Vaunting Is Not An Olympic Sport
by Dennis Michelson
I Corinthians 13:4 - "Vaunteth not itself"
Introduction: Here it is Valentine's Day and what better time to stop by for a visit in this chapter. Of course Paul argues for the supremacy of love in all matters. Talk of love has become the forgotten fact in fundamentalism and most ministerial verbiage seems directed at more external topics.
Those preachers who do spend time speaking of love often do so from a sub-biblical or extra-biblical perspective. In this text - at least this phrase - we are shown what biblical love is not. It does not vaunt itself. It does not parade itself. It does not brag.
The term "vaunt" is not used in the common parlance of our day but it was an excellent term chosen by the translators to describe the false pride which stifles any flicker of Christ-like love. This entire chapter is devoted to revealing the importance of the fruit of salvation and sanctification, namely love.
The person who vaunts himself is one who exudes pride rather than humility. It is the person who considers himself first, often to the exclusion of others. Consider the following four points drawn from the phrase "vaunteth not itself."
1. The Context of Vaunting
This concept is found right in the center of the most complete exposition of love found in Scripture. Just as Hosea presents the lofty ideal of love from a real-life drama, Paul provides the doctrinal principles of what genuine love is like - and is not like.
In our text the Apostle cites a stark antithesis for love when he says it does not vaunt itself. Most Bible students are familiar with the terms found in Greek which could possibly be translated as love or something similar.
There is the erotic kind of love akin to the Greek term eros. Then there is the Greek concept of storge which suggests the kind of love often found in the family relationship. The idea of loving friendship, or brotherly love, stems from the ancient term phileo from which we derive such familiar words as Philadelphia.
Of course the word before us in our text is agape. It is the kind of love that unconditionally chooses to set its affection on someone. As illustrated in Hosea we learn that God loves us because of who He is and not who we are. God does not love us because of what we do but in spite of what we do.
2. The Cause of Vaunting
Why are we so proud? It is because we have a distorted concept of God and a distorted concept of ourselves. We compare ourselves among ourselves and thereby prove we are not wise.
3. The Curse of Vaunting
- The ultimate standard of comparison is God. When our estimate of ourselves is placed against our estimate of God then we learn that we have absolutely nothing in us to justify any pride at all.
- The proximate standard of comparison is the Son of God - the Man Christ Jesus. Anyone who meditates upon who Christ is as given in the Scripture and who we are should be profoundly humble without one iota of pride!
- The perverted standard of comparison is with other sinners (just like us). Vaunting (or pride) violates love when we begin to prefer ourselves above others. This is the real source of all conflict. When we fail to compare ourselves with God; fail to compare ourselves with the God-Man; then we resort to the sinful strategy of making ourselves look better by making someone else look worse.
Think of the damage you have caused, or how you have been damaged, by thinking of yourself more highly than you ought to think. We begin to seek a higher level of attention and affection than what is rightfully ours. We then begin to put others down and then pride becomes linked to selfishness and a self-centered outlook.
The New Testament presents a radical ethic by teaching that we should prefer others above ourselves (Philippians 2). Remember the Pharisees? They were always striving to control and receive the approbation of other human beings with a disregard for genuine approval from God.
Much of religion - including conservative fundamentalism - has been infected with this mindset. This curse of wearing myopic blinders led them to clearly see the mote in everyone's eye while disregarding the beam in their own. Such blindness led them to actually hate Christ since He sought approval from God alone and was totally delivered from public opinion.
We are to imitate Christ in the sense of Philippians 2:5 and when we do it will result in profound humiliation and disdain for exaltation. We never tend toward the right direction and sadly, some of our religious traditions actually accelerate us in the wrong direction.
We are more like Satan when we are proud than at any other time. Of course we don't smoke and we don't chew and certainly won't run with those that do - - but what about pride?
I resist the temptation to list a number of pride-based practices fighting fundamentalists have become famous for but almost all could be traced back to our need for the applause of men rather than the approval of God. As a result we spend more time and resources fighting one another then we do fighting the Devil.4. The Cure for Vaunting
- We should refrain from seeking honor.
- We should give honor unto whom it is due. We are required by Scripture to give honor unto whom it is due. Sadly, many Christians today see it as a righteous thing to heap dishonor on those God commands us to honor.
- We can be self-confident but should not be self-reliant.
- Vaunting comes when we refuse to submit to the authority of God because we seek the approval of men.
To love is to be humble as Christ was humble. Who among us can escape the indictment of pride? I fear many have avoided the issue of sinful pride by concentrating on superfical areas. How has pride gotten you into trouble? How much destruction has come into your life and that of others because of pride?