1 Corinthians 15:9, 10
For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.…
No writer is more given to paradox than the Apostle Paul. An eager, impulsive nature is wont to realize vividly every side of truth that is presented, and seems consequently to fall into inconsistencies. But such a nature is usually remarkably sincere and trustworthy. Such was the case with the apostle, and no candid reader can doubt that the language of the text represents the real facts of the case.
I. AN ASSERTION OF PERSONAL HUMILITY.
1. Paul occupied a singular position among the apostles, inasmuch as he had not, like the others, been privileged to enjoy the society of the Divine Lord during his earthly ministry, but had been called by Christ long after the Ascension.
2. Paul took shame to himself because he had persecuted the Church of God, which had been constituted through the labours and zeal of the other apostles and their colleagues. On these two grounds he deemed himself the least of the apostles, and even unworthy of the apostolic name. Such humility is rare; it secures the approval of him who regards the lowly and raises them up, who exalts the humble and meek; it commends itself to the Master who requires a childlike spirit as a condition of entrance into the kingdom, and who pronounces a blessing upon the meek.
II. A CLAIM OF OFFICIAL EMINENCE.
1. The apostolic office and dignity are attributed to the free favour of the Giver of all. "By the grace of God I am what I am." This was in accordance with Paul's own teaching that "God hath set some in the Church, first apostles." An honour like this, functions such as it involved, authority such as was connected with it, could come only from God. It is well forevery servant of Christ to accustom himself deliberately and constantly to trace up his possessions and his trust to the Divine Lord and Author of blessing.
2. Paul acknowledged that the gifts bestowed upon him had been diligently and faithfully employed. Grace had been given, and grace had been found not vain or void. That is to say, opportunities, advantages, endowments, had all been used in such a manner as that they had been continued and increased. Growing years had brought enlarged powers and enlarged usefulness and influence.
3. Paul claimed pre-eminence in labour. His calling, as the apostle of the Gentiles, involved long journeys, many hardships and privations and perils. His ardent temperament, his burning love to his Lord, his grateful and consecrated disposition, led him to undertake and to perform more than had been undertaken and performed by others. It was a necessity alike of his position and of his temperament. Yet it is observable that he no sooner claimed to be first in toil, than he reminded himself that what he did was not his doing, but the fruit of God's grace towards him. If humility passes into self assertion, self assertion returns to humility. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.