One of the traditional ways we find out about a person’s expertise is by letters of recommendation. Typically, they come from someone who can vouch for us if we are trying to find a job or if we are seeking a role somewhere. We often write them to help people. Perhaps you have written a few. Hopefully, we know enough about a person to give an honest appraisal.
It is an important point to keep in mind; it is important to keep in mind because Paul is wondering why he needs a letter of recommendation to prove his authority. To be sure, unlike the other apostles, Paul did not know Jesus in the flesh the way Peter and James and Mary and Martha did. But Christ had appeared to Paul and called Paul to preach too; he was an apostle as well. In fact, as far as Paul is concerned, having a friend write a glowing recommendation is a bit self-serving. What is the point?
But that’s how this chapter begins, with a wisecrack. “What do you mean, letter of recommendation? Why do I need to show you a letter? The only recommendation that matters is the one God writes on our hearts.” Hence, his comment: you are the letter of recommendation, when people see the kind of life you lead according to the Spirit, more so than any ink on a piece of paper or a checklist conjured up by your friends. After all, Paul writes, it is the letter of the law that kills, not the Spirit. What Paul wants to see are lives filled with the Spirit. That’s what he is trying to get his critics and the Corinthians to see.
How may lead lives according to the Spirit? How might we commend ourselves to Christ in such a way that when others see us they see the living God?
Pastor Andy Kinsey