“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.
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