But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
The grace of God is not only His dynamic for producing spiritual fruit in our lives, but it is also His means of developing good works in us as well. The Apostle Paul had a powerful testimony to this truth. Paul became an early church leader who was engaged in more good works than any other believer. “I labored more abundantly than they all.”
No one worked harder in ministry than Paul did. He traveled the known world preaching the gospel. He discipled those who put their trust in the Lord Jesus. He gathered those believers into churches, often functioning as their initial pastor. Then, he would appoint leaders and even visit them on occasion for further encouragement and training. Additionally, he wrote major portions of the New Testament, typically while locked up in prison.
Yes, Paul “labored…abundantly.” In another letter he wrote: “To this end I also labor, striving” (Colossians 1:29). Elsewhere he stated: “For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day…we preached to you the gospel of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:9). As he wrote the believers in Corinth he recalled: “Are they ministers of Christ…I am more: in labors more abundant…in journeys often…in weariness and toil” (2 Corinthians 11:23, 26-27).
How startling to learn that Paul was not the cause behind this wondrous effect. This is seen in his confession: “yet not I.” Paul exerted himself for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. How can a man labor strenuously and yet not be the cause of it all? The answer is in the remainder of his testimony: “yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” God’s grace at work in Paul’s life was the effective dynamic that brought forth such godly labor here on earth. “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” If we put our hope in the Lord, His grace will prove effective in our lives as well, giving us a testimony similar to Paul’s: “and His grace toward me was not in vain.”
Access to this transforming grace is once more linked to the two relational realities of humility and faith. Paul humbly admitted this fact: “yet not I.” He also exercised faith in this corollary truth: “but the grace of God which was with me.”