But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 1 Cor. 15:10
Why would the Apostle Paul speak the words he spoke here? Why would he speak of the grace of God in this manner? It was because he came to understand how unworthy he was. One day, this man realized how useless and how undeserving he truly was before God. Only God could make him otherwise. And thus Paul extolled the praises of God’s grace.
Jeremiah 17:9 makes the point: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
Notice scripture does not say, “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, but at times it can also be amazingly good, truthful and sinless”. No. (God is not like us. We love flattering people. But God is God and He does not engage in such posturings.)
In fact, the Bible goes even further and tells us that the human heart is not only wicked, but “desperately” so. There is not a scrap of goodness or righteousness in the human soul; only evil resides there.
(We also love to think that we are good people; and when we look at all the “good” we have done, we are tempted to think that our assessment of ourselves is actually true! But the Bible does not even come close to entertaining such a thought, and we, too, should not. I am sure there are a few things that you and I know about our hearts, and it is no exaggeration to say that only through a miracle of God can we find any good in us.)
Inside the human heart there is a spiritual world which is bigger than our known physical universe. And the Bible here declares that this measureless world is full of only evil. That means there are many more things that we do not know about our hearts. There are depths in our hearts that we simply cannot fathom; but, alas! they are depths only of wickedness. That is why the Bible says that no man can know the extent of the wickedness in him. Only God can know that. He alone can plumb the depths of our hearts.
There is neither white or black, yellow or brown. There is neither rich nor poor. There is neither cultured nor uncultured. Fact is, we are all the same. We are evil through and through.
But through His grace, kindness and mercy, God takes our evil heart, washes it sparkling clean. It is like someone picking up a piece of dung-covered something and, while you would expect that he would bury it away, he instead cleans it and out of it comes the most beautiful gem you ever saw! That gem happens to be us, when God washes us of our sins. Remember God created us in His own image and likeness.
We therefore have absolutely nothing to boast about when it comes to us and God. Indeed, it is a miracle that we can be found in Him. That is why we should be extremely thankful to God for His grace. It is by grace alone that we were reconciled to God, and it is by that same grace that we stand today. The Apostle Paul understood this aspect of grace probably more than anybody else. He said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am…”
That statement reflects the highest point of faith.
But not many believers can live out that statement. Many of us say: “I am what I am by the grace of God and a little effort on my part”. We do so subconsciously, of course. Our faith is that small.
But Paul did not say that. Instead he said, “All that I am, I am by God’s grace alone.”
But that is not all. After He has washed us clean and reconciled us to Himself, God comes to live in us.
The Bible declares, “…greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4). God is in us! This is a tremendous scripture. It is also a scripture which we love to think that we know perfectly well; but, again, few of us are really capable of grasping it in its fullness for it can only be fully comprehended through the kind of faith that Paul had.
In the second part of this post we shall see an even more surprising aspect of God’s grace.
[Below: “I Stand In Awe Of You”]