Sermons

Summary: Traveling Christian evangelists in the first century, according to the custom of the day, carried letters of recommendation. With these a poor preacher would be given, at least, a place to stay, a meal, and an opportunity to speak to the congregation.

April 23, 2014

Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

Lesson II.B.1.a: The Credentials of His Ministry. (3:1-5)

2nd Corinthians 3:1-5 (NKJV)

1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you?

2 You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men;

3 clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.

4 And we have such trust through Christ toward God.

5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,

Introduction

Paul has spoken of the triumph of the ministry. Now he deals with the accreditation of the ministry. He will reach the heights in this chapter. Paul is asking, “Do I need a letter of recommendation from my employer? Do I need a letter from God testifying that I am His minister?” Paul says, “No, I don’t need to have that—and he gives the reason in verses 2 and 3.

Traveling Christian evangelists in the first century, according to the custom of the day, carried letters of recommendation. With these a poor preacher would be given, at least, a place to stay, a meal, and an opportunity to speak to the congregation. Apparently some of the false teachers had gained access to the Corinthian church with such letters. But instead of using their influence to further the cause of the gospel, these teachers had criticized Paul’s message and authority. Part of that criticism was his lack of letters of recommendation.

Commentary

1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you?

Paul was aware of the tactics of his opponents (false apostles, Judaizers) and he realized that the swipe he had taken at them might be turned against him. His first question in verse 1 (Do we begin again to commend ourselves?) suggests that this had happened before (See 1 Cor. 9). The Greek word for “commend” means “to introduce.” Thus Paul was asking the Corinthians if he needed to reintroduced himself, as if they had never met, and prove himself once more. The form of the question demanded a negative answer. In 2 Corinthians 2:17 Paul wrote, “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.” He was asserting his integrity in the apostolic ministry and answering the charge that he was merely an egotistical braggart who delights in touting his accomplishments. This is not a new charge since previous statements by the apostle had evoked the same accusation. His “stern letter” to the Corinthians, in which he defended himself, may be what he is referring to here. I don’t think we need to be reminded that Paul, who was only human, always kept completely free from pride. But vicious attacks on him had forced him to defend his record as he does again in 2 Corinthians 4:2{1] and 6:4{2]. Had he not done so, his leadership and his gospel would have been rejected, and the Corinthians, even more than he, would have been the losers.

The second question in this verse is a partial answer to the first. In dealing with the Corinthians, Paul, whose work and love for them they knew so well, surely does not need, as outsiders do, to bring letters of recommendation. “Some,” the many of 2:17, who seem to be the same as the “false apostles” of 2 Corinthians 11:12-13{3], 22-23{4], evidentially did bring letters of recommendation (which they may have forged) to Corinth (a common practice in the first century); letters written by the “important people” in the Jerusalem church (which they may have obtained under false pretenses), and they pointed out that Paul had no such credentials. Being outsiders, and persons unknown to the church, they had reasons to do so, but Paul needs no such testimonials. Paul had good reasons to doubt the authenticity of their letters (2 Cor. 4:2{1]), for they distorted the Word of God and practiced deception. Moreover, these traveling preachers seem to have asked for such letters from the Corinthians to other places. In all probability they were emissaries of the Jews who had come to undo Paul’s work, and their letters were written by the Sanhedrin. Once Paul had had such letters himself when he set out for Damascus to obliterate the church (Acts 9:2{13]). It is a sad thing when a person measures his worth by what people say about him instead of by what God knows about him. It should be pointed out that Paul had nothing against such letters and he wrote letters of recommendation at various times for those who served with him—“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me” (Rom 16:1-2; also see 2 Cor. 8:22-24). Paul explains why he doesn’t need such letters in verse 2.

Copy Sermon to Clipboard with PRO Download Sermon with PRO
Talk about it...

Nobody has commented yet. Be the first!

Join the discussion
using System; using System.Web; using System.IO; ;