2 Corinthians 3:4-6 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Japanese society is very focused on credentials. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to matter whether you are actually competent to do something, so long as you have the piece of paper that says you are. This fits in with the “letters of recommendation” Paul mentions just before this. In Japan, the school you graduated from can be crucial in getting a good job, regardless of whether you really learned anything at that school. In American higher education today, my impression is that much of it is worthless, despite the astronomical price tag, because the students end up knowing very little that is true about life and history and having very few critical thinking skills. Even in the Church we sometimes focus on academic credentials, or perhaps the size of the congregation. Either of those things can be totally unrelated to whether the person is sent and anointed by God. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to show us whom He has chosen and anointed, and not rely on human yardsticks in evaluating people.
I am thankful to have a seminary degree, precisely because I minister in Japan, but it has had very little impact on my ministry. I do recognize the benefits of training, but my impression is that for ministers of the Gospel, the more formalized it is, the less practical utility it has. That fits in with Paul’s statement here that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” You can’t package the Holy Spirit in a curriculum! To me, knowledge of the Bible is primary, followed by knowledge of Church history to know the insights, rabbit trails, and outright heresies that have already occurred, but after that, mentoring and coaching in the process of ministry are most effective. There are times when I wish I had studied Greek and Hebrew, but my knowledge of Japanese teaches me that knowing a little of a language can be very misleading, and I have certainly seen lots of rabbit trails being followed in the name of “the original language.” I want the Holy Spirit to interpret His Word to me, so that I may put it into practice and in turn communicate it to others.
Father, this whole issue of credentials/competence/qualifications is one that has come up at various times over the years. Help me genuinely be humble, and yet have the assurance that Paul did, so that I will neither hide nor distort what You are saying to and through me, for the sake of the Body of Christ and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!