Giving God the Credit.
2 Corinthians 3:1-6
It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life. – 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 NLT
There is no doubt that some among the believers in Corinth had been questioning Paul’s authority. They had been spreading rumors that Paul was not really qualified to address the various issues he been writing about. Evidently, false teachers had been influencing the Corinthians, contradicting the teachings of Paul, and using as their basis of authority, forged letters of recommendation from Judea. In other words, they had papers to back them up. It appeared as if they were official representatives “true” apostles back in Jerusalem. The inference was that Paul was an imposter and charlatan. He was a fake. And all that he had been teaching was to be rejected as false and dangerous.
But Paul had no desire to play their game. He was not going to waste his time trying to prove his validity by producing letters written by men. He knew his calling and who it was that had issued his call. As far as Paul was concerned, the proof of his ministry’s integrity was to be seen in the transformed lives of the men and women of Corinth. He knew that others could see the change and that was why the Corinthian believers were suffering persecution. Paul viewed their changed lives as “a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you” (2 Corinthians 3:3 NLT). The Spirit had clearly been at work in Corinth, opening the eyes of men and women as they had heard the gospel message proclaimed by Paul. This had not been the result of Paul’s efforts, but it had been the work of the Spirit – from beginning to end. Paul didn’t need letters of recommendation, because it wasn’t his work to begin with. It was God’s work. Paul had no delusions of grandeur. In fact, he fully understood that he was not “qualified to do anything” on his own. The work in Corinth had nothing to do with Paul’s competence or credibility. It had everything to do with God and His decision to work through someone like Paul. “Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6 NLT). In essence, Paul was telling those who were casting aspersions on his ministry, to take it up with God. What Paul had been able to accomplish in Corinth had been a clear work of God, made possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. He had simply been a tool in the hands of God to accomplish His will.
How easy it is for us to believe that we are vital to God’s plan. How quickly we can assume that God needs us to accomplish His will. We can find ourselves taking credit for what God has done and becoming prideful about our own competence and significance to His Kingdom cause. We want to boast about our credentials and brag about our qualifications. But Paul knew that he was nothing without the Spirit’s work. He knew that he was not qualified or competent to do anything on his own. The ministry of life transformation and redemption was entirely the work of God, not man. Our degrees, diplomas, education, intelligence, gifts, abilities, talents and resumes mean nothing if God is not in it. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on Him. If lives are being changed as a result of anything we have done, it is because God has chosen to work through us. We are not accomplishing great things for God, but instead, He is simply choosing to accomplish His work through us, and oftentimes, in spite of us. God did not need Paul to accomplish His will. But He had chosen and commissioned him to spread the good news about Jesus Christ among the Gentiles. And God’s Spirit had clearly worked through Paul, preparing hearts to hear and accept the gospel message. Paul didn’t need any other proof than the transformed lives of the Corinthian believers. He knew that God was at work, because he could see it. Paul had no reason to brag, but he also had no reason to doubt. It could have been easy for him to question whether or not what he had been doing was truly of God, but the evidence was undeniable and irrefutable. Lives had been changed, and only God can bring about true, long-lasting life transformation. Only the Spirit can give life. So Paul was confident and content that what he was doing had God’s blessing and complete recommendation.
Father, we need to look for life transformation. We need to learn to see where Your Spirit is at work in our midst. Too often we base our success based on our own qualifications and efforts. But the true criteria for success in Your work is changed lives. And only You can bring that about. Open our eyes so that we might see where You are at work. Don’t let us focus on what we are doing, but on what You are doing through us. We can measure programs and we can count heads and think we are making a difference. But if lives are not being changed and if people are not being saved, our work is in vain. Remove from us any desire to please or prove our significance to men. Let us be content with the proof of changed lives as Your Spirit works among us. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men