for i am the least of the apostles, unworthy 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 was not in vain. on the contrary, i worked harder than any of them, though it was not i, but the grace of God that is with me. [1 corinthians 15:9-10]
do you feel unworthy?
paul also felt unworthy and in this passage he names his sin–in his bid to be a good pharisee, he “persecuted the church of God”! he stood by and approved the stoning of stephen [acts 8:1] and ravaged the church, dragging christians to prison and worse. paul could sit in the tragedy and lamentation over his sin, but he doesn’t.
i feel unworthy too. i have deeply hurt others. i have sinned against my wife and betrayed her trust, i have spoken words of anger to my kids. i have criticized and maligned brothers and sisters in Christ. i have failed to stand for the disenfranchised, stolen from God. i have committed a long list of sins that threaten to fill me full of shame and regret.
i have also had victory over sin. chains of unending habitual sin have given way to purity. inwardness, impatience and sullenness have shifted towards pointing outwards. i could certainly try to take credit for this work—but it would be in vain–paul describes it in philippians:
“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” [phillipians 2:12b]
but he follows it up with a magnificent truth–!
“for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” [phillipians 2:13]
paul doesn’t take credit “though it was not i, but the grace of God that is with me”–and nor should i–we have the Holy Spirit! we have Christ in us! we no longer have to live in the flesh, but we have victory over sin by the power the “grace of God that is with [us]! we should fear, tremble–for it is a Holy Almighty God that works in you and i!
and i saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” and no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. and one of the elders said to me, “weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of david, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” [revelation 5:2-5]
then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
and i heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“to him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
and the four living creatures said, “amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. [revelation 5:11-14]
worship him for the work he has done in you! let your story tell of his victory!
Christ alone is worthy!
~ conor eastman