Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 10 2013 - 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 – Boasting in weakness

Paul’s opponents at Corinth have been boasting of their credentials. They seem to have been Jews who claimed some form of superior apostolic authority for themselves even though, in Paul’s words, they preached “another Christ.” They also seem to have asserted their authority over the Corinthians by acting in a domineering and bullying fashion.

Paul feels bound to defend himself by citing his own credentials – even though he recognises the folly of such an approach. The false teachers boast of their status in order to demand a following from the Christians at Corinth. Paul “boasts” of what he has suffered in his work as an apostle of Christ. The list he provides us with in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 is truly extraordinary: beatings, shipwrecks, stoning, sleeplessness and hunger and the rest. Why does Paul list all of these things? It is not to impress others with his remarkable character (though the list is impressive), but to underline the fact that the effectiveness of his ministry is due entirely to God. No one could have carried on through all of these trials and discouragements unless the Lord was with them, directing them on and giving them the strength to continue. No one could have ministered effectively after such a battering unless it was God who was ministering through them – the power was all of him. Paul was aware of his own weakness and, unlike the false teachers, was glad to boast of his weakness in order to magnify the power of God.

Paul also confesses his “weakness” in the way he conducted himself with the Christians at Corinth. He was not domineering and bullying among them; he did not try to whip them into shape. He was gentle with them and compassionate towards them as one who was marked by concern for the churches to whom he had ministered.

An awareness of our own weakness and brokenness does not disqualify us from effective service for Christ; on the contrary, it is a fundamental prerequisite. An awareness of our own weakness is true self-knowledge. It throws us back upon the resources that are to be found in Christ and the power of the Spirit rather than the power of personality. It cultivates a spirit of dependency and a life of prayer.

You know well the story of David and Goliath. The gigantic and intimidating Philistine warrior had defied the armies of Israel, calling on someone to come out and fight him man to man. No one had dared to go out against him; they knew that none of them was a match for Goliath. But David the shepherd boy offered to go into battle against him. He would not wear the armour offered him by king Saul but went out to meet Goliath armed only with his sling and a few stones. But he was armed also with the confidence that “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Kings 17:37). David was aware of his own weakness, but he had confidence in the power of God to defeat those who defied him and threatened his people.

Those who know their own weakness are the most effective warriors for God for the power and the glory belong to him.

Lord Jesus, your power is demonstrated in the apparent weakness of the cross and in your resurrection from the dead. Keep us ever conscious of our own weakness that we may depend upon your power in the work of the kingdom. Help us to mould the lives of others through the power of your love rather than bullying and domineering, knowing that the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.

Peter Misselbrook