1 Tim 1:15-16
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
16 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.
Paul clearly states in this passage that he is the “first” of “a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”
What, exactly, is this pattern he is speaking of, in which he claims to be first? It is the way in which he was placed in the family of God, that is, the way in which he was “saved.”
But the astute Bible student might question the contention he makes of being the “first” here, as even he himself admits that there were others “in Christ before me.” ((Romans 16:7)) Certainly those in Christ before Paul would include the 12 and those thousands that positively responded to their preaching in the early part of the Acts ministry.
The only way to explain this apparent paradox is to understand that Paul (as the Pharisee Saul), in his Damascus road experience, got saved into something entirely different than the 12 and their adherents. And indeed that must be the case, as he could not have been included in what they were in, because he idendifies himself in verse 13 of 1 Timothy 1, as “a blasphemer,” and Matthew 12:31 says that blasphemers could not be saved into the program of salvation/redemption given the 12.1
So what was Paul saved into? In four different passages in his epistles he calls it “the body of Christ,”2 “the body;” ((Ref. 1 cor. 12:12–27; Eph 5:23; Col. 1:18)) “one body”3 “the church which is his body”4 This “body” is part of something Paul called “the mystery,” which he said was never revealed before he revealed it in his 13 epistles.5
Why is this significant? Wasn’t Peter, James and John, and those who followed them saved the same way as Paul, into the same spiritual body as Paul? It is often contended that they were because of Peter’s declaration during the famous convocation in Jerusalem with Paul, in Acts 15:
“…..Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.”
The last three words of the last verse is the one in which the contention is made that everybody is saved the same way, and into the same entity. But when you qualify this over and against Peter’s words in his first epistle to “the strangers (Israelites) , scattered throughout those Gentile provinces he lists in Asia minor, in his salutation, you see that it can’t be so:
1 Peter 1:6-10
“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 10 Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”
Salvation comes to them at the appearing of Jesus Christ, and is the culmination of a faithfully lived life; this is made perfectly clear from the above passage. In other words, their “hope” is salvation. Question: Is salvation the “hope” of the body of Christ? NO! If you are a member of the body of Christ, your hope is redemption, not salvation, because your life of faith began/started with salvation. The moment you first “trusted in Christ”6 and what he did for you at Calvary, died for your sins, ((1 Cor. 15:3,4)) you are saved and sealed “unto the day of redemption,” ((Eph. 1:13,14; 4:30)) the day that the Lord himself “shall descend from heaven,” catch you out of here, change your “vile body,” and fashion it “liken to his glorious body.”7
How could this be more different? Both groups, those saints looking to enter into the prophecied kingdom to come,8 and us saints in the body of Christ are both members of God’s family, but we are in different divisions of it, with different promises, and different marching orders (doctrine). When Paul instructs us to rightly divide the word of truth, (2 tim. 2:15)) first and formoste, he is instructing us not to blend these groups, their promises or their doctrine, because they ain’t the same.
Please feel at liberty to publish this article abroad as you see fit. All Scripture references are taken from the King James Bible.
Related Articles: Why Paul?; Amazing Grace; The Mystery; Are Members of Christ’s Body Part of a “Priesthood?”: From Which “Plan” Shall We Build?; Is the Body of Christ one and the same as the New Covenant Church?;
Are you saved? Jesus Christ—“who knew no sin”—and his sacrificial death on the Cross, has made the way for “everyone that believeth…to be reconciled to God. History has shown that whatever peace man has achieved in the world can only be temporary. The Bible says that individual men and women can know, beyond a doubt, that they are saved and bound for heaven, and therefore have absolute and permanent peace, regardless of what is going on in the world, by trusting Jesus Christ and his death on the cross for their eternal salvation. “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures….for our justification….believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”26 Have you done this? If not, why not now?
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. 32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to me.” Paul qualified as a blasphemer under this definition because, as Saul the Pharisee, he spoke against the Lord’s apostles in the early part of the Acts, all of whom were “filled with the Holy Ghost” ↩
Romans 7:4; 1 Cor. 10:16; 12:27; Ephesians 4:12 ↩
ref. Rom 12:4,5; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 2:6; 4:4; Col 3:15 ↩
Eph. 1:22,23; ↩
Ref. Rom 16:25; Eph. 3:3,4; Col. 1:26 ↩
Eph. 1:12 ↩
1Thess. 4:13-17; Philip. 3:21 ↩
Matt. 6:10 ↩