Paul had been drawn into a game he didn’t want to play . . . but he was, in a sense, desperate. He had done the original “matchmaking” and it was truly a “match made in heaven.” He had brought the good news to Corinth . . . and through him the Spirit had wooed lost souls to the Savior. The little church was established and grew. Watered with abundant grace, these believers were a local representation of the Bride of the Christ . . . and as such, Paul, in effect, had betrothed them to one Husband and desired to present them before Him as “a pure virgin” (2Cor. 11:2). But, just as the serpent deceived Eve with good sounding words and convincing arguments of apparent wisdom, so too, the betrothed of God were being “led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (11:3).
And so, contending for the bride, Paul was drawn into a game he didn’t want to play. For at the core of these charlatan’s arguments were their “pseudo-credentials.” Was Paul a scholar? They were even more. Was Paul a minister of good news? They had better news. And how valuable was Paul’s good news anyway if he brought it free of charge. They, on the other hand, were “selling tickets” . . . and came with books and t-shirts and wrist bands. Surely, the degree to which they prospered was an indicator of the value of what they preached. Did Paul consider himself an orator? Sure, if you want to call it that, but they were eloquent of speech such that Paul’s presentation paled in comparison. Was Paul an apostle? Maybe, but they were “super-apostles” (11:5).
And so they boasted . . . and so Paul was forced to respond.
And he starts matching credential for credential (11:22). A Hebrew? Check. An Israelite? Me too. Offspring of Abraham? Check. Servant of Christ? Let me tell you about that, says Paul.
And here is where Paul pulls away from the pack. Imprisoned . . . countless beatings . . . often near death. Scourged multiple times . . . beaten with rods . . . stoned . . . shipwrecked . . . encountering life threatening dangers on all sides (11:23-27). Not exactly the stuff that screams, “Successful!” But the stuff that points to a Savior who is worth living for . . . even if it means dying.
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. (2Corinthians 11:30 ESV)
And though Paul’s drawn into a game not of his choosing, he leaves his opponents in the dust as he “boasts” of being a servant of Christ. His servitude intended to magnify the Master. His deficiencies a testament to the Savior’s all sufficiency. His weakness pointing to the glory of the King’s power. His life poured out that His Lord might be lifted up.
That’s the stuff to boast of. That’s the way to play the game. My weakness . . . His power. My need . . . His grace.
Not to us . . . but to Your Name be the glory!