“Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and in wonders, and mighty deeds”
the Apostle Paul drops the mother of all bombs. What he says next was the very reason for which Christ came and suffered on the cross.
“For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.”
The two verses are connected. Notice the word “inferior”. Now, I would think that a church where the signs and wonders and mighty deeds of God were being done is a mighty superior church. But, although all these mighty deeds were done at the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul calls this church “inferior”. He tells them they were inferior to the other churches where the same apostolic signs were done. And he gives the reason why. Not because the power of God was not revealed through signs and wonders in Corinthian church. But, he says, it was because he was not “burdensome” to them. The deciding factor was not the miracles and all, he told them. It was something else; something that came at them from center-left. That must have knocked all the charismatic theology they had out of their heads!
In fact, in his service to the Corinthians, Paul went beyond merely not being burdensome to them . In 2 Cor. 11:8 he says,
“I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.”
(And yet, unbelievably, the Corinthians turned out to be the most ungrateful!)
It transpires, therefore, that all those other churches were superior to the Corinthian church because they suffered. They suffered Paul’s ‘burdens’. The Philippians especially. They provided Paul’s needs when he would not allow the Corinthians to.
Paul endured great personal hardship and want when he ministered among the Corinthians. The Apostle Paul gave his life that others might profit thereof. At the same time, Paul was looking for something to boast in. He looked at the great signs and wonders that he was performing; but God told him, “Not there.” I just love this revelation.
Paul carried the heart of God, so he obeyed.
God then showed Paul the singular thing that would please Him most. Finally, Paul had found something to boast in; indeed, the only thing he could boast in: those same hardships and want that he was enduring among the Corinthians! This was the only thing God showed him would please Him. Indeed, after this revelation, Paul would boast only in the things that made him weak in the eyes of this world; the things that worked against his body. In 2 Cor. 12:10 he declares:
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
True superiority, in the eyes of God, is partaking of the sufferings of Christ, for Christ came to suffer for mankind. Amongst these sufferings, as Paul makes clear here, is bearing other people’s burdens. In this case, it was financial and material burdens that other churches bore on behalf of the Corinthians and the lack that he himself was willing to undertake on their behalf. The Apostle Paul took financial aid from other churches – took even his own allowances – to minister to them. It was just as Jesus Himself said:
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
Jesus also said,
“If any man desire to be first, the same shall be least of all, and servant of all.” (Mk. 9:35)
Notice that greatness in the Kingdom of God is desiring to be at the end of the queue and serving others.
Spiritual superiority or maturity therefore is not the presence of miracles or signs and wonders. Let’s first get that out of our heads. On the contrary, spiritual superiority is first allowing God to work in us! God’s work in us matures us through crucifying our flesh and we are therefore able to humble ourselves and serve others selflessly. Accepting this kind of weakness is a result of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and this fruit alone is priceless in the sight of God. It is this fruit of which the Apostle James says,
“Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.” (Jam. 5:7)
God patiently waits for this fruit to materialize in our lives.
And, finally, let us see what the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 6:17.
“From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”
He does not say, “Let no man trouble me for I perform miracles.”
[The Apostle Paul gave his life that others might profit thereof]