The credential commotion

“Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?”

2 Corinthians 3:1

This passage in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church begins with a discussion about why a credible individual such as the apostle to the Gentiles himself would need a letter of commendation in order to be made welcome to preach and teach in their congregations. 

The surprising fallout from Paul’s response

By the time he closes off his comments Paul had accomplished the following.

  • Established the distinction between letter and SPIRIT religion being death and life respectively
  • Identified the tables of stone (the Sinai Covenant) as a death service
  • Put the glory of Moses’ face in the fading category 
  • Identified the SPIRIT’s ministry as producting righteousness 
  • Contrasted Moses’ veiled face with the believer’s unveiled face 
  • Contrasted the believer’s hope, their bold and plain speech with the hidden (veiled) hearts of Moses’ disciples 

Believers, like these Corinthians, can dabble in second guessing their own veracity.  Paul says that they themselves were his letter of commendation (2 Corinthians 3:3).   John reminded his disciples “We are now God’s children” (‘1 John 3:2). The Corinthians were proof of Paul’s ministry.  Their request for credentials was off the wall.  They were under a spell like the bewitched Galatians. Of all the credentials to which we access the name child of God outstrips the others, first for bring certified by the gift of the Spirit to each individual believed. Any other requirement to corroborate our adoption is a tempest in a teapot; a useless credential commotion.

Handcuffs off (no “please” required)!

When you have missed the one and only gospel you probably should not be talking about true anything. The books and videos of our traditions are a near constant stream of almost great opinions so we have no choice but to remind ourselves that the attraction of elect status, like Israel, is a fatal delusion. Faith that includes law is jail time and deadly bondage and as soon as we discover grace the handcuffs are off.

Same language different realm

Though we acknowledge that the options are distinct and the stakes are inestimable North American society is still entranced by exotic words and cultures. The fathers of the church used the language and stories of the Old Testament to say something about God that was a refreshing change from the law and the prophets.

If all we take away from reading the Old Testament is law and obedience we are vulnerable to a lifestyle of anger, futile cycles, symbols, and childish consequences. Even an experience item like the Sabbath becomes an idol instead of a gift made for humanity, especially when it is not accepted as a symbol of rest.

If all we take away from reading the New Testament is law of obedience we are very likely to have not been touched by the light or we are distancing ourselves from the gospel. Either scenario will deny us the benefits of grace. The Bible was written to awaken faith because law was not going to ever bring pardon and adoption.

Imprisoned then freed

23) But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24) Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Galatians 3:23-24

Law and Faith are not partners

12. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that does them shall live in them. 13. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree: 14. That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Galatians 3:12-14

Glitter vs Gold

The FIRST RIGHTEOUS MAN needed to hear nothing from the Law. It had nothing to say to him. He had a singular focus and source, His Father, for words and actions, and with atomic precision, on laying his life down and taking it again. Finding the gold of revelation has kept men busy while the glitter seems to be everywhere. John the Baptist let Israel know that the tree was about to fall, and that the symbols and analogies were about to be swallowed up by the reality of God’s Son. We, 2000 years later are trying to turn the tree’s stump, rotting leaves, broken branches, spoiled halfripe fruit, types and carnal regulations into Edenic greatness.

Moses commanded the Israelites, He never commands God. He does not, like Isaiah and Daniel, call the nations (gentile/heathen) to peace with God. God’s Son showed that he was not interested in carrying out sentence against violators of the law when he was asked to concur with an execution by stoning. Genuine love constrained him.

Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? John 8:5

But was he only objecting to a case of injustice because the man who slept with the woman was not accused? Was he signaling the end injustice by law? No-one was ever rendered sinless for the purpose of stoning. Hence every instance of stoning was a miscarriage of justice whether the person was innocent or guilty. Apparently, executing innocent people was not unheard of in Israel. The weightier matters of the law, if one is looking for the gold, should be full compliance (a failed enterprise), but that is not what Yeshua taught. He taught that justice, mercy and faith[fulness] were the priorities. The Decalogue never says “Forgive those that wrong you”.

Law’s Population

Would Jesus agree with Paul (1 Timothy 1:5-11) that the law
1. Is for producing love without pretence
2. Is for lawless people
3. Is for disobedient people
4. Is for the ungodly
5. Is for sinners
6. Is for the unholy
7. Is for the profane
8. Is for murderers of fathers
9. Is for murderers of mothers
10. Is for manslayers
11. Is for whoremongers
12. Is for them that defile themselves with mankind
13. Is for menstealers
14. Is for liars
15. Is for perjured persons
16. Is for (PEOPLE ENGAGED IN) any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine?

This incomplete list of 16 tells us that Paul is not seeing “Law” as the ten commandments. Is Paul out on a limb? Why would any Christian adopt the Law as delight for night and day? There is only terror.

Christ was born subject to the Law but it was never his guide. People who accept Christ’s offer of life are freed from the law, free from its curses, free from death, and free from condemnation. The only barrier against failure is Christ himself, not our performance.

The first RIGHTEOUS MAN did not need to hear thou shalt not. The law was not proclaimed to produce righteousness. Commandment-keeping by grace is a $13 coin. Grace works through faith in the service of salvation, and the Law is not a faith venture. In response to the Law one either can say “I am guilty” or be silent.