2 Corinthians 3:1-3 – “Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? 2 You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” NKJV
It is indisputable, you cannot have a counterfeit without a genuine. It seems that whenever we find a desirable genuine someone is attempting to develop and promote a counterfeit. Even in the world of specialists such as art, some of the most skilled critics are deceived by fake masterpieces. It happens in all areas of life and those who study counterfeit currency contend that the best way to identify the fake is to study the genuine. That is also true spiritually.
This was true in the beginning of the Gospel’s presentation and is still true today. There were and are those who spread and offer a counterfeit gospel. That happened in the early church and the counterfeit was a mixture of Law and Grace. It was spread by those called Judaizers. Their major emphasis was that Salvation came through Jesus PLUS keeping the Law. They also taught that the believer is perfected in his faith by obeying the Law of Moses. You might be surprised to know that this was a growingly popular gospel in Paul’s day. It was the Gospel of Legalism. I am quite confident that the popularity of this gospel had to do with the propensity of human nature to earn or deserve rather than simply trust God’s Grace. It is easier to MEASURE religion than true righteousness. How many do you know or have you met that said, “When I get my life straightened out I’ll go to church?”
Paul considered these false teachers PEDDLERS of the Word of God. (2 Corinthians 2:17 NIV). He considered them to be RELIGIOUS RACKETEERS who preyed upon the ignorance of people and completely rejected their devious and deceptive methods. (2 Corinthians 4:2). He despised their tendency to boast about their converts. (2 Corinthians 10:12-18). He revealed that one of the reasons the church at Corinth was behind on their promised contribution to the special offering was that the Judaizers had robbed the church. (2 Corinthians 11:7-12, 20; 12:14). Paul considered them a blight upon the testimony of the Church and tools of hell. He was not shy in identifying or calling them out.
The question that comes to my mind is, “How did Paul refute the doctrines and practices of those false teachers?” He did it in the most powerful and meaningful way possible, demonstrating the Surpassing Glory of the Ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here in the third chapter of Second Corinthians, he contrasts the ministry of the Old Covenant [LAW] with that of the New Covenant [GRACE]. He demonstrated the superiority of the New Covenant, a better covenant established upon better promises.
It would be virtually impossible for me to address these contrasts with great specificity and detail in one setting but I’d like to begin listing them and highlight some important points to help each of us progress in God and have ammunition for refuting false claims.
He Contrasted Tables of Stone with Tablets of Flesh (Human Hearts)…2 Corinthians 3:1-3. The Judaizers were name droppers and prided themselves in having letters of recommendation from important and influential people in the Jerusalem Church. They argued that Paul had no such credentials and therefore he should be rejected. It is a sad state when a person has to resort to measuring their worth by what people say about them. Paul needed no letters of recommendation, he had the demonstration and power of God evident in his life and ministry. The analogy Paul uses is interesting for when God gave the Law, He wrote it upon Tablets of Stone. Israel could read it but it would not change their lives. The Law is external and for the transformation from darkness to light we need something internal. The Legalist admonish us, DO THIS, or DO THAT but they cannot give the power to obey. The Ministry of Grace, on the other hand, CHANGES THE HEART for it works on the inside. The Spirit of God takes the Word of God and writes in on the heart. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
The experience of Grace means far more than some denominational letter of approval of it is Life Changing. The true test of ministry and message is found in Changed Lives, not press releases or statistics. The Law reveals sin but the Gospel bring us to the forgiveness of sin. The Law exposes the heart but Grace heals the heart and cleanses sin. The Law shows us our deficiency but Grace shows us His sufficiency. It is truly the difference between Death and Life.
I want to discuss that aspect and will do so in the next devotional but for now, I commend the Grace of God to you and declare that Salvation is JESUS, not Jesus And Anything. It is by grace that we are saved, through faith, the gift of God and never by works.
Abundant Blessing for you is my desire and prayer!