Today: [2 Corinthians 3:] Rejecting the Cult of Celebrity: In 2 Cor. 3 Paul decries the practice of the Corinthian church of only accepting leaders who were endorsed by established ministries. He makes the point that the cult of celebrity that has developed at this time in the early church was blinding the people from those with true anointing just as the Jews were blinded so far as to reject Jesus as their Messiah. Does this have any relevance in your life or in church culture today?
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[2Co 3:1-18 KJV] 1 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 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 3 [Forasmuch as ye are] manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. 4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency [is] of God; 6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 7 But if the ministration of death, written [and] engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which [glory] was to be done away: 8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? 9 For if the ministration of condemnation [be] glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. 11 For if that which is done away [was] glorious, much more that which remaineth [is] glorious. 12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: 13 And not as Moses, [which] put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: 14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which [vail] is done away in Christ. 15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. 16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. 17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] liberty. 18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [even] as by the Spirit of the Lord.
In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul addresses those who question his apostolic credentials. After founding the church in Corinth and being away for some time, Paul is now asked to provide letters of recommendation from known and popular leaders before the congregation in Corinth will take him seriously. Paul protests against this saying in v. 2 that the fact of their existence as a body of born-again believers is all the credential he needed to present as the basis of his authority in their midst.
What this shows us is that the leadership climate of the early church had descended into what we might call an “old boy network.” This is very common today. As Paul brought up in his first letter to the Corinthians, some said they were of Apollos and some of Cephas and some of Paul. The apostle completely rejects this immature sectarian thinking. If you are in ministry, you will run into the barrier of populist thinking in your own work in the gospel. If you are not a member of a particular group or connected with a successful ministry in this city or that city many believers simply aren’t interested in what you have to say no matter how anointed you might be or whether God sent you to them or not. In our own ministry, in the beginning, many doors were shut to us that are now open simply because unlike before we no longer completely unknown.
Another problem that comes up is when people complain that a message given is not in line with what “all the other” prophets or ministries are saying. You have to remember that you cannot walk with God by consensus. Just because the minister speaking to you is not widely known, or not connected with your favorite group, or not preaching what everyone else is saying – doesn’t mean they are not called of God to deliver the gospel to your benefit.
Paul reiterates in v. 3 that the believers in the church in Corinth are an epistle or letter written by Christ not in parchment or ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but in the fleshly tablets of their heart. This is the ministry of a spiritual father who speaks formatively into the lives of those he or she is called to minister to. Paul (v.5) isn’t speaking of his own human sufficiency but of the sufficiency of God and the anointing in his life that brought him to the Corinthians in the first place. It is this God (v. 6) that made Paul a minister of the New Testament not based on a letter but on the Spirit for the letter killeth, and the spirit gives life. Taken in context what Paul is saying that the letter is not the Old Testament as many commonly apply this statement. The letter is the practice of the churches of this day to only receive from or accept leaders not on the basis of anointing or calling but upon populist sentiment that fosters in the church a false leadership structure based on celebrity status and stardom that has nothing to do with the anointing or the work of God in our midst.
Paul goes on in v. 7 to point out by comparison how this “cult of celebrity” thinking is what developed in Jewish culture causing them to think of Moses more than they should. It is true (v. 7) that Moses’ face shone with the glory of God so much so that no one could look him in the face, but this glory faded and because it faded was nothing more than the ministration of death. What does this tell us? The hero worship toward Moses in Jewish culture was that which engendered the hatred that caused the Jews to reject Jesus even calling for his crucifixion. Populist tendencies in the body of Christ bring about the same sentiments, choosing famous leaders with popular messages and rejecting those sent among them with actual anointings and commissions from God on high.
Paul is speaking with great plainness of speech here. He makes this statement because without a doubt the Corinthians upon reading this letter were so entrenched in their wrong thinking they were shaking their head saying “what is this man talking about – I can’t understand a word he has written…” Paul goes on to speak of Moses and the glory in his face saying that Moses put a veil over his face not to protect the people but to hide the fact that the glory would fade. Isn’t that the way of leaders today? They hold everyone at arm’s length; they refuse to live in transparency because they know their constituents – if they are seen as mere men the people who follow them will get bored and go find some other “rock star” leader to follow. Paul states that this kind of thinking constitutes the veil that blinds the Jewish people to this very day and just as it blinds the Jews so likewise it blinds the followers of Christ. We have to be a people who walk in a level of discernment toward our leadership that we cannot be manipulated by those who make appearance on high platforms with glitzy presentations as though they are larger than life. That leads to bondage says Paul but where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.
Again in v. 17 a favorite verse that is often quoted without any understanding or desire to understand the context in which it is stated. The liberty of the Spirit of God in your life is connected with a right apprehension in your mind as to the character of godly anointed leaders – not identified because someone famous has endorsed them or because they are a part of this movement or that movement but because you sense the anointing they walk in and know God has placed them in your life. The mentality of the cult of celebrity that largely defines Christian leadership as we know it is a limiting veil that blinds us from the true glory that would transform our lives if we reject the false and embrace what God has for us. This is what Paul endorses in v. 18 saying “we all” or the leaders that he is connected with were committed to walking in the midst of the people with an open face, not hiding their humanity, not seeking to be something that are not – but instead embracing humility and transparency not as an end in itself but as the means by which the true glory of God is revealed that changes both them and the people they lead from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
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