1 Corinthians 15:8-11
And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.…
I. IT WAS A TRIUMPH OVER THE ENEMY. When God would convert the world, opening the door of faith to the Gentiles, who was the chosen instrument? Not one of Christ's first followers. He put forth His hand into the very midst of the persecutors of His Son, and seized upon the most strenuous among them.
II. IT WAS A SUITABLE INTRODUCTION TO HIS OFFICE. It was an expressive emblem of the nature of God's general dealings with the race of man. What are we all but rebels against God and enemies of the truth? (Colossians 1:21). Who then could so appropriately fulfil the purpose of Him who came to call sinners to repentance as one who had persecuted the Church of God? (1 Timothy 1:16).
III. HIS PREVIOUS COURSE OF LIFE RENDERED HIM, PERHAPS, AFTER HIS CONVERSION, MORE FIT AN INSTRUMENT OF GOD'S PURPOSES TOWARDS THE GENTILES, as well as a more striking specimen of it. We know that St. Paul's successes were not his, but through "the grace of God which was with him." Still, God makes use of human means, and it is allowable to inquire what these were, and why St. Paul was employed to convert the heathen world rather than St. James or St. John. Doubtless his intellectual endowments and acquirements fitted him for his office. Yet there was something in his previous religious history which especially disciplined him to be "all things to all men." His awful rashness and blindness, his rage against the worshippers of Christ, then his strange conversion, then the three years during which he was left to meditate in private on all that had happened, and to anticipate the future — all this constituted a peculiar preparation for the office of preaching to a lost world dead in sin. It gave him an extended insight, on the one hand, into the ways and designs of Providence, and, on the other, into the workings of sin in the human heart, and the various modes of thinking in which the mind is actually trained. It taught him not to despair of the worst sinners, and to enter into the various temptations to which human nature is exposed. It wrought in him a profound humility, which disposed him to bear meekly the abundance of the revelations given him; and it imparted to him a practical wisdom how to apply them to the conversion of others, so as to be the comforter, help, and guide of his brethren.
1. Now I do not allege that St. Paul's previous sins made him a more spiritual Christian afterwards, but rendered him more fitted, when converted, to reclaim others, just as a knowledge of languages fits a man for the office of missionary, without tending in any degree to make him a better man. If we take two men equally advanced in grace, one of the two would preach to a variety of men with the greater success who had the greater experience of temptation, the war of flesh and spirit, sin, and victory over sin.
2. But St. Paul's conversion is very far from holding out any encouragement to those who live in sin, or any self-satisfaction to those who have lived in it; as if their present or former disobedience could be a gain to them. Why was mercy shown to Saul? "Because he did it ignorantly in unbelief." And why was he "enabled" to preach the gospel? "Because Christ counted him faithful." He differed from other enemies of Christ in this, that he kept a clear conscience, and habitually obeyed God according to his knowledge. Hear his own account of himself (Acts 26:1; Acts 23:19; Acts 26:5). Here is no ease, no self-indulgent habits, no wilful sin against the light. The Holy Spirit is quenched by open transgressions of conscience and by contempt of His authority. But, when men err in ignorance, they are not left by the God of all grace. God leads them on to the light, in spite of their errors in faith, if they continue strictly to obey what they believe to be His will.
(J. H. Newman, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.