Tuesday, 3 March 2015
For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 1 Corinthians 15:9
In explanation of his previous verse where he said he was “born out of due time,” he now notes that “I am the least of the apostles.” He wasn’t claiming this in gifts received, work-effort put forth, or rank and status. He was an apostle equal to the others, he notes in 2 Corinthians 11 that he labored more than all the others, and he is noted throughout Acts and the epistles as having an overflowing abundance of the gifts of the Spirit.
What he is referring to is his deserving of respect and honor. His calling was out of the order of the other apostles and without prior education by Christ. He felt that because of this he was “not worthy to be called an apostle.” Specifically, during that time of spiritual darkness, he not only wasn’t neutral to the gospel, but he actually “persecuted the church of God.” His persecution of the church is noted in Acts 8 and 9, but he gives great detail of what this constituted in Acts 26 –
“This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” Acts 26:10, 11
He also mentions those areas of his life which he felt disqualified him from any esteem in his epistles, and he never seemed to quite forgive himself even though the Lord had washed him clean of all of his transgressions. Or it could be that he simply didn’t want to forget his past, lest he exalt himself above other sinners in need of a Savior. It could even be that he reminded himself often of his past so that he would never fall back into his old ways. Whatever his actual thoughts, he carried his past with him and he spoke of it freely.
Life application: All in Christ “have a past.” Some are “worse” than others, but James notes that one infraction of the law breaks the whole law. Therefore, we all stand guilty before God without the shed blood of Christ. Let us cling to this notion, not exalting ourselves over others, and in the hope of never returning to a life of sin. Let us live for Christ, exalting Him for His infinite grace and mercy.
Lord, I know that there needs to be a balance in how I approach those who have not yet called on Christ. Their sin is to be condemned and yet their souls need to be renewed. Help me to discern rightly between those who are perverse and antagonistic towards You, and those who are simply stuck in whatever addiction or perversion they are caught in. Help me be a light to the lost while still being firm towards the belligerent among us. It is often hard to know the right course, and so give me wise discernment in this, O God. Amen.