2 Corinthians 3:1
“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?” (1 Corinthians 3:1)
Maybe Paul would say that today many people pedal the word of God for profit. Oh, perhaps that’s not their whole purpose, their whole motive, but they’re making a good deal out of it. He says in 2 Corinthians 2:17 “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.” We are surprised that he said, “unlike so many” but as they say, “there’s gold in them there evangelical hills.” If you’re really good at singing, or you’re really good at writing, or you’re really good at preaching, there’s plenty in it.
Perhaps Paul would say that many pedal the word of God for profit. But he says we’re not like that. No, On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity. Like men sent from God, he comes back to this same theme down in 2 Corinthians 4:2; “We have renounced secret and shameful ways. We do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly, we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” The servant who disseminates the knowledge of Jesus Christ, has to be authentic. And that servant can’t distort what they are doing with the Bible. They can’t have tricky ways which are a shame to Jesus Christ. Shameful and tricky ways, not with sincerity. What will happen? Well, there are false servants, but how do you know a true servant, the authentic ones? Paul continues in 3:1. “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?” He says, “Do I have to have a diploma from seminary? Or impeccable recommendations from important people? Oh, that’s not the authentication of a servant. That’s not how you tell the true from the false. No, here’s how you tell. ‘You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You demonstrate that you are a letter from Christ. The result of our ministry, written not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God, not on tables, tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.’”
The authentication of the servant is spiritual results in his ministry. God, the Holy Spirit, writes that message of Jesus Christ in the heart of somebody else. That’s how the servant is authenticated. That’s how we know whether the person is a true servant of God. That’s how we can tell; there is heart transformation and there is spiritual transformation. And so you might say, “Well, I can’t point to many people who’ve turned to Christ through my ministry. Does that mean I’m not a true servant? Does that mean I’m a fake? Does that mean that I distort the word of God?”
If God did not give you the ability to consistently bring people to faith in Christ, you would want to identify with a reproducing body. And if neither we reproduced nor the body we are with reproduced, we would really begin to question about whether it’s authentic. But whatever our specific ministry, Paul is saying that the that the validation of the servant’s task, of the dissemination of the knowledge of God, is that something is going to happen. There will be spiritual change. The Spirit of God is going to write something in the hearts of people. Then you say, “oh, that’s too much, who is sufficient for these things?”
Our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers. Oh, there’s the new covenant. Not of the letter, but of the spirit, for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life. Our sufficiency is of God, and that’s why we can be confident.
And the way we disseminate the new covenant is by putting Jesus on display and telling the truth of Jesus Christ, Perhaps, you say well, I’m prepared to follow him and do the job of spreading this good news. But I don’t see any results. Am I a fake after all? What was Paul’s secret of successful communication? How did he become a success? Paul gives us a little review. He says, “don’t give up, don’t lose heart.”
You know, there’s several kinds of Christians. There’s one with never any pressures, always prosperous, always healthy, plenty of leisure time, happy, never any perplexities. They have everything under control. Everybody praises that person. Circumstances never seem to get to them. What kind of good news is that to me? And what kind of fragrances?
What of the one who was acquainted with sorrow, who was always under pressure, always under attack? Knocked down, but never out. Of course, there’s the other kind of Christian, I suppose, always under pressure and whining and complaining and crushed. What sort of fragrance is that?
No. Paul says we have the servant’s role. We are to disseminate to everyone all the time the knowledge of Jesus faithfully – the good news of life in Christ by putting this life on display. As far as I know, the only way God’s light is going to shine out through me is when I’m broken. The only way his lifegiving fragrance is going to flow is when I’m under pressure. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t ask for delivery. No, no, no. That’s not biblical. But pressure is going to be there, that’s why God made us clay pots instead of gold-plated steel vats. That’s the way he puts his glory on display.