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…
(text, and Galatians 2:20): — "I, yet not I" is characteristic of Paul. He knew himself. He did not ignore self. In his life, as a man and an apostle, he took the proportions of his own personality, and at the same time confessed that all the operative grace came from God. The "I" within him was regenerated.
I. EVERY MAN MUST RECOGNISE HIS OWN INDIVIDUALITY. Some say that this is an intuition, and others say that it is a conviction which comes with experience. But to us the constituent elements in self are more important. Though there is a generic likeness among men, yet each person has his own individuality. One is calm, another explosive; one logical, another intuitional; one prosaic, another poetic. Hence we have a Shakespeare and Milton, a Bacon and a Butler.
II. REGENERATION DOES NOT DESTROY THIS INDIVIDUALITY. If Christ be in you, you are "a new creature." Your features are the same, though sweetened or calmed, perhaps, by the peace of God; your intellect is the same, though quickened by the new life of faith and hope. If cheerful, you are still cheerful; and if born with tendencies to melancholy, you will still contend with the temptation to despondency. Peter was Peter to the last. The same vehemency that Paul the persecutor exhibited was shown in Paul the apostle. In the annual regeneration of the visible creation, in the plumage and song of the bird, and in the renewing verdure of field and garden, we see pictured the unity yet beautiful variety which prevails in the world which God has made.
III. THE SPIRIT OF GOD IN HIS WORK IN A MAN USES THIS INDIVIDUALITY. It colours and qualifies the whole activity of a person.
1. See how it appears in the writing of the Scriptures. They are Divinely inspired, and yet the human and Divine elements are mingled. David well says, "His word was in my tongue." Moses was wise in the wisdom of Egypt, and shows it in his writings. The lyrics of David differ from the proverbs of Solomon. The grandeur of Isaiah contrasts with the homely verse of the rude herdsman Amos. The pungency of James and the weird magnificence of Revelation again show the "I and yet not I."
2. So in character. Peter was fitted to minister to the circumcision and Paul to the Gentiles. , Luther, Wesley, Whitfield, etc., reveal the same principle. In the Church to-day one is fitted for Sunday-school teaching and another for mission work. As in an orchestra each instrument has its place, and its absence cannot be filled by a different instrument, so there is a place and work for each in the Church. We must give full play to the inspiring and directing Spirit of God within us.
3. We must trace the actual results to the operation of the Spirit in us and through us. Give glory to Him who uses us. In a factory the machinery does variety of work, but derives all its motive power from the engine. Is there anything too hard for God?Conclusion:
1. Respect your individuality, and at the same time give God the glory of what you are and do. Live your own life, and do not fancy that your experience is to be like your neighbour's. David was powerless wearing the armour of Saul.
2. Be sure that Christ is in you and in your work. He is an inner fountain, and He will evoke your life as a productive and perennial stream.
3. Let your humble and hearty utterance ever be, "Not unto us, not unto us," etc.
(W. M. Taylor, D.D.) l
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.