Monday, November 19, 2018
Which apostle worked harder, suffered and sacrificed more, and accomplished what no other apostle nor disciple of Jesus did? I think most would say Paul won that honor by a land slide. Rather than believing the others were in competition with Paul, some would think that Jesus was in competition with him! If we were asked for percentages to compare how close Paul came to be like Jesus, some would give him 90 to 95%! There is just one problem, Paul would not have thought so.
He spoke of himself as a number one sinner (1 Timothy 1:15). Guilt remained with him over the number of saints he was responsible for imprisoning and putting to death (Acts 8:1, 3). He referred to himself as a blasphemer, persecutor, and a violent person (1 Timothy 1:14). He did not consider himself to be eloquent nor even as a good speaker (1 Corinthians 2:4). He described his persona as one of weakness, fear, and trembling (1 Corinthians 2:3). He had a temper and it was manifested when Barnabas suggested Mark as a fellow partner in the gospel. He was not one to back down from the truth even if it meant prison or losing his life. His zeal for the Law of Moses was unquestionable (Acts 21:18-26).
Despite his good marks, Paul admits that he was far from being perfect. Like all of us, he had a problem with the flesh (Romans 7:5-25). If there was anyone, other than Jesus, who could have kept the Law flawlessly, it would have been Paul. Yet he admits he failed.
“But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire” (Romans 7:8).
“I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to—what I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws I am breaking” (Romans 7:15-16).
He was guilty of manifesting every kind of covetous desire. He knew what was right but ended up doing what he hated. He knew he was breaking God’s law!
He knew Jesus was the answer to his sin problem. Because of Jesus, those desires and what he hated did not condemn him because in Christ Jesus one is dead to sin. Did becoming a Christian mean Paul became an anti-Sin Superman? Could he ward off sin as Wonder Woman’s bracelets did from lethal weapons? It is not that Paul never sinned again, but that Jesus’ blood protected him from the eternal consequences of those actions. When Paul and other first century individuals gladly received the Good News and repented, they died to sin, were buried with Jesus into his death, were raised with Him into the new life offered by our Lord. Being dead to sin, our sins are not counted against us, Jesus’ blood keeps us cleansed, and we are not under condemnation (Romans 8:1).
You are either dead in your trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3), or you are dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-13). Your choice!