If you believe in Jesus Christ, the command from God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in respect of boasting is unambiguous, namely, you are not to transform anything that He, God has done for or through you into a boast. Further, you are not to boast that God’s power is evident in the fact that He can defeat any other entity who is put forward as deity by any other religion or system of beliefs.
How do we know this? Well, let us consider three texts from Christian Scripture, namely Jeremiah 9:23–24; Luke 10:19–20; and 1 Corinthians 8:5–6 (words in brackets mine in spirit of an amplified reading of Christian Scriptures). Note that the closest interpretation of the word translated ‘glory’ in the rendition of Jeremiah 9:23–24 in the NKJV is ‘boast’. The translators of the NKJV felt that the word glory is more spiritual than the word boast.
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories (boasts) glory (boast) in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight, says the Lord.”
Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this that the spirits are subject to you (do not let your spirit dwell on what I do for or through you, else like Peter who initially is walking on the waves, subsequently you begin to sink (Matthew 14:29–30), for it is only via focusing on me, your Lord and Savior that you are able to keep walking on water (Hebrews 12:1–2)), but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.
For even if there are those called gods, whether in heaven, whether upon earth — as there are gods many and lords many — yet to us is one God (yet we only will believe in existence of one God), The Father, of whom are the all things, and we to Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are the all things, and we through Him.
If to us there is only one God, it never can be the case that the one whom we believe to be God will regard another sufficiently ’god’ for arrival at a challenge.
The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ declares that if you are to boast of Him, you are not to boast in relation to others’ beliefs, but rather you are to boast about His character, that He delights in kindness, justice, and righteousness.
In 2 Corinthians chapters 10 & 11, Apostle Paul recognizes folly of boasting (2 Corinthians 11:1; 12:1), which consists in enumeration of earthly accomplishments (in context of Christian Spirituality), but yet embarks on such boasting.
Was this weakness on part of Apostle Paul? Well, based on the words of The Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, absolutely; in the decision to boast, Apostle Paul was giving in to his flesh. Apostle Paul concurs, makes clear he is aware of the weakness that is source of his resorting to boasting. In this respect, consider these words in 2 Corinthians 11:16–17.
I say again, let no one think me a fool. If otherwise, at least receive me as a fool, that I also may boast a little (if you think me a fool, then you cannot, simultaneously, consider me unwise if I boast). What I speak, I speak not according to the Lord, but as it were, foolishly, in this confidence of boasting (I believe this boasting will, somehow, though it is not via directive of Jesus Christ, be effective in redirecting you to Christ). Seeing that many boast according to the flesh, I also will boast.
The question then is, if Apostle Paul is aware of folly of boasting, of weakness of boasting, if he recognizes that what he is about to say to the Corinthian Church is not directive of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but out of his own mind and weakness, why does he go on to indulge in the boasting?
For you put up with fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise (with the satire embedded in my boasting to follow, I hope to awaken your spirits to your folly)! — 2 Corinthians 11:18.
Allowed by the Holy Spirit, Apostle Paul wonders whether, the Corinthians having devolved into foolish behavior, that perhaps in the indulgence of similar foolishness or weakness, he perhaps might be able to spark a light of wisdom in hearts of those who were straying from the path of wisdom.
How are we able to ascertain the preceding inference? Well listen to Apostle Paul’s own words in 2 Corinthians 11:19–21.
For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you in the face. To our shame I say that we were too weak for that! But in whatever anyone is bold — I speak foolishly I am bold also.
Always, those who prey on others exalt themselves, such that others look up to them. In his decision to engage in boasting, Apostle Paul reasons that if the Corinthians were to see that those to whom they look up, those who exalt themselves such as to take advantage of them, do not have any greater achievements than he, Apostle Paul, that perhaps, they would listen carefully to whatever he is saying, as such, recognize folly of their ways.
But what then does Apostle Paul boast about? Well, he starts off with the folly, that is, declares himself a better minister of Christ than those who are taking advantage of the Corinthians. This he does in 2 Corinthians 11:22–23. He then goes on to boast about all of the sufferings that he had endured for sake of preaching of the gospel in 2 Corinthians 11:24–29.
How does Apostle Paul end all of his boasting? Well, let us consider his words in 2 Corinthians 12:8–10.
Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
While Apostle Paul is weak towards God in the decision to boast, he ends his boasting with admonition to the Corinthian believers that they not boast in their successes, but rather boast in their failings, as such glorify the grace of God in their lives, the grace that makes up for their weaknesses.
We arrive then at evidence for righteous satire (with respect to motive) that is embedded in Apostle Paul’s resort to boasting.
Sometimes, when men who work with good motives despair of success at sensitization of other men who are caught in deceptions to the truth, they attempt to demonstrate that the men who deceive are no better than they are, as such, attempt to induce attention to their words.
Apostle Paul makes clear that he understands such a strategy is not favored by The Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, but because he is at his wits end, and is allowed, in context of his weakness, to embark on such a course by the Holy Spirit, he rolls the dice, hoping his weakness will, somehow, work for the truth and the grace of God.
How do we infer that Apostle Paul was devolving to weakness of the Corinthians? Well, consider these words in 1 Corinthians 3:3–4; and 2 Corinthians 12:20–21.
For you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?
For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced.
Since the Corinthian believers were ‘respecting men’, Apostle Paul devolved to boasting in respect of his merits with hope it would induce the believers to pay closer attention to his words. Consider, however, that while Apostle Paul demonstrates weakness in context of his relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that is, boasts about what God is doing through him, he does not sin in context of his relationship with the Corinthian believers. How is this true?
When Apostle Paul lists his merits, just about all that he lists are his sufferings for sake of the gospel of Christ. There is not listing of any earthly glory.
The boastings listed by Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 11:25–29)?
Stripes; imprisonments; deaths; being beaten with rods; being stoned; experience of shipwrecks; spending of a night and a day in the midst of the sea; perils from waters, robbers, his own countrymen, Gentiles, or false brethren; working in context of weariness, hunger, cold, thirst, sleeplessness etc.; and spiritual pangs for welfare of the body of Christ.
While Apostle Paul demonstrates weakness towards The Father in the decision to boast, he mostly boasts about his sufferings for the gospel of Christ, does not boast about anything that is worldly, does not engage in boasting, which consists in the pride of life — cars, houses, wife, children, position in society, esteem of society etc.
The sum of it all? Apostle Paul adopts a human reasoning in attempts at redirecting believers in the Corinthian Church to Christ. But he boasts about things that are spiritual, about sacrifices for sake of the gospel of Christ, does not boast about anything that has to do with the things of this world.
Given he was weak only towards God — the God who cares more about motive and righteous efforts than manifestation of weaknesses in context of pursuit of good motives and righteous objectives — the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ covered his weakness.
It is the same grace that covered Apostle Paul’s demonstration of weakness that covers your weakness and mine. For if anyone asserts that he or she never has had any weakness, he or she is a liar and the truth is not in him or her (1 John 1:8).
Apostle Paul’s spiritual summary of his weakness and the solution?
“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!…(Romans 7:24–25).”
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies (will provide you with the grace to overcome sins and weaknesses) through His Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:11).
Does God call people who are absolutely perfect? Absolutely not (Hebrews 12:1–2; 1 Peter 1:1–2)! Should you then be surprised that Apostle Paul was not absolutely perfect?
The Holy Spirit allowed Apostle Paul his foibles only so you and I could do better, only so you and I can learn from his mistakes.
Note, however, that Apostle Paul was imperfect only towards God, did not mistreat any neighbor. Mistreatment of a neighbor is not imperfection, rather is sinfulness, lawlessness, iniquity. Our Lord Jesus Christ explicitly declares that men who deliberately mistreat a neighbor are of the devil, do not belong to Him (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8–10).
Preservation of Apostle Paul’s foible is a spiritual principle embedded in inspiration of Scripture by the Holy Spirit for our benefit (1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Timothy 3:16–17), namely, foibles of a preceding generation are preserved, such that following generations who love wisdom do not arrive at same errors of behavior.
In the recognition that Apostle Paul’s boasting did not in eventuality work — history shows that the church in the Greek world did not thrive quite as well as the Ephesian Church, the Church, which already was steeped in the love of Christ for one another (Ephesians 1:15), and which was commended by our Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation 2:1–3 as one of the churches of Asia — we arrive at the spiritual wisdom that Apostle Paul’s weakness of boasting did not work to achieve his intended design.
Given strategy of boasting did not work then, we are to trust God that allowing of such weakness in ourselves, with hope it will be helpful for the gospel of Christ, is disobedience to God that does not bear the intended righteous fruit. If it has not worked in past, and we know The Father is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we do well to obey The Father and focus our boasting on our experience of greatness of His Deity, which consists in the quality of His motives and actions, that is in the doing of kindness, justice, and righteousness.
Is it not a wonderful thing that the God we worship, the God we serve, defines Himself, not by the greatness of His power, but by how He treats you and I?
Every testimony that we give with hope of furthering of the gospel of Christ ought not to aggrandize our self, but rather reveal to the world, the kindness, justice, and righteousness of The Father.
It always is wise to trust in the wisdom of the only wise and true God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.