II Corinthians 3:1-5

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Text: II Corinthians 3:1-5

PAUL'S CREDENTIALS

FOR THE MINISTRY

INTRODUCTION:

Paul was in a difficult situation. He had written his first letter to the church at Corinth, and after he sent it, certain difficulties arose in the church at Corinth. He made a hurried trip from Ephesus to Corinth which is described as a sorrowful or painful visit. He then sent Titus to Corinth along with a stern letter to correct certain abuses and to encourage the believers there to complete their contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem.

Paul had been waiting for Titus' return. He was anxious to hear how his stern letter had been received. However, before Titus could return, Paul found himself in the center of a riot in Ephesus stirred up by Demetrius and the other silversmiths. After the riot in Ephesus, Paul left Ephesus and headed for Troas where he expected Titus to meet him. Somewhere, whether in Ephesus or on his way to Troas, while still in Asia, Paul encountered a terrible circumstance. The specifics of what he encountered are not clear, but he apparently thought he was not going to survive this situation.

Upon arriving in Troas, God gave Paul an open door to proclaim the gospel. When Titus did not meet Paul in Troas, however, Paul, anxious to hear how Titus' visit had gone in Corinth and to learn how the church had received his letter and, upset because he did not find Titus in Troas, hurried to Macedonia to meet him.

While in the midst of rehearsing this historical situation Paul gets off the track in II Corinthians 2:14 and does not return to it until 7:5 during which he tells us a great deal about his ministry as an apostle. From what he tells us we can learn a great deal about what our own ministries should be like.

Unfortunately, although there had been repentance on the part of most in the church, there was still the outspoken group in the church in Corinth which was seeking to undermine Paul's character and authority as an apostle. This was a group of Jews who discounted the reality of Paul's faith in Christ and the genuineness of his ministry and despised his person. They also claimed to be apostles.

In II Corinthians 3:1-5 Paul indicates that he does not need letters from someone else commending him to the Corinthian believers or letters from the Corinthian believers commending him to others because they themselves are his letter of commendation. The change in their lives as a result of his ministry is all that is necessary as a letter of commendation for him.

II Corinthians 3:1-5 - 1Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? 2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. 4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.

II Corinthians 3:1 1Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?

In verse 1 Paul asks two questions which suggest that he has been accused of commending himself to the Corinthian believers. It also shows that the false apostles who have followed him to Corinth have commended themselves to the Corinthian believers.

The first question is, Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Do we begin?, where we is Paul, is are we beginning?

Again implies that it has been done previously, but Paul did not go around commending himself to people. It is, therefore, understood in a sarcastic manner, with Paul using the same words his enemies were using in their accusations against him.

To commend ourselves, where ourselves is understood of Paul, is to present ourselves or to introduce ourselves in the sense of to recommend ourselves; and its tense indicates action describing what Paul is doing in writing this epistle. The same terminology is used in a number of passages where it is variously translated commend, commendation, commending, approving, approved, commendeth, and commended:

II Corinthians 4:1-2 - (1) Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; (2) But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

II Corinthians 5:12 - (12) For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.

II Corinthians 6:4 - But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses.

II Corinthians 7:11 - For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

II Corinthians 10:12 - For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

II Corinthians 10:18 - For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.

II Corinthians 12:11 - I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.

Paul's second question brings the discussion back to a more realistic situation. He needed no recommendation to the Corinthian believers. They knew him well. By contrast, the false apostles needed letters of commendation to the Corinthian believers because the Corinthian believers did not know them.

Or introduces this second question: need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? The structure of need we in the Greek text, where we is Paul; indicates that a negative answer is expected to this question. It is understood in the sense of, We do not need (or have need of), do we? No, we do not. Its tense indicates an ongoing situation. Paul has not needed any letter of commendation to them or from them at any time since he first met them, and he still has no need of any such letters.

As some others is understood in the sense of like some others need (or like some others have need of).

As is like. Some others indicates an indeterminate number of people. The number is intentionally vague. The reference is to the false apostles who apparently carried letters of commendation with them.

Epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you are commendatory letters, introductory letters, or letters of introduction.

To you suggests that these commendatory letters would introduce Paul to the Corinthian believers, and from you suggests that these introductory letters would be sent from the Corinthian believers to others elsewhere.

Paul did not need letters of commendation from the Corinthian believers because he would be accredited by the signs of an apostle which he could perform. By contrast, the false apostles would need these letters of commendation from the Corinthian believers to the next group of people wherever they might go because they would not be accredited by the signs of an apostle which they would not be able to perform.

II Corinthians 3:2 2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men.

In verse 2 Paul informs the Corinthians that they are his epistle of commendation. Ye are our epistle, where our refers to Paul, is you are our letter and suggests you are our letter of commendation, you are our commendatory letter, or you are our introductory letter. According to verse 1, Paul did not need a letter of commendation from others to the Corinthian believers or from the Corinthian believers to others.

Epistle is then described by three terms: written, known, and read.

Written suggests recorded, and its tense indicates that its action occurred in the past and that its result has continued to the time of the writing of this epistle. Its time of action would have occurred on Paul's first visit to Corinth when he first proclaimed the gospel and spent eighteen months there establishing the church.

In our hearts, where our refers to Paul (and likely includes Silas and Timothy as well), indicates where this epistle had been written or recorded and suggests the affection Paul had for the Corinthian believers. He loved them dearly.

Whereas the tense of written indicates action completed in the past with the result continuing to the time Paul wrote II Corinthians, the tense of both known and read indicates action occurring at the time he was writing II Corinthians.

Known (of all men) is being known by all men and suggests being acknowledged (or recognized) by all human beings (or by all people). Others were acknowledging or recognizing that the Corinthian believers had been genuinely saved and were much different from what they had been prior to their salvation even though there had been spiritual difficulties in the church.

Read of all men suggests being read by all human beings. Men is the generic term for human beings and read by all people (or persons) or read by everybody.

II Corinthians 3:3 3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

Verse 3 provides the reason Paul can say that the Corinthian believers are his epistle, had been written in his heart, and were being acknowledged and read by everybody.

Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared is understood in the sense of because (i.e. since or inasmuch as) you are being manifestly declared (i.e. you are being disclosed, you are being shown, or you are being made known).

To be is that you are, where you refers to the Corinthian believers.

What they have been declared to be is the epistle of Christ, i.e. a letter written by Christ or a letter from Christ.

They were not the only epistle of Christ ministered by Paul. The same thing could have been said of churches in towns like Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.

Of Christ suggests that they were Christ's letter or that they were a letter from Christ. There is little difference between the two because, in either case, Christ would have written the letter and it would have come from Him.

Ministered by us (i.e. by Paul) is understood in the sense of served by us, cared for by us, or taken care of by us.

Written is having been written down, having been recorded, or having been inscribed.

Not with ink indicates that it is not a literal letter which would have been written with ink.

But introduces a statement in strong contrast to written not with ink.

It was written with the Spirit of the living God, i.e. by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit Who regenerated them, Who applied the blood of Christ to their accounts, Who has sanctified them, and Who, among other things, has produced the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.

The living God suggests that God the Father is alive as opposed to all the pagan gods who never had any life and who could never give life.

Just as Paul would have used ink to write a letter, so God the Holy Spirit would write this letter which was inscribed in their hearts. Their changed lives were all the letter of commendation the Apostle Paul would ever need. The changed lives of the Corinthian believers were a clear demonstration that his apostleship was of God and accredited his ministry.

Not in tables of stone, i.e. not in tablets made of stone, as was true with other inscriptions. It was also true of the Ten Commandments.

But introduces a statement in strong contrast to written not in tables of stone.

This letter was written in fleshly tables of the heart. Fleshly tables are tablets made of flesh, and of the heart implies that these tablets made of flesh are the heart. Paul means that the Corinthian believers are a letter of commendation which has been written in their hearts, i.e. deep within their very beings. God the Holy Spirit had done a tremendous work in their lives as a result of their salvation.

II Corinthians 3:4 4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward.

In verse 4 Paul expresses that his confidence in his ministry is through Christ toward God.

And continues the thought of verse 3.

Such trust is trust (or confidence) such as this and refers to Paul's reliance, confidence, or trust in his ministry as an apostle.

Have we (i.e. Paul) indicates a present possession.

Through Christ indicates that it is through the Lord Jesus Christ's living and working in Paul that he has this confidence in his ministry. His confidence is not in himself.

To God-ward is toward God. Paul is confident in his own person that his service rendered through Christ is acceptable to God. Paul's statement suggests that the false prophets ought to have the same trust in their ministries that he has toward God through Christ.

II Corinthians 3:5 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.

In verse 5 Paul makes a disclaimer regarding his ministry. Although he expresses confidence through Christ toward God, Paul makes it very clear that he is dependent solely upon God for the success of his ministry.

Not introduces this disclaimer.

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, where we refers to Paul, in combination with not, describes something which is not true.

Sufficient is the same term used in II Corinthians 2:16 in the phrase, And who is sufficient for these things? It means fit, appropriate, competent, qualified, or able and has the connotation of worthy or good enough.

Of ourselves is from ourselves and suggests that Paul's qualification or adequacy for his Christian service does not come from within himself.

To think any thing is to consider (i.e. to ponder or to let our minds dwell on) anything (or something).

As of ourselves, where ourselves refers to Paul, indicates that he is not to be considered the source of anything positive which could come out of his ministry.

But introduces a statement in strong contrast to the idea that something from within himself could be the source of his spiritual victories and usefulness to God in God's service.

Our (i.e. Paul's) sufficiency speaks of being qualified or adequate and is understood in the sense of our fitness, our capability, or our qualification.

Rather than Paul's sufficiency or adequacy coming from within himself, his sufficiency is of God, i.e. it comes from God the Father Himself. God is the source of Paul's sufficiency, and He ought to be the source of these false apostles' sufficiency as well.

CONCLUSION:

Just as the Corinthian believers were Paul's letter of commendation, those with whom we work in the ministry are our letters of commendation. What do their lives tell us about the genuineness of our ministries?