2Corinthians 3:7Ė18

Sunday Evening Bible Study

May 21, 2000


One of the issues that Paul will be dealing with in this letter is the issue of his authority. Paul now moves on to talk about the differences between the Old and the New Testaments.

(2 Cor 3:5-6 KJV) Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; {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.

2Corinthians 3

:7 But if the ministration of death

ministration Ė diakonia Ė service, ministering

The Law of Moses.

:7 written and engraven in stones

The Ten Commandments were written on stone tablets.

:7 was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance;

Godís work through Moses and the Law had a sense of glory about it. You could see it demonstrated when Moses would come from having been in Godís presence and his face glowed.

(Exo 34:29-35 KJV) And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. {30} And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. {31} And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. {32} And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai. {33} And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. {34} But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. {35} And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone: and Moses put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

In a way, there is a kind of lesson that we can apply to our lives here.

The more time we spend with the Lord, seeking Him, worshipping and learning from Him, there is a kind of "glory" that spills out from His presence onto our life.

You see another kind of this thing when Peter and John had been arrested and were put on trial before the Jewish leaders.

(Acts 4:13 KJV) Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

:7 which glory was to be done away:

The glow on Mosesí face didnít last, it faded away. In the same way, the glory of the Law also fades.

:8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?

If the Law was glorious, the Spirit ought to be more glorious.

:9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.

The Law is a ministry of "condemnation". The purpose of the Law is to show us how guilty we are before God.

:10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.

If you thought that Mosesí shining face was glorious, you ainít seen nothiní compared to what God has through Jesus Christ.

:11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

The glory of the Law, like the glow on Mosesí face, was not permanent. The New Covenant of Jesus is permanent.

:12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:

such hope Ė We have a hope in something that will not fade away, something that has more glory than Moses

plainness of speech Ė parrhesia Ė freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech; openly, frankly, i.e without concealment; free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance

We will call this "holy boldness", but itís not about being obnoxious. Itís about being firm, clear, and plain in what you say. Itís not trying to talk to another person with "hidden messages", but telling them clearly and openly what you mean.

Godís desire is that we have this "holy boldness" when we are talking to others about Jesus.


Holy Boldness

Jesus spoke this way:

(John 18:19-20 KJV) The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine. {20} Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world (parrhesia); I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.

The apostles also had this same boldness, something that showed that they had been with Jesus:

(Acts 4:13 KJV) Now when they saw the boldness (parrhesia) of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

The apostles were released after their first arrest, but they werenít content with the "boldness" they had. They wanted more:

(Acts 4:29-31 KJV) And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness (parrhesia) they may speak thy word, {30} By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. {31} And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness (parrhesia).

Here, we see the "boldness" coming as a direct result of being filled with the Holy Spirit.


Holy boldness honors the gospel. In the olden times, when Oriental despots had things pretty much their own way, they expected all ambassadors from the West to lay their mouths in the dust if permitted to appear before his Celestial Brightness, the Brother of the Sun and the Cousin of the Moon. Money- loving traders agreed to all this and ate dust as readily as reptiles, but when England sent her ambassadors abroad, the daring islanders stood bolt upright. They were told that they could not be indulged with a vision of the Brother of the Sun and the Cousin of the Moon without going down on their hands and knees. "Very well," said the Englishmen, "we will dispense with the luxury. But tell his Celestial Splendor that it is very likely that his Serenity will hear our cannon at his palace gates before long, and that their booming is not quite so harmless as the cooing of his Sublimityís doves." The ambassadors of the British Crown were no cringing petitioners; the British Empire rose in the respect of the Oriental nations.

Our cowardice has subjected the gospel to contempt. Jesus was humble, and his servants must not be proud, but Jesus was never mean or cowardly, nor must his servants be. There was no braver man than Christ. He could stoop to save a soul, but he would stoop to nothing by which his character might be compromised, or truth and righteousness insulted. To preach the gospel boldly is to deliver it as such a message ought to be delivered. Blush to preach of a dying Savior? Apologize for talking about the Son of God condescending to be made man, that he might redeem us from all iniquity? Never! Oh, by the grace of God let us purpose with Paul "to be yet more bold," that the gospel may be yet more fully preached throughout all ranks of mankind.

-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)

: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:

(2 Cor 3:13 NIV) We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.

When you read Exodus, you think that Moses was putting a veil on his face so people wouldnít be afraid to look at or talk to him. But Paul says the reason he covered his face was so that people wouldnít see that the "glow-in-the-dark" special effect didnít last.

:14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ.

The Jews took this practice of Moses covering himself with a veil, and transferred it into their worship. Whenever they would read from Godís word, they would cover themselves with a veil. Youíve seen in movies like "Jesus of Nazareth" where they wore a shawl into the synagogue, and when it was their time to read, they put the shawl on top of their head. They did this out of fear and respect for God and His word.

Paul refers to this practice, but develops it to say that not only is there a veil on their head, but a veil over their heart as well. Their hearts are blinded to the truth of Jesus being the Messiah.

But when a person turns to Jesus, the veil is removed. There is a step of faith involved. The veil isnít removed until after a person turns to Jesus.


I think this whole subject also plays a part in that difficult passage in 1Cor.11 where Paul talks about a man disgracing his Head when he prays with his head covered.

(1 Cor 11:3-4 KJV) But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. {4} Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

A man disgraces Jesus and his relationship with Him by saying that the veil hasn't been removed if a man covers his head.

:15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.

To this day, the Jews still have an invisible, spiritual veil coming between them and the truth.

:16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.

Moses would take off his veil whenever he came into the presence of the Lord. For any Jew, even today, when he comes to trust in Jesus, his spiritual veil is taken off.

:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

liberty Ė eleutheria Ė liberty to do or to omit things having no relationship to salvation; licence, the liberty to do as one pleases; true liberty is living as we should not as we please

As Christians, we have "freedom", but itís not about a freedom to do any wicked thing I want.

Our freedom is that we are no longer in bondage to the Law. This is what Paul meant when he wrote:

Ga 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

But it also means that we are also now no longer in bondage to sin either, to be ruled by our flesh.

Ga 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

open Ė anakalupto Ė to unveil or uncover (by drawing back a veil)

An allusion to Moses standing in Godís presence without the veil.

(Exo 34:34 KJV) But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out.

:18 beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord

beholding as in a glass Ė katoptrizomai Ė to show in a mirror, to make to reflect, to mirror; to look at oneís self in a mirror; to behold oneís self in a mirror

We see Godís glory only through a reflection, not directly.

Whatís this "glass" (mirror) that we see the glory of the Lord in?

Paul talks about seeing through a glass darkly (1Cor. 13:12), to say that we donít really know everything about the Lord just yet, but doesnít tell us much about the "glass" (mirror).

James does talk about the mirror:

(James 1:19-25 KJV) Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: {20} For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. {21} Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness,

NIV: "get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent"

and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

James encourages his readers to pay attention to Godís Word.

{22} But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. {23} For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:

The man who isnít being obedient to Godís Word is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror Ö

{24} For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

The idea is that you look at yourself in the mirror and think, "This is what I look like, I need to shave this part of my face a little better, or (for gals), I need to remember to put makeup on the other eye Ö" But then the person gets sidetracked and walks away, and doesnít respond to doing to their face what they remember seeing a need for in the mirror.

This is the person who looks into Godís Word and realizes that there are some things that need to change. But he gets distracted, forgets, and doesnít do what he said he needed to do.

{25} But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

The blessings come not just from reading Godís Word, but in doing it.

This morning I was reading of God promising blessing on His people if theyíd obey His Word:

(Deu 28:2 KJV) And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.

(Deu 28:12a KJV) The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand

Whatís the "glass" (mirror)?

Itís Godís Word.

God wants us to look at Him through His Word with "unveiled faces", which is what happens when we have trusted in Jesus.

And as we begin to understand God and His glory through His Word:

:18 are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

We grow from one place of glory to the next.

image Ė eikon Ė an image, figure, likeness

Which "image" are we changed into? Into the image of the Lord. Changed to be more like Him.

are changed Ė metamorphoo Ė to change into another form, to transform, to transfigure

As we have come to know Jesus, and we are spending time looking through the mirror, and even doing the things weíve seen (as James said), the Spirit will take us from one place of glory on to the next place of glory.

We will grow to be more and more like Jesus.

With the Mosaic Covenant, a person could come into contact with Godís glory, but the glory would eventually fade.

With Jesus, as we come into contact with the Spirit, we are continually changed, not by getting less and less glorious, but by becoming more and more glorious.


A short time ago the manufacturers of lighting gas were puzzled to know how to dispose of the coal-tar left in the retorts (where the tar collects). A more useless, nauseous substance was hardly known to exist. Chemistry came to the rescue, and today not less than thirty-six marketable articles are produced from this black, vile, sticky slimeósolvents, oils, salts, colors, flavors. You eat a bit of delicious candy, happily unconscious that the exquisite taste that you enjoy so keenly comes from coal-tar. You buy at the drug store a tiny bottle labeled "Otto of Roses," little dreaming that the delicious perfume is wafted, not from "the fields of Araby," but from the foul gas retort.

Christianity is a moral chemistry. It would be a good thing for nations if Christianity held a higher place among their social economies. Tar-saving is all well enough, but soul-saving is better. Grace transforms a villain into an honest man, a harlot into a holy woman, a thief into a saint. Where fetid exhalations of vice alone ascended, prayer and praise are to be found. Where moral miasmata had their lair, righteousness and temperance pitch their tent. Every sort of good thing is produced by godliness, and that too in hearts once reeking with all manner of foulness. This should hold back every persecuting hand, hush every railing tongue, and incite every sanctified spirit to continued and increasing energy.

-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)

The point is that real Christianity works. It changes us. It makes us like Jesus.