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Paul’s Christmas

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Paul’s Christmas

6 minuten leestijd

“… Of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15b).

What a precious fruit of grace do we read in these words. The Apostle Paul does not stand above his much younger spiritual son Timothy, but he may honestly confess that he is the chief of the sinners. How is that possible? The secret lies not in Paul but outside of Paul in Christ Jesus who came into the world. This became such a wonder to Paul. Which world is that into which Christ came?

That is, first, the created world, the world which God made and of which He said that it was very good. In this world, we stood as the chief ornament of Creation in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. However, this world became a deeply fallen world. Willingly and voluntarily, we have turned away from God in order never to return. This world has brought itself into the deepest misery.

Have we ever experienced this in our life? Then we learn that there is no hope and expectation from our side because this fallen world has become a totally depraved world due to our sins. If the Lord would deal with us according to our sins, then it would be a lost case because we have all brought upon ourselves a threefold death.

Paul may also speak of that wonder of free and sovereign grace in Christ as revealed at Christmas and experienced in his own soul. In His electing love God wanted to save sinners, who are not better or more deserving than others. He sent His only begotten Son to save His people from their sins. Christ offered Himself in eternal love as the Surety of His people: “Lo, I come to do Thy will.”

The more the Lord makes room for Christ and reveals Him, the lower we bow, the smaller we become in ourselves, and the greater sinner we become.

In the fullness of time, He humbled Himself and came as the Servant of the Father to be wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. In that way He drew sinners such as the shepherds and the wise men from the East to come and bow before Him. By heart-renewing grace Paul was brought to that place as well. How can we know if this has happened in our life? When the Lord brings us at that blessed place where the sinner may learn with Paul: “… to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

That is the blessed fruit of Christmas in a sinner’s life. Jesus came to save sinners. No, Paul did not teach a general atonement as if Christ died for all sinners, as many people say nowadays: Christ died for sinners; I am a sinner, so He also died for me. Neither were they just pious words. No, by grace this was an experienced truth in his life. By discovering grace Paul became a guilty sinner before God.

He had learned to know the pain and the grief of the words “of whom I am chief.” Unto the Corinthians he also said that he is “the least of the apostles” who is not worthy to be called an apostle because he persecuted the church. Nonetheless, God’s grace was bestowed upon him on the way to Damascus where the Lord broke his heart and brought him in the dust of humiliation before God as a guilty sinner.

“Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” Paul no longer knew the way. He was taught to utter the sigh, “Lord, who art Thou? Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” Paul learned to know his unrighteousness, and his own righteousnesses became as filthy rags. In this way the Lord made room for Christ in his life.

That is what the Lord teaches all His people. In an uncovering way He shows not that we are saved but that we are totally lost. Before the mirror of His law we learn to know ourselves as enemies of God and ourselves. As needy and poor sinners, we may bow before Him who cannot have communion with sin. Love poured out in the heart makes the sinner sigh, “How can I ever be reconciled with God?”

The more I try to obtain reconciliation myself, the greater sinner I become, the more hopeless my case becomes, and the more helpless I am. I can never bring the Lord on my side myself but must learn to fall at God’s side unconditionally. How bitter are the tears of those people who cry unto God. It becomes so entirely impossible from our side to be saved. Are there still people amongst us who have learned this?

It is in this manner that one becomes the “chief of sinners” himself. Thus, the Lord makes room for Christ in one’s life. As Ananias was the means to reveal Christ unto Paul, Christ becomes precious unto us in the preaching. What a wonder when we may see the possibility in Him to be saved. The heart may be overwhelmed when we are brought to the manger to bow before Him and may see in Him everything we need.

The more the Lord makes room for Christ and reveals Him, the lower we bow, the smaller we become in ourselves, and the greater sinner we become. Then I can understand Paul when he cried out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” See, there is a sinner who is nothing in himself but who by moments may see everything in the Child in the manger.

Then one no longer feels that he is the dearest child of God or the most converted person, but then it becomes an eternal wonder that the Lord has ever looked upon such a rebel as he. No one has sinned it away as much as he has, yet, the more we experience that, the more Christ Jesus becomes precious unto us.

That is the joy of Christmas in the soul. Paul says of it, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation.” Because, when it is possible for such a one as I am, then it is certainly possible for the whole world! Christ came into the world to save sinners. That experiential knowledge makes one concerned about the souls of others.

Beloved reader, is this strange to you? Or do you not know about it? It is worthy of all acceptation, not in a superficial acceptation of easy believing but in an experiential acceptation of a poor, needy sinner who may flee unto the throne of grace with empty beggar’s hands, sighing and begging for His mercy.

Such people have no rest until they are brought with the shepherds unto the manger to see everything in Him and nothing in themselves. Dear friend, outside of Him there is no life but only an eternal death. Blessed are they who may know this joy of Christmas. One day they may in happiness abound when they are with Him who came into the world to save such sinners as they are. And that forever!

Rev. E. Hakvoort, Norwich, ON

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Bekijk de hele uitgave van vrijdag 1 december 2017

The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's

Paul’s Christmas

Bekijk de hele uitgave van vrijdag 1 december 2017

The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's

PDF Bekijken