The Power of Fellowship Part 55: The Progression of the Apostle Paul

by Rick

This morning we continue our series entitled, “Power of Fellowship.”  For a few days I have been teaching you from 1 John 1.  I want to go back to this passage again today, but with a different emphasis.  I will tie in the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul. Because the Apostle Paul wrote so many books of the Bible, His writings actually show us his progression.  The closer he got to God, the less he thought of himself.

(1 John 1:5-10 Easy To Read Version)

5 We heard the true teaching from God. Now we tell it to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness. 

6 So if we say that we share in life with God, but we continue living in darkness, we are liars, who don’t follow the truth. 

7 We should live in the light, where God is. If we live in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood sacrifice of Jesus, God’s Son, washes away every sin and makes us clean.

8 If we say that we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

9 But if we confess our sins, God will forgive us. We can trust God to do this. He always does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrong things we have done. 

10 If we say that we have not sinned, we are saying that God is a liar and that we don’t accept his true teaching.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things.

1.  The Apostle Paul was originally known as Saul of Tarsus.  He was converted in Acts 9. In Acts 9:15 the Lord told Ananias to go minster to Saul because he was called to minister to the Gentiles.  Saul tried to preach immediately. He later acknowledged that he had zeal with no knowledge (Rom 10:2). Since he was doing the right thing at the wrong time, those in Jerusalem tried to kill him for preaching (Acts 9:23-25).  So Saul went home Tarsus. He had invested his entire life into becoming part of the Jewish religious elite, only to find out that he was on the wrong team. He was fighting against the God he thought he was serving. So while he was in Tarsus, he spent him dying to self and dying to everything he had invested his life into. After three years Barnabas came through that door and invited him to Antioch to lead the church there.  Believers were called Christians first in Antioch because of Paul and Barnabas’ ministry (Acts 11:26).

2.  Paul would later go on four missionary journeys and he wound up writing half the New Testament.  During these journeys he wrote many of the letters we read today. As I get into his writings. imagine a church sanctuary with cross behind the pulpit.  Keep that image.

3.  During Paul’s second Missionary journey he wrote a letter to the church in Galatia.  In Gal 2:20 he said he was crucified with Christ. This is the image we all have when we first get saved.  We are up there, on the cross with Jesus. We are dead to self… or so we say. The truth is, we have a lot of growing (which means DYING) to do.  But we just don’t know it yet. We are too “green” in Christ to know better. During this stage of our walk with Christ, many of us tend to be very judgmental and critical of others.

4.  During Paul’s third Missionary journey he wrote 1 and 2 Corinthians.  In the first letter he said, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle.”  It’s like Paul got down from the cross and entered the pulpit.  But he was clear to take the lowest seat in the pulpit. He was a preacher, but at this point he considers himself to be the least of all the preachers.  He is growing and the more he grows, the more humble he becomes and the more grace he has towards others.

5.  After being imprisoned and shipwrecked, Paul wrote a letter to the believers in Ephesus.  In this letter he said, “Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.” (Eph 3:8).  It’s like Paul now left the pulpit and sat in the congregation.  But he was sitting in the back of the sanctuary, basically saying that he was the least of all believers.  At this point in his life he did not consider himself to be better than any believer. Why? Because he was growing in Christ.  The more you grow, the more you die to self and the more grace you have towards others.

6.  Right before his death, Paul wrote letters to Timothy (two of them) and Titus.  In one of the letters he said, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” (1 Tim 1:15).  Another translation says, “Chief”.  It was like Paul left the last pew in the sanctuary and stood OUTSIDE of the church.  He was saying, “Everyone out here is a sinner and I AM THE BIGGEST ONE!”  Paul’s journey is our journey.  The secret to growing in Christ is DYING to self.  Paul’s life is a great picture of that. Connecting this back to John, if we don’t grow (or die) like Paul did, it will be hard for us to have true fellowship with others.  But if we die to self and we acknowledge our weaknesses, and our sin, we can have fellowship with other people. Because we won’t look down on anyone. The closer you get to God, the less you think of yourself.  

Declaration of Faith:  

Father, there was a time in my life when I thought my highly of myself than I ought to have thought.  Those days are over. Whatever I am, I am by Your grace. I am nothing without You. Like Paul, I can say that I am the Chief of sinners.  How could I look down on others, when I realize how flawed I am? Outside of You I am nothing. IN YOU I can do all things. Because Your grace has come TO me, Your grace now flows THROUGH me.  I extend grace to others. I die to sin, self and selfishness. I die to self-righteousness and pride. In my humility I am able to have great relationships with other people, because I have lots of tolerance for their flaws.  I have this tolerance because I acknowledge my own. I declare this by faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

This is Today’s Word.  Apply it and prosper!

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