And last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 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. (1Co 15:8-9 NIV)
St. Paul compares himself with a prematurely born baby when the living Lord Jesus Christ appears to him on the road to Damascus, because he saw him even while he was not believing in him, but rather still rejecting him and his gospel – yes, persecuting him and his followers most severely. So when Saul – that was his name then – when Saul perceived the living Lord – his eyes were still those of an unbeliever and one, who actively resisted and rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and savior of the world. This off course is part of God’s plan. It’s significant for the Christian testimony St. Paul proclaims from this point onward, because he was not one, who would have liked it to be so, who was carried away by wishful speculation, but rather he was converted from his illusion and convinced to know better by the appearance of the living Lord himself. St. Paul confesses his horrible mistake and godless error – this most serious sin against God and his people: I persecuted the Church! This cancels all presumed merit, worthiness and prestige Saul might have had as a blameless Jew and passionate promoter of the pharisaic way of lawful life.
Oh, let this be a warning to all of us: Beware of any self conceited and proud boasting, which so easily permeates our being. Rather perceive your own sinfulness and praise God’s gracious forgiveness and unending mercy. The grace of forgiveness and of sanctification. Learn that this is not cheap grace and that it should not be offered to us in vain. May this grace accompany us on all your ways, in its manifold manifestations and with abundant fruit. This grace is our queen and she gowns us with the most glorious wedding vestment of Christ’s righteousness. Grace expresses all we have, all we need and could never do without in eternity.
Lord God, heavenly Father! You let your Son appear as risen Lord after his victorious resurrection from the dead before the disciples and many more. He brought them his peace that passes all understanding and gave them perfect joy and gladness. We thank you from the bottom of our heart, that you revive us too with your peace and joy and that even today you let your forgiveness of our sins be proclaimed to us time and again. We ask you: Help us, that we will be strengthened and confirmed in the true faith by your amazing grace and that we overcome all sadness and fear by your comfort and care. Hear us for the sake of our risen and almighty Lord Jesus Christ – our savior. Amen. (Diederici Manuale ecclesiasticum 1700)
I build on this foundation, That Jesus and his blood Alone are my salvation, My true, eternal good. Without him all that pleases Will vain and empty prove. The gifts I have from Jesus Alone are worth my love. (Paul Gerhard 1607- 1676 tr Richard Masie 1800-1887)
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for Wednesday after the eleventh Sunday after the high holiday and festival of the Holy Trinity. It is found on Pg. 295 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu! (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.