This week’s Eurasia Blog Wednesday Devotion is based on the theme verse for St. Trinitatisgemeinde, Leipzig in the year 2014, which we covered earlier this week.
–By Elizabeth Ahlman
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:1–3, ESV).
These questions from Paul to the Corinthians—”Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Do we need letters of recommendation?”—come on the heels of a discussion of why he had not yet come to visit them again, and the fact that it was time now to forgive the sinner among them. “We” is referring to Paul, and probably also to Timothy, who is writing with him (see 2 Cor. 1:1). No, says Paul, they are not commending themselves. Nor do they need letters of recommendation. This is because the Corinthians themselves are a letter of recommendation, and have shown themselves to be such.
But wait a minute…Aren’t these the same Corinthians who got drunk at the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11)? Isn’t this the same congregation in which a man was sexually involved with his father’s wife, and everyone turned a blind eye…and were even arrogant about it (1 Cor. 5)? Isn’t this the congregation in which there was division over their favorite pastor—Paul, Apollos, or Cephas (1 Cor. 3)? Aren’t they the same ones whom Paul had to counsel over forgiving someone who had caused pain to the whole congregation just a few verses ago (2 Cor. 2:5–7)? How in the world can they possibly be a letter of recommendation for Paul?
Well, the answer to that lies not in the Corinthians themselves, but in who wrote the letter, and what the content of the letter is. Paul says that the Corinthians are a letter FROM Christ. In other words, Christ is the source of the letter, He is its author. It is Christ working in and through the Corinthians that makes them a letter of recommendation for Paul and for his message. And the content of the letter is not what the Corinthians have done or will do, but is that which was preached to them by Paul:
For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory (2 Corinthians 1:19–20, ESV).
The letter proclaims what Paul has proclaimed to them: That all is Yes in Christ Jesus. In Christ Jesus, they are no longer sinners, idolators, sexually immoral, arrogant, or divided. They are forgiven, renewed, made children of God, one body with one Lord. In Christ, they are saints of God who live and move and have their being in Him. And because of that, they are letters from Christ which show forth His grace and mercy for the world to see and hear.
And so it is also for us. We are letters also written by Christ Jesus. Yes, we sin and we fall short. Sometimes we too are idolators, sexually immoral, arrogant, and divided. Sometimes we fail miserably. But thanks be to God that we did not write the letter, and the letter is not about us! Christ Jesus working in and through us writes the letter and it is about Him. It is about His death and resurrection for us. It is about His gifts of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper given to us. It is about our life eternal in Him, and our resurrection like His. It is about the fact that, in Him, all of God’s promises are a resounding YES. May this Gospel letter from Christ be heard throughout the world!
Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, help us to trust not in ourselves and our actions, but in Your Word and Your work, so that we too may be letters written by You for the sake of the life of the world; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Today marks 41 years since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. Since then, more than 55 million abortions have been performed in the United States. Please pray the following prayer from the homepage and Facebook page of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod with us:
“O Lord and Giver of life, You know the hurt and damage that abortion has brought to our land. We grieve for the multitudes of children who have been slaughtered. We grieve for the mothers who have been victimized. We grieve for those in the medical establishment who have taken life instead of preserving it. We grieve for our inability to recognize as a society what any parent looking at an ultrasound knows: that this little one is a precious human life and needs our protection. Forgive us, Lord, and turn the hearts of our nation. We believe that with You all things are possible. Let us see it, Lord, and repent that the killing may stop, the hurting be loved and cared for, and every human life valued as priceless from conception to natural death. We ask it all in the name of Him who became a Child in the womb of Mary to save us all.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Amen.”
- Pray for the unborn and for struggling mothers and fathers, that the Lord would work to bring them help and relief, and keep them safe.
- Pray for those participating in the March for Life.
- Take comfort in knowing that you already are a letter from Christ, and that He works in and through you!
- Did you miss last week’s devotion on the Baptism of our Lord? You can read it here.