Perhaps along with many of you, if I had to rank which person in the Bible was most influential in my life (besides Jesus himself), I think I would say that it was the apostle Paul. Of course, he does have an unfair advantage in that he wrote thirteen of the twenty-seven New Testament books (not to mention his prominent place in the book of Acts). It’s not in how many words he wrote that I find Paul’s influence, however. Rather, it is in what he wrote and how he wrote it that has been used by God to help so many people.
One could think and write unending books with regard to what Paul wrote. After all, some of the most important doctrines we have are most clearly put forward by Paul (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit). Just think of the glorious passages that lay out that justification (being declared righteous by God) is by faith alone in Christ alone. Does it get any better than Roman 3:19-26, Galatians 3:10-14, or Philippians 3:7-9?
It’s hard for me to spend such a short time on the content of Paul’s writings, but today it’s “how” he gave us the “what” that I want to highlight. Maybe I could put it this way: I’m not going to focus here on Paul’s theology but on his doxology. In other words, the praise and glory that spills forth from him in response to thinking of God’s grace in Christ. Paul does not put forward dry doctrine. He is not giving us mere academic information. He certainly is giving us truth and content—but he does so as one who has been “caught on fire” by the truth he gives.
This is the case is because the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ are truths that have come home to Paul personally, and changed his life and eternity. He has gone from being a self-righteous, hell-bound Pharisee to being a humble, Christ-relying, heaven-bound, adopted son of God. This leaves him saturated with thanksgiving and praise! Not only that, but he realizes these truths have great bearing upon countless others who otherwise would have no hope of salvation otherwise—but now they do.
Many passages could be referred to here to show you what I mean, but let me reference two: Romans 11:33-36 and 1 Timothy 1:17. In Romans 11, after eleven chapters which show how salvation is found in Christ in great depth and contour, he ends the masterful section of theology with this doxology:
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory (δόξα – doxa) forever. Amen.”
In 1 Timothy one, after Paul reflects on God’s saving him—the “foremost” of sinners—and on top of that God’s using him to reach other sinners, he bursts forth: “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” Do you see what I mean now by how Paul wrote? In both of these passages, he could not help but be affected again himself as he told people of God’s gracious salvation through Christ! He could not help but give God glory for what He had done and will do to save sinners.
This is the emphasis I want to draw out for us now. Paul knew all too well his own sin. He knew that salvation was certainly not what he deserved. He intensely felt that he of all people wasn’t worthy of Christ (“I’m the foremost of sinners,” 1 Tim. 1:15) nor telling others of Christ (“because I persecuted the church of God,” 1 Cor. 15:9). But God’s grace abounded to him, and for that, praise poured forth!
Beloved, do you struggle with being a person of thanks and praise to God? I know I waver in and out of doxology (praise!) in my everyday life. I tend towards forgetting how amazing God’s grace is in Christ—which can lead to a sour attitude in my daily life. Let’s fight this in our lives together by, like Paul, remembering what we deserve and what we have received by grace instead. May doxology then rise up in us as we reflect on the wonderful truths of salvation that we have in Christ. He certainly is worthy of all the honor and praise forever and ever. Amen!