The Metamorphous of Christ in you
Read 2 Corinthians 3:1-18
The 2nd letter to the Corinthian church was something that Paul wrote after an agonising and tortuous wait to see what the results were to be from his first letter. Paul had had to be very tough with the Corinthians who were leading very sensuous and carnal lives amongst a carnal people and He had read them the riot act.
In truth we must be thankful he did because 1st Corinthians carries some of the most important teachings for understanding Christian basics such as the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the communion table and the resurrection both of Christ and our selves. But he hadn’t sent the letter because he was fed up of them or embarrassed by them, or even that he felt they reflected poorly on him, but that he felt and intense burden for them as their Spiritual father in Christ.
For out of much trouble and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have more abundantly to you.
2 corinthians 2:4
He sent Titus to them to help bring order to the church and waited anxiously for his return and what news of their repentant hearts.
Had he been to harsh, had he crushed them or had they been able to respond to the message of change.
I have previously brought a message that we needed to change as a Church. To except that attending church is not the same as getting to know the Lord. That we must honour our commitment to the Lord to be His bond servant and that we look for our Joy to be in our relationship with Christ as our beloved.
I’m not looking for sycophants who enjoy my cult of personality, I’m not looking for you to love this church. Instead we must look to ourselves to mature from seeing God as just our great provider to our loving Husband and that as such we should desire to reek of Jesus. Friends I will not be satisfied until your conversations are of Christ, your thoughts are of His compassion and your Joy is in your fellowship with Him. Why? because that’s what you were created for and that’s what I am called here to do and that’s the direction the Lord has started us on.
Titus he had struggled with the Corinthians but was able to return and give Paul the good news that many had responded to His call. They were a good church at heart, Acts tells us so. But they had become worldly and having been corrected it was now time for the difficult element which was to actually change.
In Titus’s report to Paul he could tell him that many of the Corinthians had changed and we read that in this letter in which Paul commends the Corinthians for responding to His words
But He who comforts the lowly comforted us by the coming of Titus. And not only by his coming, but by the comfort with which he was comforted over you, telling us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced the more. For even if I grieved you in the letter, I do not regret; if indeed I did regret; for I see that that letter grieved you for an hour. Now I rejoice, not that you were grieved, but that you grieved to repentance. For you were grieved according to God, so that you might suffer loss by nothing in us. 2Corinthians 7:6-9
But in Titus report he mentioned there were still those in Corinth who refused to change and instead had gone on the attack suggesting that Paul was not a real Jew, had no right to talk to them this way, never came with letters of recommendation and could not even be called an Apostle, and so now the good work was being undone, because these men tried to pull the Corinthians back down again to their level.
Friends whenever change comes it makes the idle, the wicked and plotters jealous and they will do all they can to pull you back down. The Lord spoke to you, but they don’t want to hear, they will steal your joy and make you doubt and call it all a lie.
Who else used those tactics in the Garden of Eden?
In Corinth these people were spilt into two groups; the Judiaser’s who had come up from Jerusalem and wanted the gentiles to come under the law, similar to that which Galatians was written about; and then their was the those who had shown no fruits worthy of repentance. it is to this group that Paul writes chapter 3, Those who challenge Paul’s authority to tell them what is right or wrong, who wanted to have their cake and eat it.
Now I don’t bring this chapter because I feel we have a hardcore of stubborn unrepentant carnal people in the Church and somehow, I want to challenge you to change your ways. But I do want to look at a very important subject which is the next logical step for those of us who have chosen to draw closer to Jesus and that is holiness.
Paul begins this chapter by answering his critics who say he never came with recommendations by agreeing with them.
In an age without passports or photos, unless somebody already knew who you were, you could turn up somewhere and say by the way I’m Paul. This would be Identity theft the easy way! It had become the church way, before the introduction of denominations that a person carrying a recommendation letter, signed by the Church, especially Jerusalem would be welcomed no questions asked. This most definitely made the gift of discernment very important, where as persons fruits or actions could determine who they really were. Paul didn’t carry letters of recommendations because he knew he had been called to do this work and that his fruits would prove he was who he said he was.
This is a good rule, here at grace we want you all to have chances to serve the Lord, but to those who arrive new into our church we ask them to wait a few months so that we as a body we may see their fruits, If we don’t see your servant heart you will never be allowed to run any meetings, because it is humility and hard work that the Lord builds with, we must always work as though it is a privilege to serve the Lord, and never as though it is a privilege to God that we are willing to work for him, if that is your attitude your fruits will show.
However, Paul’s letter here is an after the fact statement.
Paul had already been with them, he had helped to plant their church, to teach and to preach, they knew of His works, they understood his teaching, they had been blessed, and now others had come and said, o he’s not a real apostle.
Don’t people annoy you, they seem to find that chink in the armour and exploit it.
If you genuinely made a commitment to get closer to the Lord and you are beginning to feel that in your own Heart don’t be surprised if somebody comes and attacks this church, your life or me in order to steal away your joy.
But Paul points not to his hard work as his fruit, or even his life of suffering for the gospel as his vindication. Instead he points to themselves and their own lives as the fruits not of his labour but in Christ Jesus, in whom he boasts to others but in whom others should see Christ Jesus.
For the Corinthians, if we had been in letter number 1 we could have probably said no not really. But why would we say that? Because of their selfishness, immorality, impetuousness, childishness and ungodliness, they are probably all good reasons.
If that were the reason, Corinth wouldn’t be a very good letter of recommendation for Paul. Choosing to be a holy people is really a no brainier; the scriptures teach us to be holy for He is holy. But what does it mean to be holy, to be a letter of recommendation to others to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
For the Judiasers it was clearly to live up to the Law of the Old Testament and if were honest for many of us we think this to be true also in part. I don’t mean the sacrifices, the feasts or the laws concerning mould or leprosy but definitely the Ten Commandments. Yet to this group Paul had already taught
All things are lawful to me, but not all things profit. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 1 Corinthians 6:12
And of course we then have the age old argument of permissibility against the law.
so lets address this issue for us as a church because I believe sincerely that having decided to follow Jesus we must now show fruits worthy of repentance. And in truth it is this very issue that Paul is addressing as he is not arguing with the Judiasers but with the unrepentant. Hence his teaching is to instruct those who don’t believe there should be any limitations on what we can or cant do, that after salvation we can carry on much the same.
Why not, if we peddle a gospel which suggests we are beautiful wonderful creations whom the Lord loves so much if only we will come to him, then we are suggesting they are already near perfection and they only need Christ to finish off the puzzle. Of course verse 3 gives away a simple truth we all know, and affirms the words of prophecy of Jeremiah
but this shall be the covenant that I will cut with the house of Israel: After those days, says Jehovah, I will put My Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Jeremiah 31:33
Today the Law of the Lord is written on our hearts and not on tablets of stone, or with ink, but in the heart by the Spirit of the living God, this is the same term used as the finger of God which actually carved the commandments into the stones of which Moses carried down from Sinai. For each of us here it means that the moment of sin is met with the heart pangs of conviction and this is what the prophet meant by written upon our heart. Where as with the old covenant, conviction came in the form of direct intervention and wrath of the Lord.
Paul highlights the difference in verse 6, when he says the letter kills. Romans teaches us very clearly that the purpose of the giving of the law was to show us our sin nature and to highlight that we were unable to be righteous on our own. Hence why we say it is a stick which chases us to the cross, or where sin abounds grace abounds far more. Without the Law we would not know of sin, and because of the law we desire to sin more, hence it kills. But the purpose of the new covenant of which the Lord convicts before the fact and not after it, is the purpose to bring life into the believer, so that they are able to come out of Sins snare. The two covenants have that marked difference, one points to your sin and condemns you the other warns you of sins snare.
The unrepentant group threw the allegation back at Paul that their sin meant they could receive more grace, an allegation which he addresses in the book of Romans