Monday, June 27, 2011

First or worst

In 1 Timothy 1:15-16 where Paul says he is "chief," does this mean he’s ‘first’ or the ‘worst?’ I understand these scriptures to say that Paul is the first to be saved under this grace dispensation.  But then, in Romans, Paul makes the statement: “…Andronicus and Junia…who also were in Christ before me.”  That particular scripture seems like a contradiction.  Can you help me understand this? 

It is my understanding, and in my own study of these passages that you mention, that in 1 Tim 1:15-16, the Apostle is saying that he was chief or ‘first’ in rank/number, first in line.

1 Timothy 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. 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.

The Greek word for chief and for first is the word "protos," wherein we get our English word "prototype." That word is used when they make robots or new cars—it’s the first model that all the rest are built like.

So when Paul uses the word chief, you are correct, he is saying, not that he is the worst, but that he is first in rank—first in succession; at the head of the line; the pattern of all that are saved eternally by grace thru faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ plus nothing in the present dispensation of grace.

Now onto the passage in Romans...

Romans 16:7
Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

It is my understanding from scripture that the Apostle is not saying that these people are members of the body of Christ, but that they were members of God's "church" before the Body was revealed, that is, the Messianic kingdom church of Matthew thru early Acts.

These people who were of note among the apostles and Paul's kinsmen were Jewish saints who trusted Jesus as their Messiah way before Paul came on the scene.

Early in Paul's ministry, the Lord Jesus used some of those Messianic kingdom saints to help Paul labour in getting this new program out (Barnabas, for example).

Just because their kingdom program was on hold does not mean that God did not use them to serve him until they all died off, and many of them helped the Apostle early in the book of Acts.

As far as them being "in Christ before" Paul, that just shows that they had faith "in Him." Even in the kingdom program to Israel, the Lord made it clear that those members of his little flock were saved "in him."

Isaiah 45:17
But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.

Isaiah 45:25
In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.

John 6:56
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

John 14:20
At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.

1 John 4:13
Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

1 John 5:20
And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

All true believers are "In Christ," whether in the kingdom program of time past and the ages to come, or today in the body of Christ in the dispensation of grace.  ALL who trust him are said to be "in Him." We today are in his "Body" which was a Mystery until revealed to and thru Paul.

Hopefully this helps...Maranatha!

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