1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit Eph. 3:1-5
Finally, let us look at the New Testament. In John 21:18-19, Jesus told Peter,
“18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.”
First, let us consider verse 19.
I used to think Jesus was talking about Peter’s physical death. But scripture here is talking about how Peter would glorify God. It is so banal to think of Jesus telling Peter, “When you grow old, someone will come, bind you and go kill you” even if Jesus wanted to communicate such information to Peter.
But scripture is no ordinary writing. So there must be something more to what Jesus was saying to Peter. I believe He was telling him, “You will glorify God by dying to self. By surrendering your life (and rights) and allowing the crucified Christ to fully live in you. You will glorify God by dying to your own selfish ways and desires.”
Which brings us to Jesus’s words in verse 18:
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
Who is this “another” that Jesus was talking about?
It is Jesus Himself. We are to be prisoners of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Which brings us to the Apostle Paul and the great work that he accomplished in the Spirit.
Remember that Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:10:
“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.”
Paul says that he labored more than the other apostles. That word, “laboured” as we shall see below, could better be translated “loved”. But Paul does not give himself credit for his accomplishments; on the contrary, he credits the grace of God. In clearer terms, Paul had more grace than the other apostles.
So how did Paul come to have more grace than his counterparts?
It was because he allowed himself to become a bond-slave of Jesus. He allowed Jesus to bind him hand and foot and to lead him where he would not want to go. In Ephesians 6:20 Paul says:
“I am an ambassador in bonds…”
Bonds are not the most comfortable thing for one to be in. Which means that Paul was forced into that situation. Willingly? Yes. And this brings us to 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
“7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
The truly ‘abnormal’ thing about the Apostle Paul was that he realized that there was only one way to “labour” for God effectively. And by laboring for God it meant loving the church. Why do you think Paul wanted to be “strong”? It was for the sake of the church. Paul loved and cared for the church with everything that he had in him! And Paul realized He had to surrender self. He had to die to self in order to truly love and serve Christ’s Body, the church.
When Paul realized this, he happily stretched out his hands and allowed the Lord to bind him. He gladly gave his flesh over to the cruel messenger to be buffeted. And thus it came to be that Paul got filled to the brim with the grace of God. Grace to enable him to fulfill his desire to love the church as Christ loved it.
You can see the grace of God in Paul’s life written all over his epistles and in the Book of Acts. He was full of humility, compassion, and love towards God’s people.
And then, again, he was full of Godly wisdom. He could bring the revelation of the cross right up to any level you asked him to (1 Corinthians chapters 1 -4).
But Paul could also compassionately tackle issues which did not have a direct answer from scripture. He would therefore write the Corinthians,
“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me… I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.” (1 Cor. chapter 12)
What humility! And what Godly advice without a “Thus saith the Lord!”
That was the Apostle Paul. Fully surrendered to God, and fully fulfilling the purpose and calling of God upon the church, which was to love it.
That’s who a true apostle is. He is one to whom the cross is revealed, to the end that he may love the church as Christ loves it.
[I do not know many things. But I do know I love the old Hillsong songs]