1 Timothy 1:15-16 – This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Messiah Yeshua came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them. But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Messiah Yeshua might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who [are about to] believe in him for eternal life.
This passage breaks out into two main ideas: v. 15 which relates what must have become a common saying at the time, and then Paul’s encouragement at his example of God’s mercy in v. 16.
The saying “Messiah Yeshua came into the world to save sinners” was apparently becoming common among the believers as a general declaration of the gospel message. That Yeshua had come to save sinners does sum up this idea; however, in the context of what Paul has written, it appears that it carries an unusual sense of imminency.
This may not be readily apparent upon a surface reading, but I recently noticed that in the Greek text, the phrase that involves believing in Messiah for eternal life is prefaced with the concept of imminency: those being about to, or intending to, believe in Messiah. The literal Greek phrasing is as follows: “I was shown mercy that in me [the] foremost, might display Yeshua Messiah the perfect patience, as a pattern for those being about to believe on him to life eternal.”
It appears as if Paul is implying that something momentous in his day is about to happen that will cause many people to believe in Messiah for eternal life. When they do, they will be able to look at the experience of Paul as a pattern of how gracious God is.
My personal belief is that Paul and the apostles were aware of the impending destruction of Jerusalem as being the motivator for encouraging repentance among the Jewish congregations along with those God-fearers who were participating with them in their worship of the one true God. The urgency with which this judgment and repentance is repeated continually during the message to the scattered Israelites throughout the book of Acts demonstrates this point.
Acts 3:19-23 – “Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, “that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send Yeshua, who has been appointed for you as the Messiah. “Heaven must receive him until the time of the restoration of all things, which God spoke about through his holy prophets from the beginning. “Moses said: Yahweh your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers and sisters. You must listen to everything he tells you. “And everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be completely cut off from the people.
Acts 2:38 – Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Yeshua Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 17:30-31 – “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has set a day when he is going to judge the world in righteousness by the man he has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
Acts 24:24-25 – Several days later, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Messiah Yeshua. Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I have an opportunity I’ll call for you.”
Acts 26:20 – “Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the nations, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance.
The apostles kept this repentance and judgment of God at the forefront of their understanding of the times that they were in, and in their teaching to all the people they ministered to.
Because of this, I believe Paul had a sense that when the judgment was going to be poured out on Jerusalem that many Jews and others among the nations who had heard their message would see and understand those events and would become believers in Messiah for eternal life. The righteous judgment of God upon his rebellious people would spark many at that time to place their faith in the Messiah, and in that way, “all Israel,” that is, the believing remnant inclusive of non-Jewish God-fearers, would be saved.
This is why at the end of his discourse on this concept in Romans 9-11, Paul could exclaim:
Romans 11:33-36 – Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? And who has ever given to God, that he should be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.
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