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1 Timothy 1:13

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

A blasphemer - Speaking impiously and unjustly of Jesus, his doctrine, his ways, and his followers.

And - persecutor - Endeavouring, to the uttermost of his power, to exterminate all who called on the name of the Lord Jesus.

And injurious - Και ὑβριστην· As full of insolence as I was of malevolence; and yet, all the while, thinking I did God service, while sacrificing men and women to my own prejudices and intolerance.

I did it ignorantly in unbelief - Not having considered the nature and evidences of Christianity, and not having believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, I acted wholly under the prejudices that influenced my countrymen in general. God therefore showed me mercy, because I acted under this influence, not knowing better. This extension of mercy, does not, however, excuse the infuriated conduct of Saul of Tarsus, for he says himself that he was exceedingly mad against them. Let us beware, lest we lose the man's former crimes in his after character.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Who was before a blasphemer - This does not mean that Paul before his conversion was what would now be regarded as an open blasphemer - that he was one who abused and reviled sacred things, or one who was in the habit of profane swearing. His character appears to have been just the reverse of this, for he was remarkable for treating what he regarded as sacred with the utmost respect; see the notes on Philemon 3:4-6. The meaning is, that he had reviled the name of Christ, and opposed him and his cause - not believing that he was the Messiah; and in thus opposing he had really been guilty of blasphemy. The true Messiah he had in fact treated with contempt and reproaches, and he now looked back upon that fact with the deepest mortification, and with wonder that one who had been so treated by him should have been willing to put him into the ministry. On the meaning of the word blaspheme, see the notes on Matthew 9:3; compare Acts 26:11. In his conduct here referred to, Paul elsewhere says, that he thought at the time that he was doing what he ought to do Acts 26:9; here he says that he now regarded it as blasphemy. Hence, learn that people may have very different views of their conduct when they come to look at it in subsequent life. What they now regard as harmless, or even as right and proper, may hereafter overwhelm them with shame and remorse. The sinner will yet feel the deepest self-reproaches for that which now gives us no uneasiness.

And a persecutor - Acts 9:1 ff; Acts 22:4; Acts 26:11; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13, Galatians 1:23.

And injurious - The word here used ( ὑβριστής hubristēs), occurs only in one other place in the New Testament, Romans 1:30, where it is rendered “despiteful.” The word injurious does not quite express its force. It does not mean merely doing injury, but refers rather to the manner or spirit in which it is done. It is a word of intenser signification than either the word “blasphemer,” or “persecutor,” and means that what he did was done with a proud, haughty, insolent spirit. There was wicked and malicious violence, an arrogance and spirit of tyranny in what he did, which greatly aggravated the wrong that was done; compare the Greek in Matthew 22:6; Luke 11:45; Luke 18:32; Acts 14:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 12:10, for illustrations of the meaning of the word. Tyndale and Coverdale render it here “tyrant.”

But I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief - compare notes on Luke 23:34. The ignorance and unbelief of Paul were not such excuses for what he did that they would wholly free him from blame, nor did he regard them as such - for what he did was with a violent and wicked spirit - but they were mitigating circumstances. They served to modify his guilt, and were among the reasons why God had mercy on him. What is said here, therefore, accords with what the Saviour said in his prayer for his murderers; “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It is undoubtedly true that persons who sin ignorantly, and who regard themselves as right in what they do, are much more likely to obtain mercy than those who do wrong designedly.

Yet we cannot but regard - Paul‘s “ignorance in unbelief” as, in itself, a grievous sin, He had abundant means of knowing the truth had he been disposed to inquire with patience and candor. His great abilities and excellent education are a further aggravation of the crime. It is, therefore, impossible to acquiesce in any solution of this clause which seems to make criminal ignorance a ground of mercy. The author, however, intends nothing of this kind, nor would it be fair to put such construction on his words. Yet, a little more fullness had been desirable on a subject of this nature. It is certain, that, independent of the nature of the ignorance, whether willful or otherwise, the character of crime is affected by it. He who should oppose truth, knowing it to be such, is more guilty than he who opposes it in ignorance, or under the conviction that it is not truth, but falsehood. In a certain sense, too, this ignorance, may be regarded as a reason why mercy is bestowed on such as sin desperately or blasphemously under it. Rather, it is a reason why they are not excluded from mercy. It shows why persons so guilty are not beyond its pale. This is, we think, the true key both to the passage, and that in Luke 23:34. The ignorance is not a reason why God should bestow mercy on such persons, rather than on others left to perish, but a reason why they obtain mercy at all, who, by their blasphemies had been supposed to have reached the sin against the Holy Spirit.

Now consider the passage in this view. The apostle had just been showing how great a sinner he had formerly been. His criminality had been so great that it went near to shutting him out from mercy altogether. Had he maliciously persecuted and blasphemed Christ, knowing him to be the Messiah, his had been the unpardonable sin, and his lot that of judicial, final obduracy. But he had not got that length. He was saved from that gulph, and obtained mercy, because, sinning ignorantly and in unbelief, he was not beyond its range.

That Paul should set himself to excuse his guilt is altogether impossible. He does the very reverse. He has but escaped the unpardonable sin. He is chief of sinners. He owes his salvation to exceeding abundant grace. All long-suffering has been exercised toward him. He affirms, that mercy was extended to him, that, to the end of time, there might be a proof or pattern of mercy to the guiltiest. Had he been assigning a reason why he obtained mercy, rather than others left to perish, doubtless that had been what he has elsewhere assigned and defended, “God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion;” Romans 9:15.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The apostle knew that he would justly have perished, if the Lord had been extreme to mark what was amiss; and also if his grace and mercy had not been abundant to him when dead in sin, working faith and love to Christ in his heart. This is a faithful saying; these are true and faithful words, which may be depended on, That the Son of God came into the world, willingly and purposely to save sinners. No man, with Paul's example before him, can question the love and power of Christ to save him, if he really desires to trust in him as the Son of God, who once died on the cross, and now reigns upon the throne of glory, to save all that come to God through him. Let us then admire and praise the grace of God our Saviour; and ascribe to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, three Persons in the unity of the Godhead, the glory of all done in, by, and for us.
Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 112

This chapter is based on Acts 9:1-18.

Prominent among the Jewish leaders who became thoroughly aroused by the success attending the proclamation of the gospel, was Saul of Tarsus. A Roman citizen by birth, Saul was nevertheless a Jew by descent and had been educated in Jerusalem by the most eminent of the rabbis. “Of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin,” Saul was “a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Philippians 3:5, 6. He was regarded by the rabbis as a young man of great promise, and high hopes were cherished concerning him as an able and zealous defender of the ancient faith. His elevation to membership in the Sanhedrin council placed him in a position of power. AA 112.1

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 1, 346

Through belief in Satan's misrepresentation of God, man's character and destiny were changed, but if men will believe in the Word of God, they will be transformed in mind and character, and fitted for eternal life. To believe that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), will change the heart, and reproduce in man the image of God. 1SM 346.1

As many are today, so (before his conversion) Paul was very confident in an hereditary piety; but his confidence was founded on falsehood. It was faith out of Christ, for he trusted in forms and ceremonies. His zeal for the law was disconnected from Christ and was valueless. His boast was that he was blameless in his performance of the deeds of the law; but the Christ who made the law of any value he refused. He was confident that he was right. He says: “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them” (Acts 26:9, 10). For a time Paul did a very cruel work, thinking that he was doing God service; for he says, “I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13). But his sincerity did not justify his work, or make error truth. 1SM 346.2

Faith is the medium through which truth or error finds a lodging place in the mind. It is by the same act of mind that truth or error is received, but it makes a decided difference whether we believe the Word of God or the sayings of men. When Christ revealed Himself to Paul, and he was convinced that he was persecuting Jesus in the person of His saints, he accepted the truth as it is in Jesus. A transforming power was manifested on mind and character, and he became a new man in Christ Jesus. He received the truth so fully that neither earth nor hell could shake his faith. 1SM 346.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, 120

Our ministers and teachers are to represent the love of God to a fallen world. With hearts melted in tenderness let the word of truth be spoken. Let all who are in error be treated with the gentleness of Christ. If those for whom you labor do not immediately grasp the truth, do not censure, do not criticize or condemn. Remember that you are to represent Christ in His meekness and gentleness and love. We must expect to meet unbelief and opposition. The truth has always had to meet these elements. But though you should meet the bitterest opposition, do not denounce your opponents. They may think, as did Paul, that they are doing God's service, and to such we must manifest patience, meekness, and long-suffering. 6T 120.1

Let us not feel that we have heavy trials to bear, severe conflicts to endure, in representing unpopular truth. Think of Jesus and what He has suffered for you, and be silent. Even when abused and falsely accused, make no complaint; speak no word of murmuring; let no thought of reproach or discontent enter your mind. Take a straightforward course, “having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:12. 6T 120.2

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Ellen G. White
That I May Know Him, 239.2

All are liable to err, therefore the Word of God tells us plainly how to correct and heal these mistakes. None can say that he never makes a mistake, that he never sinned at all, but it is important to consider what disposition you make of these wrongs. The apostle Paul made grievous mistakes, all the time thinking that he was doing God service, but when the Spirit of the Lord set the matter before him in its true light, he confessed his wrongdoing, and afterward acknowledged the great mercy of God in forgiving his transgression. You also may have done wrong, thinking you were perfectly right, but when time reveals your error, then it is your duty to humble the heart and confess your sin.... TMK 239.2

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