I’ve made the mistake of thinking my salvation is primarily about me. To be sure, God’s love is for me but a deeper reason He saves is for His purposes and to bring glory to Himself.
In my myopic existence I don’t focus my attention on Jesus. I often consider my benefits and blessings, which are truly benefits and blessings and I should recognize them as such and thank God for them but His purpose goes beyond just saving me; He saves me as a testimony to His faithfulness, His grace, His love, His patience and His sovereignty. His desire is to see all people choose Him and enter into an eternal relationship with Him but in Paul’s case, specifically:
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
1 Timothy 1:15-16
This doesn’t belittle God’s love for us or the depth of the intimacy in our personal relationships with God. I must depend on Jesus and seek Him each day to walk worthy of His calling, knowing that where I fail, His grace is sufficient to forgive me. I enjoy His love and faithfulness as He is always near to me; He holds me close and lifts me up.
Rather than lessening the value of God’s gift to me, Paul’s statement serves as a reminder that while we see our salvation from the perspective of what we gain from it (an eternal relationship with God, freedom from the penalties of our sins, the power to live without sin as long as we follow Jesus, walking in His Holy Spirit and more) the reality is that God is the One doing the work and He is the One who is tested and found to be faithful to His holy and loving character.
- If God was only consistent with His holiness, everyone would be condemned to Hell.
- If God was only consistent with His love, everyone would be welcomed into His presence.
He is truly consistent with His character in that He upholds His holiness by establishing punishment for sin and He upholds His love by providing Jesus as a perfect, holy, sinless sacrifice that pays for the penalties of all sin, thus providing everyone with a way to escape that coming punishment.
Paul says that his salvation was so that the patience of God could be demonstrated. Paul benefited from it. He certainly knows the love of God and finds his identity and value in his relationship with God but God’s purpose extended beyond Paul’s benefit to glorify Himself by pointing directly to His patient character.