In part one of our look on boasting (https://servantsofgrace.org/2011/02/23/boasting-pride-and-humility-part-1/) we learned the importance of humility and the dangers of pride. Today we are going to continue our study on boasting by looking at Galatians 6:4, 13-14, 2nd Thessalonians 1:4, James 1:9; 3:13, 4:16 and conclude by applying what we have learned about this topic.
Galatians 6:4, 13-14
Galatians 6:4 falls within the broader context of Galatians 5:13-6:10 a section in Galatians in which Paul is instructing the Galatians on life in the Holy Spirit and love. Freedom from the law Paul teaches does not lead to libertinism, for believers by the power of the Spirit live a new life characterized by love. Test means to approve something after testing it. Believers first must be sure their lives are right with God before giving spiritual help to others (Matthew 7:3-5). If a believer rejoices or boasts, it should be only boasting in the Lord for what God has done in him (2 Cor. 10:12-18), not for what he supposedly has accomplished compared to other believers (1 Cor. 1:30-31).
Galatians 6:13-14 falls within the context of Galatians 6:11-18 a section in which Paul gives his final warning to the Galatians. Paul summarizes the main themes of the letter and challenges the reader to stay true to the gospel. To require circumcision according to Paul is to deny the cross and the dawning of the new creation.
Paul when speaking about the circumcised in Galatians 6:13 has in mind the Judaizers (Gal 2:7-8; Acts 10:45; 11:2). Boasting in your flesh means the Judaizers worked to win Gentile converts to the law so they could brag about their effective evangelism (Matthew 23:15).
Paul in Galatians 6:14 is saying that the entire world system in all its glory, but in opposition to God is dead or destroyed in its power to attract him; it has no influence or power over Paul, no appeal to him. Paul is dead to the desires and attractions of the world, for he serves Christ as his new master.
The Greek word for “boast” is a basic expression of praise, unlike the English word, which necessarily includes the aspect of pride. Paul glories in and rejoices in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:1-3; 1 Cor. 2:2; 1 Peter 2:24). The world is spiritually dead to believers and they are dead to the world.
2nd Thessalonians 1:4
2nd Thessalonians 1:4 finds itself in a section where Paul is teaching the Thessalonians about thanksgiving and comfort for the persecuted Thessalonians. The Thessalonians are so highly thought of that Paul and his coworkers boast about then to other churches of God concerning their steadfastness and faith in the context of unrelenting and severe persecutions and afflictions.
Nowhere is the Thessalonians growth in faith and love (v.3) more evident than in the way they patiently and faithfully endures hostilities and suffering from the enemies of Christ. Although there was no need to speak, since the Thessalonians’ lives spoke clearly enough (1 Thess. 1:8), Paul’s joy before the Lord over their perservance bubbled up.
James 1:9, 3:13, 4:16
James 1:9 falls within the context of James 1:2-18 a section in which paul is testing the test of faith. James 1:9-11 is about the place of the rich and poor before God. Both poverty and riches bring enormous pressure on a person to focus on the world rather than on Christ. Thus James exhorts the poor to boast (or glory) in their high status in Christ. The lowly brother will be exalted or vindicated by God. In contrast, James exhorts the rich to boast in their humiliation, 1) by realizing that their wealth is temporary and that it brings them no advantage before God, and 2) by identifying with the poor in their affliction. The church is to be a “countercultural” community, which reverses the values of the world (2:2-4). Given the context, James seems to be saying that the challenges of poverty and wealth may be one of the greatest “trials” for Christians, as would be suggested by the immediate context of 1:12 on the blessed status of those who remain “steadfast under trial.” James also echoes Jesus’ warning that “You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24).
James 3:13-18 falls within 3:13-18 where James is teaching the solution which is wisdom from above. These verses could be called “the tale of two cities”- the realm of wisdom (framing the passage in vv.13, 17) contrasted with that of selfish ambition. Wisdom for James is not merely intellectual but also behavioral. Meekness (Gk. Prautes, translated “gentleness” in Gal. 5:23) was considered weakness by the Greeks, but Jesus evaluated it to a primary Christian virtue (matt. 5:5; 11:29). Meekness comes not from cowardice or passivity but rather than trusting god and therefore being set free from anxious self-promotion.
James 4:16 falls within 4:13-5:12 and describes the sins of the wealthy. James condemns the sins of the wealthy (arrogant presumptions; 4:13-17; and robbing the poor, 5:1-6), then issues a call for patience in suffering. Arrogant bragging about their anticipated business accomplishments is what James has in mind in James 4:16. He does not condemn wise business planning, but rather planning that leaves out God. The people are so depicted are practical atheists, living their lives and making their plans as if God did not exist. Such conduct is inconsistent with genuine saving faith, which submits to God (James 4:7).
Boasting, Pride and Humility
One of the reasons, I am such a huge fan of the work of the Puritans is because they understood the importance of sanctification. It has been said of the Puritans that they were surgeons of the soul. Among their rank includes one of the greatest theologians in Church History- John Owen- a man known for his work on sanctification. Owen understood deeply the sanctification was a process that had to be engaged with heart, mind and soul. He taught that believers ought to be killing sin or sin will be killing you.
Much teaching today on sanctification is fluff. While progress in sanctification is ultimately God’s work in us- it also requires that we work towards growth in knowledge of the Word and in spiritual disciplines. Believers ought to grow in sanctification so that they can be effective servants for the Lord. Believers must make sure their lives are right with God before helping others (Matthew 7:3-5).
Many believers think that their performance for God will earn them favor from God. It is not our performance for God that merits our salvation. The only way one can be saved is through the work of Jesus bloody death, burial and resurrection. It is only through His work that one can be His and be used for His glory. Believers ought to take seriously the truth of personal sanctification if they want to be effective servants for the glory of God, and the cause of the Gospel.
Believers ought to take their personal sanctification seriously because ministry is serious business. Every believer is in “full time ministry” in the sense they are to make disciples and live out the Great Commission. Every believer ought to take sanctification seriously not only because of the ministry they have, but because God is primarily concerned with their sanctification.
Boasting in yourself is dangerous and demonstrates a faulty understanding of sanctification. Boasting of God and His work in and through you is biblical. Boasting in yourself demonstrates a faulty understanding of sanctification because it demonstrates that one does not understand what Christ did in regeneration and justification. The truths of justification and regeneration ought to humble believers by highlighting that they are in need of God’s grace, and needs to depend on the finished work of Christ.
Believers do not bring anything into the picture in relation to God. God does the saving. Man responds to God’s summons to come unto Him. God does the work in sanctification through the ministry of the Holy Spirit through conviction. Man responds to the convicting work of the Spirit by repenting of his sin. Even sanctification is entirely a work of God. Believers ought to have a low view of themselves in relation to God. That is not to say that they ought to have a low self-esteem. Believers should esteem Christ higher than themselves and make their boast in God alone.
The Christian life is grounded thoroughly in the work of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Believers ought to apply the basic truths of their salvation to their daily lives. They ought to take the truths of justification and regeneration and apply them into their daily lives by understanding that it’s not their performance God needs- it’s their lives. God wants our lives to do with them what He pleases. It pleases the Lord to use the saints in His service. The Lord is sovereign over all- over every aspect of our salvation from justification to glorification.
Are you walking in the darkness of the world or are you walking in the light of God’s presence through the work of Christ alone? Do you have a high-esteem for yourself and a low esteem for the work of Christ? The solution to a low-esteem of Christ is to learn the truths of justification and regeneration. Learn that you are not worthy to be called a child of God. It was not because of your own work that you were saved. It was because of Christ’s saving work that you are saved. It is because the Father sent forth His Son to die in the place of sinners as their substitute to appease the wrath of God that you are saved. It is because of Christ’s death and burial that you are saved.
All of this to say- this one thing- you were saved because of God. Now take hold of what Christ has done in the work of justification and regeneration. Take hold of the fact you are adopted by God. Take hold of the truth of personal holiness. Take hold of Christ! Hold Christ precious above all. Let the Lord examine you even now. Let Him examine you whether your boast is in Him. Let Him examine your attitudes and behavior. Once He’s done that- repent and turn to Him for the forgiveness of your sin. Allow Him to mold you and shape you into a vessel of honor for His name and glory.
May your boast be in what God is doing in and through you. May you always hold Him precious above all things. Treasure Christ and enjoy growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
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