Protection by Grace
1Corinthians 15:9-10 ”For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet (or fit) 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 that was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I., but the grace of God which was with me."
Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast."
1Corinthians 3:10 "By the grace of God which was given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation-Jesus Christ."
All of Paul's letters start and end with grace. Grace is a gift given to someone. Paul says that by grace "I am what I am", an apostle. Grace was not for nothing. The grace of God was working through Paul. Everything we are, everything we have and everything we do comes back to God's grace. If we boast, work, or minister, it will be by grace.
Paul says that when it comes to the apostles, the true apostles, they brag about who they are. He said he could not do that because it's all by God's grace. How many days of prayer and fasting and studying do you have behind you? It's not about how good I perform, it's by how much I trust in God and believed in His grace. It's not by passion or compassion or anything I can do, but by God's own terms, unmerited and undeserved amazing grace! Where did it all start for Paul? It all started in Acts 9:1-6. Jesus appeared to Paul after Paul had asked him "who are you Lord?" Jesus responded "I am Jesus and it is hard to kick against the pricks."
Ephesians 3:7-8 "Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ."
Many think that 2Corinthians 12 came after Paul had ministered a long time, but God gave Paul that revelation that day on the road to Damascus. The greatest revelation that you will ever receive and change your life is that you don't have to go through tribulation and trials before you can be used of God. In Acts 9:7-16 God speaks to Ananias and tells him "I will show him how great things he must suffer for my namesake." In verse 17-20 of the same chapter it tells us how long Paul waited until he preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified immediately. Remember Paul is still in Damascus. He just got saved. In verse 21-22 Paul increased in strength and confounded the Jews in Damascus proving that Jesus is the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah.
2Corinthians 11:24-27 "Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, one night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness."
Paul had visions and revelations on the road to Damascus. He knew what was coming because God told him. What are you going through? Have you gone through or will you go through? I am not talking about sickness and disease. I am talking about the troubles of life. What Paul is saying is "I don't normally talk about what I am going through, but I'm doing it because all the others are bragging on themselves."
2Corinthians is written in defense of Paul's ministry.
Romans 8:31-37 "What shall we say that these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Paul says in essence "I am in touchable. In all these things we are more than conquerors."
2Corinthians 12:1-5 note verse two "I knew a man in Christ above 14 years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows;) such an one caught up to the third heaven."
This is 14 years after his conversion on the road to Damascus.
In verses 6 to 9 Paul tells about his thorn in the flesh that was given him. He said it was by the grace of God that he was able to endure all the persecution they came against them. What was Paul's thorn? Some say it was an eye disease. Some say it was epilepsy or a stuttering problem. Paul tells us that it was a "messenger of Satan." The word "messenger" is the word "angelos" in the Greek. One hundred and ninety one times it means angel. A fallen angel, a messenger of Satan, followed Paul around and incited the people to persecute Paul. In Genesis 3:18; Numbers 33:55; Joshua 23:13; Judges 2:3; and 2 Samuel 23:6 it describes thorns in your side or pricks in your eyes or flesh as people. The next time someone wants to tell you Paul's thorn was a sickness or disease you could show them this Scripture and set them straight.
Who persecuted Paul? It was the Jews. It was people. No matter what is coming at you, His grace is enough! You could care less about all the other stuff. But if you focus on all the other stuff you will miss God's grace. I don't tell people what's going on in my life. I focus on God's grace.
Acts 20:22-32 "And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesses in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I am my life dear unto myself, so I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the council of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." You can kick against the pricks or you can glory and rejoice in the grace of God!