What is the proof of an authentic servant of God? Popularity in church? Approval from his ministry colleagues? Dazzling ministry growth? A suffering-free life? Zen-like calm in the face of adversity?
Be careful. Paul had few if any of these. You might also notch up very few, if you go the way of the cross. The marks of Spirit-wrought authenticity are surprising, but far more wonderful. Allow Paul to show you.
Grace in those who are served. “You yourselves are our letter” (v.2), meaning, “you’ve received the Spirit of God through our ministry, and are undergoing the glorious reality of Gospel transformation.” Paul doesn’t want to count numbers, boast in his gifts or CV, wheedle a fat salary out of believers, or any of the nonsense which passes for ministry today: he is content that grace is at work through his ministry, whatever the problems along the way. And he never loses his sense of amazement in the grace of God. God called even him, and grace works in even them! (vv.4-6). You’ve not lost that wonder, or that experience of transforming grace, have you?
Focused service of a glorious Saviour. The Old and New Covenants are presented here as a study in contrasts. The Old, represented in the Ten Commandments at Sinai, was given on stone, was terrifying for those who received it, brought condemnation, and any glory it had was already fading (vv.7-16). Not so the New! Christ comes to us in the Gospel, bringing His message to our hearts, bringing righteousness, unfading glory, the Spirit Himself, freedom, and the transformation which only He can (vv.9-18). The proof of a true servant of God? He believes this Gospel, preaches it, and sees it at work in those he serves. That’s Paul.
Look back at v.1, in the light of all this. He could Paul ever want to commend himself, if the Gospel is this beautiful and this powerful? How could he ever want to win a fan club, when he is called to bring people to this glorious, life-changing Jesus, so that they fall in love with Him? And what do you want from your leaders, or your Saviour? Demand the Gospel and nothing but the Gospel from them. That will be to God’s glory, and to your eternal good.
A Prayer to Pray
Lord, Your Gospel is power! Open my eyes to see where I’m actually looking for peace, power or identity in anything other than Your Gospel. Fix this transforming Gospel glory deeply in my heart. Amen.