Archive for February 24th, 2020

1 Corinthians 15:9-11

In 1 Corinthians 15:9-11 Paul continues talking about the gospel story and Jesus’ appearance to many after He rose from the tomb. Paul writes that he was the least of those to be called an apostle. Remember that he wasn’t part of Jesus ministry the last three years of His life like the Twelve were. And the Corinthian church had some misconceived ideas about Paul and his leadership and place in the church. “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” They actually called him a paulus (“little”) apostle. None of that matters, because Paul definitely was an apostle and follower of Christ in ways that few men ever achieved.

Paul would argue in some situations very hard for his apostolic credentials, because he knew he had to be respected as an apostle. But he had no desire to compete with other apostles for the “Most Valuable Apostle” award. He would gladly say, I am the least of the apostles. In fact, Paul believed he was not worthy to be called an apostle. For some, this would just be spiritual sounding talk, which showed more pride than humility. But Paul meant it. He regarded himself as the least of the apostles because he persecuted the church openly. Paul always remembered how he had sinned against Jesus’ church. He knew that he was forgiven; yet he remembered his sin.

Paul gave the grace of God all the credit for the change in His life. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”  He was a changed man, forgiven, cleansed, and full of love when he used to be full of hate. He knew this was not his own accomplishment, but it was the work of the grace of God in him. The grace that saves us also changes us. Grace changed Paul. You can’t receive the grace of God without being changed by it. The changes don’t come all at once but God will complete His good work in us over time.

Paul compares himself to the other apostles. He was not shy about saying he worked harder than any of the other apostles did. “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” Conceivably, if Paul had not worked as hard as he did, the grace of God would still have been given to him, but in some measure it would be given in vain. Grace, by definition, is given freely. But how we receive grace will help to determine how effective the gift of grace is. Grace isn’t given because of any works, past, present or promised; yet it is given to encourage work, not to say work is not necessary. God doesn’t want us to receive His grace and become passive. Paul knew that God gives His grace to us, we work hard, and the work of God is done. We work in a partnership with God, not because He needs us, but because He wants us to share in His work.

%d bloggers like this: