Tuesday, September 13, 2016
2 Corinthians 3:1-6 "Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? 2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for 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.
4 Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, 6 who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
As the Apostle Paul wrote this second letter to the Corinthian church, his apostolic credentials were called into question. In Acts 18 Paul planted the church at Corinth. For 18 months he gave his heart and soul to the people of that small, fledgling church. Upon his departure he left it in the hands of Priscilla and Aquilla. Sadly, the Corinthians had lapsed into their former ways of life. Divisions, disagreements and doubt characterized this struggling church. Paul knew that if he was going to urge his readers to find their adequacy in God, he would need to make sure he was doing it himself.
The key aim of Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:1-6 is to find one's adequacy in God
The great commentator John Gill notes in his commentary on 2 Corinthians 3:
"(W)e are not able of ourselves to meditate with judgment and affection upon the word of God, to study the Scriptures, to collect from them things fit for the ministry; and much less with freedom and boldness to speak of them to edification; and still less able to impress them upon the heart: for though you who are the epistle of Christ are ministered by us, yet not by any power and self-sufficiency of ours."
Paul aimed to address the issues at Corinth in his first Epistle. In this second letter we find him urging his readers to hang onto their faith and to not let the world, the flesh and the Devil run them into the ground. In these opening verses of 2 Corinthians 3, Paul's point is to show how our adequacy comes from God. As the Christian carries on their daily life, glaring inadequacies of one's own abilities will grow more clearly. It can be a great temptation to despair and to wonder how we can ever be worthy and strong enough to do God's will and live for His glory. If for nothing else, such a battle is actually a sign of victory, since such troubling thoughts urge us to flee to God who alone is sufficient. Today's post wants to consider briefly what is meant by this idea of finding our adequacy in God.
Adequacy in God is derived from the indwelling Holy Spirit in the Christian
We read in 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 "You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for 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."
Paul is going to take one last run at convincing these Corinthians of who they are and whose they are. Among the many pressures they faced in pagan Corinth, as well as the internal struggles within the church itself, Paul once more would remind them of their calling and identity. The New Covenant relationship of the Christian entails the Holy Spirit indwelling Christians from salvation.
Unlike the Old Testament (or Old Covenant age), which had the Holy Spirit working from outward to inward, the Christian experiences the Holy Spirit's work as an inside job (see Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36; Hebrews 8). Jesus often promised how Christians who believed in Him would be indwelt by the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26-27; 15:26; 16:8-12). In effect, God Himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit indwells the believer (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 3:6; 6:19-20).
Our adequacy in God derives from the fact that He indwells us. Just as a coffee mug is increasingly satisfying based upon the type of coffee contained within, the Christian is increasingly satisfied as he or she cultivates their relationship with the Holy Spirit within them by prayer, the word and obedience.
Adequacy in God results from our identity in Jesus Christ
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 "Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God." The Christian life is about what we are saved from in Jesus and what we are saved to because of Him. In Jesus Christ, we are saved "from wrath" (Romans 5:10); saved "from our sins" (1 Peter 3:18) and saved from the clutches of Satan and his kingdom (Ephesians 2:1-4). In Jesus Christ we are saved unto eternal life in saving faith (John 3:16); adoption of sonship (Ephesians 2:6-10) and unto an inheritance that won't rot nor fade, reserved in heaven (1 Peter 1:4-5; 2 Peter 1:10-12).
Contrary to what this world may try to offer, the Christian finds all their satisfaction in Jesus. The enemy of our souls will attempt to convince us that God has some how short-changed us in salvation, and that instead, the world has all we need. Paul's point in 2 Corinthians 3,4 and 5 is to counter-act this type of thinking with the reminder that in Jesus Christ, we have inherited so much because of becoming partakers of His New Covenant promises.
So our adequacy in God results from the indwelling Holy Spirit and our identity in Jesus Christ. Lets consider one last thought...
Adequacy in God derives from the empowerment He gives for daily living
We read these words in 2 Corinthians 3:6 "who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." As Paul threads these thoughts to urge his readers to find their adequacy in God, he makes sure he applies such truths to his own life. Truth that is most effectively preached is truth that is lived. The indwelling of the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is the wellspring of Christian adequacy. Apart from the Holy Spirit working within my human spirit, I am but a dry riverbed.
As the Holy Spirit springs up in me like a wellspring of fresh water (see John 7:37-39), He highlights my "identity in Jesus Christ". Who I am and whose I am is identified by the credited righteousness of Jesus imputed to me in saving faith. The indwelling of the Spirit and identity in Jesus is expressed by the empowerment God gives me to live the Christian life and to do His bidding. God's power is experienced in proportion to how often I lean on the indwelling Holy Spirit and the credited righteousness and identity of Jesus.
Today we briefly considered how the Christian comes to understand their adequacy from God. We noted two 'i's" and one "e" in 2 Corinthians 3:1-6...
1. Indwelling Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:1-2
2. Identity in Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:3-5
3. Empowerment from God for daily living. 2 Corinthians 3:6