1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed on me was not in vain…
I. SOME ASPECTS OF THE APOSTLE'S LIFE AND CHARACTER IN RELATION TO WHICH HE WOULD BE LIKELY TO USE SUCH LANGUAGE. By the grace of God —
1. He was a pardoned and recovered sinner.
(1) It could not be other than a matter of grateful reflection to this apostle that he was no longer, as he once was, a persecutor, blasphemer, etc. "Who or what opened my eyes? Did the wisdom of Gamaliel do it? Did my own strong powers of reasoning do it? Did the light of nature or of conscience do it? No, it was light from heaven — fresh, direct, undesired, unsought. It was convincing light, for I was made to perceive it was the Lord which spake to me out of the fire. It was melting and subduing light, for, in a moment, all my iron enmities of soul were broken. Tell me, ye that think lightly of the grace of God, what hand had Saul of Tarsus in all this?"(2) And to the same Divine influence would the apostle refer the change of. mind and spirit and temper which followed upon his conversion. His original temperament was not one to fall in easily with the meekness and gentleness of the gospel character. He was proud, he was hasty, he was self-confident, he was impatient of contradiction or control. Not without much struggle and effort, we may be sure, was a spirit like this brought into subjection (Romans 7). The grace which makes strong in Christ Jesus comes to the rescue, and to the agonising and bewildered cry, "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" his own soul makes answer, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." His grace is sufficient for me.
2. He changed his former views as a Pharisee, and embraced those which he now held as to what would constitute acceptance before God. His own account of himself is in Philippians 3:4-6. Yet how does he estimate these privileges on becoming a Christian? Why, as worthless, and something more (Philippians 3:7-9).
3. He became a chosen vessel unto Christ to preach and teach in His name. Certainly nothing could be more unlikely than the choice of such a man to such a work. The feeling wrought upon him powerfully to the end of his days. "Necessity was laid upon me," etc.
II. PRACTICAL LESSONS.
1. It is a law of all worlds that, in the way of anything good in His creatures, God alone maketh us to differ. I might go through the ranks of the Seraphim, and single out one who stood nearest to the throne, and were I to say to him, "What raised thee thus high?" he would make answer, "By the grace of God I am what I am." I might thread my way through the mansions of the just, but if I should be betrayed into the exclamation, "What a recompense for good works is here!" in an instant ten thousand voices would testify aloud, "By the grace of God I am what I am." Or I might go to one who, through fourscore years of temptation and trail, had ever walked with God; or to one whose unselfish Christianity had prompted him to spend and be spent in his Master's service; or to one laid low by suffering; yet if I should say, "There must be a claim to moral worthiness here," again the response would be, "By the grace of God I am what I am."
2. All true conversion must have its origin in a Divine influence. If I am very far gone from original righteousness, nothing but an influence from on high can bring me back; if "dead in trespasses and sins," nothing short of a regenerating process can give me life.
3. True conversion extends to the whole character. Look at the proof of this in Paul. See it —
(1) In the illumination of his mind. He had studied under Gamaliel, yet after his conversion he counts all foolishness.
(2) In his ambitions, and aims, and preferences. Things which had been once a gain to him are now counted as loss.
(3) In the change in his moral temperament, in the casting off of a bitter, furious hate for a spirit of religious gentleness. And in like manner should we look for the evidence of the spiritual change in improved moral character. Conversion implies not only something turned from, but something turned to — from the world to Christ, from sin to holiness, etc.
4. The grace which has made you what you are alone can make you what you desire to be —
(1) Established in holiness.
(2) Prepared for death.
(3) meet for your appearing before the great white throne. He who begins must finish.
(D. Moore, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.