Paul Defends His Work
1Do you think I am a coward when I am with you and brave when I am far away? Well, I ask you to listen, because Christ himself was humble and gentle. 2Some people have said we act like the people of this world. So when I arrive, I expect I will have to be firm and forceful in what I say to them. Please don't make me treat you that way. 3We live in this world, but we don't act like its people 4or fight our battles with the weapons of this world. Instead, we use God's power that can destroy fortresses. We destroy arguments 5and every bit of pride that keeps anyone from knowing God. We capture people's thoughts and make them obey Christ. 6And when you completely obey him, we will punish anyone who refuses to obey.
7You judge by appearances. If any of you think you are the only ones who belong to Christ, then think again. We belong to Christ as much as you do. 8Maybe I brag a little too much about the authority that the Lord gave me to help you and not to hurt you. Yet I am not embarrassed to brag. 9And I am not trying to scare you with my letters. 10Some of you are saying, “Paul's letters are harsh and powerful. But in person, he is a weakling and has nothing worth saying.” 11Those people had better understand that when I am with you, I will do exactly what I say in my letters.
12We won't dare compare ourselves with those who think so much of themselves. But they are foolish to compare themselves with themselves. 13We won't brag about something we don't have a right to brag about. We will only brag about the work God has sent us to do, and you are part of that work. 14We are not bragging more than we should. After all, we did bring the message about Christ to you.
15We don't brag about what others have done, as if we had done those things ourselves. But I hope as you become stronger in your faith, we will be able to reach many more of the people around you. That has always been our goal. 16Then we will be able to preach the good news in other lands where we cannot take credit for work someone else has already done. 17 The Scriptures say, “If you want to brag, then brag about the Lord.” 18You may brag about yourself, but the only approval that counts is the Lord's approval.
In this passage Paul finds it necessary to explain his behaviour to the Corinthians, and because they seem to have certain expectations of him he is explaining his “bragging rights.” He is determined to act in the way Jesus would have done.
Meekness is not weakness. Far from it. It is a deliberate determination not to act in an aggressive or sinful way. It is biting your tongue when given a chance to vent or get angry. To be honest, I sometimes let my emotions get the better of me and I do not act as Paul is encouraging me to act in verse 1. I know it is difficult, but the more we train our minds to take our thoughts captive (v 5) the more we become like Jesus. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29 NIV). The Holy Spirit is working in me to change me bit by bit so I become more like Jesus. He transforms my attitude and my life so that I become a perfect reflection of Christ.
This chapter reminds us how we ought to view ourselves, others and the ministry in which God has placed us. God views all believers as equal and we ought to treat other believers the same way. No person or ministry is better than any other. As the comedian Red Green so wisely puts it, “Remember, I’m pullin’ for ya. We’re all in this together.” Building God’s kingdom is a team effort, we are all part of one body with Christ as the head, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.
We labour in what God has called us to do but our sinful nature wants us to look at what we have accomplished. We cannot take credit for what God is doing in us or what he has called us to do (v 13). “We do all things to the glory of God” (1 Peter 4:10,11). I have had to battle with this so I know what it is like. However, I have to remind myself that it is God working in me; I am using the skills HE gave me. It is all about him. We are blessed when we give God all the glory.
Written by Rob Longley and Annabel Robinson
Lord Jesus, I know I am not perfect in and of myself. But I know that you want me to become more like you. Help me to desire what you want me to be so I can become a perfect reflection of you. In your name I pray. Amen.