2 Corinthians 3:1-5
Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, letters of commendation to you…
1. The voluntary relations of men are founded upon mutual confidence, and even those which are involuntary require reciprocal reliance. The parent who does not duly trust his children will soon ruin them, and the child who does not rely upon his parents will certainly become prodigal. Distrust in a master will make him a tyrant, and want of confidence in a servant will produce miserable eye-service. The suspicious prince is always cruel, and the distrustful subject is a revolutionist; and the functions of the ministry are nullified by distrust in the Churches and in the world.
2. This confidence is easily disturbed and soon destroyed. A whisper "on 'Change" against the credit of the successful merchant will sometimes gather force and sweep him into ruin. A question addressed in an incredulous tone to a master about the fidelity of an honest servant will make him watch that servant with an eagle's eye. In like manner may the confidence of the Churches of Christ in their chosen pastors be impaired or crushed. Of the danger to which confidence in this case is exposed, these Epistles to the Corinthians afford illustration. Note —
I. THE GROUNDS OF A CHRISTIAN PASTOR'S CLAIM UPON THE CONFIDENCE OF THE CHURCHES.
1. There is a peculiar writing on the tablet of the Christian's soul. The old covenant was engraven upon slabs of stone, but the new covenant is written upon the sensitive and everlasting tablet of the heart. On this is written the good news that God so loved the world and spared not His own Son. There is other writing. Science writes. But science, beautiful writer though she be, and wise and useful, cannot write about the highest subjects, nor can she reach by her pen the fairest tablets of the human soul.
2. The writing on the tablets of the true Christian's soul is effected for Christ by the Holy Spirit.
3. In writing, the Spirit employs men — pastors and teachers — as pens.
4. Those upon whose hearts Christ has written are Christ's chief means of communicating with the outlying world. In plain language, the works of the true pastor bear witness of him, and establish his claim to loving confidence. We ask, then, firm and loving confidence for the proved ministers of Christ. To require this from their own converts is to ask a small thing. To no creature on earth or in heaven is a man so largely indebted as to the instrument of his conversion. But say that you have no such personal obligations to the true ministers of Christ, they may claim confidence for their work's sake. Give us your confidence for your own sake, for without it we cannot minister to your profit; for your children's sake, for, if they detect distrust, in vain do we try to help you bring them up; for our work's sake among the ungodly. I do not say that we cannot work without it, but I do say that we can work more hopefully with it.
II. THE GROUND OF A PASTOR'S OWN CONFIDENCE WITH RESPECT TO HIS WORK.
1. The confidence of any worker with respect to his work is essential to his success. The basis of such confidence may be either his own independent resources or the help which he obtains from those stronger than himself. The latter is the foundation of the confidence of Christ's ministers. Their sufficiency is of God. To say God is sufficient is only like saying God is God, but to declare our sufficiency is of God is to exhibit a spiritual fact which among the children of men is exceedingly rare. This is not to sit talking of the Almighty God, but to walk leaning upon God's arm, and to work, God working with us. This is to take such advantage of the Divine resources as this special work demands. Without this, a man may be scholarly, eloquent, and popular, but in the sight of God he must be a failure. The work of the true pastor can only be done as God would have it be done, as our sufficiency is of God.
2. Why, then, are we not filled with the fulness of God? It may be that we prefer the cistern to the fountain, and that we cleave to it after it has become leaky, and it may be because of our many false gods. One thing is certain — we are always half mad about something which, however good, is not God. The organisations and associations, better psalmody, more ornate architecture, a denominational press, wealth, are the false gods after which we too often have gone a-whoring. Why are we not filled with the fulness of God? It may be that we do not sufficiently recognise the mediation of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Holy Ghost; it may be because our sins have separated us from God. One thing is certain — we could do our work with God if everything external and circumstantial which now we have were taken clean away. The first preachers and teachers had none of our appliances, and yet succeeded, because their sufficiency was of God.
3. And now let me entreat you to commend your pastors in ceaseless prayer to the help of God.
4. Our sufficiency is also yours.
(S. Martin, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?