By Not Known
A book of simple mentat experiments urges us to be self-aware of our I. Our I is
unseen and indefinable, yet it shapes every thought, word, action and moment of
self-consciousness. The search to know their I has driven many to existential
anguish as it eludes ‘capture’ again and again.
Paul has a clear sense of his I. Note the number of self-references in the following
‘for I am The least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle,
because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of
them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.‘ (1 Cor 15:9-10)
These many self-references have an intense form which we could express in English
by capitalisation. It is a very personal passage.
Now note the balance in Paul’s words.
Paul does not mention his I in order to surrender to self-glory. He is acutely aware
of what he was, and would be, outside of grace. He was the ‘abnormally born’ (v8)
persecutor of the church and even now he was the least and last of the apostles.
What he was is all by God’s grace. In these words Paul’s rejects the prevalent
idolatry of self. He was not everything.
The other side of his balance is in his reference to working hard as an apostle. This
too was by grace, but he was an apostle and he did work hard. He was not nothing.
Do we see the balance in Paul’s words? He was neither nothing nor everything. He
was something, but it was by God’s grace to bring him to dependent significance
Many of us struggle with our sense of self-worth. Some swallow the egotistical lie
that they are like God (Gen 3:5) and think that they are everything. Others have
such a sense of creatureliness, temporally, inability and sin that they think they
By God’s grace in Christ, our I is neither everything nor nothing. We are
something, but it is by grace that we are what we are. Let’s rejoice in the security
and significance of that.