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.
“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
~II Corinthians 3:1-3
The Judaizers boasted that they had letters of recommendation, but Paul says that the Corinthians are his letter and proof of his authority. Their changed and transformed lives bore witness to the fact that God was at work through Paul’s ministry. For this is the important lesson for all of us: God’s blessing on ministry is not measured by statistics and numbers but by changed lives. We cannot gauge our “success” by what people say, but by the changed lives that they live. The Holy Spirit does not move on tablets of stone or through the empty praise of man but on tablets of human hearts, changing and transforming people from the inside out.
That is the proof of God at work, and the “letter” of recommendation. Paul knew this and wanted the Corinthians to realize it so that they would not be carried away by the false teachers with fancy résumés, so to speak. He wanted his beloved congregation at Corinth to return to the ministry and doctrines that changed their lives.
So what about us? How can we apply this message to our own lives? We are not dealing with the false teachers and doctrines of the Judaizers, so how does this lesson relate to us?
First, to those in ministry, we must be careful not to seek letters of recommendation from fickle human beings. We must be wary of the applause of man and not let it influence and control our purpose or message. We must not measure the success of our ministry based on numbers and statistics but celebrate each and every transformed life, and remember that this is God’s work and everything done in faithful obedience to Him is successful.
Finally, for those not in ministry, do not become infatuated and drawn in by the accolades and lists of accomplishments of those claiming spiritual leadership. For the praise and applause of man is fickle and does not always indicate truth. Also, remember that the Holy Spirit works within and that its transforming power is not always instantly evident but works quietly inside a person changing and transforming the inner man.
May all of us seek and strive to become glowing letters from Christ written with the Holy Spirit on the tablets of our hearts that we may testify to the amazing work Christ has and is doing with us all for His glory and renown. To God be all the glory, great things He has done!
“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.”
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