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Goodness (9) Apostle Paul’s Goodness (1)

Manmin News   No. 733
1427
December 18, 2022


“For I am the least of the apostles…His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)


Apostle Paul, the greatest apostle of the New Testament times, was a Hebrew of Hebrews and a Pharisee who knew the Law inside out. He was a devout Jew who was educated under Gamaliel who was one of the greatest teachers in all the annals of Judaism, and he was zealous toward God. He was advancing in persecuting believers in Jesus Christ and imprisoning them. When the blood of Deacon Stephen was being shed, he was there at the scene even approving and watching over the cloaks of those who were stoning him.
But after he met the Lord on the way to Damascus he spread the gospel to countless people and established many churches. He became a great apostle for Gentiles and laid the foundation for world mission. He achieved the highest level of goodness of being able to give one’s life even for enemies and he glorified God greatly by performing powerful works. Then, what kind of goodness did Apostle Paul have?


1. Once he realized what was right, he was steadfast

Paul was a man of deep conviction and insistent on his own righteousness. He enjoyed domination over others with his knowledge and self-righteousness in discourse. His righteousness couldn’t accept the teaching that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior. He could neither accept it nor let it pass by him at all. He took a lead in pursuing, arresting, and imprisoning those who believed in Jesus.
However, Father God knew in advance that Paul was not only to be so persistent in his own righteousness but also that he was steadfast in what he once realized right. When the proper time came, God the Father let him experience His grace. While on the way to Damascus to arrest believers in Jesus Christ, God let him meet our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s name used to be Saul. So, when Jesus appeared in a bright light to Saul on the way to Damascus, Jesus said to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?… I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.” For three days after the encounter, Paul was blind. He also did not eat or drink anything. When he met Ananias, Paul came to know God’s will. He heard that the Jesus he had persecuted until then had chosen him to carry His name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.
Paul realized the truth and completely changed. Some believers doubted whether Paul’s conversion was true or not and they were very leery of him, but Paul did not shrink back. Acts 9:22 says, “But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” Again, Paul did not persecute Christians in Damascus, but he baffled them and proved to the Jews living in Damascus that Jesus is the Christ.


2. He was steadfastly thankful for the Lord’s grace and his thanks never cooled down

When he realized the Lord Jesus’ great love in completely sacrificing Himself to save sinners, Paul came to consider himself to be the worst of sinners. He gave deep thanks for the grace of the Lord who had forgiven all his sins and transgressions, saved him, and also gave him his precious duty.
His gratitude was steadfast in any circumstance. The greater the persecutions and difficulties were, the deeper his confession of gratitude to the Lord was. The pains he suffered while preaching the gospel are found in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27.
“…in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”
Yet despite all these persecutions, he unchangingly confessed the greater thanks for the grace and love of the Lord from within his heart. He did not feel sorry at all nor was he disheartened or disappointed even in great hardship. Nothing troubled him even in his imprisonment and dangers on the sea. He could consider such persecutions and pains as the motivation that pushed him to run the race of faith more powerfully and still he was thankful and joyful from his heart.
Many people confess they are thankful for the grace of the Lord and have not changed their heart from the first time when they believed. Then, is their confession the same as that of Apostle Paul offered to God? Many of you claim you are thankful for the Lord’s grace, but could you give thanks just as Paul did if you face the same difficulties that he suffered?
I hope you look back at yourself whether you have been frustrated or discouraged by the small troubles that cannot even be deemed to be trials compared with those of Paul. Have you ever been disheartened or frustrated when your jobs were not done as you prayed and petitioned?
Or have you felt discouraged and abandoned because you followed the fleshly thought saying, “Am I now the one who is not loved by God any longer”? If anyone of you has this kind of fleshly mind and faces the same trials the Apostle Paul met, would you have been able to confess with the “thank-you” heart?
Since Apostle Paul met the Lord, he had been steadfastly thankful for the Lord’s grace and his burning love for the Lord had never cooled down. He had been faithful in preaching the gospel of the Lord to the point of death, and confessed his gratitude until he died a martyr’s death.
He did not have mixed feelings or regret, thinking “… and now I have ended my life here!” He was not scared or afraid of his approaching death. Nor was he shocked. His heart was full of joy and hope of seeing the Lord face to face, the Lord whom he had eagerly longed to see, and in whose arms he put himself. Anybody may be nervous and shrink before death, but Apostle Paul was filled with joy and thanks caused by his hope even before death.
The reason why Apostle Paul unchangingly spoke with the confession thanks in any circumstance and even in the situation of losing his own life was that he had a gentle and good heart.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for you to give thanks in any circumstance, you must be thankful for both the good and bad. Anybody in this world can give thanks when he has things for which to be thankful. However, unlike them, believers in God can give thanks with faith when they face difficulties. We should give thanks to the Lord who makes our faith complete through the testing of our faith and rewards us with the glory that can be compared with nothing else.
Apostle Paul gave real thanks to God who made him perfect through those trials. Because Paul always gave thanks to God the Father who allowed him to receive sufferings and made him perfect through those trials, God could refine Paul at the full measure. That’s why he could become a great and blessed apostle who saved countless souls, lead many to salvation and glorified God greatly.
Therefore, I pray in the name of the Lord that you will unchangingly give thanks for the grace of the Lord and work faithfully for the kingdom of God with a renewed life.


 

 

 
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