Saturday, May 15, 2010

One interesting note revealed in the Pauline letters is that his humility seems to go deeper as he senses his own unworthiness as he continues in Christ's ministry. I've heard it said from many men older and much wiser than myself that the longer a man is in ministry the humbler that man becomes. Often I hear it said that the greatest obstacle to young, energetic, dogmatic preachers is pride—pride! We often here such statements (and rightly so!) as: Strangle all pride. Kill all pride. Cut it off. Gouge it out—at its root!

This is not to (even remotely) suggest that the Apostle Paul was prideful at the outset of his ministry but it is to say that the longer a man is in the ministry preaching and teaching God's Word, and the more a man learns more about the unfathomable riches of Christ Jesus, the deeper and stronger and baser that man's humility will be. Paul exemplifies this in three statements.

1. Paul says he is the least of all the apostles (Ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι ὁ ἐλάχιστος τῶν ἀποστόλων)—1 Cor 15:9.
2. Paul says he is the least of all the saints (ἐμοὶ τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ πάντων ἁγίων)—Eph 3:8.
3. Paul says he is the worst of all sinners (Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς ἦλθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἁμαρτωλοὺς σῶσαι, ὧν πρῶτός εἰμι ἐγώ)—1 Tim 1:15

Let me explain. I believe—along with most conservative evangelical NT introductions—that 1 Corinthians was written on Paul's third missionary journey (54-58AD). If this is the case, then Paul may have written 1 Corinthians near the mid-point of this journey. And, it is in 1 Cor 15:9 that he says: "I am the least of all the apostles." Indeed, Paul humbly acknowledges his unworthiness to be termed an apostle.

After this third missionary journey, Paul was imprisoned (in Rome, I believe) for 2 years (61-62AD). It is from Rome that Paul wrote his "imprisonment epistles" (Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon). It was here that he wrote in Eph 3:8: "I am the least of all the saints." Indeed, not only am I the least of all the apostles but now I recognize I'm the least of all the saints!

Finally, Paul's three missionary journeys and his two-year imprisonment in Rome (often termed his "first Roman imprisonment) he was released from this imprisonment (where he traveled extensively and wrote 1 Timothy and Titus). Thus, near the end of Paul's life, just before writing 2 Timothy in the mid 60's, Paul wrote in 1 Tim 1:15 that he is the "worst of all sinners." Indeed, Paul considers himself the chief or foremost of sinners. What an amazing example of humility. God certainly broke and humbled Paul throughout his journeys, travels, preaching tours, persecutions, and imprisonments.

Indeed, may God humble all of us so that we can obey what He says through the words of Peter:

1 Peter 5:6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,

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