However, 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy.—In spite of this deep consciousness of his guilt, faith and confidence in his own salvation seem never to have wavered. He speaks of this with all certainty, and proceeds to tell us with great clearness why Christ saved him, the chief of sinners.
That in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering.—If Christ could show mercy to him, surely in after times the greatest of sinners need never doubt the Redeemer’s power and will to save. St. Paul’s conversion foretold many a patient waiting on the part of the Lord, much long-suffering, which would never hurry to punish His enemies, but which would tarry long, in the hope of the sinner repenting while it was yet time.
For a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him.—Men were to learn that such conversions as his were to be looked forward to as no uncommon occurrences—conversion of blasphemers, of persecutors, whom the Lord would tarry long for, till they, too, coming to the knowledge of the truth, should acknowledge Him. Thus to all sinners was St. Paul a pattern—an example of the Lord’s long-suffering, of His patient waiting. His gracious Master had dealt with him like a king, who, when judging the case of a rebel city, pardons the chief rebel. If God would redeem Saul the persecutor, none need despair of finding mercy.
To life everlasting.—And the goal—which lay before these poor redeemed sinners, who, like St. Paul, in faith and loving trust in Jesus had found peace and acceptance—was eternal life.
A TEST CASE
1 Timothy 1:16.
The smallest of God’s creatures, if it were only a gnat dancing in a sunbeam, has a right to have its well-being considered as an end of God’s dealings. But no creature is so isolated or great as that it has a right to have its well-being regarded as the sole end of God’s dealings. That is true about all His blessings and gifts; it is eminently true about His gift of salvation. He saves men because He loves them individually, and desires to make them blessed; but He also saves them because He desires that through them others shall be brought into the living knowledge of His love. It is most especially true about great religious teachers and guides.
Paul’s humility is as manifest as his self-consciousness when he says in my text, ‘This is what I was saved for. Not merely, not even principally, for the blessings that thereby accrue to myself, but that in me, as a crucial instance, there should be manifested the whole fulness of the divine love and saving power.’ So he puts his own experience as giving no kind of honour or glory to himself, but as simply showing the grace and infinite love of Jesus Christ. Paul disappears as but a passive recipient; and Christ strides into the front as the actor in his conversion and apostleship.
So we may take this point of view of my text, and look at the story of what befell the great Apostle as being in many different ways an exhibition of the great verities of the Gospel. I desire to signalise, especially, three points here. We see in it the demonstration of the life of Christ; an exhibition of the love of the living Christ; and a marvellous proof of the power of that loving and living Lord.
I. First, then, take the experience of this Apostle as a demonstration of the exalted life, and continuous energy in the world, of Jesus Christ.
What was it that turned the brilliant young disciple of Gamaliel, the rising hope of the Pharisaic party, the hammer of the heretics, into one of themselves? The appearance of Jesus Christ. Paul rode out of Jerusalem believing Him to be dead, and His Resurrection a lie. He staggered into Damascus, blind but seeing, and knowing that Jesus Christ lived and reigned. Now if you will let the man tell you himself what he saw, or thought he saw, you will come to this, that it was a visible, audible manifestation of a corporeal Christ. For it is extremely noteworthy that the Apostle ranks the appearance to himself, on the road to Damascus, as in the same class with the appearances to the other apostles which he enumerates in the great chapter in the Epistle to the Corinthians. He draws no distinction, as far as evidential force goes, between the appearance to Simon and to the five hundred brethren and to the others, and that which flashed upon him and made a Christian of him. Other men that were with him saw the light. He saw the Christ within the blaze. Other men heard a noise; he heard audible and intelligible words in his own speech. This is his account of the phenomenon. What do you think of his account?
There are but three possible answers! It was imposture; it was delusion; it was truth. The theory of imposture is out of court. ‘Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?’ Such a life as followed is altogether incongruous with the notion that the man who lived it was a deceiver. A fanatic he may have been; self-deceived he may have been; but transparently sincere he undeniably was. It is not given to impostors to move the world, as Paul did and does.
Was it delusion? Well it is a strange kind of hallucination which has such physical accompaniments and consequences as those in the story--not wanting confirmation from witnesses--which has come to us.
‘At midday, O king’--in no darkness; in no shut-up chamber, ‘at midday, O king--I heard . . . I saw . . .’ ‘The men that were with me’ partly shared in the vision. There was a lengthened conversation; two senses at least were appealed to, vision and hearing, and in both vision and hearing there were partial participators. Physical consequences that lasted for three days accompanied the hallucination; and the man ‘was blind, not seeing the sun, and neither did eat nor drink.’ There must be some soil beforehand in which delusions of such a sort can root themselves. But, if we take the story in the Acts of the Apostles, there is not the smallest foothold for the fashionable notion, which is entirely due to men’s dislike of the supernatural, that there was any kind of misgiving in the young Pharisee, springing from the influence of Stephen’s martyrdom, as he went forth breathing out threatenings and slaughter. The plain fact is that, at one moment he hated Jesus Christ as a bad man, and believed that the story of the Resurrection was a gross falsehood; and that at the next moment he knew Him to be living and reigning, and the Lord of his life and of the world. Hallucinations do not come thus, like a thunderclap on unprepared minds. Nor is there anything in the subsequent history of the man that seems to confirm, but everything that contradicts, the idea that such a revolutionary change as upset all his mental furniture, and changed the whole current of his life, and slammed in his face the door that was wide open to advancement and reputation, came from a delusion.
I think the hallucination theory is out of court, too, and there is nothing left but the old-fashioned one, that what he said he saw, he saw , and did not fancy; and that which he said he heard, he heard ; and that it was not a buzzing of a diseased nerve in his own ears, but the actual speech of the glorified Christ. Very well, then; if that be true, what then? The old-fashioned belief--Jesus who died on the Cross is living, Jesus who died on the Cross is glorified, Jesus who died on the Cross is exalted to the throne of the universe, puts His hand into the affairs of the world as a power amongst them. Paul’s Christology is but the rationale of the vision that led to Paul’s conversion. It was in part because he ‘saw that Just One, and heard the words of His mouth,’ that he declares, ‘God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.’ I do not say that the vision to Paul is a demonstration of the reality of the Resurrection, but I do say that it is a very strong confirmatory evidence, which the opponents of that truth will have much difficulty in legitimately putting aside.
II. Secondly, let me ask you to consider how this man’s experience is an exhibition of the love of the living Lord.
That is the main point on which the Apostle dwells in my text, in which he says that in him Jesus Christ ‘shows forth all long-suffering.’ The whole fulness of His patient, pitying grace was lavished upon him. He says this because he puts side by side his hostility and Christ’s love, what he had believed of Jesus, and how Jesus had borne with him and loved him through all, and had drawn him to Himself and received him. So he established by his own experience this great truth, that the love of Jesus Christ is never darkened by one single speck of anger, that He ‘suffereth long, and is kind’; that He meets hostility with patient love, hatred with a larger outpouring of His affection, and that His only answer to men’s departures from Him in heart and feeling is more mightily to seek to draw them to Himself. ‘Long-suffering’ means, in its true and proper sense, the patient acceptance, without the smallest movement of indignation, of unworthy treatment. And just as Christ on earth ‘gave His back to the smiter, and His cheeks to them that pulled off the hair’; and let the lips of Judas touch His, nor withdrew His face from ‘shame and spitting’; and was never stirred to one impatient or angry word by any opposition, so now, and to us all, with equal boundlessness of endurance, He lets men hate Him, and revile Him, and forget Him, and turn their backs upon Him; and for only answer has, ‘Come unto Me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’
Oh, dear brethren, we can weary out all loves except one. By carelessness, rebelliousness, the opposition of indifference, we can chill the affection of those to whom we are dearest. ‘Can a mother forget? Yea, she may forget,’ but you cannot provoke Jesus Christ to cease His love. Some of you have been trying it all your days, but you have not done it yet. There does come a time when ‘the wrath of the Lamb’--which is a very terrible paradox--is kindled, and will fall, I fear, on some men and women who are listening now. But not yet. You cannot make Christ angry. ‘For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern ‘--for the same long-suffering is extended to us all.
And then, in like manner, I may remind you that out of Paul’s experience, as a cardinal instance and standing example of Christ’s heart and dealings, comes the thought that that long-suffering is always wooing men to itself, and making efforts to draw them away from their own evil. In Paul’s case there was a miracle. That difference is of small consequence. As truly as ever Christ spoke to Paul from the heavens, so truly, and so tenderly, does He speak to every one of us. He is drawing us all--you that yield and you that do not yield to His attractions, by the kindliest gifts of His love, by the revelations of His grace, by the movements of His Spirit, by the providences of our days, by even my poor lips addressing you now--for, if I be speaking His truth, it is not I that speak, but He that speaks in me. I beseech you, dear friends, recognise in this old story of the persecutor turned apostle nothing exceptional, though there be something miraculous, but only an exceptional form of manifestation of the normal activity of the love of Christ towards every soul. He loves, He draws, He welcomes all that come to Him. His servant, who stood over the blind, penitent persecutor, and said to him, ‘ Brother Saul!’ was only faintly echoing the glad reception which the elder Brother of the family gives to this and to every prodigal who comes back; because He Himself has drawn Him.
If we will only recognise the undying truth for all of us that lies beneath the individual experience of this apostle, we, too, may share in the attraction of His love, in the constraining and blessed influences of that love received, and in the welcome with which He hails us when we turn. If this man were thus dealt with, no man need despair.
III. Lastly, we may notice how this experience is a manifestation of the power of the living, loving Lord.
The first and plainest thing that it teaches us about that power is that Jesus Christ is able in one moment to revolutionise a life. There is nothing more striking than the suddenness and completeness of the change which passed. ‘One day is with the Lord as a thousand years’; and there come moments in every life into which there is crammed and condensed a whole world of experience, so as that a man looks back from this instant to that before, and feels that a gulf, deep as infinity, separates him from his old self.
Now, it is very unfashionable in these days to talk about conversion at all. It is even more unfashionable to talk about sudden conversions. I venture to say that there are types of character and experience which will never be turned to good, unless they are turned suddenly; while there are others, no doubt, to whom the course is a gradual one, and you cannot tell where the dawn broadens into perfect day. But, in the case of men who have grown up to some degree of maturity of life, either in sensuous sin or crusted over with selfish worldliness, or in any other way, by reason of intellectual pursuits, or others have become forgetful of God and careless of religion--unless such men are in a moment arrested and wheeled round at once, there is very little chance of their ever being so at all.
I am sure I am speaking to some now who, unless the truth of Christ comes into their minds with arresting flash, and unless they are in one moment, into which an eternity is condensed, changed in their purposes, will never be changed.
Do not, my friend, listen to the talk that sudden conversion is impossible or unlikely. It is the only kind of conversion that some of you are capable of. I remember a man, one of the best Christian men in a humble station in life that I ever knew--he did not live in Manchester--he had been a drunkard up to his fortieth or fiftieth year. One day he was walking across an open field, and a voice, as he thought, spoke to him and said, naming him, ‘If you don’t sign the pledge to-day you will be damned!’ He turned on his heel, and walked straight down the street to the house of a temperance friend, and said, ‘I have come to sign the pledge.’ He signed it, and from that day to the day of his death ‘adorned the doctrine of Jesus Christ’ his Saviour. If that man had not been suddenly converted he would never have been converted. So I say that this story of the text is a crucial instance of Christ’s power to lay hold upon a man, and wheel him right round all in a moment, and send him on a new path. He wants to do that with all of you to whom He has not already done it. I beseech you, do not stick your heels into the ground in resistance, nor when He puts His hand on your shoulder stiffen your back that He may not do what He desires with you.
May we not see here, too, a demonstration of Christ’s power to make a life nobly and blessedly new, different from all its past, and adorned with strange and unexpected fruits of beauty and wisdom and holiness? This man’s account of his future, from the moment of that incident on the Damascus road to the headman’s block outside the walls of Rome, is this: ‘If any man be in Christ he is a new creature’; ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ Christ will do that for us all; for long-suffering was shown on the Apostle for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe.
So, you Christian people, it is as much your business as it was Paul’s, to be visible rhetoric, manifest demonstrations in your lives of the truth of the Gospel. Men ought to say about us, ‘There must be something in the religion that has done that for these people.’ We ought to be such that our characters shall induce the thought that the Christ who has made men like us cannot be a figment. Do you show, Christian men, that you are grafted upon the true Vine by the abundance of the fruit that you bring forth? Can you venture to say, as Paul said, If you want to know what Jesus Christ’s love and power are, look at me? Do not venture adducing yourself as a specimen of His power unless you have a life like Paul’s to look back upon.
For us all the fountain to which Paul had recourse is open. Why do we draw so little from it? The fire which burned, refining and illuminating, in him may be kindled in all our hearts. Why are we so icy? His convictions are of some value, as subsidiary evidence to Gospel facts; his experience is of still more value as an attestation and an instance of Gospel blessings. Believe like Paul and you will be saved like Paul. Jesus Christ will show to you all long-suffering. For though Paul received it all he did not exhaust it, and the same long-suffering which was lavished on him is available for each of us. Only you too must say like him, ‘I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.’
That in me first - Not first in the order of time, as our translation would seem to imply, but that in me the first or chief of sinners (ἐν ἐμοὶ ποώτῳ en emoi poōtō) he might show an example. The idea is, that he sustained the first rank as a sinner, and that Jesus Christ designed to show mercy to him as such, in order that the possibility of pardoning the greatest sinners might be evinced, and that no one might afterward despair of salvation on account of the greatness of his crimes.
Might shew forth all long-suffering - The highest possible degree of forbearance, in order that a case might never occur about which there could be any doubt. It was shown by his example that the Lord Jesus could evince any possible degree of patience, and could have mercy on the greatest imaginable offenders.
For a pattern - ὑποτύπωσιν hupotupōsin. This word occurs no where else in the New Testament, except in 2 Timothy 1:13, where it is rendered "form." It properly means a form, sketch, or imperfect delineation. Then it denotes a pattern or example, and here it means that the case of Paul was an example for the encouragement of sinners in all subsequent times. It was that to which they might look when they desired forgiveness and salvation. It furnished all the illustration and argument which they would need to show that they might be forgiven. It settled the question forever that the greatest sinners might be pardoned; for as he was "the chief of sinners," it proved that a case could not occur which was beyond the possibility of mercy.
Which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting - All might learn from the mercy shown to him that salvation could be obtained. From this verse we may learn:
(1) that no sinner should despair of mercy. No one should say that he is so great a sinner that he cannot be forgiven. One who regarded himself as the "chief" of sinners was pardoned, and pardoned for the very purpose of illustrating this truth, that any sinner might be saved. His example stands as the illustration of this to all ages; and were there no other, any sinner might now come and hope for mercy. But there are other examples. Sinners of all ranks and descriptions have been pardoned. Indeed, there is no form of depravity of which people can be guilty, in respect to which there are not instances where just such offenders have been forgiven. The persecutor may reflect that great enemies of the cross like him have been pardoned; the profane man and the blasphemer, that many such have been forgiven; the murderer, the thief, the sensualist, that many of the same character have found mercy, and have been admitted to heaven.
(2) the fact that great sinners have been pardoned, is a proof that others of the same description may be also. The same mercy that saved them can save us - for mercy is not exhausted by being frequently exercised. The blood of atonement which has cleansed so many can cleanse us - for its efficacy is not destroyed by being once applied to the guilty soul. Let no one then despair of obtaining mercy because he feels that his sins are too great to be forgiven. Let him look to the past, and remember what God has done. Let him remember the case of Saul of Tarsus; let him think of David and Peter; let him recall the names of Augustine, and Colonel Gardiner, and the Earl of Rochester, and John Newton, and John Bunyan - and thousands like them, who have found mercy; and in their examples let him see a full proof that God is willing to save any sinner, no matter how vile, provided he is penitent and believing.
for this cause—for this very purpose.
that in me—in my case.
first—"foremost." As I was "foremost" (Greek for chief, 1Ti 1:15) in sin, so God has made me the "foremost" sample of mercy.
show—to His own glory (the middle Greek, voice), Eph 2:7.
all long-suffering—Greek, "the whole (of His) long-suffering," namely, in bearing so long with me while I was a persecutor.
a pattern—a sample (1Co 10:6, 11) to assure the greatest sinners of the certainty that they shall not be rejected in coming to Christ, since even Saul found mercy. So David made his own case of pardon, notwithstanding the greatness of his sin, a sample to encourage other sinners to seek pardon (Ps 32:5, 6). The Greek for "pattern" is sometimes used for a "sketch" or outline—the filling up to take place in each man's own case.
believe on him—Belief rests ON Him as the only foundation on which faith relies.
to life everlasting—the ultimate aim which faith always keeps in view (Tit 1:2).howbeit, is as well to be translated but, and ordinarily is so.
For this cause, that is, for this end, God showed me mercy.
That in me first; that in me, the first, (so it is in the Greek, for it is an adjective), that is, as he said before, the chiefest or greatest sinner:
Christ might show forth all long-suffering, bearing with me while I was in my rage against his gospel and saints, and then changing my heart to embrace him and to love him. Or, that in me first, may respect the design of our Saviour in sending Paul to convert the Gentiles: for such a conspicuous example of his clemency and grace towards so great a sinner, whom he not only pardoned but preferred to the dignity of an apostle, would be a strong persuasive to them to receive the gospel with faith and obedience. For it follows,
for a pattern, of God’s patience and free grace to other sinners, from whence they might learn, that if they also shall receive and believe in him, their past sins need not be to them any reason to despair in his mercy.
To life everlasting: there being a certain connection between true believing in Christ and eternal life.
that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering; not that the apostle was the first that was converted upon Christ's coming to save sinners; for there were many converted before him, and very great sinners too, and he speaks of himself as one born out of due time; unless it can be thought that he was the first of the persecutors of the church, upon the death of Stephen, that was converted: but the word "first" is not an "adverb" of time, but a "noun" expressing the character of the apostle, as before; and the sense is, that in him, the first or chief of sinners, Jesus Christ exhibited an instance of his abundant longsuffering exercised towards his elect for their salvation; he waiting in the midst of all their sins and rebellions to be gracious to them; and of this, here was a full proof in the Apostle Paul: what longsuffering and patience were showed, while he held the clothes of them that stoned Stephen, when he made havoc and haled men and women to prison, and persecuted them to death? and this was done,
for a pattern to them that should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting; either to those of his fellow persecutors, or of others in that age, who should be made sensible of their sins, and by this instance and example of grace be encouraged to believe in Christ for life and salvation; or to all awakened and convinced sinners then, and in every age, who from hence may conceive hope of salvation in Christ for themselves, though ever so great sinners; since such patience and longsuffering were exercised towards, and such grace bestowed upon, one that had been a sinner of the first rank and size, yea, the chief of sinners: in him was delineated the grace of God, and in his conversion it was painted in its most lively colours; and a just representation is given of it, for the encouragement of the faith and hope of others in Christ. Christ is here represented as the object of faith; and true faith regards him, looks unto him, and deals with him for eternal life and salvation. Our countryman, Mr. Mede, thinks that the sense is, that the conversion of the Apostle Paul was a pattern of the conversion of the Jews in the latter day; and his thought seems to be a very good one: the apostle's conversion is a pledge and earnest of theirs, and showed that God had not cast away all that people; and carries in it some likeness and agreement with theirs: as his, theirs will be in the midst of all their blindness and unbelief; and when they have filled up the measure of their sins; and they will be a nation born at once, suddenly, and by the immediate power and grace of God, without the ministry of the word, which they will not hear: thus they will be converted as he was, and become as hearty lovers and friends of the Gentile churches.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1 Timothy 1:16. After calling himself the first of sinners, Paul gives the reason why he, this foremost sinner, found grace. He begins with ἀλλά, since it must appear strange that grace was imparted to him.
διὰ τοῦτο ἠλεήθην] De Wette says: “therefor (to this end) did I receive grace.”
ἵνα ἐν ἐμοὶ πρώτῳ ἐνδείξηται Χρ. Ἰ. τὴν ἅπασαν μακροθυμίαν.
ἐν ἐμ. πρ.] stands first for the sake of emphasis; ἐν is not equivalent to “by means of,” but to “in the case of” (comp. Romans 7:19). To supply ἁμαρτωλῷ with πρώτῳ (first ed. of this commentary, Wiesinger, van Oosterzee, and others) is arbitrary. There is no need to supply anything. The thought is: “in my case, Christ first showed His entire μακροθυμία.” Paul says this, meaning that the entire fulness of Christ’s μακροθυμία (Buttmann, p. 105) could not be shown to those who before had received grace, because they had not cherished such decided enmity to Christ as he. The πρώτῳ therefore has ἅπασαν corresponding with it; the greater the guilt, the greater the manifestation of μακροθυμία. Bengel says: “cunctam longanimitatem: quum minores peccatores etiam mensura quasi minor possit restituere.” It is not necessary to give the word μακροθυμία the meaning here of “magnanimity” (Heydenreich, Matthies: “long-suffering or magnanimity”). The apostle here regards the love of the Lord as not causing judgment to follow straight on condemnation, but as patient, and granting space for conversion. In this Paul has given the purpose of his pardon; but he states it still more definitely in the words that follow: πρὸς ὑποτύπωσιν τῶν μελλόντων πιστεύειν ἐπʼ αὐτῷ. The expression ὑποτύπωσις, “likeness, image,” occurs elsewhere only in 2 Timothy 1:13; it is synonymous with ὑπόδειγμα in 2 Peter 2:6, and other passages. Elsewhere in the Pauline Epistles we find τύπος (Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 10:6; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Php 3:17). Leo, without sufficient grounds, explains the word by institutio. The idea of type is not contained in the word itself, but is here transferred to it from the μελλόντων.
πιστεύειν ἐπʼ αὐτῷ] This construction of the word πιστεύειν is found in the N. T. only here and in Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11, 1 Peter 2:6; but in all these passages it occurs in words quoted from Isaiah 28:16, where the LXX. has simply ὁ πιστεύων. It may be explained in this way, that faith has confidence as its substance and basis. Matthies rightly says: “ἐπʼ αὐτῷ, not so much in Him as the object of faith, but rather trusting in faith on Him as the absolute basis of our salvation.”
εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον] These words are not to be joined to the distant ὑποτύπωσιν (Bengel), but to the πιστεύειν immediately preceding. They present the goal towards which the πιστεύειν ἐπʼ αὐτῷ is directed (Wiesinger). As Paul usually sets forth his conduct to others as a type, so here he gives to his experience a typical meaning for future believers. This may he explained from the peculiar and important position which he held for the development of God’s kingdom on earth, and of which he was distinctly conscious.
 Hofmann: “If πρῶτος before had the meaning of locality, here πρώτῳ has the meaning of time as opposed to τῶν μελλόντων πιστεύειν.”
 Hofmann, without grounds, disputes this view, and gives the apostle’s thought in this way: “The aim is to give a type, not to them, but of them; they were to know that they had to expect such conversions as his, the conversions of revilers and persecutors.” But there is no hint whatever of revilers and persecutors only in οἱ μέλλοντες πιστεύειν.1 Timothy 1:16. ἀλλά: This is not adversative, but rather continues from 1 Timothy 1:13, and develops the expression of self-depreciation. The connexion is: “I was such a sinner that antecedently one might doubt whether I could be saved or was worth saving. But Christ had a special object in view in extending to me His mercy.”
διὰ τοῦτο, followed by ἵνα and referring to what follows, occurs in Romans 4:16, 2 Corinthians 13:10, Ephesians 6:13, 2 Thessalonians 2:11, Philemon 1:15. See also Romans 13:6. ἐν ἐμοί is used as in Galatians 1:16; Galatians 1:24, and as ἐν ἡμῖν in 1 Corinthians 4:6. I was an object lesson in which Christ displayed the extent of His longsuffering.
πρώτῳ: Alford correctly says that the foll. μελλόντων proves that St. Paul here combines the senses first (A.V.) and as chief (R.V.).
τὴν ἅπασαν μακροθυμίαν: the utmost longsuffering which he has (Blass, Grammar, p. 162). Here  renders μακροθ. longanimitatem. Chrys., followed by Alf. and Ell., explains, “Greater longsuffering He could not show in any case than in mine, nor find a sinner that so required all His longsuffering; not a part only”. If there had been only one soul of sinful man to save, it would have needed the Incarnation to save that soul. In St. Paul’s case, conversion had been preceded by a long internal struggle on his part, and patience on Christ’s part: “It is hard for thee to kick against the goad”. ἅπας only occurs in the Pauline epistles again in Ephesians 6:13. Its use “is confined principally to literary documents” (Moulton and Milligan, Expositor, vii, vi. 88).
 Cod. Frisingensis
πρὸς ὑποτύπωσιν τῶν μελλόντων: The use of the genitive here is paralleled exactly in 2 Peter 2:6, ὑπόδειγμα μελλόντων ἀσεβεῖν, “an example unto those that should live ungodly”; and 1 Corinthians 10:6, ταῦτα δὲ τύποι ἡμῶν ἐγενήθησαν; also 1 Timothy 4:12, where see reff. It does not mean as R.V. (an ensample of them), that St. Paul was the first specimen of Jesus’ work of grace, but rather as A.V. (a pattern to them), that no one who ever afterwards hears the gracious invitation of Christ need hang back from accepting it by reason of the greatness of his sin, when he has the example of St. Paul before him (so Chrys.). The ὑποτύπωσις, of course, is the whole transaction of St. Paul’s conversion in all its bearings, ad informationem eorum qui credituri sunt illi (Vulg.). Bengel compares Psalm 32:5-6, “Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. For this let every one that is godly pray unto thee,” etc.
πιστεύειν ἐπʼ αὐτῷ: πιστεύειν is usually followed by εἰς and the acc., or the simple dat. But ἐπί with acc., and ἐν are also found. The construction in the text is due to an unconscious recollection of Isaiah 28:16 (also quoted Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11, 1 Peter 2:6); and no other explanation need be sought. The only other certain instance of the same construction is Luke 24:25. The critical editors reject it in Matthew 27:42.16. Howbeit] A characteristic re-assertion with a new antithesis, ‘Yes, I am indeed chief of sinners, but still I received mercy on this account, that I might also be chief exemplar of Jesus Christ’s all-patience.’
Translate with R.V. that in me as chief (i.e. of sinners) might Jesus Christ shew forth all his longsuffering.
in me] ‘in my case,’ as in Galatians 1:16, ‘it pleased God to reveal His Son in me,’ ‘to shew the Saviour’s power in my conversion,’ Galatians 1:24, ‘they glorified God in me.’
all longsuffering] The longer form of the Greek word ‘all’ should be read, though only once used otherwise by St Paul, Ephesians 6:13; the position of the article coming before the ‘all’ is very unusual in N. T. and suggests the translation proposed by Dr Vaughan, ‘His all-patience,’ cf. Galatians 5:14, ‘The whole law.’ Winer, § 17. 10.
might shew forth] The right translation in our idiom of the subjunctive, which Hellenistic Greek uses for the optative when it would naturally follow the past tense, ‘received mercy,’ cf. 1 Timothy 1:20; the verb ‘shew forth’ is middle, as always in N. T.; its force ‘shew forth as His attribute.’
for a pattern to] R.V. for an ensample of them which should hereafter believe. According to the use of the word in the only place where it occurs besides, 2 Timothy 1:13, ‘the pattern of sound words,’ the phrase ought to be a simpler one ‘for a pattern of believers,’ and the longer form is substituted at the moment of writing. And it is not quite as Bengel puts it with emphasis on ‘belief,’ ‘si credis ut Paulus salvabere ut Paulus,’ but ‘etiamsi peccaveris ut Paulus, ut Paulo poena tibi differetur, locum habebis poenitentiae ut Paulus.’
to life everlasting] We may shew better how this word is taken up, and with a turn of meaning suggests the form of the ascription, by rendering unto life eternal: and to the King of the eternal … be honour and glory onto all eternity.
“ ‘Life eternal” is the divine life, the life that is’; ‘not an endless duration of being in time, but being of which time is not a measure.’ Westcott on 1 John 1:2; 1 John 5:20.
In St John’s use, the present living ‘in Christ,’ spiritual religion, is meant almost entirely to be emphasised, e.g. John 3:15; John 5:24; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 5:13.
In St Paul’s use this is certainly so too in one passage, 1 Timothy 6:12, where Timothy is now by a distinct effort and act (aorist imperative) to ‘lay hold’ of ‘the eternal life’; that is, ‘the special Messianic gift brought by Christ,’ described (according to the true reading) in 1 Timothy 6:19 as ‘the life which is life indeed,’ and in Ephesians 4:18 as ‘the life of God.’ So perhaps here, though probably more often St Paul’s use of the phrase looks to the development of this life still future, e.g. Romans 2:7; Romans 6:22, ‘and the end life eternal.’ The phrase ‘King of the eternal,’ lit. ‘King of the ages,’ covers both uses: God is King and Giver of Life in all the cycles and stages of development through which the world and all in it pass.
This connexion of the phrases makes it probable that this allusive title of God ‘King of the eternal’ is left thus, strong and complete, and that the following epithets belong to the new title, making a climax the incorruptible, invisible, only God (not as A.V. and R.V.). The epithet ‘wise’ has not sufficient ms. authority here or in Jude 25.1 Timothy 1:16.  Ἀλλὰ, but) Although I am the first (foremost and chief) of sinners.—διὰ τοῦτο) for this very cause.—τὴν πᾶσαν μακροθυμίαν) all long-suffering; whereas even a less proportion (of long-suffering), so to speak, may restore such as are not so great sinners; comp. Exodus 33:19, that expression כל טובי, all the goodness of the Lord, in respect of a people exceedingly guilty.—ΠΡῸς ὙΠΟΤΎΤΩΣΙΝ, for a pattern) that others might so ὑποτυποῦσθαι, be conformed to the pattern, or might revolve it in their mind, and make it the subject of their serious consideration. If you believe, as Paul did, you will be saved as Paul was. [In like manner, David also desired to be an example, Psalm 32:6.—V. g.] The same word occurs, 2 Timothy 1:13.—ἐπʼ Αὐτῷ) on Him, on God.—ΕἸς, to) This may be construed with pattern.
 Εἰμὶ, I am) I am, he says, not I was, including the very moment of writing.—V. g.Verse 16. - As chief for first, A.V.; might Jesus Christ for Jesus Christ might, A.V.; his long-suffering for long-suffering, A.V.; an ensample of for a pattern to, A.V.; unto eternal life for to life everlasting, A.V. That in me as chief; rather, as A.V., first; i.e. both in order of time, and in respect also of the greatness of the sin forgiven. Show forth (ἐνδείξηται; see 2 Timothy 4:14, note). All his long-suffering; more properly, as Alford, the whole long-suffering; i.e. the entirety of long-suffering - all that was possible, every kind and degree of long-suffering. Ὁ πᾶς with the substantive denotes the whole of a thing: τὸν πάντα χρόνον, "the whole time" (Acts 20:18); ὁ πᾶς νόμος, "the whole Law" (Galatians 5:14). So in the two examples from Polybius, τῆς πάσης ἀλογιστίας and τῆς πάσης ἀτοπίας "the utmost unreasonableness," and "the utmost strangeness," the construction is exactly the same. Long-suffering (μακροθυμια); more literally, long-animity; very frequent both in the New Testament and in the LXX. The adjective μακρόθυμος (LXX.) is a translation of the Hebrew קְצַר אַפַיִם, "long," or "slow to anger," to which the opposite is אֶרֶך, ὀξύθυμος (LXX.), "short to anger," i.e. hasty, passionate. The verb μακροθυμέω also occurs frequently, both in the New Testament and in the LXX.: Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, "Charity suffereth long" (1 Corinthians 13:4). For an example (πρὸς ὑποτύπωσιν). The word only occurs in the New Testament here and 2 Timothy 1:12; but both it and the verb ὑποτυπόω are good classical words. The meaning of ὑπότύπωσις is "a sketch" or "outline," and hence a "pattern." This pattern is spoken of as being the property of, being for the use of, them which should hereafter believe. Just as the workman looks at his plan, or outline, by which he is to work, so those future believers would see in Christ's dealings with St. Paul the exact pattern of the long-suffering which they might expect for themselves. Others take ὑποτύπωσις in the sense of "instruction," but this sense cannot be made good. Believe on him unto eternal life. These words hang together. The particular force of πιστεύειν ἐπ αὐτῷ, "found in the New Testament only here and Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11; and 1 Peter 2:6" (Huther) - as distinguished from the other constructions of to πιστεύειν - is "rest," "lean on" (Ellicott). St. Paul thus incidentally affirms that his own faith rested upon Jesus Christ in the full assurance of attaining to eternal life (see 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 1:1, 2).
Not the chief sinner, but the representative instance of God's longsuffering applied to a high-handed transgressor. It is explained by pattern.
All longsuffering (τὴν ἅπασαν μακροθυμίαν)
More correctly, "all his longsuffering." The A.V. misses the possessive force of the article. For longsuffering see on be patient, James 5:7. The form ἅπας occurs as an undisputed reading only once in Paul, Ephesians 6:13, and not there as an adjective. Often in Acts and Luke. This use of the article with the adjective πᾶς or ἅπας is without parallel in Paul.
Or, ensample. Only here and 2 Timothy 1:13. olxx. oClass. An example of the writer's fondness for high-sounding compounds. Paul uses τύπος.
The A.V. conveys the sense more clearly than Rev. "of them," which is ambiguous. The genitive has a possessive sense. He would be their ensample, or an ensample for their benefit.
This verb, so frequent in Paul, occurs six times in the pastorals. In two instances, 1 Timothy 1:11; Titus 1:3, it is passive, in the sense of to be intrusted with. Here in the Pauline sense of believing on Christ. In 1 Timothy 3:16, passive, of Christ believed on in the world. In 2 Timothy 1:12, of God the Father, in whom the writer confides to keep the trust committed to him. In Titus 3:8, of belief in God. With ἐπὶ upon and the dative, Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11; 1 Peter 2:6 (all citations), and Romans 4:18; Luke 24:25.
Unto life everlasting (εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον)
Better, eternal life. See additional not on 2 Thessalonians 1:9. The conception of life eternal is not limited to the future life (as von Soden). Godliness has promise of the life which now is, as well as of that which is to come (1 Timothy 4:8). The promise of eternal life (2 Timothy 1:1) and the words who brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10) may fairly be taken to cover the present life.
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