It has been well said, I don’t know by whom, that while God accepts us wherever we are at in life, He loves us too much to leave us there. The Apostle Paul echoed this sentiment when we wrote that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst” (1 Tim. 1:15). Throughout the Scriptures we see God redeeming those who appear to be useless and beyond all hope of change. While worldly thinking tends to value people based on their income bracket, job title or looks, God sees people themselves as having great value because He loves them.
But not only does God pursue those who seem to be the farthest from Him, He also takes their surrendered lives and makes them into “trophies” of His grace. God saves people and redeems them, displaying His grace in and through them by transforming their empty lives into lives filled with peace and righteousness. In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul spoke of God’s grace in his life.
In the opening verses of chapter 15 (vs. 3-7), Paul cites an oral tradition that virtually all scholars agree was formulated within a couple of years after the crucifixion. Most scholars believe this tradition was given to Paul when he visited Jerusalem three years after his conversion to Christianity. As such, it records very early eyewitness testimony of the resurrected Jesus.
But after recounting the historical basis for the gospel (vs. 3-7), Paul writes of what God did in his own life , stating, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am” (vs. 9-10a, NIV).
Paul’s testimony is a remarkable one, to say the least. Imagine a person who was sincere about their religious commitments, and because of those commitments, believed that Christianity was a false and heretical religion that needed to be stamped out. So heinous was Paul’s former way of life that in Acts 7:58 Paul is seen standing by and watching with approval Stephen the evangelist’s death by stoning from an angry mob.
If ever there was someone who seemed beyond God’s grace, surely a religious zealot bent on blotting out the Christian faith would be such a one. But God got a hold of Paul and revealed His Son Jesus to him. After one look at the risen Jesus, Paul’s very existence and purpose for living were forever changed.
After Paul put his faith in Christ, he got busy and did something with his new life-changing relationship with Christ. Paul’s faith was an active faith. In vs. 10 he writes that “[God’s] grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (vs. 10). Not only did Paul experience the salvation of his soul through his faith in Jesus but he also experienced the salvation of his earthly existence as he walked according to God’s plans for his life. In Gal. 2:20 Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Paul’s faith was also genuine. In 1 Thess. 1:4a Paul wrote, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” There are three marks of a genuine faith: the power of God, the work of God’s Spirit and deep conviction. Paul’s faith demonstrated all three of these in abundance.
God desires to redeem those who believe they have no purpose in life. The Lord is able to take broken lives and shape them into powerfully used ambassadors of His grace and power. If you feel that God could never use you, think again! Upon surrendering our lives to God and saturating our minds with the truths of Scripture, we discover that God was waiting all along to redeem us. Give the Lord full access to your life and trust Him to work. You too will soon discover, as Paul did, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save you!
Alan can be reached at [email protected]