Paul was a minister of the new covenant. He brought with him the good news of the gospel, the freedom found only in the Spirit, and foundational doctrines that shaped the early Church.
We live in a day and age when right and wrong, truth and error, conviction and principle are fairly non-existent. However, Paul was a man of greatness. And just like all men and women who accomplish great things, he had a distinct set of ethics. While many of these principles were evident from his life and actions, he gives us a short list of them here in II Corinthians. So let’s take a look at these codes of conduct and see what we can learn from the Apostle Paul.
“The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” This was the note we ended on last time. Though we did not focus on that part of II Corinthians 3:6 in our last post, we will do so today. Here, Paul is contrasting the old covenant with the new one.
“The letter” is referring to the Law, rules and regulations given by God that we could never keep. And because we could never perfectly adhere to the Law, it brought death. On the other hand, the new covenant that was given through Jesus Christ gives life, as the Holy Spirit works in our lives transforming us from the inside out. One kills, the other gives life.
Was Paul a super human? Did he have extra doses of godliness and blessedness that made him special? He did so many great things and accomplished so much, so was there something about him that made him extraordinary?
Some would say yes, Paul was extra special and is revered. However, Paul—along with the other Apostles—was just an ordinary man who was willing to be used by God. The Apostles’ power, greatness, or whatever you want to call it was all made possible by God and not them. This truth is evident in Paul’s humble declaration:
“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
~II Corinthians 3:5-6
Today, we are moving into II Corinthians chapter three. Here, Paul defends the Christian faith from the lies of the Judaizers who sought to combine God’s gift of grace with keeping the law. These heretics gained quite a following within the first century Church, including members of the Corinthian church. They boasted “letters of recommendation” from high ranking leaders of the Jerusalem church and quoted statistics and followers as proof of their authority. However, Paul revealed the error of their way and shared an important lesson that is valuable for us today.
Smells, odors, fragrances. These all play a vital role in life as we know it. Without them we would not be able to accurately taste the delicious food we enjoy nor would we be able to savor the rich smell of coffee or baking bread. But not all odors we come across each day are pleasant and enjoyable. Living in the country, I almost daily smell the pungent fragrance of skunk and the “wonderful” aroma of cow manure. While you may not come across these smells often, there are other unpleasant odors we use in everyday life, such as the sharpness of bleach or distinct smell of car exhaust. So fragrance and smell plays an important part in our lives. Sometimes we enjoy what comes through our sense of smell, but other times we don’t. Nevertheless, without this sense, life would not be the same.
Paul understood how much of life is connected with the sense of smell, and he used it in a metaphor representing our life in Christ and what God does through us as He leads us forward in triumph.
Today, we’re going to focus on a verse that is probably pretty familiar to you. Even if you can’t quote it verbatim, you will probably recognize it. It’s a verse that promises us victory, triumph, and success. Things we’re all longing for in this spiritual battle. It seems fitting that after talking about forgiveness and its way to victory, we should study our triumphal procession and Who leads us in this victory march. So just dive right in and take a look at what Paul has to teach us in II Corinthians chapter two.
Spring is on its way! The crocuses are blooming, and early daffodils are springing up from the ground. While these purple hyacinths are not in season yet, they do give us a clue to what we’re going to be discussing in today’s study. In the language of flowers, purple hyacinths represent forgiveness which is our topic for today.
This is a powerful and convicting topic for all of us. For I’m sure that at some point in life you have been wronged, hurt, or experienced the pain of injustice. However, as Christians we are called to forgive. Why? Because it is our way to victory and defeat of Satan. So let’s jump right in and see where we find this important lesson in our study of II Corinthians.
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