Paul was not one of the twelve men chosen by the Lord Jesus to be a disciple during His earthly life. He was not one of the multitude who was baptised by John unto repentance early in Christ’s ministry. He was not a man like Matthias, who accompanied the apostles during the time that Jesus went in and out among them all… and Paul was not one of the crowd who were cut to the heart on that first day of Pentecost when the men of Israel realised that they had crucified their Messiah, and cried out in despair, “brethren, what shall we do?”
Paul was an ultra-orthodox Jew who hated the Lord Jesus Christ. He despised the Christian Church with a deep-seated loathing. He was one that violently persecuted the Church of God, which is the Body of Christ, and he tried to destroy it. He dragged men, women, and children from their homes, and flung them into jail – killing them by the sword and causing many to be scattered abroad throughout the entire region of Judaea and Samaria.
Following his conversion on the road to Damascus, the caustic animosity that he had towards the fledgling Church caused Paul great pain. He was greatly disturbed when he realised his actions were in direct opposition to almighty God. His hatred towards Christians was starkly contrasted with the Lord’s great love, and Paul became acutely aware of God’s amazing grace towards him personally… and to the Jewish and Gentile nations.
When he understood that Jesus Christ was the King of Israel and that he had been complicit in crucifying his Messiah, Paul came to the shocking realisation that in tyrannising the Body of Christ, he was abusing the Lord Jesus Himself. By persecuting Christians, he was persecuting the Lord for they were members of His mystical Body.
In consideration of all the terror he struck into the hearts of Christians and the many men and women who were murdered at his bidding, Paul recognised the incredible grace of God and the incalculable mercy He had towards him. He could only judge himself to be the very least of all the saints of God, for he considered his sins against God and the Body of Christ to be the most heinous of all crimes.
“To me, who is the very least of all the saints,” he cried, “this grace was given to me, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.” Despite his murderous past and hatred of Christ, Paul was chosen by God to be His apostle to the Gentiles. Amazing grace! In His goodness, grace, and kindness, God even revealed mysteries to Paul which had been hidden in past ages and were not revealed to earlier generations.
Paul was given revelation about the dispensation of the grace of God, and to him was revealed the mystery of the Church and the one new man in Christ – which is made up of believing Jews and believing Gentiles; the one new man in Christ where we are all one in Christ Jesus our Lord, and equal members of His mystical Body.
The apostle Paul gave us greater understanding of justification, sanctification, glorification, and the wonders of the permanently indwelling Spirit of God. He gave us insight into positional sanctification and progressive sanctification. He gave us an understanding of the difference between union and communion – between our permanent union with Christ, which can never be broken, and our fellowship with Him, which can be broken by sin and renewed through the confession of our faults.
He opened our understanding of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone, and helped us to understand more of Christ’s propitiatory work on the Cross on our behalf. And Paul also gave us a greater understanding of slavery to sin and the freedom we have in Christ.
This murdering Jew became God’s chosen apostle to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ and the many mysteries that had been hidden for ages and generations. Paul knew that His great salvation was a result of God’s amazing grace and long-suffering mercy towards him – no surprise that Paul got to the point where he recognised that it was only by God’s grace that his final destination had been changed from eternity in hell to everlasting life with Christ in heaven.
It is not surprising that Paul could only refer to himself as the very least of all the saints… and dedicate the rest of his life by proclaiming the grace of God which was given to him and to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable, unsearchable, incalculable, boundless riches of Christ to all who are saved by grace through faith in Him.
Heavenly Father, I am filled with awe when I start to realise the unfathomable, unsearchable, incalculable, boundless riches of Christ, which I have received by grace through faith in Him. As I think back over my life, I have nothing that could commend me to You and by rights I should be condemned to eternal separation from You. By rights, I too am the worst of all sinners and am not worthy to be called Your child… and yet while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me and You searched me out and saved me. Praise Your holy name. May I live and work to Your praise and glory through time and into eternity. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.
8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
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