Paul understood his calling very quickly and very humbly: “For I am the least of the apostles, unfit 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 toward me has not been in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).
We have much to learn from St. Paul. I doubt that any of our sins reach the level of Paul’s. He assisted in the persecution of Christians. He was against God’s Church, established through the life and death of Jesus. I’m glad that I don’t start every day with that on my conscience. So we think we have a hard time following the Lord. We have so many natural world interferences to overcome each day. Of course Paul’s conversion was a little radical. I don’t think that Jesus has stopped any of us and blinded us on the road to someplace.
Jesus got Paul’s attention on the road to Damascus. Paul knew that he had been zapped. He had an immediate sense of the presence of Jesus. From that point on it was God’s power and grace acting on him through Jesus who commissioned him as His messenger. “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16 NRSV).
Paul began to abandon himself to Christ. He was not perfect, but he was focused on one thing and one thing only. As he wrote to Timothy, “I am giving you these instructions, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies made earlier about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, having faith and a good conscience (1 Timothy 1:18-19a NRSV).” Like Paul and Timothy, we must fight the good fight for the Lord with faith and good conscience.
Paul credits the grace of God for his work. He proclaimed the Lord to the people and let God take care of their coming to believe. And so it is with us. We must recognize, as Paul recognized, the forgiveness of our sins. We must accept God’s love and learn His ways through scripture and divine grace, applying them in our lives. And then we must share our knowledge and the love of our Father through Jesus and the Holy Spirit with all those we encounter.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extention: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.