Category Archives: Boasting

2 Corinthians 12.1-13

Title: God’s Amazing Grace

Text: 2 Corinthians 12.1-13

Introduction: In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul touches on the grace of God for us. There is no definition here – at least not in words that are meant to define it for us.

I’ve been thinking of the words – the way to explain the grace of God. And words fail me. I hate, I abhor the idea of leaving it to experience alone. However; if you consider God’s grace – words alone cannot draw into visibility the incredible vast expanse of his marvelous grace. And, when you experience it, you’re left with a sense of having been overtaken – overcome – overwhelmed.

God’s Grace – his Amazing Grace is perfect in timing. It is measured out to the one in need completely. Its not that there isn’t anymore of God’s Grace, it’s that his Grace is sufficient. You don’t need anymore. You can’t do without any less.

There is no far-seeing shoreline to outline the boundary of his Grace. It’s like being adrift in an ocean. No, it’s like treading water in an ocean of grace. It’s consuming and engulfing at the same time. Trying to explain it like you can contain it is useless – it’s defeating.

It is experienced – a felted thing. And what’s more is that it is delivered without payment to the recipient. Its expense is incalculable and yet available to the poorest in spirit.

Here in 2 Corinthians 12, it looks like Paul is boasting; however, a closer look shows us that he is not boast at all, but rather letting us get a look at Grace from a distance – from a high height that will show us God’s Grace. At first, we see Paul just treading water, but as we pull back, we’re allowed to see the big picture. It’s as if Paul disappears and we’re left with a view of the ocean – the ocean of God’s grace.

We begin in v 1; rd v 1; lit.: It is necessary to boast. It isn’t profitable or beneficial to Paul. He’ll gain nothing from it. We don’t now it yet, but we will. His boasting must continue – to move on to visions and revelations.

And then he tells us of a personal experience – in the 3rd person. We know it’s him because of v 7; Paul does this because his story to us will unfold like a play – like a set of scenes, or acts, or movements. The first act is all about God.

1.     It is God who acts for his purposes and his glory (2-4)

exp.: rd v2-4; I know a man; this man; this man in v 5; This man is Paul; cf.: v7; he was ἁρπάζω; Raptured, caught up; My favorite: snatched away; That’s the picture of the graverobber in 1 Thessalonians 4.17: 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Paul was snatched up to a place called the 3rd heaven or paradise. Three questions come out of this small bit of information.

Q1: When did this take place? He gives us a time frame; 14 years ago; But, I’m looking for the event. Given of what we know about this letter, we can safely assume that Paul is talking about the year that Barnabas found him and took him to Antioch and the time he spent in Antioch. Some have assumed he was talking about:

  • When he was stoned and left for dead outside the city
  • When he was in a trance
  • Or when he had the Macedonian vision
  • However, none of those fit the time frame Paul gives. So, we must assume it was about the time he began his service in Antioch.

Now, let’s talk about paradise or the 3rd heaven for a moment. I know you probably have questions and I doubt that my quick look at this will suffice. So, let me keep this brief and encourage you to do your own Bible study:

The Third Heaven:

  • Does not indicate that there are three levels (Jehovah Witnesses)
  • Heavens is plural in the Gk probably because of the Hebrew is plural (šhā·mǎyim)
    • There is the idea that there is the expanse above us where the clouds are and the birds fly –
    • 2ndly the stars and outer space
    • 3rd – a spiritual level; neither space nor locale; 10.14 gives us the heaven of heavens; 14 Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.


  • Paradise is understood to be synonymous with The Third Heaven; it is true that many scholars think this is a 2nd rapture; Origen thought Paradise was a place on earth – the garden of Eden perhaps, guarded by an angel with a flaming sword. I don’t think that. These sound like one and the same.
  • Paradise is used 3x’s in the NT: here; Luke 23.43; Rev 2.7 – each reference indicates the place where God is.
  • This is the same word used in the LXX for the Garden of Eden – the place where Adam and Eve walked with God until they rebelled and were cast out.
  • So, I think we can surmise from this that Paul, using the 3rd person terminology, was snatched away into the presence of the Lord.

There are probably some more questions: Like, What did he see and hear there? How long was he there?

1st, he doesn’t know if he was physically, bodily resurrected or if it was spiritually – an out of body experience.

2nd, he doesn’t tell us that he sees anything.

3rd, he does tell us that he heard things, but for whatever reason, he is not allowed to repeat to us.

ill.: I’m reminded of Revelation 10 and the 7 thunders. We know of the 7 seals and the 7 trumpets and the 7 bowls and plagues; however, when it comes to the 7 thunders, we’re left in the dark. Evidently, John saw and heard things he was not allowed to repeat. And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.”

app.: so, here is what I think we’re supposed to get from this passage so far: God acts for the purpose of his glory. That is what he is concerned about. He’s not concerned with what others think about you or me. Our glory isn’t his goal. And the same goes for Paul. He is working in Paul’s life doing what Paul needs. Paul will work and give all the glory to God.

t.s.: There is a problem that arises when we as humans have these supernatural experiences: An Act II, if you will – and that is…

2.     Man’s tendency is toward intercepting that glory (5-6)

exp.: rd v 5-6; Paul’s got his head in the right place, and we’ll learn why in a moment; for now, note the tendency to boast about such experiences; that is what we do as humans.

Paul will boast only in his weakness; however, for the moment, he’ll keep this boasting within limits; I think there are some good reasons for this:

1st, we can easily take the supernatural experience and set it up as a standard.

ill.: Someone speaks in tongues. Lets say its Phil Baker. Everyone is impressed. All of the sudden, there becomes this standard that others must have this experience. Another speaks in tongues and so there are now two people above everyone else. It becomes like a special club and everyone then wants to join that club.

I remember once sitting in a group of pastors. There were about 8 of us. We had come together to encourage each other and to build a bond of unity in our community. Many evangelical denominations were represented amongst these men. On this particular day, at this particular meeting, a new pastor was introduced. It was his 1st meeting. One of the Pentecostal pastors asked him if he had been baptized in the spirit. It was if he already knew the answer and had sensed it. When this young pastor affirmed that he had indeed been baptized in the Holy Spirit and that he spoke in a prayer language, it was if these two were somehow higher than the rest of us. We were welcomed there, but until we were to have this experience, we would somehow be inferior in rank.

1st, we can easily take the supernatural experience and set it up as a standard – using it to elevate ourselves above others.

Allow me to share a deeply personal story: I can see where God has supernaturally interposed himself into my life at the most important times. When asked of these times, I felt special – even superior. I’m ashamed of that. What God gave to me and what he did for me were exactly what I needed to be here today to preach his word boldly. These Supernatural experiences from decades ago have sustained me thus far. And, I suspect it will deep into the future. If I’ve shared these experiences with you to make myself appear to be holier than or more blessed than you – I was wrong. And, I’m deeply repentant of that. Please forgive me.

2nd, I think that speaking of these experiences is like casting pearls before swine. I now understand that. These gifts are pearls – not to be discarded carelessly before others who couldn’t care less. These experiences become fodder at parties to throw around and make fun of Christianity.

app.: Man’s tendency is toward intercepting that glory which only belongs to God – either for glorifying himself or for purposes of ridicule and persecution. Furthermore, for our instance here, it appears that these super apostles are doing just that.

t.s.: So why hasn’t Paul done that? Why hasn’t he ‘glorified’ in his experience? He tells us next. I call this movement:

3.     God’s Grace is seen in his intervention into our attempt to steal his glory (7-10)

exp.: We see ‘purpose’ in what God is about to do – we find reason in the actions of God; rd v 7a; conceited is a compound word demonstrating an elevation of someone to an overly high position; here, meaning conceited in thought – whether of Paul, himself or, of others who might hear of this vision and revelation. And, why “conceited”? rd 7b; because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations…the Gk word here is ὑπερβολῇ or hyperbole. This word means just what it says: surpassing greatness. We often times use hyperbolic language to describe something way beyond what really happened for exagerated effect. I’m starving to death! I’m dying of thirst! He hit that baseball a mile! He’s shooting the basketball from the rafters! Paul isn’t using hyperbole – that’s an english term we get from this Gk word.

This vision is so incredible, God chooses to humble Paul. rd v 7c; a thorn was given me in the flesh; what in the world does that mean? Many guesses have been made; however, Paul tells us a little; rd 7d; a messenger of Satan to harass me; Just what is this thorn?

  • Tertullian is the 1st to mention it. He was around a little over a hundred years after Paul. He says that tradition passed down for that 1st hundred years was that Paul suffered from a recurring earache or headache. Yo un dolor de cavessa. I have a pain in my head. Na neun mori apa yo.
  • If you take the Gk lit.: a messenger (angel) of an adversary. It could mean people making trouble for him. This makes sense in that the highest high for a preacher would be a supernatural experience from God. The lowest of lows is when people within the church torment us. And yes, I mean tormented. There have been incredible acts of evil within the body toward pastors.
  • Others have said it was his eyesight. Namely from Galatians: you would have gouged out your own eyes for me… see with what big letters I write. You probably remember in Acts, when he was brought before the High Priest: “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’ ” Now, how could he not recognize Ananias? Paul was a part of this group years earlier. Answer: Poor eyesight.
  • Bishop J.B. Lightfoot in his Commentary of the Epistle to the Galatians writes that interpretations vary throughout the history of the church as ‘in the Apostle’s temptation a more or less perfect reflection of the trials which beset their own lives.” We think that whatever we suffer from must be what he suffered from. A former pastor of mine once said that the thorn in the flesh was deacons! I leave that pastor unnamed…
  • The truth is that God has left us in the dark as to what this ‘thorn in the flesh’ was.

app.: what is important in this sentence is the part that is repeated twice: Do you see it? to keep me from becoming conceited… when God works in and through our lives in miraculous, supernatural ways, it can lead to boasting. How many of us as teachers and preachers, men of God, have taken glory for ourselves that was only intended for God? Just as we get cocky and conceited, God is so good about humbling us – and showing us that none of this is really about us.

t.s.: So we have God’s Action for his purpose and glory; our tendency to steal that glory; and God’s intervention to keep us humble. Next, we see God continuing to act.

4.     God’s Great Grace (8-9)

exp.: rd v 8; 3x’s; I’m guessing there were 3 different season of prayer and fasting, pleading with God to remove this thorn. This is mirrored in Christ prayer in the Garden? Do you remember how he ended that prayer? Nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done. Rd v 9a; Paul quotes Christ and brings this boasting around full circle – back to his weaknesses. Lit.: Sufficient for you is my Grace; And continuing literally: for my power in weakness is perfected (completed). τελέω, it means like reaching a goal. Rd v 9b; gladly there in the English, is the sweet or sweetness; What a great perspective: it is a sweet thing for Christ to be glorified in my life.

app.: Aren’t you glad for his mercy? What if he did to us as we deserved? What if he gave to us according to what we really deserve? Anytime we wanted to touch his glory, what if he treated us as we deserve? Isn’t that really what Adam and Eve did? Your eyes will be opened and you will become like God…


Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus, deeper than the mighty rolling sea; higher than a mountain, sparkling like a fountain, all sufficient grace for even me.

Broader than the scope of my transgression, Greater far than all my sin and shame, O magnify the precious name of Jesus, Praise his name.

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it,
Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden,
Setting my spirit free;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Conclusion: we end with how it should be (10-13)

exp.: read v 10a;

  • Weaknesses
  • Insults
  • Hardships
  • Persecutions
  • Calamities

10b; For when I am weak, then I am strong. It could be translated: For when I am weak, then I am able. Rd 11-13; Well, there you have it: I have made a fool of myself on your behalf!

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, Boasting, Sermon

2 Corinthians 11.16-33

Title: A Necessary Foolishness

Text: 2 Corinthians 11.17-33

CIT: Paul has suffered greatly for the mission he was called to accomplish.

CIS: Paul’s reason for boasting should remind us that God works through our weaknesses.

Introduction: A few years back, a man stopped by the church and wanted to visit. He told me his name was Beatty and that his dad had been the pastor of Calvary back in the late 40’s maybe the early 50’s (48-51?). He asked many questions and left after a short tour. He was just a little boy when his dad was pastor at Broadway and Bow.

I’ve often thought of him and wish I had got some information from him. Like, where is he today? What about his siblings? Pastor Beatty was the senior pastor of Calvary during some of its largest attendance days. I’ve heard numbers of over a thousand! Even 1,500! I would love to see some definitive numbers.

Just curious: How many of you here were members of Calvary in the late 1940’s? Recognize them.

Transition: In our text today, Paul is going to boast about his work. He does this in some ingenious ways.

  1. 1st, he introduces us to his sarcasm.
  2. Next, he establishes his station in life.
  3. Then, he employs a form of boasting familiar to the Greeks, but with a twist: He’ll focus on his suffering.
  4. Finally, He concludes with his service, and makes note that his service has always been through weakness.

Transition: let’s begin with Paul’s use of Sarcasm.

1.     His Sarcasm (16-21)

exp.: rd v 16-18; Very well then, if boasting is what I must do, then I will do it! It’s not the way Jesus would respond; but for me, it is a necessary foolishness; rd 19-20; I can do this because you know how to put up with it: Why, You’re so brilliant that you put up with fools while they take advantage of you. Rd v 21: to which he is saying, “Oh poor me, I was too weak to enslave you and exploit you by taking full advantage of you! I should have been stronger than that!” You can see his sarcasm. Some scholars think that stories got back to Paul of these super apostles actually getting them to do all of the work and using up their resources for their own benefit. Taking such great advantage of them that one of them actually slapped one of the members in the face!

ill.: We can see this possibility in Acts where Paul was order by the High Priest to slap Paul (23.2); And of course, with Jesus as well (John 18.22); Maybe these super apostles were taking such advantages of the Corinthians, even to the point of mistreating the membership.

app.: If this is true, it adds to Paul’s sarcasm: I was too weak to slap you around and enslave you for my purposes!

t.s.: From his sarcasm, Paul moves to what I call His station.

2.     His Station (22-23)

exp.: rd v 22-23; note 4 questions frame our outline:

  • Are they Hebrews? This deals with the Religious part of who he was; a Hebrew of Hebrews; training under a famous scholar, Gamaliel; Acts: I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.
  • Are they Israelites? Israelite; of the Tribe of Benjamin; Ethnicity; born a Jew – both mom and dad are Jewish; he spoke Aramaic and Hebrew and Greek! He was well educated in the Scriptures in any and all languages where copies of God’s Word could be found.
  • Are they Abraham’s Offspring?
    • John 8.33ff; in the famous discourse with Christ; Jesus says: If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did…;
    • And in Romans 9.6-8 Paul wrote: For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
    • Abrahamic Covenant; not just born into it, not just studying in it, He’s a part of the lineage; He would later write that not all who are from Abraham are Abraham’s descent. Believers are a part of this, too. He would tell the Galatians: 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
  • Are the servants of Christ? I love the picture the Gk paints: Lit.: Servants of Christ are they? παραφρονῶν λαλῶ; I must be out of my mind to talk this way! ὑπὲρ ἐγώ; I am hyper! Lit.: above and beyond. My service goes above and beyond theirs. I think this has two implications; 1st, that he is
    • A Believer: someone who comprehends the work of Christ and the redemption that comes through that work. And 2ndly,
    • A Minister – someone who has been called into service; namely, someone who has received a commission to go, proclaim and disciple.

ill.: sounds similar to Phil 3.5-6;

app.: Well, they’ve received the same calling, surrendered to the same mission; however, there is more to this calling than meets the eye. To talk about it is really crazy, but nonetheless, he must.

t.s.: So, he uses Sarcasm and he notes his Station of prestige in relation to these other super apostles. Now, he dives head first into how “hyper” – far above and far beyond – his service takes him…

3.     His Suffering (24-29)

exp.: Look with me at how Paul breaks down his suffering. He breaks down his boasting into three categories flowing between physical mistreatment by others to natural disasters or tragedy.

1st he uses the form of repetition; rd v 24-25;

2nd he uses the word ‘dangers’ to mark his struggles on many of his journeys; Rd v 26

3rd he employees two words: toil and hardship (κόπον ἡμῶν καὶ τὸν μόχθον)·

1st he uses the form of repetition; rd v 24-25; Physical Mistreatment; Gal 6.17; “Let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus”. I guess so.

This portion of his argument is framed in terms of repetition: 5x’s; 3x’s; once; 3x’s; D.A. Carson says that this threw his detractors off. Paul uses a familiar form of boasting by following a particular outline – Res Gestae Divi Augusti which translated means: the deeds of the divine Augustus. It reads like this: Twice I received triumphal ovations. Three times I received curule triumphs. Twenty times and one did I receive the appelaiton of imperator…” In following this form, Carson writes that Paul was expected to say:

“I have established more churches; I have preached the gospel in more lands and to more ethnic groups; I have traveled more miles; I have won more converts; I have written more books; I have raised more money; I have dominated more councils; I have walked with God more fervently and seen more visions; I have commanded the greatest crowds and performed the most spectacular miracles.”

Instead, Paul goes in a direction they’re not expecting. Now, obviously, there are experiences here we’ve not heard about in the book of Acts; for example: We only know of 1 time that he was ship wrecked; And, if I’m right, it’s after this letter is written. Furthermore, if you trace his missionary journeys, you’ll see he was on a boat at least 9 times in the book of Acts. And, Phillip Hughes (NICNT) says there are at least nine other voyages from place to place subsequent to the writing of II Corinthians and prior to the Malta shipwreck.

ill.: Pastor Saeed Abedini, in an Iranian prison, was recently beaten. Again. This comes from the website of the ACLJ (the American Center for Law and Justice) it was posted 4 days ago.

Wednesday of last week, fellow prisoners viciously beat American Pastor Saeed Abedini in prison.

Unprovoked, fellow prisoners  attacked Pastor Saeed as he attempted to leave his cell, punching him in the face near his left eye and nose.  In addition to physically beating the persecuted pastor, prisoners demolished a small table Pastor Saeed used to study and read.

As he was attacked, Pastor Saeed called out for help.  Iranian prison guards did intervene and prevent further injury.  However, Pastor Saeed suffered injuries to his face – his eyes beaten black and blue.  He was able to be seen briefly by a prison doctor, and thankfully he did not receive any broken bones.

This wasn’t the first time he was beaten.  Over the course of his nearly three years in prison, he has suffered numerous beatings, including from prison guards.  He has sustained internal injuries that require surgery.  With each beating, his condition worsens.  Even before this most recent beating, Naghmeh testified about the toll it has taken on him, “I’m not just worried about his physical pain, but his psychological [pain].”

He is suffering because of his Christian faith, beaten and bruised for the Gospel. Pastor Saeed was able to recount this beating to a family member in Iran who was able to visit him today and see his injuries first-hand.

2nd he uses the word ‘dangers’ to mark his struggles on many of his journeys; Rd v 26

  • Note the Dangers:
    • Natural Disasters
    • Human Disasters

3rd he employees two words: toil and hardship; v 27

And then to top off his physical pain and suffering, he adds a phrase, I think goes unnoticed: rd v 28;

  • Mental Anguish:

ill.: as a young pastor, I was asked if I would meet with someone. I, of course said yes. As the visiting moved along, this man I was meeting with told me of a bank account in which he had saved up enough money for his funeral. Then he told me he wanted me to have access to that account because he was going to end his life. When I told him I had a responsibility to get him help, he threatened to leave my office and go home and take his life in front of his kids right then. If that happened, he said it would be my fault.

That experience plunged me into a deep depression that took me three days to climb out of. I mean for three days it was hard for me to function. We were able to work through that tough experience in his life – but I was scared.

Three times I have been asked by members of 12 step programs to be their 5th step – the one to whom confession is made. Two of those experiences did much the same thing. I was tossed into a sea of depression. I heard confession to evil that I didn’t even know existed. Just standing here thinking about it … hurts.

app.: Paul is letting the Corinthians (and us) know that there is a psychological side to ministry that bears such a heavy load – and it is inexplicable – unexplainable.

t.s.: He concludes this section by saying: 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? We see his sarcasm, his station, his suffering, and he closes with his service – the way it has been even from the beginning…

4.     His Service (30-33)

exp.: rd v 30-31; it’s kind of an odd statement for us, but I don’t think so from him and his readers; for them it was a way of signing his name to what he’s just said – something akin to us putting our hand on the Bible and having someone ask us: Do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the Truth so help you God? I do. here Paul is declaring that his entire service has been in weakness; it even started that way. Rd v 32-33;

Application: We’ve not experienced these things and we don’t really even know anyone who has. So how does this apply to us?

  1. The struggles of life should become the altars of praise. This past week, during my morning reading time, I read about David and had an insight I’d not really grasped before. David sinned a great sin against God by having a census taken of the people. He knew it was wrong. He was counseled against it by his friend, Joab. But David would not listen. God sent an angel of the Lord to draw his sword against Jerusalem and some 70,000 men died from pestilence. David saw the angel there – 16 And David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. 17 And David said to God, “Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people.” You know the story. David was told to go and sacrifice to the Lord. He purchased everything needed to do so and sacrificed to the Lord. Then, The LORD told the angel to put his sword back in it’s sheath. Then in 2 Chronicles 22.1 it reads: Then David said, “Here shall be the house of the Lord God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel.” Now, I knew that story and that was how the Temple got to it’s location. Repeat: But somehow I missed that it was the struggle of life that brought an altar of praise.

It makes me wonder about this place. How did it get here? What happened here a century before we got here. Did someone dedicate this land to God, even before there was an Old Jacksonville Hwy? I don’t know.

  1. Do you know that you enjoy this facility at the expense of others? To quote: We stand on the shoulders of Giants. Many have worked hard to have what we have. It may seem that others take advantage of our generosity, but I don’t think those who’ve sacrificed see it that way. This ministry exists because of the faithfulness of many believers who have kept it going for many decades now. Many of those believers are dead now. There are some still here. And, should you remain faithful, you’ll be a part of that group of witnesses who surround us now.
  2. How have you expressed your gratitude? My I propose something? This year marks 125 years that Calvary has existed. It is the 2nd oldest Baptist church in Smith County. There aren’t too many churches with a longer history. It was established in 1890 and was a mission of First Baptist Church. It was called North Tyler Mission. I propose we celebrate. Let’s throw a party. Let’s invite the people who were a part of it’s heritage and honor them. People from 1st People from Colonial Hills. Pastors from our past who sacrificed in many ways to keep things moving along. For those pastors who’ve gone home to be with the Lord, what about their wives, their kids who are still alive. We could honor them. Former staff members; deacons; workers; Let’s do this up big. Will you pray about being a part of something like that? We could invite Mrs. Sarah Wall – whose mother joined this church in it’s sixth week. I don’t know if she could make the trip, but we could invite her. Maybe we could track down Mr. Beatty and his family?
  3. Have you considered being a part of this great body? Maybe God’s calling you to join our church and to build upon the work of those who’ve gone before.
  4. If you’ve never asked Christ to forgive you of your sin and commit your life to him, I offer him to you today.

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, Boasting, Church History, Faithfulness, Loyalty

2 Corinthians 10.12-18

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?

  • Shine
  • Praise
  • Boast
  • Glory

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:

  1. Boasting within the Limits
  2. Boasting within the Labor
  3. 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;

  1. You’re not supposed to compare yourselves with others
    1. not to their work;
    2. not to their accomplishments;
    3. not to their standards; Rd v 12b; Two more words; Measure – meter; Boasting by way of comparison to others is outside the limits;
  2. 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:

  1. It is limited:
    1. Do not boast in your wisdom. Stop there. Wisdom is a good thing. But, to boast in YOUR wisdom isn’t.
    2. Do not boast in YOUR
    3. Do not boast in YOUR Rd v 18;
  2. It is in the labor of the gospel
    1. Boast in that he understands me.
    2. Boast in that he knows me.
  3. It is only in the Lord
    1. 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.

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