1 Corinthians 15:9 Commentary

 

 

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1 Corinthians 15:9 Commentary

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: Ego gar eimi (1SPAI) o elachistos ton apostolon, os ouk eimi (1SPAI) hikanos kaleisthai (PPN) apostolos, dioti edioxa (1SAAI) ten ekklesian tou theou;
Amplified: For I am the least [worthy] of the apostles, who am not fit or deserving to be called an apostle, because I once wronged and pursued and molested the church of God [oppressing it with cruelty and violence].
(Amplified Bible - Lockman)
Barclay:  It is by the grace of God that I am what I am, and his grace to me has not proved ineffective, but I have toiled more exceedingly than all of them; but it was not I who achieved anything but God’s grace working with me.
ESV: But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
(ESV)
KJV: For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
NET: But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them– yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
(NET Bible)
NIV:  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-- yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.  (
NIV - IBS)
NLT: But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me-- and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace. (
NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips:  But what I am now I am by the grace of God. The grace he gave me has not proved a barren gift. I have worked harder than any of the others - and yet it was not I but this same grace of God within me.
Wuest:  (
Eerdmans
Young's Literal: for I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I did persecute the assembly of God,

References

Henry Alford
Don Anderson
Paul Apple
Albert Barnes
Brian Bell
Johann Bengel
Bethany Bible
Bible.org
Biblical Illustrator
Jim Bomkamp
John Calvin
Alan Carr
B H Carroll
Rich Cathers
Adam Clarke
W A Criswell
Thomas Constable
Ron Daniel
Bob Deffinbaugh
Marcus Dods
Thomas Edwards
Easy English
Charles Ellicott
G G Findlay
Frederic Godet
Frederic Godet
Bruce Goettsche
Dave Guzik
Matthew Henry
Charles Hodge
Jamieson, F, B
S Lewis Johnson
William Kelly
Keith Krell
Lange's Commentary
Steve Lewis
J J Lias
John MacArthur
John MacArthur
Alexander Maclaren
J Vernon McGee
H A W Meyer
Net Bible Notes
John Piper
Pulpit Commentary
A. T. Robertson
A. T. Robertson
Charles Simeon
Hamilton Smith
Speaker's Com
C H Spurgeon
C H Spurgeon
Ray Stedman
Bob Utley
Marvin Vincent
Steve Zeisler
Precepts Bible Study
Precepts Bible Study

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1 Corinthians 15:8-10 e Grace Bestowed Upon Paul

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1 Corinthians 15:1-17 The Resurrection of Christ
1 Corinthians 15 Commentary (1886)
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1 Corinthians 15 Commentary (Expositor's Greek Testament)
1 Corinthians Commentary
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1 Corinthians 15 Commentary (Cambridge Commentary 1896)
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1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Convincing Testimony to the Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul's Estimate of Himself
1 Corinthians 15 Commentary - Mp3
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1 Corinthians 15:10 Grace with You

1 Corinthians 15 Exposition
1 Corinthians 15 Critical and Exegetical Commentary
1 Corinthians 15 Greek Word Studies
1 Corinthians 15:10 All of Grace
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1 Corinthians 15:10 Lesson on Divine Grace

1 Corinthians15:10 Paul's Parenthesis

1 Corinthians 15:5-11 They Saw Him Alive
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1 Corinthians 15:1-12 Witnesses for the Defense

1 Corinthians 1-6 - Part 1 - Inductive Bible Study
1 Corinthians 7-16 - Part 2 - Inductive Bible Study

FOR I AM THE LEAST OF THE APOSTLES AND NOT FIT TO BE CALLED AN APOSTLE BECAUSE I PERSECUTED THE CHURCH OF GOD: Ego gar eimi (1SPAI) o elachistos ton apostolon, os ouk eimi (1SPAI) hikanos kaleisthai (PPN) apostolos, dioti edioxa (1SAAI) ten ekklesian tou theou: (the least: 2Co 11:5 12:11 Eph 3:7,8) (because: Ac 8:3 9:1-19 22:4,5 26:9-11 Ga 1:13,23 Php 3:6 1Ti 1:13,14)

CONTEXT

1Corinthians 15:1-7 (Notes -v1; v2;  vv4-5; vv 6-8) is the best summary of the Gospel in the Bible. At the end of his summary Paul explains how he became an apostle...

and last of all, as to one untimely born (literally = a "miscarriage", a life unable to sustain itself), He appeared to me also. (1Cor 15:8-notes)

Comment: "Paul further evidences his sense of unworthiness to be an apostle by the use of the word kamoí (2504), meaning "and to me" or "to me also," in 1Co 15:8: "And last of all he appeared to me also." He places himself in a class of his own. He was agonizingly conscious of his past record of persecution of the church of God, and recognized that it was only by the grace of God that he was what he was (1Co 15:10). That is why he never ceased to wonder at the marvel of his salvation, and only second to that at the fact of his apostleship. Paul was lost in wonder, love, and praise when he thought of his apostleship, for of all men he seemed the least worthy of this high honor and dignity." (Zodhiates – Conquering the Fear of Death: An Exegetical Commentary on First Corinthians Fifteen)

Oswald Chambers: “To me also”—the most unlikely! It is easy to pretend to be “less than the least” without being it, easy to be false in emotion before God, but Paul is not a pretentious humbug, he is not simply speaking out of the deep modesty of his soul, he is speaking what he believes. (He shall glorify me : Talks on the Holy Spirit and other themes)

MacArthur explains that Paul was untimely born

"in the sense of an ill–timed birth, too early or too late, seems to fit Paul’s thought best. He came too late to have been one of the twelve. In carrying the idea of unformed, dead, and useless, the term was also used as a term of derision. Before his conversion, which coincided with his vision of the resurrected Lord, Paul was spiritually unformed, dead, and useless, a person to be scorned by God. Even when he was born it was wrong timing. Christ was gone. How could he be an apostle? Yet, by special divine provision, He appeared to me also, Paul testifies.

The appearance of the resurrected, ascended, glorified ("brighter than the sun" Acts 26:13) Jesus was the punctuation mark on the summary of the Gospel. In other words not only was Jesus crucified, buried and resurrected, but He was ascended and glorified as implied by Luke's record of our Lord's glorified appearance to Paul

And it came about that as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him (Acts 22:6, 26:13); and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul (Jesus used his Jewish name), why are you persecuting Me?" (Because of the oneness of covenant when Christians are persecuted Jesus their covenant partner is persecuted! See Oneness of Covenant)  And he said, "Who art Thou, Lord?" (1Cor 9:1) And He said," I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do." (Acts 9:3, 4, 5, 6)

Comment: Paul repeatedly emphasizes that he saw the gloried Jesus (Acts 9:17, 27; 22:14; 26:16; 1Co 9:1; 15:8) which indicates how important he held this requirement of apostleship. This fact alone signifies that there can be no modern day apostles (in the mold of Paul, etc), for they could never fulfill this singularly important requirement of having seen the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thomas Edwards writes that 1Cor 15:9,10 represent...

A digression referring to his apostleship and apostolical labours (1Cor 9:1, 2, 3). But the verses prove also the truth of the description which the Apostle has given of himself as the "abortion" (ektroma), and connect the success of his ministry with the doctrine the preached, viz., the resurrection of Christ. (Ed: And I would add "the grace infused".)

For - As Thomas Edwards explains Paul "calls himself an abortion (1Co 15:8) because he persecuted the Church of God; and the consequence of his having been a persecutor when Christ appeared to him is that he is still the least of the apostles."

I (ego) - This is emphatic ("ego" is the first word in the Greek sentence) and could be read "Who is the least of the apostles? It is I."

PAUL'S PROGRESS IN HUMILITY:
CHRIST INCREASING
SELF DECREASING

Approximate Date
of Writing

Paul's Self Assessment
Over Time

55AD

1Cor 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

61AD

Eph 3:8 To me, the very least of all saints (literally = "less than the least of all saints"), this grace was given (Why was it given? What was Paul to do?), to preach (= The purpose of God's gift of grace) to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,

63-66AD

1Ti 1:15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am (Note: not "was"  but "am" foremost!) foremost of all.

As you examine this chart, you see that we come face to face with the phenomenon which is frequently seen in the great leaders and saints of the past. It is that the older they grow, the more acute is their own sense of sin and of weakness in themselves.  Or as Spurgeon put it "He whose garments are the whitest will best perceive the spots upon them!" They see that what they once thought to be natural strengths are really weaknesses that emanate from the unredeemed (and unredeemable) fallen flesh. So if this (an increasing sense of the corruption of your old flesh nature) is beginning to happen to you, you are growing as a Christian. It has been well said that "He who knows himself best esteems himself least."

Thomas Guthrie perfectly pictured Paul's progression when he wrote...

The Christian is like the ripening corn; the riper he grows, the more lowly bends his head.

Paul never forgot the wonder of being chosen to be a servant (huperetes ) "of Christ and (steward - oikonomos) of the mysteries of God" (1Cor 4:1, 2) (As an aside dear saint - while our stewardship is not identical to Paul's, we do have the privilege of preserving and passing on the truth of the Gospel to a lost world with our lives and our "lips"! Will you be found a faithful steward? cp Lk 12:37, 42, 43, 44, Note: Every believer is a steward and will give an account for how they used their privileges and gifts - 1Pe 4:10, 11-note. The question for each of us to personally ponder is "Will we hear "Well done"? Read Jesus' words of encouragement and warning in Mt 25:20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29) 

ARE YOU
RIPE FRUIT?

Spurgeon in his sermon on "Ripe Fruit" looks first at the "marks of ripeness in grace" and lists marks of spiritual maturity (this sermon is recommended reading)...

Another mark is never absent in a mature Believer—namely, the weight which is evidenced in humility. Look at the corn in the field, it holds its head erect while it is green, but when the ear is filled and matured, it hangs its head in graceful humbleness. Look at your fruit trees, how their blossoming branches shoot up towards the sky, but when they begin to be loaded with fruit, since the riper the fruit the greater its weight, the branch begins to bow, until it needs oftentimes to be propped up and to be supported, lest it break away from the stem. Weight comes with maturity, lowliness of mind is the inevitable consequence.

Growing Christians think themselves nothing.

Full-grown Christians know that they are less than nothing.

The nearer we are to Heaven in point of sanctification,
the more we mourn our infirmities, and
the humbler is our estimate of ourselves.

Lightly laden vessels float high in the water, heavy cargo sinks the boat to the water’s edge.

The more Grace,
the more the need of Grace is felt.

He may boast of his Grace who has none. He may talk much of his Grace who has little, but he who is rich in Grace cries out for more, and forgets that which is behind (Php 3:13-note).

When a man’s inward life flows like a river (Jn 7:38, 39), he thinks only of the Source, and cries before his God, “All my fresh springs are in You.”

He who abounds in holiness feels more than ever that in him, that is in his flesh, there dwells no good thing (Ro 7:18-note).

You are not ripened, my Brothers and Sisters, while you have a high esteem of yourself. (Php 2:3, 4-note, Php 2:5, 6, 7-note) He who glories in himself is but a babe in Christ, if indeed he is in Christ at all. When you shall see death written on the creature, and see all your life in Christ (1Cor 15:31, 2Co 4:10, 11, 12). When you shall perceive even your holy things to have iniquity in them, and see all your perfectness in Him who is altogether lovely. When you shall lie prostrate at the foot of the Throne, and only rise to sit and reign in Him Who is your All, then are you ripening, but not till then (Jn 3:30-note).  (C H Spurgeon "Ripe Fruit" - sermon on Micah 7:1)

As Bishop J C Ryle said...

The true secret of spiritual strength is self-distrust and deep humility (cp 2Cor 12:9-note, 2Cor 12:10-note)...We have nothing we can call our own--but sin and weakness. Surely there is no garment that befits us so well, as humility.

William Plumer...

The deeper one's sense of sin is, the livelier is his gratitude for pardon and saving mercy. So taught our Lord: "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little" (Luke 7:47). In like manner the deeper one's sense of sin, the profounder will be his humility; and humility is the King's highway to holiness and happiness and heaven. (THE CHRISTIAN)

The most godly men in the Bible were deeply aware of their own depravity when they found themselves in the presence of the Holy God (A wise man or woman would take time to study the attitudes, words, posture and prayers of men who have had a personal encounter with God = Ge 18:27; Job 42:6; Isa 6:5; Da 9:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11,12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19; Ezek 1:28-note, Luke 5:8, 9, Re 1:17-note).

Andrew Murray has an interesting thought in his book entitled Humility, explaining that it is Paul's continual awareness of God's grace that makes his continually so conscious of his sinfulness...

The more Paul rejoiced in God's salvation, and the more his experience of God's grace filled him with joy unspeakable, the clearer was his consciousness that he was a saved sinner, and that salvation had no meaning or sweetness except as the sense of his being a sinner made it precious and real to him. Never for a moment could he forget that it was a sinner God had taken up in His arms and crowned with His love...The three passages above quoted (Ed: see table) all show that it was the wonderful grace bestowed upon Paul, and of which he felt the need every moment, that humbled him so deeply. The grace of God that was with him, and enabled him to labor more abundantly than they all (1Cor 15:9, 10); the grace to preach to the heathen the unsearchable riches of Christ  (Ep 3:8); the grace that was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus (1Ti 1:12, 13, 14, 15, 16), it was this grace of which it is the very nature and glory that it is for sinners, that kept the consciousness of his having once sinned, and being liable to sin, so intensely alive. "Where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly." (Ro 5:20)

This reveals how the very essence of grace is to deal with and take away sin, and how it must ever be the more abundant the experience of grace, the more intense the consciousness of being a sinner.

It is not sin, but God's grace showing a man and ever reminding him what a sinner he was, that, will keep him truly humble. It is not sin, but grace, that will make me indeed know myself a sinner, and make the sinner's place of deepest self-abasement the place I never leave. (Andrew Murray. Humility - The Beauty of Holiness)

I am the least of the apostles - In one sense Paul was the least because he was the last and not even one of the original 12, but that is not why he claims to be the least. It is because he persecuted Christ, something none of the other apostles did.

O'Brien commenting on Eph 3:8 but relevant to 1Co 15:9 that...

 

As he reflects on his commission to be Christs missionary to the Gentiles Paul is filled with amazement at the extraordinary privilege that has been given to him. Using a very striking expression in which he neither indulges in hypocrisy nor grovels in self-deprecation, he indicates how deeply conscious he is of his own unworthiness and of Christs overflowing grace to him. (O'Brien, P. T. The letter to the Ephesians. The Pillar New Testament commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co)

Paul (Paulus) means “little” in Latin, and perhaps Paul bore this name because he realized how insignificant he really was. There is a powerful lesson in this truth for all believers, all "priests" of the Most High God - God uses the "little" that He might be the "big", that He alone might receive the glory (Ps 115:1). As someone has well said "Great men never think they are great—small men never think they are small." You may feel "little" but rejoice for that is exactly the one God can use. It may not be a ministry like Paul's but in God's economy every saint is valuable for His kingdom work and every saint, no matter how "little" they perceive themselves, has the potential to be a "vessel of honor, set apart, prepared for every good (God) work." (2Ti 2:21-note) John the Baptist understood this basic Biblical principle when he declared

He must increase,
but I
must decrease.
(Jn 3:30-
note)

There are several observations you should make on John 3:30. Before you read any further, go back and meditate on this verse and ask God to show you some of the treasures in this short declarative sentence. Then read the thoughts below ( but it is unlikely that these 3 points exhaust the depths of this verse) --

(1) The order - Jesus first, "I" afterwards. Focus on Jesus and as He increases, you will decrease. Don't try to make yourself decrease so that He might increase, for this is the "works" way and not the grace way.

(2) The verb "must" (dei [word study]) signifies that Jesus increasing is not optional but mandatory. He "must"!  it is a necessity and ultimately an inevitability, for God has greatly exalted Him and one day (soon) He will reign as King of kings in His Millennial Kingdom on earth.

(3) Both the verbs increase (auxano [word study]) and decrease (elattoo [word study]) are in the present tense which indicate that both "actions" describe a process, not a completed event, at least not in this lifetime.

Indeed, when our bodies are resurrected (1Co 15:51, 52, 53, 54, 1Th 4:15, 16-note, 1Th 4:17, 18-note) and we are glorified, "we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is" (1Jn 3:2-note). But until our faith becomes sight and that Blessed Hope becomes our fulfilled expectation, He is to continually be increasing. How does He increase? The most obvious answer is through our Spirit taught, illuminated reading of His Word, for as Hebrews 1:2-note says "in these last days (God) has spoken to us in His Son", the written revelation.

This truth begs the question - are you spending time with Jesus in His Word? Are you allowing the Spirit to teach you about and point to the greatness of Jesus (Jn 15:26 = the Spirit bears witness of Jesus. He points to Jesus, NEVER to Himself!)? Or are you reading devotionals about Jesus and not reading the "living and active word"? The devotionals may be good (but some are not even that if they wander too far from the Scripture or become too "mystical" or too profane), but the Word is the best. To the point, devotionals, Christian books, etc are NOT a substitute for the "pure milk of the Word" for ONLY by the Word does one grow in respect to their salvation (progressive sanctification - growth in holiness - increasing conformity to Christ) (1Pe 2:2-note). As Luke says (in a literal rendering of the Greek text)  "No word of God can fail." (Lk 1:37) The 1901 Authorized Standard Version reads "no word from God shall be void of power." (Lk 1:37ASV) Do you believe that statement?

Let me ask again - Are you in the non-failing (Josh 21:45, 23:14), all powerful Word of God on a regular basis (more to the point, even daily - because that is what Jesus advised - Mt 4:4, Lk 4:4, cp Dt 8:3)? The corollary question is this - Is that all powerful, fully sufficient Word IN you (cp Col 3:16-note), coursing through your heart and mind? Are you surrendered to and filled with (Ep 5:18-note, cp Gal 5:16-note) and fully allowing the Spirit to teach you (are you confessed up, repented up, not quenching the Spirit-1Th 5:19-note, not grieving Him - Ep 4:30-note)? If the "living and active Word" (He 4:12-note) is flowing through you and renewing your mind, Jesus will be increasing and you will be steadily and surely decreasing. And this "position" is a good place to be in God's economy, for James teaches that ""GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." (Jas 4:6-note). As Charles Spurgeon once said "Let us be humble that we may not need to be humbled, but may be exalted by the grace of God." Thomas Watson adds that "Till we are poor in spirit we are not capable of receiving grace."

Thomas Watson...

Another means to fruitfulness is humility. The low grounds are most fruitful. "The valleys are covered with grain." (Psalm 65:13). The humble heart is the fruitful heart. The largest and sweetest fruits of the Spirit, grow in a humble Christian. 1Peter 5:5: "God gives grace to the humble." Paul called himself the least of saints—yet he was the chief of the apostles.

Until a man is nothing
God can make nothing of him.

--Martin Luther

W E Vine comments that...

This self-condemnatory recollection of a sinful past is set as an example to all in whom the grace of God has so wrought.

Henry Law writes that...

Paul calls upon His followers
to be clothed with humility.

He here (in comments on Ep 3:8 but relevant to 1Co 15:9) shows that this was the clothing in which he was clad. He appears as the follower of Jesus, who was meek and lowly in heart.

Humility is indeed a precious grace. It thrives not in nature's rank soil. The heathen had no term to depict it. How could they speak of that which to them was utterly unknown!

It is a grace which the Spirit deeply implants, when He reveals the misery and filth of indwelling sin. It grows with the growth of faith, and ripens as the celestial home is approached.

Paul is a notable example. With what shame he viewed himself when writing to the Corinthians! He says,

"I am not meet to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God."

When writing to the Romans (Romans 7) he humbles himself as the very bond-slave of iniquity. He states that when he would do good evil was present with him. He finds a law in his members bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which was in his members.

In the passage before us he gives precedence to all the people of God, and by invention of a new word in language, he calls himself "less than the least of all saints." (Ep 3:8)

Can he sink lower in self-estimation? When his long career of service had reached its close he casts his eye along his life of labor, and humbly bewails that of sinners he is the chief (1Ti 1:15).

Far be from us the thought that he did not recognize God's gracious work within. He truly felt, by the grace of God he was what he was, and with ascending step he pressed toward the mark for the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus (Php 3:14).

His was no mock humility. He did not disparage self that he might win applause. But the more the light of heaven shone inwardly, the more it revealed the continuance and the vileness of inbred corruption. The more he knew God the more he loathed himself. The branch laden with abundance of fruit bends beneath the load. The barren twigs shoot upwards.

Thus Paul deeply felt and humbly avowed that he was less than the least of all saints. (MEDITATIONS ON EPHESIANS)

Law...

As he grew in grace
he deepened in knowledge of unworthiness.

He declared that he was less than the least of all saints. Just before he receives the crown of martyrdom we hear his bewailing voice; Sinners, of whom I am chief. If we had like grace, we should similarly despise self. He who is deeply instructed in the treachery and corruption of his own heart, will always esteem others better than himself. His soul will be deeply conscious of its utter need. Like a helpless babe it will look for support from a parent's care.

J Packer has an interesting commentary on Paul's downward progression noting that...

Humility and a passion for praise are a pair of characteristics which together indicate growth in grace. The Bible is full of self-humbling (man bowing down before God) and doxology (man giving praise to God). The healthy heart is one that bows down in humility and rises in praise and adoration. The Psalms strike both these notes again and again. So too, Paul in his letters both articulates humility and breaks into doxology. Look at his three descriptions of himself quoted above, dating respectively from around A.D. 59, 63, and 64. As the years pass he goes lower; he grows downward! And as his self-esteem sinks, so his rapture of praise and adoration for the God who so wonderfully saved him rises.

Undoubtedly, learning to praise God at all times for all that is good is a mark that we are growing in grace. One of my predecessors in my first parochial appointment died exceedingly painfully of cancer. But between fearful bouts of agony, in which he had to stuff his mouth with bedclothes to avoid biting his tongue, he would say aloud over and over again: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1). That was a passion for praise asserting itself in the most poignant extremity imaginable. Cultivate humility and a passion for praise if you want to grow in grace.  (from Your Father Loves You by J Packer)...Take a moment from your busy day and worship Him in song with Chris Tomlin's Play "Indescribable"...note especially the last stanza

Indescribable, Uncontainable
You place the stars in the sky
And know them by name
You are amazing God

Incomparable, unchangeable
You see the depths of my heart
And you love me the same!
You are amazing God!

Puritan Thomas Brooks...

Paul was the least of all saints in his own eyes; yes, he was less than the least of all saints, Ep 3:8. This is a double diminutive, and signifies "lesser than the least," if lesser might be. Here you have the greatest apostle descending down to the lowest step of humility, 1Co 15:8, 4:9; 1Ti 1:15. Great Paul is least of saints, least of the apostles, and greatest of sinners in his own eyes, and never had any mortal more of the gracious presence of God with him in all his services and in all his sufferings, in all his afflictions and in all his temptations, in all his trials and in all his troubles, which were many and great. See Acts 16:23, 24, 25, 23:10, 11, 27:23, 24, 25; 2Co 1:8, 9, 10, 4:8, 9, 10, 11, 7:4, 5, 6, 7, 11:21, 12:7, 8, 9, 10. (A Word in Season for Suffering Saints)

Least (1646) (elachistos  = superlative of mikrós = small) means...

(1) the lowest in status (not so in Mt 2:6, 1Co 15:9 ~ Ep 3:8, Mt 5:19, Mt 25:40, 45, Lxx = Ge 25:23, 2Ki 18:24 = "least of my master's servants", Da 2:39 = "another kingdom inferior to you"),

(2) the smallest in a class (eg, bodily "organs" - one of the smallest very fittingly compared to a rudder of a large vessel = Jas 3:4, Ge 1:16 = the moon, "lesser light", Lxx = Josh 6:26 = "youngest", Job 30:1 = "younger than I"),

(3) and finally as a description of something deemed trivial or of little significance (1Co 6:2, Lk 12:26, 16:10, 19:17, 1Co 4:3).

(4) smallest in amount or size (Lxx = Ex 16:17, 18, Nu 26:54, 33:54, 35:8, 1Sa 9:21 = "smallest of Israel's tribes", Pr 30:24 - see the "smallest" in Pr 30:25, 26 27, 28, Job 16:6 = "pain...not lessened", Job 18:7 = "stride is shortened", Isa 60:22 = "the least one a mighty nation", Jer 30:14 = "little ones of the flock")

Paul is saying he is "more least than all the saints". In fact, elachistos means "less than the least" and expresses Paul's honest, deep self-abasement. In other words, Paul is not exhibiting a sense of false humility but  a true self-estimate from a man filled with the Holy Spirit and one who knew his true unworthiness in face of "gift of God's grace" and the perfect righteousness of God. Paul wrote a similar self-estimate in other letters in which there seems to be a spiritual progression characterized by a heightened sense of one's own moral shortcoming when compared with Christ's perfect righteousness (see preceding table). Anyone who sees Christ in His glory sees in stark contrast his own sinfulness. As Christ increased in Paul, Paul decreased. 

Stated another way, a growing understanding the deep truths of God’s Word does not give a man a big head; it gives him a broken and contrite heart.

Paul (Paulus) means “little” in Latin, and perhaps Paul bore this name because he realized how insignificant he really was.

Thomas Watson writes of Paul...

This illustrious Apostle, a star of the first magnitude, shrank into nothing in his own eyes!

William Secker (1660) wrote...

Pride is a sinner's torment—but humility is a saint's ornament. The garment of humility—should always be worn on the back of Christianity.

Hughes comments on very least writing that...

Again Paul bends the language. He takes the Greek word for “least” or “smallest” and adds an ending which is impossible linguistically, so that he comes out with the word “leaster.” Some think he was playing off his Latin name Paulus, which meant “little” or “small,” so that the idea is, “I am little by name, little in stature, and morally and spiritually littler than the least of all Christians.” I am Small Paul. (Hughes, R. K.: Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ. Crossway Books)

Johnson explains "the very least" this way...

By the way, Paul’s Latin name, “Paul,” means “little.” And what he has done here is to take the word least in the Greek text and make it a comparative. Now least is a superlative. But he has said, “I who am leaster”; that’s what he’s done in Greek. So he’s taken a superlative and made it a comparative. It’s as if he’s to say, “I’m not simply the littlest, but the littlester of all the saints.” He really feels that way because he persecuted the church of God. (Ephesians 3:1-13 Dispensation of Grace Audio/Pdf )

Elachistos - 14x in 12v in the NAS = least(6), smallest(1), very least(1), very little thing(4), very small(1), very small thing(1).
 

Matthew 2:6 'AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'"

 

Comment: Notice that NAS capitalizes direct OT quotations for easy recognition.


Matthew 5:19-
note "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.


Matthew 25:40 "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'


Matthew 25:45 "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'


Luke 12:26 "If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?


Luke 16:10 "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.


Luke 19:17 "And he said to him, 'Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.'


1 Corinthians 4:3 But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself.


1 Corinthians 6:2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?

 

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
 

Ephesians 3:8-note To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,
 

James 3:4 Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.

Elachistos - 27x in 25v in the non-apocryphal Septuagint (LXX) - Ge 1:16; 25:23; 27:6; Exod 16:17f; Lev 25:16; Num 26:54; 33:54; 35:8; Josh 6:26; 1 Sam 9:21; 2 Kgs 18:24; Pr 13:11; 22:16; 30:24; Job 16:6; 18:7; 30:1; Isa 60:22; Jer 30:14; Da 2:39

Of the apostles - This is interesting in that earlier Paul had defended his apostleship writing...
 

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. My defense to those who examine me is this... (1Co 9:1, 2,3)

John Flavel had it right declaring

They that know God, will be humble, and they that know themselves cannot be proud. (Woe, that hurts!)

F B Meyer expands that thought writing...

I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the easier we could reach them. I now find that God's gifts are on shelves one beneath the other. It is not a question of growing taller, but of stooping down, to get His best gifts.

J C Ryle (1816 - 1900) wrote that...

 

Humility is the rarest and most beautiful of graces. Humility is the very first letter in the alphabet of Christianity.

William Law (1686-1761)...

 

Living Christianity is making one’s life an exercise of humility, repentance and heavenly affection.

As this point it would be wise for us to recall that Paul did not allow himself to be discouraged by looking back, focusing on past failures which is what the mortal enemy of our soul would love for us to do (Our enemy Satan continually accuses the brethren before God = Re 12:10-note). While Paul is teaching that it is important to maintain a consciousness of the depths of sin from which we have been saved so that the wonder of grace might abound all the more (cp Ro 5:20-note), it is another thing to seek to self-indulgently "wallow" in past sins (which we have confessed - see below), even piling up guilt on one's self. To the contrary, we must continually be mindful that the same grace which has taken our feet out of the "miry clay" (Ps 40:2-note), is the same grace which will forever hold us firm in the eternal truth of "No condemnation" and "No separation" in Christ (Ro 8:1-note. Ro 8:39-note) Compare King David's example after he had sinned with Bathsheba, confessed his sin and experienced the consequences when his son died (2Sa 12:13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20). As John states "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive (aphiemi - see the picture implied by this great Greek word) us our sins and to cleanse (katharizo) us from all (How much?) unrighteousness." (1Jn 1:9) While confession of our sins does not necessarily remove the consequences of those sins nor the memory of those sins, we need to accept that the God of all grace has forgiven us completely (see pictures of the breadth of God's forgiveness = Ps 32:1-note, Ps 103:12-note, Isa 6:7, Isa 38:17, Isa 44:11, Mic 7:18,19 Acts 3:19,20, 21, 22, 23, 24) and has purified us wholly from the sins and the guilty conscience. This truth will make us grateful debtors to grace.

Puritan writer Thomas Watson echoes this need for a fine balance between awareness of past sins but not abjectly groveling in them...
 

The mixing of wisdom and innocence is seen in this: to be humble—but not base. Humility is part of the dove's innocence. 1Peter 5:5, "Be clothed with humility." Paul, though the chief of the Apostles, calls himself the least of saints. A gracious soul has low thoughts of himself, and carries himself lowly toward others; but, though he is humble—he is not base. Though he will not saucily resist his superiors—he will not sinfully humor them. Though he will not do such proud actions as to make his enemies hate him—yet he will not do such sordid actions as to make them despise him. Here is the serpent and the dove united. (Wise as Serpents)

Apostles (652)(apostolos [word study] from apo = from + stello = send forth) (Click discussion of apostle) means one sent forth from by another, often with a special commission to represent another and to accomplish his work. It can be a delegate, commissioner, ambassador sent out on a mission or orders or commission and with the authority of the one who sent him.

Apostolos referred to someone who was officially commissioned to a position or task, such as an envoy. Secular Greek writer Demosthenes gives a word picture of "apostolos" noting that it was used to describe a cargo ship (sometimes called "apostolic") sent out with a specific shipment to accomplish a mission. In secular Greek apostolos was used of an admiral of a fleet sent out by the king on special assignment.

In the ancient world a apostle was the personal representatives of the king, functioning as an ambassador with the king’s authority and provided with credentials to prove he was the king's envoy. Apostolos was a technical word designating an individual sent from someone else with the sender's commission, the necessary credentials, the sender's authority and the implicit responsibility to accomplish a mission or assignment. 

The English word "ambassador" is a good translation of apostolos because an ambassador is

an official envoy of high rank appointed by one of higher rank and authority in the government to represent and transact its business at the seat of government of some other power.

Paul thought of himself as an ambassador of the King of kings, sent by Him to the Gentiles with credentials (miracles he performed) and the commission,

to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me (Acts 26:17, 18)

To reemphasize the word apostle as Paul uses it here does not merely refer to one who has a message to announce, but to an appointed representative with an official status who is provided with the credentials of his office.

In its broadest sense, apostle can refer to all believers, because every believer is sent into the world as a witness for Christ. But the term is primarily used as a specific and unique title for the thirteen men (the Twelve, with Matthias replacing Judas, and Paul) whom Christ personally chose and commissioned to authoritatively proclaim the gospel and lead the early church. The thirteen apostles not only were all called directly by Jesus but all were witnesses of His resurrection, Paul having encountered Him on the Damascus Road after His ascension. Those thirteen apostles were given direct revelation of God’s Word to proclaim authoritatively, the gift of healing, and the power to cast out demons (Mt 10:1). By these signs their teaching authority was verified (cf. 2Co 12:12). Their teachings became the foundation of the church (Ep 2:20-note), and their authority extended beyond local bodies of believers to the entire believing world. In the present context Paul clearly uses apostle in its more common specialized or restricted meaning. 

Octavius Winslow writes...

The apostle Paul felt it a great privilege to be allowed to preach the gospel. He did not look upon his calling as a drudgery—but he entered upon it with intense delight. Yet while Paul was thus thankful for his office, his success in it greatly humbled him. The fuller a vessel becomes—the deeper it sinks in the water. Idlers may indulge a fond conceit of their abilities, because they are untried; but the earnest worker soon learns his own weakness. If you seek humility—try hard work; if you would know your nothingness, attempt some great thing for Jesus. If you would feel how utterly powerless you are apart from the living God—attempt especially the great work of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ—and you will know, as you never knew before, what a weak unworthy thing you are. (Morning and Evening - March 2 Evening)

Apostolos - 80x in 79v - Mt 10:2; Mk 3:14; 6:30; Lk 6:13; 9:10; 11:49; 17:5; 22:14; 24:10; John 13:16; Acts 1:2, 26; 2:37, 42f; 4:33, 35ff; 5:2, 12, 18, 29, 40; 6:6; 8:1, 14, 18; 9:27; 11:1; 14:4, 14; 15:2, 4, 6, 22f; 16:4; Rom 1:1; 11:13; 16:7; 1 Cor 1:1; 4:9; 9:1f, 5; 12:28f; 15:7, 9; 2 Cor 1:1; 8:23; 11:5, 13; 12:11f; Gal 1:1, 17, 19; Eph 1:1; 2:20; 3:5; 4:11; Phil 2:25; Col 1:1; 1Th 2:7; 1Ti 1:1; 2:7; 2 Tim 1:1, 11; Titus 1:1; Heb 3:1; 1 Pet 1:1; 2 Pet 1:1; 3:2; Jude 1:17; Rev 2:2; 18:20; 21:14. NAS = apostle(19), apostles(52), apostles'(5), messenger(1), messengers(1), is sent(1).

Spurgeon commenting on 1Cor 15:9 wrote...

When he looked upon the mercies that God gave to him he always recollected how little he deserved; and when be found himself preaching, oh! with what pathos did he preach to the ungodly, for he could always close up: — “But I obtained mercy, that in me first Christ might show forth all long-suffering as a pattern to them that believe.” Have I a persecutor here? Let him know that his sin is a most damnable sin that will sink him lower into hell than any other; but even for him there is mercy, and abundant pardon; for Paul says he obtained mercy even though he persecuted the church of God.

In his book "Conformed to His Image" Oswald Chambers writes about the "Memory of Sin in the Saint"...

No aspect of Christian life and service is in more need of revision than our attitude to the memory of sin in the saint. When the Apostle Paul said “forgetting those things which are behind,” he was talking not about sin, but about his spiritual attainment. Paul never forgot what he had been; it comes out repeatedly in the Epistles—“For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle” (1Corinthians 15:9); “unto me who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given” (Ephesians 3:8); “. . . sinners, of whom I am chief” (1Timothy 1:15). And these are the utterances of a ripe, glorious servant of God.

If one wants a touchstone for the depth of true spiritual Christianity, one will surely find it in this matter of the memory of sin.

There are those who exhibit a Pharisaic holiness, they thank God with an arrogant offensiveness that they are “not as other men are”; they have forgotten the horrible pit and miry clay from whence they were taken, and their feet set upon a rock through the might of the Atonement.  (Chambers, O. Conformed to His image. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott)

Not (ou) signifies absolute negation and emphasizes how strong Paul feels about not deserving to be an apostle.

Fit (2425) (hikanos [word study] from the root hik- = “to reach [with the hand],” “to attain”, `reaching to', `attaining to'; hence, `adequate') refers to that which reaches or arrives at a certain standard. The primary meaning of hikanos is sufficient, and hence comes to be applied to number and quantity and so means many or enough.

Hikanos has been variously used from the time of the Greek tragic dramatists in the basic sense of adequate (sufficient for a specific requirement), sufficient (enough to meet the needs of a situation or a proposed end), enough (in or to a degree or quantity that satisfies or that is sufficient or necessary for satisfaction), qualified (fitted as by training or experience for a given purpose), competent (having the capacity to function or develop in a particular way) to do a thing or large enough. As illustrated in selections below, the NT usage corresponds to these secular uses.

In the present context Paul uses hikanos to emphasize that he does not meet the standard and therefore in his eyes is in one sense not even qualified to be an apostle. This not an exclamation of false humility, but a confession of true humility which surely gives us a clue as to why this man was so greatly used of the Lord.

Jon Courson writes...

I find it interesting that the longer Paul walked with the Lord, the more he realized how far he was from Him. That’s always the way it is. The Pharisee, praying on the street corner, said, ‘God, I thank Thee, I am not as other men,’ while the true convert beat his breast and said, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner’ (see Lk 18:11, 12, 13).

If you feel less than adequate
for the challenge before you,
for the day facing you, rejoice.

You’re in good company and in the perfect position for the Lord to do something wonderful in and through you. (Courson, J. A Day's Journey: 365 Daily Meditations from the Word)

In a sense every saint could (should) echo Paul's confession of inadequacy for holy, divine tasks, for as he explains in his second epistle to the Corinthians...

Not that we are adequate ("fit", hikanos) in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy (related noun hikanotes = Sufficiency, competency, ability, adequacy, capacity, fitness - state of being qualified for something) is from God, Who also made us adequate (hikanoo - made us sufficient, fit, qualified, competent by placing us in Christ) as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2Cor 3:5,6)

John the Baptist used hikanos declaring...

As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit (hikanos) to remove His sandals (cp "the least of the apostles"); He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Mt 3:11)

Comment: And what did Jesus say of this man who had such a "lowly" opinion of himself? Notice Jesus' "formula" for greatness in the kingdom! Not the world's "formula" to be sure!

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least (mikros - English "microscopic" {Not easily visible! How different from how we often want to be -- which is "seen"! Convicted? I am!}) in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Mt 11:11, Lk 7:28)

David Brainerd a man greatly used of the Lord once wrote...

Much more of true religion consists in deep humility, brokenness of heart and an abasing sense of barrenness and want of grace and holiness than most who are called Christians imagine.

Matthew Henry chimes in remarking that...

Those whom God will employ are first struck with a sense of their unworthiness to be employed.

I like the way John Flavel said it...

They that know God will be humble; they that know themselves cannot be proud.

Thomas Fuller adds that...

There is no true holiness without humility.

God grant us the beatitude of the background,
That only He may be seen!
--Vance Havner

Called (2564)(kaleo from root kal-, whence English “call” and “clamour”) literally means to speak to another in order to attract their attention or to them bring nearer, either physically or in a personal relationship. Kaleo is a major verb in the NT and its specific meaning depends on the the context in which it is used.

Thomas Edwards paraphrases it as "to be known in the capacity of an apostle."

Charles Hodge comments...

Do not even deserve to be called an apostle. See Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16. This deep humility of the apostle, which led him to regard himself as the least of the apostles, was perfectly consistent with the strenuous assertion of his official authority and of his claim to respect and obedience. In 2Corinthians 11:5 and 2Cor 12:11 he says he was “not in the least inferior to the ‘super-apostles,’” and in Galatians 2:6, 7, 8, 9 he claims full equality with James, Peter, and John. God commonly prepares those of his children whom he intends to exalt to posts of honor and power by leading them to such a knowledge of their sinfulness as to keep them constantly abased.

APPLYING THIS SECTION
TO SPIRITUAL WARFARE

Ray Stedman applies the truths of 1Co 15:9, 10 to spiritual warfare noting that...

Paul's background was anti-Christian, and he could never get completely away from that. He had been the most hostile, brutal persecutor the church had ever known. After his conversion to Christ, he doubtless encountered families whose loved ones he had put to death. He was often reminded by people that he was not one of the original twelve apostles, and they continually called his apostleship into question. Writing to the Corinthians about these very matters, he says of himself, "For I am the least of the apostles, and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (1 Corinthians 15:9).

What grounds for discouragement! How easy it would have been for him to say to himself, "What's the use? Here I am working my fingers to the bone, making tents and trying to preach the gospel to these people, and look at the blessing God has brought them but they don't care! They hurl recriminations back in my face! What's the use? Why even try anymore?"

But that is not what he does. The very next verse says, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not without effect" (1Corinthians 15:10). Here we see Paul using the breastplate of righteousness. He says, in effect, "I don't care what I have been. I don't defend what I am. I simply say that, by the grace of God, I am what I am. What I am is what Christ has made me. I'm not standing on my own righteousness I'm standing on His. I am accepted by grace, and my personal situation does not make any difference at all."

So Paul's heart was kept from discouragement. He reminded himself that when he became a Christian he had put on the breastplate of righteousness. He never allowed himself to be discouraged by looking back. He always looked forward, to Christ. (Armed for Battle - from Ray Stedman's online book Spiritual Warfare - Recommended)

PAULINE
PERSECUTION

Persecuted (1377)(dioko [word study] from dío = pursue, prosecute, persecute) means to follow or press hard after, literally to pursue as one does a fleeing enemy. It means to chase, harass, vex and pressure and was used for chasing down criminals. Dioko speaks of an intensity of effort leading to a pursue with earnestness and diligence in order to obtain. To go after with the desire of obtaining. It gives us the picture of going on the track of something like the hounds on the hunt and pursuing after the fox and implying a continuing effort to overtake, reach, or attain the goal.

The secular Greek usage of dioko to describe a hunter eagerly pursuing his prey is an especially poignant picture of Saul's passionate pursuit of the church (see examples below from the Book of Acts)!

In 30 of the 45 NT instances, dioko is used to convey the sense of the intention of doing harm. To hunt down like an animal. To run swiftly after something. To in any way whatever harass, trouble, molest. To carry out physical persecution, to harass, to abuse, to treat unjustly. The following passages convey this meaning - Mt 5:10, 11, 12, Mt 5:44, Mt 10:23, Lk 21:12, Jn 5:16; 15:20; Acts 7:52; 9:4, 5; 22:4,7, 8; 26:14, 15; Ro 12:14; 1Co 4:12; 15:9; 2Co 4:9; Gal 1:13,23; Gal 4:29; Gal 5:11; Php 3:6; 2Ti 3:12; Passive sense  - to be maltreated, suffer persecution on account of something -Gal 6:12 Dioko conveys a sense of urgency and a sense of of intensity of purpose.

Comment: How do we respond to persecution? We remember that suffering persecution is part of what it means---in certain situations at least---to live as a Christian (1Th 3:4; 2Ti 3:12). Like Paul, "when we are persecuted, we endure it" (1Co 4:12). We respond by loving and blessing our persecutors and praying for them (Mt 5:44; Ro 12:14). And through it all, we remember that we are surrounded by the love of Jesus. For no "hardship or persecution (diogmos derived from dioko) or famine or nakedness or danger" will ever be able to separate us "from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ro 8:35, 39). (Richards, L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)

One example of "persecution" that probably looms as the most significant in Paul's life was his presence and tacit approval of the martyrdom of Stephen, which is somewhat ironic because Stephen was the last person until Paul's Damascus Road vision of Jesus, to have seen the glorified, risen Son (Acts 7:55, 56, 57, 58). John MacArthur makes the point that this fact is "a testimony to the power of God’s grace that the man involved in Stephen’s death would be the next to see Jesus Christ."

In the book of Acts Luke records this pivotal instance (and several other examples) of Pauline persecution writing...

And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" And having said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. (Acts 7:59, 60, 8:1)

Comment: Notice Stephen's prayer -- is not Paul's miraculous, grace driven, mercy filled conversion in Acts 9 at least in part an answer to Stephen's Spirit empowered prayer in Acts 7:60!

And all those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, "Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?" (Acts 9:21)

"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you all are today. 4 "And I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, 5 as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished. (Acts 22:3, 4, 5 = followed by the Damascus Road encounter = Acts 22:6, 7-8, 9-10, 11, 12-13, 14,15)

(Paul recounting some of the details of his Damascus Road encounter with Jesus) And I said, 'Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in Thee. And when the blood of Thy witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving (consenting, giving hearty approval), and watching out for the cloaks of those who were slaying (murdering) him.' "And He said to me, 'Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'" (Acts 22:19, 20, 21)

Paul alludes to his persecution of the church in his letter to the Galatians...

For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure (Gk = hyperbole = an extraordinary or extreme degree), and tried to destroy (Gk = portheo = ravage) it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother's womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood...23 but only, they kept hearing, "He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy." (Gal 1:13, 14, 15, 16, 23)

(Paul explaining why he might put confidence in the flesh explained that in the past he had been) as to zeal (zelos from zeo = to seethe, boil, to be fiery hot = this helps picture the intensity of Paul against Christians and Christ), a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. (Philippians 3:6)

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened (endunamoo) me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor (hubristes - see comment below). Yet (What a dramatic contrast) I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace (truly undeserved favor in this context) of our Lord was more than abundant (superabound, be exceedingly abundant), with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. (1Ti 1:12-14)

Comment: The Greek for "violent aggressor" helps paint a "pre-Christ" picture of Paul. Hubristes was used by the ancient Greeks (Homer) to describe "an insolent man, `one who, uplifted with pride, either heaps insulting language upon others or does them some shameful act of wrong'" Friberg adds that hubristes means a "violent aggressor, especially of one who takes a superior attitude and mistreats others out of his own revolt against God's revelation of truth". Moulton and Milligan say this word "emphasizes the element of outrageous disregard of other men’s rights". Wiersbe comments on hubristes noting that "A modern equivalent might be "bully." It conveys the idea of a haughty man "throwing his weight around" in violence."

Charles Hodge writes that...

The forgiveness of sin does not obliterate the memory of it; nor does it remove the sense of unworthiness and ill-desert.

Ed comment: While this may be true we do well to continually sing the old hymn to remind ourselves of the breadth and length and height and depth of God's forever forgiveness to us because of the blood of His Son shed on our behalf...

Nothing but the Blood
by Robert Lowry

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing—but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Church (1577)(ekklesia from ek = out + klesis = a calling, verb = kaleo = to call) literally means called out (but see note by Louw-Nida below) and as commonly used in the Greco-Roman vernacular referred to citizens who were called out from their homes to be publicly assembled or gathered to discuss or carry out affairs of state. Wuest writes that "The word assembly is a good one-word translation of ekklesia."

Church - English word - derived from Middle English chirche, from Old English cirice, ultimately from Late Greek kyriakon (doma - house) = a temple of God, from Greek neuter of kyriakos = of the Lord or pertaining to the Lord from kyrios lord, master.


Related Resources
on "Church"

Multiple Bible Dictionary Discussions
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
Ecclesiology: The Church - Greg Herrick

Smith's Bible Dictionary notes that...

The day of Pentecost is the birthday of the Christian church. Before they had been individual followers Jesus; now they became his mystical body, animated by his spirit.

As with all Greek word studies, the meaning of the word in a specific passage is critically dependent upon examination of the context. This basic principle is applied in this discussion and accounts for several different nuances of ekklesia in the summary below (note). As Easton's Bible Dictionary says...

In the New Testament it is the translation of the Greek word ecclesia, which is synonymous with the Hebrew qahal of the Old Testament, both words meaning simply an assembly, the character of which can only be known from the connection in which the word is found (Ed: In other words, context is critical in order to understand the meaning/nuance of each specific use of ekklesia).

Louw and Nida adds that...

Though some persons have tried to see in the term ekklesia a more or less literal meaning of ‘called-out ones,’ this type of etymologizing is not warranted either by the meaning of ekklesia in NT times or even by its earlier usage. The term ekklesia was in common usage for several hundred years before the Christian era and was used to refer to an assembly of persons constituted by well-defined membership. In general Greek usage it was normally a socio-political entity based upon citizenship in a city-state and in this sense is parallel to demos (a group of citizens assembled for socio-political activities). For the NT, however, it is important to understand the meaning of ekklesia as ‘an assembly of God’s people.’ (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. United Bible societies or Wordsearch)

In summary, Louw and Nida says that strictly speaking the etymology of "ekklesia" is not "called out ones" but was used of an assembly (composed not necessarily of "called out ones"). That said, when we come to the usual NT meaning of ekklesia, the church, it cannot be a "coincidence" that the body of Christ, the church, is composed solely of men and women "called out" by God. To be sure local assemblies of believers ("local churches") seldom if ever are 100% believers and thus "called out ones" is strictly speaking not be an accurate designation. So while etymologically inaccurate, "called out ones" is theologically accurate for the true church which is the body of Christ.

 A BETTER TERM:
BODY OF CHRIST

A key identifying characteristic of the Church is Holy Spirit baptism (1 Cor. 12:13) which is the event that forms the Body of Christ which is actually a better designation for the world-wide body of believers than the term 'church.' To reiterate, the Greek ekklesia (most often translated 'church') merely means a gathering or group of people. Ekklesia can even describe nonbelievers and thus is not a precise technical term. In short, ekklesia can appear in contexts which have nothing to do with the baptizing work of the Spirit which defines the Body of Christ, an entity which did not exist prior to Pentecost.

Here are some other indicators that the Body of Christ, the Church did not exist in the Old Testament:  (1) Jesus Himself indicated that 'on this rock I will build my Church' (future tense, Mt. 16:18). (2.) Peter referred to the arrival of the Holy Spirit as the 'the beginning' (Acts 11:15). (3) James referred to the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles (Acts 10:45) as 'at the first' (Acts 15:14). (4) The joining of Gentiles and Jews into the same body is described as a 'mystery' which was not made know previously to the sons of men (Eph. 3:4-7; Col. 1:26-27). (5) In the OT when Gentiles joined Israel they became Jewish proselytes, whereas in the NT,  the barrier between Jews and Gentiles (the Law of Moses) was removed 'in Christ' and God created a new spiritual organism, the 'one new man' (Eph. 2:15), which has no counterpart in the the Old Testament.

The New Unger Bible Dictionary lists seven metaphors that set forth the relationship between Christ and His Church...

Relation Between Christ and the Church. Seven NT figures set forth this relation: (1) the Shepherd and the Sheep (John 10); (2) the Vine and the Branches (John 15); (3) the Cornerstone and the Stones of the Building (1 Cor. 3:9; Eph. 2:19–22; 1 Pet. 2:5); (4) High Priest and the Kingdom of Priests (Heb. 5:1–10; 6:13–8:6; 1 Pet. 2:5–9; Rev. 1:6); (5) the Head and the Many-Membered Body (1 Cor. 12:12–13, 27; Eph. 4:4); (6) the Last Adam and the New Creation (1 Cor. 15:22, 45; 2 Cor. 5:17); (7) the Bridegroom and the Bride (John 3:29; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25–33; Rev. 19:7–8).

Here are the definitions of ekklesia...

(1) In Secular Greek usage ekklesia = a body of citizens “gathered” to discuss the affairs of state

Zodhiates:  (Ekklesia) was a common (secular) term for a congregation of the ekklētoí (n.f.), the called people, or those called out or assembled in the public affairs of a free state, the body of free citizens called together by a herald (kerux]) which constituted the ekklēsia.

NIDNTT = Ekklesia, centuries before the translation of the OT and the time of the NT, was clearly characterized as a political phenomenon, repeated according to certain rules and within a certain framework. It was the assembly of full citizens, functionally rooted in the constitution of the democracy, an assembly in which fundamental political and judicial decisions were taken. The scope of its competence varied in the different states....

What is noteworthy, however, is that the word ekklēsia, throughout the Greek and Hellenistic areas, always retained its reference to the assembly of the polis (city). In only three exceptional cases was it used for the business meeting of a cultic guild....Otherwise it was never used for guilds or religious fellowships. These were referred to by such expressions as thiasos, cultic assembly to worship a god; eranos, literally a contract of partnership....however, none of these words found its way into the NT. (Brown, Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan  or Computer version)

(2) In the Septuagint (LXX) - Ekklesia occurs in the Septuagint (Lxx) (Greek translation of the OT) about 77 times and is used most often to translate the Hebrew noun qāhāl (06951) (from qāhal = to gather or assemble) which conveys the idea of assembling without regard to purpose and depending on the context can refer to an assembly, company, congregation, multitude. Qāhāl describes various gatherings and assemblies called together - for evil purposes (Ps 26:5,- Lxx = ekklesia), for worship (Ps 22:22 - Lxx = ekklesia), for war (Jdg 20:2 - Lxx = ekklesia; David before Israel's army before he slew Goliath - 1Sa 17:46 - Lxx = ekklesia), description of an assembly of exiles (Ezra 2:64, Neh 7:66 - Lxx = ekklesia), assembly of Israel gathered at Mt Sinai to hear the LORD's commandments (Dt 9:10 - Lxx = ekklesia), assembly called for worship (2Chr 30:25 - Lxx = ekklesia used twice), description of Israel gathered at Solomon's dedication of God's Temple  (1Ki 8:14 - Lxx = ekklesia)

The other Hebrew word for assembly or congregation is 'edah  (05712) which Septuagint never translates with ekklesia. Instead 'edah is is translated with the Greek noun synagoge 127/145 occurrences. Note that some of the the Scriptural uses of qāhāl are also translated with synagoge (E.g., Ge 35:11, 28:3, Nu 20:4, assembly on the Day of Atonement in Lev 16:17)

Ekklesia - 77 uses in the non-apocryphal LXX - Dt 4:10; 9:10; 18:16; 23:2, 3, 4, 9; 31:30; Josh 9:2; Jdg 20:2; 21:5, 8; 1Sa 17:47; 19:20; 1Kgs 8:14, 22, 55, 65; 1Chr 13:2, 4; 28:2, 8; 29:1, 10, 20; 2Chr 1:3, 5; 6:3, 12f; 7:8; 10:3; 20:5, 14; 23:3; 28:14; 29:23, 28, 31f; 30:2, 4, 13, 17, 23, 24, 25; Ezra 2:64; 10:1, 8, 12, 14; Neh 5:7, 13; 7:66; 8:2, 17; 13:1; Ps 21:23, 26; 25:5, 12; 34:18; 39:10; 67:27; 88:6; 106:32; 149:1; Pr 5:14; Job 30:28; Mic 2:5; Joel 2:16; Lam 1:10

(3) In the NT ekklesia has at least 4 nuances of meaning depending on the context...

(a) A body of citizens “gathered” to discuss the affairs of state - Acts 19:39

(b) A tumultuous gathering, i.e., a riotous mob - Acts 19:32, 41

(c) Used by Luke in Acts 7:38 where the intended meaning is not "church" but an assembly of Israel. It is therefore not surprising, that most Bible translations (other than the Acts 7:38KJV) avoid translating ekklesia here as "church".

Comment: Note that the gathering of the Jews in the NT is most often termed "Sunagoge/synagoge" (G4864) from sun = together or with + ago = to bring - literally "a bringing together". Luke's use of ekklesia to describe the OT assembly of Israel does not support the teaching by some that the "church" was mentioned in the OT. It was not! In fact it was a mystery only revealed in the NT. One should be wary of commentaries and systematic theology books that take the liberty of seeing the "church" in OT passages that specifically (clearly from the context) refer to the nation or people of Israel. This is not saying that ekklesia was not used in the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for "assembly," because it was used many times (See Definition #2 Above). However, the uses of ekklesia in the Lxx are not evidence that the "church" as it is defined by the NT writings of Luke and Paul was present in the OT.

Mounce comments that: "the prototype of the NT ekklēsia lies not in Greco-Roman history but in the assembly of God’s people in the OT (cf. Acts 7:38), which developed into the Jewish synagogue as the gathering of the community of God. In these gatherings the great stories of salvation history were regularly rehearsed and the wonderful promises of God to Israel recounted (cf. Nu 14:7, 8, 9). But while the ekklēsia may find its roots in the synagogue, it is not a subset of it but becomes the new term used for the gathering of various groups of Christian believers...The apostle sees the church as a new race, which he lists it alongside Jews and Greeks in 1Co 10:32; it is sufficiently equipped with leadership and gifts to fulfill God’s purposes on earth (1Co 12:28); and it is the avenue through which the wisdom of God is made known (Ep 1:22). (Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan or Computer version)

(d) A specific congregation of believers in Christ  (1Co 1:2, Ro 16:16, Acts 20:28; 1Co 1:2; Gal. 1:13; 1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:1; 1Ti 3:5) Note that at least 92 uses of ekklesia refer to a local congregation.

Specific phrase "church of God" - 8x - Acts 20:28; 1Cor 1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2Cor 1:1; Gal 1:13; 1Ti 3:5. This phrase signifies that the church belongs to God and comes from God. "Church of the living God" - 1Ti 3:15

Specific locations - "Church of the Laodiceans" - Col 4:16, "Church of the Thessalonians" - 1Th 1:1, 2Th 1:1; In Jerusalem

Hebrews 12:23 "church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven" -

Christ is Head of church = Eph 1:22,23-note Eph 4:14-note Eph 5:23-note Col 1:18-note

Church = Christ's body - Col 1:24-note

(e) All congregations of believers, the whole Body of Christ, "the whole company of the redeemed throughout the present era" (Vine) (Mt 16:18, Christ's "body" = Ep 1:22; Ep 5:23)

Norman Geisler: In the New Testament, ekklesia came to refer to an assembly of believers, namely, followers of Jesus. The term church as used in this volume refers to the New Testament church founded by Jesus Christ; that is, an assembly of believers joined to Christ’s spiritual body by the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 12:13) at the moment of regeneration (Titus 3:3–6), when they individually place their faith in the Lord Jesus as their Savior (Acts 16:31). If still on earth, they should be part of a local body of believers meeting regularly (Heb. 10:25) for edification (Eph. 4:12), worship (John 4:24), and participation in the ordinances. To this group Paul addressed most of his epistles, such as, for example, “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1Cor 1:2NKJV) (Systematic Theology, Volume four: Church, Last Things)

Barclay: In essence...the Church, the ekklesia, is a body of people, not so much assembling because they have chosen to come together but assembling because God has called them to Himself; not so much assembling to share their own thoughts and opinions, but assembling to listen to the voice of God. (Ibid)

Wayne Grudem's definition of the church: "The church is the community of all true believers for all time. This definition understands the church to be made of all those who are truly saved."  (Grudem, W: Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. IVP; Zondervan, 1994 or Logos or Wordsearch)

Ed comment: I personally strongly disagree with this "definition" which ignores the fact that the "church" came into being at Pentecost when the Jewish believers were baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit's permanent presence. The Spirit did not indwell OT believers permanently. Grudem's definition does not take this significant difference into account but rather seems to minimize the importance of the vital need of the Holy Spirit in the supernatural work of the New Testament Church. However if Grudem intends the meaning of ekklesia to indicate an "assembly," I would agree with him, for indeed all believers will one day be present together in a glorious assembly around the Throne of God! For example, John describes an assembly of believers singing Hallelujah choruses...

After these things I heard, as it were, a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God...And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude and as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns." (Revelation 19:1, 19:6-note)

Grudem says "there are several indications in the Old Testament (Italics his for emphasis) that God thought of His people as a 'church." (Page 853) Grudem then goes on to defend this clearly suppositional statement with the fact that the Lxx uses "ekklesiazo" in Dt 4:10 (Ekklesiazo is the verb form of ekklesia and is a verb not even found in the NT! Furthermore, ekklesiazo is used in Dt 31:28 in a different context, meaning "to assemble" all the elders, not all of Israel!) to translate the Hebrew verb (qahal) meaning to gather. To say that by using ekklesiazo God was implying that Israel was (or is) the church is taking the Hebrew and Greek words both out of context, because clearly even in the NT ekklesia is not always used in a context which would allow it to be translated "church." This is highly questionable hermeneutics in my opinion and blurs the distinctions between an Old Testament assembly of Israel composed solely of Jews (many of whom were unregenerate!) and the New Testament assembly composed of regenerate Jews (and later regenerate Gentiles).

As an aside, I think Dr Grudem's Systematic Theology is one of the better works of its genre available, but as with all "resources" [including the one you are reading] the wise reader is encouraged to read with a Berean-like mindset (Acts 17:11-note)

It is worth noting that  the New Testament never uses ekklesia to describe a building but describes a Body of men and women who have given their hearts to Jesus the Head of the Body.  We often hear it said that the church is not an organization but an organism.

Morton H Smith has an interesting note on the etymology of the English word "church"...

The English word “church”, the Saxon word “circe”, the Scottish “kirk”, and the German “kirche” are all probably derived from the Greek kuriakos  as used in some such phrase as kuriake oikia  or kuriakon doma , meaning “the Lord’s house”. This derivation is believed to have come through the Goths, who used Greek names for Christian terms. This English word “church” is used to translate the Greek ekklesia  in the New Testament. Thus we have the interesting phenomenon of an English word that has been derived from one Greek word to translate an entirely different Greek term. (Systematic Theology, Volume One : Prolegomena, Theology, Anthropology, Christology)

MacArthur...

The church is the bride of Christ; the branches of the Vine; the flock of the Good Shepherd; the kingdom of God’s dear Son; God’s household, consisting of His adopted children; a spiritual temple, of which Jesus Christ is the cornerstone; but, uniquely, the body of Christ.

William Barclay emphasizes that ekklesia (as used by Jesus in Mt 16:18)

It was not a Church in the human sense, still less a Church in a denominational sense, that began with Peter. What began with Peter was the fellowship of all believers in Jesus Christ, not identified with any Church and not limited to any Church, but embracing all who love the Lord....

In Athens the ekklesia was the governing body of the city; and its membership consisted of all the citizens met in assembly. But, very naturally, at no time did all attend. The summons went out to come to the Assembly (ekklesia) of the City, but only some citizens answered it and came. God’s call has gone out to every man; but only some have accepted it; and they are the ekklesia, the Church. It is not that God has been selective. The invitation comes to all; but to an invitation there must be a response (Ed Comment: See related studies on Calling = klesis and Called = kletos). (Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible Series. The Westminster Press or Logos)
 

William Barclay has an interesting note that...

In NT times the Church had no buildings. Christians met in any house which had a room large enough to accommodate them. These gatherings were called `house-churches' (Ro 16.5; 1Co 16.19; Col 4.15; Philemon 1:2). Every home ought to be in a real sense a Church. Jesus is Lord of the dinner table as he is Lord of the Communion table. And it will always be true that they pray best together who first pray alone. (Barclay, William: New Testament Words:. Westminster John Know Press, 1964)

Ekklesia - 114x in 111v in NAS -

Matthew 16:18; 18:17 (The only 2 uses in the Gospels);

Acts 5:11; Acts 7:38; 8:1, 3; 9:31; 11:22, 26; 12:1, 5; 13:1; 14:23, 27; 15:3, 4, 22, 41; 16:5; 18:22; 19:32, 39, 40; 20:17, 28;

Romans 16:1, 4-
note, Ro 16:5-note, Ro 16:16-note, Ro 16:23-note;

1Corinthians 1:2; 1Cor 4:17; 6:4; 7:17; 10:32; 11:16, 18, 22; 12:28; 14:4, 5, 12, 19, 23, 28, 33, 34, 35; 15:9; 16:1, 19; 2Co 1:1; 8:1, 18, 19, 23, 24; 11:8, 28; 12:13;

Galatians 1:2, 13, 22; Ep 1:22-
note; Ep 3:10-note, Ep 3:21-note; Ep 5:23, 24-note, Ep 5:25, 27-note, Ep 5:29-note, Ep 5:32-note; Php 3:6-note; Php 4:15-note; Col 1:18-note, Col 1:24-note; Col 4:15, 16-note; 1Th 1:1-note; 1Th 2:14-note; 2Th 1:1, 4; 1Ti 3:5, 15; 5:16; Philemon 1:2;

Hebrews 2:12-
note; He 12:23-note;

James 5:14;

3Jn 1:6, 9, 10;

Revelation 1:4-
note, Re 1:11-note, Re 1:20-note; Re 2:1-note, Re 2:7-note, Re 2:8-note, Re 2:11-note, Re 2:12-note, Re 2:17-note, Re 2:18-note, Re 2:23-note, Re 2:29-note; Re 3:1-note, Re 3:6-note, Re 3:7-note, Re 3:13-note, Re 3:14-note, Re 3:22-note; Re 22:16-note

Below are the 114 uses of ekklesia in the NT. NAS translates ekklesia = assembly(3), church(74), churches(35), congregation(2).
 

Matthew 16:18 "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

 

Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary: In the four gospels of the New Testament, the term “church” is found only in Matthew 16:18 and 18:17. This scarcity of usage in those books that report on the life and ministry of Jesus is perhaps best explained by the fact that the church as the body of Christ did not begin until the day of Pentecost after the Ascension of Jesus (Acts 2:1–4). That the church began on the day of Pentecost may be demonstrated in various ways: (1) Christ Himself declared the church to be yet future (Matt. 16:18) (Ed: Co Jesus prophetic promise to the Apostles in Acts 1:5); (2) it was founded upon the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, and such an accomplished fact was not possible until Pentecost (Eph. 1:15–23); (3) there could be no church until it was fully purchased with Christ’s blood (Eph. 2:13).


Matthew 18:17 "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.


Acts 5:11 And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.


Acts 7:38 "This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you.


Acts 8:1 Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles...3 But Saul began ravaging the church (not a specific house church but the "church" of Jesus Christ in general), entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.


Acts 9:31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.


Acts 11:22 The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch.


Acts 11:26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.


Acts 12:1 Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them.


Acts 12:5 So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.


Acts 13:1 Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.


Acts 14:23 When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.


Acts 14:27 When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.


Acts 15:3 Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren.


Acts 15:4 When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.


Acts 15:22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas-- Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren,


Acts 15:41 And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.


Acts 16:5 So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.


Acts 18:22 When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and went down to Antioch.


Acts 19:32 So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together.

 

Acts 19:39 "But if you want anything beyond this, it shall be settled in the lawful assembly.


Acts 19:40 "For indeed we are in danger of being accused of a riot in connection with today's events, since there is no real cause for it, and in this connection we will be unable to account for this disorderly gathering."


Acts 20:17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church.


Acts 20:28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
 

Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.

 

Romans 16:4 who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; 5 also greet the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia.


Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.


Romans 16:23 Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother.


1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:


1 Corinthians 4:17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.


1 Corinthians 6:4 So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?


1 Corinthians 7:17 Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches.


1 Corinthians 10:32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;


1 Corinthians 11:16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God....18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it....22 What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.


1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.


1 Corinthians 14:4 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.


1 Corinthians 14:12 So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.


1 Corinthians 14:19 however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.


1 Corinthians 14:23 Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?


1 Corinthians 14:28 but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.


1 Corinthians 14:33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.


1 Corinthians 14:34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.


1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.


1 Corinthians 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.


1 Corinthians 16:19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.


2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia:


2 Corinthians 8:1 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia,


2 Corinthians 8:18 We have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches; 19 and not only this, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work, which is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself, and to show our readiness,


2 Corinthians 8:23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ. 24 Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.


2 Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you;


2 Corinthians 8:28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.


2 Corinthians 12:13 For in what respect were you treated as inferior to the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not become a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!


Galatians 1:2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:


2 Corinthians 12:13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it;


2 Corinthians 12:22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ;


Ephesians 1:22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,

 

Vance Havner: What the world needs is neither a Christless churchianity nor a churchless Christianity, but Christ the Head living afresh in his body, the church.

 

R B Kuiper: The church was originated not only by Christ, but also from Him, and cannot continue to exist for even a moment apart from Him.

 

The church's one foundation Is Jesus Christ her Lord;

She is his new creation By water and the Word;

From heaven he came and sought her

To be his holy bride; With his own blood he bought her,

And for her life he died.
-Samuel John Stone


Ephesians 3:10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.


Ephesians 3:21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.


Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.


Ephesians 5:24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.


Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,


Ephesians 5:27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.


Ephesians 5:29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,


Ephesians 5:32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.


Philippians 3:6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.


Philippians 4:15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone;


Colossians 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.


Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.


Colossians 4:15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house.


Colossians 4:16 When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.


1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.


1 Thessalonians 2:14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews,


2 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:


2Thessalonians 1:4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.


1 Timothy 3:5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),


1 Timothy 3:15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.


1 Timothy 5:16 If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.


Philemon 1:2 and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:


Hebrews 2:12 saying, "I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN, IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING YOUR PRAISE."


Hebrews 12:23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,


James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;


3 John 1:6 and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.


3 John 1:9 I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. 10 For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.


Revelation 1:4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,


Revelation 1:11 saying, "Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea."


Revelation 1:20 "As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.


Revelation 2:1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:


Revelation 2:7 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.'

 

Revelation 2:8 "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:


Revelation 2:11 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.'

 

Revelation 2:12 "And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:


Revelation 2:17 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.'

 

Revelation 2:18 "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:


Revelation 2:23 'And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.


Revelation 2:29 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'


Revelation 3:1 "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.


Revelation 3:6 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

 

Revelation 3:7 "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:


Revelation 3:13 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

 

 Revelation 3:14 "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:


Revelation 3:22 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'"


Revelation 22:16 "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."

Four observations related to the 114 uses of ekklesia - [1] Only in Matthew, [2] Book of Acts lays foundation for the ekklesia - birth, structure, early practices [3] Ekklesia then become primarily a "Pauline" word [4] No mention of church in Revelation from chapter 4-19 where "Bride" of Christ is mentioned in heaven [Re 19:7-note]. Why is the church not mentioned even one time during the greatest outpouring of God's wrath the world will ever experience - the time of God's Seal, Trumpet and Bowl judgments?

Some teach Gal 6:16 refers to the "church" - See discussion of the  Israel of God and the question Is God "Finished" with Israel in His prophetic plan?

Kenneth Wuest summarizes ekklesia...

The word ekklesia appears in the Greek text where this word (church) is found in the translations. Ekklesia comes from kaleō “to call,” and ek “out from.” The compound verb means “to call out from.”

In classical Greek ekklesia referred to an assembly of the citizens summoned by the town crier. It is used in Acts 19:32-41 in its purely classical meaning. The town clerk dismissed the citizens who had been gathered together by the craftsmen of Ephesus.

In its every other occurrence, it is translated “church,” the church being looked upon as a called-out body of people, called out of the world of unsaved humanity to become the people of God. The word refers either to the Mystical Body of Christ made up of saved individuals only (Ephesians), or to the local churches, as for instance Ro 16:5; Gal. 1:2. It refers to the invisible Church...not to the visible, organized Church on earth.

The genius of the word points to the fact that in the mind of God, the Church of Jesus Christ is a called-out group of people, separated out from the world to be a people that should maintain their separation from the world out of which they have been called. (Wuest, K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans or Logos or Wordsearch)

William Barclay gives some historical background on ekklesia...

Ekklesia is the NT word for 'church', and is, therefore, one of the most important of all NT words. Like so many NT words it has a double background.

(i) Ekklesia has a Greek background. In the great classical days in Athens the ekklesia was the convened assembly of the people. It consisted of all the citizens of the city who had not lost their civic rights. Apart from the fact that its decisions must conform to the laws of the State, its powers were to all intents and purposes unlimited. It elected and dismissed magistrates and directed the policy of the city. It declared war, made peace, contracted treaties and arranged alliances. It elected generals and other military officers. It assigned troops to different campaigns and dispatched them from the city. It was ultimately responsible for the conduct of all military operations. It raised and allocated funds. Two things are interesting to note. First, all its meetings began with prayer and sacrifice. Second, it was a true democracy. Its two great watchwords were 'equality' (isonomia) and 'freedom' (eleutheria). It was an assembly where everyone had an equal right and an equal duty to take part. When a case involving the right of any private citizen was before it—as in the case of ostracism or banishment—at least 6,000 citizens must be present.

In the wider Greek world ekklesia came to mean any duly convened assembly of citizens. It is interesting to note that the Roman world did not even try to translate the word ekklesia; it simply transliterated it into ecclesia (English - "ecclesiology", "ecclesiastical") and used it in the same way. There is an interesting bilingual inscription found in Athens (dated A.D. 103-4). It can be read against the background of Acts 18. A certain Caius Vibius Salutaris had presented to the city an image of Diana and other images. The inscription lays it down that they are to be set up on their pedestals at every ekklesia of the city in the theatre. To Greek and Roman alike the word was familiar in the sense of a convened assembly. So, then, when we look at it against this background, as Deissmann puts it, the Church was God's assembly, God's muster, and the convener is God.

(ii) Ekklesia has a Hebrew background. In the Septuagint it translates the Hebrew word gahal, which again comes from a root which means 'to summon'. It is regularly used for the 'assembly' or the 'congregation' of the people of Israel. In Dt. 18.16; Jdg. 20.2, it is translated 'assembly'; and in 1Ki 8.14; Lev 10.17; Nu 1.16. it is translated 'congregation'. It is very common in the Septuagint, occurring over 70 times. In the Hebrew sense it, therefore, means God's people called together by God, in order to listen to or to act for God.
(Barclay, William: New Testament Words:. Westminster John Know Press, 1964)

Marvin Vincent summarizes "church" in his notes on Mt 16:18...

Church (ekklesia), ek, out, kaleo, to call or summon. This (Mt 16:18) is the first occurrence of this word in the New Testament. Originally an assembly of citizens, regularly summoned. So in New Testament, Acts 19:39. The Septuagint uses the word for the congregation of Israel, either as summoned for a definite purpose (1Ki 8:65), or for the community of Israel collectively, regarded as a congregation (Ge 28:3), where assembly is given for multitude in margin. In New Testament, of the congregation of Israel (Acts 7:38); but for this there is more commonly employed sunagoge, of which synagogue is a transcription; sun, together, ago, to bring (Acts 13:43). In Christ’s words to Peter the word ekklesia acquires special emphasis from the opposition implied in it to the synagogue. The Christian community in the midst of Israel would be designated as ekklesia, without being confounded with the sunagoge, the Jewish community. See Acts 5:11; 8:1; 12:1; 14:23, 27, etc. Nevertheless sunagoge is applied to a Christian assembly in James 2:2, while episunagoge (gathering or assembling together) is found in 2Th 2:1; He 10:25.

Both in Hebrew and in New Testament usage ekklesia implies more than a collective or national unity; rather a community based on a special religious idea and established in a special way. In the New Testament the term is used also in the narrower sense of a single church, or a church confined to a particular place. So of the church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla (Ro 16:5); the church at Corinth, the churches in Judea, the church at Jerusalem, etc.
 

A Few Devotionals on "Church"

The Boat - Our Daily Bread

A Well Church - Our Daily Bread

The Church Indestructible - Our Daily Bread

What's A Church For - Our Daily Bread

Smiling In Church - Our Daily Bread

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Paul's Estimate
of Himself

James Smith on Paul's estimate of himself (James Smith, "The Pastor's Morning Visit") - "I am nothing!" 2 Corinthians 12:11 - This was Paul's estimate of himself: "less than the least of all saints," and "the chief of sinners."

The more we know of ourselves and of Jesus—
the more shall we be humbled in the dust before Him;
and the lower we lie before Him,
and the happier and holier we shall be.

Sinful MAN will, MUST be something—
this is both his pride and his misery.
The Christian is willing to be nothing—
that Christ may be all in all.

If we daily felt that we are nothing—how many mortifications we would be spared; what admiring views of the grace of God would fill and sanctify our souls!

Apart from Christ—we are less than nothing; but in Christ—we are something!

We are empty—but He fills us!

We are naked—but He clothes us!

We are helpless—but He strengthens us!

We are lost—but He finds us!

We are ruined—but He saves us!

We are poor—but He supplies us!

All that we are—is by Christ!

All that we have—is from Christ!

All that all we shall be—is through Christ!

Christian, you are nothing! Therefore beware of thinking too highly of yourself; or imagining that you deserve more than you receive—either from God or men.

Humble souls are soon satisfied.

O could I lose myself in Thee,
Your depth of mercy prove,
O vast unfathomable sea
Of unexhausted love!
I loathe myself when God I see,
Content if Christ exalted be!

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Have you lost the amazement
over the fact that God has forgiven you?

Tozer writes...

For I am the least of the apostles… But by the grace of God I am what I am.… 1 Corinthians 15:9, 10

Every humble and devoted believer in Jesus Christ must have his own periods of wonder and amazement at this mystery of godliness—the willingness of the Son of Man to take our place in judgment so that the people of God could be a cleansed and spiritual people! If the amazement has all gone out of it, something is wrong, and you need to have the stony ground broken up again!

The Apostle Paul, one of the holiest men who ever lived, was not ashamed of his times of remembrance and wonder over the grace and kindness of God. He knew that God did not hold his old sins against him forever!

Knowing the old account was all settled, Paul’s happy heart assured him again and again that all was well. He could only shake his head in amazement and confess: “I am unworthy to be called, but by His grace, I am a new creation in Jesus Christ!”

I make this point about the faith and assurance and rejoicing of Paul in order to say that

if that humble sense of perpetual penance
ever leaves our justified being,
we are on the way to backsliding!

(Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B.. Renewed day by day : A daily devotional)

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Responsibility - When God confronted Adam for eating from the forbidden tree, Adam blamed Eve (Gen. 3:12). Ever since then, people have tried to avoid taking responsibility for their actions by shifting the blame to others or to circumstances beyond their control.

Today the art of blaming others has reached new levels. In a television interview a high-ranking government official said that pro-life advocates are ultimately responsible for the 1.6 million abortions that occur annually in the United States. He argued that if those who oppose abortion would simply volunteer to take the babies into their homes, mothers wouldn’t have to abort them.

If you follow this line of reasoning, the woman who chooses to have an abortion because a baby would inconvenience her life is not responsible for the death of her child. The unwritten rule seems to be: “Never blame offenders for their wrongs. Those responsible are the people who want to punish them for their crimes.” How contrary to the Scriptures, which teach that God holds each of us accountable for what we do!

The apostle Paul showed us how we should respond. He admitted the awfulness of his sin, and he recognized how gracious God had been to him (1 Cor. 15:9-10). --Herbert Vander Lugt

Thank You, Lord, for giving us a mind and the ability to choose between right and wrong, truth and falsehood. Help us to accept responsibility and seek Your forgiveness when we make the wrong choices.

If you make an excuse for sin, your sin will not be excused.

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A W Tozer...

Man’s very human habit of trusting in himself is generally the last great obstacle blocking his pathway to victory in Christian experience.

Even the Apostle Paul, writing in his New Testament letters, confessed that his confidence in God was in completely opposite ratio to his confidence in himself. Paul made it very plain that it was only after giving up the last inclination to trust in himself that he became immersed in the sufficiency of Christ.

We can learn much from the experiences of Paul and the humility of his testimony, “For I know that in me … dwelleth no good thing” (Ro 7:18a). He had discovered that to be fully surrendered to God and the will of God meant that first he must come to an entire and radical distrust of himself.

After he became willing to look within his own being, Paul had no further confidence in himself and couldn’t say enough against himself. But when he went forth before men in the compulsion of ministry for Christ, he seemed to stand sure with a great cosmic confidence because he had met God and could honestly declare that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2Co 4:7).

Paul was being continually thrown into spiritual combat as he moved forward in his declaration of Jesus as Christ and Lord. He knew the blessing and the power of operating from a position of strength—the fact that he held no illusions about himself and depended completely upon the Spirit of God.

“By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10a), he said. “I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle” (1 Corinthians 15:9a), he wrote. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15), he acknowledged.

This all adds up to a startling statement of truth held not only by Paul but by all of the great saints who have done exploits for God. They would all remind us that those who insist on trusting human self will never obtain the desired victory in spiritual combat, for they will presume vainly in their own strength!

To become effective men of God, then, we must know and acknowledge that every grace and every virtue proceeds from God alone, and that not even a good thought can come from us except it be of Him.

(Tozer, A. W. I talk back to the devil: Straightforward appeals for Christlike living)

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Gracegems on the path that leads us to learn of our own nothingness...

And what a lesson is this to acquire! For a child of God, not to confess merely- for nothing is easier than confession-

but to feel his nothingness;
to be conscious that he is the "least of all saints;"
to be willing to be thought so;
to feel no repining at being over-looked-
cast in the shade yes, trampled under foot-
O what an attainment is this!

And yet, how few reach it! how few aspire after it! It is to be learned only in the path of sanctified affliction. Other discipline may mortify, but not humble the pride of the heart- it may wound, but not crucify it. Affliction sanctified by the Spirit of God lays the soul in the dust; gives it low thoughts of itself. Gifts, attainments, successful labors, the applause of men, all conspire the ruin of a child of God; and, but for the prompt, and often severe, discipline of an ever-watchful, ever-faithful God, would accomplish their end. But the affliction comes- the needed cross- the required medicine- and in this way are brought out "the peaceable fruits of righteousness"- the most beautiful and precious of which is, a humble, lowly view of self.  (The Tried Believer Comforted)

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J C Philpot on Paul's highest attainment...

"Though I am nothing." 2Corinthians 12:11

This was Paul's highest attainment in the knowledge of self. To be a daily pauper living on alms is humbling to proud nature, which is always seeking to be something, and to do something. If this self-nothingness was wrought in us, we would be spared much pain, in wounded pride. People are building up religion all over the country, but there is not one of a thousand who has yet learned the first lesson—to be nothing. Of all this noisy crowd, how few lie at Jesus' feet, helpless and hopeless, and find help and hope in Him! If you can venture to be nothing, it will save you a world of anxiety and trouble! But proud, vain, conceited flesh wants to be something—to preach well, to make a name for one's self, and be admired as a preacher.

"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief."
"[I am] less than the least of all the saints."
(RICHES OF PHILPOT)

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Puritan Thomas Brooks in answer to the question "what is that sorrow or mourning for sin, which is a part of true repentance?" has several points one of which relates to Paul's declaration in 1Cor 15:9...

Godly sorrow is a LASTING sorrow,
it is a durable sorrow.

As long as a Christian continues sinning, he cannot but continue mourning. David's sins were always before him, Psalm 51:3, though his Absalom nor his Bathsheba were not ever before him. Godly sorrow will every day follow sin hard at heels. Look! as a wicked man, in respect of his desire and will to sin—would sin forever, if he should live forever; so I may say, if a godly man should live forever—he would sorrow forever. After Paul had been converted many years, some think fourteen, you shall find him a-mourning and lamenting over his sins, Romans 7. An sincere child will never cease mourning, until he ceases from offending an indulgent father. Though sin and godly sorrow were never born together—yet while a believer lives in this world, they must live together. And indeed holy joy and godly sorrow are in no way inconsistent, Psalm 2:11; yes, a godly man's eyes are always fullest of tears, when his heart is fullest of holy joy, etc. A man may go joying and mourning to his grave, yes, to heaven, at the same time.

But now the sorrow, the grief of wicked men for sin, it is like a morning cloud, or the early dew, or the crackling of thorns under a pot, or a runner who quickly passes by, or a dream which soon vanishes, or like a tale which is told, etc., their sorrowful hearts and mournful eyes soon dry up together, as you may see in Esau, Ahab, Pharaoh, and Judas. But the streams of godly sorrow will last and run as long as sin hangs upon us, and dwells in us: 1Co 15:9, "I am the least of the apostles, that am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." Psalm 25:7, "Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions." David prays to the Lord, not only to forgive—but also to forget, both the sins of his youth and the sins of his age. David remembered all his faults, both of former and of later times. David was well in years when he defiled himself with Bathsheba; and this he remembers and mourns over, Psalm 51.

And it is very observable, that God charged his people to remember old sins: Dt. 9:7, "Remember, and forget not, how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness." Repentance is a grace, and must have its daily operation as well as other graces. witness the very covenant of grace itself: Ezek. 16:62, 63, "I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall know that I am the Lord: that you may remember, and be confounded, and never open your mouth any more because of your shame, when I am pacified towards you for all that you have done."

Certainly a true penitent can no more satisfy himself with one act of repentance, than he can satisfy himself with one act of faith, or with one act of hope, or with one act of love, or with one act of humility, or with one act of patience, or with one act of self-denial. Godly sorrow is a gospel grace which will live and last as well and as long as other graces; it is a spring which in this life can never be drawn dry. (Evangelical Repentance by Thomas Brooks, 1669)

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