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1 Corinthians 15:8–11

“I am the least of the apostles, unworthy 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” (vv. 9–10).

Of the many examples of God’s grace in the Scriptures, we can hardly find a better illustration of the sovereign work of the Lord in those who do not deserve His redemption than the Apostle Paul. Acts 9:1–30 makes clear that Saul of Tarsus, better known to us as Paul the Apostle, was not looking for Jesus when our Savior converted Him. In fact, Saul fiercely opposed Jesus, seeking to crush His church and silence the gospel. Saul had done everything possible to make himself unworthy of Christ’s favor, but when the Lord chose to show His grace to Saul, that was the end of Saul’s futile acts against the Savior. The self-appointed destroyer of the church was transformed into one of the leading Apostles.

Paul never forgot his vile work persecuting the church, which enabled him to marvel at the grace of God. We see this in today’s passage. Having described how Jesus appeared to many people after He rose from the dead, Paul notes that our Lord also called him, who was most unworthy, to Christian service (1 Cor. 15:8–11).

The Apostle refers to himself as “one untimely born” (v. 8), a phrase that translates a Greek word that refers to the abrupt death of an unborn child through abortion, miscarriage, or stillbirth. Paul seems to be stressing the sudden, unexpected nature of his conversion as well as the fact that it came to one who was spiritually dead. Jesus did not choose someone who was on his way to faith or who was merely indifferent to the gospel. Instead, He chose perhaps the unlikeliest candidate of all as His servant, one who hated Him and all that He stands for.

By any honest measure, the acts of Paul to persecute the church made him an unworthy choice for Christ’s herald (v. 9). However, if the Lord were to choose only the worthy, no man except Jesus could qualify to be God’s servant, for “no one living is righteous” before our Creator (Ps. 143:2). The Lord’s selection of Paul, therefore, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that no one is beyond the grace of God and that the Lord does not call the worthy. Instead, He calls the unworthy and makes them profitable servants solely by His grace.

Make no mistake, none of us has a right to become servants of the Lord. Nevertheless, when God sets His grace on us, He makes us into men and women who do what is good for His kingdom. This is not of us, but it is sheer grace. As Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 15:10–11, God’s grace enabled all his work for the gospel.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Charles Hodge comments that “Christian humility does not consist in denying what there is of good in us; but in an abiding sense of ill-desert, and in the consciousness that what we have of good is due to the grace of God.” We can be grateful for the work of the Lord in us to make us true and faithful—albeit imperfect—servants of Christ. We can be honest about our unworthiness while also honest that the Lord will use us in mighty ways for His kingdom.

For Further Study
  • Genesis 32
  • Luke 17:7–10
  • 1 Timothy 1:15–17
  • Hebrews 11

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The Necessity of Christ’s Resurrection

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From the July 2021 Issue
Jul 2021 Issue