The Pattern Convert
June 29th, 1958 @ 10:50 AM
THE PATTERN CONVERT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Timothy 1:16
6-29-58 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled The Pattern Convert; the typical convert, the example convert. In our preaching through the Word, we are in the first chapter of 1 Timothy, and the text is the sixteenth verse, 1 Timothy 1:16. Now, I read the context, beginning at the twelfth verse, reading through the seventeenth:
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 acceptance, 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 show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
[1 Timothy 1:12-17]
Now, I repeat the text:
Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to eternal life.
[1 Timothy 1:16]
The Pattern Convert:
That in me the Lord Jesus might show forth in His long-suffering, for a pattern to all those to whom in after days and years, God should show mercy and grace.
[1 Timothy 1:16]
Now I submit to you that’s a different thing from what I first would have looked for. I have never thought, in nowise nor at any time, have I ever thought, until this preparation, that Paul’s conversion was in anywise a pattern, a type—the Greek is tupōs, a type, an example, an ensample—because I have always thought of Paul’s conversion as being unique, and spectacular, and dramatic, and unusual, a wonder in itself. Now, it still is that: there’s no doubt but that Paul’s conversion was unique, spectacular, marvelous, wonderful [Acts 9:1-18]; he himself says so. He, describing his conversion, said, “That I was as one who was born out of due time” [1 Corinthians 15:8]. That is, he was not born naturally; he was an abortion. That’s exactly the force of the Greek. He was not born regularly, like normally, but he was born abnormally, as one out of due time.
So I have his own word that his conversion was an unusual thing, a spectacular thing. But he says here the opposite of that: that his conversion is a pattern conversion, a typical conversion, an example conversion for all of those who should hereafter believe on Christ to everlasting life [1Timothy 1:16].
Now that’s our message this morning, looking at that thing, he says, about the way he was saved; he says that he was a “pattern convert” [1 Timothy 1:16]. That is, like a printer would take an engraving, and this is the first impression from it, and all of the other impressions thereafter are like this first one. There is Paul, then Augustine, then John Bunyan, then George Whitefield, a multitude, all saved like that, like that first engraving, the impression you have from it. Or, like an artist will draw an ideal type, portrait, make it in charcoal, then he fills it in with all the infinitely differing details of each individual. So the Lord, in converting Saul, had an ideal portrait in him that He thereafter follows [1 Timothy 1:16]. And the detail is filled in according to you, and you, in differing circumstances. But the type is always there; the pattern is always the same. The way God does it doesn’t change. That’s the way God saves men [Hebrews 11:6].
So he refers to himself as a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to everlasting life [1 Timothy 1:16]. The first thing he says in introducing it is that in him, first, Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering for a pattern. So he remarks on the fact that the Lord was graciously merciful, in long-suffering. That’s an unusual word: tēn hapasan makrŏthumian, the whole long-suffering of Jesus Christ, all of it, was manifested toward him, who is a pattern of God’s long-suffering toward us [1Timothy 1:16].
Well, I can see that, how long-suffering the Lord was in sparing his life, just in that itself. If the Lord had lifted His finger, He could have crushed Saul like a moth. And when you read about wicked men, you wonder why God doesn’t do it. There he presides over the martyrdom of Stephen [Acts 7:54-60]; why didn’t God take him away? Here he is panting and thirsting after the blood of God’s children, even unto strange cities [Acts 26:9-11]; why doesn’t God strike him down? Well, he says that that’s God, and this is the way God does; and he is pattern of how the Lord is, long-suffering and merciful in sparing his life [1 Timothy 1:16].
Why hasn’t God struck us down? It’s His long-suffering—merciful, graciousness—that lets us live! Then the Lord was long-suffering toward Paul in absolutely, positively, wholly, altogether, washing his sins away [Acts 22:16; Ephesians 1:7], all of them; remembering them no more [Hebrews 8:12, 10:17].
Paul was a grievous sinner, wasting the church of God [Galatians 1:13]: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” [Acts 9:4]. Destroying Christ Himself, destroying Christ’s people [Acts 8:3], and yet the Lord put it all away, blotted it out, washed it clean and white [Psalm 51:2; Acts 22:16]. You know, I would think that it is with tears that Paul wrote some of the sentences of the New Testament. For example, I can just see him as he thinks of his life—blasphemer, injurious, persecutor, delivering unto death God’s own people. And then he writes, listen to him, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” [Romans 8:1]. Think of what he was, or again: “Now, we have peace with God through the blood of Jesus Christ” [Romans 5:1]. Once again: “Where sin did abound, grace (did overflow), did much more abound” [Romans 5:20]. Or once again: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; look, behold, all things are new” [2 Corinthians 5:17]; a pattern of the long-suffering of Jesus Christ!
Then a pattern, he says, to all them that should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting [1 Timothy 1:16]; that is, how Paul was saved, how God saves Paul, is how God saves every man thereafter to eternal life. Well, now I can see that. Paul was a work—his salvation, his conversion was a work of divine grace and divine power; it was an interposition of God. And if we are ever saved, we are saved like that. Our conversion is a work of the power and mercy of God. It is an interposition of the hand of God. We who are headlong in our rush toward the abyss, and toward night, and death, and damnation, and hell—the Lord, in His mercy, saved us! [Titus 3:5].
And Paul says he’s a pattern of that [1 Timothy 1:15-16]. Why, there was nothing in Paul that would warrant a man to believe he’d ever be converted. Nothing! You could have sifted him with a fine sieve and found nothing upon which to base any hope that he’d ever be a Christian. His natural bent was against it; his surroundings, his birth, his training, his destiny, his impulses, his ideals and ambitions all fettered him to Judaism. And when he became a Christian, the first one to hear about it, Ananias refused to believe it. And the Lord God had to remonstrate with Ananias to receive him [Acts 9:13-16]. After he had preached the gospel of the Son of God in power [Acts 9:20-22], and went to visit the brethren at Jerusalem, they wouldn’t take him. They were afraid of him. In the passage that you read out of the ninth [chapter] of Acts: And it was only when Barnabas said: “I personally will be responsible for him,” that the brethren would take him in—would receive him [Acts 9:26-28].
There wasn’t anything in Saul to warrant a conversion, that he’d be a Christian. Nothing! His heart was rocky; the plowshare broke against it. It was an interposition of grace and the mercy of God that saved him [1 Timothy 1:16]. It is an interposition of the grace and mercy of God that has saved us [Titus 3:5].
Why is it our names are written in the Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], and a multitude are not there? Why is it we are here in the house of the Lord, and a multitude spurned the invitation? Every man that is saved is a product of the choice, and the election, and the merciful purpose of God [2 Peter 3:9]. A lost man can no more save himself than a dead man can resurrect himself, as resurrection is a part of the omnipotence of God [Acts 2:24, 32]. So for a man to be saved is a part of the omnipotent grace and choice of God [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Fellow, you ought to thank the Lord every day: “O God, that You could have chosen me; that You could have saved me; that I’m not in hell already; that I’m not with the damned; that I’m not in torment; that God has chosen to be merciful to me!” A pattern convert: we are saved by divine grace and divine power [1 Timothy 1:15-16].
All right, another thing. A pattern convert: he was saved instantaneously and immediately. He was saved at once, and once for all [Acts 26:15-19]. Done once, done at once. At once, done. Just like that. Well, I used to stumble at that a great, great deal. Lots of wonderful Christians tell me: “I have no idea when I was saved. I have no remembrance, any recollection, when I was converted.” I used to stumble at that—bothered me. Well, as I’ve studied the Book and studied what God does with us, I have come to see that. Let me show it to you: the dawn is coming, just when is sunrise? Well, however the dawn may come, there is a moment when the sun is below the horizon, and there is a moment when it lifts itself above. However gradual, it comes in a moment.
I asked an old man a week ago: “How old are you?” He didn’t know. But there was a time when he was not born, and there was a moment, and he was born. So it is with us. Some of us may not be able exactly to delineate it: “This is the exact moment.” Some of us can. But however the experience of the life is, there is a time when you were saved; when you passed from death unto to life; when you were under the power of Satan, and now, you’re under the power of grace. That’s a glorious, gospel, evangelistic, good news message. Man, you don’t need to be in death another moment! You can be saved now, on the spot!
A conversion is a beginning, and a beginning is never gradual. When a man says in his heart: “By God’s grace and with God’s help, right now, I take Jesus as my Savior,” I don’t care whether he has any feeling or not; I don’t care whether he has any great upheaving experience or not—brother, he’s on the way—he’s saved! It’s a beginning. It’s a start. And it’s like that; somewhere in your life, you made a decision for Christ, and that’s it. A pattern convert—a pattern convert for all them that should believe on Him to life everlasting [1 Timothy 1:16].
All right, here’s another thing in which Paul was a pattern convert: he was saved by faith, looking unto Jesus [Acts 9:3-17; Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 12:2]. He could have renounced the vision. He could have continued a Pharisee of the Pharisees, boasting in his obedience to the law, exulting and glorying in his own good works; but he said: “These to me now are refuse, less than nothing, that I might win Christ” [Philippians 3:5-8]. And he wrote that over and over in his epistles: “For by grace are ye saved through faith” [Ephesians 2:8], looking unto Jesus, “To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” [Romans 4:5]. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done” [Titus 3:5].
That’s the theme of the apostle Paul: “Our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” [Isaiah 64:6], moth-eaten garments. They’re like cobwebs—they cover nothing. But His blood suffices to hide away the sin and nakedness of our souls, and we’re saved by trusting Him [Acts 16:30-31]. That’s the hallmark of a true convert—just like breathing is the sign of life, so faith in Jesus is the sign of a true, regenerated Christian, looking to Jesus [Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 12:2]. All glory to Jesus! Bless His name! He saved me! That’s the pattern [1 Timothy 1:15-16].
All right, there’s another one: “That He might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Jesus to life everlasting” [1 Timothy 1:16]. It is a work of life transformation. You’re not the same when you’re a Christian. You’re a different somebody who was before, he says, a blasphemer [1 Timothy 1:13]—sin of the lips, cursing God, and he caused others to curse God; sin of the lips. How a man talks and what he says; a blasphemer; and a persecutor, sin of the hand, what he did; and injurious, sin of influence, and character, and lying, all against the Lord:
“I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but now” [1 Timothy 1:13]—but now, think of it—but now, any man be in Christ, a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]. These old things are passed away. No longer do I curse Him with my lips; no longer do I persecute Him with my hands; no longer is the influence of my life wasteful and injurious. This is the new Paul, a preacher of the faith he once destroyed [Galatians 1:23], a changed man!
Oh, I could just imagine if the old Saul of Tarsus had walked in the room, and there he stands, and the new Paul, the apostle, walked in the room, and there he stands; they wouldn’t recognize each other, though they’re the same man—so different!
Why, there are some of you that could stand up here this morning, and say: “Preacher, absolutely, I don’t recognize myself. I don’t know myself. I used to pass God by, pass His church by, pass His people by; think nothing of Him. My lips and my heart and my life were filled with blasphemy and every unclean thing. Now, He saved me and washed me white and clean.”
Ah! a pattern convert, “to them who would believe on Jesus afterward to life everlasting” [1 Timothy 1:16]; a new man, a changed man. Then he was a pattern convert in this sense, that God used him to reach others—blessed him to bless others; called him to reach others. When the Lord said to Ananias, “Now Ananias, you put aside all of those things of bitterness and prejudice; you put them aside, for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name to the Gentiles, preach My gospel, winning others to the Lord” [Acts 9:13-15]. And he says he is a pattern convert [1 Timothy 1:16]. If so, then we’re saved like that, to save others. We’re blessed like that, to bless others. God has called us to reach others. This is our destiny, and our ministry, and our great purpose in God, that we reach others; an Andrew, for Simon; a John reaching out his hand to James; Philip seeking Nathanael [John 1:40-45]; this man Paul, reaching out for the whole lost civilized world, to lay a trophy at the feet of Jesus [Acts 9:15].
Oh, in how many ways are the threads of a man’s conversion bound up with other lands, and other peoples, and other families! I think of a William Carey, sitting at a cobbler’s last, with a Bible on one side and a map of the world on the other side, and the purpose of God tying his life to the millions of India. That’s the pattern convert. Saving us to save others, choosing us to reach others! And Paul was so faithful in that. Did you ever read privately—because you read it outside—did you ever read the first chapter of the Book of Romans? I’ve never read it publicly. I don’t guess I ever will. You just don’t read those things publicly. Paul is giving there an accurate, bold, open description of the Roman civilized world in which he lived [Romans 1:17-32]. But he preached with hope!
He says: “I am a pattern convert” [1 Timothy 1:16]. He preached with hope. If God could save him who was blasphemous, and injurious, and a persecutor [1 Timothy 1:13], God could save others out of the nadir, the abyss, the darkness of the Roman world in which he lived. And with indefatigable labor, with prayer, with great dedication, he plunged into the dark and the night of that sinful Roman world preaching the gospel of the Son of God, assured that some would be saved—preaching in hope, a pattern convert.
That’s the way with us. My brother, listen: there may be many things against us, but don’t you worry. If a man will stand up faithfully and preach the gospel, the Lord will give him souls. If God’s blessings were upon Paul in that dark and evil way, God’s blessings will be upon any man who will plunge into the night of the day, of the life of the time, of the civilization and culture in which he lives, and call men to repentance.
He’s a pattern convert: who would have thought he’d have been saved? Who would have thought that old drunkard would be saved? Who thought that old thief would be saved? Who thought that old blasphemer would be saved? Who thought that old scalawag would be saved? Who thought that ungodly family would ever be godly? Who thought these things could be done? Preaching in hope, he’s a pattern convert. If God could save him, Paul felt God could save anybody [1 Timothy 1:16]. And he turned to declare the wonderful good news of the Son of God and made appeal in hope [Acts 26:19].
Did you know that’s one thing that I pray for all the time, and that, once in a while, I’ll lay it on your hearts. Let’s always come down here to church in great hope that when the preacher has preached his sermon and gives an appeal, somebody will be saved. Preaching in hope: if God could save Paul, He could save a man as bad. A pattern convert [1 Timothy 1:16]—every time we gather, we believe that God will bare His strong arm again and give us a harvest. If a bridge can carry a great, heavy train, I can walk across it. If a great big giant can go through a door, I can go through it. And if God could save Paul, He can save me. He can save you. He can save anybody. That’s what he meant when he said: “In the forbearance and long-suffering of Jesus Christ, He called me for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on our Savior to life everlasting” [1 Timothy 1:16].
There’s hope for anybody. He never gets so vile, so down, so in sin, but that the grace and mercy of the Lord can lift him up, put his feet on the rock, make a new heart, a new man, a new life, a new destiny. That’s the work of Jesus. That’s the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. That’s the preaching of the unsearchable riches of Christ Jesus. He’s just a pattern; he’s just an instance of what God is able to do in His infinite mercy and His wonderful grace.
Now, we must make our appeal. While we sing the song, somebody give his heart to the Lord. In this balcony around, these stairwells at the front, those two stairwells at the back, out of your seat, down one of those stairways, and here to the pastor today: “I give my heart to Jesus. Here I come. Here I am.”
Would you make it now? In this lower floor, on that back seat, down to the front, from side to side, into that aisle, “Here, pastor, today I give my heart in faith, in love, in trust, in committal to Jesus. I take Him as Savior.” Would you today? A family to come into the church or one somebody you, to put your life with us in the church, would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.