December 6, 2021
Scripture: For 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. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 ESV
Observation: As Paul concludes this first letter to the Corinthians, he summarizes the heart of our Gospel: Christ died for our sin and rose on the third day, aligning with the Scriptures (verses 3-4). He then adds that beyond biblical testimony, there are many eyewitnesses: Jesus’ disciples, his brother, James, and over 500 other witnesses—including Paul (verses 5-8). Yet, Paul considers himself unworthy of the title “apostle” because of his past persecution of the church (verse 9 above). Still, as he has grown in his faith, his understanding of grace has matured as well. Thus, he can boldly say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.”
Takeaway: As we too mature in our faith, we develop a realistic understanding of the sinful nature of our hearts and our propensity to place our wants and desires over the needs of others. But we also develop a deeper understanding of God’s grace toward us and our need for a Savior. And we learn to accept our past failures and our present struggles, knowing his grace is enough to keep us moving toward the prize. Thus, we more readily show grace toward ourselves and others. So when others confront us about our sins (past and present), we are not surprised or offended but thankful—grateful for our beautiful Savior who has rescued us and for his Holy Spirit who is transforming us into his likeness. For all these reasons and more, like Paul, we can confidently say, “I am what I am.” And like John Newton (former slave trader and author of Amazing Grace), we can boldly say, “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly. I’m a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”
Prayer: Father God, thank you for your glorious and beautiful Son who has rescued us from the penalty of sin. Would you please deepen our understanding of your grace, knowing that it is not in vain but accomplishing your purposes in our lives? And would you please instill in us confidence that we are what we are, your redeemed sons and daughters? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling