Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 3:1b-6
Resume Vs. Result
3:1b Do we really need letters of recommendation either for you or from you to preach? 2 No, you are our living letter! You are written in our hearts. Everyone recognizes what you are. They can read the results in your actions. 3 It is clear that you are the letter from Jesus we served. You were not written in black ink, but in the Spirit of the living God. God did not write what he wanted from you in stone, but in your beating hearts.
4 When Jesus is present, God gives us confidence. 5 On our own, we are not fit to preach anything. But, God makes us fit. 6 He turned us into servants of his new covenant which is written by his Spirit, not in his Law. What is written in God's Law can strangle us with all its rules and regulations. But his Spirit brings us alive!
3:1b Do we need, like some (do), letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You are our letter, having been written in our hearts, being recognized and being read by all men, 3 being clearly shown that you are the letter of Christ having been served by us, not having been written in black (ink) but in the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on fleshy tablets of hearts.
4 We have such confidence through Christ to God. 5 Not that we (alone) are competent to reasonably argue anything as from us, but our competency (is) from God, 6 who made us competent servants of the New Covenant, not of written (Law) but of Spirit. For the written (Law) kills, but the Spirit gives life.
3:2-3 This very long sentence spoke of results, not recommendations. The main clause, "You are our letter," was echoed in the phrase "being clearly shown that you are the letter of Christ." The church in Corinth was the testament to Paul's missionary activities. Paul had experience with the community ("written in our hearts") which was on public view ("being recognized and being read by all men"). But the power in the community did not come from Paul, but from the Spirit, who acted in the hearts and lives of believers. The analogy of missionary activity as a written letter might have been clumsy, but it was effective.
3:5 "we (alone) are competent" the word "alone" is literally "from ourselves." In the sentence, Paul argued that he was not the source of his competence. God was.
3:5-6a In this sentence, Paul shifted the analogy of a written letter to that of the written Law. And he used this new analogy as a bridge to restate the difference between the Gospel and the Jewish Law (3:7-18). Again, Paul tried to answer the challenge of proof. The Corinthians may have wanted a resume. Paul simply pointed to the results. Human nature wanted tangible certainty (on paper or in action). But God gave a life in ths Spirit!
Many have asked me why Word-Sunday.com exists at all. My cynical answer is short. It is my electronic resume.
Human nature demands certainty. Proof with something that is tangible. Resumes and degrees may open doors and impress. But the bottom line is the result. Someone may have experience and education. But, can they deliver?
There is a tension between resume and results. Some are never satisfied with results and look for someone with a better resume. Paul faced this problem with some in the community at Corinth. They questioned Paul's competence when they compared him with others who had flashy credentials, those "trading on the Word of God" (see 2 Corinthians 2:17).
Did the great Paul need a letter of recommendation after all he did for the Corinthians (indeed the communities throughout Greece and Asia Minor)? That might have been a rhetorical question, but Paul asked it to put the subject directly before the Corinthians. Why ask him? Look at the results! Corinth was a community filled with the gifts of the Spirit. Paul was proud of the effort he made in forming the community. [3:1-3]
But there was a deeper issue than credentials. With a teacher came a message. Did the preacher with the flashy resume preach the gospel or another message? Paul stretched the analogy of the "letter" to promote his agenda. The written letter (i.e., the Law) was useless. Only God's Spirit mattered, for the Spirit brought life! [3:4-6]
We all look for the sure thing, that which we can see and touch. We can take comfort in something that is easily verifiable. But, is the tangible what we need? Will it help us grow closer to the Lord? Or, will it hinder God's action in our lives?
At some point, every Christian needs to give up certainty. And take the leap of faith.
As far as Word-Sunday.com is concerned, I hope what you read helps you get results in your ministry.
What "results" have you experienced from ministry? From faith? How have they encouraged you?