But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. (verses 17-18)
It seems false teachers had infiltrated the church in Corinth, boasting they were “super-apostles,” so much better and stronger and more powerful than the Apostle Paul who had originally planted the church. In the process they were promoting a different Jesus, a different Spirit, and a different gospel than Paul himself had preached in the first place (2 Cor 11:4-5).
All of this forces Paul to defend himself, not out of prideful arrogance, but rather to preserve the authority and integrity of the true gospel. Indeed, he seems embarrassed by the need, asking the Corinthians to “put up with a little of my foolishness” (2 Cor 11:1) as he defends himself. But he presses forward because these infiltrators are “false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor 11:15), false teachers who are undermining the very gospel of Jesus.
So, Paul “boasts.” He wants to spotlight the truth and goodness of the gospel. But in so doing, he lays down a ground rule which he himself follows: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” In other words, he will simply highlight what the Lord has done in and through him. He won’t “boast about work already done in another man’s territory” (verse 16). Rather, he says, “(we) will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us” (verse 13). The focus is on what God himself has done.
In many ways it’s exactly what Jesus had urged in the Sermon on the Mount: “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven”(Matt 5:16). See what God has done, Paul says. The Lord put into Paul’s hands the gospel message. He sent him to the Corinthians. He gave Paul authority to build them up, birthing in Paul the hope that their faith would continue to grow, expanding his influence further so that the gospel could be preached beyond them, also. All of this is God’s own work. All of it shows the Lord’s heart to save. All of it is evidence of the authentic gospel. Praise be to the Father in heaven!
So, don’t pat yourself on the back, Paul says. Leave that to the Lord. Serve him and wait for that divine word of commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” That’s the word that counts. It’s the only seal of approval that matters.
Paul was forced to “boast” that he might defend the gospel. But the act of reflection itself is good, for us as well as Paul. How has God used you? What work has he done in and through your own life? Don’t pat yourself on the back, but rather open your eyes to God’s work. Praise him for what he has done. And then offer yourself afresh for what he has yet in store.
Lord, like Paul, I rejoice in the great goodness of the authentic gospel. Thank you for salvation in Jesus. Thank you for making yourself known. Thank you that you choose to use me in your own purposes. I submit myself again to your service. May you use me in whatever ways you choose. To your glory alone. Amen.
Reflect: Look back over the past year. How has the Lord used you in his purposes? Ask him for eyes to see. Whether much or little, give him thanks. Then commit yourself afresh.