2Corinthians 3:1-6

Sunday Evening Bible Study

May 14, 2000

Introduction

Paul has written now to the Corinthians for the second time. He is probably writing from Philippi, where heís stopped briefly after having fled Ephesus for his life. His three year stay at Ephesus had ended with the city in a riot and people wanting to kill Paul. Life hasnít been fun for Paul, but God has comforted him through it all.

One of the issues that Paul will be dealing with in this letter is the issue of his authority.

2Corinthians 3

:1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?

It was common for travelling preachers to carry letters of recommendation with them, to let the churches know whether or not they were legitimate. There were false teachers traveling from church to church taking advantage of the churches.

Examples:

(Acts 18:27 NLT) Apollos had been thinking about going to Achaia, and the Christians in Ephesus encouraged him in this. They wrote to the believers in Achaia, asking them to welcome him. When he arrived there, he proved to be of great benefit to those who, by God's grace, had believed.

(1 Cor 16:10-11 KJV) Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. {11} Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren.

:2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:

The only recommendation Paul needs are the lives of the Corinthians themselves. All they need to do to realize whether or not Paul is legitimate or not, is to look at what effect Paulís ministry has had on them.

:3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.

(2 Cor 3:3 NLT) Clearly, you are a letter from Christ prepared by us. It is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on stone, but on human hearts.

The Ten Commandments were written on stone tablets. God wants to write on our hearts.

Lesson

You are the only Scripture some people will ever read.

We talked about this morning (Isa 55:5) that God desires that we be "attractive witnesses" for Him. We ought to be living examples of what God can do in a personís life.

Illustration

The world knows how British journalist Henry Stanley went to Africa to find the famed missionary, Dr. David Livingstone. Stanley's greeting, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" is world famous, but few know the rest of the story. After the two had been together for some time, Stanley saw what Livingstone endured and wrote, "I went to Africa as prejudiced as the biggest atheist in London. But there came for me a long time for reflection. I saw this solitary old man there and asked myself, 'How on earth does he stop here -- is he cracked, or what? What is it that inspires him so?' For months after we met I found myself wondering at the old man carrying out all that was said in the Bible -- 'Leave all things and follow Me.' But little by little his sympathy for others became contagious; my sympathy was aroused; seeing his piety, his gentleness, his zeal, his earnestness, and how he went about his business, I was converted by him."

Illustration

Habitat for Humanity started officially in 1976 but unofficially when founder Millard Fuller went to Zaire with a church group to build not-for-profit houses in 1968. With a beginning undergirded with little except prayer and vision for what God could do, Habitat has grown into one of the nationís largest home builders.

Fuller describes Habitat as an "alive, dynamic, Christ-centered movement" that welcomes Christians and non-Christians to participate in building houses for the poor.

Fuller takes special delight when people listen to the message behind the sweat, nails and saws. Recently, he returned to the sight of a Jimmy Carter Work Project in Charlotte, N.C. He spotted a five year-old boy playing in the yard of the house that Carter had helped build.

After complimenting the boy on his beautiful home, he asked him who built it, expecting to hear the boy say, "Jimmy Carter."

Instead, the boy said, "Jesus built my house."

-- The Columbus Dispatch, 6-20-92, p. 8H

I wish that could be the way we worked. Instead of people seeing us do the work, they would see Jesus.

:4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:

:5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;

Answers the question from:

(2 Cor 2:16 KJV) To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?

Lesson

He is all we need.

When we think of the kinds of eternal things that are affected by our witness to others, and we look at the kinds of things that God calls us to do, it can get kind of overwhelming at times.

There are times I want to quit and run away when I think of what I see as the tremendous responsibilities involved in being a pastor of a church.

As long as I have my eyes on my abilities compared to what the job requires, it can be quite depressing.

But the important thing is to get to the point where I realize that it REALLY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. Itís what JESUS does in your life that will really count, not what I do.

Illustration

A vivid picture in my mind is a story that Pastor Chuck used to tell about how they purchased their main church property a number of years ago. He would talk about how overwhelming it all seemed, with such a huge amount of debt that they were taking on in acquiring this huge (10 acre) piece of property. Chuck tells about how he was pulling up to the light at Fairview and Sunflower when the Lord asked him whose church it was. "Why Your church, of course" Chuck replied. Thatís when it hit him that it wasnít up to him, Chuck to do the work, but it was up to Jesus.

Thatís a lesson that Iím not sure Iíve totally mastered. I still worry. I still get nervous. But itís not my church, itís Jesusí church.

Jesus said,

Joh 15:5 I am the vine, ye [are] the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit:

able Ė hikanoo Ė to make sufficient, render fit; to equip one with adequate power to perform duties of one

new testament Ė not just the back half of the Bible, but literally the "New Covenant", the new agreement God makes with mankind. Under the "Old Covenant", the Law of Moses, man had to live in perfect obedience of the Law to be able to stand in Godís presence. Under the "New Covenant", Jesus died on a cross to pay the penalty of our sins and to give us His righteousness so that we are not able to stand in Godís presence, not based on our merits, but on Jesusí merits. All we have to do is believe.

:6 for the letter killeth,

The "letter" represents the Law of Moses.

The Law kills by making us aware of our sin.

(Rom 3:20 KJV) Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

(Rom 7:8-11 NLT) But sin took advantage of this law and aroused all kinds of forbidden desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. {9} I felt fine when I did not understand what the law demanded. But when I learned the truth, I realized I had broken the law and was a sinner, doomed to die. {10} So the good law, which was supposed to show me the way of life, instead gave me the death penalty. {11} Sin took advantage of the law and fooled me; it took the good law and used it to make me guilty of death.

:6 but the spirit giveth life.

Paul is talking about the Holy Spirit.

Some people have misused this verse to try and say that Bible Study deadens us while emotional meetings give life to the church.

The issue is not about Bible Study versus Prayer Meetings. The issue is whether you are trying to relate to God by keeping the Law or by living under the grace of the Holy Spirit.