And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20 ESV)
By Stephen W. Hiemstra
Did you know that you are Christ’s letter of recommendation?
As I worked to publish my book, A Christian Guide to Spirituality, this year, one of the hardest things for me to do is ask for friends and colleagues to review my book and for well-known authors to read the book and write blurbs. I am too proud; I want to believe that I am independent and self-sufficient. Asking for recommendations requires that I swallow my pride and admit that I need someone else’s help. This is usually something painful for me to do.
The Apostle Paul walks this path in chapter 2 of his second letter to the church at Corinth. Paul poses a rhetorical question, writing: Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? (v 1) His response is surprising: You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. (v 2) In giving the law to Moses, God wrote on tablets of stone; in presenting the Gospel through Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, God writes on our hearts (v 3). We are Christ’s letter of recommendation to the world.
Paul then uses a word that sounds strange to us: glory. Glory is a translation from the Greek word, doxa (δόξῃ, BDAG 2077), which means: the condition of being bright or shining, brightness, splendor, radiance. Paul is making reference to experience of Moses when he brought the Ten Commandments down from my Sinai to the people of Israel—
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God…And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. (Exodus 34:29 and 33 ESV)
The glory of God was so profound that Moses himself began to glow!
Paul then begins a comparison between the Law of Moses and the grace of Jesus Christ. He writes: For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. (v 9) The law kills (the ministry of condemnation) while grace gives life (the ministry of righteousness; v 6). In other words, Paul is saying that if you think that Moses glowed, you will glow even more in the grace of Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. However, Moses’ veil not only covered his face, it veiled the hearts of the people hearing the law (v 15) and prevented them from experiencing God’s grace. In Jesus Christ, this veil was lifted (v 16).
This is the process of becoming a letter of recommendation.