Christ to do this, and we see this same reason throughout the Bible. God doesn’t only do the things that he does to please us. Yes, it does please us – very much! – that God sent Christ for us. But Jesus did not only come to save us. He came for an even bigger reason.
God receives honor and glory for what he has done. For his great mercy, his great love, his great grace, God is honored and glorified. God does the things that he does so that he will receive glory. This, in fact, is the primary reason that Christ came: that God would receive glory.
Jesus himself, in fact, said this very thing and God confirms what he says. As Jesus was preparing to go to the cross, he acknowledges the anguish that is within him and we see this interaction between he and the Father:
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”John 12:27-28
Jesus’s anguish is connected to the fact that he has been sent to die and he knows that the time is soon coming for him to be killed. Should he ask God to save him the pain and anguish that he is about to go through? As much as he might want to do that, he says No. He won’t do that because he came for this. It is his blood that will purchase the people back for God. It is his bride that he is ransoming back from the clutches of sin and death.
But let’s note that, while all of these things are true, Jesus doesn’t say this. Instead, he says “Father, glorify your name!” And the Father says that he has glorified his name, and he will continue to glorify his name.
And that is the reason that God does what he does. He does what he does to bring glory to his name.
God did this in creation by making man and woman in his own image and telling them to multiply and fill the earth. He was bringing glory to himself by having his image fill the earth.
God did this in making a people for himself so that he would be known among all nations.
God did this by establishing a Kingdom for himself and declaring that his Kingdom would never end.
God sent Jesus to give glory to him by mercifully purchasing a people for himself even though they had rebelled against him.
And God finishes his plan by bringing glory to himself forever as his people worship him around his throne, as we see in Revelation 5 and 7.
So yes, God came for each of us. God came to save sinners, just as Paul said that he did. But let us not forget that God has done all things that he has done so that he will receive glory. This is how Jesus lived, so that the Father would receive glory, even though it meant that he must die. And now for us, we have important decisions to make each day. Will we also live to bring glory to God?