In chapter 10, Paul defends both the intentions of his ministry, and the difference in his communication styles; in chapter 11, Paul follows up with a commentary on his life where he presents himself as a fool to build his point. We end up with a couple criteria on boasting:
- Boast in the Lord
- Boast in Weakness
Paul wraps up his second point in this chapter, why would we boast in weakness?
I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. (V12:1)
Paul starts talking about the visions he received many years ago, and In verse 7, it’s more clear that it is in fact him receiving these revelations. Is this weakness? Where does this really fit into his message? Paul discusses his options in terms of boasting, but leaves us with this:
…but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. (V12:6)
Would I boast about receiving revelations from God? Probably ..
This is advice to help us out further down the road, when something in our life tempts the need for approval or recognition. This is for all of us! No matter how far down that road we are, no matter how wise, mature, or humble, spiritual pride can get the best of us.
So what kept Paul from temptation?
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. (V12:7-8)
I’m a bit unsure of what this thorn was exactly. While there are a bunch of things that would make sense, like his poor speaking skills, or bodily ailments, I find it more likely he was talking about the blood-stained hands. It would match his pleading with the Lord, to forget about the horrible things he did to Christians in the past, but God says no. Why?
That same weakness keeps him from sin.
Boasting of our weakness actually brings us closer to God! Paul does this to remedy his pride in a way that not only keeps him from sin, but gives the glory back to God. I won’t be the first to admit that boasting of weakness is difficult and often in-genuine, but that doesn’t discredit the end product if we are genuine. We need to learn how to do this.
(It’s crucial that we ask God for this, otherwise we can get caught up in something we worked hard to learn. You can solve a lot of problems this way, but they come back eventually when we don’t rely on God to conquer them.)
Our weakness connects us with God.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (V12:9)
This verse finally brings us full circle! Yes, we should boast in the Lord, and yes, we should boast in weakness, but we can only boast in weakness because of the abundant grace that has been given by the Lord! The emphasis is not on our weakness but on the power of Christ.
A good example of this is back in 1 Corinthians.
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Cor 1:17)
We don’t go around boasting of our failure. Instead, we contrast our weakness with the works of God so that only God can be commended for the things he’s done, because our weakness is no good by itself. In Acts 13, Paul speaks a word of encouragement over the people at Antioch. Afterwards, the people beg that these things be told to them the next week as well, not because of how well Paul said it, but from the goodness of the word.
Had Paul been a great speaker, they would be gathered to hear him speak, not gathered to hear the word spoken.
The rest of his letter simply wraps up the situation to make way for the future. Most of what he says, he has said before, but he says it again to cover any holes or anything they might have missed. In part, he is still worried about his next visit. All he can do is pray that his letter was taken well, and that he was gentle enough in his bold speech to not break their relationship apart.
Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your up-building, beloved. (V12:19)
For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down. (V13:10)
Paul reminds them that he did not boast for his own sake. The slight difference between defending himself and justifying himself makes all the difference here, and the goal of this letter was not to boast, but to teach them how to boast well. Paul never targeted the false-apostles, he targeted their teachings, which were the source of the problem.
Boast for his glory to be seen.
And yes, we can definitely do this without only boasting in weakness! Paul boasts so often about the things God has done that it would be silly to limit ourselves like this. It’s all in adoration, all as an act of worship.
Boasting through weakness is just another medium to glorify God.
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God ..
(2 Corinthians 3:4-5)
What that said, we’re finally done this segment! I’ve had a lot of fun studying these chapters for just over a week, so I’m hoping to do something similar in Romans soon. 2 Corinthians has shown me how much further scripture can go when we put in the time to search, so I don’t intend to stop now 🙂
Praying the same for all my brothers and sisters!
Michael “What a Rollar Boaster” Ru