“For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”
Paul, a faithful minister and an example of how to shepherd the flock of God, did at times have to rebuke false teachers. In 2 Corinthians 2, he calls those preachers “peddlers,” who adulterate the Word of God and water down its message in order to deceive God’s people. In 2 Corinthians 2:17, Paul specifically outlines the character of a faithful minister—both what he must be, and what he must not be. In our last post [link], we saw that the faithful minister of the gospel cannot be a peddler, but must speak from sincerity.
Moving on in the passage, we find that he also speaks “as from God.” The ESV brings out the sense by translating it, “…as commissioned by God.” The concept of a “commissioning” reminds us that the most common word for preaching in the New Testament (kerussō) means to herald. The minister of the Gospel is a herald—sent by God and under His authority—to proclaim precisely what God his Master has commissioned him to speak.
Heralds “deliver their message as it is given to them. The essential point about the report which they give is that it does not originate with them. Behind it stands a higher power. The herald does not express his own views. He is the spokesman for his master. . . He is bound by the precise instructions of the one who commissions him. . . [In] general he is simply an executive instrument. Being only the mouthpiece of his master, he must not falsify the message entrusted to him by additions of his own. He must deliver it exactly as given to him. …” (Friedrich, TDNT, 3:687–88).
Everything about Paul’s life and ministry is driven by the message that he preaches. God Himself is the origin of Paul’s proclamation. This means that the faithful minister is a steward of the truth, not a manufacturer of the truth. He recognizes that God’s Word alone is the true food that will satisfy and nourish Christ’s lambs, and so he speaks God’s Word, and God’s Word alone.
This must set the course for your own preaching. Don’t follow the example of the evangelical darling preachers, in love with the sound of their own voice, infatuated with their ability to chirp out clever turns of phrase that have some loose connection to Christianity. Preach the Word of God. The clever quips and catch phrases from your own imagination might get made into a meme or go viral on Twitter, but the psuedoscriptural “deep spiritual nonsense” won’t feed Christ’s sheep. The people of God live by the Word of God, and so the faithful minister of God must herald His Word as a man under assignment. Don’t speak as if you commissioned yourselves or as if you come in your own name. You come in the name of God, and so speak as from God.
Further, speak as “in the sight of God,” which is to say, knowing that you are accountable to God. We see this phrase often in Paul’s letters.In chapter 4 verse 2 he describes his ministry as “the open statement of the truth, commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” And in chapter 12 verse 19, he tells the Corinthians, “All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you. It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking.” In other words, more important than your judgment of me is God’s judgment of me.
Paul was constantly aware that he lived his entire life before the face of God—entirely in His presence and subject to His constant evaluation and assessment. He never lost consciousness of the truth of Proverbs 5:21, that “the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He watches all his paths.”
The peddler—the unfaithful, con-artist minister—fills the small cracks of his fine pottery with artificial wax because he counts on the customer never holding the vessel up to the light of the sun. But the bright light shining from the holiness of God’s face illumines each and every one of us to His sight. The faithful minister knows that, and he renounces all cunning and craftiness that depends on the deception of darkness, and lives in the sight of man as if he lived before God—because he does live before God! His entire life is driven by the reality that he will give an account to his Master who has commissioned him to be a steward of the treasures of the Gospel.
What does Paul say is the consequence of that? 2 Corinthians 5:9: “Therefore, we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God.” The faithful minister has an audience of One, reckoning God and God alone to be his judge, and so his ministry is ruled not by the fear of man, but, as Paul says, knowing the fear of the Lord.
Finally, Paul says, “we speak in Christ.”This is the identity of the faithful minister of the Gospel. He speaks in Christ. He finds his identity in Christ. All that we are, all that we say, and all that we do springs from the fount of our faith-union to Him. Our assurance, our confidence, our hope—our entire identity—must be conditioned by our union with Christ. We are not first preachers. We are not first ministers. We are, first above all, Christians!
And so we must speak as those who personally and savingly know the Jesus that we preach. Have you come face to face with your inability to satisfy the righteous demands of the law of God? Have you owned your fallenness as sin, worthy of eternal punishment? Have you confessed your helplessness to atone for your sins against a holy God? And have you beheld in Jesus all the glory of a perfectly sufficient Savior, who has defeated sin and death by drinking the awful cup of the wrath of God down to its very dregs on the cross? Do you see in His perfect life all your righteousness? Do you trust in Him alone for your acceptance with God?
Sufficient servants, made adequate for ministry by the grace of God, must not be peddlers who corrupt the Word of God by mixing it with our own ideas. We must be men of sincerity who deal openly and honestly with everyone. We must be faithful heralds as commissioned by God, and we must always speak as those who are accountable to God. But above all else, we must speak as those in Christ.