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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 10:12-18; Leadership and the Lord’s Approval

10/04_2 Corinthians 10:12-18; Leadership and the Lord’s Approval; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201004_2cor10_12-18.mp3

Who won the debate? By what standard? Who had better arguments? Who had greater eloquence? Who made a better show? Who listened well and followed the rules of etiquette? Who showed greater kindness to his opponent? By what standard do you judge? (I didn’t watch it.)

2 Corinthians 10:12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. 13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. 17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

You’ve seen kids on the playground who are told to line up smallest to tallest. They stand back to back to measure themselves against each other and stretch to their full height and re-order themselves and argue about who is taller and who was standing on tippie-toes and who has shoes that give an unfair advantage. Someone establishes themselves as judge to evaluate, but then they have to be evaluated by others to find their place in the line. That is the kind of thing that is going on in this passage, and Paul calls it foolishness. He says ‘I wouldn’t dare to even play your silly game.’

Let me give you a rough literal translation; it’s not good English, but it brings out some of the repetition and verbal links that are there in the original.

12. For we don’t dare judge in or judge with those who commend themselves; but those who by themselves with themselves measure and judge themselves with themselves do not understand.

13. But we will not boast to that without measure; but according to the measure of the rule which God measured to us; which measure extended even as far as you.

14. For not as not extending to you do we hyper-extend ourselves, for even as far as you we arrived before in the gospel of Christ –

15. Not into that without measure do we boast in another’s toils; but we hold hope by the growth of your faith, by you to be magnified according to our rule to super-abound 16. into the still farther parts beyond you to evangelize; not to boast in another rule to that which is prepared;

17. but the one who boasts must boast in the Lord

18. for not the one who commends himself is that one approved, but whom the Lord commends.

Paul is under attack. His authority and credibility in the church in Corinth is being undermined by those he later calls

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.

Paul is not ashamed to boast excessively of his authority, which he received from the Lord for building up the church (2Cor.10:8). He calls them sarcastically ‘super-apostles’ who are preaching a different Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel (2Cor.11:4).

Paul and Delegating Leadership

Paul has no problem turning over the local leadership of a church to another. He left Titus in Crete

Titus 1:5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—

Paul was eager to establish others, men of character, in leadership. But, along with personal integrity,

Titus 1:9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

He must hold firm the trustworthy word as taught. There are deceivers who must be rebuked and silenced.

According to Philippians 1, Paul can rejoice even over the preaching of those with impure motives, when they are preaching Christ.

Paul has no problem with someone like Apollos coming in behind him to follow up his ministry and serve in the churches he planted.

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, …

The Corinthians tried to pit Paul against Apollos. Paul says no, we are on the same team. We are one. We are fulfilling different roles that God has given to each of us.

False Apostles and Usurped Authority

So what is different between Apollos or the elders appointed by Titus and these ‘super-apostles’?

1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

The false apostles are seeking to dig up the foundation of Jesus and under their authority transplant the church on to a different foundation of a different Jesus and a different gospel. This is what Paul is up against in this passage.

Subjective Comparison

Paul’s sarcasm is biting, and this passage drips with irony.

2 Corinthians 10:12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

The false apostles are commending themselves. Back in chapter 3, we see that apparently they were coming in with letters of recommendation, seeking to establish their own authority. Paul says ‘you are our letter of recommendation.’ In Chapter 4, Paul says that he does not tamper with God’s word, but commends himself to all by the open statement of the truth. In chapter 5 he says that he is not seeking to commend himself, but rather to give them an answer to use with those who boast merely in outward appearances. In chapter 6 Paul commends himself by cataloging his sufferings that demonstrate he is following in the footsteps of his Master.

The false apostles are commending themselves, by judging themselves with themselves. This is a danger today. We are a competitive culture. How successful is your ministry? How big is your church? Your bible study? How many have you led to Christ? How many followers do you have, how many views, how many hits, how many likes? Or in some circles, how much opposition do you have? How many are criticizing your ministry? Because if you’re being attacked, you must be doing something right (it couldn’t mean that you are just rude, or being a jerk).

How do you measure ministry success? This is a case of the seven dwarves bickering over who is the tallest. Snow White smiles and stoops down to pat them on the head. At Babel (Gen.11) mankind came together to make a name for themselves and a tower to compete with heaven. The Lord came down to get a better look at the puny little tower they had built.

We like to look sideways to see how we are doing. Am I keeping up? Am I doing better than the other guy? If I am ahead, I can ease up and relax a little. If I am behind I need to push hard to catch up. How are you doing? ‘Well, I’m faster than him, but I’m way behind her.’ Paul says ‘when you measure yourselves by one another and compare yourselves with one another, you are without understanding.’ You lack spiritual insight. You don’t have an external standard, an absolute standard.

The Standard and Measure

2 Corinthians 10:13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.

What is the standard? ‘We will not boast without measure; but according to the measure of the rule which God measured to us; which measure extended even as far as you. For not as not extending to you do we hyper-extend ourselves, for even as far as you we arrived before in the gospel of Christ.’ What is the measure of the rule that God measured to Paul? What is the limit of the area of influence that God assigned to Paul and his co-workers?

Acts 9:15 …“…he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

Paul is to bear the name of Jesus everywhere he goes. And, by the way, his ministry will be accompanied by suffering. In his letter to the Romans (a church he hadn’t yet visited and didn’t establish)

Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, …5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

Paul is set apart for the gospel of God. In Romans 11 and in Galatians he claims to be an apostle to the Gentiles, but that does not seem to be the primary thing he has in mind here. What he says here is that he was ‘the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.’ The standard is the gospel. It was by his open statement of the truth that he commended himself. He proclaimed Christ and him crucified. He preached the cross.

The false apostles are seeking to build themselves up by attacking Paul’s character and undermining his authority. His defense? On his second missionary journey in Acts 18, he made it all the way to Corinth. He spent 18 months preaching Jesus, and a church was birthed. They exist as a church because he brought the gospel to them, because the message of Christ crucified had life transforming power. He says ‘you are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts’

Hopes for Evangelism Beyond

And here he wants them to know that he is looking beyond them. It’s not all about them. The mission is bigger than them. But they are part of it.

2 Corinthians 10:15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you [by you] may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence.

The Corinthians are Paul’s labor. And they have been a painful labor to him. But his hope is as their faith grows, they will be instrumental in expanding the mission beyond them. A short time later, in the letter to the Romans, writing from Corinth he says

Romans 15:17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” 22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

Paul is eager to preach to those who have never heard. He hopes that when the faith of the Corinthians grows, they will be a launching pad to send him out to Rome, and then on to Spain. This is Paul’s heart. Do you know that there are still today places and peoples who have never heard the good news, who have never heard the name of Jesus?

Boasting in Knowing the Lord

Paul doesn’t commend himself by comparing himself with others. He measures himself by the objective standard of the gospel that he was called to proclaim. He doesn’t boast in someone else’s labors; he boasts in the work prepared for him by God. He boasts only in what God has accomplished through him, so his boasting is ultimately boasting in the Lord.

2 Corinthians 10:17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Paul paraphrases Jeremiah 9:24

Jeremiah 9:24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Boast only in the Lord. This is an echo back to verse 12, where Paul accuses the false teachers who compare themselves with one another of being without understanding. The understanding they lack is understanding and knowing the Lord. They were boasting in outward metrics and measurables. They were hyper-extending themselves and boasting about the labors of another as if it were their own.

Paul says it comes down to this. Accomplishments are great, and he hopes to be used by God to reach more and more people with the good news, but what really matters is boasting in the Lord, knowing the Lord, having real understanding, a real relationship with Jesus.

2 Corinthians 10:18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Self-commendation doesn’t mean anything. The commendation of others doesn’t mean anything. What you think of yourself doesn’t matter. What others think of you or your ministry doesn’t really matter. It is what Jesus thinks of you that matters.

The false apostles are in danger of hearing these fateful words from the Lord:

Matthew 7:23 …‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Paul knows it is only what Jesus thinks of him that matters, and he looks forward to hearing these words:

Matthew 25:21 …‘Well done, good and faithful servant. … Enter into the joy of your master.’

Paul didn’t lose heart, he didn’t despair even when everything seemed to be falling apart, because he was looking not to the things that are seen, but to the unseen eternal realities (2Cor.4:16,18). He had his eyes fixed on Jesus, and the only approval he was seeking was the approval of Jesus.

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Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

October 8, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment