MDB 49: 2 Cor 10
2 Corinthians 10:17-18
"Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
Reformed theology is a humbling theology. It gets to the heart of the biblical message about the heart of man and the heart of God. If we've not grasped the biblical doctrines of sin and grace then we've not grasped Christ. Our natural religion is an arrogant religion in which our self-made god loves us, saves us, and praises us because we are delightful, cuddly, and cute little creatures that are worthy of being loved, saved, and praised. And so, we reason, it is fitting for us to praise, or commend, ourselves.
The Scripture-established theology revived during the Protestant Reformation is a theology that has always existed among God's faithful remnant. However, during certain periods of history, that ancient biblical theology has been sometimes obscured by those who think they know better than God. Not only have they come under the devilish impression that they chose God (at least in some small way), but they dupe themselves into thinking that God should be really glad to have them on His side. They think they are therefore worthy of commendation by others because, after all, God Himself commends them, approves them, and revels in the fact that they chose Him. From this pride-based theology, we have manufactured a variety of enticing man-made, man-focused, man-commended religions from which the world can choose, from Rome to Mecca to Salt Lake City to Tibet, we have a host of religions to choose from each with one man at the top who is to be heralded as the most commendable man, even when they put on the façade of false modesty and parade themselves in humble attire.
The self-commending religions of the world are actually just the one religion of our Enemy, who revels in self-reveling religion. But this religion is not just a religion out there, it's right here in our hearts and so often in our churches. A self-made religion in which we can boast is our pride and joy, and the apostle Paul knew it, and he also knew the temptation to boast. If there was anyone who could rightly boast and commend himself, it was he. But Paul understood Reformed theology. He understood that he didn't choose God (even in some small way), he knew that God didn't ultimately need him on His side, and he knew, as did the prophet Jeremiah, that any boasting was only appropriate if one boasted in the Lord.
We are happy to praise, commend, and flatter ourselves because after all, this is how we gain approval from ourselves, from others, and even from God--so we think, and so Paul needed to remind himself and the Corinthians. After his genuine commendations for their earnest generosity to the church at Jerusalem, it would have been natural for them to boast in what good, unselfish, kingdom work they had done. After all, they were being obedient to the Gospel of Christ in showing mercy to those in need. And this is precisely how the devil works his always-so-slight way into our naturally inviting hearts.
Perhaps there is no greater feeling than the feeling of a delighted heart for selflessly helping another. And such delight is appropriate and Spirit-wrought. However, when we take that feeling of delight and delight ourselves in that delight by boasting in our reasoned reasons for such personal delight then we have begun to commend ourselves. In commending ourselves for such accomplishments, we are not only proving ourselves foolish, as the Proverbs teach, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips" (27:2), we are proving ourselves proud, and the only cure for such pride is to praise Christ who made Himself nothing but took the form of a servant.