2Corinthians 3 — To a Church in Crisis, With Love

Text: 2Corinthians 3

With love, even God’s own divine love in our hearts, Paul and I move from 1Corinthians into 2Corinthians Chapter 3 today. We want you to join us in being the Amen to God’s promises of reconciliation, of salvation, and of the infilling of the Holy Spirit! Yes! Truth! He has done it in you, and in us! You will say it, when you are filled!

If I were to give this a title, it would be, “The Ministry of the Spirit.” Beloved, do you minister to others, in this way? 

Verse 1 — 

Paul once again asks if he must somehow commend (that is, provide proof) to them, or that he must supply them with letters of commendation from Jerusalem or from the believers in Corinth (!!) in order for them to believe Paul and obey his instructions! They continue to question and resist him. It grieves my heart, and it happens often in today’s church — particularly if a Spirit-filled pastor is appointed. 

So, he says, do I need to commend myself? Do I need to somehow prove I am from the Lord? Do I need to provide you with favorable letters of commendation from others, so you will trust me? Such things should not be necessary, but at Corinth, they 1) are listening to false teachers and 2) are offended by Paul’s exhortations.

Verse 2 —

You are our letter, declares Paul! You are our proof, for you came to Christ through me, and have been ministered to by Timothy. You are our letter, written in our hearts — we do not just come and go and forget about you, O Corinthians. You are in our hearts. And our hearts, and their contents, are known and read by all men.

There is no mistaking who we are. There is no doubt of our love, Paul says, in anyone’s heart but yours!

Verse 3 —
It has been shown, Paul says, that you, O Corinthians, are a letter of Christ, cared for by us (ministered to by us), written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. 

They came to faith in Christ through Paul’s ministry. They belong to Christ because of Paul’s ministry to them! And some have a measure of the Spirit.

This letter of Christ is not written with ink, which will fade. It is written with the Spirit of the living God — He writes it, He is eternal, and what He writes is eternal! It is not written on tablets of stone, as were the Ten Commandments. It is written on tablets of human hearts! 

The evidence of Christ’s imprint on their hearts should be visible in them all, and is visible in some of them. But the conduct of others in the church at Corinth reveals that they are not yet letters of Christ. In many, there is nothing written on the tablets of their hearts yet. It is my own experience, and Christ’s and Paul’s exhortations, that they must be filled with the Holy Spirit, and then the love letter of Christ, and the two greatest commandments, will be written there!

Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

They will do these things when they are filled with His divine love! Are you filled with His divine love?

Verses 4-6 —

Such confidence we have through Christ toward God, says Paul. Timothy and Paul are confident that indeed, they are validated as apostles by the work done in the hearts of some of the Corinthian believers. They are not confident in their own ability to make it so, but on Christ’s, and they look toward God to do in the hearts of the Corinthians what must be done.

It is not that Timothy and Paul are adequate in themselves. Nothing that they do stems from their own adequacy. 

As he has said in 2:16, Who is adequate! Not I! Not Timothy! Not Paul! None of us! But their adequacy comes from God! Hallelujah!

We are filled with His Spirit and His divine love, and His Spirit teaches us all of the truth, and empowers us, making us Christ’s witnesses here. 

And many have come to salvation, because God’s empowerment is more than adequate — it is perfect and complete!

Who made Paul and Timothy and us adequate? God, when we were filled with the Holy Spirit! We could not otherwise be appointed as servants of a new covenant. What is this new covenant? 

It is not a covenant of the letter (the Law of Moses) but of the Spirit, for the letter kills. It shows us the poverty of our hearts but does not provide the cure for it. We cannot stop sinning as long as the sin nature is alive in us, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)! 

So is the Law bad? No! Paul tells the believers in Rome that the Commandments holy and righteous and good, (Romans 7:9-12) but the sin nature in us causes us to rebel and disobey and sin.

But the Spirit gives life, zoe, life as God has it, eternal life! When Jesus died and rose and ascended and was glorified, the new covenant was instituted. Now, there is a way for human hearts to be changed so drastically that we are able to easily obey His commands. 

And it is a pleasure to do so! The sin nature, which always railed against God’s good and perfect Law, is crucified. We become partakers of the divine nature (2Peter 1:4), and doing God’s will is as automatic as breathing. Glory to His holy name! Oh, beloved, the Spirit gives LIFE!!! And then, God working through you by His Spirit, you bring life to others!

Verses 7-8 —

The ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones (the Ten Commandments), came with glory (the brilliant and fiery presence of God), so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, even though that glory was fading —

Exodus 34:34 But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, 35 the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.

That ministry came with glory, but the ministry of the Spirit came with much more glory! It will not fade! It is eternal, because it is God’s glory, in a human container! 

Verse 9 —

The ministry of condemnation (the Ten Commandments condemn us as we read them because our sin natures are rebellious and we do not do them) came with glory.

But how much more does the ministry of righteousness — that is, the ministry of the Holy Spirit to us when He fills us and makes us righteous, and through us, as He ministers through us to others —  superabound in glory!

Verses 10-11 — 

What had glory — the ministry of the Lord to and through Moses — is now surpassed by the ministry of the Spirit. Moses’ face shone while he was in the presence of the Lord, but the shine faded until he went into the tent of meeting again. But the Spirit who fills us and remains in us causes the glory of God to shine brightly from us, always! 

Verses 12-14 —

Therefore, having such a hope — what a hope! Christ in us, the hope of glory! His glory in us, and shining from us always! Paul and Timothy have that hope, and so they speak with great (abundant) boldness (straightforwardness) to the believers at Corinth, and everywhere they go!

We who are filled with the Spirit are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so the sons of Israel would look intently at the end of what was fading away. Our glory does not fade away! 

But the sons of Israel had hearts that were hard and rebellious against the Law. Until this very day, at the reading of the Law of Moses, the veil remains over their hearts. 

Why? It is removed in Christ, the Messiah whom they still reject. If it were lifted from their hearts (and it will be, at the end of things, per Romans 11:25-27), He will lift the veil so they can see the true meaning of the Law, and cry out for Him to take the rebellion from their hearts and fill them with His glory!

Verses 15-16 —

Paul repeats himself, for emphasis, saying, And to this day, whenever Moses (the Law of Moses) is read, a veil lies over their heart. But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away! 

When I turned to the Lord, it was because I had the first glimpse of my heart. I needed a Savior from my past sins! Then, I heeded His words and realized my heart was still rebellious. So I cried out to be filled with the Holy Spirit. If you will do the same, you will shine continually!

Verses 17-18 —

Now the Lord is the Spirit — they are both God, and the Lord comes to us by way of the Spirit. They and the Father fill us with themselves (John 14:23). 

And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Is it liberty to do what we want, without penalty of death? No! This liberty is freedom from slavery to sin (Romans 6:7, 18, 22) just as promised by Jesus Christ in John 8:31-36!

Oh, that you, O believer, would continue in His words, and thus show yourself to be His disciple, for you would know the truth, and the truth would set you free from slavery to sin — free indeed, free to the uttermost, forever free from the sin nature that causes your heart to be veiled and hard and rebellious! Glory to God! 

Do you want to know your life’s purpose? It is to be set free from sin and to then shine in such a way that none can deny that Jesus Christ is who He says He is, sent by the Father! It is to be as He is, in this world! He will do it, if you ask Him!

And then you will be able to say with Paul and the rest —

We all, with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord — we are the reflection of that glory — are being transformed (metamorphoo, as with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration) into the same image, from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 

Once we are filled, He continues to form His character in us, and we reflect His image and shine ever brighter as we grow! And I am confident that He will always do so —

Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Hallelujah! May you seek all that Christ commands you to have! You will shine! Amen, Lord Jesus! So be it!