From August 1977 Word and Work


‘”Through Whom (Jesus Christ our Lord) we received grace and apostleship unto obedience of faith among all the nations, for His names sake” (Romans 1:5).

Paul here summarized two points about the Lord’s dealing with him by saying he received from Him grace and apostleship. Please note that grace came before service, that before we can serve the Lord we must first receive the gift of His unmeritable favor. Paul had been an “up and coming” worker among the Jews and had “advanced in the Jew’s religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen” (Galatians 1:14), but we can’t serve God in the energy intellect, the accomplishments are not sufficient to make us  good servants of the flesh. The strongest body, the most brilliant most gifted tongue and all other natural gifts and Christ Jesus. Jesus said that they that worship God must worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24), and service must be on that same basis. Service and worship, by the way, are very closely related words,

Paul gives a longer statement of his grace and apostleship in I Corinthians 15:9, 10: “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet 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 which was bestowed upon me was not found vain; but labored more abundantly than the}- all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

We are inclined to look at Paul’s zeal and think that the Lord chose him because of that zeal. Paul didn’t think so; he felt that the Lord called him in spite of his former life in the flesh. Paul had had zeal, he had “lived before God in all good conscience” all his life, he had studied with the greatest of the teachers of that day, and he had in every way distinguished himself; but all that he accounted refuse (Philippians 3:8) along with his proper racial background. Paul had a very realistic view of his service to the Lord. He knew that much had been accomplished through him, but it was God working in him that had done it, and that was not because of Paul’s worth but because of God’s love.

Paul’s success in his fleshly work among the Jews is a good sign of how natural talents and a decision to serve God on a fleshly basis can have great success from the viewpoint of our fellow men, even though it is really working against God. Many a man has built up a large following, had the reward of seeing a congregation grow in numbers and then found that the energy of the flesh works only what is fleshly.

All of this is not to say that success is a sign of wrong ways or that God does not use a zealous man. Paul’s far greater success for the Lord after he turned his life over to Him is ample proof that that is not true. It may have looked to non-Christian Jews and Gentiles of that day that Paul had given up everything and gained nothing, but even the world remembers him today for his labors in Christ, even though they don’t remember his work before his conversion.

 The great difference, of course, is that God’s love flowed out to Paul and the Lord at that time called him and sent him out to serve Him. An apostle is “one sent” and Paul never forgot Who he was representing.

Today two groups of church members are making different mistakes in their own service to the Lord. One group tries it in the flesh. Many of them are fighting against God even though they seem to be “advancing Christianity beyond many of their own age The other group feel that they must wait for God to uproot them and accomplish His purposes without even their cooperation. They forget that Paul said, “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10) as soon as he found he had been fighting against God. While it was God’s grace that did it, God never forces a mans will but gives him the opportunity to yield. If you want God to send you into the work that He has called you for (and He calls every one of us to His way, His life, His work-even though the work of each of us is different from the other), then say, “Here am I, send me,” as Isaiah did (Isaiah 6:8). God has never turned down one who truly volunteers to be used of Him. Volunteer today.



Ernest Lyon went to be with his Lord in 2005. He was long time minister for the Highland Church of Christ in Louisville, Ky, and was Professor of Music at the University of Louisville until his retirement after 47 years..