Not man's expectation

Such confidence we have 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. - 2 Corinthians 3:4-6

As I was thinking about competence as a minister of God from this passage, I think it offers us a clue in our calling as ministers of God. In this passage, Paul addressed to the problematic congregation of the Corinthian church in defence of his ministry to the church of Corinth. The context of this part is Paul telling the church that their lives act as the letters of reecommendation that people in that age so need in order to speak in other places and he links the work of heart transformation to the works of God, not only in the lives of the congregation but also his competencies, which he claimed to come from God, thus placing all credits to God.

Perhaps the one thing to take note is that he claimed the competence came from God. This ought to catch our attention as ministers in the church today. Anyone who briefly studied the New Testament before will be aware that Paul did have sufficient training to qualify as a skilled theologian and minister. However, he placed the glory back to the hands of God, conceding that it was God who equipped him. As servants of God today, how many times do we find ourselves being too proud of our own abilities or being too insecured?

Looking back at my own experience, i must say there are times when i was confident of my own capability but God was able to use certain circumstances to prove otherwise. I have also seen extremes when people were afraid that they are not capable enough and thus shy away from the assignments which God has called them to. Yet Paul said it so clearly that the competence comes from God, not from man. If we are called to be His ministers, then why do we fear that He will not empower us to do His work? Why should we think that He wants to sabo His own work by sending out someone whom He does not care to equip in the first place? As I once tell someone, on what basis and evidence do we have to think in that way?

To sidetrack a bit in this stream of consciousness, I find existential evidence weak for such arguments. I have people coming to me and state all sorts of reasons why they should not be doing certain things. I have heard people doubting God just because they saw certain things happening and assume that that should be the model for them, without realising that God has the perogative to lead anyone down the route that He has planned for them. In some sense, when we display doubt and choose to dwell in it in such cases, we walk down the route of thinking that we know better than God how our lives should be shaped. My usual defence is that what about the other people who went through the same experience and yet experienced different endings? If existential evidence is being taken into account, the most both sides do is to negate each other and then what?

That is one reason I find Paul's reasoning so apt for this, as it tells us directly that it is not us who are the protagonists in the picture but God is really the one who equips us in His work. This is consistent with what the whole Bible says. To each one the manifestation of thr Spirit is given for the common good and to each one He equips differently.

This leads me to the next idea. If God is the one who calls us and equips me with the competence, then shouldn't we be God's ministers who aim to meet His expectations and not man's expectation? Paul, in his address to the Corinthian church, did not attempt to yield to the expectation of the church and went ahead to correct their errors in perhaps one of the harshest tones he could write amidst all the collected epistles. But one example that I would like to put forward is the example of Jesus, in His 40 days and nights in the wilderness.

We need to take note that this passage is not about whether Jesus would sin, neither is it about Jesus overcoming His doubt about His identity but at the very key of it, it is a passage that shows people what kind of messiah Jesus would be. Would He be a messiah who serves under man’s expectation or the Messiah of God’s expectation? The temptations proceed from the fact that He is the Song of God and that accordingly He must live as the Son of God. The temptation narrative pictures Jesus being asked what that means, if He was to be a wonder-worker, using His powers to meet His own needs, or if He was to do spectacular but pointless miracles or if He was to establish a mighty empire ruling over the whole world. In all these questions, we saw that Jesus overcame the Devil’s temptations (with Scripture).

One might also want to note the interesting point that this is one event mentioned in the gospels where there is no eye witness. Therefore, if this was passed down from Jesus, then there must have been a divine reason that this got recorded down in the gospels. Interesting to note also that this passage is most prominently featured in the gospel of Matthew, which probably addressed to messianic Jews who were experiencing persecution from their Jewish counterpart. If this is the case, this makes a compelling reason why this passage occurs, in the schematics of Matthew, so early in the narrative - to inform the reader that Jesus Himself had succeeded in the tests and that He was not going to become a messiah that served man's expectation. Hence this provides an example for us as believers that we need not bow down to the trials and temptations that the enemy throws at us. If the world expects us to behave or believe in certain values, why on earth should we be flowing withhe crowd if this is not biblical at all?

Enough for now. I will hope to elaborate more on Matthew 4 if I ever have the time to blog down those thoughts


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