The truth about Christian ministry is that if anyone is truly successful in it, it will be because of God and not because of that individual. The effective minister will have no grounds for boasting, yet he/she will be fully involved.
Three truths stand out in this short passage. Paul wanted commendation only from God; his sole confidence was in God, and he knew that any competence he had came from God.
Commendation from God (1-3): Paul was not into self-commendation, nor did he feel the need to have letters of endorsement (The Message). The Corinthians themselves were the only such letter Paul needed. The very existence of this church and the faith of these people was the divine authentication of Paul’s ministry; God’s seal of approval: Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it -not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives – and we publish it. The Message. We in the church are the only ‘Bibles’ some people will read. We are ‘Living Bibles’. This thought begs the question, ‘What is the gospel according to me?’ Paul could say that the Corinthians were the result of our ministry (3). But he wasn’t boasting. He knew he had not changed their hearts, nor could he. Their transformed lives were due to the work of the living God, through Christ and by His Spirit. It is wonderful when anyone can look at people and know that they are in some way the fruit of their ministry. However, they will also know (and must always remember) that they were the channel of blessing and not its source. By the grace of God, the letter commended the very ministry by which it was produced. While there are some circumstances in which a faithful ministry is not rewarded by apparent results, such observations should not be used to excuse ineffective ministries in other circumstances. Normally it is appropriate for our ministries to be judged by their results. Colin G. Kruse: New Bible Commentary (4th edition) p.1195. Paul’s stance was, ‘We are publishing what God has written!’
Confidence in God (4):Any confidence anyone may feel at any time about having a powerful ministry cannot be self-confidence (4). It’s a God confidence; a Christ-centred assurance. This is not a matter of egotistical boasting. It is about trusting God to work through us to bring people to Christ (and even establish churches), and we say, ‘To God be all the glory!’ He’s the ‘letter-writer’.
Competence because of God (5, 6): Three times in (5, 6) Paul refers to ‘competence’. It’s an important concept here. What was true for Paul is the case for us all. Any area of competence is God-given. He makes one person an apostle, another an encourager; one a pastor and another a helper, and so on. In the kingdom of God there are no ‘good-for-nothings’. Everyone is a ‘good-for-something.’ There are such a variety of competencies generously handed out by the Lord. He gives them so that He may be glorified and His church edified. We cannot pat ourselves on the back for what has been placed into our hands, and we must deflect any praise that may come our way to where it truly belongs. As Andrae Crouch sang : ‘Should I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary. To God be the glory…’
This does not reflect an exaggerated humility, but rather a sober recognition of the fact that spiritual work can be accomplished only by the power which God supplies through his Spirit. C.G.Kruse.
…if you heard the same sermon preached where there was no spirit of prayer you might not recognize it). The congregation makes the preacher as much as the preacher makes the congregation…There is a deep connection between the prayer meeting and the Sunday services. No church can live without prayer. What changes the prayers of the saints have produced in our midst. William Still ( in a letter written to church members in June 1948.)
Prayer: Lord, I acknowledge that all the glory belongs to you and you will not share it with another.