Sermon: Sufficiency from God (2 Corinthians 3)
Order of Service: Divine Service 4
#846, “Your Hand, O Lord, In Days of Old” (verses 1-2)
#545, “Word of God, Come Down on Earth” (verses 1-2)
#398, “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed” (verses 1, 5)
Location: Triune God, Brooklyn Center, MN
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 sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)
There are two words that give us trouble in our Epistle reading today: confidence and sufficient. We have a hard time being confident about anything in this life. Nothing is certain. Nothing is sufficient. There is never enough. So, when St. Paul tells us that we should be confident in our sufficiency, we must question the statement.
Confidence is the firm trust in the truthfulness of someone or something. We all know that there is so precious little in this world in which we can have any confidence. Is there anything we can count on with complete confidence? No. Nothing in this world gives you complete confidence. Everything fails. Everything falls short. Everything disappoints.
Sufficiency means that there is enough. But enough what? Is there anything in which you can say that you have enough? Enough money? Enough time? Enough space? No. There is never enough of anything.
So, as we look at this world, we see that we can have no confidence and no sufficiency. What is St. Paul telling us? Don’t look at the world! The Psalm tells us, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.”1Psalm 146:3-4 When a man dies, everything he wanted to accomplish dies with him. He might leave a legacy, but he is not running that legacy. His heir gets to use his or her own ideas with the legacy they inherit. They decide what to do with it.2Ecclesiastes 2:18-19
Since everything in this world fails and disappoints, since there is never enough in this world, where can we find confidence and sufficiency? We go back to St. Paul’s words, “Such is the confidence 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.”32 Corinthians 3:4-5 “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God … who keeps faith forever.”4Psalm 146:5-6
The only confidence and sufficiency in this entire universe is the LORD, “who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them.” He “keeps faith forever.”5Psalm 146:6 He is the only enough. With Him, you have everything you need. It may not always seem like much, but you know you have enough if God allowed you to wake up this morning. If He allowed you to assemble here this morning.
When we see God as our sufficiency through Christ, we see that the great day of the LORD has come. That day encourages us to celebrate. After He healed the deaf man in the Decapolis, “Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more He charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.”6Mark 7:36 When we see the great joy His sufficiency brings, we cannot help but be joyous. Our confidence has come down out of the abstractness of Heaven. He has made Himself concrete in human flesh. We gather together for worship because He has, as our sermon hymn tells us, brought “faith and hope and love unending” to our hearts.7LSB #545.1 All of Jesus’ miracles, all of His parables, His earthly life were given to restore the world through the outpouring of His love.8LSB #545.2
This love gives us the sufficiency we need in order to fulfill our calling to be “ministers of a new covenant” with joy.92 Corinthians 3:6 This isn’t a calling for just ordained pastors. All Christians are called to be ministers through their various vocations. The deaf man—not ordained, nor an Apostle—proceeded to tell everyone he saw the great and wonderful things Jesus had done for him by opening his ears and removing his speech impediment. God calls every Christian to do the same thing. You don’t need to proclaim things in a deep, theological manner. You don’t have to perform miracles. Simply tell people what Jesus has done for you. How He came down to earth and touched your heart with His forgiving love. Love shown through the blood He shed on the cross.
That blood is every Christian’s sufficiency. The power for sustaining life is through the blood pumping in your veins. Covered in Jesus’ blood, His life, you have the power of new life through His death and resurrection. Everlasting life is yours because the Son of God shed His blood for you.
Therefore, you can rejoice like the deaf man. He was now able to hear what people were saying to him and tell them the great and wondrous work God had done for him. He was able to tell how his cries for deliverance were answered. He had cried out, “Make haste, O God, to deliver me! Make haste to help me, O LORD!”10LSB p. 219; Psalm 70:1 That joy makes you “sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.”112 Corinthians 3:6
Jesus came into human flesh to establish this new covenant, which is really the original covenant from Eden before the Fall. The old covenant, established to bring order to the chaos sin had caused, was “carved in letters on stone.”122 Corinthians 3:7 It was set forth to show life, but it only brought death.13Romans 7:10 It would never be sufficient for the forgiveness of sins. It was completely tied down to the letters carved in the stone.
The covenant of the Spirit gives life.142 Corinthians 3:7 Life is so much greater than death. Jesus shows this through His own death and resurrection, establishing everlasting life for everyone who believes in Him. Yet that belief only comes through the Spirit. “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except through the Holy Spirit.”151 Corinthians 12:3 St. Paul will go on later in this epistle to show his own prayers for deliverance:
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.162 Corinthians 12:7-10
The great Apostle Paul knew where his sufficiency came from. It didn’t come from the man born in Tarsus. It came from the Holy Spirit, whom God had generously poured out on him at his Baptism.17Titus 3:5-8 Your sufficiency comes from the same Spirit. You cry out for deliverance. God answers as He wills because His power is not bound by circumstances. In fact, many times He uses circumstances that seem to be at odds with His will in order to show His glory all the more. “My power is made perfect in weakness.”182 Corinthians 12:9
His perfect power will show forth most brilliantly on the Last Day, when He will call all people from their graves. Overturning the power of death for everyone. Granting them the greater glory that the old covenant could never give. The old covenant hints at that Day, but it is still in the shadows. Isaiah sees the Day when “Jacob shall no more be ashamed … they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.”19Isaiah 29:22-23
In the end, that is all we can do. Stand in awe of the God of Israel. The God who gives us confidence through Christ. The God who makes us sufficient to be His ministers. These words need not give us trouble. They are wonderful words because God is our confidence and sufficiency. Amen.