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RCCG Miracle Land Dundalk
Wednesday, September 13 2017

Contributor: Leye Olayiwola

Introduction: It was an awesome time studying at the feet of the Master, Jesus Christ, during last week’s exposition into 2 Corinthians chapter 2. Amongst other things, we dug into God’s perfect template for forgiveness as laid out by Apostle Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We learnt how we must consciously, as a church, unite in the condemnation of sin and the show of love to the offending brother or sister. We also learnt how, as the fragrance of Christ, we can please others to their edification, through our manner of doing things. We will continue in our study by understanding the immense privilege of being ministers of the new covenant.   

1. Epistles of Christ (verses 1-3)

"as some" Paul uses this term often in 2 Corinthians because of the conflict with the aggressive false teachers from Palestine who tried to elevate themselves by contrasting themselves to Paul and his background and his gospel (2 Cor.2:17; 10:2). He also used the same expression in a negative sense in 1 Corinthians to relate to the actions and beliefs of some church members (1 Cor. 4:18*; 15:12).

"letters of commendation" The early church adopted the procedure of letters of recommendation to assure the orthodoxy and trustworthiness of itinerant ministers. When Paul said "You are our letter, written in our hearts," He is asserting that he does not need a letter to recommend himself to this church (or from this church), because he is its spiritual founder as Christ is its Saviour and Lord. They were his flesh-and-blood letter.

The phrase "written in our hearts" is a perfect passive participle. Paul loved this church. They were permanently in his heart and mind. The passive voice implies that God/Christ/Spirit is the agent (vs. 3), which produces Paul's love.

"you are a letter (epistle) of Christ"- Believers are meant to clearly reveal Christ by their motives, words, and actions. How we live reflects on His reputation!

"the Spirit of the living God" The terminology referring to the Triune God is very fluid. The Spirit is often referred to as the Spirit of Jesus (Rom. 8:9; 2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 4:6; 1 Pet. 1:11). Here the same type of fluidity is directed toward the Father. The title "living God" is a play on YAHWEH, which is from the Hebrew verb "to be" (Exod. 3:14). The descriptive title is common for the Father in the NT ( Matt. 16:16; 26:63; Acts 14:15; Rom. 9:26; II Cor. 6:16; I Thess. 1:9). In the OT the pagan idols were lifeless. They could not respond or they were dead part of the year (i.e. The winter) following the fertility cycles of nature. YAHWEH was the only truly alive, always-alive God!

"not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" This seems to relate to the giving of the law in Exod. 31:18 and to the promise of a New Covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34 and Ezek. 36:22-38). This is an obvious contrast between the Old Covenant as external law versus the New Covenant as internal (i.e. new heart, new mind, and new spirit, cf. Ezek. 11:19; 36:26).

2. Spirit vs Letter (verses 4-6)

"Not that we are adequate in ourselves" The Greek term hikanos is common in the NT and is used in two senses. (1) as a large number of something (2 Cor.11:30), even time; (2) fit, appropriate (2 Cor. 2:6), competent, qualified, able, or adequate. The second sense is used here. Paul expresses his sense of unworthiness using this term in 1 Cor. 15:9. He also asserts that gospel ministers are not worthy in themselves in 2 Cor. 2:16 and 3:5. Yet, even as we are inadequate in ourselves, God has called us and empowered us as His representatives (2 Cor. 3:6; 2 Tim. 2:2). We are adequate in Him (Col. 1:12).

 "servants of a new covenant" - God's leaders are gifts to the church (Eph. 4:11), but they are still servants, not bosses!  Paul uses several terms to address the idea of servant/minister in the Corinthian letters. This shows Paul's understanding of ministry.  Believers belong to Christ.  As Christ served others (Mark 10:45*), believers serve others (1 John 3:16*).  Church leadership is servant leadership (Matt. 20:20-28; Mark 10:32-45; Luke 22:24-27). Believers are part of a family.  The goal is not directed toward the individual believer but toward the health and growth of the Body, family, field, temple building.  Believers are each gifted (1 Cor. 12:11) for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7).  We are saved to serve! 

 "not of the letter but of the Spirit"- Paul is contrasting the old and new covenants, but really heart faith (Rom. 2:29; 7:6) versus head faith (i.e., legalism, human performance, self-righteousness).

"the letter kills" This seems to relate to the primary purpose of the Mosaic law. It was given not to give life, but to accentuate and reveal our sinfulness (Rom. 7:9-11; Gal. 3:10). The Law brings condemnation (Rom. 5:13), wrath (Rom. 4:15), and death (Rom. 7:19; II Cor. 3:6). The place of the law is also clearly seen in  Rom. 3:20; 5:20; 10:4; Gal. 3:24-25. The relationship between the NT believer and the OT Law has been a greatly confused issue. Based on all the passages of the NT, it is clear that the Christian is not under OT law (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 5:18). This is not because the OT law has passed away, but because the NT Christian fulfills the OT law in God's love relationships with us seen in believers' love for others (Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14). The purpose of the law is to bring fallen mankind to Christ, so as to redeem them. However, just because the OT law is not a means of salvation does not mean it is not God's will for humanity in society.

"the Spirit gives life" This relates primarily to the distinction between the purpose of the OT and the purpose of the NT. The key is God's love, Christ's work, and the Spirit's enabling.

3. Condemnation vs Righteousness (verses 7-11)

"the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones" The purpose of the law was to show sinfulness (Gal. 3:24). The old covenant is written by the finger of God on tablets of stone on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19-20). The new covenant, also written by God, is on the hearts of faithful followers (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38). The first is characterized by obedience to an external code, but the second, obedience to an internal relationship.

"the ministry of condemnation" - What a strong, shockingly negative way to describe the Old Covenant. The OT produced condemnation for most of the children of Abraham. "the ministry of righteousness" - The NT produces righteousness for all the children of Adam if only they will trust in God's finished work in Christ.

"that which remains is in glory" The contrast is not between that which is from God or has God's glory, but which has the greater glory and the abiding glory. The answer is the New Covenant in Christ, the New Age of the Spirit, and the now complete predestined eternal plan of redemption.

4. Moses Covenant vs Jesus Covenant (verses 12-16)

Verse 13 - this verse refers to verse 7, which is an allusion to Exod. 34:29-35. In the OT the reason for Moses wearing a veil is the fear of what his glowing face might cause to the Israelites (Exod. 34:30). Paul interprets the reason so as to accentuate his depreciation of the Old Covenant. As Moses' face fades, so too, Moses covenant! Paul makes several comparisons between Moses' covenant and Jesus' covenant.

1. the Lord of Exodus = the Spirit of Jesus; 2. only Moses could approach God intimately versus all believers in Christ can approach God; 3. Moses' glory faded versus Jesus' glory never fades; 4. Moses brought the bondage of performance versus Christ brings the freedom of grace; 5. Moses' covenant was unable to produce a righteous people versus Jesus' covenant does produce righteous people

"But their minds were hardened". This Greek term comes from the idea of "thick skinned" or "calloused" (Mark 6:52; 8:17; Rom. 11:7,25). "the same veil remains unlifted" Moses used a literal veil; this term is now used to describe the inner blindness of contemporary Judaism. Jews were/are walking in the judgment of Isa. 6:9-10 and 29:10. This also relates to the Jews of our day who refuse to accept Jesus as the Messiah.

"because it is removed in Christ" - Only the grace of God can remove the blindness of tradition, self-righteousness, and sin. Religious people are as prone to spiritual blindness as non-religious people. Fallen mankind's only hope is;

1. the unchanging mercy of the Father; 2. the full and finished atonement of the Son; 3. the universal work of the Spirit

Salvation is a spiritual gift and not a matter of family, tradition, intellect, performance, or preference! Jesus Himself opened the minds of the two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35.

"but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away" - This could be a quote from Exod. 34:34. If so it relates to Moses' actions when approaching God. It also seems to be a universal appeal and invitation for anyone and everyone to turn to the Lord. The term "turn" in Hebrew (shub) refers to repentance.

Conclusion: (verses 17-18)

"Now the Lord is the Spirit" - The ministry of Jesus and the Spirit are inseparably linked (vs.17-18). The ministry of the Spirit is to magnify Jesus.

"there is liberty" - This refers to freedom from spiritual blindness, self-righteousness, and legalism caused by a personal faith relationship with Jesus Christ 

 "with unveiled face" - This is a perfect passive participle implying a permanent unveiling. 

"beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord" The gospel has fully revealed both YAHWEH and Jesus of Nazareth (2 Cor.4:6). As we respond in repentance and faith the revelation changes us into His image.

"are being transformed" This is a present passive indicative. All of the verbals in this context are passive voice, implying God's activity on our behalf, transforming believers into Christ's likeness (Rom. 12:2). This same verb is used of the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:2).

"into the same image" Jesus is the image of God (2 Cor.4:4; John 1:14-18; 14:9; Heb. 1:3). Humans were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Believers are in the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29-30). Christlikeness is God's primary goal for all believers (Gal. 4:19; Eph. 1:4).

"from glory to glory" There are stages in God's plan of restoration and renewal. Believers are in a process that leads to Christlikeness (1John 3:2).

Most parts of this study was culled from

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