2 Corinthians 3
1Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you?
2You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men;
3being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for 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.
4Such confidence we have through Christ toward God.
Lest any would accuse Paul of being proud or drawing attention to himself, which he obviously wasn’t, he pointed out that he didn’t carry with him letters of commendation as if he was trying to impress his listening audience. The only evidence he desired was that which Christ proved and accomplished. He didn’t need any merit badges or popular endorsements. All he needed was Christ, and Christ proved that He was working through Paul because He changed the hearts of the Corinthians. They themselves were evidence of Paul’s faithfulness to the gospel as salvation was written onto their hearts. Others could see the difference in their lives, and there was no doubt that Christ was behind it. Thus, Christ got the glory and not Paul. They were letters cared for by Paul as stewards of the gospel, but it was Christ Who enlightened their hearts and minds by the Spirit of God to receive the truth of God. The Corinthians came to faith not because they were impressed with Paul’s abilities, intellect, or knowledge but because Christ convicted their hearts and enabled them to understand by His grace. The apostles’ confidence rested not on any letter of commendation but upon the work of Christ in and through them. They needed no further evidence, used no further evidence, and desired no further evidence. Christ was their all in all, and He would deliver them and preserve their reputation for any who really sought to know the truth (2 Corinthians 1:10).
5Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,
6who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Paul makes a very powerful point about the sufficiency of Christ. No true spiritual fruit is of ourselves. The flesh cannot produce what is good, spiritual, and eternal, but Christ can and does this in the life of the believer. We can’t take credit for any wisdom or knowledge we have, for it is from Christ (Colossians 2:3). We can’t take credit for any gifting we have because it is of the Spirit. That which is good and right in our lives is also credited to the Spirit as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). We are dependent beings who can do nothing of eternal value on our own (John 15:5). We need Christ through and through, and it is God through His Word and Spirit that makes us adequate to do the good works He gives us to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The apostles and the church of Jesus Christ are servants of the new covenant, for the old has passed away. We are not under the Law as if we are trying to fufill it. None of us could do that (Galatians 3:24), but Christ did it for us (Romans 8:1-3). Thus, we are under grace, and we are not to leave in a legalistic fashion as if we are trying to earn the favor of God. God has given us His favor through Christ, and we cannot earn or deserve it. We have been given eternal life (John 17:3) and abundant life (John 10:10) through Christ, and there is no other life to be found. To try to gain life or preserve life by our own strength is destined for disappointment and failure. We are insufficient, but Christ in and through us is our sufficiency (2 Peter 1:3). Faith in Christ is thus the means to effective ministry, not our own human abilities.
7But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was,
8how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?
9For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.
10For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it.
11For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.
The Law served to move us to die to ourselves because it showed us our sinfulness and inability to keep it. Thus, it was a tutor to point us to a Savior Who alone could save us and give us the grace we needed (Galatians 3:24). Yet even this covenant of death, as it were, on tablets of stone engraved by God, had a certain glory. When Moses came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments, his face shown with the glory of God. It was a fading glory, but it was a glory nonetheless such that the people couldn’t even look upon him. If the ministry of condemnation, the work of the Law, had glory, the ministry of the Spirit of God Who brings life through the new covenant of grace must have even more glory. If Moses had some glory from the Law, we, under grace, must radiate glory even more because of Christ and because it is a better covenant (Hebrews 7:22). In fact, we should have so much more, that relatively speaking, the old glory could be considered as nothing. The Law had glory even in fading, but we have a glory that shouldn’t fade.
12Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech,
13and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away.
14But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ.
15But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart;
16but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
Because of the glory which is ours in Christ, we have great hope and should be motivated to speak openly about Christ with boldness. The glory is not we ourselves but Christ Himself in us. We aren’t like Moses who had to veil the glory from sinful Israel whose hearts and minds were hardened. Even in Paul’s day, the Jews remained hardened, refusing to receive Christ, who alone can remove a veil of faded glory which points to death. The Jews needed to respond to the new covenant of the Spirit and of life. But they were blind, with a veil lying over their hearts. Only when a person, Jews included, turn to Christ for salvation is the veil of blindness, darkness, and death taken away.
17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
18But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
The Lord is one and the same as the Spirit yet distinct, and where the Spirit is, there is true freedom because the Lord has the authority to set free. We are not under the letter of the law as if we need to live in fear and doubt of not performing up to God’s expectations as a means of meriting His favor and love. We are justified by faith in the work of Christ which is complete (Romans 6:10). Thus, we have freedom from sin to be able to live as freedmen and worship God in obedience. Sin is bondage, but the Spirit gives life and peace. We are not blinded by a veil of sin and death, but we can see the glory of the Lord as if we are looking into a mirror. In the mirror is Christlikeness, and the glory and hope we have is that the Spirit of God is continually working on our hearts to transform us to be more and more like the image of Christ Whom we see in the mirror and Whom the Word of God reveals to us. Our glory is not our own, but it is Christ in us. Our glory is thus not fading, but enduring and becoming more and more pure and permeating as we are made more and more like Christ. This glory is evidence that one day we will be glorified when we are given new bodies and made perfect with Christ in heaven (Romans 8:17, 30).