“But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 1.13)
That’s a big “but.” And a beautiful one at that.
I love how God displayed mercy to Paul because it shows the extravagance of His love to use as well. In the verse above, the apostle Paul uses that contrasting conjunction to illuminate his former identity as “a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.”
Think about it.
Paul wasn’t just innocently acting ignorantly. He was zealously pursuing the arrest and persecution of believers in Christ. He detested what he deemed as their heresy. He partnered with other Jesus-hating Jews to attempt to exterminate the explosion of The Way (Acts 9:2) that was occurring in and around Jerusalem, going as far as Damascus, Syria. He was intentional and intense about his religious violence. Yet, God “who is rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4) considered him simply… ignorant.
In fact, verse 12 is even more stunning:
“I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He has judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was…”
God looked at Saul (who would be renamed Paul to indicate the radical internal change of identity and priority) and saw not a persecutor but an apostle. God’s vision was not hindered by the present or the past. God saw it all of Paul in one glance. Paul couldn’t see all of reality. That was why he was ignorant. He didn’t know it all.
When he knew more than he did, Paul would surrender his life to serve the Christ he claimed he hated. He would lay down his life for the church he sought to squash. God saw what Paul didn’t.
You see, it doesn’t matter how zealous we are in our ignorance. We are eligible for God’s abundance.
What does God see when he sees you? Does he see your present failures or past mistakes? Or does He see future glory?
What will your big “but” be?