Good morning everyone. I hope you are enjoying your Saturday morning. This is the last Saturday of my vacation this year. To be honest I am sad to see it end, but there is plenty of work to be done. Today we are looking at 2 Corinthians 2:12 - 3:6.
This is a bit of an awkward subject to deal with because Paul is addressing the difference between the authentic and the fraudulent. As with everything, if someone thinks there is a dollar to be made they will be at it, even when it comes to the Word of God. We see Paul's annoyance with it here:
Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. v. 17
This is an ugly thing and I am not really going to get into the criticism of the Christian industry and business because it would be throwing rocks at the legitimate and illegitimate. Let the Spirit be your guide. How?
For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. vs 15-16
I don't think we trust the Spirit enough in the area of discernment, but then again, we haven't been trained to know how. Can you understand what Paul is saying here about the aroma? People who stir up controversy and cause division do not have this aroma. Those who bad mouth and criticize do not have this aroma. Either do those who are just out to gain whatever they can for themselves. That aroma comes from those who love the Lord with all their being and only desire what he wants; the authentic believer, worshiper, servant.
I am not saying that Paul set out to give us a list of telltale signs so we would know the difference between the fraudulent and the authentic but nonetheless we find some things here.
First, a true servant is truly humble. Not a false humility but a truthfulness that shows they understand what God is doing with and through them:
To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? v. 16
There is the matter of attitude toward the ministry. Is it directed by the Spirit or greed?
Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God. v. 17
Another one he mentions is something that we must take responsibility for creating. We do not trust the Spirit or understand how to trust the Spirit so we turn to the recommendations of men. But what does anyone know more than we do? It is only the Spirit who knows the heart of a man or woman so we must discern what the Spirit is saying. It is sad that we have required the testimony of man to prove the authenticity of a servant. How can we trust this?
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:1-3)
This certainly gives pause for thought. Do I have the sweet aroma of Christ among my brothers and sisters? Am I more concerned over finances than the Church? Am I recommended by the fruit of my labour? Is the Spirit testifying to my legitimacy or is he revealing me to be a fraud? The thing is that a servant of Christ need not ask such questions of themselves. If we sincerely love the Lord with our entire being and serve him according to his will then we know who we are in Christ Jesus:
Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 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. vs. 4-6
This is the last point; what is being taught? Is it a list of rules and how too's? That is the easiest thing to preach and the easiest thing to live. I am not saying we can live the law only that it we find it easier to have a list to follow; clearly defined rules. But we must teach and live the new covenant. Our life is no longer trusting or believing in our own actions but instead it is about trusting and believing in the actions of someone else, Jesus Christ. You think I am joking about this? Next time you are in the Christian book store check out the books with the titles of "Seven Ways To Improve Your Prayer Life"; "Six Easy Steps To A Better Marriage"; "Five Large Steps To Getting Closer To God". These are all made up but represent what you will see. We just find it easier to live with lists; I do. This is one of the reasons it is easier for us to follow the teaching of the law then of the new covenant.
We need a lot of discernment in the Spirit these days. We should not make it our mission to prove the authenticity of every minister out there but we need discernment concerning the ones we come across. The Word of God encourages us to be cautious, to test the spirit and to walk away when the Spirit says walk. Look a little closer at the Christian business and industry and start asking yourself a few questions. Ask the Lord for the discernment you need for the age in which we live.