This week our preacher summarized a very interesting characteristic about Paul, his view of himself and true humility. His epistles are so bold, insightful and emphatic, along with his life full of travels, struggles, and adventure, that it is hard to see much humility. Three separate scriptures lay out the scope of his humble attitude.
“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.” (1 Corinthians 15: 9).
“Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ,…”. (Ephesians 3: 8)
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1: 15)
Paul considered himself the least of the Apostles, the least of the Lord’s people, and the worst of sinners. There is no room for further abasement. But Pauls humility was not false, He recognized that, “…by the grace of God I am what I am, and his 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.” (1 Cor. 15:10). This is the essence of true humility, it belies a grace and power from God that exceeds the bounds of nature. Moses, Abraham, David, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, Peter, Stephen, and many more displayed such humility accompanied by God’s power. In this world such men and women are outcasts, but in the view of the Kingdom they are giants.
Paul despised his chains and longed to travel once again to see his friends and church family. He knew that should he be free to go, he would go in the power of the Holy Spirit and accomplish more Kingdom work. In spite of such desires, he recognized that he was chained in accordance with God will, calling himself the Lord’s prisoner. I’m not sure that he recognized how important his writing to the churches would become, nor that these letters would become a large and significant portion of the Bible. There was no written new covenant as with the Torah. The new covenant was to be written on the hearts of Believers through the Holy Spirit. (Hebrews 10: 16). It remains true today, the new covenant scriptures are a narrative of Yeshua, His life, deeds, words, death, and resurrection. It is not a new set of rules or law. The law is in the Torah, and law does not save us, faith in Yeshua does. Those who turn the new covenant into a law book have misunderstood the message of Yeshua and they may be failing to rely on the Holy Spirit and/or the righteousness that comes through Yeshua. I was once so deceived myself, so I don’t judge and there is plenty of hope for legalists, just as there was for me in Yeshua. The point is that Paul’s epistles were never written to be legalistic. Also, don’t misinterpret obedience with legalism. Obedience to God from the heart is love for God and altogether right. (1 John 5: 3). Legalism is seeking to be righteous through human effort, rather than accepting the righteousness that comes through faith. (Heb. 10: 14, 17-19).
Let us pursue humility as did Paul and expect that whatever things come, Yeshua can use it for greater glory, as we surrender all to Him.