The Apostle Paul grew in self-awareness and understanding throughout his Christian journey.
1.) Early on, before his encounter with Christ on the Damascus Rd. – Paul (known as Saul before his conversion) considered himself a “righteous” man, a committed Jew. He was a Roman citizen whose responsibility it was to hunt down and destroy followers of Christ, whom he believed were blasphemers against God. He believed he had lived his life with a perfectly good conscience before God and identified himself as a Pharisee. He participated in the stoning death of Stephen, the disciple, who was the first person martyred for Christ. Acts 7:54-8:3, Acts 23:1, 6
2.) After Christ appeared to him on the Damascus Rd., changing his name from Saul to Paul, and opening his eyes to the truth of the gospel, Paul’s opinion of himself was that he was entitled to be among the “apostles” because he had seen Jesus personally and, even so, he called himself “the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle.” Acts 23, 26, Philippians 3:4-6, 1 Cor. 15:9
3.) Later in Paul’s journey, he has an even more realistic view of himself, realizing that among ALL believers in Christ (referred to as “the saints”), he is the very least among believers. Ephesians 3:8.
4.) Toward the end of his life, in correspondence with his son in the faith, Timothy, he is most realistic and honest of all about himself when he proclaims, “I am the chief of all sinners.” 1 Timothy 1:15
Paul had learned, like we must also, that we are not good in and of ourselves. Nor are we good based on things we’ve done or the people with whom we associate or where we come from or the jobs we do. Also, we cannot compare ourselves to others and attempt to find ourselves more worthy. The only standard of comparison is the standard of Jesus Christ himself. And when we stand in that truth, we come to see who we really are……sinners in need of a savior, in fact, in our brokenness and realistic view of ourselves we see that we are the ones most in need of Christ’s saving work.