In my study this week, my mind was called to the phrase “do not be arrogant” (Rom.11:18). Boasting and arrogance seem to be ideas that Paul frequently mentions. Perhaps he could think back to the time when he boasted in being a Jew (Rom. 2:17). The religious pride in being one of God’s chosen people. The boasting from being recipients of God’s Law (Rom. 2:23). Boasting appears to be an outward expression of our inward pride and arrogance.
Boasting is the result of feeling superior to others. Paul addressed the negative results of comparing ourselves to others (2 Cor. 10). Do we ever look down at the lost? Or people of other religions or even Christians who don’t believe as we do?
When Paul speaks of salvation by faith, he asks “Where then is boasting” (Rom. 3:27)? It’s not as if we kept some law or worked or earned it. Paul says, “If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about.” Then adds, “but not before God” since his salvation was based on faith. In another letter he makes a point that “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” and then once again he adds, “not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph.2:8:9).
Listed among the sins of sexual perversion and murder you’ll find the arrogant and boastful (Rom. 1:29-31).
The only boasting that Paul thought was acceptable was boasting in God, “but he who boasts is to boast in the Lord” (2 Cor. 10:17). This is a quotation from a fuller passage in Jeremiah, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts, boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things” (9:23-24).
“What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it” (1 Cor. 4:7)? Gratitude, not pride, is the proper response to the abundance of God’s gifts. Gratitude demands humility. All that we are and all that we have is from God.