Paul confessed that only through the saving grace of Jesus did he receive eternal life. Because Paul was aware of the depth of his sinfulness (he had been a persecutor of Christ’s followers), he was especially sensitive to the abundant grace Jesus had “poured out” on his behalf (1 Timothy 1:14). Through Jesus, God made the supreme sacrifice to deliver this staggering grace to sinners like us and Paul.
Jesus’ voluntary sacrifice on our behalf demonstrates a key attribute of God: grace. While mercy refers to what God doesn’t give that we do deserve (punishment), grace refers to what God gives that we don’t deserve (life with him for eternity). Throughout Jewish history, God showed his mercy by giving his people more chances to avoid judgment. Ultimately, he showed the extent of his grace by offering his own Son as a substitute for the sin of all humankind.
Jesus graciously and voluntarily became the substitute that paid the punishment for humankind’s unholy rebellion against God. In this way, Jesus’ death also shows another key attribute of God: his love (see John 3:16). Jesus extends to the undeserving— to Paul and to each of us— the very grace of God, which is evidence that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.