I’m preaching on 1 Corinthians 15 this Sunday, and as I worked on the text this week I came to appreciate something about the Apostle Paul. To be honest, I had seen it before, but as I looked at the text for my sermon I was enabled to pause and see it as one if the core realities of Paul’s life. He was deeply introspective.
In 1 Corinthians 15:8-9 Paul admits to a deeply divided fellowship that was unworthy to be called an apostle because he had persecuted the Church. Paul never forgot who he had been, and what he had done. It stuck with him throughout his life.
We would be wrong, however, to come to the conclusion that Paul was a guilt ridden wreck. This is far from the case! His memory of his past evils didn’t lock him in place, rather, it drove him forward in his pursuit of Christ. His work for the Gospel also wasn’t born from a divine guilt-trip. Rather, this Apostle worked “more than all of them” out of a sense deep gratitude. He declares in verse 10 that he is what he is by the grace of God. He may have been born in an untimely manner (εκτρωμα, in verse 8, refers to a birth takes place without a viable gestation period – usually a miscarriage or premature labor), but by God’s grace he managed to live. In verse 10 Paul picks up that image of untimely birth again and declares that the grace which was in him was not, literally, “born in vain.” He knows that he shouldn’t be who he is, by all accounts, but he celebrates that he is anyway. The reminders in both the beginning and end if chapter 15 seem to show that Paul wanted the Corinthians the develop a similar introspection.
This is something we can learn from. If we are to continue to develop as disciples of Jesus we must never forget what we have been. We did, indeed, need Christ to die on our behalf. Like Paul, however, we shouldn’t keep this memory alive in order to bathe our souls in guilt. Instead, we remember in order to develop a sense of gratitude and joy that we have been embraced by a loving God who has embraced us in Jesus Christ. It is from this sense of gratitude and joy that we remember to pass in this grace to others. How, after all, can we proclaim the Gospel of grace if we fail to remember that we needed it in the first place?