“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.” – 1 Timothy 1:12-13 (NASB)
Our passage comes from the first letter to Timothy. This letter to Timothy was written after Paul was released from his first Roman imprisonment. Paul acknowledges his gratitude to Christ for: a) having imparted strength to him, b) having judged him to be trustworthy and c) having appointed him to the ministry. Paul acclaims the mercy God showed to him. For as a very great sinner Paul was not only saved, but was even considered worthy to be entrusted with the ministry of the apostleship! Before his conversion the apostle had been of the very category of terrible sinners whom he describes as unholy and profane persons (1 Timothy 1:9-10). Yes, the apostle had been a blasphemer (Acts 26:11), ridiculing the name of Christ; he had been a persecutor for his very breath had been a threat of murder (Acts 9:1) making him nothing less than “a wanton and violent aggressor,” who committed horror and outrage against those who were of “The Way.” Our promise is that God saves the worst of sinners who in faith believe and all are equally in need of salvation. It is by the mercy of God that we receive the faith to believe and receive eternal life.
“It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15 (ESV )
Gratitude is a positive and joyful emotion and especially so when it is for what God has for us. We have a sense of joyful appreciation for his grace. Does that mean, in a sense, we are still the beneficiaries of the very emotion of gratitude. By its very nature, gratitude exalts the giver. When we feel thankful, we acknowledge our need and God’s fullness, the riches of his glory. Just as when we humble ourselves and exalt the service provider in when we say, “Thank you,” so we humble ourselves and exalt God when we even feel gratitude to him. The difference, of course, is that we really are infinitely in debt to God for his grace, and everything he does for us is free and undeserved. The wonderful thing about the gospel is that the response it requires from us for God’s glory is most natural and; namely, thankfulness for grace. God’s all-supplying glory in giving and our humble gladness in receiving are not in competition. Joyful thankfulness glorifies God. A life that gives glory to God for his grace and a life of deepest gladness are the same life. And what makes them one is thankfulness.
Thanks to Desiring God and John Piper for this contribution.