‘For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy 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 toward 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’ – 1 Corinthians 15:9-10
The Apostles are often referred to as saints – St Peter and St Paul. In fact, Paul taught that all Christians are called saints (See Philippians 1:1). If we are not careful, we will end up believing the apostles were super-human and at a spiritual level way above anything we could ever attain to.
In their epistles, the apostles did not promote themselves, rather the opposite. The more successful and well-known Paul became, the lower the opinion he had of himself. It was not false humility when he wrote, ‘not worthy to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church’.
What can we learn from our text to help us move forward in God into more effectiveness?
- We cannot change the past
However much Paul regretted his actions, he could not rewrite history. How could Christians forgive and forget what Paul had done either? After all, for some it was their family, relatives and friends that had borne the brunt of Paul’s ruthless persecution. Then people heard that he got saved on the road to Damascus and was now preaching the very gospel he once tried to destroy.
One thing many find confusing about Christianity is the fact that the guilty such as Paul, can be saved, but those who do good are not, unless their faith is in Jesus. This is because they wrongly believe salvation is based on our works rather than what Jesus has done for us. We need grace to receive God’s forgiveness and we need that same grace to forgive those who have hurt us and done us wrong.
Yes we all have to live with our past, but do not let it rob you of God’s gift – eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Our disgrace is the opportunity for God’s amazing grace!
- Those who know they have been forgiven the most tend to love and work the most
Jesus taught a parable about two people with debts – one owed 500 denarii, the other 50 (See Luke 7:40-43). Both were unable to repay but in an unusual act of kindness, their creditor freely forgave them the loans. ‘Which of them will love him more?’ Jesus asked. ‘The one he forgave more’ was the reply.
When Paul was converted, God showed him the persecution he would face in the future (See Acts 9:15-16). The thought of this did not deter him one bit. Having been forgiven so much, he was ready to love, serve and even die for his Master – Jesus.
- Release God’s grace in your life
Paul could have sat on the “Unworthy” chair in some corner for the rest of his life. God had better plans than that! In spite of his past, God had a present and a future prepared for him. It was God’s will he became an apostle, not his own desire or the appointment of men.
The Bible says, ‘Having then gifts (callings) differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them’ – Romans 12:6. It goes on to list several such as prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, generosity, leadership and being merciful. Jesus said, ‘Let your light shine’. Not just the light of being a Christian, but also the light of our function as a Christian.
When Satan reminds you of your past in an attempt to stop you serving God, just remind him of his future. Thank God, because of His grace, we have a glorious future ahead of us and can serve God effectively while we are still here on earth.