It seems like Paul uses what he said in verse 8 as a transition into an aside about the grace of God.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Paul isn’t using this to flaunt his humility. He is explaining to the Corinthians that because we are born sinners, we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness nor does He owe us anything. We are unworthy of His grace and love. This is why it is commonly stated that we cannot earn it. I continue to mention that God designed us all for specific purposes in life. When we discover what that is and start operating in that design, we will experience freedom, joy, love, and the many wonders of God in our lives. Paul as an apostle was experiencing this very thing but also recognized that because of who he was and what he did in the past, he didn’t deserve to live in this kind of freedom. He is taking a humanistic look at his spiritual life.
I find the Apostle Paul to be a very interesting case study for salvation, grace, and Godly calling. He was the Pharisee that authorized the first Christian martyr. He set out to “protect and preserve” Judaism by arresting Christians. He went to the best schools and studied under the most respected Jewish teacher in all of Israel. Why, in human terms, would anyone want him to be an advocate for the very thing he fought against? It is because of what he says here to the Corinthians; of all the people who believe in Jesus as the Christ, Paul is the last one who should be a spokesperson for Him.
God’s grace and love transformed Paul. Jesus had a “heart-to-heart” with Paul on the Damascus road and it wasn’t until then that he realized the reality of Christ and His followers. The amazing thing is, if it were up to us, we probably would have smited Paul for opposing us. Yet God, in His infinite wisdom and love, decided to call Paul into service and reveal to him why he was created, why he went through all he learned and experienced, and the freedom he could experience by following God’s will instead of his own. Paul’s realization of the depth of God’s grace and love changed him drastically. Paul cursed and persecuted Jesus and His followers yet He wanted Paul to be a part of what He was doing on earth. Folks, if Jesus loved Paul enough to forgive and overcome these actions, surely He loves you too.
It is quite amazing when you think about it. Since birth we are at enmity with God. We are selfish, needy, prideful, and otherwise rebellious to the purpose for which we are created. The world has been tainted by this and we soak it all in and perfect sinfulness as we grow. Whether it is directly persecuting followers of Christ and shaking our fists at God or simply acting outside of our design and refusing to acknowledge the existence of God at all, we are fighting against God. Yet, He loves us more than we hate Him. We are His creation and He created us to be united with Him. So, He did what needed to be done to help us overcome this hateful attitude.
I encourage you to explore the depth of God’s love and grace today. You certainly won’t find the end of it, but consider what you have done in your life and how undeserving you are of God’s unconditional love.