“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be 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’ve been reading through 2 Corinthians, I came across this passage, reading it over and over, and once again it struck me how much Paul saw everything in his and other believers lives as having come from God alone, not from ourselves. Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is of no avail.” (John 6:63) If we are humble, that is a work of the Spirit. If we have faith, the same. If we repent of evil deeds, God graciously granted that very repentance. If we do good works to a dying world in order to proclaim salvation through Christ alone, we are not sufficient in ourselves to claim anything, including this, as having come from us, but from God sufficiently and effectively working in us to do that which is pleasing. If we feel pretty good about ourselves after having performed some service, is this not the mark of self-righteousness? This is opposed to the very thing Paul is saying here. Rather, we should rejoice in the work of God in us which gave rise to the accomplishing of the task.
In addition to this though, in Galatians 6:14, Paul saw every thing as coming from God directly connected with Christ as a blood-bought gift of the cross. We are not sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but in Christ alone is our sufficiency. Everything God demands of us (including faith, repentance, obedience to the law) is given in the work of Christ for us. If we have material blessings, obviously these are from God. But what about intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, spiritual insight into the things of Scripture? Do these not come from the sovereign hand of the Spirit who gives life, giving us understanding into that which we cannot understand of ourselves? What about trials for the sharpening of our faith, as the impurities are melted out of gold with fire? Is this not a gift of God, something to rejoice in, though our flesh may ache and groan? The gift of faith in Christ for salvation, spiritual eyes to see and ears to hear Christ, a hatred for unrighteousness? Where do all of these come from except from the infinitely loving and merciful hand of God toward wicked sinners who should eternally die in hell?
Christ’s work alone for me, not my works (both good or bad), change my perfect standing with God. Every day, every moment even, I have to repeat this idea that in no way am I sufficient in myself to claim any thing as coming from myself (this is pride and arrogance), but I can only boast in Christ, and His work on my behalf, having purchased for me all the panorama of blessings unto eternal life, from beginning to end. I am dependent upon Him even to grow in conformity to Christ. (2 Timothy 2:24-26) The knowledge of God’s working in me that which is pleasing to Him (greater faith, obedience, repentance) is so humbling, because in all reality He could have just left me to my sinful will, bound in unbelief and I know I would have stayed there, further hardening my heart toward His might, power and love. But He came in and freed me from my unbelief, in order that I may be saved through faith in Christ while I was dead in sin.
Lord God Almighty! May we rejoice together that our sufficiency is not from within ourselves, for salvation as well as growth in salvation, because what really can we claim as coming from ourselves? Nothing. We acknowledge that apart from your revelation into the truth of the Gospel in the Scriptures, we are poor, blind, and spiritually dead. Work in us to create in us clean hearts that are pleasing to You. We are desperate for You to change us that we may be satisfied by Your presence and witness, and acknowledge we have no hope apart from You working in us. Cleanse us by the blood of Christ, that we may be holy and pleasing to You in all of our ways.
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)