4 And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 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 3:4-6
History and Context:
Corinth was a city on the main trade route between Asia and western Europe, and Paul had spent two years there establishing the church. Paul wrote the first letter to the Corinthians in order to address division and immorality in the church. After that letter he had an opportunity to visit the church. Apparently the visit was a difficult one for both Paul and the members of the church and afterwards Paul talks about writing a letter in "much anguish" (ch 2). Though this letter is only the second letter to the Corinthians which we have, it seems that Paul wrote at least four separate letters and that this is the fourth. This is his follow up after the difficult visit and the letter of 'tears'.
Paul is discussing his ministry towards the church in Corinth. At the beginning of the chapter he mentions that he, and those who traveled with him, do not need commendation from others or from themselves. They have commendation from the very change that was obvious in the hearts of the individuals of the church. He then goes on to speak in confidence of their ability and sufficiency in preaching the Gospel, but he is sure to recognize that that sufficiency is from God and not from himself. This leads us into the verse that I want to focus on;
"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."
Paul says that the Spirit made him to be sufficient as a minister not in the letter of the law, not teaching a bunch of rules and regulations, but in the Spirit of the new covenant. The rules and regulations bring death but the Spirit brings life.
You can see various examples of how the letter of the law simply brings death. For some it is that they enter into a dead form of Christianity. One in which they perform the rituals but have no life from the relationship with God. For others it brings death by simply driving them away from the giver of life. Either way it does a lot more harm than good to be pushing the letter without the Spirit. So the challenge is to minister the Spirit of the new covenant. What is the Spirit of the new covenant? Brought down to the core, the Spirit is simply love. As we have talked about before, there is a power that comes from ministering in the Spirit, but first and foremost the Spirit is love. Minister in love and teach them to love God, this is what will bring life to your ministry and in turn to those who you minister to.
Lord, help me to experience and in turn share the true love of your Spirit. I want to bring your life to those whom I minister to and I can only do that through your Spirit. In Jesus' name, Amen!