Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters] at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit 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 has not been 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. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe. – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Our reading from 1 Corinthians 15 today finds the Apostle Paul in a very reflective mood. As he reminds the Corinthian believers of the saving gospel that he proclaimed to them, he begins to trace the origins of that good news. Of course, Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day. He then appeared to Peter and the original 12 disciples, then 500 brothers and sisters, then James and all who would be considered apostles, and finally to Paul himself. It is so intriguing to see Paul, the greatest missionary and theologian the Church has ever known, call himself “the least of the apostles” and “unfit” to be the one God has chosen. This humility is based in his past persecution of the Church before Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Even when Paul says that this has caused him to work harder than any other apostle, he admits that it’s not his own efforts but the grace of God working in and through him.
Paul certainly set a high bar of humility and self-awareness for followers of Jesus. So often we are tempted to think of ourselves as “self-made” and congratulate ourselves on living a pious life that avoids many of the sins that others fall into. The truth, though, is that all of us are broken and sinful people, whose only true boast is that God has graciously offer his salvation to us. On top of that, the gospel has only been revealed to us because of generations of faithful Christians who have passed on the life-changing truth of Jesus. We stand undeservingly on the shoulders of the all saints who’ve gone before us only by the grace of God. Recognizing this truth frees us from selfish ambition and arrogance and allows us to live the glory of the Gospel each day that all people might know Jesus!