Sunday, April 19, 2020 -
The apostle Paul wrote often about the transformation, or sanctification process. He wrote:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. . .” (Romans 12:2)
“But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (II Corinthians 3:18)
“Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” (II Corinthians 4:16)
[I] “am sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 5:16)
“. . . God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” (II Thessalonians 2:13)
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
“. . . The gospel, which has come to you, just as in all the world is constantly bearing fruit and increasing even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.” (Colossians1:5-6)
“Having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” (Colossians 2:7)
“. . . in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)
But what about Paul’s own transformation process? Several places give us a clue. Galatians chapters one and two tell us that Paul went soon after his conversion to Arabia for three years until finally going to Jerusalem to meet Peter. What did he do in the Arabian Peninsula? No doubt it was part of his transformation process. He states he only spent 15 days with Peter and James, and then went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia and did not make it back to Jerusalem until 14 years later. No doubt God had been teaching him many things during this time as part of his sanctification process.
But then note what Paul says in one of his earlier epistles, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church.” (I Corinthians 15:9). Apparently, ten years later, he writes the Ephesians, “To me, the very least of all saints.” (Ephesians 3:8) And then, in one of the last letters he wrote, Paul said, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among when I am foremost of all.” (I Timothy 1:15)
It was “R” who brought these three latter verses to my attention today and their timeline, but I thought it was very appropriate when considering Paul’s teaching of transformation, or the maturity process.
Paul goes from “the least of the apostles,” to being “the least of all the saints” to “the foremost of all sinners.” Is this a natural progression based on his own self-perception due to his transformation process? As Paul was transformed by the renewing of his mind did his awareness of his depravity grow? Or, perhaps he was merely referring back to his years when he persecuted the church? It is something that gave me pause to think about today, but the myriad of interruptions made it difficult to do so. And so, I pass this on to you to contemplate more fully.