1 Corinthians 15:9-10 9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which [was bestowed] upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
In our minds the Apostle Paul would be considered one of the greatest apostles. A man who had such a dramatic conversion to Christ, who wrote over 13 NT epistles, who served the Lord so faithfully. Yet in Paul’s mind we see his thoughts about himself. He had a proper understanding of the grace of God. He knew the grace of the Lord to be exceeding abundant. Grace: God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. Grace gives us a proper view of ourselves, our sin, others, and especially our mighty and merciful God.
Paul believed himself to be undeserving of being an apostle. He called himself the least of the Apostles. Paul did not suffer from “low self-esteem”. He did not need a self-help course in how to love himself. Some would say he needed some positivism training or he could better his self-thoughts by repeating reaffirming statements about himself…etc.
The Bible teaches that we should have low self-esteem. I ought to think less of me, more of others, and most of Christ. Only when I know my own weakness and worthlessness will I know the power and grace of Christ. This is so contrary to the world. They fail to see that the way up is the way down. The world seeks to build themselves up apart from humility and identity in Christ. When we seek for identity in ourselves then we must overcome our self-image and feelings of unworthiness and feel good about ourselves. When we know our sinfulness and yet the grace of God we see our identity in Christ and rejoice in God’s Grace. The world’s backwards teaching on self-esteem is because of a failure to acknowledge, an outright refusal of sinfulness, the Savior, and the much needed grace of God.
Paul had received the grace of God and this grace taught him of his own unworthiness. He viewed others better than himself. Paul had a proper view of himself as being who he was by the undeserved favor of God. He also had a proper view of his past. Grace forgives and sets us free from our past. Paul was not defined by his sinful past but rather by the grace of God. Some people believe that they are forever destined to be a certain way because of how they grew up, what happened to them, or what they did. Grace can so transcend the past.
Paul was a persecutor turned preacher. He also had a proper view of his present. Paul was who he was only by the grace of God and he would labour for God only by the grace of God. The Christian life is all of the grace of God. We begin in salvation by grace through faith and we daily must serve with that same grace. Praise God it is present with us in the Person of Christ. The grace of God can cause us to abound in service for Christ. Grace here is known as Divine Enablement. Where in time past we destroyed and worked havoc against spiritual things the grace of God can cause us to become a wise master builder for Christ. The grace of God is so unfathomable. It changes atheists into adopted sons, haters into holy saints, and persecutors into preachers. Who would have thought that a blasphemer could become a counted faithful, proclaimer of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Am I humbled this day by the grace of God? Do I think of myself more highly than I ought to think? It is only when I am humbled before the Lord that I will be able to have His grace bestowed upon me. Why was Paul able to be used in such incredible fashion? Humility and the grace of God. The Lord can use a vessel that is totally empty of self and fully dependent upon the Savior. James 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
1 Peter 5:5-6 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all [of you] be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
This is seen so beautifully in this incredible passage exemplified in our Savior. He came not to be ministered unto but to minister: Philippians 2:3-11 3 [Let] nothing [be done] through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [things] in heaven, and [things] in earth, and [things] under the earth; 11 And [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
1 Timothy 1:12-15 12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did [it] ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15 This [is] a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
What do I believe about God and His grace this morning? Do I believe myself deserving? The world would tell me if I am ever to go forward I must believe that I am enough. If we are to go forward for the Lord in grace we must believe that we are not enough but that He is. When I see my unworthiness it causes me to depend upon Him and thank Him for His grace. How exceeding abundant it truly is for we who are “chief of sinners”. Let us esteem the Savior rather than ourselves Praise God our worth is in Christ; we are Complete in Him.