2 Corinthians 3

tgifAre we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

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.

Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Observation

  • Paul did not need commendations or letters of reference.
  • Some needed letters of recommendation.
  • The Corinthian themselves were Paul’s recommendation.
  • The recommendation Paul had, was from Christ.
  • Everyone could see what Paul was doing by looking at the Corinthians.
  • Paul’s recommendation was not written with ink but with the Spirit of God.
  • Paul’s recommendation was not written on tablets of stone but on tables of the human heart.
  • When Paul is before God he has confidence through Christ.
  • Paul was not competent to claim anything for himself.
  • Paul’s competence came from God.
  • God made Paul a competent minister of the new covenant.
  • Paul’s competence did not come from the letter but the Spirit.
  • The letter of the law kills.
  • The Spirit gives life.
  • The law, which kills, came with such glory it showed on Moses face.
  • The law was a ministry of death.
  • The law has been brought to an end.
  • The ministry of the Spirit has more glory than the ministry of the law.
  • The ministry of the law was a ministry of condemnation.
  • The ministry of the Spirit is a ministry of righteousness.
  • The ministry of the Spirit is permanent.
  • That which is permanent has more glory than that which is temporary.
  • We can be bold because we have hope.
  • Moses put on a veil to hide the glory of the temporary.
  • The Israelites’ minds were hardened.
  • The veil remains to this day then the old covenant is read unless Christ removes the veil.
  • Where the Spirit of God is there is freedom.
  • We have had the veil removed.
  • Since we have had the veil removed, we are being transformed to a higher level of glory
  • While we are being transformed we behold the glory of God.
  • The Lord is Spirit.

Interpretation

At the beginning of this chapter Paul continues his defense against those who were attacking his apostleship. In Pauline fashion he focuses his defense on the glory of Christ and the Gospel rather than himself. It appears that as a result of the first letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul’s opponents accused him of being his own reference, that is, his credentials were of his own creation.

Paul’s answer is. “Letter of recommendation? I don’t need not stink’n letter of recommendation.” That is funnier if you reference Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles.

Paul said his letter of recommendation was the Corinthians themselves. Care should be taken here least Paul be misunderstood. Paul does not say his letter of recommendation is from God based on the fact he built a large church of  2500 attendees every Sunday. Paul’s letter of recommendation was written. It was written on the heart of the Corinthians. It was not written with ink. It was written by the Spirit of the living God.

It would not be correct to claim that God is blessing, working in, or authorized a church simply because there are a large number of attendees. If that was the measure of God’s blessing, U2, AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Bon Jovi or any Rock and Roll or Country Singer could make the same claim. They have larger turn outs than the biggest mega church pastors. The letter of recommendation is the gospel written on the hearts of the congregants.

Paul’s confidence was in the fact he was just the pen that held the ink that was moved by the hand of God. In stating that the letter is not written on stone tablets he alludes to the promise in Jeremiah 31:31-33 and Ezekiel 37:26, concerning the grace of the New Testament.

A letter of recommendation was written on the Corinthians’ heart. But what is actually written is the gospel message. Paul then differentiates between the letter of the law and the gospel. When Paul now refers to the letter he means the Old Testament, and when he refers by the Spirit he means Gospel.

When Paul says he has been made, “sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.” He is not claiming that the grace of the Holy Spirit and His influence were tied to his, Paul’s, preaching so that he could, whenever he desired, bring forth the Spirit simply by speaking. Paul means that Christ blessed his ministry and from that his preaching accomplished what was predicted by the prophets regarding the Gospel.

We too are Ministers of the Spirit. Not like we have the power to unleash the Spirit at our pleasure and confer His grace on others. Rather we, because of Christ, can use our abilities and to illuminate the minds of men, renew their hearts and in short regenerate them. We are like a pencil. It does nothing without the hand of the author.

The law was illustrated and illuminated by many miracles. Paul touches here on only one, the fact Moses face shone with such radiance the Israelite could not look upon him. And this was only a token of the glory of the law. Paul now draws on an argument from lesser to greater. The glory of the gospel should shine with greater luster because it is so much greater than the law.

The law is the ministry of condemnation and death. When we are instructed as to our duty under the law we do not obey it. And the justice of God therefore requires a punishment. We are then cursed (Deuteronomy 27:26) and under a sentence of death.

The gospel, on the other hand, regenerates us. We are reconciled to God. We are freely remitted of our sins. The ministry of the gospel is a ministry of righteousness and therefore of life.

What? wait! Did not Paul just say in Chapter 2 that the gospel is the odor of death for some? (2 Corinthians 2:16) and does not the scripture elsewhere say Christ is a rock of offense and a stone of stumbling set for the ruin of many? (Luke 2:34 and 1 Peter 2:8) And what about Moses, did not he say the law is that law of death and life? (Deuteronomy 30: 20:15-16)

This can easily be addressed. The gospel is the instrument of regeneration and offers us a free reconciliation with God. The law does not renew our hearts to obedience and proclaims death on all who transgress. It can do nothing but condemn. The law leaves us to ourselves, while the gospel brings us Christ and opens the gate of life. The gospel does not rely on us at all. The law leaves us to our own devices.

But didn’t David say, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” (Psalm 19:7) Paul says the law does nothing but kill. When the law is animated by Christ the things that David mentions are applicable to it. If Christ is taken away, it is just as Paul describes. Therefore, Christ is the life of the law.

We are by nature the slaves of sin. We are made free by the grace of regeneration. For where there is nothing but the bare letter of the law there will only be sin. With Christ we are made new and freed. We can see the glory of the God and are being changed and transformed into the glorious likeness of God. Paul makes a reference to continual growth throughout life into increasing Christlikeness. This growth is moral and spiritual transformation “from one degree of glory to another.” We are being progressively restored to greater and greater possession of the image of God.

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