12 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
Verses 12 through 18 give Paul’s third censure of the false apostles. In this section, the apostle leveled three charges against his adversaries:
-They used themselves as the standard for measuring ministry.
-By boasting beyond the limits of what they should, they breached God’s proper measure of things.
-They claimed credit for what Paul’s team did.
12 For we dare not class ourselves
Paul’s team did not dare concern themselves with comparing themselves with others. Their point was not that they feared the comparison but that the comparison took away what God did for them.
The only time the Greek word “class” appears in the New Testament is here. The idea is to admit into the same rank or class. These people involved themselves in class conflict.
or compare ourselves
The word “compare” means to measure something against equal value. The standard the false teachers used to indicate success in ministry was themselves. These phonies attempted to gain influence in Corinth by comparing their oratory and erudite skills to Paul’s team. They used inadequate credentials and criteria different from God’s standard. Their standard was themselves.
with those who commend themselves.
Some teachers in Corinth used self-promotion to impress others with their accomplishments. These people set the bar low. To use “themselves” as the measuring stick of approval in ministry is astonishing. They used superficial standards for evaluating ministry; they confined the measurement of ministry to themselves. These people were a mutual admiration society.
The opponents of Paul’s team did compare themselves among themselves. This was a scheme to make themselves look better than Paul and his colleagues.
measuring themselves by themselves,
These false teachers did not compare themselves with those who excelled in their ministry but used the low criterion of measuring themselves against inadequate teachers like themselves. To set up oneself as the measure of success is to introduce an extra-biblical criterion for ministry that is not legitimate. No doubt they would pass with flying colors using this system, but it is not God’s way of measuring things.
and comparing themselves among themselves,
Other ministers compared themselves among their peers. This comparison no doubt meant that they would amplify their successes with the others’ failures. These people became legends in their own minds. This was a downright delusion of self-aggrandizement.
are not wise [without understanding].
To compare oneself with others merely from a human perspective is an irrational and self-centered approach. The proper perspective is God’s estimation of us (2 Co 10:18). Their pride of self-accomplishment did not measure up to a high enough standard
It is a biblical error to compare ourselves with others.
If we use comparison of ourselves with others, we use the wrong standard. The Word of God, not people, is our norm. Comparing our ministry with others is an inadequate standard to evaluate our work. It is the cutthroat system that the world uses. To vie with others to gain personal glory is a worldly approach to ministry. The proper motive is not that a leader becomes distinguished or applauded (Mt 23:6-7). Some crave the applause of the crowd. This is utterly illegitimate from God’s point of view.
It will be of most significance if people in mutual admiration societies who are self-satisfied compare themselves to those who have succeeded.