What to Look for in a Pastor (2 Cor 3:1-6)

“Just act like you’re supposed to be there…”This is the philosophy that has helped me through many hospital visits. If I carry a bible and wear a clergy sticker I’m pretty sure I can get into the operating room. The problem is that there are a lot of pastors out there using my “hospital technique” to sneak into churches.  It almost seems as if the only requirement for becoming a pastor is a desire to do so. If you can’t find a church to affirm you just start your own. This is problem.
So how do we keep out the guys whose only qualification is cool facial hair, a personal blog, and a cool church name? This is where the local church  comes in… It is the job of the local church to recognize the men that God has called and gifted for pastoral ministry. Even the apostle Paul underwent a time of proving himself and received the affirmation of the God-ordained elders of a local church (Acts 13:1-3).  This is the kind of process the church needs to get back to.
It is the church’s job to identify, train, and publicly recognize the men that God has given to the church for pastoral ministry.   But what is the church to look for? There’s a lot of revelation on this question we could look at, but today I want to look at 2 Corinthians 3:1-6 because in this passage the apostle Paul helps us with what we are supposed to look for.
In this passage Paul is defending his own ministry credentials against the accusations of his opponents.

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. 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.

In Paul’s defense of his own ministry credentials we get a glimpse of what the credentials of all pastors should look like.  Specifically, this passage provides us with 5 credentials to look for in a pastors:
I. Look for a Pastor who is Compliant with God’s Standards (v. 1)

II. Look for a Pastor who is a Conduit of Spiritual Life (vv. 2-3)

III. Look for a Pastor who is Confident through Christ (v. 4)

IV. Look for a Pastor who is Competent because of God (vv. 5-6a)

V. Look for a Pastor who is Consumed by Grace (v. 6b)

I. Look for a Pastor who is Compliant with God’s Standards (v. 1)

We see the 1st credential in v. 1, here we see that we should look for a pastor who is compliant with God’s Standards. Here Paul beings to defend his ministry credentials by asking, “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again?
Here Paul uses editorial “we” to help soften his perceived tone.  “We” do this all the time. The reason Paul did this was because his words were Directed toward the people in Corinth who had largely rejected his ministry.  They had allowed others come in and cause them to question Paul’s ministry.  The “others” were Paul’s opponents and they were armed with all kind of accusations.   These accusations included that Paul was prideful, a boring teacher, unsuccessful (come on, he keeps getting thrown in jail), and ultimately disqualified (he’s not a real apostle).
Paul responds by saying “Really… do I need to reintroduce myself to you.” The word translated commend is the Greek word συνιστάνειν.  It means to bring together, introduce, or commend.  This was unnecessary because Paul he’d been in Corinth for a long time ministering (Acts 18:1-8).  He didn’t need to make a second first impression.
Paul goes on to ask, “Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?”  They way Paul constructs this (with negation) the answer is implied “of course not!” His opponents apparently had such letters, and claimed he was self-promoter w/o them. This was proving to be a major stumbling block for the Corinthians.  By the way, these letter were probably fake letter stemming from the decision of the Jerusalem council (cf. Acts 15:24).
Paul essentially says this is nonsense Not because recommendations letters are wrong. They were especially common in Ancient World.  They were 1st century equivalent of job reference OR a Credit score.  Paul even wrote some for his friends: Phoebe (Rom 16:1), Timothy (1 Cor 16:10-11), & Onesimus (Philem. 10-17).  The problem was not that letter were inherently wrong.  The problem was that the opponents and the Corinthians were judging Paul’s ministry based on these letters. In other words, they were judging Paul’s ministry by standards other than God’s standards. They had become the ultimate judge rather than God. That’s probably why Paul add “from you” at the end… its a jab. As if Paul needed a recommendation from the Corinthians…
When Paul got to Corinth he became their spiritual father.  What changed? Why should he re-apply for the job? The only thing that changed was that the Corinthians were influenced by slanderous gossip and were now in conflict with Paul. Paul had already proven that he met the qualifications of 1 Tim 3 & Titus 1 (for goodness sake he wrote these passages!), but now the Corinthians were judging him based on the a different standard. The only reason they doubted him was because they judged him based on the criticism of his opponents rather than God’s standards.  This is the principle to note.
When you choose, or evaluate, a Pastor don’t start with your standards or comparisons with other pastors. God’s standards are all that matters, anything else is either preference or sin. Paul’s problem with the Corinthians was that they were evaluating him by a standard other than God’s, and that’s why he wasn’t dusting off the resume.
Pastors don’t have to live up to your standards, they have to live up to God’s standards.

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