Observe here, 1. How the apostle having made an apology and defence for himself and his ministry, against those that did calumniate him, in the former verses; in the verse before us he acknowledges his great inability for this work, and that his whole sufficiency of service was from God; and this without doubt he mentions not only out of humility, but out of prudence also, in order to stop the mouths of those who might be apt to think he had too high an esteem of himself.
As if the apostle had said, "Far be it from me to think that I could procure the success of my ministry, that I have any such sufficiency of myself to convert souls; no, no, my sufficiency and success is all from God; for, alas! there is no proportion between such a sublime and supernatural service as that of the gospel ministry is and the impotency and weakness of man." Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.
Observe, 2. The free and full acknowledgment which the apostle makes of the great things which God had done for him, and by him: he did not find, but made him a minister, an able minister; yea, an able minister of the New Testament, or new covenant; not a preacher of the law of Moses, but of the gospel of Jesus: Who hath made us able ministers of the New testament.
To be a sufficient and successful gospel minister, is a very great favour from God to any person: the clay of the gospel is better than the gold of the temple; the rags of the evangelical, more rich than the robes of the Levitical preacher: it is a greater honour to be, and a greater favour to hear, the meanest gospel preacher than to hear all Moses' lectures.
Observe, 3. How our apostle here insensibly slides into a comparison which he makes between the law of Moses and the gospel of Christ, in which he magnifies and prefers the latter above the former; the law he calls the letter, the gospel the spirit; that is, a ministration of the Spirit. The letter killeth-that is, the law condemneth and curseth the sinner, the transgressor of it; but the Spirit of Christ revealed in the gospel enableth, as well as directeth, to obey, and so giveth life.
Note here, How false the Quaker's and others' gloss is upon these words: they by the letter will understand the whole written word of God contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, the law and gospel both; and by the spirit, will have to be meant the inward and immediate teachings of the light within them.
Others, by the letter, understand the literal and historical sense of scripture in general; and by the spirit giving life, they understand the mystical and spiritual sense of scripture; but it is evident from 2Co_3:3, that by the letter he understands the law engraven in stone, the law as delivered by Moses with an appearance of the glory of the Lord upon mount Sinai; and by the spirit is meant the blessed Spirit of Christ given to the apostles to enable them to preach the gospel, and conferred upon all believers that did obediently hear and receive it.