“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 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.”
2 Corinthians 3:5-6
Paul devotes a considerable amount of attention to the concept of epistles, written commands, and commendations in his second epistle to the Corinthians.
During his discourse on the topic, the Apostle addresses the ultimate frivolity of such things in regards to genuine godly life. Paul asserts that a need for written commendations and instruction should be secondary to the in-the-flesh example of godliness provided by practicing believers.
Paul affirms this point by likening such letters to the Mosaic law, insisting that any writing, no matter how godly, can only bring death if not seasoned with the godly spirit underlying the words.
Paul is uniquely qualified to make these observations, having spent his pre-Christ life as a trained Pharisee.
Paul’s role in the death of the first recorded martyr, Stephen, as well as the mass Christian imprisonments he directed, had clearly demonstrated to Paul how strict adherence to God’s word leads to hatred and death if God’s spirit isn’t made priority in our obedience.
Indeed, the Pharisees who devoted their lives to obeying the letter of God’s word vehemently rejected the same God when He appeared to them in the flesh.
Paul’s primary point here seems to be that religious doctrine cannot and will not substitute for a spiritual relationship with God.
The lesson Paul had learned and sought to teach was simple: God’s word is powerful and essential for believers, so, too, the commendation and support of others is a great benefit. Though no amount of praise from our fellow man, and no amount of adherence to any scripture can replace the life-changing power of an active personal connection to God through Christ.
As Paul had previously concluded in the 13th chapter of I Corinthians, and the Apostle John devotes three epistles to clarifying: God is spirit, God is love, and love is the most-essential virtue of Christianity.
Therefore, the life-giving spirit we believers need to properly adhere to God’s word is a spirit of love. In all our acts of obedience, in every effort to help another, and every attempt to gain acceptance from our peers, we must ask ourselves if Christ-like love is the spirit guiding the letter of our actions — for the Christian spirit is a spirit of love.
Jason Shockley is an evangelist and teacher. Facebook @simplemessagelife. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org