STUDY II Corinthians 3:1-6 (click here for notes)

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (NIV)


Letter from Christ

Paul has just completed an explanation of what it means to be a minister of the new covenant. He added a couple of sentences declaring his own integrity as a new covenant minister.

1. "Are we beginning to commend ourselves again?" asks Paul. "Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you?" (3:1) Given the presence of false teachers in Corinth and given the attitude of the Corinthian church, why do you think Paul is even bothering with self-commendation? (see also 2 Corinthians 5:12; 10:12, 18; 12:11)


2. During the apostolic days of the church, many false apostles appeared. It became common for true teachers and church representatives to carry letters from Christians who knew them, validating their legitimacy. Who are some examples of people who received such letters of recommendation? (see Acts 18:27; Romans 16:1; 1 Corinthians 16:3)


3. Why does Paul feel so bad about the Corinthians' doubts about him that they have allowed the false teachers to nurture in their minds? (see 1 Corinthians 9:2; 3:6; 4:15)


4. How can the Corinthians, Paul's letter of recommendation, be both written on his heart and also "known and read by everybody"?


5. If Paul was the person who brought the Corinthians to a knowledge of the gospel, what does he mean when he says, "You show that you are a letter from Christ"?


6. "You are a letterwritten not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God," Paul says in v. 3. How does this fact make the Corinthians themselves, in spite of their bad behavior, a more convincing proof of Paul's apostleship than would a letter validating him? (see Acts 14:15; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 10:31; 12:22-23)



Tablets of Hearts, Not Stone

7. Paul contrasts the Corinthians' experience of having the Spirit of God write a letter on their hearts with the idea of letters written on tablets of stone. What is the source of this metaphor? (Exodus 24:12; 21:18; 32:15-16)


8. From where does Paul get his imagery of writing "on tablets of human hearts"? (see Proverbs 3:3; 7:2-3; Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 36:26)


9. What made possible the writing of the law on tablets of human hearts? (Colossians 1:22-23; 2:13-17; Hebrews 7:18; 8:6-13; Galatians 4:21-31; 5:1-5; Ephesians 1:13-14, 18-20; 2:8-10; 1 John 2:27)


10. If, as the preceding verses state, God wrote both the commands on the tablets of stone and also the law on the tablets of the human hearts, what makes the letter on the hearts superior?



Ministers of a New Covenant

11. What is the confidence to which Paul refers in v.4 when he says, "Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God"? (see also Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:15-16; 10:19-22, 35; 1 John 2:28; 4:16-17)


12. In verse 5 Paul writes, "Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves" This verse answers the question in 2:16: "And who is equal to such a task?" What is the competence we have that comes from God? (see 1 Corinthians 15:10; Romans 3:22-24, 27-28)


13. What does it mean to be a "minister"? (see Romans 15:16; Colossians 1:7; 4:7; 1 Timothy 4:6)


14.What exactly is the "new covenant" of which we are ministers? (see Hebrews 7:22; chapters 8-10)


15. What is "the letter" in v. 6 which is NOT the standard of the new covenant? (see Romans 2:29; 7:6)


16. What does Paul mean when he says, "the letter kills"? (see v. 7, 9; Romans 4:15; 3:20; 7:9-10)


17. How does the Spirit give life? (see Hebrews 8:10-12; 1 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:4)




18. Whom have you known who was a letter from Christ to you?


19. What characterized that person(s) as being a witness from Christ?


20. How has the new covenant of the Spirit changed your life?


21. What examples from your life can you give to explain the concept that "the letter kills"?




22. Over what areas of your life do you retain control, keeping them "under the law" instead of giving them to the Spirit?


23. What specific relationships or behaviors is God asking you to bring into submission to His Spirit so he can heal and redeem those places in your life?


24. What do you most fear about releasing those areas of your life to God?


25. Ask God to reveal his love and truth to you. Ask him to fill you with the confidence and hope of his forgiveness, and trust him to take those painful and frightening areas of your life and to transform them with his grace and truth. Let God heal the wounds in your heart that cause you to fear and retain tight control. Let his love hold you as you risk "letting go" and being vulnerable before him. Allow God to bring into your life the love and honesty that will transform your shame and fear and arrogance into humility and confidence and authority.


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