GRACE IN THE LIFE OF APOSTLE PAUL #2: MANIFESTATIONS OF GRACE IN HIS LIFE
In the first part of this teaching, an overview of the life of Apostle Paul was presented and some lessons gleaned therefrom. You may wish to click on the title below to read it if you have not as it forms the background to the present topic.
This second part examines how God’s grace was demonstrated in various aspects of his life.
This being the fifth topic in the Grace Series, there were three topics befire we began to look at the life of Apostle Paul. You may wish to read them also by clicking on the titles hereunder to get the entire package of blessings. Read and be blessed!
MANIFESTATIONS OF GRACE IN PAUL’S LIFE
1. Salvation after living as a legalistic Pharisee and violent opponent of the gospel: Paul was an unlikely candidate for salvation in the eyes of the early church, being one of the Pharisees, who were among the most vociferous opponents of our Lord Jesus. Worse than that, he was a brutal persecutor of believers in Christ. In spite of these, God’s grace reached him. He testified about this in the following words:
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” – 1 Timothy 1:15 (KJV)
According to him, God did this to make him an example to others of His infinite mercy and patience (v. 16) and a truly worthy example he turned out to be. So, are you counting yourself too far gone to be saved? Take a look at Paul’s life and make your way to the cross. No one is unworthy of salvation, no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace.No one is unworthy of salvation; no one is beyond the reach of God's grace. Click To Tweet
2. Uncanny insight into the mysteries of God’s salvation plan and the age to come and the ability to teach these to others: Paul had an unsual level of revelation of the mystery of God’s salvation plan and taught it extensively throughout his ministry (Ephesians 3:1-11). The mystery was that God had opened the door of salvation to Jews and Gentiles alike that they might be His co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). He even saw revelations of things in heaven which he was forbidden to speak about (2 Corinthians 12:1-7).
Apostle Peter acknowledged that Paul had special wisdom from God and taught things which were “hard to understand” in his letters, things which some people were twisting to their own ruin (2 Peter 3:15 &16). Although Paul was learned and could sound obscure to the babe in Christ, with time his teachings become plain to one. He broke down for us the fruit and gifts of the Spirit, spiritual offices, the transition from law to grace, you name it. And it was all by grace. In the passage we saw earlier in Ephesians, chapter 3, he described it all as “the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me ….” (v. 2).
Do you need wisdom? Is there an intricate problem you are facing? Are there hidden things that are necessary for you to know? Make the God of grace, who equipped Paul for his ministry your recourse.
Or do you have the knowledge but have no idea what to do with it? The God who helped Paul to interprete the mysteries and revelations he saw for our benefit can be your guide.
3. Unusual exercise of spiritual gifts: Paul operated virtually all the spiritual gifts enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. For example, Gpd used him to perform miracles, including raising the dead, like the young man, Eutychus, who fell down from the third story window he was sitting on after falling asleep one night while Paul was giving a long farewell speech (Acts 20:7-12).
“And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” – Acts 19:11 & 12
Paul, among other things, spoke in tongues, prophesied, declared words of wisdom and knowledge, discerned spirits and healed the sick as shown above. One more example will suffice and it relates to discerning of spirits.
“As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.’ And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.” – Acts 16:16-18
Thus we see fulfilled in the life of Paul the promise of our Lord Jesus in John 14:12.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”
The same promise is applicable to us today and it is not by academic knowledge, physical strength or anything we can boast about. It is only by grace as we put it to use by taking little and big steps of obedience, especially through sharing the gospel to the unsaved and teaching the saved.
4. Working extremely hard in service to God: Paul was not among the first apostles who walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry, but he outworked the others by grace. He was always on the go and writing when he was stationary. His extensive missionary journeys yielded new churches in different lands and upheld them for some time suvbsequently. His letters were a comfort and guide to the churches.How do we handle our assignments from God? Are we lazy and complacent? Click To Tweet
He complemented these efforts with prayers, fasting and working at his craft as a tentmaker to sustain himself and his co-labourers. Although he was entitled to support from the churches, he didn’t insist on it in order not to jeopardise his results and to enable him give the gospel free to all.
“Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one – I am talking like a madman – with far greater labors, … in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” – 2 Corinthians 11:23 & 27
“… I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10 (KJV)
1 Corinthians 9
“… the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel (v. 14).
“… Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ (v. 12).
“What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge …” (v. 18).
5. Endurance of much suffering for the gospel: Paul was more or less pushed to recount some of the terrible experiences he had while preaching the gospel in 2 Corinthians, chapter 11. He recalled he had been subjected to “far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and (was) often near death” – 2 Corinthians 11:23 (word in bracket mine).
He continued his tale of horrors:
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers” – 2 Corinthians 11:24-26.
To make matters worse, Paul had what is supposed to be a chronic physical ailment.
“… to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’…” – 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.
6. Willingness to give up everything and die for the gospel: Paul had a good understanding of his calling and was willing to forgo everything for it. He was not even afraid to die for the gospel. He stated this unequivocally on different occasions.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. … For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ … that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” – Philippians 3:7,8 &10.
“… I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” – Acts 21:13Do you know there's a price for serving God? Are you willing to pay the price? Click To Tweet
7. Humility in spite of his many and outstanding accomplishments: The grace of God kept Paul humble when he could have been arrogant and proud. We see this from his writings.
“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” – Ephesians 3:8 (boldface for emphasis mine).
“For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” – 1 Corinthians 15:9
On the occasions he gave his credentials to prove a point, he emphasised that he shouldn’t be drawing such attention to himself and gave the glory to God as in two verses cited earlier (2 Corinthians 11:23 and 1 Corinthians 15:10).Are you careful to give God all the glory for your achievements? Click To Tweet
We saw in the first part of our teaching on Paul’s life (The Overview) that he was very zealous religiously to the extent of persecuting the church. Although, he was wrong, Paul was sincere such that once he encountered the truth, he did an about-face and began to propagate it with even greater vigour than he did his old faith. It is a tragedy when someone knows the truth but chooses to cling to error for whatever reason.
We also saw that Paul was conscientious in spreading the gospel and nurturing the young churches. That, I believe, was the secret of the outstanding manifestation of God’s power in his ministry. God’s power is not just for our personal benefit and comfort. Rather, and most importantly, it is for confirming the gospel.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:8
“And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.” Mark 16:20 (NLT)
You and I may have been endued with power like Paul, but we may never know except we start doing something for God as He has instructed in His word and is laying upon our hearts.
Father, help me to emulate your servant, Paul, as he emulated our Lord Jesus and help me to fervently serve You all my days in Jesus’ name.
The scriptures used in this post are from the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible except where otherwise stated.
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