We call it rhetoric, for no one in his right mind would really say such a thing. Someone with as much insight and realism as the great and mighty apostle Paul certainly wouldn’t say it in all seriousness, even as much as he might have been down on himself for his pre-Christian past. But let us not brush off his words so lightly.
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy 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 has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
1 Corinthians 15.9-10 NET
The least of the apostles. He had been unworthy, but now he writes about living worthily of the gospel. So how can he say such a thing?
We should take his words at face value. Only in this way could he say, and can we appreciate, his statement that he had, by the grace of God, worked harder than all of them.
When one knows how unworthy one really is, one can appreciate how much God can use one’s life.
Gracious God, show me my smallness even to this day, that I might experience your greatness at work in me.
Hold this thought: Grace can do much in those who know how little they are.