15 So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.’” (Acts 26:15–16, NKJV)
Saul was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus with authority to seize Christians in the synagogues when Jesus appeared to him (Acts 9:1-6, 13-14). Saul will go from being faithless to being faithful, from a persecutor to a preacher, from an antagonist to an apostle. His conversion is a touchstone of God’s mercy, grace, and longsuffering. It serves as “a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him (Christ, JRP) for everlasting life” (1 Tim. 1:12-16). Therefore, it is essential to expose and reject the assumption that Jesus saved Saul on the road to Damascus. That was not the purpose for which Christ appeared to Saul. Jesus plainly stated why He appeared to Saul: to make him “a minister and a witness” of Christ (Acts 26:16; 22:14-15; 9:15). Jesus appeared to Saul to appoint him as an apostle (1 Cor. 15:8-11). Saul was a believer after this miraculous event. And he was repentant toward God, as demonstrated by his praying and fasting (Acts 9:9, 11). But in Damascus, three days later, his sins still needed to be washed away. Ananias said to Saul, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). If Jesus saved Saul on the road, what sins needed washing away? Since Saul still needed cleansing from his sins, it is apparent he was not saved on the road. To follow the pattern of Saul’s conversion includes being baptized to wash away sins (by Christ’s blood, Rom. 6:3). Why are you waiting?
15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 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. (1 Timothy 1:15–16, NKJV)
God’s forgiveness is deep and wide. Note what motivates, mandates, and maintains God’s forgiveness of our sins. 1) God’s love. Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” and he considered himself to be the prototype, the chief of sinners. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to save us by His death (Jno. 3:16). Without God’s love, we cannot be saved. 2) God’s mercy. Forgiveness is the compassion applied, and God is rich in mercy toward all who call on Him for forgiveness (Eph. 2:4; Rom. 10:12). 3) God’s longsuffering. His forgiveness hinges on His longsuffering toward sinners. He does not want anyone to be lost. He wants every sinner to come to repentance. That’s why He is longsuffering toward us (2 Pet. 3:9). He could punish us all for our sins without patiently giving us opportunities to repent. His “forbearance and longsuffering” ought to “lead us to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). Do not think God cannot save you. Paul’s forgiveness is an example for all believers. Like Paul, have faith to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Do not take God’s love, mercy, and longsuffering for granted. The day of the Lord will come, and we must be ready (2 Pet. 3:10-13). His longsuffering is for our salvation (2 Pet. 3:14-15).
4 For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; 5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” (Hebrews 8:4–5, NKJV)
Jesus was not a son of Aaron. Being from the tribe of Judah, he could not be a priest according to the law of Moses. That law “had to be changed” for Jesus to “become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 7:11-14; 6:20). Since the priesthood has indeed changed (Jesus is now High Priest), the law has also changed. The new covenant of Christ is now in force, dispensing redemption and arranging our new life in Christ, including acceptable worship. The old covenant tabernacle worship (offered by the sons of Aaron) served as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things accomplished by our High Priest, Jesus (Heb. 7:24-28). But, even the wilderness tabernacle (the shadow of the “true tabernacle” which is the church, Heb. 8:1-2; 10:21) was built according to God’s revealed pattern. We believe God-given patterns for worship still matters to God (2 Tim. 1:13). The new covenant of Christ contains a pattern of worship to follow (Jno. 4:23-24). We must see that we follow it. What pattern do you follow when you worship? Is it the new covenant pattern, or the commandments of men (Matt. 15:8-9; Col. 1:21-23)?
Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2:15, NKJV)
Those who stand victoriously with Jesus Christ are “called, chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14). This relationship with Christ is precisely what the apostle Paul began to lay out for why he gave thanks to the Lord for his brethren (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). Today’s verse concludes his point with an exhortation to be faithful by standing fast and holding the apostolic traditions. We are not faithful to the Lord when we fail to seize and retain the teachings of His apostles. Their teaching (first spoken, then written) is the doctrine of Christ in which we must stand fast and not go beyond (2 John 9). It is the “pattern of sound words” from the apostles that is our standard of faithfulness (2 Timothy 1:13). To relinquish it for the creedal confessions men developed through the centuries (and the diverse doctrines they generated) is to abandon faithfulness to the “word of the truth of the gospel” that the apostles preached under Christ’s authority (Colossians 1:5-6; Matthew 28:18-20). Who ever said “church traditions” establish truth? Not the Lord Jesus, and not His apostles. Neither do we. Let us not be Catholic or Protestant, but simply Christians like followers of Jesus were in the New Testament. Like them, let us be faithful to Jesus by standing fast in the teachings of His apostles. Called by the gospel, we are chosen by God for salvation in Christ, and faithful to apostolic traditions.
17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:17–19, NKJV)
The examples set by the apostle Paul and the other apostles form a pattern we must follow. By way of contrast, Paul warned there are many who appear to be following the apostles, but who are in fact “enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Not everyone who says they love Jesus, does in fact, love Jesus.) When will we heed Christ’s warning about false prophets who are wolves in sheep’s clothing? “You will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15-21). Likewise here, Paul describes these enemies as those who worship their own desires (“whose god is their belly”) and who set their minds on earthly things instead of things above (cf. Col. 3:1-4). Does it matter what a person believes and does? Absolutely! Their end will be destruction – eternal punishment (2 Thess. 1:8-9). We weep with Paul over the existence of such enemies of Christ. Many walk – but they do not walk in the apostolic pattern of revealed truth. Whenever we walk by our own desires and purposes, our end will be destruction, too. Let us be warned, and never become an enemy of Christ. Walk worthy of Christ by following the examples of His apostles (Eph. 4:1).
6 Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, 7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. (Titus 2:6-8 )
It is a tremendously important opportunity and responsibility to set an example for others. Young men are here exhorted to accept the challenge to order their minds and conduct in ways that impact those around them for truth and righteousness. Young Christians have many peers who do not share their faith. Set an example for the unbelievers that will influence them for Christ and their salvation. Be their reason to obey and praise God; not their reason to reject Christ and His gospel.