Letters of Commendation - Additional Notes
John Heading, Aberystwyth
Second Corinthians not only contains a direct reference to “epistles of commendation”, 3.1, but two of its major sections are in themselves examples of letters of commendation. Paul was journeying to Corinth from Ephesus by a roundabout route, through Troas, 2.12, and Macedonia, 7. 5. In this last district, Titus brought to Paul the good news of the Corinthians’ repentance after having read the first Epistle. Most of the Corinthians would now receive Paul again as an apostle, but a few in Corinth were still rebellious. To each group, the Holy Spirit pens a letter of commendation regarding Paul.
The first letter consists of chapters 3-6, and is written to the majority who would receive Paul. The plural form “we” is used throughout, and the apostolic servant is traced in detail. Far from being an automatically printed form, the letter traces the special type of ministry the apostle engaged in, ch. 3, the vessel through which this ministry was accomplished, ch. 4, the hope and evangelistic zeal of the minister, ch. 5, and the enlarged character of the minister though always separated from darkness and unbelief, ch. 6. In the light of such an example, how can brethren remain in doubt as to what to write when confronted with such a pleasant task for a brother or sister?
The second letter consists of chapters 10-13, and is written essentially to the minority who would still not receive Paul. The singular form “I” is used throughout, the Holy Spirit stressing the apostolic service. Here we find the motives and policy of the apostle, ch. 10, his sufferings and his future plans, chs. 11-12, while in chapter 13 the final approval of the apostle is shown by the very work already achieved in Corinth.
Letters of this kind are a pleasure to write for the Lord’s glory, and a pleasure to read publicly in the receiving assembly.