Today’s reading: 1 Cor 8
Today we read Paul, prompting the Corinthians to give generously to the campaign to raise money for other Christians in need. These passages have a simple one to one correspondence with our modern lives. We too should give generously to those in need.
In addition, we can notice something else from today’s passages. Paul has spent parts of two letters (and possibly a third letter lost to history) defending his Apostolic pedigree and telling the Corinthians to only listen to him and not to follow other people purporting to teach the Gospel. However, Paul is not some egomaniac or tyrant who just wants to keep the Corinthians under his influence. Paul is perfectly fine to let others preach the Gospel as well. Look here:
With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel; and not only that, but he has been APPOINTED by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work which we are carrying on, for the glory of the Lord and to show our good will.
So this person, whose name has been lost to history, was famous for his preaching and Paul is perfectly fine with him going to the Corinthians to instruct them. What then is the key difference?
We see that he has been APPOINTED. He has been authorized. This ensures that he is communion with the Apostles and the Church. It ensures consistency and fidelity of his teachings to the truth.
And WHO appointed him? Not Paul alone. Rather, he has been appointed “by the churches”. In other words, by the Church as a whole, he has been appointed by the many churches speaking together with one voice through their leaders. Again, this ensures communion, continuity, and truth.
And notice, he is not going to Corinth of his own accord. Paul says, “we are SENDING the brother who is famous…” This brother who has been appointed by the whole church is now being sent out on a particular errand. Again, this ensures his reliability and his communion with the true Church. The Corinthians, who after all are going to be giving him money, can be sure it is going to be used for its stated purpose because his does not come on his own but is appointed and sent.
On its surface, this is a very human system. Kings appoint princes or dukes to run their far-off lands. Generals appoint captains who appoint sergeants who appoint platoon leaders. This is how human organizations naturally work. So of course, God, who is the author of our nature and understands it better than we understand it ourselves, used our natural tendencies and structures his Church the same way.
Not only does Paul refer to this famous preacher but he also refers to two others who are involved in this mission. Therefore there are three people identified in this passage who are associates of Paul to whom tasks have been delegated. Paul specifically mentions Titus and says that “we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters.” Also, let’s not forget Timothy who is identified as co-sender of the letter in the books first sentence that makes a total of four people in this circle of Paul’s. The point is, Paul is building up a cadre of AUTHORIZED representatives. These are people who he identifies as associated with him and is appointed and sent and given authority to speak for him and the Church. This shows that from the beginning of the Church there is hierarchy and authority. It shows that it was your lineage, your pedigree, your close association with the line of the Apostles that insured that your gospel was the true gospel. Paul is telling the Corinthians that because these men come from the source you can trust their message. Juxtaposed with his previous admonitions of listening to those who did not have the authority it is a powerful warning to stick with authorized teachers of the Gospel.
Tomorrow: 1 Cor 9