Study on the Book of 2nd Corinthians

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Division 3 — “The Ministry & It’s Description”

Lesson 2: "The Ministry, It’s Credentials" - II Cor 3:1-5

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

2 Corinthians 3:1-5, “Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 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. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.”


-Introduction: Churches often have to consider the credentials of ministers, in particular when they are either seeking a new minister or handling some problem surrounding a minister. What are the credentials that should be considered? The present passage gives several important considerations. Let’s look at four things here.


          -1.  The minister's credentials are not letters of commendation (v.1).

-2.  Credential 1: lives written upon the minister's heart (v.2).

-3.  Credential 2: lives written by Christ through the minister (v.3).

-4.  Credential 3: being qualified and made fit by God (v.4-5).


#1) The ministers credentials are not letters of commendation.

Look again with me at I Corinthians 3:1, “Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?”


Remember that there were those in the Corinthian church who accused Paul...

• Of pride and arrogance.

• Of acting as though he was THE messenger of God, more special than others.

• Of claiming that what he said was the Word of God itself and what others said was less than the Word of God.

• Of acting as though he had a corner on the truth.

• Of praising and commending himself.

• Of exalting himself above others.


Paul had just declared in the verses before this that he did not corrupt the Word of God as many do, and that his ministry was based upon a true call of God. He knew that those who opposed him were going to jump on his claim and again accuse him of exalting himself—accuse him of acting as though he was THE messenger of God who had a corner on the truth. Therefore, Paul begins to head off and prevent the accusation.

Very simply, why should the Corinthians or anyone else listen to Paul, the minister? What credentials does he have that should cause people to listen to him and his claims? In answering the questions and in establishing his credentials, there is one basic truth: the minister's credentials are not letters of commendation. Men always have and probably always will place some confidence in letters of reference or commendation, but as all responsible people know, such letters are often exaggerated and uncertain. They are not always accurate or truthful. Therefore, a person is not really known until he has proven himself on some field of ministry or in some position.


-Note: Paul says that some in the Corinthian church had used letters of reference to recommend themselves to the church. This apparently refers to some other teachers or ministers in the church, perhaps the very ones who were opposing Paul. Paul's point is this: his commendation to the church is not in letters of reference, but something of far more value. The credentials he presents to the church mean much more, far more than letters of commendation.


Thought 1. The minister's letters of commendation are not his primary credentials. He is not qualified for the ministry because some people think highly of him, nor because some people recommend that he minister or enter the ministry. There are some qualifications, some credentials that mean far more than excellent letters of commendation.


#2) Credential #1- Lives written upon the ministers heart.

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


-Two striking things are being said here,

          -First, Paul says that the Corinthian believers were written upon his heart. Anyone who knew him could see that he deeply cared for the Corinthian church; that he was always praying for them and expressing love and concern for them. He cherished them. They were dear to him, so dear that he could actually say that they were written in his heart. The point is this; People are far more important than letters. A minister's commendation is not letters of recommendation, but a heart...

• That has people written upon it.

• That endears people to itself.

• That loves and cares for people.

• That deeply feels for people.

• That cannot let people go.

• That must reach and grow people for Christ.


This is the true letter of commendation that should matter to a church: a heart that has people written upon it.

-Secondly, Paul says that the fact was known and read by all men. Anyone could look and read the lives of the Corinthian believers and tell that they were in the heart of Paul. Paul had gone to Corinth to minister to the people, and some had been reached and others grown in the Lord. Their testimony was his letter of commendation, and their testimony before the world was far more important than a letter of commendation.


Thought 1. A minister's greatest commendation is the changed lives of people. The fact that a minister has led people to Christ and grown them in Christ speaks far more than letters of commendation.


"For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy." (1 Thes. 2:19-20).


Thought 2. The believer is said to be "read by all men." Day by day believers must be careful what they write by their lives, for the public is closely observing and reading exactly what they do.


#3) Credential #2- Lives written by Christ through the Minister.


II Corinthians 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.”


This is a critical point to note, for the minister is not the one who converts and changes the lives of people,

          1-It is Christ and Christ alone who converts and grows people.

a. The lives of believers are said to be "the epistle [letter] of Christ." Christ is the author of the believer's life, the author of his conversion and righteousness. Whatever change is wrought in the believer's life—whatever love, joy, peace, and assurance of life—is all due to Christ.

b. The lives of believers are not written with ink which men use, but with the Spirit of the living God. Christ uses the Spirit of God when He wishes to communicate a message to men.

-He does not write the message upon tables of stone as He did when He gave the commandments to Moses; He writes upon the fleshy tables of the heart. He puts his message upon the hearts of men, which causes men to live changed lives.


2- It is the minister who ministers to the lives of believers. Note the words "ministered by us." Paul is saying that Christ creates the letter, the lives of believers, and the minister looks after and cares for it.


Thought 1. The greatest commendation that a minister can have is not letters of recommendation, but...

• Christ written in the lives of people.

• The Spirit of the living God written in the conduct and behavior of people.

• The law of God written upon the hearts of people.


#4) Credential #3- Being qualified and made fit by God.

II Corinthians 3:4-5 says, “And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.”


Paul declares two significant points about his ministry.

-1. He was made fit for the ministry through Christ. He was not sufficient for the ministry, not in and of himself. His only sufficiency was of God. He could not make himself fit for the ministry even if he had wished to do so. He had no power...

• To change the heart of a person.

• To give life to a person.

• To give the assurance and security of God's presence and care to a person.

• To give the Spirit of God to a person.

• To write the law of God in the heart of a person.

Only Christ could do such spiritual work; therefore, only Christ can qualify and fit the minister to share God's Word with people. The gift of life and the power to give life is of God and of God alone.

-Therefore, no man could share the gift of life unless God called him to share it.

-And no man has the power to share the gift of life unless God gives him the power.


-2.  Note the words "to God-ward." The words mean that the minister serves God and that he serves before God, before the gaze and inspection of God. The minister is not only qualified and made fit by God, he is responsible to God for how he ministers. The minister has no greater commendation than the fact that he is qualified and fitted for the ministry by both Christ and God.


The point is striking: a minister's credentials are the presence and power of Christ in his life...

• The fact that God is moving and working in and through his ministry.

• The fact that great works are being done that could not be done by the sufficiency of men.

• The fact that great works are being done that could be done only by God.


*Next Lesson: “The Ministry: Its New Covenant”  -I Cor 3:6-18.



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