And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me.
2 Corinthians 12:3-6
Paul had some pretty cool trump cards (not political but practical). If anyone else had things they could boast about Paul usually had some experience that was more amazing, dramatic, spiritual, or powerful. In Philippians he raised that very issue: “…if anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more.” His tone seems to have a certain arrogance to it but he does back it up with his heritage, ethnic uniqueness, family strengths, training and education, commitments and accomplishments to name a few (Phil. 3:5-6). His boasting in 2 Corinthians 12 about being caught up into Paradise (12:2-4) describes incredible and unexplainable visions and revelations that no one else had ever seen. He had experiences with God that were, in every sense of the word, unique.
Paul could have flaunted these in the face of others. He did in fact do this in some moments with those who were trying to demonstrate their superiority over others just to put them in their place, but his statement in verse six (6) is striking. He does not want anyone “to credit him with more than he sees in me or hears from me.” Paul was a brilliant man. He understood the Law; he was given experiences with God that were staggering; he was chosen as an apostle to be used by the Holy Spirit to communicate the Scriptures to humanity; he was given revelations that no one else was privy to. If he were so inclined, he could be boasting constantly about these unique privileges. But his statement is humbler.
Paul’s passion is that he wanted to impact people with his life, not impress them with his credentials. Being on the “who’s who” list is not what makes kingdom difference. It is much easier to “throw down our experiences and education” as if that gives us leverage over others. Paul only did that (his citizenship) when it came to furthering the gospel. But much of his passion was about impacting people up close. That is in fact exactly what he says in 2 Corinthians 12:3-6 – “… that no one will credit me with more than what he sees or hears from me.” Here are five things that were true of Paul:
- Paul was concerned about investing in people not building a huge program. People will naturally cultivate community when they share something in common. When we look around us there are thousands of different clubs, groups, movements, etc. built on common interest. The difference here is the gospel.
- Paul new that his own relationship with Christ was the best thing he could model for others. Christ is the one who makes all the difference, not Paul. God uses us in His kingdom work, but it is His kingdom not ours.
- Paul would boast about his weaknesses before he would rob God of his glory. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 reveal Paul’s foundation – God’s grace perfected in him. Grace is perfected in our weakness. It is His grace that draws people to Himself and saves them through the gospel of Christ.
- Paul was committed to serving others by considering them more important than himself. He was concerned about people surrendering to God through faith in Christ. He desired to move alongside of them not stand over them. He was not about promoting himself but Christ. People were not a monthly quota but lives in desperate need of forgiveness in Christ.
- Paul was compassionate enough to share his life with others. As people feel more important, and often more superior, they become selective with who they hang out with. Some of that is for security reasons and the other is that you cannot possibly be everyone’s friend. But Paul never avoided people because he thought he was more important than others. He loved everyone and accepted God’s design for all who were children of God.
Thoughts on life,