Title: Boasting: Some Ground Rules
Text: 2 Corinthians 10.12-18
CIT: the super apostles had set themselves up by making comparisons to themselves and to Paul. They were enjoying the fruit of Paul’s labor in Corinth and were leading the Corinthians astray.
CIS: Boasting has ground rules;
Charles Spurgeon, a Baptist pastor in London, England, had a pastor-friend, Dr. Newman Hall, who wrote a book entitled, Come to Jesus. Another preacher, writing an editorial for a local paper, wrote a scathing and lengthy article that ridiculed Hall. Hall bore it patiently at first, but over time the article gained steam and popularity. Hall decided he would sit down and write a letter of protest in his defense. His answer was full of retaliatory rhetoric and inflammable invectives that out did anything the dastardly article had done to him. So, before mailing the letter, he took it to his good friend Spurgeon for his opinion and proofing.
Spurgeon read the letter carefully and handed back to Hall. While the letter was passing back to Hall, Spurgeon asserted that it was indeed a well-written letter. He said it was excellent and the writer of that article deserved everything that letter possessed. “But,” he added, “It just lacks one little thing.” After pausing in thought Spurgeon continued, “Underneath your signature you ought to write the words, ‘Author of Come to Jesus.’”
The two godly men looked at each other for a few moments. Then Hall tore the letter to shreds.
I want to talk to you today about boasting; about pride; about glory; about authenticity. There is a level of authenticity that should bring you pride and even cause you to boast. However, just where does that happen? In the OT, there is a word: Hallal. It can mean to shine, to praise, to boast or to glory. It has other meanings as well. If you think about it for a moment – wouldn’t you say that there isn’t too much difference between these words?
Are there ground rules in the Bible for such behavior? Are there times that is it ok for us to boast? What about boasting in matters that aren’t yours – boasting in other’s accomplishments and authenticity…
In our text 2 Corinthians 10.12-18, Paul outlines this matter of boasting and sets some ground rules – rules that he will follow as he begins boasting in the next chapter. Here is his outline, as I see it:
- Boasting within the Limits
- Boasting within the Labor
- Boasting within the Lord
Transition statement: Let’s look the 1st section here in Setting the Ground Rules for Boasting:
1. Boasting within the Limits (12-13)
exp.: rd v12a; Paul comes back to this ‘commending’ again, showing us that he is taking about these super apostles. Paul never refers to these super apostles by name. He never addresses them straight on. Instead, it’s as if they’re in the room and Paul knows they’re listening. He address the Corinthians, with the full knowledge that these others are listening in; Let’s look at a few words; you wouldn’t notice it in the English, but there is a play on words in these words we just read; ἐγκρῖναι ἢ συγκρῖναι; Classify or compare; It’s like he’s saying you’re not the standard and someone else is not the standard; You don’t compare within and without;
- You’re not supposed to compare yourselves with others
- not to their work;
- not to their accomplishments;
- not to their standards; Rd v 12b; Two more words; Measure – meter; Boasting by way of comparison to others is outside the limits;
- You’re not supposed to compare others to yourself; you’re not the standard either! When people do this, Paul says, they are without understanding.
This is our 4th word; συνίημι; Lit.: to set together; The idea is that the puzzel pieces are coming together in your mind piece by piece and wah-lah, you understand; Really to the point of insight; There is intelligence intimated here – that is, the capacity to understand;
ill.: In the 80’s, there was a slogan pushed by Nancy Reagan: Just say no. She was determined to get out the knowledge that drugs are bad for you and that would lead to people no longer using drugs. She felt that knowledge was the key. But we’ve learned that knowledge alone doesn’t stop drug use. There is a 2nd step to knowledge – the application of knowledge. It’s called Wisdom.
Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.
The funny thing about it is that Tomatoes were considered fruit until the Supreme Court ruled in 1893 (Nix vs. Hedden) that tomatoes were vegetables. Scientifically, they were wrong. They did it because the ruling allowed the tomato to be taxed under the Tariff Act of 1883. Since then, many have assumed tomatoes are vegetables. Scientifically though, they have seeds – which make them fruit. But I digress…
app.: the point is that knowledge isn’t anything unless it’s used correctly. Knowledge would be the directions. Wisdom is following those directions. Paul says these guys are without understanding. They may act like they know a whole lot – and they probably do; but, really, they just don’t know how all of the pieces fit together. They’re foolish. Rd v 13;
t.s.: Boasting can be done within the Limits. Well, what are those limits? He actually states it right there in v 13 – that work that has been assigned to us, namely – the labor; And that’s our 2nd point, 2ndly,
2. Boasting within the Labor (14-16)
exp.: with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, rd v 14; For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. This area of influence is the Corinthian church! Paul was commissioned by God to go. Paul states clearly that he and his team of missionaries were the ones to plant their church. I’ve been racking my brain as to who could have been considered the planter of this church before Paul. Think of the division: “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
- Christ – we’ll yeah, but he wasn’t the missionary – he’s the boss who does the sending.
- Apollos – No, he doesn’t appear until after Paul establishes the church in Acts 18;
- Cephas – Maybe… We don’t know when he came through; but maybe the argument from the super-apostles is that they get their ‘commendation’ from Cephas;
- Paul – seems to me to be the 1st one on the scene.
So here’s what I think: I don’t know this, but this is a theory I have: the super-apostles were disciples at some level with someone like Cephas (Simon Peter) or Apollos. And, they used Cephas or Apollos or some other Apostle or even church to commend themselves to the Corinthians. That’s my guess. Truth is, we just don’t know.
So, to be clear now, Paul clarifies for us in v 15-16 that this boasting can be done within the area of assignment from God; rd v 15-16; this boasting, as it were, was in this foundation that they’ve become a base of operations – not boasting in them, as much as boasting in what will be done through them – taking the Gospel even further from Jerusalem. At one point, Corinth was the boundary of how far the Gospel had been taken. Now, they created a base of operations that enabled Paul to take the Gospel further. Paul didn’t have to boast of what anyone else had done – there was plenty of boasting to do in what God had done in Corinth and what God was doing through them to take the Gospel further. And, just as Paul didn’t need to boast of anyone else’s work – so they shouldn’t be boasting in the work that he had done. That’s just wrong – that’s outside the limits.
ill.: It’s like if you take your compass and pencil and draw a circle from Jerusalem, the outside line of how far the Gospel had gone would go through Corinth.
app.: Paul has bragging rights, as it were, because this labor, established by God was his. No one else could possibly say what he could say. And, Paul says: so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. He won’t take credit for someone else’s work. That would just be wrong – out of limits, so to speak.
This is precisely what he tells the Christians in Rome when he writes to them and says in 15.17:
17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” 22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.
t.s.: So, boasting within the limits, within the labor and finally,
3. Boasting within the Lord (17-18)
exp.: rd v 17; his reference here is from Jeremiah 9.23-24; 23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
If you’ve missed it to this point, he makes the context of this boasting so clear:
- It is limited:
- Do not boast in your wisdom. Stop there. Wisdom is a good thing. But, to boast in YOUR wisdom isn’t.
- Do not boast in YOUR
- Do not boast in YOUR Rd v 18;
- It is in the labor of the gospel
- Boast in that he understands me.
- Boast in that he knows me.
- It is only in the Lord
- Who is perfect in all he does (He practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness)
Conclusion: the following comes from the Preacher’s Commentary, 2 Corinthians, written by Kenneth Chaffin
Cliff Barrows is one of the best-known musicians in the Christian world, having led great crusade choirs all over the world for more than a third of a century. I have come to know him very well through the years and am constantly amazed at both his ability and his spirit. Through his many years of close association with Dr. Billy Graham in the work of evangelism, in addition to directing the music for the crusades he has produced both the radio and television programs and has carried countless other leadership roles within the team and the association.
Cliff is an excellent speaker, and when I was leading the schools of evangelism for Dr. Graham, I made every effort to get him to speak at each of them. The first time he spoke I discovered by his reaction to my introduction a very interesting thing about how he viewed his work. My usual routine was to tell something about what each speaker had done that would be interesting to the audience. Since most of them knew Cliff only as a Music Director, I took a moment to tell of his other activities and to comment on his great value to the team and its ministry. My introduction so embarrassed him that he had a hard time getting started with his talk. Afterwards I apologized and asked what I had done wrong. He said, “Kenneth, I appreciate your inviting me to speak and I know that you were sincere in your remarks, but it just makes me uncomfortable when someone tries to give me credit for things that God has done.” That is boasting in the Lord.
Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord! Let him sing:
Revive Us Again
Chorus: Hallelujah Thine the glory, Hallelujah amen! Hallelujah Thine the glory, Revive us again!
Verse 1: We praise Thee O God For the Son of Thy love; For Jesus who died and is now gone above.
Verse 2: We praise Thee O God For Thy Spirit of light who has shown us our Savior and scattered our night.
Verse 3: All glory and praise to the Lamb that was slain, who has borne all our sins and has cleansed every stain.
Verse 4: Revive us again. Fill each heart with Thy love. May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.