When the Apostle Paul was known only as Saul of Tarsus, he sought to destroy the body of Christ. He guarded the coats of those who stoned Stephen, and the blood of that day only gave him a thirst for more. As an enforcer for the Sanhedrin, his manner and methods presaged the horrors of the Inquisition. He was violent, cruel, and passionate about persecuting Christians. Such was the man who would become one of the most prominent figures of the first century church. How could one who had imprisoned, tortured, and murdered Christians later serve them without a life-debilitating guilt?
1 Timothy 1:16
Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
Paul said that Christ forgave him so that He could make an example out of him. “If the Lord can do this with me,” Paul is saying, “imagine what He can do with you.” His life’s story is given to us for a pattern. What was the pattern? In walking away from his sin, Paul applied the sin, burnt, and peace offerings of the Lord Jesus Christ. He shows this to us in reverse order.
1 Timothy 1:12
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry…
This is the peace offering. He was thankful to the Lord and was doing good unto others. Any time we are doing good to others we are in “the ministry.” The burnt offering is also embedded in this verse. Paul says that Jesus counted him faithful. This means that he was living a consecrated life to God. His faith wasn’t a Sunday-only affair (or in Paul’s case, a Sabbath-only affair). He faithfully walked the Christian walk, which ultimately led him into the apostolic office.
1 Timothy 1:13
Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
Do you see the sin sacrifice in this verse? Remember that the sin sacrifice was provided for unintentional sins, sins done in ignorance. Jesus had mercy on Paul because Paul had sinned in ignorance. Furthermore, Paul received the atonement provided for him in the sin sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. But he didn’t stop there. Paul pursued the Lord with more zeal and passion than he had applied to persecuting Him. Paul consecrated himself as a burnt offering to the Lord and was continually grateful for the Damascus encounter. He didn’t frustrate the grace of God; he let it work through him knowing, that the power of God was not dependent upon what he had or had not done, but resided firmly on the foundation of the accomplished righteousness of Jesus Christ.