[ 3 minutes to read ]
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 Corinthians 15:10
A party spirit had developed in the church at Corinth that grieved Paul. “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:12). The church was divided into different factions that touted their favorite preacher. They cried up the passion of Paul, the eloquence of Apollos, or the boldness of Peter. They pitted Paul against Apollos and Peter against Paul. Paul wrote to rebuke them for their carnality. “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:4). None of these preachers strove for preeminence over the other, so why should the church argue over the greatest?
In our text, Paul speaks about his own case. “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” Paul readily owned that Apollos was a great preacher. Luke said of Apollos, “And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John” (Acts 18:24-25). Apollos was a very able speaker. He had a great command of the scriptures. He was diligent and passionate in preaching. After Aquila and Priscilla helped to complete his knowledge, “he mightily convinced the Jews.” I believe that Paul rejoiced in Apollos and the fact that he used his great gifts in the service of the Lord.
However, Paul states, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” Apollos was many things but Paul says, “I am not him.” Paul said, “My preaching was not with enticing words.” (1 Corinthians 2:4). He admits that his own speech was rough and plain. He was not the polished preacher that Apollos was, but his preaching was “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). It would be a mockery to try to imitate Apollos. Paul says, “I am what I am.”
No doubt, Paul would commend the ministry of Peter. Peter had companied with the Lord during His earthly ministry. He was drawn into an inner circle of fellowship with Jesus along with James and John. Peter could be fiery and wax bold in preaching. He possessed a great ability in the ministry. Paul would rejoice in these things and would not seek to copy Peter. Paul says, “I am what I am.”
Paul condemned the over-comparison that led to division. Each minister has his own work. “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6). Often one man enters into the labors of another “reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed” (Matthew 25:24). It is foolish to heap praise on the laborers and set them up as some great one. “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7). Paul’s goal was to exalt Christ not Paul. All true preachers want Christ to be exalted and lament if they themselves are lifted up. They say with the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
As every one has his own work, every one has his own gifts to suit his work. “If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). Paul could not use the eloquence of Apollos or the boldness of Peter. He recognized “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Corinthians 12:11). Every one has their own gifts of the Lord. Paul said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”
In the last place, we see that Paul did not seek credit for all his labors. Paul states the facts saying, “I laboured more abundantly than they all.” He is not bragging, just stating the truth. However, Paul does not glory in himself. He says, “Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Paul rejoices in the grace of God.
But for the grace of God, where would you be today? You and I might be the worst lot of sinners the world has ever known, but for the grace of God. Instead of seeking to do His will and glorify Christ with our lives, we could be serving the flesh and wasting our substance with riotous living. Praise God! Who saved me and washed me from my sins in Jesus’ blood! What do you know of the grace of God at this hour? Flee from the wrath to come and seek to lay hold of Christ through faith!