Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.”
Ephesians 3:8-9 NLT
““Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting!”
Acts 9:5 NLT
Paul described himself as being the least deserving of all God’s people. A bit harsh, don’t you think? A false humility? A personal put-down? No, I think I can see where Paul was coming from. When faced with this new counter-cultural but, in the traditional Jews’ opinion, blasphemous cult of “The Way”, Paul suddenly found his life-mission. The most important thing he could do. Perhaps he thought he was the only solution to the problem of this cult. Everyone else was just complaining, tutting, plotting, in the end not doing very much. But he was going to sort it. He was single-handedly going to wipe all these “blasphemers” from the face of the earth. At best he was going to imprison them. At worst, stone them. Speaking of which, that is where Paul, then called Saul, first cropped up in Scripture. At the stoning of Stephen. He held the stoners’ clothes. He looked on in approval. And in him birthed the burning desire to complete the work. We read in Acts 9:1, “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples….”. His intention was to go to Damascus where he had heard there was a fellowship there, some disciples of “The Way”. With letters of authority he was going to drag them as prisoners to Jerusalem, where they would stand trial for “blasphemy”.
But as we know, something dramatic happened on the Damascus road. A dramatic U-turn so incredible and life-changing that it puts into insignificance the U-turns of our elected politicians. Saul, soon to be Paul, met the risen Jesus. A meeting so amazing that Paul, literally in a flash, changed from being a persecutor of the early Christians to being one of their greatest evangelists. We read that he was blind for three days. Can you imagine the agony of what he was going through? The enormity of what he had been doing must have been driving his thoughts, and we read that “he was praying“. The regrets, the guilt, the hurt. Enough to drive him to insanity? (Incidentally, he was accused of being mad in Acts 26:24 but that’s another story).
So it is not surprising that Paul thought himself “the least deserving of all God’s people“. I can imagine the poor man must have regularly held his head in his hands, distraught over what he had done. But the mind-boggling truth is that God’s grace was sufficient even for sins of the magnitude of Paul’s. There was no limit to God’s grace in Paul’s day. And there still isn’t today. God will never reject a repentant sinner, even one who is “least-deserving” like Paul. We must never think that we are too bad for God to forgive. Too sinful even for His grace to save us. As Christians, we all experienced a U-turn in our lives. That day when we said “Yes” to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. That day may not have been so dramatic as Paul’s was. But the outcome is the same. We are forgiven by grace. God’s unlimited and wonderful grace. And like Paul, what else can we do than share the wonder of God with those around us. As I have said before, we are “beggars, showing other beggars where to find bread”. Let’s always keep a few crumbs in our pockets for the needy who come our way.