CONFIDENT IN GOD: the Basis of Real Ministry

The Best Testimony is Changed Lives

2 Corinthians 3:1-11


Jerry A Collins



v  How do we know if the spirit is at work in our ministry?

v  Why is the Law ineffective for the gospel?

v  What is a ministry of death and a ministry of righteousness?



Ministry can be defined as ‘service to people with eternal values in mind’. But how do you know if you are having ministry? What is the evidence for this? What is the outcome of ministry? This is a relevant question because ministry is something we all do on this side of the grave. You have a certain amount of time, given to you by God, to have ministry. Some of your ministry is seasonal—like with your children, then teenagers and then adults. Some of that ministry ages—like what ministry you give in your teens, thirties, when you are 55 and then 70. Your kind of ministry, the quality of ministry changes over time. Then the duration of your ministry in a lifetime fluctuates—like when I was in London but then left or if you move from one city to another. Ministry is dynamic. You won’t always know whom you may serve with eternal values in mind because of your seasons of life, your maturity, and the duration you may have to have ministry to someone. But there are some common threads to our entire ministry no matter the season, the maturity, or the duration.




1. Competition for ministry vs 1

It seems that the apostle had to present himself for approval before, meaning that there had been competition for the Corinthians support or allegiance before. Apparently, this is alluding to the issue of competing with false teachers again in Corinth. They evidently came with some letters of commendation from someone that gave them credibility. Paul had followed this practice as well on behalf of those who served him (Rom 16:1-2; 2 Cor 8:22-24). The entire posture of Paul here seems to be defensive. In the wake of his ministry comes competition.


2. Evidence of his ministry vs 2

In contrast to these ‘lettered’ competitors, (letters that were unavailable for public scrutiny), Paul’s letters can be examined by everyone. The Corinthian believers themselves were those letters of commendation. The Corinthian’s changed lives are evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit and the Gospel he had brought to them. Anyone, anywhere, could read it for himself or herself. This was not a badge competition but a heart change. There was evidence of a real life-change because of his ministry in the city of Corinth.


3. The nature of this ministry vs 3

This ministry is revealing. It is demonstrating something—that the Corinthian believers are Paul’s credentials. They are letters of Christ authored by Christ. Every believer is a living letter walking around all day continually making Christ known. You have his signature. Not that we should be but that we are like it or not. And the apostle and his associates care for these believers. This was the calling of God in his life—to minister to the Gentiles—even though he often desires to minister to the Jews. He followed God’s revelation to him. Make sure you fulfill God’s calling upon your life. You may have desires to do many good things but do not let that get in the way of fulfill Gods calling in your life. That calling is to your salvation and the working out of the same. That is, that you walk worthy of God. That you walk in the direction, which conforms you to the image of Christ. That you bloom where God plants you and how you can best use this for His kingdom and His glory. Notice the contrasts here between the spiritual covenant and the physical one given to Moses.









The outcome is changed lives within by the Spirit not conformed lives without to the Law.


Here is the theme of the book—Confident in God: the basis of real ministry. He states that his confidence is in through Christ toward God vs 4-5. Here again is the contrast between human weakness and divine power or sufficiency. From God’s perspective, we are weak, not qualified to serve Him (1 Cor 15:9). But we find our adequacy he says is from God—an answer to the question posited in 2:16, Who is adequate for these things? As humans we are weak. We are not sufficient so it must come from God so we can be confident of two things:


1. One is so we can make the claim that God has changed believers through our ministry. We can be confident of that. We did not change anyone. We only served them. God changed them. Notice the emphasis on being a ‘letter of Christ’ our adequacy ‘being from God’ and it is the ‘Spirit (who) gives life’. So the privilege for us is not that we are doing something for God when serving people but that God allows us to participate with Him in our ministry to others.


2. A second way we can be confident that our adequacy for ministry is from God is that God has made us servants of a new covenant. Here is the contrast: The old one kills but the new one gives life. Moses was a servant of the Law and Paul’s competitors were probably Jewish advocating obedience to the Law. There are two things that make the Law deficient to give life:


A. The Law set the standard but offered no power to reach it 7-9.

In vs 6 it is a letter that kills and here in vs 7 it’s a ministry of death. I’m glad I’m not promoting that. In vs 9 it produces condemnation. So the Law set the perfect standard but men and women who are sinfully weak were unable to reach that standard. When Moses received it from God (Ex 34:29f) Israel could not look at Moses face because of the glory—Ex 34:30 says they were afraid to look at his face. But notice that this glory faded the longer he was away from God. So, the intensity was connected to his being in God’s presence. But with the Spirit vs 8 indwelling believers now we are always in the presence of God therefore the glory does not fade. It is always with us. So the law v 9 was a reminder of sin. It could not clean the conscience or make you perfect. It was a ministry of condemnation. But thru the shed blood of Christ on the cross we are made righteous and so we have a ministry of righteousness where people are much better off compared to the glory Moses received.


B. The Law had an honorable purpose but it was only temporary.

The Law had glory because God vs 10 gave it but now there is a new brighter enduring glory, which makes Moses’ glory, look like no glory at all. At nite the moon has radiance a point of lite in the dark. But when the sun returns the moon has no radiance because the suns radiance surpasses it—the brightness of the sun actually turns the whole sky into brightness. The radiance of Moses’ face would fade until he went back in to God’s presence. Then his face would radiate once again vs 11. But the righteousness we possess from the shed blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit living in us, it remains! The Law then was a temporary covenant but the new covenant we promote and God enables us to serve is a permanent one full of glory!


So What?


1. People need to be permanently changed so they are fit for heaven. The ministry of the gospel has the power to make that change as a payment for their sin and an imputing of Christ’s righteousness.

2. We do not do this ministry for God. He does not need us. But we participate with Him in this ministry of the gospel and discipleship because it is what he is doing today!