“And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 1:14, NKJV)
Here, in the first chapter of his first epistle to Timothy, Paul recounts his past: “…I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man…” Let’s look at the terms Paul used to describe his former self:
“A blasphemer.” This word literally means, “abusive, speaking evil.” It is always used in reference to God, speaking evil of Him, slandering His Name and Character. Paul was a blasphemer because he denied the deity of Jesus Christ and forced others to deny Him, under threat of death, as well.
“An insolent man.” This word is defined as “a persecutor.” Paul is referring to his persecuting Christians before his conversion. To the church in Galatia, he wrote, “…I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.” (Galatians 1:13, NKJV)
“An insolent man.” This word means, “a violent, insolent man.” Paul was a bully. He opposed and sought the torture and death of all who believed on Jesus.
Often, we cannot forget the past even though we have been forgiven. And because we dwell on it, the enemy of our faith tries to make us feel guilty for that which we have been forgiven. This is false guilt. If God has forgiven us, and He will never remember our past sins, why should we feel guilty? We shouldn’t. But, alas, we often do. We all have regrets, but we need not feel guilty about the past. It’s forgiven, it’s gone. We need not concern ourselves with it.
However, we should remember our past for one very good reason: We realize the exceeding, abundant grace God has bestowed upon us. Paul said it, “And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”
Now the question is, “how could God forgive someone who so publically denied Jesus Christ and murdered Christians?” The answer is the mercy and grace of God. Paul deserved death. No one who knew his past would deny that. Yet, God forgave Paul and bestowed His Grace upon him. His unmerited favor toward one who in no way deserved it.
Now, one last question: If God so abundantly forgive someone like Paul, why are you, O Christian, struggling with forgiveness? God has bestowed upon you His mercy and grace, just like Paul. Your sins are forgiven and He will never remember them. And regret is just forgiveness unrealized.
Next time your thoughts start to bother you about the past, remember the exceedingly abundant Grace of God that He bestowed upon Paul. And remember that He has shown us the same exceedingly abundant Grace with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.