To counter the Judaistic Gnostics in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul did not do what some might have done.
Some might use pride in position to shame these people. Paul did not do that. While Paul unmistakably had authority from God as an apostle, he didn’t try to belittle them by using his rank. In fact, when writing 1 Timothy, Paul began the epistle by writing he was “an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, (1 Timothy 1:1 ESV).” Paul did not assume the office on his own behalf. He became an apostle by command.
Instead of using pomp and circumstance, Paul answered his opponents with humility. He pointed to the kind of sinner he was when the Lord Jesus found him and how by saving the chief sinner, God showed his patience. Paul wrote, “though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life, (1 Timothy 1:13-16 ESV).
The Gnostics had gained prominence by telling Christians since they were so much more righteous than anyone else, they held a higher place above sinners and should be, therefore, more respected and venerated. God’s apostle, however, highlighted his lowly position as a sinner and lifted up the Father and Son as the ones who should have the prominent place, since they were the ones who offered mercy. Notice in the above scripture from 1 Timothy how the writer, by the inspiration of God repeated the term, “but I received mercy.” Paul knew full well he deserved physical and spiritual death because of what he had done. Yet, he also knew he had received mercy so that Jesus could demonstrate his “perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”
In this way, Paul dealt with the Gnostics for lifting themselves up before the God who loved them and wanted to redeem and save them.
This use of God’s word will reach people today, if we but remember our own position as sinners, instead of using a position of power and prominence over them.