How the Christian Boasts

Audio Transcript

Because of God — from him and because of him — you are in Christ Jesus. You didn’t get yourself in. You can’t say, “I jumped in; I grafted myself in.” No, from him are you in, and he has become to you wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (see 1 Corinthians 1:30–31).

There must be something left in this word brag. It’s useful, right? Is it ever! Do you want to boast? Do you want to brag? Brag on Jesus. You might say, “I got some righteousness, I got some wisdom, I got sanctification, I got redemption,” and Paul says, “They’re gifts.” Jesus is it. He’s your righteousness. He’s your sanctification, your wisdom, your redemption. He’s everything. Do you want to boast? Forget self-exaltation. Get into God-exaltation. Get into Christ-exaltation, and you can boast all you want.

So what does it mean? My effort to define boast — what’s left in this word — is: I am receiving some honor, or privilege, or riches, or glory. I am. That’s left in this word. And now in the mouth of Christians, there’s no connotation that I deserve them. No, you don’t. You don’t. You get them. You don’t deserve them. You get honor. You get glory. You get riches. You get privilege. You don’t deserve any of it.

“Do you want to boast? Then brag on Jesus.”

Okay, take a deep breath. Yes, you are going to keep using this word boast. And in receiving all of that, Christ is going to be exalted in my boasting. I’m going to boast in Christ. I don’t think the Greek word for rejoice [chairō] carries that connotation. That’s why Paul doesn’t drop this dangerous word for boast. This is why it’s so natural for Paul to say in Romans 5:2 (NIV), “We boast in the hope of the glory of God.”

It’s as if he wants us to feel: “Oh, glory is coming. I’m going to be included. It might, in fact, rub off on me. I’m going to have it as my mark, my insignia. I’m going to wear that uniform. I’m wearing the uniform. I’m wearing it. I’m boasting in this insignia, this mark, this uniform. I’m wearing it. That’s my boast: the glory of God.” Now I’m going there because I think boasting is pushing me there.

Let me say one more thing about boasting before I turn to the glory of God, and see whether I’m on track here. Boasting in Paul’s understanding, in his emotional framework, is a very happy act of the soul. It’s a happy act of the soul. Nobody in a Christian sense, at least, boasts sullenly. “I wish I didn’t have to boast, but I guess I have to.” Nobody does that. That’s not the way boasting is.

Here’s why I think that. Listen to 2 Corinthians 12:9: “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses” because Christ’s power is magnified in my weaknesses. Now that little phrase all the more gladly says boasting is ordinarily a glad experience. All of it is a glad experience, but Paul is taking it to superlatives here.

And isn’t it interesting that the word for that superlative is a form of the Greek word hēdeōs, from which we get hedonism. So this is a glad emotion, right? This is a glad emotion, which means that the translations, whether they’re rejoice or exalt or boast in Romans 5:2 all have a piece of the truth here.

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