As I wrote in previous studies about the Apostolic commissions, no study would be complete without writing on Paul’s great commission and where it fits within the entirety of Scripture. Witness from his own testimony the commission and apostleship that he received from Christ our Lord:
Acts 26:13–18—At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me.
Three times in the book of Acts, there is a retelling of the story of the Lord Jesus’ “arrest” of Saul of Tarsus. While there are many important events in the Acts account, this event gets the most mentions.
When Paul was still known as “Saul of Tarsus”, here, in his own words, is a description of the character that he had at the time:
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, Who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 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. 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. (1 Timothy 1:12-16)
Here we see several important characteristics of the ministry that that the Lord gave to Paul. The ministry was merciful because only mercy would impart ministry to one who up until this time was an ignorant unbeliever. The exceeding abundant grace with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus caused Paul to write to the Romans that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20). That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners is most evident in that He saved the chief of sinners. What is sin, but enmity against God, and what is enmity against God, but sin. As mankind thinks itself worthy of the love of God, it declares itself enemy of God by not submitting to His righteousness, and therefore exalts sin. How better for the Lord Jesus Christ to show His longsuffering than to save rather than destroy the one who was so maliciously persecuting Him (Acts 9:4)? The chief of sinners saved by grace is a pattern to us all, hereafter that believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to life everlasting. How so, you ask? That we are saved by His mercy, not because we are His friends, but He showed us mercy while we were His enemies.
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled… (Colossians 1:21)
But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:8-11)
So the Apostle Paul could speak first-hand about what God is accomplishing during the “present evil age” (Galatians 1:4) in which we live. He is reconciling His enemies to Himself sparing them from His wrath.
Please bear with me for the short word study:
μακροθυμία makrothymía, mak-roth-oo-mee’-ah; from the same as G3116; longanimity, i.e. (objectively) forbearance or (subjectively) fortitude:—longsuffering, patience.
It is from a compound of μακρός (G3117)and θυμός (G2372).
Longsuffering (Noun and Verb):
“forbearance, patience, longsuffering” (makros, “long,” thumos, “temper”), is usually rendered “longsuffering,” Rom 2:4; 9:22; 2Cr 6:6; Gal 5:22; Eph 4:2; Col 1:11; 3:12; 1Ti 1:16; 2Ti 3:10; 4:2; 1Pe 3:20; 2Pe 3:15; “patience” in Hbr 6:12 and Jam 5:10.
See PATIENCE, and Note under FORBEAR.
θυμός thymós, thoo-mos’; from G2380; passion (as if breathing hard):—fierceness, indignation, wrath. Compare G5590.
See the comparison of this word rendered “longsuffering” with the word as rendered in the book of Proverbs:
From the English translation of the Old Testament:
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly. (Proverbs 14:29 KJV)
From the Greek translation of the Old Testament:
μακρόθυμος ἀνὴρ πολὺς ἐν φρονήσει ὁ δὲ ὀλιγόψυχος ἰσχυρῶς ἄφρων (Proverbs 14:29 LXX)
So longsuffering is essentially the idea of slow to wrath, slow to fierce anger. While the world, summed up in the person of Saul of Tarsus, the chief of sinners, was fierce in its animosity toward God and His Anointed, God has been and is continuing to be slow to act in His anger toward sin, and was in Christ in reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). The Apostle sent to proclaim this grace would be a living and breathing example of this matchless grace. He would speak what he knew by experience.
Essentially, the present dispensation of grace that we are living under can only be accounted for as God’s longsuffering and His kindness. We also do not know how long it will last, so urgency in teaching the gospel is essential.
… behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation…(2 Corinthians 6:2)
To be continued…
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