What is the difference between Paul and us? We all have the same Spirit, the same Lord, and the same hope, yet the results of our lives are different. I know of no man who can boast that the results of his life bore as much fruit as Paul’s.
"Paul says to us, "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ" 1 Cor. 11:1). He says, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you" (Phil. 4:9, ). We then, within our modern view of life, busily set to work explaining how, of course, we are following him as he follows his Lord. Don't we believe and say the same things he did? But our lives are not like his life at all. We do not do the things he did. Yet it is surely Paul's practice that alone explains his marvelously victorious life in the easy yoke of Christ, for he in faith adopted his Lord's overall style of life. And as he did, he experienced the upholding of God's grace in it. This is the key to the understanding of Paul's life, teachings. and effect on history."
Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines.
So what is the difference? See how Paul told the recipients of his letters to practice what they saw him do, what they learned from him, what he told them. And he, in his part, followed the example of Christ.
What was the example of Christ? Was it to do nothing? If it was, then we are all damned.
Christ mentioned something about the greatest life as being one where a man is the servant of all. But to be a servant, one has to do something. He certainly cannot “rest”, and expect to become a servant. A man must move to be a servant.
I know, I know, there are those who will say, “Must?... sounds like a bunch of legalism to me.” It may well sound like legalism, but I assure you, it is not. It is simply the way the
Look, legalism be damned, if you want to reap self-control, which was a strong message of Paul’s, then something needs to be sown. Let’s UNDERSTAND that grace is already received here, shall we? Now what? Nothing? Well, then you’ll reap nothing; you certainly will not reap self-control.
But can we initiate our own discipline, our own self-control. No, faith ignites all of our effort, and what I see in Paul was that he was completely abandoned to his former way of life, BEFORE he practiced what he saw in his Lord. He was sold out, and that selling out came at a great cost.
Paul was a Pharisee, advancing beyond his peers in his religion; he was going to be someone great. How much does it cost to throw all of that away? Did Paul have to try to do it? Or did it come easy, without pain and without sweat? Anyone who believes it came easily certainly must have missed Paul talking about the trials he faced, the beatings, and basically penniless life he lived for the cause of Christ. It cost everything, and Jesus Himself said, “I will show Paul how much he MUST suffer for the sake of my name.”
Paul MUST suffer? That sounds like legalism, doesn’t it?
Was Jesus a legalist?
Paul abandoned everything, and it was suffering, it took great effort, yet all along, he knew, he believed, that it was Christ and not himself, who gave him strength. The difference between Paul and us isn’t greater faith or effort. The difference between Paul and us is greater effort made in faith. Everything Paul did, he believed the Lord was already doing. And so to him, to make the effort wasn’t the goal. Rather, the effort was the road that was traveled to see the result of what he had sown, of what Christ had sown in him. Without that effort, he wouldn’t see the result, someone else would. And we know one thing; Paul desired to see the results. That is a common theme in most of his letters.