God's Take on Boasting
My eighth-grade history teacher asked a student a question. He couldn’t answer it. I raised my hand. I answered it correctly. Then I pointed to my head in braggadocio fashion. A few minutes later the teacher asked me a question. I didn’t know the answer. Then she pointed to her head—imitating my behavior moments earlier. That’s all I remember about her class. I deserved that!
Boasting and earning God’s favor through performance are closely related. “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith” (Romans 3:27, NIV). Boasting is compatible with the law that requires works but not with the law that requires faith.
The Pharisees were religious boasters—overflowing with spiritual pride. They wore symbols of their religious fervor. They attached portions of the Old Testament to their forehead and left arm. They were proud of their religious accomplishments. They got straight As in religious rule-keeping. But Jesus saw through them. “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long” (Matthew 23:5, NIV). Meanwhile, they harbored treachery in their hearts against Him. They resisted God’s work in their midst.
We must be careful we don’t do the same thing. We can use our spiritual accomplishments to try to impress God and others with how good we are. That puts the spotlight where it shouldn’t be. On us. Spiritual stagnation, disunity, pride, and boasting occur in the church when we place our rules and standards ahead of God’s rule in our heart.
It's about our motives. Are we trying to exalt Jesus or ourselves? Are we trying to justify ourselves? Are we resting our whole weight on God’s justifying us by faith? Jesus directed His harshest words at those who tried to impress others with their goodness (Matthew 23:13-33). We fall far short of Jesus’ sinless life. Nothing to boast about there. “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord” (2 Corinthians 10:17, NIV).
Romans 3:27–31 repeat “By faith,” “of faith,” and “through faith” four times. They’re talking about living faith. Such faith works. Dead faith doesn’t. God declares us righteous because of our faith alone. No merit involved. No boasting allowed (Ephesians 2:9). However, true faith is never alone. It always produces good works.
Faith establishes a relationship with God. He wants us to know Him intimately and trust Him completely. He wants our freely offered love and obedience. He judges religious boasters who move forward by patting themselves on the back. He judges rule-keepers who glory in their own goodness. He judges those whose dead faith doesn’t do anyone any good. Spiritual pride earns God’s wrath. Our life is to be all about Him, not us. On that road we understand increasingly how foolish boasting really is.
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