Paul boasts in this section of scripture. But his boasts are not like the boasts of most men.
Here we see Paul boasting of his weaknesses and failings, not his strengths or achievements, as most men would do. Paul understood that all of the things he did well, all of his learning and the work he had done in the name of Jesus, were not really his work. The work he did and the things he achieved were done through the power of the Lord and by the working of the Holy Spirit in him.
And so if all the strong things, the good things and the achievements he made were done by the Lord, then all that is left are the weaknesses, the failures, the mistakes and the frailties. It is these he boasted of, not because he was proud of them, but rather because the Lord had shown him that, “My power is made perfect in weakness.”
If ever there was anyone who suffered for the sake of the Lord, it was Paul. In this section he recounts any number of personal, physical and spiritual attacks on his person, many of which could have easily killed him.
But they didn’t. The Lord protected him through all of these persecutions and lifted Paul up to do the work to which he had been called. A person might wonder why he had to go through this litany of suffering, but Paul understood what was happening. Paul knew he had to suffer for Christ, and he was prepared to do so.
This was perhaps the greatest sacrifice anyone could make for the sake of the Lord. He had a work to do and he did it in spite of the suffering. Which raises an important question. Are you prepared to suffer for Christ and your walk with Jesus?
One of the worst things that can happen to a person, especially a Christian, is to brought into slavery. I am not talking about the kind of slavery we are familiar with, which is physical slavery where people are captured, sold and held in chains to do the bidding of others.
No. My concern and the concern Paul raises in this section is about Christians in spiritual slavery. This is far worse than physical slavery because most Christians don’t even know they have been captured. They don’t realise they are in spiritual bondage, and too often it is the church itself which puts them into bondage and forces them to stay there.
This should not be so because Jesus came and died so that the slavery of the spirit and the bondages of sin could and would be broken. And yet many Christians today are still trapped in those same bonds and have no idea how to break free as Jesus planned.
We are warned many times in the Bible about false teachers, false prophets, and here Paul also warns about false apostles.
Paul’s concern is that there were people going around the churches, supposedly preaching and teaching the word, but ho were in actual fact seeking their own ends. They were looking for personal glory, personal gain ad the adulation of the people rather than advancing the faith of the gospel.
In his concerns, Paul is worried that the people would be captured by these false apostles and be led astray and away from the truth of the gospel into false teachings that may appear to have the look and feel of righteousness, but are of no value in checking the indulgences of the flesh. And those same conditions exist in the church still today.
There is a battle raging that has been going on since the very beginnings of the church, as we can see from these words written by Paul.
5 I think that I am not in the least inferior to these superlative apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not in knowledge; in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.
Human nature is such that people tend to listen to those who are great orators or who have the most letters after their names. The orator is often persuasive and charismatic, and they are able to charm people to their point of view. Whereas, the scholarly and academics persuade from the position of being learned in some topic or other.
But this does not mean they are doing good or are promoting the truth. Adolf Hitler was a brilliant orator who wooed the whole world…before he set the world at war. And a great many scholars have been wrong as they followed and taught false teachings.
But in the church it is different and worse when these things collide. And this was Paul’s concern.
I travel a lot each year, often going into distant cities as well as the remote towns and communities of outback Australia.
In my travels I have often visited churches and listened to the messages being preached in those churches. Some of these have been small country churches with just a handful of people, while others have been the large mega-churches with congregations in the thousands.
As I have listened to the messages preached from these various platforms, I have been often joyfully surprised at what I have heard. But at times I have left the churches stunned at the deceptive lies in messages preached and sick to the stomach at the damage being done to those who are receiving these messages.
This is the thrust of Paul’s words today where he too was horrified at how easily people in his time accepted a different gospel, a different Jesus and a different spirit than what is taught in the truth. And they submit to these lies and accept them readily. It was happening then, and I would go so far as to say it is worse today. Continue reading “A Different Gospel”
One of the things I heard years ago when I was in business, was that if you want to get ahead you had to be prepared to “blow your own horn.” To blow your own horn basically means to be prepared to put yourself up on a pedestal and to tell people how great you are.
Now I don’t know about you, but I was always uncomfortable with that statement, especially the principle that seems to be the foundation for these words. To me, this is boasting, and it smacks of pride and arrogance, which are two characteristics of man that have never led to anything good.
Boasting about your self is not good. Self-justification, self-aggrandizement and self- promotion to me seem to be too focused on “self” and as Christians we are told over and over to care about others more than ourselves and to worship and serve the Lord. So Paul teaches us a better way in these verses today. Continue reading “Boasting”
There is a failure in human nature that is highly destructive and divisive. It appears first in young children and remains with most people to some degree throughout their lives. It is the propensity for people to make comparisons between themselves and others.
This failing has led to great destruction and evil over history. It led to the dehumanisation and down-treading of black people in the apartheid regimes of South Africa. It led to the evils committed against the African-Americans who were deemed somehow to be sub-human. And it led to the wholesale slaughter of Jews at the hands of Adolf Hitler.
All of these and many more inhumane actions were as the direct result of making comparisons that deemed one person, group or nationality to be better or more superior than another. All of these actions were evil and were wrong.
But comparisons of an evil nature still occur daily. People still make comparisons saying that one person or group is better than another. They may not have the same devastating impact as the few examples quoted above, but that does not mean they are any less dangerous or evil than those. In fact they may be worse as they can change the way a person thinks or believes about something or someone, and it is this issue that most severely impacts the faith of believers today and what Paul was concerned about in this section of his letter to the Corinthian church.
True authority is meant to be used in a manner that helps people. The power of governments and other authorities is meant to provide assistance for those who are in need. True authority should enable those who have authority to encourage, help and lift those over whom the authority exists.
Unfortunately though, this is not always the case. Too often we see that the giving of a little authority into the hands of some people leads to many evil things. They use authority instead to lord it over others, to seek personal gain, to dole out their authority in a miserly way and to enhance their own position of power or wealth.
While this should be the case in all situations, it is even more important in the church. This is not what true authority is meant to do, and we see here Paul speak about the proper use of authority. Continue reading “True Authority”
How many denominations, sects, groups, cults and churches exist under the banner of being Christians? I’m quite certain I have no idea, and nor does any other man upon this earth. Only God knows how many there may be. But there seems to have been a challenge within Christendom going back hundreds of years as new groups form and splinter off from other churches to follow Christ in their own way. And this is expected for we are told as much in the Bible.
Furthermore we are told that there will be divisions in the churches and that divisions are necessary. But with all of that upheaval it can be difficult to know truth from error, and it could become hard to decipher what is true and what is not, or who holds the keys to the truth.
So it becomes increasingly important to learn the truth for yourself and to seek it diligently, regardless of which church you may be affiliated with. In the end we will be judged as individuals, not as members of a church. The church serves an important purpose, but we must learn to stand and seek the truth that will enable us to stand regardless of what any specific church teaches. Continue reading “Christians Unite”