Study Notes on 2 Corinthians 3
This is a great chapter that provides conclusive remarks regarding the Old Testament.
2 Corinthians 3
The first part of this chapter is more of Paul defending his office as an apostle and the proof of his ministry. He then goes on to show that the Mosaic Law has been done away with, a phrase he uses three times in this chapter, and replaced with the New Covenant (testament).
This is a great chapter to show to anyone who thinks that Christians are in any way whatsoever under the old law. We are not.
1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
What proof are you expecting of us that we are sincere followers of Christ? Do you need letters from other people verifying our claims of apostleship?
Proverbs 27:2 "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips."
There are times in the bible where people are named in letters to show the recipient that the person in question can be trusted, such as Acts 18:27, or Romans 16:1. Someone like Paul would not need this, and he says why in the next verse.
Generally, if YOU are living for Christ the way that you should, you won't need someone else to recommend you, it will be known.
2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
Paul says, "You want proof of my ministry for Christ? You are the proof!" Your salvation came because I gave you the gospel and you received it. Their changed lives from pagan prostitution and sacrifice and whatever else to serving the living God is the epistle that others can read. Their conversion was better than any letter Paul could have provided.
Paul has defended his apostolic authority many times to the Corinthians such as in the related verse, 1 Corinthians 9:2 "If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord."
3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
Because of your conversion you are the epistle of Christ, not from a letter or from any writing, but by the Spirit. The Spirit works from within and He doesn't leave. Letters and writing are external and can be discarded or decay.
And in the middle of this verse Paul begins making the transition to contrasting the written Law of Moses in the Old Testament to the ministration of the Spirit (v. 8) here in the New Testament.
"Tables of stone" is referring to the 10 Commandments, and is being contrasted to what is written on our hearts.
Proverbs 3:3 "Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart."
4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:
5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
Similar to what was said in 2 Corinthians 2:16. Often we see that when Paul mentions his accomplishments, he quickly gives full credit to God. We are nothing without Him.
6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
God has made us able ministers of the New Testament. People worry about their ability or sufficiency to give the gospel, but the sufficiency is not in you, it is in God who empowers you and works in you.
Here again we see "the letter" (the Old Covenant) contrasted with the Spirit who was given for us in the New Testament. The letter kills, because the law condemns but the Spirit gives life!
See Romans 8:2-4 where the Mosaic Law is called the "Law of sin and death." Jesus fulfilled the law (as do we by being "in Christ" Rom. 8:4), met its requirements, and is now the mediator of a better covenant/testament.
We may as well look at some passages where we see the purpose of The Law:
Romans 3:19-23; Galatians 3:19-26, Galatians 4:4-7.
Christ even raised the bar so high such as in Matthew 5 that nobody would be foolish enough to think they could be sinless enough to be justified by the law.
John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
Also see Romans 5:20 & 6:14. We see this applied in John 8 with the adulterous woman, and also the Old Testament itself starts pointing away from the Law such as in Micah 6:8.
7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
Like Romans 8:2 calls the law the law of sin and death, here it is called the ministration of death. Yet it is still called glorious (note the past tense). God didn't give an imperfect set of rules, there was nothing wrong with the law in itself (Romans 7:12), but it was "weak through the flesh" (Rom. 8:3).
People get confused because they don't understand that the Law was only given for a specific time (Galatians 3:19-26), to a specific people (Deuteronomy 4:5-8), for a specific purpose (Romans 3:20; Romans 7:7).
"Written and engraven in stones" is clearly referring to the 10 commandments. We are not under ANY of the law, not even the 10 commandments.
Note the verse says the law WAS glorious (past tense), and at the end of the verse it says the glory was to be done away. Just as the brightness of Moses' face went away, so has the law gone away. God always planned for the law to have a beginning and an ending. It says the same thing in verses 11 and 14 to really solidify the point that believers are not at all under the law. Verse 13 says it has been abolished.
8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
Again we have a contrast between the time of the law and the present time of the Spirit. If even the ministration of death was glorious, how much more is this ministration of the Spirit which gives life?!
Romans 7:6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
Also see John 16:13.
9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
It's one or the other, and one is better:
Galatians 5:18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
The new covenant is better. Let's look at a few verses in Hebrews which is probably the most neglected book in the New Testament. I can't wait to get to Hebrews where we can go through every verse and every chapter.
Hebrews 7:12, 18-19, 22; 8:6, 13; 9:8-18.
10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.
This is basically restating verse 9 in a different way. The glory of the Old Covenant has no glory when compared with that of the new because the glory of the new is so exceedingly bright. This is basically the saying of "can't hold a candle" to something. Why? Because the law highlighted our sin, but the righteousness of Jesus gives us salvation.
The law was the signpost pointing to Christ.
Colossians 2:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.
Again we see that the glory of the Old Testament has been done away. It was glorious, it was done away, and what we have now is far more glorious.
12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:
Great verse here, and beware of anyone that wants to twist the words of this chapter to push the heresy that any believer is under the Law in any way. Great plainness of speech is being used.
In context, the plainness of speech is in contrast with the veil of Moses which covered his face just as Jews today have a metaphorical vail over their hearts and can't understand the Old Testament and that it points to Jesus.
13 And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
So the glory of the law was such that it needed to be concealed (Exodus 34:29-35), and note that it was planned to be abolished. The law was only temporary, just like the shining of Moses' face which eventually went away. Christ nailed the old covenant to His cross (Colossians 2:14-17).
Albert Barnes, "Paul speaks of it here as a thing that was known and indisputable that the Mosaic institutions were designed to be abolished."
Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.
14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.
The Jews still don't understand the Old Testament. They have a metaphorical vail over their hearts. This is why we shouldn't look to Rabbis for understanding the bible, the bible says they can't understand it! However that vail will be taken away if they come to Christ.
This is really true for anyone. People simply cannot understand the bible until they believe on the Lord Jesus for salvation (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.
16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.
They can't understand the bible until they turn to the Lord.
See Romans 11:7-8 and 1 John 2:22-23.
17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
The Lord is the Spirit they should turn to (1 Corinthians 15:45). True freedom is only found in Christ, not in the law which was burdensome.
Acts 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
We, saved believers, don't have that vail! Because of the gospel have an open face and are being changed into the image of Christ. From His glory being given to us. We are called to follow Jesus, to be like Him. We are called to be Holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).
Romans 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
“The more we behold this brilliant and glorious light, the more do we reflect back its rays; that is, the more we contemplate the great truths of the Christian religion, the more do our minds become imbued with its spirit” - Bloomfield