Looking back at verses 1-9:
We have seen that the gospel is stated clearly in verse 4, where it describes Jesus as the one that ACCOMPLISHED GOD'S AGE OLD PLAN OF BEING THE ONE WHO GAVE HIS LIFE IN SACRIFICE FOR OURS, SO THAT WE COULD BE TAKEN OUT OF THIS EVIL AGE. We have also seen that this news is something that God speaks to us as A PERSONAL INVITATION INTO THE MANY BENEFITS WHICH CHRIST HAS EARNED AND WE HAVE NOT. These two thoughts together give us a beautiful piece of news, showing that God has satisfied both justice and mercy. Justice, because Jesus has earned all things according to the Law. Mercy and grace, because He has done so out of love, taking away our punishment and instead giving us the profit of what He has earned. It is all around good news! We also saw that anything more or less than this news is not the gospel. It is bad news because it places us under the curse of having to pay (even partially pay) some part of the Law for our sin. Finally, we saw that we can find ourselves believing this bad news because we struggle with wanting to prove ourselves to other people, looking to want to make ourselves appear valuable, worthwhile, and acceptable according to what people think. We are freed of this thinking by realizing God has placed value on us by His gospel, freeing us from having to prove our worth, making us free to serve without hesitation or reservation.
Looking at verse 11:
Here we see that the gospel was not received by Paul until it was given to Him by the revelation of Jesus Christ. We know he heard the news that was being shared at least one time before Jesus spoke to Him. Stephen shared the gospel with Paul present in Acts 7. It was not that Paul had not heard the news. It was that Paul had not accepted the news until it was given by Jesus Himself. We find two important truths here about how the gospel is shared and received.
1. IT IS SHARED BY GOD HIMSELF: The word of salvation is something that is shared by God Himself. John 1 declares something magnificent. The Word became flesh. God's plan and purpose for all of time was the person of Jesus Christ. God's plan was direct communication of His love to us through Jesus Christ. He did not send someone else to communicate His love to us. He sent prophets and judges previously to point to what was coming. He provided the Law to make us ready to receive what was coming. But when it came to the actual demonstration of His love, He did it Himself. He loves you so much, being so willing to meet you precisely where you are (in sin and failure), that He comes directly to you to speak to you about His love.
2. IT IS UNDERSTOOD ONLY IN THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST: The gospel cannot be understood or received unless we have a clear understanding of the person of Jesus Christ. C.S. Lewis said that based on Jesus' life, He was either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. Which person do we see Him as? Others take the view that He was just a good moral teacher, like Ghandi or Mohammad. Anything less than seeing Jesus as God Himself dwelling with us and dying for us will inevtiably lead you to misunderstanding the gospel. It is our goal to always know the Person of Jesus more and in doing so, we find that we are taking in more and more of God's grace!
Looking at verse 14:
It is evident that Paul's limitation in understanding and accepting the gospel/grace of God was in part due to what his life was focused on before encountering Christ. We see that Paul was a zealous Jew, being well educated and having great skill in the Judaic traditions. It would also be noted that being a well respected teacher of the Law, Paul had a strict mindset concerning keeping everything in the Law. This helps us see two things that prevent us from understanding and accepting the gospel:
1. WORLDLY SKILL AND WISDOM: The gospel is not something that is understood by the wisdom of men. Even with all of the resources we have at our disposal, and with all the education we have access to, we remain blind to the grace of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:6-9 tells us that all of the wisdom of the world could never have thought of what God had prepared for mankind. Why is it that our wisdom is incapable of leading us to the gospel? In James 3:13-17, we see that the world's wisdom is characterized by self-promotion and envy. The focus is yourself, emphasizing either making yourself look good or making yourself feel bad that you don't have what someone else does. The Lord's wisdom is concerned with meekness and humility. The focus is on others and viewing their needs as more important than your own. Worldly wisdom will never lead us to understand the love that God has demonstrated in Jesus. It is a love that is so selfless and free that it stands in complete contrast to everything we know in this world.
2. THE LAW: The gospel is the end of the law. It is a statement that Jesus has fulfilled all that is necessary in the Law, earning all the benefits of the Lord, being raised to the right hand of the Father. It is a statement that He freely gives those benefits to us. If your mindset is one of trying to earn the Lord's favor by keeping a list of rules, then you will not understand and accept the gospel. If your mindset is one where you keep some rules so the Lord does not bother you anymore, then you will not understand and accept the gospel. God is not interested in you appeasing His wrath so you can be without Him. He is interested in you being pleasing to Him and being in an intimate relationship with Him. As long as we try to appease to God through the Law so that we can live our own lives without thinking of Him, we will not understand the grace that is given to us. It is not until we come to an end of the Law in Christ, and realize that He wants us to be in close connection with Him continually that we will truly understand and accept the gospel.
Looking at verse 15:
The gospel did not become clear to Paul until God's appointed time. Why this was the most appropriate time according to the Lord is a mystery. But this gives us a clue about what living in grace means. It means accepting the timing of the Lord. It means forgetting about doing what you want to do when you want to do it, and instead embracing that God is doing something, wants you to do it with Him, and will do it in His time. Living in grace is letting go of control of everything, even letting go of when we think things should happen.
Looking at verse 16:
We must remember that God's grace is given to us with a purpose in mind. That purpose is that we would be able to participate in glorifying God to everyone around us. He has revealed Himself in His love to us, and now invites us through the many gifts He gives us access to, to participate in revealing Him to everyone. To live in grace is to participate in God's work by His Spirit. It is to let His life be your life, to let His nature be your nature. God did not just give you grace to make you feel good about yourself. He gave you grace to save you and to enable you to faithfully serve Him in these times.
As a note, we see that Paul was a servant to the Gentiles. This was probably the last group Paul would have originally thought of serving, since he was such a prominent Jew. In fact, through Acts we see several attempts by Paul to reach a Jewish audience in spite of his calling to the Gentiles. Eventually, he recognizes that Peter had received grace to preach the Gentiles, but still we see that Paul's heart was for his own countrymen. This teaches us that where God calls you to serve is not necessarily in line with what you are most passionate about in a worldly sense. In a spiritual sense, we are most passionate about the Lord Jesus and the grace given through Him in love. This influences everything about who we are. In a physical sense, we have things that please and satisfy us personally. Serving the Lord will always satisfy our passion for Jesus, but it may not satisfy our physical passions. There are only two things we must know about serving the Lord:
1. THE LORD OPENS THE OPPORTUNITIES: The only thing we are responsible for is to be passionate about serving the Lord exactly where we are in whatever capacities are available to us. He will create opportunities around us that we are free to step into. If we perceive an opportunity, we can try it out, but we must be open to the Lord closing those opportunities. We must trust that He will take us exactly where He wants us to go. Our wisdom, our desires, our passions... these are not what guide us. The Lord is the One who guides us.
2. THE LORD GETS THE GLORY: One primary way to know whether you are walking in a path that the Lord has laid out for you is whether or not God is receiving the glory in the middle of the service. True service to the Lord is done in the power of the Spirit, and the Spirit accomplishes one thing: He glorifies Jesus. We must be those who are primarily concerned with only doing the things that make the name of the Lord great.
Questions to think on:
1. Do you find that you trust your own "skill" or "goodness" more than God and His grace? If so, how can you change that?
2. Where has God placed you right now that you can glorify Him to others?