Title: Names of God; part 32. Being a son in the house of YHVH.
We have concluded our work in Eph 2.
Eph 2: In grace we receive all things from God and in grace we work the works of God from that tremendous position of strength and wisdom.
1CO 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.
1CO 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am [I am His workmanship], 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.
Paul could be saying that he was more diligent than the others in his faith to follow the Lord and do His works, or he may just mean that by grace, he was given more assignments.
It is likely that he means both, because all the work that he did was determined beforehand by God. Paul was given far more work than any other apostle. He is only speaking of the grace of God in empowering a man like him to do all that he did.
And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
When Paul says, "I am what I am," he is not making an excuse for failings or shortcomings as the phrase is often employed in our day. He is saying just what he said in Eph 2, that by the grace of God he is the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus for good works.
1CO 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
1CO 9:25 And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
1CO 9:26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;
1CO 9:27 but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified [not testable].
This passage often gets misconstrued as calling us to human effort as I would run in a race. But the spiritual race is not a human one. We press on in faith, we persevere in faith and our faith is placed in the Lord of glory. When I run in such a way that I may win, what is it that I am winning? Do I earn something from God? Here, winning would be more like "not losing," meaning not losing opportunities in which I could work and produce fruit by means of grace. Remember, the one who trust in the flesh is like a bush in the desert who does not see when prosperity comes. He loses out on opportunity.
The word "buffet" is hupopiazo, which means to literally strike under the eye and hence to beat the face black and blue. Why would Paul need to buffet his body? The flesh opposes the spirit. Asceticism is no match for the flesh. It only empowers it. He is not literally punching himself. He has drawn a line in the sand that he will not cross. He will not allow his flesh to rule his heart and so he sets his mind on the things of the Spirit and not the things of the flesh. This is likened to beating the heck out of the flesh, which is really denying it of any semblance of life. This is how seriously we are to take the spiritual life.
Because of who we are, in Him with a divine nature, we spontaneously do the works that God has predetermined. We do not have to plan them. We simply act as what we are.
1JO 3:1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us [perfect tense: it is our permanent possession], that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
1JO 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.
1JO 3:3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Amid the same temptations, defilements, and carnal temptations we strive to purify ourselves in thought and deed. How do we do such a thing and not turn our efforts over to the works of the flesh? How do we avoid striving in our own will to improve the condition of our flesh? Are we to strive or not? This passage, along with many others, make it clear that God asks of us, diligence, effort, striving, reaching forward, etc. In other words, the commands of God that are given to us in the active voice, speak of the decisions that we must make. The church, since the second century, has twisted itself in knots arguing the difference between works and grace. We must not make the error of joining a side rather than joining the simple and straight forward testimony of the scriptures.
We always strive to purify ourselves in the accompaniment of this hope and never independent of it. “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” (JOH 15:5) “Walk by the Spirit.” This is grace and not works.