Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Foolishness of Paul

"I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy" (2 Corinthians 11:1–2).

Saul of Tarsus was the most brilliant pupil of the most brilliant rabbi (Gamaliel) of his day. Some scholars maintain that even if Saul had not been converted, he would still have made a tremendous mark on intellectual history as a thinker and writer. But Saul was converted and was given the name Paul, becoming the greatest theologian of all time. One of the wonderful things about the writings of the Apostle Paul is the way he bears his heart and soul from time to time. Perhaps he shows us the most about himself in the second letter he wrote to the church at Corinth, particularly in chapter 11.

If ever there was a man with a pastor’s heart it was the Apostle Paul. Even when he had to admonish the members of his flock, he did it with sympathy and love. In both of his letters to the Corinthians, he had to rebuke them repeatedly over different matters. One of the most serious matters he had to deal with was the way his message and ministry had been repeatedly undermined by false apostles. Paul was upset and angry about it. He was angry because this dishonored Christ, and because it was damaging them.

So, since they were so ready to hear fools, he says that he will play the part of a fool for them. Since these fools loved to boast about their own knowledge and experience, he would do so, as well (2 Corinthians 11:16–21). The fools had been lording it over the Gentile Corinthians by displaying their credentials as Jews, so Paul lays out his. Unlike many Jews, Paul could produce an air-tight genealogy all the way back to Abraham. They claimed to have suffered for the faith, but the list of afflictions he gives is amazing. Finally, he tells them that he had been given a greater vision than any of the pseudo-apostles ever had (2 Corinthians 11:22–12:6).

No Christian likes to boast about himself because humility is a Christian virtue. There does come a time, however, when a Christian has to defend himself, not primarily for his own reputation, but mainly to preserve the reputation of Christ and for the good of the church. If you are put in this position, consider the spirit in which the Apostle Paul defended himself.