Wednesday, 4 March 2015
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10
Previously speaking of his state of unworthiness as an apostle, Paul now shows the attention that he committed to the high honor that was bestowed upon him. He went from a persecutor of the church to a staunch defender and supporter of it. The cause of Christ became his sole passion (even his soul-passion) and desire. And so to show this contrast between his past and who he had become, he begins with the words “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”
His conversion was solely “by the grace of God.” He was on his way to Damascus to persecute the church, and on the way there the Lord appeared to him personally. There was nothing he did to deserve it. He was looking to destroy the notion of the Lord, but instead the Lord lavished His grace upon him in a personal appearance and calling. He could have been destroyed, but the Lord mercifully spared him.
And not only had the Lord spared him unto the calling of an apostle, but Paul notes that “His grace toward me was not in vain.” Grace which is taken for granted will be displayed in wasted effort. If you give a sluggard a thousand dollars (grace), it will be spent by the end of the day on useless things which will be in the garbage by the weekend. But if you give a thousand dollars to a diligent, energetic person who will strive to make a better life for himself, that same money will turn into a business, a home, education for his children, and an inheritance for his family.
The sluggard will soon be back, asking for more; the diligent soul will be back to repay what was given and to acknowledge your goodness to him. The Lord knew the man He was selecting and He knew the great and effective ministry he would produce. And so Paul was selected. In response to this act of grace, he notes that “I labored more abundantly than they all.”
All of the other apostles had been granted their title and ministry while Christ was alive. Though undeserving of their title, just as Paul was, they had grown into it and were comfortable with it. Paul, on the other hand, had it almost thrust upon him. He understood the weight of glory which had surrounded him and he knew that he could never repay the grace and mercy he received. And therefore he labored in a way that no other did. He who rightly perceives the grace he has received will show gratitude for it. Paul was such a person.
And yet, despite laboring with all of his effort for the cause of Christ, he was humble enough in his heart, and wise enough in his mind to proclaim that it was “not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Every breath a man takes is by the grace of God.
The gifts we possess are all grace. Paul understood this and used his past experience, his make up, his knowledge, and every part of who he was to work for Christ. It was all of grace and therefore it was all Christ. The selection was made and Paul understood what that meant. He notes this several times in his writings. A good example is to be found in Colossians –
“To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” Colossians 1:29
Life application: Can we boast about what we have received? Certainly not! And yet how often we do. Let us credit the glory to God in all things that we accomplish for Him. Let us exalt Christ who so effectively works in us for His good purposes and pleasure
Lord, I cannot take credit for anything I have done for You. The knowledge I possess is from the brain You have given me and the experiences You have granted for me. The money I have was from working with hands that You fashioned and with a physique which You designed. The time I live, the place where my feet are, and the very air that I breathe all came from You. And so how can I boast about the things which I have done in this life? It all stems from You. Use me according to Your wisdom; I am Your workmanship ready for service to You. Amen.