What is “grace”? Some would define it as “unmerited favor” (whatever that means!). Often we hear the word “grace” as it relates to the work Christ did on our behalf on the Cross. However, the apostle Paul used the word to describe how God appointed and entrusted Paul to do ministry. In today’s post I show how God’s grace was essential to the apostle Paul’s ministry and how it is necessary for your leadership.
I. NOT BECAUSE OF PAUL’S OWN WORK
Acts 8:1 says that, “Saul [who was later renamed Paul] was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Steven.” Later in Paul’s life in a letter to the Philippians he says, ” I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin–a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law” (Phil 3:5). It was obvious that Paul was a strong believer in YHWH, the God of Israel based on the Old Testament. He stood to persecute this new Way that had urupted and he was doing everything that he could to stop it. Yet, he was the one chosen by God to do bring the news of Jesus to the Gentiles. Paul being appointed to do the work of God had nothing to do with Paul’s own work; it had everything to do with God’s grace.
II. APPOINTMENT FROM GOD
Paul’s appointment by God for God’s work is told in Acts 9. After Paul sees Jesus appear to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-9) God spoke to a man named Ananias about going to see Paul. God told Ananias, “But the Lord said, ‘Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel'” (Acts 9:15). Later in Paul’s ministry he affirms that his appointment for ministry was from God (Acts 26:19-20).
In Paul’s numerous letters he regularly refers to himself as
- “a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle” (Rom 1:1).
- “God has appointed me as the apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom 11:13).
When writing to the Corinthians Paul starts his letter in this way,
- “This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus” (1 Cor 1:1).
- “This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus” (2 Cor 1:1).
To the Galatians:
- “This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead” (Gal 1:1).
While Paul had knowledge and understanding that might have led him to be successful, Paul makes it clear in his letters that he was appointed for work by God.
III. APPOINTMENT BY GRACE
Paul makes it clear that he was appointed to do work by grace.
- “Even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him” (Gal 1:15).
- “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecutived his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love tht come from Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 1:12-14).
IV. WITH THE APPOINTMENT THERE WAS WORK TO BE DONE
After Paul’s appointment from God he immediately began his work. While imprisoned later in his life Paul tells King Agrippa about his ministry history, “I obeyed that vision from heaven. I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God–and prove they have changed by the good things they do” (Acts 26:19-20).
- “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him” (1 Tim 1:12).
- “And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of his Good News” (2 Tim 1:11).
- “This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim fiath to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives” (Titus 1:1).
V. GOD’S APPOINTMENT COMPELLED PAUL TO CONSTANT HUMILITY
“I have done the Lord’s work humbly and with many tears. I have endured the trials that came to me from the plots of the Jews” (Acts 20:19).
VI. PAUL WAS ENTRUSTED TO DO THE WORK GOD GAVE HIM
“And now at just the right time he has revealed this message, which we announce to everyone. It is by the command of God our Savior that I have been entrusted with this work for him” (Titus 1:3).
In a similar way we too need to be appointed for our work. That appointment probably will not be in the same form as Paul with Jesus appearing to him personally, but our own appointment is something that should be clear to us. That appointment might be someone who sees strength that we have to do something correctly. Someone might see that we have a natural gift in a certain area. Or it might be a position that God has allowed us to have within an organization.