Grace Redeems the Worst Pasts

1 Corinthians 15:9–10, Part 1

Principle for Bible Reading

God’s grace rescued one of the worst sinners in history, a man who by his own admission was a persecutor, blasphemer, and murderer. Paul’s story gives every sinner hope. In this lab, John Piper defines grace and explains how it meets us in the midst of our brokenness and rebellion.

View the outline.


Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:41)

The Least of the Apostles (01:41–04:31)

  1. Paul calls himself the least of the apostles and unworthy to be called an apostle. (1 Corinthians 15:9)
  2. Paul sees God’s grace in his past, and in his future. (1 Corinthians 15:9–10)
  3. One question is whether Paul is suggesting grace intervened and made Paul an apostle, or that the grace of God was working all along to make Paul who he is.

What Is Grace? (04:31–06:25)

  1. We ordinarily think of grace as the disposition of God to treat us better than we deserve.
  2. God’s grace is not so much an activity with power as it is a state of his heart and a way of his being.
  3. For instance, God’s grace is his disposition to choose and save his people, even though they are sinners and do not deserve it. (Romans 11:5–6)
  4. God’s grace is the origin of every blessing we receive.

God’s Perfect Patience (06:25–11:51)

  1. Grace is also power that changes things in our lives. (1 Corinthians 15:9–10)
  2. Is grace in 1 Corinthians 15:10 about Paul being the “least of the apostles” or just about him being an apostle?
  3. Paul was set apart to be an apostle long before he was called, even before he was born. (Galatians 1:15)
  4. God allowed Paul to become the kind of sinner he was so that he could display his perfect patience. (1 Timothy 1:13–16)
  5. This means God’s grace is not above any sinner in your life, however awful they have sinned against God or others.

Summary: God’s Grace-Filled Wisdom (11:51–13:10)

The grace of God did not make Paul the least of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:9). The grace of God and the wisdom of God allowed him to commit the sins he did because it would make him a more useful minister of the gospel.

Study Questions

  1. Looking at 1 Corinthians 15:9–10 and Romans 11:5–6 (and any other relevant texts that come to mind), how would you define the grace of God towards you?
  2. If Paul was set apart as an apostle before he was born (Galatians 1:15), why would God wait to save him? Write down your answer, and then refer to 1 Timothy 1:13–16.
  3. In 1 Corinthians 15:9–10, is Paul saying grace simply made him an apostle, or that it made him the least of the apostles? Why?
Piper: “You’re never too contaminated or broken to be rescued by the grace of God. God loves to save the worst.”