Monday, September 17, 2007
"Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one--I am talking like a madman--with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands."
- Paul the Apostle
You may have read that and wonder, "How is that a doctrine of grace? All I see there is suffering and tribulation." Before Paul the Apostle said these things, he killed Christians. It was his job. HE MURDERED CHRISTIANS! This same man who terrorized the early church was later converted, and God, in His infinite grace, allowed Paul to suffer all of the things mentioned above IN SPITE of the offenses he committed in the past. It pleased God to allow Paul to suffer those things for the sake of the only begotten Son of God; the same one who's Church Paul persecuted. That is grace. That is grace. "Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling." What did Paul have in his hands or in his nature to please God to knock him off his horse and save his soul? Was it in the way he tortured Christians? Was it in the way he was "clever enough" to spot a "dangerous" sect of faithful believers forming under the name Christian? Was it in the way he was blameless according to the law of the Pharisees, but still a murderer nonetheless? No, in all these things, he counted them, but dung after receiving the calling of God's unconditional election. God saved Paul from death. Not because of anything Paul had done good or bad so that God's purpose according to election might stand. Not of works but of His grace alone which is never deserved because if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. (Rom 11:5-6)