Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. . . . 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. (1 Timothy 1:13–14, 16)
Paul’s conversion was for your sake. Did you hear that? Here it is again: “I received mercy for this reason, that Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” That’s us — you and me.
I hope you will hear this very personally. God had you in view when he chose Paul and saved him by sovereign grace just the way he did.
If you believe on Jesus for eternal life — or if you may yet believe on him for eternal life — Paul’s conversion is for your sake. The point of his conversion happening the way it did is to make Christ’s incredible patience vivid for you.
Remember that Paul’s pre-conversion life was a long, long trial to Jesus. “Why are you persecuting me?” Jesus asked on the Damascus road (Acts 9:4). “Your life of unbelief and rebellion is a persecution of me!” And yet Paul tells us in Galatians 1:15 that he had been set apart by God for his apostleship since before he was born. That’s amazing. It means that all his life up to the point of his conversion was one long abuse of God, and one long rejection and mockery of Jesus — who had chosen him to be an apostle before he was born.
That is why Paul says his conversion is a brilliant demonstration of Jesus’s patience. And that is what he offers us today.
It was for our sake that Jesus saved Paul when and how he did. To “display his perfect patience” to us (1 Timothy 1:16). Lest we lose heart. Lest we think he could not really save us. Lest we think he is prone to anger. Lest we think we have gone too far away. Lest we think our dearest one cannot be converted — suddenly, unexpectedly, by the sovereign, overflowing grace of Jesus.