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When Is It Right For a Christian to Brag? March 1, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in False Teachers, Humililty, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons.
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“WHEN CAN YOU BOAST IN SUFFERING? (2 Corinthians 11:16-33)

Paul was an humble man. He does not like to boast. He finds boasting to be contrary to the word of God. He is familiar with what Proverbs 27:2 commands, “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips.” His parents taught him that “to seek one’s own glory is not glory” (Proverbs 25:27). He understands that “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.” Paul himself taught in an earlier epistle to the Galatians that humility is one of the fruit of the Spirit. Yet Paul on this occasion writes that he is forced to boast, to praise himself, to seek his own glory in defense of his position as apostleship and he does this by boasting in his suffering.

I. Why then does he feel that he needs to boast? Paul is convinced that he needs to differentiate himself from the false apostles, the false teachers, the charlatans who have come into the church in Corinth. In the same way, it is important that we differentiate ourselves from the charlatans of this age (verses 16-21). We live in an age with many options. All of them claim to have some measure of truth. The local church, however, according to 1 Timothy 3:15 is the “pillar and ground of the truth.” Fellowship Bible Church and other gospel preaching, Bible believing churches in the Castleton area are the supports of the truth in this area. We have a responsibility to call attention to the truth of the gospel of Christ. It is part of our commission from Christ to enlist followers of the truth of Christ. How then are we supposed to do that?

A. Well, normally we follow Christ’s example (verses 17, 21). Paul refers to this in 2 Corinthians 10:1 when he refers to the meekness and gentleness of Christ. This is the humility of which we spoke earlier. Jesus, as we referred to earlier during our celebration of the Lord’s Table came to this world in poverty (2 Corinthians 8:9). He went to the cross in weakness (2 Corinthians 13:4) beginning with Palm Sunday when he entered into Jerusalem in the midst of great rejoicing but with no pomp but rather as the Old Testament predicted rode in lowliness on the colt of a donkey even to His actual death on the cross where he suffered in great weakness. Jesus did not show great strength on the cross but rather died relatively quickly. People sometimes lasted for a long period on the cross but Jesus succumbed to His suffering quite quickly. His death was not impressive. Spiritually, we find that he became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), the one thing that Jesus as God hates, that He became. In His life and in His death, both physically and spiritually, Jesus displayed the ultimate in humility, meekness, and gentleness.

Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 2:20-21 that this is our calling, to bear patiently with humility the suffering that we receive because of the good that we do. We are not to lash out, we are not to attack back, we are not to rebel, we are rather to suffer as Christ suffered, submitting ourselves to that persecution.

Paul points out that this is our normal manner of operations, humility and meekness and gentleness and patience even in the face of great persecution but Paul in verse 17 says that there is an occasion to depart from the normal path of humility. There is an occasion when it is proper to boast. That occasion is when we need to differentiate ourselves from those who are charlatans.

B. Normally the charlatan takes advantage of others (verse 20). In verse 19 Paul refers to these false teachers as fools but he sarcastically says, “You Corinthians are so wise that you can accept the fools who take advantage of you.”

They enslave you to their will.

They use you up to the fullest extent.

They take what belongs to you.

They put themselves up on a pedestal among you.

They punish anyone who may stand against them.

We find this hard to believe that anyone would stand for such a thing but cults are full of people who are enslaved by religious leaders who follow this pattern. We need to be aware that such groups exist out there and that this church itself is not impervious to the infiltration of such false teachers themselves.

II. So Paul says, “Because these people are infiltrating themselves among you, I need to differentiate myself from them. I must point out the ways in which I am superior to the false teachers.” Paul mentions that his passion for Christ and His gospel is different but he does not stop there. He also points specifically his personal sacrifices among the Corinthians themselves. Paul fears though that these people might be deceived by the charlatans and brings up his suffering as a characteristic that differentiates the true apostle from the false apostle and the true church from the charlatans (verses 22-33).

A. In many ways we are equal or interior to the charlatan (verses 21-22). Apparently it was expected that an apostle must be Jewish. These false teachers were claiming to be Jewish in every way. Ethnically, culturally, and religiously these false teachers were Jewish. Paul does not dispute that but rather points out that he takes a backseat to no one in his Jewishness. His pedigree all the way to Abraham was in the records of the temple in Jerusalem. Although he had been born outside of Palestine, he had been trained at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the leading teachers at that time in Jerusalem. Paul had been immersed in both the culture and the religion of the Jews and had come out a Pharisee. No one could question his Jewish credentials.

In the same way, the false prophets of our day try to demonstrate that they are from God by proclaiming loyalty to Jesus Christ, some even proclaiming that He is their Savior. We at Fellowship Bible Church our also loyal to Jesus Christ. The false prophets of our day talk about their faith and how God answers their prayers. This very building in which we are sitting is a testimony to how God answered the prayers of a small group of people who had no money, no land, no leadership, and no credit. Those people knew what a credit freeze was long before the rest of us found that out. The false prophets claim to base their beliefs on the Bible. Our very name testifies to the fact that we make much of the Word of God in this church. It is our authority for what we believe, for what we do, and for what we hope for in eternity. The false prophets are in no way superior to us in their claims.

B. In our attitude towards suffering, we, like Paul, should be superior to the charlatan (verses 23-33). Paul presents a pretty extensive list of hardships and trials which he had endured as proof that he was more of a minister of Christ than those false prophets who were attempting to deceive the church at Corinth.

He begins by pointing out that he has generally suffered more. Notice that he has not said that the false prophets have not suffered but than in comparison Paul has worked harder and longer and suffered in proportion to and because of the amount of work that he has done.

He says, “I have been beaten more often.” The list here is quite impressive: beaten by the Jews with thirty-nine stripes (which was one under the maximum allowed number under Jewish law) five times, beaten with rods (presumably by the Gentiles who apparently were not limited in the amount of blows they could offer) three times, and he was stoned once (Acts 14:19 records how that he was stoned and left for dead).

In addition, Paul did not choose the easy route of staying in a city and remaining there in safety but he traveled frequently despite the constant dangers that we a regular part of traveling in those days. This involved the danger of shipwreck, the danger of fording flooded rivers, the danger of highway robbers, and the danger from those who followed him from city to city spreading false rumors against him and inciting riots against him and those who worked with him. It is obvious that there was nowhere that was safe for Paul.

Finally, Paul mentions what was known to the Corinthians that he labored and lived in want. He did not get enough sleep; he did not get enough nourishment, in fact, sometimes he did not have any nourishment to speak of; and he did not have clothing to protect himself from the elements.

1. How does this prove that Paul is more a minister of Christ than the false prophets? His labors and suffering proved that the cares of this earth were unimportant to him. Paul’s safety was relatively unimportant to Paul. His health and welfare was a secondary thing. Paul was not working for retirement but rather for eternity.

Now none of us have suffered like Paul has. Should we? Is this the lesson that we should take from this? No! There is no reason for us to take a vow of poverty and sell everything we have and sick suffering so that we might become more spiritual. Verses 31-33 make it clear that to flee suffering is not necessarily wrong. The lesson we can take though and should take from Paul’s example is this. The cares of the earth should be unimportant to us (verses 23-27, 31-33)…

2. …because the cares of Christ’s body are of ultimate importance to us (verses 28-29). Again we see in Paul’s life that you cannot divide love of Christ from love of your brethren. This principle is taught over and over again. If you love God, you will love your brethren.

Notice first of all that Paul is not talking here about his evangelistic ministry but rather his responsibility for the spiritual growth of the churches. Paul worried about their welfare. Several times Paul mentions how that he prayed night and day for the churches. He wrote letters, he sent colleagues to help the churches, he visited the churches when he could, he gave his life for the churches.

When they suffered, he suffered. Although the word “weak” in the Bible can mean sin, Paul uses it to speak of our suffering, physical, financial, emotional, mental weaknesses which make our lives harder. Paul suffered with the churches. He was not distant from them but rather identified with them. He sympathized with them and did what he could to help them. This was an evidence that they were a priority to him.

When they began to stray, to stumble, Paul also showed he cared. In fact, this whole letter is evidence that Paul put Christ’s church ahead of the things of this world. If you wanted to make Paul mad, just try to introduce false doctrine or sin into the church. Paul fought for the purity of Christ’s church and the health of Christ’s church as if it was his very own.

Believer, do you love Christ’s church? Is it a priority in your life? How important to you are the people with which you share this room? Would you die for them? Would you live for them? Do you get angry when you see someone trying to cause them to stumble? This is our test as believers? This is the test the proves whether we are Christ’s disciples or whether we are just paying lip service?

NEXT WEEK: WEAK CREDENTIALS (2 Corinthians 12:1-13)

 

 

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