2 Corinthians 3:1-6
The Proof Is in the Spirit
Paul returns to tackle, ever so tactfully, what was perhaps the greatest obstacle between him and this church, and that was their contention concerning the legitimacy of his apostleship. We discussed in devotions in his first letter that the church at Corinth had been visited by travelling bands of preachers, not at all in agreement with Paul’s understanding of the gospel. I shouldn’t say, “Paul’s understanding,” as if to say that there were other legitimate “understandings.” Paul is clear that he received the gospel by revelation from Jesus Christ, and that if anyone, even an angel from heaven, proclaimed another gospel, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-12). These false apostles either taught a form of antinomianism (against law) we saw Paul correct in his first letter or were Judaizers preaching the need for circumcision and other ceremonies of the Mosaic law. But they were good speakers and their “gospel” was very appealing; false gospels always are.
So Paul offers as proof of his apostleship what they should have figured out for themselves. Paul didn’t need anyone to introduce him to the Corinthians, to send a letter of letter of recommendation for him. Paul didn’t need to draw up a resume for this church: The Corinthians themselves were his letter of recommendation: “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.” Paul is speaking here of the Spirit’s work upon their hearts through his preaching when he first visited them such that they believed and were born again (Acts 18:1-17).
You see, the proof of Paul’s apostleship was the fruit of the Spirit in people’s regenerated and transformed lives. Indeed, the proof of anyone’s salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit who birthed that person anew through saving faith in Christ Jesus. They claimed Paul was incompetent; Paul agreed. And that is because no one is competent for birthing people anew; it is solely the work of God. Oh, Paul was the instrument, just as we all are as we come into contact with people and strive to make a difference for the kingdom. But our sufficiency for the task is from the Lord.
And he is the Spirit who gives life. Our faith is not based on some dead letter written on stone or paper. Oh yes, the Bible is the word of God, but even it is a dead letter without the Spirit breathing over its pages the breath of life. And he is the Spirit who bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16). Yes, the proof is in the Spirit.