Loving God (12)
We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you. For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment. But “he who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. 2 Corinthians 10.13-18
The staging-ground for love
Jesus said that two great commandments must guide us in all our doings as His disciples – that we love God supremely, and that we love our neighbors as ourselves. Love is both a disposition of the soul and a way of life, expressed in a raft of actions, as Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 13.4-8, and as John relates by equating love with keeping the commandments of God (1 Jn. 5.1-3). Love, which the Spirit of God bears as fruit from within our souls (Gal. 5.22), issues in good works that express love for God and love for our neighbors.
All this takes place in time, as we have previously discussed. But it also takes place in a particular place and among particular people. The ways we love God come to expression in a sphere – as Paul names it – where we are in contact with a variety of people, and where we fulfill our calling to the Kingdom and glory of God (1 Thess. 2.12) in all the roles, relationships, and responsibilities of our lives. As we nurture love for God in all the ways we have mentioned, that love is going to be an identifying trait to the people to whom Jesus sends us every day. They will be able to see how much His Presence, Word, works, salvation, praise, and all the rest mean to us, because they will experience our love for Him in the ways we relate to them.
This is Paul’s point in 2 Corinthians 10.13-18. Like Paul (1 Cor. 11.1), each of us has a sphere of influence – a Personal Mission Field – where we practice love for God and for our neighbors.
It's clear that Paul was focused on making his sphere as fully God-honoring as it could be. In our text we see that he was motivated by four specific goals, in the pursuit of which he showed his love for God through the works he did. Let’s take a closer look at the four goals Paul mentions here, as these can also become goals for us in working our Personal Mission Field as well.
Increase boasting in the Lord
First, Paul mentions boasting in the Lord (vv. 13, 15, 17). We know that in Paul’s case this boasting took a variety of forms, each of which expressed the love Paul had in his heart for the Lord.
We see Paul boasting about the Lord in his witness for Jesus, as before the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17.22-31). His love for God’s works can be seen in how he thought about those works as witnessing to God’s love (cf. Acts 14.17). He and Silas sang in a jail cell, and their boasting in the Lord in song became a blessing for many (Acts 16.25-34). Paul boasted about the greatness of God in his letters to the churches (cf. Rom. 11.33-36). He boasted about the Lord before religious authorities and civil magistrates; and he boasted about Jesus and the work God did in and through him to the various churches and pastors who were in his sphere of influence.
One goal for working our Personal Mission Field should be that we want to increase boasting in the Lord. We want people to know we believe in Jesus, and that we love and serve Him, and that He is altogether worthy of such a commitment, and of such boasting as we are able to express. So we take as a goal that the sphere assigned to us shall become increasingly a place of boasting about the Lord.
Second, Paul worked to make his sphere of influence a place of mutual benefit and edification (v. 15). He wanted his work, expressed as his love for God, to benefit the people he served by focusing them more on Jesus and helping them to increase in love for Him. He was willing to spend and be spent for the wellbeing of those to whom God sent him (2 Cor. 12.15). He was always working to bring God’s praises to the next generation.
But he also looked to those he served to “greatly enlarge” his own work by helping to make that work possible in a variety of ways. Some worked with him. Many prayed for him. Some supported him financially. Those who love God love the work God does through His servants, and they do what they can both to benefit from that work and to help it go forward more abundantly.
Christ to the limits
Paul had written to the Ephesians that Jesus is filling the world with Himself (Eph. 1.15-23; 4.8-10). He saw it as a way of expressing his love for the Lord to make sure that the knowledge of Jesus was spread throughout his own Personal Mission Field (2 Cor. 10.13, 14). Paul often pointed to his own example of what it means to follow Jesus (cf. 1. Cor 11.1), and he made it his business to talk about Jesus wherever he went.
Churches from Antioch in Syria, throughout Asia Minor and Greece, and even to Rome are the evidence that Paul took this goal seriously, to make the knowledge of Jesus known throughout that sphere God had assigned to him. When we’re working our own spheres diligently, and in love for God, this will be our aim as well. That doesn’t mean we all become sidewalk evangelists, handing out tracts and asking people whether they’re saved. But it means that – line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, by good works and gracious words (Is. 28.10; Matt. 5.13-16; Eph. 4.15) – the Presence of Jesus becomes more constant wherever we are, whatever we’re doing.
Increasing your sphere
Finally, Paul took as a goal for working his Personal Mission Field that he should try to extend or increase his sphere by whatever means he could (v. 16). He networked to meet new people, traveled to new places, and incorporated more folks into his ministry team. Our goal should be the same, that, motivated by love for God and our Lord Jesus Christ, we want to reach more people, in new places, as often as we can, with the Good News of Christ and the loving service of His Presence. We want to encourage and edify more of the Lord’s disciples, and we want to reach out to more of the lost, so we seek the Lord daily for this to be the case.
These four goals, embraced, personally applied, and taken up daily, can help us to make the most of the time God gives us for working our Personal Mission Field. Love for God is expressed not only in our private times of devotion and worship, but as we love His work, and declare His praise to the generations, His salvation and His glory; and as we work in systematic and consistent ways to help others know as we do the love of God in Christ Jesus.
1. What are some ways you might bring more boasting of Jesus into your Personal Mission Field?
2. How would you answer someone who asked a reason for the hope they see in you (1 Pet. 3.15)?
3. What are some things you can do to keep expanding your Personal Mission Field?
Next steps – Preparation: For each of the goals mentioned in this article, set one specific goal for working your Personal Mission Field during the coming week.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.