Monday, 7 December 2015
What I speak, I speak not according to the Lord, but as it were, foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.
2 Corinthians 11:17
This verse is one which calls out for a deep analysis of it concerning the inspiration of Scripture. The Bible is believed to be the full and complete revelation of God to humanity. It is of Divine origin, and yet it is also of human origin. Man, under inspiration of God, penned what he was led to pen. However, at the same time, man’s thoughts, his style, his heart – all of this is included in the books of the Bible.
In this verse, Paul says, “What I speak, I speak not according to the Lord.” And so the question is, “Are these words inspired by God or not?” Albert Barnes gives two options concerning the matter –
“The phrase here may mean either, I do not speak this by inspiration or claiming to be inspired by the Lord; or more probably it may mean, I do not speak this imitating the example of the Lord Jesus or strictly as becomes his follower.”
To say that the first is true means that this portion of the Bible is not inspired. From this springboard, men could begin to slice and dice; to pick and choose; and to disregard and neglect any portion of the Bible that they personally felt lacked inspiration. Such happens all the time among liberal scholars and it turns the Bible into a book of personal theology rather than God-directed theology.
Rather, Paul’s writings are inspired, even verses such as this one. The Lord allowed him to speak his heart and show that his words were not according to an imitation of the Lord, and yet his words are a necessary part of the interaction between him and the Corinthians for us to properly understand God-directed theology. Instead of emulating how the Lord would handle this matter, being the perfect God, Paul says that he speaks “not according to the Lord, but as it were, foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.”
Being fallen beings and filled with imperfections, we necessarily handle God-directed matters within those limitations. Paul was doing just that. Unlike Jesus who had no such limitations, he did. And so, in order to make an example for those at Corinth to understand, he used his limitations (this confidence of boasting), to show them where they were wrong in their thinking.
His admission that his example was not in accordance with a perfect emulation of the Lord was carefully chosen and built upon to inform the Corinthians (and thus us!) that their own boasting was a much larger diversion from proper emulation of the Lord. In other words, Paul is saying, “I am giving you an example of myself by diverting from what the Lord would do in order to show you that what you are doing is the same, but on a much larger scale.”
This is Paul’s way of correcting their deficiency. At the same time, it is a Spirit-led example. God is using Paul’s deficiency, just as He used those of all of his prophets and apostles in the writing of His book. Moses’ failings are carefully recorded, from his time at the burning bush in Exodus 3 even unto his striking the Rock at Meribah in Numbers 20. As one reads the Bible, such deficiencies are seen permeating its pages. Think of Jonah! The Pulpit Commentary beautifully describes Paul’s human frailty which is still used in the inspired word of God –
“‘Boasting,’ or what might be stigmatized as such, may become a sort of painful necessity, necessitated by human baseness; but in itself it cannot be ‘after the Lord.’ There is nothing Christ-like in it. It is human, not Divine; an earthly necessity, not a heavenly example; a sword of the giant Philistine, which yet David may be forced to use.”
Life application: The human frailties of the authors of the Bible in no way diminish the inspiration of it. In fact, they are necessary elements of inspiration in order for us to understand how far we actually depart from God. Don’t let any liberal teaching mislead you away from the truth that all Scripture is divinely inspired. It is. Cling to this truth as you see your own failings represented in the failings of its human authors. And then understand that God can and will use you just as you are as you pursue Him.
Heavenly Father, it is amazing to see the human failings of the authors of the Bible on prominent display. And yet, You used those shortcomings to show us how to better respond to the world around us and to show us of our own need to rely on You in order to become like You. Thank You that Your Divine word includes our human frailties. Because of them, we can know that You can use us as well, fallen and broken. And in the process, You are able to correct us and mold us more and more into Your glorious image. O God, how great Thou art! Amen.