“To me … grace was given, to preach … the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8)
“There is no language, ancient or modern, like that of the gospel of the grace of God, pronounced by the Holy Ghost to one’s heart, and of heaven-born souls to God under his influence; no history like that of Jesus Christ, redemption through blood, and effectual application of his grace; no science like that of beholding the ‘Word made flesh,’ and beholding the infinite perfections of JEHOVAH in him, and through him, in every creature,—as from eternity manifested, and to be for ever manifested in our inconceivable happiness, ‘to the praise of the glory of his grace;’ no pleasure like that of ‘fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ,’ and all that joy and peace with which the ‘God of hope’ fills men in believing,—that joy which is ‘unspeakable, and full of glory.’” –John Brown (1722-1787) The Life of John Brown, pp.67-68.
“… Jesus calls disciples to tasks beyond their abilities, and the fact that the tasks surpass their abilities is evidence that the ministry is Christ’s, not theirs.” (James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, p.281)
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone . . .” (2 Timothy 2:24a)
“… for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
“… no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me …” (2 Corinthians 12:6b)
Paul had found it necessary to defend his ministry to the Corinthian believers because of some “super apostles” (11:5, 13; 12:11) who had come into their midst. In that uncomfortable position he felt forced into a certain “boasting.” So he boasted in his hardships and humiliations (11:22-33) and only then turned to his revelations and spiritual experiences (12:1-5). He stopped himself at that point insisting that no one “credit [him] with something beyond what he sees in [him] or hears from [him].”
Paul’s general approach and these specific words are instructive to me.
Most boasting is merely an attempt to present yourself to another as something more than you’ve been able to evidence through your actions and words.
Paul insists that the proof of one’s authority and worthiness of respect reside in demonstrable actions and words in a specific relationship, not in victories or triumphs in other realms and relationships. I am only as good as my ministry to you. I am only as worthy of respect as my words and actions with you demand. Titles, reputation, accounts of other triumphs matter little to the person who stands before me at this moment.
If I have not demonstrated the character of Christ in my relationship with you, my stories of other triumphs will matter little. If the Spirit has not found ways to express His sweet graces through me in relationship to you, why should my track-record elsewhere with others shape your view of who I am?
The immediacy of Christ’s presence through His Spirit made manifest in our words and actions is the only calling card any of us in ministry really have … or need. Let us be known for His present presence in us and made manifest through us. If we are to be respected at all, let it be for what Christ has done through us. Let my reputation with you hang upon the present grace of Christ that actively flows between us by His Spirit.