2 Corinthians 3:4-6 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.
This is an enormously important passage for any minister, though many do not recognize that. There is a difference in nuance between the English and the Japanese. Where the English says “competence,” the Japanese says “credentials” Competence is focused on whether the work can be done right, but credentials are whether someone says you can do the work. I don’t know the nuance of the Greek, but Japanese society is very focused on credentials. It’s like the Pharisees confronting Jesus over what right He had to do what He did. (Matthew 21:23-27) Today different groups place different weight on “licensing” and “ordination” for church workers, but at best those are merely human recognition of what God has already done. I’m very glad to have met Stewart Briscoe, who was an anointed preacher from Britain who started out as a banker, before God called him to preach. When the Lord told him to go to the US he had to get the appropriate visa, and they wanted to know his credentials. “What seminary did you attend?” “Bedside Bible College.” “How do we know you’re a preacher?” “Sit down and listen.” Credentials are most often written, which makes it very appropriate that Paul refers to “the letter” here. However, the credentials of those who serve God are the life that flows from their words and actions.
I have always been saddened by groups that required an academic test before they would ordain someone into the ministry. I have known people with doctorates with no anointing from God, and I have known people with very little education who were powerfully anointed. Smith Wigglesworth comes to mind (though of course I didn’t know him personally). There is great danger in spiritual pride, but I still stand by something we told the Southern Baptists when they were declining to appoint us as missionaries: “We’d rather be Lord-sent than board-sent.” Mission boards and the like have their place, but such boards need to be very careful they are hearing and obeying God, rather than just operating by human rules. Jesus said that people are to be evaluated on the basis of their fruit. (Matthew 7:15-20) My focus needs to be on the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You that You do equip every servant of Yours with all they need to do the work You have assigned to them. Help me never take personal pride in what You have provided, but at the same time not doubt that You have provided and will continue to provide everything necessary. May I be bold in my obedience, so that Your will may indeed be done in and through me for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!