Grace is never earned. It is unmerited, undeserved, unwarranted. Though the Bible is filled with examples of men and women who were recipients of God’s great grace, the Apostle Paul may be the Bible’s best example … or worst.
When the religious bigots “were enraged and gnashed their teeth at (Stephen) … They yelled at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 7:54–58). Saul, or Paul, was part of the mob that brutally murdered Stephen!
“Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him” (Acts 9:1–3).
Paul was filled with rage! He loathed the memory of Jesus! He scorned Jesus’ doctrines and despised the disciples and their gatherings! When Paul was worst, God’s grace was best.
As Paul “was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him” (Acts 9:3). The “Light of the World” (John 8:12) graciously revealed Himself to the murderous monster. God’s grace shines brightest in the dark!
Later, Paul wrote, “I am the least of the apostles, not worthy 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, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:9–10). And Paul also wrote, “ ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’—and I am the worst of them. But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15–17).
Paul “was made a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace that was given to (him) by the working of (God’s) power. This grace was given to (Paul)—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:7–8).
Paul understood and taught that we are “saved by grace through faith, and this is not from ourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). “We are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:11), “for the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works”(Titus 2:11–14).
God could have chosen anyone to take the Gospel to the nations, but he graciously chose one who persecuted the church, imprisoning, stoning, and murdering innocent disciples. God chose Paul. But grace…
Paul might be the best example of God’s great grace. God chose the worst to demonstrate His best. But there are other excellent examples … when I look in the mirror, I see evidence of God’s unmerited, undeserved, unwarranted grace. Do you?
In the next days, and maybe weeks, we will be reminded of the many Biblical examples of Recipients of God’s Great Grace.