Dr. John Hartmann

Proclaiming the Whole Counsel of God

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Zeal for God- the pre-Christian Paul and his later ministry as an apostle of Jesus Christ

March 13th, 2011 · No Comments

In this study we look at 1 Timothy 1:12-17, where Paul presents his testimony concerning the mercy and grace of God that had come to him in Jesus Christ. He was, before his conversion, a man full of zeal for God and the honor of His name, who, in his persecution of Jesus’ followers and witnesses, thought he was doing God’s work by purging evil out from among the covenant people and thereby turning away God’s wrath in a way just like Phineas, the grandson of Aaron, had done in Numbers 25. Dr. Hartmann develops this idea at length, underlining the point that Paul (Saul of Tarsus) operated out of tremendous zeal for God, looking to keep Israel pure, with a view to seeing Israel’s eschatological restoration, as promised in the prophetic Scriptures.

Paul, however, came to find out that he was wrong, that the crucified Jesus Whom he regarded as an impostor was in fact the only hope of Israel. Paul came to understand that Jesus had turned away God’s wrath by offering Himself on the Cross as a propitiation for sins, that He had been raised from the dead the 3rd day, and that He was now exalted to God’s right hand as Messiah and Lord of all.

Paul was shown mercy because he acted ignorantly in unbelief. Many of his Jewish brothers displayed the same thing: a zeal for God but without knowledge (Rom 10:1-4). But the grace poured upon Paul was so abundant that it turned His zeal for God around in the right direction. Paul thus became a model of God’s grace to others who would believe on Jesus unto eternal life and the Lord’s chief witness to the Gentiles.

Our teacher suggests that God’s mercy works in two primary ways: 1) mercy flows from God’s nature of compassion, in which He looks on us with pity in our misery and suffering and comes to our aid when we cry out to Him; 2) mercy results not only in forgiveness of sins for the penitent, but also minimizes the consequences of sin for those who truly contrite who fear the Lord (Psalm 103:8-12).

We also look at the notion of stewardship in ministry and the faithfulness that God looks for in those who have been entrusted with the ministry of the gospel. Scripture passages on this topic include: 1 Cor. 4:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 2:3-4; 1 Cor. 9:16-27; 2 Cor. 2:17; 4:1-2; 5:9-13; Matthew 24:45-51; 25:14-30.

This message challenges followers of Jesus to aspire to be filled with the kind of zeal for God and holy jealousy for the honor of His name that characterized the life and ministry of the apostle Paul. It also underlines the point that mercy is foundational for all that we are as Christians, as we look for the mercy of God unto eternal life.

Tags: Sermons

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