The Credentials of His Ministry: Part 3 of 3 (series: Lessons on 2 Co.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

4 And we have such trust through Christ toward God.

The confidence Paul expresses refers primarily to the conviction just stated: since he, acting for Christ, and by the power of the Spirit, has founded the church at Corinth, the very existence and vitality of this church is his letter of recommendation. But this implies, as 2 Corinthians 2:16-17{6] suggested, that he is indeed sufficient and qualified for the apostolic ministry. To that thought, he now turns, but not to boast of personal greatness. It is only “through Christ,” through what Christ has done for him and through the assurance he has as he lives in daily dependence on Christ, that he can have such confidence. The grace of Christ helps him feel confident “toward God,” that is, in the presence of God (his confidence can withstand the scrutiny of God), to whom he is responsible and on whom he relies on in all that he does. Paul’s confidence was founded not on human resources but on divine ones. He was confident in the Corinthians because the Holy Spirit had worked in them. Their faith rested in God’s power (1 Cor. 2:1-5{12]).

A preacher must have confidence in the adequacy of his message and faith in its power. He cannot otherwise stand up to opposition from without and to the doubts that rise from the lack of apparent results. Paul’s spirit stood erect and firm, like a great tree amid drought and tempest, because his confidence is rooted in the activity of God. He was supported continually by the God who came to him through Christ. He had no confidence in himself apart from God. The qualifications for the ministry are all God-given. Natural gifts are gifts from Him and the full use of them is possible only as they are enriched and directed by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12-13). The realization of our own insufficiency is the indispensable condition of the endowment. Whatever gifts we may be aware of possessing, we must realize that they are not inborn or inherited, but are a product of His grace.

This gives me confidence. I know the Bible is the Word of God; I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe that. I think that intellectually it can be proved that it is the Word of God. But today I don’t need the intellectual demonstration anymore. I’ve passed that. To me it is very simple—the proof of the Word of God is what it does. They say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. God put it like this: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Ps. 34:8).

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

What Paul implied in verse 4 he now emphatically states. “We (this essentially means Paul here) are sufficient” for this apostolic task, but not “of ourselves,” that is, not in our unaided human understanding and strength. We cannot consider or look upon “anything” in our Christian perception or confidence as coming “from ourselves.” Paul’s grasp and mastery of his apostolic task find no explanation in his human resources. All the credit belongs to God. Just as in considering the origin of salvation Paul freely confesses that “all this is from God” (2 Cor. 5:18), just as he has to acknowledge that “by the grace of God, I am what I am,” a forgiven sinner called to be an apostle (1 Cor. 15:10{7]), so here, in explaining his competence for his work, he must say: “our sufficiency is from God.” Paul never said, “See what I have done!” He always said, “To God be the glory!” He never conceived of himself as adequate for any task; he thought of God as making him adequate. And that is precisely why, conscious as he was of his own weakness, he never hesitated to set his hand to any task. He never had to do it alone; he did it with God.

Paul’s strategy with his opponents was ingenious. He refused to stoop to arguing over his own abilities. He freely admitted he was inadequate and incompetent for the delicate task of communicating the Good News faithfully. He knew he preached and ministered in the presence of Christ Himself: “If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake” (2 Cor. 2:10). No one could take such a task lightly. Paul’s humility about his own qualifications for the ministry exposed his critics for what they were: loud boasters. At the same time, Paul did not relinquish his authority to these false teachers. He pointed to his commission from Christ—our confidence is from God—to preach the Good News as the source of his competency and his authority.

I’m sure you have already sensed the weakness of the Apostle Paul in this epistle of 2nd Corinthians. But Paul could say, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

God is not looking for some big something or some big somebody. If He wanted that He couldn’t

use me and He couldn’t use you. God chooses the weak things of the world, little things, and insignificant things to accomplish His purposes. Our sufficiency is found in God.

{1] (2 Corinthians 4:2) Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
{2] (2 Corinthians 6:4) Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;
{3] (2 Corinthians 11:12-13) And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.
{4] (2 Corinthians 11:22-23) Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.
{5] (Exodus 31:18) When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.
{6] (2 Corinthians 2:16-17) To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? 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.
{7] (1 Cor. 15:10) But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
{8] (Galatians 5:19-24) The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
{9] (1 Cor. 6:9-11) Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
{10] (2 Cor. 4:2) Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
{11] (Jer. 31:33) "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
{12] (1 Cor. 2:1-5) When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.
{13] (Acts 9:2) and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
{14] (1 Thess. 1:5) because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.
{15] (Ex. 24:12) The LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction."
{16] (Eze. 11:19) I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
{17] (Eze. 36:26) I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

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