2 Corinthians 3:4 Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. [NIV]
* Confidence [the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something]
* Competence [the ability to do something successfully or efficiently]
* Letter [actual literal terms or wording]
* Spirit [the implied elements of thought and attitude]
The Apostle understands the comfort of trying to obey the law is a much clearer standard to cling to than the mystery of obeying the Spirit. The human option is to use obedience to the law to define our competence and give us confidence that our behavior will save us.
The Apostle reminds us there’s another option: our new covenant of obedience to the life we have through Christ. That obedience defines our confidence in the sovereign reliability of God’s competence to change our thoughts, attitudes and behavior from the harshness of the literal to the Spirit of life in Christ…and that will save us…and others.
NASB Romans 8:5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,
You’ve probably heard these ideas before: the mind is the battleground of our life of faith; or every sin begins with an idea. I know you’ve heard of the helmet of salvation. It’s an interesting thing to ponder. Only humans, of all creation are made in God’s image and have been given His unique mindset and dominion over all the earth. Dominion includes the extraordinary responsibility to think and evaluate, categorize and store information based on that image and that mindset. No wonder we need a protective helmet. “Whatever gets your mind gets you.” [author Rick Warren].
“For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”
John 16:12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.
Quote from Jean-Pierre de Caussade: “The duties of each moment are the shadows beneath which hides the divine operation.”
Could I look back and see the reality of the truth Jesus promised in John 16 and the ‘divine operation’ hidden under the shadow of my own duties? The earliest shadow I remember goes way back to 1963 before I even recognized there was a journey of faith and I wasn’t on it. I was married. I was a young mother. I was in church. I was in a Bible study. I was ignorant…BUT I was there. I’d married a preacher’s kid and you were “supposed” to go to church. It was only a duty but they had free babysitting. Isn’t that an interesting list of contradictions?
I wanted to know how you could be an open person when life was teaching you to build a protective shell of “image” around yourself. I knew about that! I asked my question in that Bible study not realizing just how much it revealed what I didn’t know. I didn’t know God would continue to work his divine operation hidden under the shadow of that one duty…because I was there.
I’m grateful for the discovery of that quote from Jean-Pierre de Caussade this week. It’s true “the duties of each moment are the shadows beneath which hides the divine operation” and more importantly it confirms the truth of Jesus’s words, and the reality of his commitment: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”
2 Corinthians 3:6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
I’ve spent a good share of my Christian life learning about the “new covenant.” This is what I’ve learned: There’s a difference between confident and competent. Those two words are metaphors for “letters and Spirit.”
The “letter” does have power. It has the power to make you confident in what you know and that’s a good thing but not the whole story. That confidence can become a dangerous thing if you begin to believe that’s where the power of the letter lies.
The “Spirit” can use your confidence “—not of the letter but of the Spirit;” to build life-giving power into what you know. That makes you confident and “competent as ministers of a new covenant.”