Note from Jesus
How does one of My ministers prove his or her legitimacy, worth, and right to serve and lead?
Paul will return to this question over and over again in 2 Corinthians. His answer in today’s verses is important because it is built upon the coming of the Holy Spirit to each Christian as a sign of God’s glorious and transforming presence inside each believer.
The Holy Spirit is at work transforming those who are My disciples into something the law of the old covenant could never do. Later, in his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul will state this point with these words:
Therefore, now no condemnation awaits those who are living in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King, because when you live in the Anointed One, Jesus, a new law takes effect. The law of the Spirit of life breathes into you and liberates you from the law of sin and death. God did something the law could never do. You see, human flesh took its toll on God’s law. In and of itself, the law is not weak; but the flesh weakens it. So to condemn the sin that was ruling in the flesh, God sent His own Son, bearing the likeness of sinful flesh, as a sin offering. Now we are able to live up to the justice demanded by the law. But that ability has not come from living by our fallen human nature; it has come because we walk according to the movement of the Spirit in our lives.
In Paul’s day, it was common for people to carry letters of recommendation to prove their trustworthiness and legitimacy. Also, the reputation of the sponsor was extremely important. This practice was in place in early churches so that when a guest arrived, My assembled disciples would know the guest was trustworthy (Romans 16:1-2; 1 Corinthians 16:10-11; 3 John 1:5-8).
Paul was dealing with criticism from some opponents in the Corinthian house churches. They were saying that he was not much of a minister, especially when compared to the “super apostles” who were making strong demands for support by the Corinthian churches (2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 12:11-13). These critics were wanting Paul to show letters of recommendation proving the validity of his ministry even though he was the one who first planted these house churches in Corinth.
Paul’s answer was clear:
You are our letter, every word burned onto our hearts to be read by everyone. You are the living letter of the Anointed One, the Liberating King, nurtured by us and inscribed, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God — a letter too passionate to be chiseled onto stone tablets, but emblazoned upon the human heart.
…any competence or value we have comes from God. Now God has equipped us to be capable servants of the new covenant, not by authority of the written law which only brings death, but by the Spirit Who brings life.
He didn’t need a literal letter of recommendation; the Corinthians were his letter written by the Holy Spirit!
Paul then spoke emphatically to the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant based on the work of the Holy Spirit. The old covenant was chiseled into stone tablets at Mount Sinai with Moses (Deuteronomy 5:1-24). The new covenant was written on human hearts by the Spirit and brought to the Corinthians through Paul’s ministry. This new covenant was foretold in the promises of the great prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah. They promised a new covenant with the coming of the Holy Spirit — a time when God’s will would be written on human hearts and not stone tablets (Ezekiel 11:19-20; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Jeremiah 31:31-34). Paul’s competence came from his being equipped by God to be a capable servant of the new covenant. That competence was validated by the coming of the Holy Spirit Who brought life to the Corinthians.
While the old covenant given to Moses on Mount Sinai came with great glory, this glory was outshone by the far greater glory of the new covenant. Moses’ face reflected the glory of the Father after being in the Father’s presence. But that glory dimmed as Moses was away from the Father’s glorious presence. The far greater glory of the second covenant never grows dim. Paul said:
In fact, what seemed to have great glory will appear entirely inglorious in the light of the greater glory of the new covenant. If something that fades away possesses glory, how much more intense is the glory of what remains?
Because God sent the transformational power of the Holy Spirit to Paul to empower his ministry, he had great confidence to speak and act as a minister of God’s new covenant. Unlike Moses, who hid his face as God’s glory began to disappear from him, Paul shared a message and ministered through the power of the Holy Spirit Whose glory doesn’t diminish or depart. Instead, the Spirit’s power transforms you to increasing glory to become more and more like Me (2 Corinthians 3:18)!
Verses to Live
As you read these verses, please take the time to read the bold highlighted sentence at the end of today’s verses especially carefully. The new covenant, the covenant of the Holy Spirit, brings life and transformation. As you seek Me, the Spirit transforms you — you “are being … metamorphosed” is what Paul literally says!
Are we back to page one? Do we need to gather some recommendations to prove our validity to you? Or do we need to take your letter of commendation to others to gain credibility? You are our letter, every word burned onto our hearts to be read by everyone. You are the living letter of the Anointed One, the Liberating King, nurtured by us and inscribed, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God — a letter too passionate to be chiseled onto stone tablets, but emblazoned upon the human heart.
This is the kind of confidence we have in and through the Anointed toward our God. Don’t be mistaken; in and of ourselves we know we have little to offer, but any competence or value we have comes from God. Now God has equipped us to be capable servants of the new covenant, not by authority of the written law which only brings death, but by the Spirit Who brings life.
Now consider this: if the ministry of death, which was chiseled in stone, came with so much glory that the Israelites could not bear to look at Moses’ face even as that glory was fading, imagine the kind of greater glory that will accompany the ministry of the Spirit. If glory ushered in the ministry that offers condemnation, how much more glory will attend the ministry that promises to restore and set the world right? In fact, what seemed to have great glory will appear entirely inglorious in the light of the greater glory of the new covenant. If something that fades away possesses glory, how much more intense is the glory of what remains?
In light of this hope that we have, we act with great confidence and speak with great courage. We do not act like Moses who covered his face with a veil so the children of Israel would not stare as the glory of God faded from his face. Their minds became as hard as stones; for up to this day when they read the old covenant, the same veil continues to hide that glory; this veil is lifted only through the Anointed One. Even today a veil covers their hearts when the words of Moses are read; but in the moment when one turns toward the Lord, the veil is removed. By “the Lord” what I mean is the Spirit, and in any heart where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is liberty. Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.
(2 Corinthians 3:1-18)
Response in Prayer
O Father, thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thank You for the new covenant. Thank You that this new covenant is not made up of laws written on tablets of stone, but is written by the Spirit’s work of implanting and etching Your will into my heart. I commit to offering myself to Jesus. I commit to seeking after Him, to obeying Him, and to becoming more and more like Him. I commit to joyfully partnering with the Spirit in His transforming work in me. In Jesus’ name, I offer you my heart to be set free like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis and to be transformed into the new person You created me to be in Christ Jesus. Amen.
‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.