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Letters From God

2 Corinthians 3:1-6
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show 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 tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (NIVUK)

How did travelling philosophers gain acceptance? Some with powerful oratory or strong personalities pushed their way into the public arena. But most needed an introduction. A letter from an official or recognised patron in another city was usually effective. It seems that the false teachers in Corinth had gained access to the church and authority to preach through such letters, even if they were forged and false (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). The doctrinal chaos which ensued made the believer wonder if Paul was authentic (2 Corinthians 11:4-5), because his ministry was not commended by anybody – and in most places Paul's preaching produced public disorder (Acts 14:3-5).

Such doubts were encouraged by the false 'super-apostles'. But Paul did not need to seek external commendation (2 Corinthians 12:11-12). He invited them to look at themselves, the product of his ministry. He describes them as letters. As 'God's secretary', the apostle had written on the hearts of those who believed his preaching and trusted Jesus. The difference in their lives was remarkable, because the Holy Spirit had moved in their hearts. The result was that as Paul, Timothy and Titus looked at them, they saw God's handwriting in the lives of the church members.

Although Paul's preaching was the human means by which they had come to trust in Jesus, the power was in the gospel message itself (1 Corinthians 1:18) and in the Holy Spirit who enabled them to put their faith in Christ alone (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Paul frequently disclaimed having any special power. If he preached Christ effectively it was only because God opened his own eyes to the truth and then enabled him to preach with persuasive clarity (2 Corinthians 4:5-6). God had not given Paul a letter of commendation, but a changed heart and Christ-announcing gifts through the Holy Spirit - which was bringing new life to hard and sinful hearts.

The proof of your ministry is in the changed lives of people around you. Not just attending church, but the radical changes of self-reliance to Christ-dependence, self-justification to repentance, self-seeking to Christ-serving, and self-indulgence to genuine worship. Those changes identify the Holy Spirit's work. When you look at those people you see letters from God. The first is to you, reminding you that God is faithful to bring fruit from His Word; it is not your life-giving power but His. The other letters are to all the friends, relatives and colleagues of the new Christians: they announce God's forgiving grace, choosing ordinary people to worship and serve Him gladly. Never forget that you are also a letter from God to the world: may His handwriting over your life be clear for all to see.

Sovereign Lord. Thank You for writing Your love onto my heart, by Your Holy Spirit through Your servants – as a letter to the world. Forgive me for failing to appreciate what You want to do through my life and witness so that others may see that Jesus is the Saviour of the world. Please help me to serve humbly, in your power, so that Jesus may be glorified. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams