Monday, April 20 2 Corinthians 2:12-16
“God uses us to spread the gospel of Christ”
The section of 2 Corinthians beginning here and going to the middle of the sixth chapter deals with Christian ministry. While Paul was defining and defending his work in Corinth, he was giving us a measuring stick for all ministry done in the church, whether by laity or by clergy. The section begins with Paul stating that he had “no peace of mind” as he waited for a report on how the church had responded to his first letter to them.
In verse 14 Paul’s apprehension is lifted and he breaks into praise of God. Possibly Titus had arrived at that point with good news, but whatever the cause it set the context for the whole discussion of his ministry. It became his point of reference for all things. It’s remarkable that with all the pressure, persecution, and opposition he had experienced that Paul would think of his ministry in terms of triumph and not defeat. This vision of the ultimate triumph of God and of the gospel gave him a platform from which to view in a different light all that was involved in his work. The basis for all Christian ministry is the glory of God, and he will be glorified by all that is sincerely done in the name of Christ.
Ministry done in your name, Lord, will always bring blessing. Amen.
Tuesday, April 21 2 Corinthians 2:17 – 3:3
“The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves”
I am periodically asked to write a letter of introduction or recommendation for someone in our congregation. Such letters were especially important in the days of the early church. This was the only way fledgling congregations had of knowing whether a new prophet or teacher who appeared on the scene had the right credentials and could be trusted.
Apparently some strangers had shown up in Corinth with an impressive letter of introduction from someone in Jerusalem and had been received into the confidence of the church on the basis of the letter. They had quickly begun to be critical of Paul and his ministry and had even asked the church if Paul had come to them with a letter of introduction such as they had, implying that Paul was a man without proper credentials. In reality, their implications were outrageous because when Paul first arrived in Corinth, there was no church. He founded it and it was the product of his ministry. Paul’s response to his detractors was that he didn’t need a letter of introduction, for the believers in Corinth were his credentials.
The “credentials” of our faith, Lord, are those who have experienced your love through us. Amen.
Wednesday, April 22 2 Corinthians 3:4-6
“Our qualification comes from God”
One senses that even as Paul was defending his credentials as an Apostle from the criticisms of his opponents, he is fearful that he is taking too much credit for himself. With this in mind he explains “our qualification comes from God.” He was making the point that the real change in the lives of the Corinthian Christians had been the work of God rather than of himself, and that God had merely allowed him to be the minister through whom it had all happened.
This work that God is doing in people’s lives is the work of the “new covenant,” a term Paul takes from the prophet Jeremiah: “’The day is coming,’ says the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah . . . I will put my laws deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts’” (Jeremiah 31: 31, 33). The old covenant was an external set of laws that people were commanded to obey, but they failed to do so. The new covenant is the internal law of “Love God – love your neighbor,” which we are able to obey through the Holy Spirit.
Thank you for your Spirit who lives in me, Lord, enabling me to love you and others. Amen.
Thursday, April 23 2 Corinthians 3:7-11
“The old ministry vs. the new ministry”
Exodus chapters 32 through 34 are Paul’s backdrop for verses 7 through 18 of this chapter. In the Exodus story, in response to Israel’s sin with the golden calf, Moses broke the tablets on which God had written the Ten Commandments. Although Israel had been rescued from slavery in Egypt, her idolatry revealed that she was still enslaved to sin. As a result, the “old ministry” of the commandments failed in its purpose, which was for the people to be holy through obedience to the laws of God, and the result was death.
The “new ministry” of the Spirit, unlike the “old ministry” of the law, is able to make people holy, and the result is life. We aren’t made holy through obedience but by God’s grace through faith – that is, when we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we are “born again” by the Holy Spirit, transformed into people who are righteous before God, and now enabled by the Spirit to obey God. Thus, while the glory of God shone in the giving of the Ten Commandments, his glory shines all the more in the giving of his Son.
I reflect your glory, Lord, for you have given me life by your Spirit. Amen.
Friday, April 24 2 Corinthians 3:12-15
“We can be very bold”
The word translated “bold” is a technical term from the political realm that was associated with freedom and truth. In moral contexts, such as this, it refers to a shamelessness in one’s behavior that leads to a free, courageous, and open manner of speech. The power of the Spirit in Paul’s ministry has made Paul fearless and forthright in his proclamation of the gospel. Ultimately, this boldness arises from his assurance that his life and labors derive from God’s grace, that they are being carried out in God’s presence, and that they will be blameless before God’s judgment.
The fact that most of Israel is rejecting the gospel indicates that she remains in the same hardened condition that has characterized her history ever since her idolatry with the golden calf during the Exodus from Egypt. The very One whom they reject is the only One who can remove their blindness. Only by believing in Christ can the Spirit remove the heart of stone. Thus, when Israel reads her own Scriptures, she stubbornly refuses to see Jesus as the promised Messiah.
May we not be ashamed but bold, Lord, in sharing the gospel with others. Amen.
Saturday, April 25 2 Corinthians 3:16-18
“All of us who have had the veil removed”
Having spoken to the issue of Israel’s rejection of the gospel in verses 14-15, Paul now speaks of those who have responded to Christ in faith. He begins in verse 16 by paraphrasing Exodus 34:34, which contrasts Moses’ veiling himself before the people with his practice of removing the veil when he spoke with the Lord in the tent of meeting. This again highlights the contrast between Israel’s inability to encounter God’s glory because of her “stiff-necked” state, which necessitated the use of the veil (which symbolizes the spiritual “blind spot” of the Israelites), and Moses’ ability to encounter the glory of God unveiled as one whose heart had been transformed by the Spirit.
But whereas in Exodus 34:34 it was Moses who entered before the Lord unveiled, in 2 Corinthians 3:16 “anyone [who] turns to the Lord” has the veil taken away. And whereas in Exodus 34:34 Moses removes the veil, in 2 Corinthians 3:16 “the veil is taken away” by God. For believers, as for Moses, the veil has been removed from their “hardened mind” as a result of having their “heart of stone” removed by the Spirit.
I praise you, Lord, for healing my spiritual “blind spot” so I can see you clearly. Amen.