The Glory Of A Transformed Life- 2 Corinthians 3:1-6

In this passage, Paul is defending himself and his ministry against the accusations of false apostles who had infiltrated the church and were disparaging Paul and his ministry, while promoting themselves as the true apostles and Paul as the false one. We find, in verse 1, that these false apostles came with “letters of recommendation”, apparently from some in the Jerusalem church, commending their ministry. They used these letters as proof of their apostleship and the fact that Paul did not have one as proof of his “false” apostleship. Paul then tells them, in verse 2, that he does not need “letters from headquarters” as the proof of the validity of his ministry and apostleship. The “proof” of his ministry was the Corinthians themselves. The proof of Paul’s ministry and apostleship was found in letters “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (verse 3). The proof of Paul’s apostleship and the effectiveness of his ministry was not based in letters or awards from “headquarters”, not based in how many people attended his “services” or how much money was in his accounts, but in the fact of the transformed lives of those he ministered to. This is a “letter” which can be “read by everybody” (verse 2). It must be noted that Paul here tells us that they are a “letter from Christ” and this letter was written by the “Spirit of the living God”. The transformed lives of the Corinthian believers did not come from the power of Paul, but from the power of Christ, these transformed lives do not display the power of Paul and his “ministry” but the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us here that Christ is the only one who can transform lives and hearts, and true ministry is found through bringing people to Him. He also tells us that the true evidence of an effective ministry is found in the transformation of the hearts and lives of those ministered to. This fruitful ministry resulted in Paul’s ability to minster with great confidence and to firmly oppose and refute those who claimed to be apostles but in fact were not. Paul then relates to us the source of true confidence, Christ. Paul’s confidence was not self-confidence but Christ-confidence. Paul was confident not in his own ability to minster to others but in Christ’s ability to minster to others through him. It was, then, this Christ confidence which produced competence in Paul’s life and ministry. Paul was competent because he was confident, but his confidence was not in himself and his own abilities, but in his ability to allow Christ to work in and through him. Paul’s ministry produced much fruit, particularly in Corinth, and it was this “fruit” which served as the ultimate verification of his ministry and apostleship. It was also a lack of this fruit in the ministry of the false apostles which allowed Paul to refute and invalidate the ministry of these false apostles. So what do we learn from what Paul is teaching us here? We learn that the effectiveness of ministry is not measured by attendance numbers or budget balances, not even by signs and wonders or showy displays. Truly effective ministry is demonstrated by the transformed hearts and lives of those ministered to. The “fruit” of Paul’s ministry was shown by the transformations found in the lives of the Corinthians, and any ministry which desires to be truly effective should work toward the same goal. Our confidence is not to be in our own abilities, but only in our “ability” to lead others to Christ and allow Him to minister to them through us. Only Christ can produce fruit which lasts, and our ministries will only be truly fruitful when we learn not to rely on our own abilities, but learn to rely on Christ to work in us and through us to minister to others.

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