Evening Bible Study
Paul had spent nearly three years in Ephesus, during which he wrote his first
letter to the Corinthians.
Paul’s stay in Ephesus ended abruptly when a riot broke out in the city
because of how the Christian revival was affecting the business of those who
After the riot, Paul headed up north to Macedonia.
The year is AD 56, almost a year after Paul had written his first letter to
One of the issues that Paul has been dealing with in this letter is the
issue of his authority.
The issue of authority continues…
:1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others,
epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you?
:2 You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men;
:1 epistles of commendation
In those days, there were false teachers traveling from church to church
taking advantage of the churches.
It was common for traveling preachers to carry letters of recommendation
with them, to let the churches know whether or not they were legitimate.
When Apollos first came to Corinth from Ephesus, he came with letters from
the church so they would know he was the real deal.
(Acts 18:27 NKJV) And when he
desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to
receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed
Paul is writing with a bit of sarcasm here to the Corinthians.
There were those who had been questioning Paul’s authority, and Paul is
asking if he needs to come with letters of recommendation when he comes.
:2 You are our epistle
In reality, the church itself was Paul’s letter of recommendation. If anyone questioned Paul’s authority, they
needed to think back to who had actually planted the church in the first place.
:3 clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written
not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but
on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.
:3 an epistle of Christ
The folks in Corinth were a type of “letter” written to the world by Jesus
:3 ministered by us
ministered – diakoneo – to
be a servant, attendant, to serve
The Corinthians were a letter written Christ and served by Paul.
:3 tablets of stone … flesh
The Ten Commandments were written on stone tablets.
God’s recommendation letter of Paul was written on the Corinthian’s hearts.
:3 an epistle of Christ
Some people may never chance to open up a Bible and read God’s Word for
But they might take a look at what God’s writing in your life.
The world knows how British journalist Henry Stanley went to Africa to find
the famed missionary, Dr. David Livingstone.
Stanley’s greeting, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” is world famous, but
few know the rest of the story. After
the two had been together for some time, Stanley saw what Livingstone endured
and wrote, “I went to Africa as prejudiced as the biggest atheist in
London. But there came for me a long
time for reflection. I saw this solitary
old man there and asked myself, ‘How on earth does he stop here—is he cracked,
or what? What is it that inspires him so?’ For months after we met I found
myself wondering at the old man carrying out all that was said in the Bible—‘Leave
all things and follow Me.’ But little by little his sympathy for others became
contagious; my sympathy was aroused; seeing his piety, his gentleness, his
zeal, his earnestness, and how he went about his business, I was converted by
3:4-6 Spirit vs. Letter
:4 And we have such trust through Christ toward God.
:5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being
from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,
:5 our sufficiency is from God
sufficient – hikonos –
I think some of us try very hard to convince people that we are “good
Sometimes it’s through our criticism
We are sure to point out where everyone else makes
And in the process, we end up looking better, at least
better than those other “jerks”.
Be careful when you feel like you have to evaluate
everyone else around you.
Sometimes it’s through the kinds of good things we do.
You will hear of people working their whole lives trying
to please their father or mother.
They grew up without the unconditional love that a parent
is supposed to be giving.
Sometimes we carry these ideas over to our relationship with God.
Some people live their whole lives trying to impress God
so He will think they are “good enough”
Paul’s “sufficiency” wasn’t based on what the Corinthians thought of
him. His sufficiency was based on what
God thought of Him.
This is what “grace” is all about.
God knows that we are not “sufficient”.
That’s why God sent Jesus, in order to make us
God took our sin and swapped it with Jesus’ righteousness. That’s what has made us “sufficient”.
Corinthians 5:21 NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we
might become the righteousness of God in Him.
We aren’t “saved” because we’ve done enough, we are saved because Jesus has
2:8–9 NKJV) —8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
God is the one who has made us “qualified” to be called “saints”.
1:12 NKJV) giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of
the inheritance of the saints in the light.
You don’t need to criticize others, God has made you “sufficient”.
You don’t have to do good things to impress others, we do good things out
of gratitude to God.
You don’t have to worry about impressing God, He already loves you.
:6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the
letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
:6 ministers of the new covenant
Paul has already been making allusions to the old and new covenant.
The Old Covenant was the agreement that God had made with Israel through Moses.
The deal was this – man could relate to God only if he kept the Law of
Moses with perfect obedience.
Jeremiah predicted that there would one day be a “new covenant”.
NKJV) —31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of
Israel and with the house of Judah—32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the
day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt,
My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that
I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds,
and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My
people. 34 No more
shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know
the Lord,’ for they all shall
know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their
iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Jesus came to establish this “new covenant” with mankind (Mat. 26:28)
The New Covenant wouldn’t be based on an external law that had been written
on stone tablets.
The New Covenant would be about a work God would do in people’s hearts.
It would involve people actually knowing God.
It would involve the forgiveness of sins.
:6 the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life
Every once in a while you will hear a pastor say that we’re not going to
spend time studying the Bible, but focus on the moving of the Holy Spirit … for
“the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” – as if we are supposed to choose
one over the other.
The problem with that is that it is misunderstanding what the text is
Paul is calling the old covenant, the Law of Moses, the “letter”.
It’s the Law that “kills” by making us aware of our sin.
(Romans 7:9–11 NLT)
—9 At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I
learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, 10 and I died.
So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life,
brought spiritual death instead. 11 Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the
commands to kill me.
Paul is referring to the new covenant as the “Spirit”
Ezekiel also spoke of the new covenant with the Spirit.
NKJV) —26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will
take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put
My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My
judgments and do them.
3:7-18 Transforming Glory
:7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was
glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of
Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing
:8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?
:7 the ministry of death
Paul continues with the same analogy from the previous verses.
He’s talking here about the Law of Moses, which results in death.
NKJV) The soul who sins shall die.
:7 was glorious
The covenant that God made with Moses was accompanied with a measure of “glory”.
After Moses received the Ten Commandments.
NKJV) —29 Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two
tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the
mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he
talked with Him.
It seems that some of God’s “glory” rubbed off of Moses from his time in
God’s presence (he glowed a bit).
30 So when
Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face
shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 Then Moses called to them, and Aaron
and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with
them. 32 Afterward
all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that
the Lord had spoken with him on
Mount Sinai. 33 And when
Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. 34 But whenever
Moses went in before the Lord to
speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out; and he would come
out and speak to the children of Israel whatever he had been commanded. 35 And whenever
the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face
shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to
speak with Him.
After the Israelites built the Tabernacle, Moses would go into the tent to
meet with God. Just like the time on the
mountain, Moses would come out of the tent glowing with “glory”.
After Moses would deliver the things that God had told him to say, Moses
would put a veil over his face.
What we don’t know until Paul explains is why Moses put the veil over his
:7 which glory was passing away
The glow on Moses’ face didn’t last.
In the same way, the glory of the Law also fades.
:8 the ministry of the Spirit
If Moses’ covenant (which resulted in death) came with a measure of glory, wouldn’t
it make sense that the covenant of the Spirit (which results in life) would
have even more “glory”?
:9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of
righteousness exceeds much more in glory.
:10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because
of the glory that excels.
:11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is
much more glorious.
:9 condemnation … righteousness
Paul gives two more labels for the old and new covenants.
The old covenant resulted in our condemnation.
The new covenant results in our becoming “righteous”.
:10 … had no glory
Even though Moses’ experience with God was quite amazing and “glorious”, it
was nothing compared to what we have with Jesus.
:11 passing away … remains
The old covenant is what’s “passing away” (Heb. 8:13)
The new covenant is what will remain.
:12 Therefore, since we have such hope,
Our faith isn’t in a “covenant” that is passing away, but one that will
:12 we use great boldness of speech—
:13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children
of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away.
:12 we use great boldness of speech
boldness – parrhesia – freedom in speaking; openly; free and fearless confidence, cheerful
This is about being firm, clear, and plain in what you say.
While Moses used to put a veil over his face, we are supposed to be open
:13 what was passing away
(2 Corinthians 3:13
The Message) …He wore a veil so the children of Israel wouldn’t notice that the
glory was fading away—
Moses would take off the veil in God’s presence, come out glowing, speak to
the people, and then put his veil back on.
Moses didn’t put on his “veil” because he was embarrassed at the glow.
He put on the veil because he didn’t want the people to see that the glow
was only temporary. It faded with time.
:14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains
unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken
away in Christ.
:14 the same veil remains unlifted
It could be that Paul is saying that the reason the Jews cover their heads
when praying or reading was to copy the example of Moses covering himself after
having been in God’s presence.
Yet Paul says that the real thing being “veiled” was not the head, but the heart.
:15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.
:16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
:16 when one turns to the Lord
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.
When any person chooses to trust in
Jesus, a whole new world opens for them that they’ve never been able to
:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is liberty.
:17 there is liberty
liberty – eleutheria – the liberty to do as one pleases
When the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, He gives us “liberty”.
It’s like that baby Max having the “liberty” to hear sound for the first
This is not a freedom to do whatever wicked thing I want.
This is freedom from sin being in charge.
(Romans 6:22 NKJV) But now
having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your
fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.
:18 But 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 by the Spirit of the Lord.
:18 we all, with unveiled face
As believers, we’ve had the “veil” lifted from our hearts and our heads
:18 as in a mirror the glory of the Lord
The looking into a mirror can refer to how “dimly” we can catch glimpses of
the Lord on this side of death. Paul
13:12 NKJV) For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I
know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
It can also hint at God’s Word.
NKJV) —22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving
yourselves. 23 For if
anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his
natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what
kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in
it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be
blessed in what he does.
The law of liberty is not the Law of Moses, but God’s Word.
The idea is that a person who reads God’s Word but doesn’t
follow it is like the guy looking in the mirror and thinking he needs to shave,
but walks away without doing anything about it.
:18 transformed …from glory to glory
transformed – metamorphoo –
to change into another form
The word is in a present tense, meaning that this is a continuous thing.
We aren’t changed all at once (in this life), but the transformation God
wants to work in us is a gradual, continual one.
God wants us to grow and be changed (transformed).
Moses spent time in God’s presence and he glowed as a result.
When we spend time in God’s presence, we ought to be changed in some way as
I think the idea is that God takes His glory and puts a little more on us.
We gain a little more “glory” each time we spend time with God.
Transformation involves at least three things.
Moses glowed when he spent time in God’s presence.
We need to spend time engaged and aware of God’s presence.
It can involve simply waiting on God.
I think prayer is a major part of this.
We need to take time to dialogue with God, to speak with
Him, to express our love to Him.
That’s the mirror.
That’s the best “image” or “picture” we have of what we’re supposed to
Keep reading and studying the entire Bible.
Learn what God’s glory looks like. That’s what God wants to form you into.
As James reminded us, it does no good to spend time with
God’s Word is you don’t learn to do what it says.
Actual change requires that you participate in the change.
There is no transformation without you being a willing and