Beneficial Boasting

In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 the Apostle Paul talks about boasting.

2 Corinthians 12:1–10 “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. [2] I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. [3] And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—[4] and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. [5] On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses—[6] though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. [7] 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. [8] Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. [9] 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. [10] For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (ESV)

Paul’s approach to boasting is similar to when Jesus’ disciples asked him about who is the greatest in the kingdom of God. Jesus did not forbid striving to be the greatest in the kingdom of God. He told them that to become the greatest in the kingdom of God you don’t follow the ways of the world by lording it over others. You become great in the kingdom of God by being a servant of all. Jesus then applies this to himself: ” The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (ESV)

Paul mentions three kinds of beneficial boasting. None of them are anything like what the world boasts about.

Boast in the Lord. Earlier, in 2 Corinthians 10:17–18 Paul writes: “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.”

This is based on what Jeremiah the prophet writes:

“Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, [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.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

So Jeremiah, too, does not forbid boasting, he just says that all our boasting is to be done in the Lord.

The hymn, “How Great Thou Art” is a fine example of this. Throughout this majestic hymn we boast about all that the Lord has done for us, including, not sparing his Son but giving him up for us.

  1. O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,

Consider all the works Thy hand hath made,

I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,

Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed;

Refrain:

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,

How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,

How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

  1. When through the woods and forest glades I wander,

I hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,

And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;       Refrain

  1. But when I think that God, His Son not sparing,

Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;

That on the cross my burden gladly bearing,

He bled and died to take away my sin;            Refrain

  1. When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation,

And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!

Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and there proclaim;

“My God, how great Thou art!”                         Refrain

Boasting in the Lord is a great witnessing tool. People will want to know about this God about whom we are boasting all the time.

Second, we should boast in our weaknesses.

[7] 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. [8] Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. [9] 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. [10] For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (ESV)

Notice what Paul does not say about his weaknesses and afflictions. He does not ever say that his afflictions happen because God is punishing him for his sins. As our Lutheran Confessions point out, afflictions are given to those who are already righteous and sanctified so that we might be exercised and tested. When we face afflictions God is not punishing us. He is exercising and testing our faith to make it stronger.

All the punishment for our sins was poured out upon Jesus when he suffered and died on the cross for our sins.

Finally, we can boast about others.

2 Corinthians 12:5: “On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses.” The Corinthians liked to boast about their spiritual experiences. So Paul shares with them an experience he had heard about that is completely other-worldly; a man was caught up to the third heaven and heard things which man should not utter.

Luther also makes a very important comment about pride.

“All other vices are practiced in evil works; only glory and self-satisfaction are practiced in and by good works.” (What Luther Says, Concordia Publishing House, page 1133)

What Luther means is that, when we do evil, we are not proud but ashamed. This the way it should be and we should steadfastly avoid doing evil.

But when we do good we still can’t let our guard down. We need to guard against pride, that we will think that it was our own efforts that accomplished the good that we did, not God. We have to train ourselves to keep in mind that, when we do good, God gets all the glory.

And since we are celebrating Independence Day today, let’s apply Paul’s principles of boasting to our country as well. I am proud of America and all that this country has accomplished. We are not perfect but we are a force for good in this world and have been for a long time.

Americans dare not think that what we have accomplished is our own doing. God has blessed us. He has allowed us to do and be who we are.

Americans don’t boast about our weaknesses but we don’t try to hide them either. By allowing our weaknesses to be out in the open we can address them in a healthy way and improve.

And we boast about others. I especially like to boast about all those who have come from foreign lands to American and have found success here. Many have also found Jesus here and have helped to revitalize existing churches. For every person who is not proud of America or its past there are ten or even a hundred people who are so grateful for the opportunities America has given them.

Just like greatness, the boasting that goes on in the kingdom of God is far different than the boasting that goes on in the world. We boast in the Lord, we boast in our weaknesses and we boast in what others have done.

One thought on “Beneficial Boasting

  1. Thisssss issss an amazing write up 👏👏👏👏 Hats off for this beautiful compilation of alll the words we ought to know and engrave in our hearts ❤ I am saving this one ❤

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