What does 1 Timothy 1:16 mean?
ESV: 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.
NIV: But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
NASB: Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost sinner Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
CSB: But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in him for eternal life.
NLT: But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
Verse Commentary:
This verse begins by repeating the same phrase given in verse 13: "I received mercy." In contrast with being a "foremost" sinner (1 Timothy 1:15), Paul, became a recipient of the "perfect patience" of Jesus. Paul used this same perspective in Romans 9:22–24 when he wrote about the salvation of Gentiles: "What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?"

The concept of examples is also important to Paul. He not only saw himself as an example, but challenged the younger Timothy to "set the believers an example" (1 Timothy 4:12). Peter likewise notes Jesus as our example (1 Peter 2:21) and that elders were to be examples to their flock (1 Peter 5:3). The phrase "those who were to believe in him for eternal life" closely resembles John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." Though John's Gospel may have been written later, this teaching was clearly known and taught from the beginning of the church's existence (Acts 2).
Verse Context:
First Timothy 1:12–17 offers a glimpse into Paul's own personal background. In the prior passage, Paul explained how the Law is meant to convict people of their sin. He gave a list of immoral actions which parallel the Ten Commandments. Here, however, Paul proves his spiritual humility. He recognizes that his own sins were severe and that he can only credit the grace of God for saving him. Paul's change of life wasn't due to his own efforts, but was the result of Christ's miraculous work.
Chapter Summary:
Paul introduces himself and emphasizes the positive relationship he has with Timothy. The specific mission Timothy has in Ephesus is to oppose false teaching. Some of the Ephesians have rejected the importance of conscience and attempt to teach without having the required knowledge. As a result, they bicker over pointless issues and misuse the law given by God. Paul recognizes his own need for forgiveness and salvation, and encourages Timothy with a reminder that they share a common savior.
Chapter Context:
The first chapter of 1 Timothy frames the situation Paul is concerned about. In particular, he is worried about the false teachers plaguing the Ephesian church. These men are misusing the law, teaching false doctrines, and rejecting the importance of a clear conscience. Paul points out his own past sins and need for forgiveness, however. By anchoring his arguments in truth and in humility, Paul sets up the importance of the letter's instructions. These are not merely suggestions, they are vital strategies Timothy needs to understand.
Book Summary:
First Timothy is one of Paul's three ''Pastoral Epistles.'' Paul's other letters, such as Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians, are meant for a broader audience. First Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are written to specific people whom Paul is advising on how to best lead their local churches. These three letters present a close look at the form and function of church leadership. First Timothy, like 2 Timothy and Titus, is less formal and systematic, and more personal. This gives great insight into the way pastors, deacons, and elders ought to prioritize their time and energy.
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