Continuing the defense of his reputation and ministry, Paul suggests the idea that he is commending himself with his previous words in this letter, or that he needs letters of recommendation. (v.1) He then counters this idea by pointing to the superior, living evidence of his ministry’s integrity: The Corinthians themselves.
The lives of those in the Corinthian church acted as a living letter of validation for Paul’s ministry, because of the outward evidence they displayed of God in their hearts. This validation of Paul’s ministry was superior to a letter of recommendation in a couple ways. It was more than a document written in ink by a human. It was brought about by the Holy Spirit. God himself! It was more than a record fixed in stone, waiting to be read. Paul’s “letter of recommendation” was a living community of believers, active and impacting others. (v.2-3)
This is the kind of impact we should pray God will allow us to have on others! Imagine investing your time and passion into helping someone know and love God more deeply and then later seeing that person do the same for someone else!
Paul also makes a comparison here (which he will expand on later) to the Law given to Israel through Moses. (Tablets of stone vs. human hearts in verse 3) The power of Paul’s ministry to change lives was the Holy Spirit putting God’s will into people’s hearts, not the written law. This is a key function of the Holy Spirit as he lives in believers. This kind of ministry is superior to the Law, and was promised to Israel by God. ( Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:25-27)
As we allow the Holy Spirit more influence in our lives, we will be better led by him as we make decisions, discern truth and prioritize our activity.
Paul’s confidence about the superior nature of his ministry doesn’t come from himself. His confidence is all “through Christ” as he recognizes him as the source of his strength and capability. (v.4-5)
Sometimes, when we’re experiencing success, we can start to believe that it came about because of our own talent or intelligence. We forget that the opportunities presented to us are orchestrated by God and that he is the one who made our talents and provided people and opportunities to increase our knowledge and refine our skills. No one is the source of their own success.
Paul refers to himself as the minister of a “new covenant”, which refers back to Jeremiah 31 and a “spirit-based” covenant promised by God. This covenant would be superior to the covenant of the Law, because “through the law we become conscious of sin.” (Romans 3:20) And the payment we receive for sin is a death sentence. (Romans 6:23)
The Law announces a death sentence for us! The standard it sets is too high and impossible to keep, and so it brings about our death. But when the Holy Spirit enters every believer, they are transformed and rescued from death. (v.6)
Next Week- New Versus Old
Coffee House Question
What areas of your life do you tend to forget to credit God for, either to yourself or to others?