2 Corinthians 3:1


Friday, 26 June 2015

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 Corinthians 3:1

Understanding this verse requires understanding the context. Paul is rhetorically responding to an objection that might be laid against him. On the surface the preceding verses might seem to show that he was almost bragging about his efforts and the efforts of those who were with him –

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.”

To quell the notion that these statements were somehow boasting, he redirects their thoughts with these questions. “Do we begin again to commend ourselves?” In essence, “Is what I have just said an attempt to exalt us and show our superior ministry?” “Have I written this to obtain your approval?” Based on the rhetorical nature of the question the answer must be, “No.” And he continues, “Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you?”

Again, it is a rhetorical question. “Epistles of commendation” were used to establish authority for someone who was visiting another location. If someone showed up at a synagogue or a church representing someone else, they would carry a letter to prove that they had the authority or respect of the person they were representing. This is found in Acts 9 when Paul was sent to harass the Christians in Damascus –

“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Acts 9:1, 2

Likewise, in Acts 15:23-29, a letter of doctrine was issued by the ruling council in Jerusalem which specifically mentioned Paul and Barnabas as “chosen men.” Such a letter then granted them the authority to speak for the ones who sent them. They were letters of validation. Paul wanted to know if such a letter was needed either from others to establish his authority in Corinth or from the Corinthians in order to acknowledge his deeds and authority based on his ministry at Corinth. Again, the obvious answer is, “No.” He will give an explanation of why in the verses to come.

Life application: Sometimes it is necessary to obtain solid evidence that someone has the right and authority to minister in spiritual matters. We wouldn’t want to trust someone who just walked into a church with a youth ministry without knowing his background. However, there are times when actions are sufficient to establish authority. This may take a long time, but eventually a person might be known by the conduct of their lives. If so, then no such external evidence would be needed.

Lord, I need to keep reminding myself that everything I do and say is a reflection on You. As I am Yours, I am responsible to You. And so I pray that You would just keep me from bringing discredit upon Your name. And yet, at the same time, I would ask that You give me the firm resolve to stand on Your word, even if others misperceive my conduct. I am accountable to You, not to them. Help me to never let adherence to Your word be put aside in order to be pleasing to everyone around me. Amen.

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