Our last reading this week is from 2 Cor 3:1-6
Chapter 3 is full of information concerning our faith. In it, Paul wants others to understand the call and the method (founded on truth) that the apostles used to share the gospel. Paul validates his call and ministry through these individuals at Corinth. Paul was very pleased at the way G-d had moved in this congregation. People usually visited Corinth to gratify their fleshly desires, not in any way wanting to submit to the standards of G-d.
v1: Commend ourselves: Paul and Timothy were not trying to validate their ministry, or their call as apostles or servants of Messiah. This was not their objective. They were not writing to recommend themselves or to give themselves a stamp of approval.
- Epistles: Letters
- Commendation: Stamp of approval. This congregation didn’t need to receive a letter of recommendation regarding Paul and his ministry. They knew who Paul was and what he was about.
- Commendation from you: Paul, and those who were serving with him, could be judged by how this congregation in Corinth were behaving. The proof (validation, stamp of approval) for his work was seen in their testimony. That is one of the reasons why Paul rejoiced over them (2 Cor 2:3). He saw the work of G-d and the ministry of the Holy Spirit within this congregation at Corinth.
v2: Epistle: A letter with words of support in it that someone would bring to others in order to commend themselves in it.
- Written in our hearts: Paul is saying that their (Paul and the others with him) love and thoughts for this Corinthians congregation was held dearly in their hearts. They validated the ministry of Paul. They were a testimony before others that what Paul was doing was producing legitimate fruit, things that were pleasing to G-d.
- Known: People close by could physically see what G-d was doing in this congregation and they could come to their own conclusions.
- Read: People far away could read or hear about how this group behaved and reach a conclusion in that way.
- Read by all men: This did not mean the entire world, but it included everyone who had come in contact with (had knowledge of, had heard about, had viewed) this congregation. This congregation was faithfully living out the call, the faith, that they had received. This validates what Paul is going to say further on in this chapter.
v3: An epistle of Messiah: The testimony of their lives was founded on Messiah.
- Ministered by us: (Ad)ministered. The idea here is this: when someone takes out insurance it is the insurance broker who makes it valid by putting it into effect. G-d used Paul and others to put into effect His truth in these people’s lives.
- Spirit: The Spirit (as seen in Gen 1) brings about order from chaos. He did this in creation, and He does it in people’s lives. This is important because the validation of Paul’s ministry is seen in the order, the purposes and the will of G-d being realized in these people’s lives – in this congregation at Corinth.
- Tablets of stone: The ten commandments (the law of G-d) were written on tablets of stone. Although these tablets were glorious and revealed the righteousness of G-d, they were not instruments for making us righteous. The commandments define righteousness, but do not impart righteousness.
- Tablets of flesh: Human hearts.
v4: We have such trust: Paul and those with him were confident in what they had done in their ministry of proclaiming the gospel. This confidence was not rooted in pride or self-exaltation.
- Through Messiah: This confidence came to them through Messiah working in them and through them. They were carrying out Messiah’s ministry.
- Toward (Before) G-d: In the presence of G-d.
v5: Not that we are sufficient: Paul knew that whatever good he did came from the Spirit of G-d.
- Our sufficiency is from G-d: Paul is emphasizing that he is an instrument of G-d and all praise goes to G-d. The reason he can be an instrument of G-d is because he is trusting in the Word and truth of G-d.
v6: Who: Referring to G-d (in the person of Messiah).
- Ministers of the new covenant: This covenant is unique. One of its primary characteristics is that of forgiveness.
- Spirit: In this covenant there is an emphasis on the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 59:20-21). There is a connection between redemption (the Redeemer, ie Yeshua) and the giving forth of, through a covenant, the Spirit.
- Not of the letter but of the Spirit: This covenant’s power is not in the letter but in the Spirit. This Spirit brings G-dly order into our lives.
- The letter kills: Paul is talking here about the Torah (the law). This does NOT mean that the Torah is bad and that we should set it aside as New Testament believers. The Torah, in and of itself, when applied to humanity will bring death. It announces G-d’s judgment because it reveals to us the standards of G-d. It teaches us the proper definition of righteousness. We know what righteous and unrighteous are because of the law or commandments of G-d. When we encounter G-d’s commands and apply them to our lives, we quickly realise that we are unrighteous and are heading for death, condemnation, judgment. It shows us that we are sinners headed for eternal destruction as we do not meet G-d’s standards. If we trust in the commandments for salvation, we will find death. However, even within the Torah there is a message of hope. Within the Torah we learn the principles of redemption – and that there is a Redeemer. When we become a recipient of redemption that means that we also receive the Holy Spirit.
- The Spirit gives (makes) life: This does not mean that He only makes life after we have died. We need to understand that from the moment we believe, while we are alive, we are being made alive – eternal life has already started for us in this present age and is not only reserved for the age to come.