A Man of Like Passions

I read I Corinthians 15 yesterday, pretty quickly, and made a note to read it again today. I started to grasp something out of it that I knew intellectually but didn't really believe--that Paul is really just like any one of us. Listen to this:
But I make known to you, brothers, the gospel that I evangelized to you, which you received, in which you also have stood, through which you are also saved, to which word I evangelized to you if you hold fast . . . . For I gave to you in the first times what I also received . . . .
 Yes, Paul had a big, dramatic experience on the Damascus road, but the heart of it was that he had to receive the gospel. He had to come to Christ the same way we all come to Christ--repentance and faith. Like us, Paul received the gospel, stood in the gospel, and was saved through the gospel. Paul, a man just like us, was transformed by the same thing that transforms us, empowered by the same thing that empowers us, and held fast to what we hold fast.  What was this?
That Christ died for our  sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then the twelve, then by over five hundred brothers at once, then by James and all the apostles, and last of all, He was seen by me, as one born out of time . . . .
Paul doesn't say, "That Christ died for your sins," he says, "That Christ died for our sins." I remember of course that Paul was a sinner, but it doesn't always compute that his sins, which are obvious only pre-conversion, were as damning as my sins, which are obvious every waking hour. But Paul too had to come under the blood for cleansing, had to accept the death of Jesus as a subsitute for his own death, just as we must. And when Paul saw Christ, it didn't make him think of himself as something special; the word he uses for himself here also means "miscarriage" in Greek. What exactly did Paul mean by that? I don't know. But he clearly doesn't use the term to elevate himself. in fact, he continues:
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 to me was not made empty, but I labored more than all of them, but not I but the grace of God with me.
Paul, like us, received the gospel, that Christ died for his sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and afterward was seen by all of those people, including himself. Paul was not worthy of this. He clearly believed he was the least of all the apostles, not even worthy of the name, because of his past. He had persecuted, hounded to death, the church of God. What is amazing, though, is his response to all of this . . . "By the grace of God I am what I am." Often when I think of that phrase, I think of it in a tone of self-pity--"By the grace of God I am at least this--the sum total of what I was." But that's not it at all! "By the grace of God I am what I am." By the grace of God, Paul says, I am an apostle. Paul knew himself unworthy to be called an apostle, but this did not prevent his being an apostle. Still he traveled the known world. Still he preached in streets, debated in synagogues, planted churches, and even went to Jerusalem to defend the Gentile churches before the apostles. Still he confronted Peter when Peter refused to eat with the Gentiles for fear of the Jews. Still he called himself an apostle, over and over. How could he do this? He understood that it was grace and did not receive it grudgingly, feeling as if he needed to repay, but took it freely and made the most of it. God's grace made him an entirely new person--an apostle--and God's grace was not going to be made futile in his life.

Was he perfect in this? No. Jesus had to come to him in a vision and tell him not to be discouraged and afraid. He had to ask the Roman church to pray for him, "that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem might be acceptable to the saints, that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you" (Rom. 15:31-32). He still dealt with fear and even anxiety that his service wouldn't be acceptable. He still needed refreshing from other Christians. But grace ruled in his life, not fears and feelings.

As this relates to me, I am positionally an apostle--one sent by God and confirmed by God's people to go out and proclaim the gospel. I struggle with this, more even than I can say. I find it a great comfort that Paul was no different than me, and I want to grow to understand grace like he did. I don't want God's grace to be empty in my life.

What about you? Who are you--the sum of everything in your past, or a new creation? Will you grasp the grace of God?

  • I was by myself for much of Tuesday at the Centre. When this happens, I'm generally supposed to close the place and wait for whoever is supposed to work with me to get there. On Tuesday, though, a guy came to the door who I felt was okay to allow in, and I was able to talk to him for a couple of hours, and eventually got to share my testimony and the gospel with him, through his asking me to recite the story of Moses. Please pray for this guy, K, that the seed planted will bear fruit to salvation.
Prayer requests
  • Please pray for wisdom in follow-up conversations that happen at the Centre.
  • Please continue to pray for open doors to share with ladies.
  • Pray for wisdom in setting the agenda for the next 8 months. My supervisor and I haven't scheduled a meeting yet, but one is on the horizon.
  • Pray that the Lord would help me to be mindful when I experience discouragement--to recognize it for what it is and to take my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. Pray that I would not judge anything before the time, but take each day with joy in the knowledge that, though I cannot see the future, the future is absolutely full of Jesus.
  • Pray that I would apprehend the grace of God as Paul did and live and work out of it.
Thank you for praying for me!

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