1 Corinthians 13:4(4) Boasting, Pride

Sermon preached on January 31, 2016 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

When Marg and I got married we were good friends with a great couple. He was pastor of the local Church of the Nazarene Church. It was wonderful to have such good Christian friends and we did a lot of things together. He was very talented and full of fun and one day he was boasting about one of his many accomplishments and Marg said to him,

"Self praise is no praise."

That was a phrase we were familiar with and it was her way of telling him not to brag. Not long after that we had him and his wife over for supper. Marg was new to cooking and this day her meal turned out exceptionally well. I can't remember what it the meal was, something like spaghetti—and as we were eating it Marg said innocently,

"This is really good."

Everyone at the table agreed, except our friend. Rather than agreeing right away, with a big smile he said,

"Self praise is no praise."

And that's how it went between the two of them. I'm actually not sure who started it. Marg thinks that she started it but years later when we got together he said that he thought that he started it. But it doesn't matter who started it—the two of them were always saying it to each other. They were merciless. Neither one of them could say anything good about themselves or their accomplishments without the other jumping all over them with that phrase. Eventually that phrase helped both of them keep their bragging in check.

But the problem is that you can stop bragging outwardly and still be proud inwardly. Boasting has its root in pride. It's not enough to get rid of one of the outward manifestation—we need to get rid of both. In our text Paul tells us that both outward bragging and inward pride are incompatible with love. He said that love, (1 Corinthians 13:4)

"does not boast,
it is not proud."

The first lesson for us here is that

you are not to boast about yourself.

You are not to be a 'windbag'. The first time I heard the word 'windbag' I was in first grade. The reason I remember the word was because my older brother got in trouble because he called his third grade teacher a 'windbag'. At the time I didn't know what a windbag was, but I knew it wasn't good.

Paul is telling us that we shouldn't be windbags. A windbag can refer to someone who talks at length but says little of value. But it also refers to someone who boasts about himself. The Greek word Paul uses here means to, (BDAG, 808)

"to heap praise on oneself, behave as a… 'braggart' or to 'be a windbag'."

Gordon D. Fee tells us that the word (1 Corinthians, NICNT; p. 637)

"suggests self-centered actions in which there is an inordinate desire to call attention to oneself."

Indeed, this is a vice that is all too common in Christian circles. Christian ministries are now named after their founder. We have Christians ministries that are named after people. Promoting a person rather than Christ is not the proper way of advertising Christian ministries. It's much better to advertise your ministry and not your name. That's what Desiring God does. John Piper is their main guy, but he take a low profile.

But of course, it's not just leaders that have this problem, most, if not all of us, do. It's easy for those of us with mediocre talents to criticize those with great talent. But we have our own problems. If we ourselves aren't famous, we perhaps know someone who is famous. We become name-droppers. I remember sitting under a pastor who was always name dropping. At one point he said that he had met Billy Graham. From then on he referred to him as,

"My good friend Billy."

It got old really quickly.

A few years ago, Carl Trueman, professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary, wrote on his blog about being directed by a friend, (http://www.reformation21.org/counterpoints/wages-of-spin/fools-rush-in-where-monkeys-fear-to-tread.php)

"to a website where an individual had put up on their social network page a public announcement that that they were 'humbled' by a reference to themselves on a well-known theologian's blog. Curiouser and curiouser, I thought: being humbled usually involves becoming more self-effacing, making oneself more invisible, bringing less attention to oneself. At least, that's what the Oxford Dictionary implies…"This person had no doubt asked himself how he might best demonstrate this self-effacement. 'Perhaps I should send a private note of thanks to the person concerned, expressing quiet appreciation for his kind reference to me,' he no doubt reflected; but then, suddenly, a light bulb must have clicked on in his head – 'No. I know what I'll do. I'll announce my humility on my Facebook page! Surely it is hard to imagine a more humble and less attention seeking move? And, yes, while I'm logged on, I'll also mention it on the very webpage where said well-known theologian originally puffed me, just to make sure that everybody knows how humbled I truly am.'"Don't laugh -- this really happened, and, what's more, the absurdity of the story does not end there. The well-known theologian's website to which our humble friend had taken us also contained a link to another person's site, this time to a recorded interview with - guess who? - the well-known theologian himself! The subject? The importance of the books written by himself! Tis true - for you could not possibly make this stuff up."But the sordid tales of the inverted morality of the Christian web are seemingly limitless. The self-absorption on display here called to my mind yet another webpage I am sometimes directed to visit by friends, where the only subject ever discussed seems to be the author's own contribution to Christian thought, and, very occasionally, the critical interaction of others with his earth-shattering insights (none of his critics understand him and are generally idiots or wicked or both). As one colleague describes said page: see me here, hear me there, stroke my ego everywhere. Indeed, this page always brings to my mind the tale of the apocryphal Cambridge don who used to warble on and on about himself in tutorials until one day, in a moment of humility, he turned to his hapless students and declared, 'Well, that's enough about me; let's talk about you for a change. What do you think of my books?' "

We can laugh at those things but it's actually incredibly sad how some Christians crave attention and adulation. That desire is in us all. It's absolutely amazing how we human beings love to boast. We can boast about ourselves even when we know we're not supposed to boast. As strange as it seems—some people even boast about their humility. Charles Dickens made fun of that in Great Expectations in his character Uriah Heep. In the novel, when David first met Uriah, Uriah said to him,

'I am well aware that I am the umblest person going,' said Uriah Heep, modestly;

Uriah was always going on about him being the best at something. He said one of the things he was best at was humility.

Now Dickens didn't just make that characteristic up—I have no doubt that he knew people that were like that and he based Uriah Heep on them. Some people actually boast about their humility. It should never be. It's a contraction in terms. It makes no sense at all.

Yet it's a very human characteristic. We must put boasting out of our lives.

A number of places in the New Testament warn us against boasting. In 1 John 2:16 the apostle John wrote,

"For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man,
the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—
comes not from the Father but from the world."

And in 1 Corinthians 5:6 the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church,

"Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that
a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?"

In James 4:16 the apostle James warned Christian not to think of themselves arrogantly, as they had been used to doing. They would say that they would go to this or that city, carry on business and make money. James rebuked them telling them that they didn't know what tomorrow would bring. He told them to say, (James 4:15)

"If it is the Lord's will,
we will live and do this or that."

He then wrote,

"As it is, you boast and brag.
All such boasting is evil."

So that's the first thing. Get boasting out of your lives. Tell your spouse and your friends to use,

"Self praise is no praise,"

on you whenever you boast.

The second thing our text tells us is that

you are not to be proud.

The idea here is of being puffed up, to have an exaggerated self-conception. Albert Barnes writes, (Barnes' Notes on the New Testament)

"This spirit proceeds from the idea of superiority over others; and is connected with a feeling of contempt or disregard for them."

That's the way that we human beings are. It's ingrained in us.

I remember how surprised I was when I watched a British movie or TV show that was about life among the upper class in Britain in the late 1800's or early 1900's. That show revealed that there was a pecking order among the servants of the nobility. I always assumed that all servants were basically the same. But no. If you were the servant of a duke, you had a higher ranking as a servant, than the servants of a marquis or earl, because a duke was a higher position than a marquis or earl.

There's always a pecking order—even among servants. Why? Because everyone of us has pride in us. Everyone, from the highest to the lowest—has pride in his heart. Our old, sinful nature craves attention. We see an example of this in 3 John 1:9-10. John said,

"I wrote to the church,
but Diotrephes, who loves to be first,
will have nothing to do with us.
So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing,
gossiping maliciously about us.
Not satisfied with that,
he refuses to welcome the brothers.
He also stops those who want to do so
and puts them out of the church."

Diotrephes craved attention and adulation. He was a leader in the church but he was doing the exact opposite of what he should have been doing. He should have been focused on bringing glory to Jesus—yet he was focused on bringing glory to himself.

The thing to note here is that

boasting and pride are incompatible with loving others.

Here's how the apostle Paul put it in 2 Timothy 3:2–5. He said that in the last days,

"People will be lovers of themselves,
lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
without love, unforgiving, slanderous,
without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,
treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure
rather than lovers of God—
having a form of godliness but denying its power."

Paul lists being boastful and proud as being two of the characteristics that are incompatible with love. Those that are proud and boastful are without love. Gordon D. Fee puts it this way, (1 Corinthians, NICNT; p. 638)

"It is not possible to 'boast' and love at the same time. The one action wants others to think highly of oneself, whether deserving or not; the other cares for none of that, but only for the good of the community as a whole."

I like how David E. Garland puts it, (1 Corinthians, BECNT; p. 618)

"Love is constructive. It builds up the building (8:1). The puffed-up spirit blows up the building."

Boasting and pride are both self-centered. The person that exhibits them shows that he loves himself more than he loves others. The second greatest commandment tells us that we are to, (Mark 12:31)

"Love your neighbor as yourself."

So if someone is boastful or proud he is showing that he loves himself much more than he loves others. As far as loving others goes, he fails miserably.

Being boastful or proud also shows that that someone doesn't love God like they should. God commands us all to be humble, to put others above ourselves. The one who boasts and is proud fails to obey God.

We are not to be proud.

In ourselves we have nothing to boast about.

In Luke 17:10 Jesus said to His disciples,

So you also, when you have done
everything you were told to do,
should say, 'We are unworthy servants;
we have only done our duty.'"

We are unprofitable servants—we are not worthy of any praise from God, from others. So why should we be proud of ourselves. The apostle Paul had this attitude. In 1 Corinthians 15:9 he wrote,

"For I am the least of the apostles
and do not even deserve
to be called an apostle,
because I persecuted the church of God."

In 1 Corinthians 15:10 he said,

"But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me was not without effect.
No, I worked harder than all of them—
yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me."

And in Ephesians 2:10 he wrote,

"For we are God's workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do."

So Paul's advice to us? In Romans 12:3 he wrote,

"For by the grace given me
I say to every one of you:
Do not think of yourself
more highly than you ought,
but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,
in accordance with
the measure of faith God has given you."

We need to see ourselves for what we really are—sinners that have been saved only by God's grace.

We have nothing in ourselves to boast in. We can only boast in God. This is the key point.

We should boast in Christ.

He has done everything for us. He has saved us. It is He who gives us grace. In 1 Corinthians 1:27–31 Paul wrote,

"But God chose the foolish things
of the world to shame the wise;
God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
He chose the lowly things
of this world and the despised things—
and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,
so that no one may boast before him.
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus,
who has become for us wisdom from God—
that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
Therefore, as it is written:
'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.' "

We should boast in Jesus and His work. He died in our place and saved us. Because of Him our sins are forgiven. Because of Him we have been adopted into God's family. Because of His work we are joint-heirs with Him.

So we should boast about Him. Tell others how good and great He is. Tell others about His great love and how they too can find life in Him.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians.

Right now, to a certain extent, you're proud. In a certain sense, because you're not accepting Christ, you're boasting in yourself. You think you're all right. But you're not.

You need to be in Christ. You need to have the forgiveness of sins that only He can provide. You need to have the righteousness that only He can give.

At one point in his life Paul didn't think that he needed Christ. He was righteous on his own. He wrote, (Philippians 3:4–11)

"If anyone else thinks he has reasons
to put confidence in the flesh,
I have more: circumcised on the eighth day,
of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin,
a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;
as for zeal, persecuting the church;
as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
But whatever was to my profit
I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
What is more, I consider everything a
loss compared to the surpassing greatness
of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,
for whose sake I have lost all things.
I consider them rubbish,
that I may gain Christ and be found in him,
not having a righteousness
of my own that comes from the law,
but that which is through faith in Christ—
the righteousness that comes
from God and is by faith.
I want to know Christ
and the power of his resurrection
and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death,
and so, somehow, to attain
to the resurrection from the dead."

As you are you have nothing to boast in. In Christ, you have everything to boast about. Go to Him for life. 1 Peter 5:5 says,

"God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble."