Paul Commending Himself

2 Corinthians

On the surface, Paul can appear to be brash, defensive and prideful in his letters.

While he does rebuke the Corinthians for egregious sins and misconstruing the gospel message, he is actually very tactful in the way he goes about it when reading his letters as a whole. He starts his letters with thanksgiving for them and the gifts they have. He talks about how much he loves them and how they are fellow workers and brothers and sisters in Christ. He rebukes or admonishes them and then encourages them. He is often very concerned and even anxious of how stern his letters may seem. (2 Corinthians 2:4)

As mentioned in previous posts, Paul is defending the use of God’s power through Paul’s weakness, contrary to what the Corinthians thought a minister of Christ should be. Garland says, “The Corinthians have therefore failed to see God’s power at work in Paul’s suffering, which suggests that they have failed to grasp the full meaning of the cross.”

Paul uses the word commend often in 2 Corinthians. We may understand this word to mean boasting.

2 Corinthians 3:1
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?

2 Corinthians 4:2
But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

2 Corinthians 6:4
but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,

Garland says, “‘Commendation’ needs to be understood in the context of friendship and recommendation in the ancient world. Paul does not use self-commendation in a negative sense to mean self-applause. Marshall* shows that it refers to a recognized way of establishing friendships:

…self-commendation was an accepted and common convention which differs little from written commendation by third parties. praise or complimentary phraseology is a traditional though not essential element of both third party and self-commendation and was acceptable if done inoffensively; even extravagant praise by a recommender was acceptable, especially if the recommended proved himself to be worthy of it.

Self-commendation is therefore equivalent to self-introduction.”

Just to touch on boasting–this is also not always negative if it is boasting in the Lord. This was established in the Old Testament:
Jeremiah 9:24
“but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

For me, these things help me to understand Paul and his letters much differently.

*Marshall, Enmity in Corinth, 266-67

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