For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 1 Cor. 15:9-10
Looking back, we all have wished that we could have been someone else when we felt ashamed or embarrassed. Maybe we were mean to others, stole what was not ours, or lied when we should have been honest. If you’re a Christian, you’ve probably also struggled with understanding how God could use someone as messed up as you in His plan. In this passage, the apostle Paul is struggling with the same doubts. Before Jesus saved him, Paul had another name- Saul. As a young man, Saul hunted down early Christians and did a lot of terrible things to people in the church.
But, in Acts 9, Jesus met Saul on the road to Damascus and changed his name to Paul. Throughout his life, Paul struggled with what he had done in the past but he was confident in the grace of God to cover his sins. In this passage, he acknowledges his checkered past but also says, “…by the grace of God I am what I am.” This is the picture of a man who is confident in God’s forgiveness towards him in Christ.
How many times have you been held back spiritually because you have doubted if God could truly forgive you? How would your life be different if you were able to believe that God loves you in the midst of your guilt and shame? Paul acknowledged from then on that everything he did was by “the grace of God that is within me.” The Gospel of Jesus is good news because Christ wants to meet us in our guilt and carry us forward by His grace.