Summary: God gives maturity & Christian growth as we follow His Spirit not as we follow the law. The Spirit gives life, the letter of the law kills
2 CORINTHIANS 3: 1-6 [GAINING PERSPECTIVE Series]
THE SPIRIT GIVES LIFE
Whose endorsement is more important to you, the endorsement of men or the endorsement of God's Spirit? Would it be an endorsement of a letter of reference or the endorsement of the effectual working of the Spirit of God?
Wherever you find the genuine, you will find somebody promoting the counterfeit. Even art critics have been fooled by fake "master pieces," and sincere publishers have purchased "valuable manuscripts," only to discover them to be forgeries. The genuineness of a ministry is seen in the spiritually transformed lives not in conformity to external rules.
No sooner did the Gospel of God's grace begin to spread among the Gentiles than a counterfeit "gospel," a mixture of Law and grace, appeared. Those that spread this false gospel major emphasis was that salvation was by faith in Christ plus the keeping of the Law (Acts 15:1ff). They also taught that the believer is perfected in his faith by obeying the Law of Moses. Their "gospel of legalism" was very popular, since human nature enjoys achieving religious goals instead of simply trusting Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to work. It is much easier to measure "religion" than true righteousness or spiritually. But God gives maturity and Christian growth as we follow His Spirit not as we follow the law (CIT). The Spirit gives life, the letter of the Law kills.
I. LIVING LETTERS; 1-3.
II. AN ADEQUACY OF GOD; 4-5.
III. THE SPIRIT'S COVENANT; 6.
Verse 1 reviews some charges leveled against Paul. "Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you?
Having had to affirm his own motive in contrast to the gospel-peddlers, Paul is sure that he will be attacked as egotistical and self promoting. No utterance of his was safe from perversion at the legalists' hands. Since Paul states "again" apparently this commending [ƒ¶ƒ¼ƒ¬ƒ¤ƒ¶ƒºƒ¤ƒ°ƒ¬ - "to place together, placing one person with another as a way of introduction or recommendation"] was repeatedly required because of the constant accusations empowered by the vicious Accuser of the godly.
Infiltrators had succeeded in penetrating the ranks of the leadership in the Corinthian Church on the strength of certain "letters of commendation" which they produced on their arrival. Thus, those false teachers said they had letters that authenticated their authority but Paul had none, he had to commend himself, which is not proper.
There is an element of the ludicrous in any suggestion that Paul might stand in need of letters of recommendation or that his ministry and personal character needed to be documented. His work spoke for his character. Now Paul is not saying that letters of commendation are a deplorable practice, he was simply saying that there is better proof. (Rom. 16:1-2; 1 Cor. 10:10-11).
The best proof of authenticity of ministry is given in verse 2. "You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men."
Nothing is more delightful to faithful ministers, or more to their praise, than the spiritual lives of those among whom they labor. Paul told the Corinthian believers that they were his letter. The effect of his ministry in their lives was his letter of recommendation testifying to his authenticity. They were his fruit, saved through the word he brought them. They certainly did not need any other verification of authenticity for they themselves were the proof of it.
He says they were written -perfect tense- meaning they were permanently written in each others hearts. The heart is the center of love and devotion and it was in the heart that these believers were written. They were secure in his heart and he should be in theirs.
Paul continues saying they were "known and read by all men." Professing Christians are the letters, the only bibles than men read and know. I can guarantee you that the only Bible most your acquaintances are reading is you.
Some people believe that OUR HANDWRITING reveals our character. Experts in the field of graphology watch for things like the slant of letters, the way they are formed, where the "t" is crossed, and how the "i" is dotted. Based on these distinctions, conclusions are drawn about one's personality. We are told that the style of our writing shows whether we are outgoing or withdrawn, individualistic or of a conforming nature.
While some may question the reliability of this practice, it does reminds me that Christians are epistles "known and read by all men." The conduct of our life is composing a letter which details the kind of person we really are.
If we are trying to please the Lord Jesus Christ, the handwriting of our lives will reveal a love for others and responsiveness to their needs. We will also express individuality and a willingness to stand alone for righteousness' sake if duty demands it. Each day we will try to adjust our behavior to the will of our heavenly Father.