FROM SAUL TO PAUL: THREE REFRESHING ASPECTS OF GRACE
1 Corinthians 15:8-11
1. There never has been a more impressive transformation for the good than what occurred in the life of this man.
a. When we meet him as a young man, he is supporting a stoning. The terms that describe him are “raging fury” (Acts 26:11), an “insolent opponent” (1 Tim. 1:13), “so extremely zealous” (Gal. 1:14), “breathing threats and murder” (Acts 9:1), and “ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tim. 1:13).
b. When we leave him as an old man, he is ready to be offered. What strikes us as we hear him is his sense of peace about the time of his departure (2 Tim. 4:6). There is an unmistakable calm and confidence about him, and there is a note of satisfaction and fulfillment in how he speaks of what he has done with his life (2 Tim. 4:7, 17, 18).
c. What happened in between these two scenes? What wrought such a complete transformation of this one life? And, importantly, can it happen – has it happened – to us?
2. The man presents his own short version of the journey from Saul to Paul into our text: the Son of God appeared to him and the grace of God got hold of him.
a. When he says this, he is listing the credible witnesses to whom Jesus appeared in his body after he was raised, and he is doing so in order to show that there is such a thing as the resurrection of the dead.
b. Notice carefully that, as he comes to himself, he can’t pass by the fact of the appearance without dwelling for a moment on the grace it expressed. (Reading)
c. Three aspects of the grace of God are mentioned here, all in verse 10. They refreshed the life of Paul, and they may refresh ours, too.
1. “But by the grace of God I am what I am” – grace received.
a. “Last of all...he appeared also to me” (v. 8), Paul says.
i. The tone of voice may be “even to me.”
(1) The KJV has “he was seen of me also.”
(2) The Lord initiated the appearance. Saul had done nothing to deserve it. He did not earn it or accomplish it or bring it about – in fact, the opposite. He was an enemy of the Lord and all who called on his name.
(3) This appearance was an act of loving mercy, a gift.
ii. Acts 9:3-6, 17
iii. Acts 22:14-16
b. The phrases Paul uses show that he had come to understand himself as a man who was dependent of the grace of the Lord.
i. “As to one untimely born” (v. 8)
ii. “Unworthy to be called an apostle” (v. 9)
iii. “Because I persecuted the church of God” (v. 9)
(1) Gal. 1:13
(2) Acts 8:3; 9:2, 4
c. 1 Timothy 1:14-16. Paul owed his life as a Christian to the saving grace he received from God. So do any of us who are in the household of God.
2. “And his grace toward me was not in vain” – grace shared.
a. It is as if Paul is saying, “I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be an apostle, but I am one.”
i. The apostles were those chosen to be Christ’s authoritative representatives.
(1) They were specifically chosen and appointed by the Lord (Gal.1:1).
(2) They seen the risen Christ and could bear witness of his resurrection (Acts 1:22; 1 Cor. 9:1).
(3) They were empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak and write the words of God with authority (1 Cor. 14:37).
(4) They established and governed the whole church, under Christ (Eph. 2:20).
ii. Gal. 1:15-16
iii. Acts 26:15-18
b. Paul sees himself as a steward of the grace given to him, and he handles what he has received appropriately.
i. “Not in vain” – not empty, not without content
ii. “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil. 3:5-7)
iii. “I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood” (Gal. 1:16)
iv. “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared...” (Acts 26:19)
v. “I worked harder than any of them” (cf. 2 Cor. 11:23)
c. Paul owed his ministry to the grace of God, and in this way too he is a good model for us.
i. A man who knows something of the grace of God obeys him immediately, fully, and gladly.
ii. Anyone who realizes he has been blessed by grace serves, joyfully and gratefully trying to be a blessing.
iii. An individual who has learned in the school of grace is gracious, and he behaves honorably toward other people.
3. “Though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” – grace supplied.
a. Paul is being careful to magnify the God who gives the grace.
i. That God has been able to do the “more abundantly” with “the least” speaks volumes about his grace.
ii. His “with me” makes it like grace is his fellow-laborer.
iii. Illustration – the protecting ship
b. The thought of grace with him seems especially important in his dealings with the Corinthians, both for him and for the church.
i. Acts 18:9-11
ii. 1 Cor. 3:6
iii. 2 Cor. 1:8-10; 3:5; 12:11
c. Acts 26:22-23. Paul owed the way he had been able to persevere in the work to the grace of God. So do we!
1. Verse 11 – “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
2. From Saul to Paul ... to us: what about the grace of God?