2 Corinthians 3.4-6

Title: Confidence in our Insufficiency

Text: 2 Corinthians 3.4-6

CIT: Paul’s confidence in ministry was born out of God’s sufficiency in the Gospel and the Holy Spirit.

CIS: We, too, can be confident in our service to God. Not in anything that comes from us, but in the sufficiency of The New Covenant and the Holy Spirit.

Introduction: We’re in 2 Corinthians 3.4-6; A quick review of how we got here…

  1. Contentment
    1. Content in his leadership 1.1-12
    2. Content in his plan 1.12-2.4
    3. Content in his decision 2.5-11
    4. Content with God’s direction 2.12-17
  2. Confidence
    1. Confidence in his Ministry 3.1-18
    2. Confidence in the Message 4.1-18
    3. Confidence in the future 5.1-10
    4. Confidence in the Gospel 5.11-21
    5. Confidence in affliction 1-13-7.1
    6. Confidence in grief and sorrow 7.2-16
  3. Collection
    1. Giving generously 8
    2. Confidence in their completion 9
  4. Concerns
    1. Concern for their spirituality 10
    2. Concern for their leadership 11.1-23
    3. Paul’s suffering 11.22-33
    4. Paul’s boasting 12.1-11
    5. Concern for their deception 12.11
    6. Final warnings 13

Now under Chapters 3-7: Confidence, in chapter 3 The topic is ministry – That is Paul’s Confidence in his ministry. He expounds on the reasons for this in v.4-6, which is our focus today; rd: 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. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Transition: So his one point is simply this:

We are Confident (4-5a)

exp.: you see that point made in v 4; rd v 4; Lit.: we have such confidence or we have confidence such as this. Confident? Really? Even in our weakness and insufficiency? Even in our struggle and persecution? Simply put: Yes, because, look at v 5; rd v 5a; here is the 1st sub-point Paul makes:

  1. But our confidence is not through us, but through Christ (4-5a).

exp.: We are insufficient for the task. We recognize our insufficiency as to consider anything coming from us. Period! Q.: What do you have that qualifies you for ministry?

ill.: I have no idea how I came across the book Loving God. I’m sure it was recommended to me somewhere along the way. When I read it, I knew very little about Chuck Colson. It was his third book and hadn’t been out for very long. I loved it and have recommended it to many people through the years. It remains one of my all time favorites. In it, Chuck Colson attempts to answer the question: how do I love the Lord, my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength?

There is a passage in this book that I return to regularly, which helps me regain a perspective on my life and my ministry.

As I sat on the platform, waiting my turn at the pulpit, my mind began to drift back in time … to scholarships and honors earned, cases argued and won, great decisions made from lofty government offices. My life had been the great American dream fulfilled.

But all at once I realized that it was not my success God had used to enable me to help those in this prison, or in hundreds of others just like it. My life of success was not what made this morning so glorious — all my achievements meant nothing in God’s economy.

No, the real legacy of my life was my biggest failure — that I was an ex-convict. My greatest humiliation — being sent to prison — was the beginning of God’s greatest use of my life; He chose the one thing in which I could not glory for His glory.

Confronted with this staggering truth, I discovered in those few moments in the prison chapel that my world was turned upside down. I understood with a jolt that I had been looking at life backward. But now I could see: Only when I lost everything I thought made Chuck Colson a great guy had I found the true self God intended me to be and the true purpose of my life.

app.: Colson got it: not through us, but through Christ. Of all his success and glory, of all his awards and recognition, of all he’d ever accomplished, even to the heights of power and success in government, it was useless. It wasn’t even what God wanted to use. May I ask you again: Q.: What do you have that qualifies you for ministry? What is it about you that qualifies you to serve in the King’s presence? May I say: nothing! Pile up all of your accolades, awards, and success and leave it where it is. Your confidence must come, not from yourself, but only from God.

transition: and that’s the next sub-point of Paul’s…

  1. Our confidence is from God (5b)

exp.: rd 5; our confidence is from God because he has made us sufficient for the task. A big problem for those of us who minister is the issue of self-sufficiency. We think to ourselves: I am sufficient through my gifts of accounting, building, problem solving, entertaining, and the list goes on. But Paul clarifies: our sufficiency is from God. That’ll make you confident. Rd v 6;

Because, He has made us ministers. Hear Paul echo this thought in Ephesians:

Eph 3.7-12 – Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

           So: insufficient in himself, but sufficient for the call by the gift of grace given to him. rd v 5-6a; but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant. There it is – ministers or servants of a new covenant; this is scary. Think about it! Called to something different – something new! Ministers of a new covenant! Make your way through Scripture and most men are quickly reduced to nothing before God and afraid to be his mouthpiece when called to speak or serve as He got ready to do something new.

  • Moses – send someone else!
  • Aaron – after he had watched his sons be torched when they offered unauthorized fire. He was scared and couldn’t function properly.
  • Joshua – how many times did he have to hear the phrase – only be strong and courageous!
  • Barak with Deborah – I won’t go unless you go with me!
  • Gideon – How many times did he ask the Lord for another sign? (i.e.: With the Fleece, with the men at the river.)
  • Saul – when he was introduced as the new king – he was found hidden in the midst of the baggage.
  • Jeremiah – who like Moses, told God that he didn’t know how to speak. I am too young.
  • Elijah – hiding in the hills, fed by a raven and a babbling brook. Depressed and Scared
  • Elisha – when he first was called by Elijah
  • Esther – when she had become queen – still lived in fear and didn’t want to speak up.
  • Peter – walking with the Lord by the sea – Simon do you love me? How ashamed of himself he must have felt – having denied Christ.
  • And even Paul – who had the finest training as a Pharisee, didn’t go up to Peter and James, the Lord’s brother for three years. According to Galatians, it took many years to begin this ministry to which he is called so clearly in Acts 9. Maybe as much as 14 years.

app.: We are not sufficient for the task. For those who think they are – they are often led to ruin. Nadab and Abihu – when they offered unauthorized fire. The tax collector who cried out for mercy vs. the Pharisee who prayed so arrogantly. I wish we had time to go down the list of men who stood cocky before the Lord and were torched.

Transition: No, Paul says, we are confident, but not in anything that comes from us. No, our confidence is in the Lord’s sufficiency. It comes from God. And 3rd, this confidence is of the Holy Spirit.

  1. Our confidence is of the Holy Spirit

exp.: rd 5b-6; We base our ministry and service, not on legalism; or tradition, or law, or experience and following the letter of the law, which kills (brings death), but on the Spirit, who gives us life. Paul expounds on this in his letter to the Romans (8.1-7)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

 (There is a table used here, but it wouldn’t insert properly)

There is of course, no way to read all of Galatians here this morning, but it appears that Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia is a confrontation to this very issue – depending on the law and not the Spirit. But, Paul warned them. Paul’s confidence stemmed not from his intellect or abilities. As a matter of fact he said, Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us. His confidence to minister came from God’s sufficiency in two areas:

  1. The New Covenant – that’s the Gospel
  2. The Holy Spirit – at work in the lives of men

Transition: I know the word Trinity never appears in Scripture, but here is a passage that has all three working together.

Going back to Colson in Loving God he writes: It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn’t want our success; He wants us. He doesn’t demand our achievements; He demands our obedience. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of paradox, where through the ugly defeat of a cross, a holy God is utterly glorified. Victory comes through defeat; healing through brokenness; finding self through losing self.

Observations & Implications:

  1. Only someone who is humbly aware of their complete weakness can know and prove the total sufficiency of God’s grace (R. Kent Hughes). Your and my worldly talents and gifts often hinder that. I wonder if we try to impress people with our programs and our people; our facilities and our ministries. I wonder if we rely to much on us and what we have? In our complete weakness, we are insufficient for the task. It is then – only then, that God uses us in his sufficiency.
    1. Over the next 12 weeks, will you pray? Pray for me. Pray that I’ll experience a revival in my spirit. Pray that God will let me know Him in the now.
    2. Pray for you – as a body. I worry that you’re going to say – Ah, we got this covered. Be not afraid to let your weakness show – that you might know and prove the total sufficiency of God’s Grace.
  2. The Gospel is complete. I need not add to it, nor take away from it. It is simple and yet profound. Hear me.
    1. The Gospel doesn’t need a cool youth minister to reach your teen.
    2. The Gospel doesn’t need a hip worship pastor round out the staff.
    3. The Gospel doesn’t need nice facilities to complete it’s message.
    4. The Gospel doesn’t need a church full of sinless, perfect people to make it’s point!
    5. What the Gospel needs is a jar of clay to be poured through. You and I want to be crystal chalices, clear and beautiful with no imperfections. But God uses clean mason jars and Tupperware cups to carry his Gospel to a thirsty world.
  3. The Holy Spirit doesn’t need my help to complete his work. He uses me or not. It seems that he uses me best when I am surrendered to Him and have removed ‘me’ from the equation (my wants, my wishes, my goals, my agenda). Sometimes, he works in the silence. Sometimes he uses my life and not my words. Sometimes he uses me when I am unaware. He doesn’t need me, but he desires to use me.
  4. What qualifies you for service? Will you pray that God would empty you of all the ‘stuff’ that hinders his work? I’m talking about the stuff that the world tells you that you need to be successful. Would you ask God to help you show your scars and your wounds and quit coving them up with band-aids that have pictures of Disney characters on them? Or worse, hiding them under your pretty clothes so that no one sees. You just might find that your greatest failure is your greatest asset to ministry in the lives of those with whom you work.
    1. Caveat: Don’t cast your pearls before swine.
    2. What qualifies you for service – I hope you’ll see it’s nothing from you.
  5. Christianity is truly paradoxical. Things are not what they seem. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;


O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.



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