Series on II Corinthians, III The Defense of Paul's Apostleship, A Criticism, Part 2 Boasting in Christ, Title: The Root of Authority, II Cor. 10:8-18.

Introduction

Last study we looked at Paul's boldness in Christ in the first part of this chapter.  We saw that the Apostle's boldness rested upon the authority given to him by Christ. We noted the character of this authority, It was spiritual, scriptural, single minded and sincere. Now, today, in our text we are still looking at apostolic authority, but the emphasis is on how Paul handled that authority. We are all confronted daily with this issue. Those in authority can either be overbearing or they can be kind and patient in exercising their authority. They can either make people do things, or get people to want to do them. They can inspire either fear or enthusiasm. We experience this in the world and in the Church, and we experience it in our own families. How should a Christian exercise authority? i want you to notice at the beginning that Paul is sensitive to this issue. He says on the one hand in verse 8, For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it. He is not boasting about himself, but about the authority and it is, after all, the authority of Christ, and Christ is the Lord. It is a good authority given for building up, not tearing down, so Paul says I will not be ashamed. However, on the other hand, he says in verse 9, I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. This is said somewhat tongue in cheek for there were those who were saying that his letters were weighty, but in person he was unimpressive as he states in verse 10, For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” Still, the Apostle is genuinely concerned that he should not misuse or abuse his authority. With that in mind I want us to ask three questions about our exercise of authority. This will be for parents, for church officers, for everybody who ever gets to be in charge of something or someone. The questions are: are we consistent, are we convincing, and are we committed?

I Consistent Authority

Paul is accused of being powerful in his letters, but unimpressive in person. This came no doubt from the false teachers who wished to discredit him. They were on site while Paul was at a distance. It was an easy way to dismiss him. Paul's answer is in verse 11, Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present. Paul was consistent. Now there's a powerful lesson in this. One of our big problems in exercising authority is that we are not consistent. We cannot be depended on to faithfully enforce our authority. We can experience this at one level with our children. One time we tell them to stop running or stop shouting and another time we just ignore it. On a larger scale you may wonder sometimes why justice seems to be arbitrary. Some people get big penalties for the same crime for which others only get a slap on the hand. This is a disgrace in our society and it ought not to be the case with Christians. We ought to bend over backwards to be fair, not to be respecters of persons, but to have the kind of integrity that eliminates arbitrariness, whether in the home or the church or the working world.

II Convincing Authority

Authority needs to be convincing. Any human authority does not rest on our character. It is, rather, conveyed to us. But we can discredit that authority and undermine it by who we are. In verse 12 Paul describes the false teachers in Corinth, We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. Comparing ourselves with ourselves and measuring ourselves by ourselves is a perfect formula for stagnation and manipulation. Those who do not have a standard outside themselves plunder and steal. They live off of the reputation of others. They were doing this to Paul. In contrast the Apostle does have a standard outside himself, something which makes his authority convincing according to verses 13-16, We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in another man’s territory. As you can see Paul's authority is convincing because he came first to the Corinthians and he came with the gospel of Christ, a message which led to their conversion and a message which he summarizes in I Corinthians 15: 1-4, Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. Paul’s authority rests first in the authenticity of the gospel and then the authenticity of his conduct in accord with the gospel, and he didn't need to steal the work of others. His own work stood on its own. Applying this to ourselves we should be reminded that our authority is convincing because we back it up by showing that we too, obey. The first key to being a good leader is being a good follower. Humility is paramount. If we don't obey God how can we expect our children or those who follow us to obey? Teddy Roosevelt is reputed to have said, “speak softly and carry a big stick.” We think the problem is the size of our stick when really our problem is speaking softly first, and being able to say do as I do.

III Committed Authority

We have already noted that a man who exercises authority must be a man who knows how to be under authority. look at Matthew chapter 8:5-10, When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. What is the essence of saving faith? It has to do with being under authority. it has to do with understanding Lordship. That's what Paul is talking about when he says in vs.17,18,  But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. Ultimately all authority is derived from God and God must be honored in the exercise of that authority. It is his approval which counts. If we live for God then we have nothing to fear. Paul's quotation is from Jeremiah 9:24, Let him who boasts boast in the lord. Jeremiah is living in a time of impending judgment. He weeps because the sin even of the covenant people of God is so great that nothing can forestall God’s judgment. He says there is no balm in Gilead. Gilead was the source of healing balsams for the Eastern world. If there was no balm there, there was no balm anywhere. In the midst of this God says don't glory in your wealth or wisdom or might, glory in the fact that you understand and know me because I am the Lord exercising loving kindness, righteousness and judgment in the earth. There is only one refuge. That refuge is ours only if we submit to His judgment. We can do that because he revealed himself to Israel and to us as a God of loving kindness. We can do that because his judgment has fallen upon Jesus Christ in our place upon the cross. Therefore Jeremiah could submit to God's judgment because he knew God to be a deliverer. For the same reason we submit. and only when we submit to him is it fitting that others  submit to us.