Sunday, 15 November 2015
We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you. 2 Corinthians 10:13
The sense of this verse seems plain enough, but to understand it in context, it should be taken with the preceding two verses.
“For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you.”
Paul spoke of himself and his associates as not putting themselves in the same class as those who would commend themselves. The reason is that in their commending of themselves, they became their own standard of measurement for everyone else and thus everyone else would seem lower than their supposed high and lofty measurement.
On the other hand, he says that, “We, however, will not boast beyond measure.” There was a limit to what they could boast of. If they were their own standard, there could be no limit, but because they had limitations, their boast would be within those limits. And that is “within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us.”
The word “sphere” here is kanón. It is a word only used by Paul and it is only found in 2 Corinthians and Galatians. According to Vincent’s Word Studies, it indicates “a straight rod or ruler. Hence a carpenter’s rule. Metaphorically, that which measures or determines anything, in morals, art, or language. The Alexandrian grammarians spoke of the classic Greek authors collectively as the canon or standard of the pure language. In later Greek it was used to denote a fixed tax. In christian literature it came to signify the standard of faith or of christian teaching; the creed; the rule of Church discipline, and the authorized collection of sacred writings. Hence canon of Scripture.”
Paul and his associates had a limit which was set by God. They didn’t boast outside of those boundaries. They didn’t claim the work of another, they didn’t speak of areas they had never evangelized as if they had, etc. They simply spoke of the authority that they had been granted by God and went no further.
However, as a large slap in the face to those he is particularly addressing, he finishes with, “…a sphere which especially includes you.” Those who had been comparing themselves with themselves are being told that they are, in fact, not the standard. Instead, they don’t even rise to the standard which God had set for Paul and the others with him. Therefore, Paul had a right to exercise his authority over them when he came to Corinth. If necessary, he would do so without compunction.
Life application: Let none of us think more highly of ourselves than we ought.
Heavenly Father, how good it is to know that You have set the boundaries of our lives. Because of this, we have no need to act boastfully as if we had set our own borders. Nor do we need to feel shame because our sphere of influence is somehow limited – as if we have failed You. Instead, we can know that the borders of our walk in this life have been ordained by You. We can praise You for who we are and feel satisfied that the life we have been granted is exactly what You intended. And so, if we live it for You, You will be pleased with it. Thank You for this reassurance. Amen.