2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

2 Corinthians 3:2–6 ESV Read More

When Paul left Corinth, all kinds of other preachers swooped in and taught something a little like what Paul taught but had a few changes. Their message involved a bunch of rules, the least of which involved paying big bucks for all of those preachers to come and lay the law down. (You can see many reasons why Paul said “if anyone preaches to you a Gospel other than the one I preached, let them be cursed!”)

These high-rolling law-bringers also had to work on their credentials. They couldn’t show up and perform a bunch of miracles as Paul could. They didn’t have an experience of seeing the risen Jesus in His full glory and we’re pretty sure they didn’t ever have such a close relationship with Peter that they could “oppose him to his face” like Paul mentions in Galatians. Instead, they had all kinds of other credentials of study and travel that impressed the Corinthians even more. They had letters of recommendation from other Rabbis and teachers to show off.

Paul didn’t have any of that. Instead, he had them. He had the Corinthian church. Their own witness of going from Las Vegas (before it was ‘family-friendly’) to holy saints was all the credential that Paul needed. He impresses it upon them with his sincerity. If you have ever met and truly sincere and kind person, you get this. Somebody can be as clueless as can be, “but by golly, that guy was so sincere!”

This isn’t quite as extreme a case as that, but do a word study on “sincere” in the Bible and you’ll see that it was something that set Paul apart from some money-making law-preacher. His care for people wasn’t out of pride or a desire to rule, but out of his interior love for Jesus and the desire for people to know Jesus themselves. Whether that sincere love was the cause or the effect is unclear.

Paul says himself that he is insufficient to show this kind of love and tenderness alone. It is Christ’s love in us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, by which we can care for one another without selfish motives. It is when we see how much God really loves this person we’re talking to that we are able to sincerely love them too.

You don’t learn this by memorizing a verse like “love your neighbor.” You learn it by actually loving your neighbor with the love the Holy Spirit has put in you.

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