Not fit to be called an apostle: a lesson from St. Paul

Sometimes, I can identify with St. Paul.

Just read this portion of his letter to the Corinthians (Chapter 15, Verses 1-11):

"I am reminding you, brothers and sisters, of the Gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand.

Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.

After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.

After that he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles.

Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.

For I am the least of the apostles, not fit 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 to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God [that is] with me.

Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed."

 

For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle.” This line strikes me so deeply. There is so much humility in St. Paul’s speech. All at once, he acknowledges what is wrong within him, knows that he is undeserving of any reward, and still receives God’s ever-constant, yet life-changing grace. It is only through this grace that St. Paul was capable of such drastic change – from persecution and outright murder of Christians to becoming an apostle of Christ. He acknowledges the struggle, the real, daily pain he must deal with in knowing his faults and actions, but trusting even more in God’s grace.

There’s a freedom in that grace. There’s a freedom in knowing that we do not have to be perfect or even successful in man's eyes for God to utilize our gifts and talents. He takes this meager offering, this humble fragment of humanity that we are and makes it somehow effective and worthwhile in his Grace. This is not to say we don’t have to work hard and can simply glide through life with no cares  - even St. Paul acknowledged that he toiled harder than all the other apostles - but God’s grace was truly the one working through him.

 

God, I give you permission to work through me today; to dispel unnecessary negativity and set my course clearly for your will. Work in my words, in my actions, in my very being. I know this will not be easy, in fact, it may seem as though I’m toiling even more, but I trust that you will do the work through me and you have made my yolk a perfect fit for me. It is never by my own power that anything is accomplished, but by your work and my willingness to be open to your working in and through me. Help me remain in your grace and in your love today and always.

Amen.