(2 Corinthians 3:1-6)
This is a fascinating piece of scripture in these first few verses of 2 Corinthians 3. It forces us to think about the direction that the church has taken over the millenia since Christ appeared and makes you wonder what has gone wrong.
If you want to preach the gospel in many churches today, and especially if you want to work full time as a pastor, priest or minister, many of the churches require you to go to a university or their bible college to get a degree, diploma or similar qualification to preach the word. And many people in the churches also will not listen to someone unless they have received such a qualification.
But this is not how it was from the beginning. And we see that Paul emphasises this point in these verses. And when we look at other bible examples we see also that this requirement for a degree, diploma or qualification is not from God. In fact it can obscure the truth if we are not careful.
Letters of Recommendation
What is a degree, diploma or qualification? It is recognition that the person holding the degree has achieved a certain level and passed a set examination to receive the qualification.
Looking at it another way, such a qualification is a “letter of recommendation” indicating that this person is qualified to do a job.
But do we need such a letter of recommendation? Are they really of value, specifically when it comes to teaching and preaching the gospel?
In certain occupations I would agree that they are indeed of great value. For instance, if I were having brain surgery or some other life threatening surgical procedure, I would want to know that the doctors were indeed highly qualified to do the procedure. Or if I was flying in an aeroplane I would want to know that the pilot had every qualification necessary to get the plane to its destination and landed safely.
But is this necessary when it comes to preaching the gospel? Look at what Paul said in this verse.
1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. – (2 Corinthians 3:1-3)
Paul is telling the Corinthian church that they do not need a letter of recommendation concerning Paul's credentials for preaching the gospel as they themselves are his “letter of recommendation.” The faith that these people have and the lives they lead show the work of Paul and his companions in teaching and preaching the gospel. They do not need a degree in theology or a diploma from any bible college to prove they are capable preachers of the word of God.
Why is this different to other degrees?
The key to understanding why there is no need for a degree in theology or a bible college diploma to preach the word of God is quite simple.
We need only look at the source of the knowledge to understand who is the teacher.
In any human endeavour, such as medicine, engineering, technology and so on, the source of the knowledge is man made. The elements of these many disciplines have been discovered be men or women, and so can be taught by them to others so that the knowledge is spread.
Any knowledge where the source is human can be taught quite adequately and competently by a teacher to a student so that others can become proficient in the use of that knowledge.
However, when we are talking about the gospel of salvation and all that the new covenant contains, the source of these words is not from man but is from God. The knowledge is God given, not man given.
The competency to teach and preach the words of God is not in the power or authority of universities, theological schools or bible colleges. The source of the competency to teach God's word is from God Himself.
If we now consider the second half of this verse under review, we see that this is so.
4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. – (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)
We see here that it is God who gave Paul his sufficiency or competency to be a minister of the new covenant. This competency was not bestowed on Paul by another man, but by God Himself.
Furthermore we note that in the earlier verses Paul was upbraiding the people when they were looking up to other men who came to them with letters of recommendation from men rather than listening to the word of God and recognising the truth of the gospel as Paul had preached it to them.
It was God who appointed Paul and led him to the ministry, not other men. Paul indeed had been trained in Judaism from a young age and was a Pharisee by training, but Paul himself said he had to reject all his former life and training to come to the fulness of Christ in the new covenant. He said,
4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- – (Philippians 3:4-9)
All of Paul's former life, including his training as a Pharisee, he counted as worthless and rubbish when compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.
It was not his training from men to become a Pharisee that led Paul to the truth, but the direct intervention of Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. And after that intervention, Paul says that he did not go back to Jerusalem to learn the new covenant and the gospel from other men, but rather he was taught by God.
15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. – (Galatians 1:15-17)
Paul was made competent in the ministry not by man, but by God. And this agrees with what the scripture says elsewhere where Jesus Himself quoted the prophet Isaiah.
It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me- – (John 6:45)
So Do You Need A Bible Degree?
The point of this post is to show you the truth about the ability and competency to preach and teach the gospel.
This competency does not come from men but teachers are appointed by God. In fact we see that one of the ministries given to the church is the gift to be able to teach others the truth of the gospel and the new covenant.
7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, – (Ephesians 4:7-13)
We see that when Christ ascended into heavens to return to the Father, that he gave gifts to men, including the gift of teaching so that the church would be built up and people in the church would come to maturity in Christ.
The ability to teach then is not bestowed by a man or by a holding a degree or diploma from any university or bible college. The ability and competency to teach the gospel is given by God as a gift.
So the answer to the question whether you need any certificate or “letters of recommendation” from any theological institution to preach and teach the gospel is…No.
Just consider the examples in the New Testament. Was John the Baptist ordained by any man to preach the message that prepared the way for the Lord? We're the twelve apostles selected by Christ Himself recruited from those who had been trained in the theology at the time? Did Paul, who was trained in Judaism, consider such training a prerequisite for teaching or preaching the gospel?
No. In each case the people who preached and taught the words of the gospel and the power of the new covenant were not trained by men but were instructed by Jesus Christ and God in the way. Even Paul who did have theological training rejected his former life and knowledge when he recognised the surpassing power and worth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And Paul upbraided the people at Corinth (and also the Galatians church) when they looked up to men who had letters of recommendation from other men.
So understand this. It is not a bible degree or diploma that qualifies a person to preach and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is Christ and God who qualify their preachers and teachers. No man can qualify another man to teach the truth because the office of a teacher in the new covenant is bestowed by God as a gift.
And finally, just because a person has a string of letters after their name showing they have received degrees, masters or doctorates in various religious and theological studies, does not mean they are qualified by God. We each need to weigh what is said by any man against the scripture to ensure what we are accepting is the truth. A diploma or degree does not guarantee what is taught by that person is the truth of the gospel. It is God who appoints His teachers and makes them competent to teach His truth to His people, because the source of the truth of the gospel is not from men but from God.
You might also like:
Beware Of False Prophets And False Teachers
Beware The Leaven Of The Pharisees
Woe To You Scribes And Pharisees Hypocrites
You Shut The Kingdom Of Heaven Against Men
Woe To You Blind Guides
Trouble For The End Times Church
Wherever The Body Is There The Eagles Will Be Gathered
Traditions Of The Elders
Beware The Leaven Of The Pharisees 2
Blind Leading The Blind
A House Built Upon The Rock
Have You Been Hurt By The Church
Once Saved Always Saved
Beware Of The Scribes
Do Not Be Led Astray
Who Are You Learning From
Who Should You Listen To
A Question Of Trust
Would You Recognise Jesus
Hold Fast To What Is Good
Dissension In The Church
Is Christ Divided