Summary: If we must boast, boast in the sufficiency of God’s grace.
Title: Bragging Rights
Text: II Corinthians 12:2-10
Thesis: If we must boast, boast in the sufficiency of God’s grace.
Our story today reminds me of an incident told in E.M. Bounds’ book “On Prayer.” The storyteller said he woke one morning to the sound of hounds on the hunt. Looking out the window he saw an exhausted fawn crossing the field. He went outside just as the fawn jumped the fence and crouched in the grass not ten feet from where he stood. A moment later two hounds came into the yard prompting the fawn to run to him, pushing its head between his legs. He said, “I lifted the little thing to my breast, and swinging around and round, fought off the dogs because in that moment all the dogs in the west would not capture that fawn after in its weakness had appealed to my strength.”
The story today is about how human helplessness and weakness ultimately appeals to the strength of Almighty God in order to survive. (A.C. Dixon, quoted in E.M. Bounds “On Prayer,” Whitaker House, P. 107)
The setting from which the story emerges is one that seems to be causing the Apostle Paul considerable embarrassment. The circumstances in which he finds himself embroiled have him, and I use his own words, “talking like a fool.”
He was the founding pastor of the Church at Corinth. He was with the people from day one. He had loved them and led them and now his position or role in the Corinthian Christian community was being threatened by up-starts he referred to as “super apostles” in 11:5 and 12:11.
The KJV refers to the people of whom Paul writes as “the chiefest of apostles.” The term used in the NIV and the NLT is “super apostles.” And in the Message they are referred to as “big-shot apostles.”
It seems that if someone shows up preaching quite another Jesus than we preached—different spirit, different message—you put up with him quite nicely. But if you can put up with these “big-shot apostles," why can’t you put up with simple me? I’m as good as they are. It’s true that I don’t have their voice, haven’t mastered that smooth eloquence that impresses you so much. But when I do open my mouth, I at least know what I’m talking about. II Corinthians 11:4-6
This is not a new issue. In I Corinthians 1 Paul speaks to the divisiveness caused by their penchant for following personalities. Some declared themselves as followers of Paul. Others said they were followers of Apollos or Peter. And the most spiritual among them said they were followers of Christ. (I Corinthians 1:12)
We do not know who these “super apostles” were but we know there was a sense that the new guys are in and the old guy is out. So Paul, though against his better judgment, concludes that despite the fact that “bragging is not something the Lord wants… since the super apostles are bragging about their human achievement, I will too.” (II Corinthians 11:18)
He doesn’t want to boast. He hates boasting. He knows God doesn’t condone boasting. He is embarrassed to be boasting. And he feels foolish to be lowering himself to boasting. But non-the-less, he lets loose, asserting his own list of bragging rights.
Why would Paul be moved to do something he so detested?
I. Good and godly people need to feel good about themselves and want to be appreciated by others.
Paul wrote, “I don’t think I am inferior to these “super apostles.” I may not be a trained speaker, but I know what I am talking about. I think you realize this by now, for we have proved it again and again.” II Corinthians 11:5-6
We may not immediately be able to identify with Paul’s feelings of being threatened or unappreciated. But perhaps you remember when you were a respected athlete… a starter on a football or basketball team. And then a new kid moved to town and he was pretty good, maybe better than you and suddenly all eyes are on him. He is the new hope of a conference championship. Or maybe you have worked in a business for a number of years. You have been a diligent and trusted employee. Your co-workers like and admire you. Your opinions carry weight… and then the new hire comes on board and everyone loves him or her. Your co-workers and your boss think they are the cat’s meow. You are now among the adoring rather than being the adored. You are no longer the queen bee and but just another drone. Or perhaps you have been through a messy divorce and your spouse remarries and you feel like the new step dad or step mom is trying to steal away the affection of your children.