June 18, 2007 Ration

Acts 21:19-20a

"After greeting them, [Paul] related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God.”

Who had done these great things among the Gentiles? Were these works that Paul accomplished or works that God accomplished? They are works that God had done through Paul. Paul is not the author of the grace of God. God is His own author of His grace. And Paul faithfully, and with all joyful humility, played the man in the accomplishment of God’s grace among the Gentiles through his work.

God gave grace to the Gentiles through the means of Paul. While Paul is the one living among the Gentiles, eating with them, teaching them, putting up with them, correcting them, rejoicing with them, yet Paul does not think for a moment that he has accomplished anything by his own will or strength. He says to the Corinthians, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not 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” (1 Cor. 15:10). Paul worked so very hard (in God’s grace) and yet he didn’t fail to recognize that it was God who gave him his ministry, and it was God who accomplished it. So as Paul recalls to the brothers what has been going on in his life and work, he doesn’t brag about himself, he boasts of God. He tells of “…the things that God had done” when he gives an account of his labors and travels.

Why don’t we talk like this, artists? Why do we so naturally talk from a perspective of “this is what I have done”? Or if we desire to be spiritual we might even say, “this is what I did for God” where we have this mindset that we are able to do something apart from God for God that earns us grace from or somehow pays back the grace of God. I think verse 20 is a great litmus test for us. It says, “And when they heard it, they glorified God....” Is this how people respond when we relate one by one what has been going on in our labors? Those who heard of all that went on among the Gentiles, through Paul’s working, glorified God for what was accomplished! They didn’t glorify Paul. They glorified God, and Paul would have it no other way. So Paul took care to be accurate and related to them “the things that God had done…through [him],” rather than relating from the man-centered perspective of “the things that he had done for God.”

Naturally we want the credit or the glory from our work, which on our part is sin as we claim the credit for what God has done in and for us. This is where we are in the wrong. Where we have been wrong due to our ignorance, we are not ignorant any longer, so we need not be in the wrong anymore. Where we are wrong due to our pride, our relating of the events is like plagiarism, as we don’t site the actual source but in fact claim the work to be our own when we know it is not. Pride will demand the glory for what the grace of God accomplishes through our work, but we must not let that sycophant have it! Our pride only robs us of enjoying the grace of God in our lives. God is gracious to us apart from us. If we are proud with His grace towards us, we stand in opposition to God. God opposes the proud. But if we are humble with His grace, we will know even more joy as God is glorified for His grace in our lives. God gives grace to the humble man.

Artists, enjoy the grace of God in your lives and glorify Him for it.

Jason Harms

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