Year 3 Day 154
Read — 2 Corinthians 3v1-6
Message - Scott Woodburn
“First posted Year 1 Day 182 - 22 September"
It has been stated that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. For his critics Paul needed to prove himself to the Corinthian church. He hadn't appeared in front of them, he was full of big words in his letters but in person seemed weak and unimpressive. Why should we listen to such a man? Paul wondered if he needed to prove himself all over again (v1) or perhaps get a letter of recommendation from his local church (v1b). Such letters would be carried by Christians whenever they moved from one church to another. The letter would state that the individual was a Christian in good standing and should be welcomed by their new church. Did Paul need such a letter for the Corinthians to believe him?
Perish the thought. Instead Paul says the Corinthians are his letter, written on his heart for all to read (v2). Paul knows these men and women and they know him. He cherishes them, they are written on his heart and he needs no external letter of recommendation to prove himself to a church that he was instrumental in planting.
Indeed the very existence of the Corinthian church in such a pagan city was in itself evidence that Paul's ministry was genuine. Paul says that the church in Corinth show that they are a letter from Christ delivered by the apostle (v3). This letter was not written in ink but by the Holy Spirit. This letter was not carved into tablets of stone but into hearts of flesh (v3b). Paul's claims and proof about the Corinthian church couldn't be any more extraordinary.
Paul is utterly confident in all of this through Christ toward God (v4). Paul doesn't plead his case with arrogance reminding the Corinthians how wonderful he is (v5). He knows that he is only sufficient for such work because God made him sufficient (v5b). He is a sufficient minister of the new covenant (v6). A covenant not of works but of grace or as Paul puts it, not of the letter but of the Spirit (v6b). For the letter only kills but the Spirit brings life (v6c).
Here Paul makes a distinction between the law and the Gospel. The law is from God and is therefore good (Romans 7v12), but it cannot curb human sin (Romans 8v3) and ultimately brings death (Romans 7v10). The Corinthian church was not built by law observance but by the Spirit. Here is Paul's defence, here is his letter of commendation. He arrived in Corinth in much weakness but fearlessly preached the Gospel. The Spirit moved powerfully, sinners were saved and a local fellowship was born.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof and in days of doom and gloom you might ask "Where is the Lord?". I would respond "He is reigning". Of course a preacher would say that, but where is the evidence? In Northern Ireland you don't need to look too far. Across this land there exist fellowships of Christians who have been converted to Christ by the preaching of the Gospel and the work of the Spirit.
These fellowships are sometimes big and sometimes small. Many of them have preachers known around the country and many have preachers known only to their flock. Many of them have music so wonderful that it could grace a concert hall and many have Gertrude on an old piano that sounds somewhat out of tune. Yet all of them belong to Christ. Where the Word is preached faithfully, where the sacraments are administered correctly and where discipline is exercised - there is the church. May we love the church and take her seriously and understand that she is worth being part of. Extraordinarily she is Christ's letter to this world, a letter of grace and forgiveness to guilty sinners, a letter that cries out "You must be born again!".
Q33 What is justification? Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.