Humility was not valued in the first-century of the Greco-Roman world. Humility was for slaves and outcasts, but not for leaders.
Paul’s willingness to imitate the humility of Jesus made him an object of scorn and embarrassment to the church in Corinth.
Paul had to defend his humility, so the message that Jesus gave him would be received by the church.
— 2 Corinthians 11.7 and 11 – Did I commit a sin by humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I proclaimed God’s good news to you free of charge?
And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!
As we have noted before, Paul refused the offer of patronage from leading members of the church, because he wanted to give his ministry without partiality to all of the members of the church.
The custodian of the first church I served resigned for a reason that I don’t remember. No one volunteered to be the custodian and receive the whopping $20 a month salary.
As a college student, I cleaned a small office building three nights a week. I told the church that I was already a custodian and would be happy to add the church to my schedule.
There were several objections to their pastor also serving as custodian, but no one volunteered for the job.
If my memory serves me correctly, I cleaned the church one time before someone took the job. They couldn’t stand for their pastor to “lower” himself to be the custodian.
My story illustrates the feelings in Corinth where the founder of the church refused a salary and chose to make his living sewing tents for local festivals.
Paul’s behavior was in keeping with that of his Lord and Savior.
— Philippians 2.5-8 – Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
But emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
assuming human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human,
He humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death —
even death on a cross.
Jesus did not attempt to hold on to his heavenly glory and dignity. He humbled himself and surrendered the operation of his life to the will of the Father.
His humility exceeded that of Paul because his obedience took him to the abject humility of death on the cross.
Paul knew that if humility was good enough for Jesus, then it was good for him too.
Like Jesus, Paul was motivated by love. His service to the church was motivated by a deep love for them.
The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most powerful event in human history.
When we humble ourselves and surrender our will to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we align our lives with God’s love and power.
The Other Side
Paul’s humility is contrasted by the boasting of the super-apostles and church members who were seduced by them.
There was no condemnation for public boasting in Corinth. It was acceptable to parade a person’s status before the public.
Some high-status persons paid people to come to their homes each day to shout their praise.
Money was valuable to the extent it was used to promote a person’s status.
Paul’s evaluation of the super-apostles contrasted dramatically with the accepted views in Corinth.
— 2 Corinthians 11.13-14 – For such boasters are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.
And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end will match their deeds.
Paul does not hold back his criticism of the super-apostles. Despite what they may say about themselves, he identifies them as ministers of Satan.
Dr. Scott Peck wrote a book on evil that has been very beneficial to me. In the book, he asked a question about who is the evilest person.
He believes the evilest people are those who do great harm while claiming to be religious.
With Peck’s idea in mind, consider the super-apostles. They claim to be religious but cause people to become distant from God.
What greater evil can there be than to erect a barrier to a relationship with Jesus?
The super-apostles may have excellent resumes and high status in Corinth, but they were destructive.
When allowing a teacher or minister to fill your mind with thoughts, please ask yourself if the person leads you closer to Jesus or not.
Do you love Jesus more, because you have listened to this person’s message?
Do you desire humble obedience, because of their influence?
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube. You can listen to our discussion today on the Bob Spradling channel.
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