Committed to the Gospel and God's Plan of Salvation (1:15-16)
With the turn in thought that occurs at this point, Paul continues his contrast of the faithful teacher and the false teacher. In teaching false doctrine, the false teachers are diverging from the authorized gospel and God's plan of redemption (1:4). In contrast, the faithful teacher will follow Paul in fully affirming God's plan.
First, at the center of this plan is the gospel message. Paul was fully convinced of its reliability. He signals his commitment and calls others to do likewise with a formula, Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance, and a succinct statement of the gospel, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. As he clearly states here, the basis of salvation is the historical ministry of Christ. As he has stated elsewhere (1 Cor 1:18-31; 2 Tim 1:10), this "ministry," executed in the past (Christ came), continues in the present day to be effective in the preaching of the gospel. This is God's plan: salvation is linked solely to Christ and the message about him. Commitment to anything but the apostolic gospel is heresy.
Second, God's redemptive plan is imperturbable, as Paul's own experience taught him. It reaches to the depths of depravity. Paul's self-confessed pre-Christian history (as the worst of sinners [v. 15], a reference to his persecution of Christians [v. 13; compare Gal 1:13]) made him, ironically, the perfect illustration of the effectiveness of the gospel, the boundless grace of God and the inexhaustible patience of Christ (v. 16).
Third, the readers are reminded that salvation requires "belief" in Christ (v. 16). Furthermore, Paul's language (believe on him) indicates that he means personal faith in Christ, not simply adherence to a dogma. In order for this kind of belief to occur, the gospel must be kept pure.
Finally, the ultimate goal of the plan of salvation is eternal life (v. 16; compare 4:8; 6:12, 19; 2 Tim 1:10; Tit 1:2; 3:7). Paul's connection of ideas makes it clear that the believer's personal faith in Christ is the necessary stepping-stone to the ultimate goal of eternal life. It is this plan of salvation that Paul's life verified.
Most of us would be reluctant to do what Paul has done here. We are certainly no match for the apostle. But humility aside, each Christian's spiritual history is filled with poignant reminders of God's grace and mercy. While it will not do to live in that past, from time to time we must take our bearings from it as we move forward on a path that may not be clear. Paul's testimony of his personal encounter with Christ demonstrated the power of the approved gospel. Paul knew in his heart and was fully convinced that this message was true. And it is essential that every Christian share this conviction borne out of experience. We must remember, however, that this proof cannot be based solely on a mystical encounter with God; it must be backed up by a changed life (v. 14). Could the false teachers with their version of the gospel make the same claims as Paul? No! God's salvation plan is linked solely to the Christian gospel. It requires faith and produces a new manner of life.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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