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Ministers of the New Covenant November 29, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 2 Corinthians 2:12-3:6.

Summary: Paul begins by noting that when he went to Troas to preach the Gospel and found that the Lord had granted him an opportunity to succeed in that regard, he was still distressed, because he did not find Titus there; he then left the believers in Troas and went into Macedonia. Now he abruptly gives thanks to God, as He:

  • enables him to be victorious as a Christian
  • works through him to spread the knowledge of Christ wherever he goes – leading others to love and worship Him.

Moreover, Paul spreads the knowledge of Christ to those who receive it and to those who reject it. Thus, the apostles are the source of death to those who reject the Gospel, yet they are also the source of life to those who accept it; given these facts, Paul asks: who is worthy of being an apostle? He effectively answers this query by noting that unlike the false teachers, the apostles do not preach the Gospel for the wrong reasons or attempt to combine it with other contemporary philosophies; instead – in union with Christ – they preach the Gospel in God’s presence with pure motives and belong to Him.

Now Paul repeats the familiar charge of his enemies that based on his preceding comments, he is commending himself again; he then ribs them by noting that unlike them, he does not need letters of recommendation to/from the Corinthians. Indeed, the Corinthians themselves are Paul’s letter of recommendation; he is well aware of this fact, and nobody can deny it. The Corinthians are Paul’s letter from Christ, as their conversion is a result of his ministry; this has occurred via the work of the Holy Spirit, and is an internal (not external) work. In fact, Paul’s confidence in the righteousness of his office and work flows from Christ, and his confidence does not wilt in God’s sight. His competence as an apostle does not flow from himself – it flows from God. Paul concludes by noting that God has made the apostles His ministers of the Gospel – not of the Old Testament covenant but of the New Testament covenant; the Old Testament covenant condemns all people to death, while the Gospel frees all who accept it from that sentence.

Thoughts: In this passage, we see that Paul had the weighty responsibility of spreading “the knowledge of” Christ. Hodge offers some relevant thoughts in his commentary on verse 14 of chapter 2:

That Christ should be known was the great purpose of Paul’s mission and is the most acceptable of all things to God…The consummation of redemption is that people should know the Lord Jesus Christ in the sense of recognizing him, loving him, and worshiping him as God revealed in the flesh. This is the sum of all blessedness and excellence…Wherever Paul went, there the knowledge of Christ was spread…Can this be said of us?

The concluding question in this quote certainly challenged me when I first read it. After thinking about this, I determined that my main deficiency in this regard stems from my relative anonymity – as a Christian – at my workplace. Only some of my co-workers know that I’m a believer, and religious topics are rarely discussed over the course of a typical workday. So I’m unsure as to how I can effectively spread the “aroma of Christ” at my workplace. Unfortunately, being assiduous and friendly would not necessarily make my Christianity obvious to others; thoughts on this are welcome.

Verse 1 of chapter 3 shows that Paul’s need to defend himself against the attacks of his enemies pervades this letter. Hodge offers some insights as follows:

Many of this letter’s special features are due to the fact that at the time the apostle wrote it, his mind was filled with conflicting feelings. On the one hand, he was filled with gratitude to God and love to the Corinthians because of their repentance and ready obedience; and on the other, with feelings of indignation at the perverse and wicked course adopted by the false teachers at Corinth. Hence, even when he was expressing the first sort of feelings, he was interrupted or turned aside by the thought that his opponents were watching for an opportunity to turn everything to his disadvantage.

It must have been incredibly frustrating for Paul to write this letter. He genuinely wanted to strengthen and encourage the Corinthians in their walk with God – yet he was constantly distracted by the need to rebut the attacks of the false teachers. In some sense, I wonder if these struggles cause 2 Corinthians to read less smoothly than Romans (a beautiful exposition of Christian theory and practice). Yet it can be said that these struggles make 2 Corinthians the most human of the Pauline epistles – allowing all Christians to relate to it.

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