November 8, 2013
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Paul was defending himself to the Corinthian church because some were questioning his authority as an apostle. One problem was that he was an intense little man, who – when he wrote his instructive and corrective letters to the churches – sounded like he was a giant! In The Acts of Paul and Thecla, an apocryphal work of the mid-second century, a physical description is given of the saint:
…he was a man of middling size, and his hair was scanty, and his legs were a
little crooked, and his knees were projecting, and he had large eyes and his
eyebrows met, and his nose was somewhat long….
But, the description adds, “…he was full of grace and mercy; at one time he seemed like a man, and at another time he seemed like an angel.” Paul recounted in II Corinthians 10:7 through12 the charges his opponents were laying against him:
Do you look at things according to the outward appearance?…I seem to terrify
you by letters. “For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful; but his
bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” Let such a person
consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we
will also be in deed when we are present. 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
These opponents were saying, in other words, “Pay no attention to that little man. Even though his letters seem ferocious, he’s a wimp in person!” But Paul – though he was gracious and loving – was the same in person as well as in his writings.
Notice the last sentence of the above scripture: “But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” Why is it not wise to compare ourselves with others? Because we can always find someone who is worse off than we are, who is a greater sinner, who is not as successful, who has a more dysfunctional family, etc. And in so comparing, we can become complacent with a false contentment, saying, “I’m not so bad! Just look at so and so!”
So, By Whose Standard are we then suppose to be measured? There is only One, and that One is featured in our blog’s scripture of Matthew 5:48: “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Now that’s a high standard! We are challenged to be as perfect as God! Who can ever live up to this standard?!
Well, there is only One who had ever lived His life to that perfect standard – Jesus Christ. I like how he challenged His enemies in John 8:46, “Which of you convicts Me of sin? ” His enemies had been closely watching Him for some time to try to convict Him of sin! But they couldn’t find a thing! In the end, Jesus was ‘condemned’ on trumped-up charges that would never stand in an honorable court! But if I asked those who knew me well – say, my wife – “Which of you convicts me of sin? ” she would not have to think very long before she could come up with a dozen sins I have committed – and probably a lot more!
So Jesus was perfect. He never sinned once! That’s what Peter declares in I Peter 2:22 when he said of his Lord, “…Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth.” And here is the essence of the gospel: not only did Jesus Christ take our sins upon Himself and fully pay for them when He died upon the cross, He also offers us to be clothed with His own perfect righteousness! It is not our own righteousness, for we have none of our own before God! It is His imputed righteousness, freely given to us who open our hearts and put our faith in Him and what He accomplished by dying for us and rising again! (See II Corinthians 5:21). Only in this way can we meet the standard that God has set for us – “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
Are you comparing yourself to others so you can come out looking better than they are? Or have you set yourself alongside of God’s standard of perfection? If you have done the latter, then you will seek some way to meet that standard and so be acceptable to God. That way is Jesus Christ, Who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”