1 Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
Paul could have said, “I am what I am because of my family’s money.”
He could have said, “I am what I am because of my great education.”
He could have said, “I am what I am because of my position of power and power in society.”
But no, he said, “by the grace of God I am what I am.”
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, after making a great list of all of the things that are normally considered assets in society, he says,
Philippians 3:7–8 “These things were my assets, but I wrote them off as a loss for the sake of Christ. But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison with the superior value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have lost everything for him, but what I lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ.”
And we all know what sewer trash is! So, Paul is a man who refuses to be identified by the apparent advantages in his life. But not only that.
In 2 Corinthians 11:23–27, Paul lists off a great number of tragedies and misfortunes that he has experienced. He could have said, “…by the many things I have suffered, I am what I am.” Instead, he says, “by the grace of God I am who I am.” Paul refuses to be identified by the misfortunes in his life.
So, what is this thing that makes this man ‘Paul’ and not ‘Saul’?
Paul tells us that the most important thing about him is that he is what he is only by the grace of God. Effectively, what Paul is talking about here is the cross. It is because of the cross that Paul understands that he needs grace. And he found grace at the cross. And because of the cross, Paul became a servant of the God of grace.
You see, grace brings us all to the same level, because at the foot of the cross there’s no economy class, and no first class; there’s only kneeling class. The only response to the grace of Jesus is to choose to become a recipient of grace. Paul’s first words in his epistle to the Romans are “Paul, a servant of the gospel” – literally: “a slave of the gospel.”
So, Paul, the Pharisee of the Pharisees, the great man of learning, the man of tremendous privilege and power, bent his knee in awe at the foot of the cross. And you and I must do the same, if we are to ever say, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”