2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 39
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|We’ve been talking about “Poise in the Face of Persecution.” This is part 4 of that series. Actually it’s going to last us all the way through the last chapter of this wonderful epistle.|
Who is and who isn’t (2 Cor 10:12-18)
Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 10, and we’re going to finish that chapter today. I sometimes do a verse at a time, sometimes a word at a time, sometimes get a sermon out of a comma, but we’re going to do a few more verses today, because there’s a beautiful flow here of the contrasting character that a believer has and the kind of world in which we live.
We’ve been talking about “Poise in the Face of Persecution.” This is part 4 of that series. Actually it’s going to last us all the way through the last chapter of this wonderful epistle. And I want to talk today about “Who is and Who Isn’t,” 2 Corinthians 10:12-18. The oddest thing happens when a believer chooses to obey his flesh. Has anybody done that this past month besides me? Are you willing to be honest? All of us lie anytime we choose to obey our flesh, and that’s not a good thing. You don’t fool anybody but yourself and not only that, you always wind up on the wrong end of the stick.
Two hunters were out hunting and they found a hole, the biggest hole they’d ever seen. One said to the other one, “I don’t think that hole has a bottom.” “It’s got to have a bottom.” “I don’t think so. I think it goes all the way through the world.” The one says, “It can’t be, it can’t be. Get a rock and throw it in and we’ll listen for it to hit the bottom.” They threw a rock in and it didn’t hit the bottom. He said, “I told you.” He said, “Get a bigger rock.” Got a bigger rock, dropped it in; it didn’t hit the bottom.
So the two of them carried a bigger rock over and dropped it and they listened and listened and it didn’t hit the bottom. So they said they had to find something bigger. He said, “No, no, I’m telling you this hole goes through the world.” He said, “No, it doesn’t.” So they found a railroad tie and they carried it over and dropped it in the hole. Suddenly out of nowhere came a goat. That goat was running faster than any goat they’d ever seen in their life. It ran right between them and dove in the hole. And one of them said, “Did you see that?” He said, “Oh my goodness, I’ve never seen a goat run that fast in all my life. He committed suicide right there in that hole.” About that time the farmer drove up and they said, “Come here, come here.” He said, “Have you ever seen this hole?” He said, “I’ve had this farm 25 years and I don’t remember seeing that hole.” He said, “Well, you won’t believe what we just saw. A goat came out of nowhere. We have never seen a goat run that fast in all of our life, and dove in that hole. Could that be your goat?” He said, “Oh no, my goat’s tied to a railroad tie.”
What’s that got to do with anything? I told you, you always end up on the wrong end of the stick. You need to be careful what you attach yourself to. You attach yourself to the flesh and you’re going to pay. I’m going to pay. What you sow you’re going to reap. And that’s just a law that God set out. You see a better word for flesh is “self” and a better word for self is “sin” and sin will take you further than you ever wanted to stray, keep you longer than you ever intended to stay, and it’ll cost you more than you ever dreamed you’d pay. I know that personally.
In our text today we get to observe Paul, a true apostle, and he’s up against these fleshly-minded false apostles that have come into the church of Corinth. And we’re going to see a contrasting lifestyle with Paul and the way fleshly people live. The false apostles of Paul’s day employed every deceptive means of the flesh to try to deceive the believers of Corinth. And before we assault those false apostles and say that’s bad, you have to remember something: that flesh is flesh no matter whether it’s the flesh of a false apostle or the flesh of a believer. It doesn’t get any better. In fact, it gets worse.
That’s why we are told to say yes to God, never to obey the flesh. We should never stoop to the level of those like the false apostles who walk according to the flesh. And this is what’s so different. You see, the audience they had that was fair game were the people that listened to them, people that were living that way themselves. They weren’t living walking in the Spirit and they had no discernment when they heard the false message of the false apostles.
Last week we saw the weakness of flesh; we saw its sick anemic state. In verse 7 of 2 Corinthians 10 we saw how the flesh has no ability to look on the heart. It only looks on the outside, the external. Paul says in verse 7, “You are looking at things as they are outwardly.” The way someone looks, the presentation in which he presents himself, the way he speaks is so much more impressive to people who walk according to the flesh than the heart of the speaker, where he’s coming from. Believers who walk after their flesh are no different than the world. That’s the sad thing. They view people externally and that’s what I’m saying: the false teachers, that’s all they could do, but the fleshly minded Corinthians fell into the same trap and they missed the whole picture.
It’s totally the opposite when we walk according to the Spirit because the Spirit of God, that’s His character and He doesn’t do things the way the flesh does them. He looks at the heart. God said to Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” So if He’s living His life in and through me, He’s going to cause me not to look on the outside but to look on the heart.
Not only does our flesh look on the outside instead of the heart, but it also bases its spiritual worth on tangible external things. There were those false apostles in Corinth that had convinced themselves and the Corinthians that they belonged to Christ, even that they were apostles and they even got the Corinthians believing that Paul wasn’t an apostle. But they based all of this on their polish and their prominence. Paul says of them in the last part of verse 7 in chapter 10, “If any one is confident in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we.” Paul says this tongue in cheek but he says, “Hey, if they’re convinced and convinced themselves that they’re believers, then they would already know that I’m a believer. They’d already know that I’m legitimate.’
The difference was that Paul had the inner witness of the Spirit. He wrote that in Romans 8. That’s the way you know you’re a believer. Not by external things, not because you walk forward, not because you pray the prayer, but the inner witness of God’s Spirit that we’re a child of God. He knew because he knew because he knew because he knew that he was God’s child. They had to convince themselves based on tangible things.
The flesh has to tear somebody else down in order to build itself up
Well, if we would have gotten to verses 9-11 we would have seen another characteristic of that flesh, and that is that the flesh has to tear somebody else down it’s so insecure, in order to build itself up. In verses 9-11 Paul says, “for I do not wish to seem as if I would terrify you by my letters. For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive, and his speech contemptible.” Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when absent, such persons we are also in deed when present.”
You see the spiritually blind false apostles of Corinth spent most of their time accusing Paul, trying to tear him down. Why? Because they had to get into that position of authority that God had given to Paul, the authority of an apostle. For instance, they said things like, “Yeah, he just writes his letter to scare you to death.” That’s why Paul had to defend himself. In verse 9, “for I do not wish to seem as if I would terrify you by my letters.” The word “terrify” is ekphobeo, which means in our language to “scare somebody to death.” And Paul said “I’m not writing my letters to scare you to death.”
The word “letters” shows us it’s more than one. I think he wrote four to them and 2 Corinthians is the fourth letter. He says, “Even though my letters to you have been tough, I know they’ve been tough, but I’m a father to you. I love you and I’m saying the hard things because I love you. I’m not writing to scare you to death.” But that’s not all.
The false teachers also couldn’t say enough condemning things about Paul so they attacked his personal appearance. They say his letters are weighty and strong but his personal presence is unimpressive. Now, that’s cold, folks. The word “unimpressive” in reference to his physical appearance is the word asthenes. It’s the word that means “weak.” It’s the word translated “sick” in many places. It means without any physical ability, to be anemic. Paul must not have been much to look at. That’s all I can get from it. Somebody had said once, bow-legged, hook-nosed, bald-headed little Jewish guy. He wasn’t much to look at.
But, you see, they would say “we don’t like the way he looks.” Boy, does that ring a bell to the 21st century? I don’t like the way he cuts his hair, I don’t like the way he doesn’t wear this or wear that. And they would say he’s not physically handsome, he’s not impressive when you see they tore him down with that. As if that matters; remember, God looks at the heart. God’s not looking at the outside.
But as if that were not enough they attacked the way he talked. They said “his speech is contemptible.” The word “contemptible” is exoutheneo. It’s the word for “scornful.” It’s the word which is that which is despised. You know, Paul was one of the most intelligent people in the New Testament outside of Jesus. And he stood there on Mar’s Hill and argued with those philosophers. He was incredible, but they said his speech was contemptible. Peter said in one of his epistles “Our brother Paul writes some hard things to understand sometimes.” I’m not exactly sure what that all means, but the word means that which is despised.
Have you ever been around people like that in the church today? Remember, this is inside the church, it isn’t outside the church. People who are more impressed with the way a person dresses or doesn’t dress, people are more impressed with the way a person looks but never looking on the heart. Always tearing a guy down trying to build themselves up to make themselves look better.
Well, Paul had this to say to them, verse 11, “Let such a person consider this, that what we are in the word by letters when absent,” and what was that by the way? Bold, strong; remember he said he wrote some tough things. Then Paul delivers a stern warning: “such persons we are also in deed when present.” Not only are we consistent in our character, but Paul had refrained from disciplining the Corinthian church up until this point. He’d asked them to take care of it but he says over in 13:1-2, you have to read ahead to know where he’s headed, he says “This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” And then he says something very to the point. “I have previously said when present the second time, and though now absent I say in advance to those who have sinned in the past and to all the rest as well, that if I come again, I will not spare anyone.” In other words, here comes the judge. He says, “Buddy, when I get there you’re going to find out if I’m a weakling or not,” but in a right way, armed in the character of Christ.
Well, the lessons we can learn from these fleshly-minded people in Corinth, whether they be the false teachers or whether they be the fleshly people that bought into their message. When we choose to walk after the flesh, just remember what you’ve chosen. You’ve chosen the weak, sick, anemic characteristics of the flesh. Always looking on the outside and never on the heart, bases its worth on tangible things, external things, its spiritual worth, it’s so insecure it has to tear others down to build itself up.
Well, today we’re going to see in Paul’s life another total contrast to the way he lived and the way the false teachers lived. He helps the Corinthians to realize who is and who isn’t. It’s like he’s saying “will the real apostle please stand up.” And he does in verses 12-18. Three things about him and I want to encourage you in your walk with the Lord, listen to these things carefully. I think it’ll help us all if we can melt down that application to our own life.
Paul dared not commend himself
First of all Paul dared not commend himself. Verse 12, “For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.” The false apostles who were deceiving Corinth were experts in commending themselves.
Paul didn’t have to commend himself because Jesus was the One who commissioned him and Jesus would be the One who commends him. The phrase “For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves,” is more literally, “for we don’t dare rank or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.” Paul said, “I’m not going to put myself in their class.” Why? Because the way they commend themselves, the way they try to present themselves as apostles and convince the people, they use a standard that was totally false. He said, “I’m not going to be involved with that. I’m not going to have to get into their game. I’m not going to step into their arena.” You see, the fleshly standard by which the false teachers measured themselves in their ministry was a standard that they came up with themselves. Now that’s convenient. Look at the last part of verse 12, “but when they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.”
Now, let’s go back and look at the word “commend.” The word “commend,” those who commend themselves, is the word sunistao. Sun means “together,” histemi means to place yourself or to stand.” It’s to come up beside somebody and stand there. They’re trying to contrast themselves to Paul. They’re standing together, trying to convince the people that there is something that they’re not. So here in our text that’s what it basically means, they’re there to commend themselves, trying to gain the acceptance of the people.
Then the next characteristic of the standard they used to try to convince the people is ridiculous. They commend themselves, they measure themselves by themselves, they compare themselves with themselves. In other words, the standard that God has, that’s why Paul said, “I’m not getting over there. I’m not going to compare myself with them. I’m not going to play their little game because they’ve thrown away God’s standard and they’ve come up with their own standard to use to convince the Corinthians that they truly are the apostles and Paul isn’t one.”
Oh my, what we can learn from this. Let me give you some illustrations and just see if you can come in with me. When I was growing up I loved basketball. I think I was born 5’2”, but we had an elementary school where I went and they had an outdoor court, chain nets, and the goals were 9” high. This was awesome. I was the smallest guy in five guys and we loved playing on that 9” goal instead of a 10” goal. We’d have pick-up games. We made up our own rules. In fact, we made up our rules as we went and if you came to play with us and you had a rule book, you might as well leave it in the car. We don’t play by those rules. We play by our rules. We measure ourselves with ourselves. We compare ourselves with ourselves.
Maybe a better illustration would be if you’ve ever played golf with me. You know, most people only play with me one time. I play by my own rules. I use a foot wedge. Do you know what a foot wedge is? That’s when the ball is laying there and you see it but they don’t think you’ve seen it and you walk over and say, “Where’s my ball?” Oh, there it is out there. I use a foot wedge quite often. I take mulligans wherever I need them. A mulligan is a shot if you mess up a shot. You can have one or two mulligans the whole game. What do you mean one or two? I use one or two per hole. I played with a guy from Canada once and he said, “Play Canadian rules. Hit till it feels good.” I play Canadian rules. I may tell you I got a 91, I probably got 191, I just didn’t count the other 100 strokes. I made up my own rules.
In other words, I’m measuring myself by myself. I’m comparing myself to myself. We see churches that have fallen into this trap. And they base their credibility, they base what God is doing, on their own standard, not on God’s standard. Particularly those in our day who love numbers. They have their own standard of how they get those numbers. There may be 1,600 seats in the auditorium and it’s full. But at the same time 200 dogs, three cats and 20 people on bicycles went by at the same time. So instead of saying 1600 they added them all to get 1,823. And that’s what they had on Sunday morning.
It is incredible the big churches in our country that are padding the numbers to look big. They measure themselves with themselves. They compare themselves to themselves. That’s what the flesh does. The flesh comes up with its own standard. The end justifies the means. It’s like a hunter that I know that told the game warden, “I shot across the road but nobody was coming.” Do you get the point? Flesh has its own false standard with which it measures everything and we saw in the false teachers, even their salvation. Even its own credibility and this is the base of how the false teachers commended themselves as apostles who supposedly they wanted the people to think had authority over the church of Corinth.
Paul said, “I’m not going to dare compare myself with them. I’m not going to get in this game of having to commend myself. In verse 12 again, “For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.” They just don’t know; they just don’t understand.
The word “understanding” is suniemi, which means “without the ability to pull it all together and come up with the right answer. They don’t know how to come up with the right results. They don’t understand the things of God. Remember that’s in Corinthians the first epistle that the natural mind does not understand the things of God, can’t comprehend, can’t grasp the things of God. The false apostles were clueless and Paul said, “I’m not going to get in this game of playing their clueless little trick here of having to commend myself.
Could he commend himself? But he knew he didn’t have to do that. He wasn’t into their game. So the way Paul countered them who measured themselves by themselves, compared themselves with themselves, was not to commend himself according to their standards. Paul was willing to rest in the fact that God would commend him. He was willing to rest in the fact that who he was and whose he was in Christ Jesus, and his security, his identity was in Christ, not in this, not in that, not in what they wanted to get him into that game. No way.
We don’t have apostles today, but we do have the Word of God which is the authority in our life and the Spirit of God living in us who commends us. He commends us. When we season our mouth and our words with His Word, when we renew our minds with His Word, when we are dressed by the Spirit and the character of Christ, that commends us wherever we go. They don’t have to ask any questions. Nobody can refute a transformed life. Nobody has any questions when they see Christ in an individual. They see the radical contrast to the way the flesh does what it does. We don’t have to have numbers to commend us. We don’t have to have a strategy of how to build a church; if we can’t build to start with Jesus said, “I’ll build My own church. You just feed it, equip it, I’ll take care of building it.”
It’s incredible how far off center sometimes we can get. I was at a conference—and I hesitate to use myself in this because I’m not trying to commend myself, so don’t hear me wrong. But I was in a conference with a speaker you would know very well, from a large, large church. And after we finished the morning sessions they asked us to come to a pastor’s meeting. Most of these pastors were from churches of 100 and less. We went in and they said, “We want to ask you a question.” They had already set this up. “We want to ask both of you to tell us how you built your church.”
I knew immediately. I can understand what Paul is saying. I’m not going to get in that game. We did this and this and if you do it, it’ll work. But the first guy went first and I was so grateful. I kept praying that the meeting would go too long and they’d have to call it off and I wouldn’t have to say anything. And he walked through how they got their ushers and put certain colored jackets on them and how they had visitors meetings after the service so everybody could feel like they knew somebody and he had a list of about this long of creative ways in which they had “built” that church.
I was standing there thinking, “Oh, dear God, the rapture would be awesome right now. Come, Lord Jesus.” I didn’t want to get in that arena. And they turned to me just as clear and said, “Wayne, could you share how you built your church.” I said, “I’m not trying to put anybody down, I don’t know what to say. I’m not creative as these other people are. I can’t build anything. You put a hammer in my hand and you’ll definitely never put another in there. I haven’t built anything. All I have done is to preach the Word of God for 18 years at my church. All I have done is to preach the fullness of Jesus Christ in people’s lives and the combination of those two things, God has chosen to do a great work in our church. And yes, we’re running this and we used to be running that, but listen, it’s what God did. We never tried to grow the church bigger. We tried to grow the church deeper and God added the breadth.” When I finished they realized the contrasting two things that we had just said, and they looked at this other pastor and they said, “What do you say to that?” And he backed up with tears in his eyes and he said, “I wouldn’t touch that with a 30” pole.”
After it was over with they were lined up all the way out the door to talk to me. Those young pastors said, “This has given us help. God builds His church.” God has a unique way of commending you. God has a unique way of when it needs to be said, He’ll bring it out, but He’ll do it. You don’t have to jump up and commend yourself. That’s what the world does. And that ought to have been the first clue to the church of Corinth. Something’s amiss. They’re trying too hard to commend themselves and in the meantime they’re tearing down Paul. Something is not quite right. Paul dared not commend himself based on the false measurements of this world. And he stood as a contrast.
Paul was determined to only speak within the bounds of his authority
Secondly, he answered when he was asked, but he didn’t step forward to do that. Paul was determined to only speak within the bounds of his authority. Did he speak of his authority? Did he speak of his apostleship? Absolutely, but he didn’t do it the way they did it. He didn’t do it to commend himself. When Paul said he was an apostle, he was just simply stating a fact because God had told him he was an apostle. God had set him apart as an apostle. He was just answering questions or he was just making a statement to help in a time of need, but he stayed within the bounds of the authority that God had given to him.
Verse 13, “But we will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you.” Now, the false teachers, who were self-proclaimed apostles, had crossed the boundary of authority—now, authority was given to Paul, not to them—by falsely commending themselves. And God’s apostle, His appointed referee, the apostle Paul himself blew the whistle. It was Paul, not the false apostles, that had been given by God the ministry of being the apostle not just to the church of Corinth, but to the whole Gentile world.
Galatians 2:7-8, “But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter with the gospel to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles).” So God singled Peter out to the Jewish world and singled Paul out to the Gentile world as apostles with authority of an apostle. So he says in verse 13, “But we will not boast beyond our measure.” The word “boast” is kauchaomai, which means to “speak or bring recognition to oneself or to something or to someone that you consider to be worthy.”
It can be bad, but it also can be good. Paul had the right to bring recognition to himself as the God-appointed apostle of Corinth. He had the right; God had set him aside. God had appointed him. So he never had to commend himself; he never had to come alongside and persuade people that he was something that he wasn’t. He didn’t do this; the false apostles did, and he’s not going to get in that game. You see, Paul was the rightful spiritual father of the Corinthians, and in a spiritual sense they were his legitimate spiritual children. He reminded them of that in 1 Corinthians 4:15, “For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”
This is what he said earlier on in Corinthians. He said, “You wouldn’t even be in church if I wasn’t who I say I am, because it was God through me that raised you up. The very fact that you’re believers,” So Paul says in verse 14, “For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you, for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ.” He said, “Don’t you understand? When I say I’m an apostle I’m not trying to commend myself. I’m not boasting in a wrong way. I’m just telling you what God did. You are the result of the labor of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.”
But the false teachers kept on commending themselves based on their own standards. Why? They were trying to usurp the authority that God had given to Paul as an apostle over that group. They were laying claim to that which was not even their own labor. Paul said, “They don’t get it. They don’t understand.” Paul says of himself in contrast to these false apostles, “not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors.” So then Paul not only was their spiritual father, but Paul had great hope for the Corinthian church. They had repented, but they needed to continue to get to the point of understanding his authority amongst them. Why? Because much was at stake. He wanted them to become a base—you talk about missions—he wanted them to become a missionary base for him so that he could go on beyond Corinth into the unreached people groups of the world.
He says in verse 15 at the last part, “but with the hope that as your faith grows, we shall be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you.” He wanted the Corinthians to grow in their faith and become mature enough to stand beside him and his team as they ventured out. Verse 16 says, “so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you.” Man, this is critical that you get this together; understand the authority that is amongst you.
Now, today we don’t have apostles, we have the Word of God. And when people come to the Word of God and they let it be the authority in their life, they let Jesus be the Lord of their life, then God can use them to extend the message to the unreached people groups of the world. But they can’t do this if they don’t understand where the authority is: who is and who isn’t. They couldn’t do this if they were going to let the false apostles continue to deceive them.
And what I learned from this is that it’s so awesome to know that when God’s in charge of your life He has greater things out there. Oh, my friend, a church has to come up under the authority of God’s Word. They have to come up under the Lordship of Christ before God can use them to touch the world for His sake. And that’s what Paul is telling them. Get this thing straight. They didn’t have the completed Word at that time, so, “I am your authority, I am the apostle. I’m writing close to half of the New Testament. I am your authority. God’s put me there and if you’re willing to submit what God is putting through me to you, then God can use you for greater work.” But there’s no need to have to commend yourself. There’s never a need to half to step outside the boundaries of the authority God has given to you.
And I share this illustration, I’m just walking on thin ice because I don’t want you to hear it the wrong way, but God has a way, just like He did in that other illustration, He’ll have a way of bringing out what He wants to bring out form you in such an arena that you don’t have to work it up. It’ll come as a result of His working in your life.
I preached one time and I shared the burden for mission. And my heart is for Eastern Europe; always has been. Eastern Europe, South Africa, and Australia are the areas God has put me in. I’ve been over there so many times I can’t count them. And I made the statement about Eastern Europe and that we needed to have a burden and that we needed to pray that God will give us a burden to reach those precious people that had just come out of communism and now they didn’t know what to do. Well, this young lady came up, and first when I saw her I thought she was attractive. You know, it’s funny. People physically can be attractive, but when you start looking at their heart sometimes it just makes them ugly. And I could tell she had a chip on her shoulder bigger than Dallas.
She was about 22, just old enough to get out of the nursery. She walked up and said, “You talked about missions to Eastern Europe. I just got back from a 10 day trip. I doubt if you even know what you’re talking about. You don’t know how bad it is over there.” I just stayed and God said to keep my mouth shut. And she started telling me that I need to know more about it. She’s been there for 10 days and is going to write a book on missions in Eastern Europe. Finally she said, “Well, have you ever even thought about going over there?” Isn’t it interesting how God does this? He just puts in right in front of you. I said, “I’ve been 12 times, three times under Ceausescu, 27 days at a time, lost 22 pounds every time I’d go over, ministered to five people that are now part of the whole leadership of the whole nation of Romania right now. We discipled five men, taught them how to get into the Word, taught them to look out for the cults that are coming.” When I finished, her face, the blood had just run completely out of it.
And I thought to myself, I can’t speak about Asia. I’ve only been there a couple of times, but God had so led to go to Eastern Europe and I can speak about that, I can say something about that, and I kept my mouth shut until she asked me the question and I just tried to be as gracious as I could in answering her. And it dawned on her, “Wait a minute, who am I to commend myself when I’m standing there with somebody who has been 12 years in a row?”
Isn’t it interesting how you don’t have to worry about that, folks? Just rest in who God is, rest in the authority that He’s laid on your life and when He wants something said, He’ll set it up for you. You don’t have to set it up for yourself. You don’t have to commend yourself like the false apostles. You don’t go and try to build on somebody else’s experience to try to usurp their authority. You can just be who you are and when God wants you to speak, you can speak. Like Paul said, “I boast, I speak of the things. Yes, it does bring recognition I guess to me, but it’s because God did it.”
And so, what is the contrast here? When people have to go and tell everybody about what they’ve done and where they’ve been trying to build themselves up somewhere to give credibility, that’s something wrong. There’s something wrong, something’s missing. The flesh has gotten involved somewhere. God’s perfectly capable of defending Himself and the people that He’s called.
Paul was devoted to give all the glory unto god
But finally, thirdly, and this just is the icing on the cake. Paul dared not commend himself, was determined to only speak within the bounds of his own authority where God has commissioned him, where God had led him, but thirdly, he was devoted to give all the glory unto God. Paul had no trouble at all to give all the glory, the credit. When you hear the word “glory,” doxa, the root word means “recognition,” proper recognition, he was totally willing to give all the proper recognition to God because he knew what only God could do in his life. He knew he wasn’t worthy to be an apostle. He knew he wasn’t worthy to be a child of God so he’s going to give all the recognition back to God.
It was God who found him on the Damascus Road. Paul certainly wasn’t going looking for God. And in verse 17 he says, “But he who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.” I don’t know if he had this passage in his mind or not, because it’s used several times, but I think maybe he had Jeremiah 9:23-24 on his mind. Because in verse 23 it shows what the fleshly people boast about. But in 24 it shows what they ought to be boasting about. And it says in verse 23, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the might man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches.’” Don’t we love to boast? That’s the flesh. And then he says, “’but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.”
You see, Paul knew and totally understood some things. He’d been on the other side of that. He used to boast of what he knew. He used to boast about what he could do as a Pharisee. He used to boast about what he had. He came from one of the richest families over in the Greek world. Even though he was Jewish he knew this; he was a Roman citizen. But he knew now something different. He knew that he could do nothing apart from the eternal power of God working in him. Nothing eternal could ever take place; only that divine power of God working in his life: he understood this. Boy, he understood it very well.
Paul’s adequacy was only in Christ, never in himself. Second Corinthians 3:5-6, we looked at this and studied it, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant.” This is why Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I’m overwhelmed. It’s not me that lives; it’s Christ that lives in me. Why would I ever take any of the glory? I don’t know anything, I don’t have anything. Anything I do I have received from God.”
Paul also knew and totally understood that when it came to ministry, God set a person apart for ministry and God opens the doors for the ministry of the individual. He experienced it all through his ministry. We studied this back in chapter 2. When it was a door opened to him in Troas. In 1 Corinthians 16:9 it was a door open in Ephesus. In Colossians 4:3 it was a door open in prison to preach the Word of God. And to sum it up, in Acts 14:27 it was in the whole Gentile world it says that God had opened doors of ministry. Paul knew that no man could close those doors.
Revelation 3:8, “What God opens no man can close.” He knew and believed what every believer needs to know about: God working through them today in the 21st century. I mean, he wasn’t anything about himself. He knew the wickedness of his flesh. He knew that it was getting worse every day. The only credibility that he had was what God had given to him. And he’s not going to get in this game of commending himself, trying to assert an authority that he didn’t have. He’s not going to get in the game of measuring himself with himself or comparing himself to himself. He’s not going to do that.
He’s not going to speak and when he does speak about his authority, it’s when God gives him that permission and he’s not going to step outside the bounds and speak of somebody else’s labors, because he’s going to give all the glory unto God. He knew that God was the One who commends. That’s beautiful, based in His standard.
“For it is not he who commends himself as approved, but he whom the Lord commends.” If God did not put his seal of approval on Paul, and the work done, all that Paul had done, every bit of it—listen to me, every bit of it—would burn at the judgment seat of Christ. It’s nothing more than flesh; religious, stinking flesh. But what God does, He commends. And it lasts, and Paul knew that, and that’s the difference of him and the false apostles that were getting into the church. Paul dared not commend himself. He was determined to speak only within the bounds of his authority, where God had led him and what God had done. He was devoted to giving all glory to God.
I told you, and I hope that you’re this way—I’ve talked to so many of you that are—that when I came here I prayed, “God, I want to finish well.” I tell you, the thing I look forward to, folks, hope, is to stand before Him one day and Him to say, “Wayne, son,” because He knows me and He knows you by name, come to me and take me into His arms and says, “Wayne, well done, good and faithful servant. You didn’t take credit for yourself. You didn’t try to commend yourself with stuff that doesn’t matter anyway, and you gave Me the glory. You didn’t preach yourself but you preached Christ Jesus.”
Now, what’s your heart this morning? Can you stand in the contrast to what this world is today? Have you come to that place in your life that you want to give all the glory back unto Him?