A letter of recommendation provides evidence of previous positions held. It is a summary of job responsibilities, strengths, skills, and talents, ability to take initiative, dedication, integrity, reliability, ability to work with a team etc. Such a letter is normally addressed to a specific person who requested it. Even though we could use all the available technology such as search engines; Google, yahoo etc, to find out about people, we still insist on official reference and recommendation letters. Just imagine how much more such a letter would be necessary in the ancient world before the technologies we have today and especially the itinerant travelers such as missionaries, teachers and other business people! In the Greco-Roman world such a letter was used to praise friends and acquaintances and to introduce them to others.
Now imagine that you invested your energy into a project or in a company or any given work and gave everything you had and earned a great reputation in the company but decided that time was up for another thing and upon your departure you received a great letter of recommendation as you moved on to the new place of work only to find out that word was on the street that your accomplishments were overblown and even an accusation that that you might have actually just made up your own reputation and even wrote your own recommendation letter . How would you feel if indeed this was not the case? That seems to be Paul’s experience in this text with Corinthian community. Paul took the opportunity to set the record straight and in the process of doing that laid out his understanding of Christian ministry and the result that such a ministry has on people. He considered the Corinthians as letter of recommendation for Christ and by extension his ministry as an apostle of Christ.
The imagery of the letter of recommendation Paul uses here describes the believer’s conversion to Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit which results in transformed lives. Paul proceeded to describe this work by comparing it to the work of the Old covenant Ex.20:1-17; Dt. 5:6-21) which was inscribed on stone tablets (Ex. 24:12; 31, 18; Dt. 9:10) with the work of the New Covenant inscribed on human heart (Jer. 31:33; Ezk. 11:19; 36:26). This inscription in our hearts ought to make us different as a people and our lifestyles ought to reflect what is inscribed in our hearts by the Spirit of God. If indeed I am Christ’s letter of recommendation then my question today is, what kind of recommendation is my life making for Christ?