How many times have you given yourself over to the old game "rock, paper, scissors" to determine the outcome of a choice or conflict? Dating back to the Ming dynasty in China, the game has always been used in the same manner as "drawing straws" or "flipping a coin" to determine one outcome through chance. So often we look to these kinds of ideals to make decisions in our life. Sometimes, those choices we make can be detrimental to our lives because we don't choose the most stable option.
The apostle Paul, unbeknownst to him when he wrote
2 Corinthians 3, describes several ideas that seem to co-exist with the premise of "rock, paper, scissors." As I was preparing to teach this message, it was clear that you could choose any of the three elements in this game to help you live your life, or you could choose the fourth option: the
The rock is depiction of the law, written on stone tablets (as in the Ten Commandments). In verse 6, Paul
speaks about the difference between the "letter" (the law) and the "Spirit" -- "...
who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
A deeper study of the Bible shows that God's plan ever since "the fall" has been to save mankind by way of the Messiah; Jesus Christ. When sin entered the world, it put a veil between God and man because a sovereign God could not commune with sinful man. When Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, God was putting the Law into place to govern His people. God instructed man to keep the law perfectly so that we could be found sinless in His eyes, and therefore that would lead us to salvation.
But God knew that, in our sinful condition, it would be impossible for us to keep the law perfectly. He knew that the condition of man's heart was desperately deceitful and wicked (
Jeremiah 17:9) and that the intents of man's heart were only evil continuously (
Genesis 6:5) Nevertheless, God needed to define sin and, so he implemented the Law. In
Romans 7:7, Paul reasons, "
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law said, "you shall not covet."
In this reasoning, the Law was placed by God to convict man of sin. And since "the wages of sin is death" (
Romans 6:33), the law (or the letter of it) leads us to death. That's what Paul was saying in verse 6 above: "...
for the letter kills."
When Moses descended the mountain, the Israelites noticed that Moses' face was glowing, and they were afraid at the sight of it (
The picture becomes a type of the veil we have over our hearts and between us and God. If we continue to rely on legalism and the law (the rock) and not on the grace given by God through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, we will be left apart from God.
Paul continues to defend his apostolic authenticity to a church that has been inundated with false teachers and Jewish rabbis attempting to undermine Paul's teaching of Christ and His resurrection. It was common in those days for a teacher to provide an understudy (if you will, their "disciple") with a letter of recommendation or a letter of commendation to authenticate their teaching in a region or church. The letter would largely tell the reader that the holder of the letter was sent by the author and that the material he was teaching was authentic.
Likewise, we have many examples of such "letters of commendation" in our God-ordained profession of law enforcement. I know that my POST certificate, my Oath of Office and my Commission certificate all show that I have the authority and authentication to be a police officer. But do these pieces of paper prove to anyone that I am able to do the job of a police officer? Obviously, the answer is "no." The effectiveness of a police officer is in the heart of the person who bears the badge. We cannot base the effectiveness of our work on the documents and certificates hanging on our walls.
Paul is telling the Corinthian church the same thing. He makes it clear that the effectiveness of his ministry doesn't need a letter of recommendation, or a letter of commendation but that the Holy Spirit has written a letter of love upon their heart. On this,
2 Corinthians 3:3 says,
"Clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink, but by the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, the heart."
Paul plainly proclaims that if the church needed authentication of Paul's ministry, that they need not look any further than to their own lives; their own hearts. Change in a person comes only by the Spirit of God and when you change from the inside, you have been touched by God.
We can lean heavily on the letters and accolades that others give us in this life (our work, our hobbies, our education). But without the Spirit changing us from the inside, these commendations are not worth the PAPER they are written on.
The idea of the scissors comes to light when we remember that God regularly uses opportunities to cut away the sinful garbage and ungodly behaviors we take part in while we go about living our earthly lives. One of those unforeseen sins is pride. If we tend to lean on what's written on the paper, we can quickly lose our reliance on and reverence for God and become prideful and self-reliant.
Paul knew this and he gives great credit to God for being the sufficiency in his ministry. He writes of this in verse 5:
"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think that anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God."
Paul knew that he would become prideful and haughty if he failed to give all glory to the God of the Bible and it shows throughout this and other epistles he wrote during his missionary travels and time in prison. Paul asked three times for God to take away the "
thorn in the flesh" in
2 Corinthians 12:7-10. God chose not to take it from him with the understanding that His sufficiency was all that Paul needed. This thorn was to keep Paul from becoming too prideful in the ministry God called him to.
Is God's sufficiency enough for you? Are you holding yourself from being used by God because you don't believe you are adequate or worthy to do the work He is asking you to do? Well you're not alone!
Take Jonah for example. Although he was well studied and a prophet of God, he initially refused to be used by God to take a message to the city of Nineveh. Jonah believed that the Assyrians, a wicked people, didn't deserve God's grace. As such, he ran away from God in an effort to prevent the LORD from carrying out His will. Well we know how that worked out for Jonah: God allowed him to be swallowed by a fish in order to bring him to his senses. After being vomited out, Jonah
begrudgingly gave an eight-word sermon to the city; "Forty days and yet Nineveh will be overthrown" and up to a million people came to repentance." (Jonah 3:4) The result? Jonah's sermon was so successful that God relented in destroying the wicked people in Nineveh.
We so quickly forget that the bible is full of people who had issues and problems and yet God uses the weak and foolish to confound the strong and wise (
1 Corinthians 1:27). Do your own studies on Abraham and Sarah, who were past child bearing age; Mary, a teenage virgin; Moses, who had a stuttering problem; Gideon, who was afraid; and Peter who denied Jesus three times. God used each one of these people (and many more) to make the fulfillment of His will a reality.
If God can use them, He can use
are only as effective as you allow them to be. Let the God of all creation use the scissors to cut away the garbage while you simply be obedient to His calling. Allow his sufficiency to work in your life.
Finally on this -- a word of caution: If you use the scissors to cut God out of your daily life, those scissors will become detrimental to your development.
Praise God, those who are born again of the Spirit can be freed from the law of sin and death. Jesus tells Nicodemus in
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For
God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
Paul says that being born again of the Spirit of God through the new covenant in the blood of Jesus leads us not to condemnation and bondage, but to eternal life. In this manner, the veil is lifted from our hearts through Jesus (
2 Corinthians 3:16).
Paul concludes that those who have lifted the veil, thus allowing communion with the living God will find themselves being changed in their heart. Those changes, written on our heart, will conform us to the image of Jesus, as if we were looking in a mirror at Christ. (
It is clear that the only effective means for living our life on this side of eternity is by choosing The Cross (inasmuch as the Cross trumps everything else). On this, Pastor Michael Youssef rightly wrote, "
Only in the Cross of Christ will we receive power when we are powerless. We will find strength when we are weak. We will experience hope when we are hopeless. Only in the Cross is there peace for our troubled heart."
More? Pastor David Guzik has a great verse-by-verse commentary on this chapter that is well worth your time:
2 Cor. 3
So do you have the power of "the Cross" in your life." Have you chosen Christ (the Cross) over everything else? If not (or you're not sure), see...