Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:1-3)
Real results. Tangible evidence. Proof of authenticity you can touch. Real people. Real relationships. Changed lives. Hearts that were closed, now open to God. Today’s passage is all about evidence you can touch.
A little background is necessary today to understand where the writer, Paul, is coming from.
As an apostle of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul was instrumental in starting many churches. He had the mantle of spiritual authority on him to establish his leadership. Paul himself went through a metamorphosis from being “Saul,” persecutor of the church, to “Paul,” founder of churches. His very life was daily evidence of the power of Christ to change a life.
Paul went on three missionary journeys all over Asia Minor to establish churches and then return to strengthen them. The church in Corinth, Greece, was particularly troublesome in that it had many issues in its early stages (see 1 Corinthians) including a conflict of leadership. In 1 Corinthians 1:11-13 we find out that some were following Paul, some were following Apollos, some were following Cephas, and some were better than all of these: they were following Christ (which is fine, but not to the exclusion of everyone else). Thus, a good portion of this second letter to the Corinthian church was all about re-establishing Paul’s authority. Indeed, this is partly why this New Covenant passage is so important — because it reveals the basis upon which true ministry is founded. It’s as if Paul pulls back the curtain on his life and ministry and says, “This is how we operate as servants of Christ. Look and see how everything we are and do is from God and nothing is from us.”
And so it is that Paul finds it necessary to provide the church he founded with a “letter of recommendation,” though he is reluctant to do so. No wonder: he founded this church and now they are requesting a reference on his job application!
That’s why he says: So you need a letter of recommendation from us (meaning himself and other apostles)? Not necessary. You already have that letter. You. You are our letter. Your changed lives are proof that our ministry is of God and from God. We didn’t make those changes in your life. You didn’t even make them yourself. God did. And that is all the credentials we need.
It’s a powerful statement of the reality of the gospel to change lives. To have a heart that wants to turn from sin and do what is right. To suddenly have a desire to please God when there was nothing like that before. These are evidence of the Holy Spirit coming into a person and changing his or her heart.
Have you ever been around a person whose pride and arrogance has been stripped away by God; there’s no other way you can explain the changes in that person’s life? Then you know what Paul is talking about here. They are proof that Paul and his co-workers are from God.
How about you? Do you have any letters? Do you have anyone about whom you can say: God changed that person’s life through my relationship with him or her?
Are you beginning to see how the New Covenant is all about what God does? Our thoughts and questions today will be all around that reality about the New Covenant; that it’s all about what God does, not what were do. Like Paul, we are merely postal clerks delivering the letters already written by God. That’s the New Covenant at work.
One last thing. Paul says, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts…” I would have thought he might say it was written on their hearts, but he says, instead, “written on our hearts.” That would indicate intimacy, personal involvement, a sense of ownership and responsibility. That’s because all ministry comes through relationships, and Paul wants the Corinthians to know how much he loves them and feels they are a part of him. They are on his heart. That’s beautiful, don’t you think? Are the people you minister to on your heart? If you’re a minister of the New Covenant, they are.
Day 6 Challenge:
The good citizens of Corinth are requesting from Paul letters of recommendation. Paul’s response is basically, “You have got to be kidding! You do not need letters of recommendation. You are the letters of recommendation from Christ — the visible evidence of lives changed. I am just the postman.”
The Catch Ministry’s Prayer Ministry is all about changing lives, healing hurting hearts, touching a lonely spirit, and restoring what we once thought could never be made right. It is the changed lives that are the visible evidence of Christ. While our Prayer Warriors pray constantly, not one would say that he or she is equal to such tasks, or sufficient for these things. Rather, they are likely to say that everything comes from Christ and nothing from themselves. Like Paul, they are merely postal clerks.
If we want to change lives as Paul did — to really upset whole communities and start people in new directions, to give them liberty and freedom in the midst of guilt and oppression — aren’t we going to have to learn what Paul learned: that there is nothing coming from us, but everything comes from God? God alone can do God’s work. If there is no dependence on Him for that purpose, it is a wasted, useless effort on our part.
- Take a few seconds to recognize that the Lord of all Lords, the Christ, the Holy Messiah, is working through you. It is not up to you anymore. It is all up to Christ working through you. This is the New Covenant.
- Isn’t it far better than anything you have done on your own with God’s ‘help,’ which is the Old Covenant?
- Tell us what you think. Are you getting closer to being set free to be all that God intended you to be, which is not working really hard for God, but serving as visible evidence of Christ working through you?
- Tell us what is it like to be a postal clerk. Do you have any letters?
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