GOSPEL PREVENTS BOASTING
As stated in the preceding point, the less talented Christian is not only discriminated against, he becomes the occasion for the talented brother to become arrogant concerning his supposed meritorious abilities. The brother who considers himself greater in good deeds boasts in reference to those he considers not to have reached his level of the Holy Spirit working in his life.
Boasting arises out of an environment where there exists different abilities or talents within the same fellowship. If all had the same ability, there would be no occasion for one boasting of his abilities over those of his brother whom he believes is performing in an inferior ministry. Once a legal chart of performance is produced in a religion that measures performance according to one’s abilities, there is judgment according to that chart. The self-righteous start boasting about “fasting twice a week,” having contributed so much, taught so many Bible classes, or baptized so many people. All such measurements according to the performance chart become occasions for one brother to boast against another.
The judaizing legalists of Galatia were no doubt teachers with great credentials and degrees of education. Because they were such, the Galatians were in awe of their positions and abilities. The legalist had high standards, and thus, used such as the measure by which others were to be judged (See Gl 4:17,18; 6:12-14). Their abilities and standards, therefore, became the occasion for their internal boasting and intimidation, even of those as Peter and Barnabas (See Gl 2:11-13).
If one is saved by performance of either law or meritorious deeds, then certainly there is the opportunity for one brother to boast of his works in comparison to his fellow brother. For this reason, Paul wrote to the Ephesians concerning our salvation, that it is “not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ep 2:9). If salvation is dependent on the gospel of God’s grace, then Paul states, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works, No, but by the law of faith” (Rm 3:27). The problem in Galatia was boasting over meritorious deeds. There was even boasting on the part of the judaizing teachers concerning their recruitment of Gentiles by having them circumcised. Paul wrote, “They desire to have you circumcised that they may glory in your flesh” (Gl 6:13). But if one is saved by the grace of God, and not the performance of meritorious works of law and good deeds, then there is no room for boasting.
Paul’s answer to the preceding boasting in the flesh was boasting in the cross of the gospel. “But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world’ (Gl 6:14). Since one is totally dependent on God’s grace for salvation, he has no opportunity to boast of earning or maintaining his salvation through self-sanctifying meritorious works.
If our friend wakes up one morning and writes us a check for a million dollars because we are his friend, how can we boast that we earned the million dollars? God has freely given us the gift of the gospel. How can we boast that we deserved or earned the gift? In fact, Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rm 5:8).
It is the nature of the religionist to compare, and thus, boast of his works in relation to his brother. He is the one who will pray, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men” (Lk 18:11). He is thus the man about whom Jesus said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be abased” (Lk 18:14). The legalist exalts himself above his fellow brother and assumes that his law-keeping and meritorious deeds are better or greater. As the Pharisees, he thus boasts concerning his “righteousness.”