We all have heroes. When I was a kid going to McGregor Public School in Aylmer, I couldn’t wait to get home to see Batman on our TV screen. Remember the two parters when Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder, had a swinging saw coming towards them near the end of the episode and you couldn’t imagine them escaping…and you had to tune in next time…same Bat time, same Bat channel? Batman made it’s way to the big screen a number of years ago in 1989 with Michael Keaton starring as the Caped Crusader. He was followed by Val Kimer and George Clooney but my all time favourite Batman is Christian Bale. His character was not at all cartoony. He played a dark Dark Knight. A mix of darkness and light. Spiderman…Superman…Iron Man…there have been a lot of superhero movies but Batman is at the top of my flagpole.
Superheroes may not be your thing but you may well have Bible heroes and so do I. I love Joseph and Job and Peter but I have wanted to follow Paul as he followed Christ. Paul is my Bible hero. He is so worth imitating. He was like a bobo doll. You know the thing you used to pound on as a kid? He was a clown that was made out of some sort of plastic and it was a blowup deal and it had sand in the bottom…and every time you’d punch that thing it would come right back up. Paul got pounded on regularly and by the grace of God he kept bouncing back up…and that’s one of the key things I love about Paul.
But I also love the Apostle’s humility and it’s all over his letters, and you’ll see it if you linger. I want you to consider three snapshots of Paul during his ministry. Snapshot one is found in the early years. That’s when he wrote Galatians, the Thessalonians, the Corinthians, and Romans. In the early years he wrote:
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:9 ESV)
In that verse, you see his humility is firmly in check in the early ministry years. He saw himself as the least of the Apostles.
But then snapshot two comes mid ministry. He wrote the prison epistles. He put pen to paper behind bars. And in one of those letters you get a glimpse of his growth in humility.
To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,… (Ephesians 3:8 ESV)
…the very least of all the saints. Not just the least of the Apostles as he wrote in 1 Corinthians in snapshot one, but the least of the saints…that’s like the least of every Christian. Do you see his descent into greatness?
And then the third snapshot comes at the end of his ministry…his golden years. In those last days of his writings, he said this:
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1 Timothy 1:15 ESV)
Some translate it chief of sinners. Does that sound like a guy who moved forward or backwards?
Paul was the man, the guy, the dude, who boasted in Christ alone. Paul wanted to be no where near the podium with his hand raised or his head bowed getting the gold. Paul was the guy who wanted to be in the stands applauding God. When you make much of Christ, you will fall into self-forgetfulness. Paul was the guy who bragged in his weaknesses so that Christ’s power would rest on him.
In these three snapshots, the cross is never far away. The words grace and mercy are close at hand. Spiritual maturity is realizing how jacked up you are and seeing how much you need Jesus. Paul knew that he was in deep weeds without his total dependence on the Lord Jesus and His cross-work. Paul got a smaller view of himself as he matured and got a bigger, grander, more awesome view of his Lord and His work.
My humility hero is Paul…and the same gospel that humbled him, can humble you and me.