Summary: This is the fifth in a series on love from I Corinthians 13; it deals with the fact that love does not boast and is not arrogant.
“The Utmost Evil”
December 15, 2002
Love of Another Kind – I Corinthians 13
Don’t look in your Bibles yet; let’s play a little “word association” first: when I say the term “the utmost evil”, what comes first to your mind? C.S. Lewis called bragging “the utmost evil.” In I Corinthians 13, Paul paints for us a picture of what love ought to look like in the life of the believer in Jesus Christ indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit. Turn there with me if you would! (Read and pray).
Aren’t you glad to have campaign season behind you? We are bombarded, for two months, with campaign advertisements; when a candidate isn’t trashing his opponent, he/she is bragging about all of the supposed accomplishments made during their term of service, and bragging about all of the things that will be accomplished if only we have the good foresight to return them to their position of power. But alas, we are now well into the Christmas season, and ads of a different nature are upon us, urging us to buy all of the things we need to make us happy. But in a way, there is a similarity: each ad, at least the ones that I can understand, goes to lengths to brag on their product. Bragging of one sort or another goes on all the time all around us; it’s somewhat of a national pastime, it would seem! Paul takes up the subject here.
Rare word (nowhere else used in the N.T.) used here for “boast” or “brag” (GK. Perpereuomai) means literally “be a windbag”! Fee says it suggests self-centered actions in which there is an inordinate desire to call attention to oneself. It may refer to “bragging without foundation”. For the believer, it connotes not bragging about our accomplishments from the standpoint of our own merit and ability. This refers to a parading of one’s accomplishments; it can be seen as the “other side of jealousy”, for it involves attempting to make others jealous of what we have. While jealousy seeks to put others down, bragging is an attempt to lift our own selves up; it is a particular sin of the person insecure in who she is.
I. The problem in Corinth: pride
Always remember, when reading an epistle in the New Testament, that the writer, generally Paul, is writing with regard to a particular situation or circumstance that is taking place in the particular fellowship. The situation at Corinth was a mess, but the root of all of the sin that was happening in their midst was pride. Today we are thinking particularly about the outworking of that pride in its most blatant and obvious form, the sin of arrogant boasting, which the Corinthians were engaged in. Corinthians were spiritual show-offs, parading their gifts before others in a conspicuous manner. Each tried to do his own thing as prominently as possible, it seemed. Corinthians were conceited about their giftings, their teachers, and their knowledge. Amazingly, they even boasted in their worldliness, which was pretty worldly: idolatry, immorality, even incest of a kind not even practiced by pagans, Paul says in 5:1.
We find evidence of one such example in I Corinthians 4, which echoes some things that Paul has talked about in chapter 1. The Corinthians were lining up and dividing their loyalties behind different teachers and leaders; some were of the “Paul” group, while others had loyalties to Apollos, a silver-tongued orator of the church. Still others claimed that they were above the fray, because they merely followed Jesus. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having one’s favorite Bible teachers and preachers; I love Ravi Zacharias and Alistair Begg myself, while some others may favor Adrian Rogers, John MacArthur, or David Jeremiah. That’s fine, but the problem in the church at Corinth was that they were boasting about their own “leaders” to the exclusion of others, as though they were truly spiritual because of their preferences. Even those of the “Jesus Group” were pious and sanctimonious instead of humble. And Paul chastises them, and rightly so, for their bragging and the arrogance behind it. Even though their reason for bragging strikes us as a little odd, we can nonetheless identify with the bragging itself.
II. What God says about it – (Proverbs)
A. “Pride is dishonorable” – 11:2
Who likes a braggart? Even though we engage in it ourselves, we hate it when we see it in others. Pride is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the one who has it.
B. “Pride is destructive” – 16:18
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
How many relationships remain broken to this day because of pride? In a congregation of this size, there are undoubtedly some folks who are estranged from others because someone’s pride makes someone unwilling to admit blame, to forgive, to reconcile. Perhaps it is a family member or a neighbor, a co-worker or someone who is seated within eyesight of you right now! Is your pride keeping you from reconciliation?