This is what God gave me today in his word:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
Wait a minute Paul, how do you know it was by God’s grace that you did all those things? As you say yourself when writing to the Philippians; formerly you were zealous for the law, perhaps you simply transferred that zeal of yours to the Gospel therefore not making it by God’s grace, but by your own works that you worked harder than anyone else. You of all people should know by now that we only need God’s grace to be saved and not for anything else, “You do your best, and God will do the rest!” and all that jazz.
First, by whose power did Paul do more than anyone else? … His own or God’s?
for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)
Paul was just as zealous for the Gospel as he had been for the law, yes. However, it’s only by God’s grace the Paul could use that zeal. That saying is slightly mislead, but I won’t get into that now.
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:22-23)
Like with Paul, it doesn’t matter how much zeal we have, how much we work for our salvation, however much we attempt to obey the law; we can’t do it. And it’s that we try to keep the room clean until Jesus comes to make the bed (maybe not the best analogy, but you get the point). We can’t do anything, Jesus has to come in and change our hearts around before we even realize that instead of cleaning, we’re throwing stuff on the floor. Actually, we pretty much don’t do anything, God is the one who calls us, we don’t decide to follow him. Christ is the one who gives us the will and in fact the ability to do good deeds for him.
The point being: any ability we had to obey the law, died along with the fruit that Adam and Eve plucked off the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Second, how are saved then, if not by works? … You probably already know this by now, seeing as I’ve been saying it through the whole first point. But let’s highlight it slightly.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
We’re saved the same way Paul was, by faith. We can work for God the same Paul was able, through his sinful nature’s death on the cross. “How are we saved, if not by works?” That’s the whole point, we were saved by works. Not our own, but Jesus’.
You are Loved!