I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. (verses 15-19)
What an amazing transformation.
As Paul launches into a description of his ministry, he ascribes it to “the grace God gave me,” which is a complete turn-around from the prideful self-sufficiency of his previous perspective as a Pharisee. Back then, he wouldn’t have hesitated to boast about any, and all, of his own accomplishments – just take a look at Philippians 3 (verses 4-6) for a sampling.
But now he ascribes everything to “the grace God gave me.” He’s thinking of all the repercussions flowing from his blazing encounter with Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road when, blinded by that sighting, he was arrested from spiritual blindness and given sight beyond anything he could ever have achieved himself. It was all a gift of grace. But it was only the beginning. His life’s calling ever since flowed out of that same fountainhead of grace.
Just think with me about the radical nature of this turn-around:
· He became “a minister of Christ Jesus” (verse 16). How ironic. Paul had been absolutely convinced Jesus was a God-cursed blasphemer, evidenced by the irrefutable fact of Jesus’ death on the cross. As a result, he’d done everything in his power to stamp out the spread of Jesus’ name. But now instead he chooses to “glory in Christ Jesus” (verse 17), resolving to know nothing “except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). He’s transformed.
· He became a minister “to the Gentiles” (verse 16). How ironic. As a Pharisee he would have had nothing to do with the Gentiles, keeping himself fully separated from contact and interaction, certain that they were beyond the pale, outside the circle. But now instead he is intent on “leading the Gentiles to obey God” (verse 18), seeing it as his “priestly duty” (verse 16). What a turn-around.
· Previously, he’d boasted in his own status and accomplishments. But now he instead says, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me” (verse 18). Such humility had not been there before. Nor had this singleness of vision, focused on Jesus. His life is completely reoriented.
· Ever since, Paul had been ministering “by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit” (verse 19). Previously, having a Pharisee’s scholarly focus on the Scriptures, he would have affirmed such events in history, but wouldn’t have expected such things in his own life. But now, in Christ, he had stepped into the present reality of the Spirit working in and through him. He ministered “with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). Transformation, indeed.
In another letter, Paul will say, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). What an amazing transformation – for every one of us.
Lord, thank you that you excel at transformation. Thank you that you worked a divine turn-around in Paul. Thank you that you are working transformation in me. You have begun a good work in me – you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Praise your name.
Reflect: What aspects of your character and life would be totally different without Christ? Yes, more transformation is needed, but give thanks for all that has taken place.