~ Paul’s Self-Understanding Changed as He Matured~
Key Principle ~ As a Christian grows they focus less and less on themselves and more and more on their Savior—Jesus Christ. One of the reasons is that as we grow more like Christ we increasingly realize how sinful we are. With that in mind look at the example we find in the Apostle Paul’s writings.
Paul’s Progression ~ To come to a saving knowledge of Christ Paul had to acknowledge that he was a “sinner.”
Apostle ~ After becoming a minister of The Gospel Paul called himself “an apostle” (Galatians 1:1 and other references). Paul actually used this identification at the start of a number of his epistles.
Least of the Apostles ~ As Paul progresses in his Christian maturity he refers to himself as “the least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9).
Least of the Saints ~ Still later, Paul references himself as the “least of the saints [least of the early believers]” (Ephesians 3:8).
Chief of Sinners ~ As he continued to mature in his knowledge of Christ and his own sinfulness he referred to himself as “the chief of sinners.” “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).
Comments ~ If you look at the progression of Paul’s view of himself the progression is related to the order of the books he wrote. In his latest books he has an increasing appreciation for the vast gulf between his nature and God’s nature. As any Christian grows in his sanctification they increasingly realize how sinful they are and how holy God is. The typical result of this realization is to increase in the growth of true humility causing one to rely increasingly on God’s strength rather than their own.
~ Robert Lloyd Russell, ABUNDANT LIFE NOW
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