PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 3:12-16; Unveiled Boldness

06/03_2Corinthians 3:12-16; Unveiled Boldness ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180603_2cor3_12-16.mp3

Sufficient to Speak God’s Word

Paul has said that through us God in Christ is spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere (2:14); that he is the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing (2:15). To one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. And he asks; ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ (2:16) He claims to handle God’s word sincerely, from God, in the face of God, speaking in Christ (2:17). And he says:

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Paul claims to speak God’s word from God in the presence of God in Christ. And he has confidence through Christ toward God, because his sufficiency does not come from himself; his sufficiency comes from God. He is competent to be a minister of the new covenant, a minster of the Spirit, because God has made him competent. He contrasts the glory of these two ministries; the letter and the Spirit

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

Letter vs. Spirit; stone tablets vs. tablets of flesh hearts; that which kills vs. that which makes alive; a ministry of death vs. a ministry of the Spirit; a ministry of condemnation vs. a ministry of righteousness; that which is abolished vs. that which is permanent. Although Moses’ ministry came with great glory, the ministry of the Spirit comes with such surpassingly greater glory that Moses ministry has come to have no glory at all in comparison.

He goes on in verse 12:

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Such a Hope

Having this kind of hope, we have much boldness. What hope is he talking about? Remember, hope in the Bible is not wishful thinking, but solid confident expectation that God will do what he said. He has hope in the life giving ministry of the Spirit. He has hope in the ministry of righteousness. He has hope in the lasting glory of the transforming power of the new covenant. He has hope in God, who through his ministry spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere. He has rock-solid expectation that God is leading him and God is at work, even in the middle of afflictions and burdens and despair.

Bold Openness

He says this hope leads to boldness. What does he mean ‘boldness?’ In verse 4 he spoke of his confidence of sufficiency in ministry that comes from from God, confidence that is through Christ, confidence that is toward God. In 2:17 he claims to handle God’s word with sincerity, speaking in Christ in the sight of God. This word ‘boldness’ is the unhindered confidence to speak what is true regardless of the outcome. It refers often, especially in the gospels and Acts to a plainness of speech, a freedom or openness of speech, out in public; in contrast to a self-conscious shyness, secrecy, or a desire to hide or conceal, to speak in riddles or parables. Paul says that genuine apostolic ministry is plain, up front, honest, clear speaking, nothing to hide. This fits right in with what he said in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Paul said it straight, told it like it is. The gospel is the gospel; it offends many, it turns many away. The apostles refused to water it down, change it up, repackage it to make it more palatable.

You are a sinner. You deserve hell. But God loves you, he sent his only Son Jesus to become a man to die in your place to rescue you. If you turn away from your pride, from your merit, if you come to him needy, as a taker, to simply receive what he freely gives, he will forgive you and save you and transform you and make you his forever.

The gospel is not about me. It is all about Jesus. It is all about Jesus Christ and him crucified. It is simple. It is so simple a child can receive it. It is so simple you can tell it to your friends.

This is the main point of this passage. Paul goes on to illustrate this from Moses in Exodus, and there is a lot of debate over exactly what he means in the illustration, but I don’t want to miss the main point. Paul is defending his apostolic ministry and he says ‘because we have this kind of hope we are very bold, open, plain.’ We are not like Moses.

Moses’ Veiled Glory

Last time we looked at Exodus 34, the narrative Paul is drawing from. Moses asked to see the glory of God; God said he would make all his goodness pass before him and put on display his grace and his mercy (33:18-19). He proclaimed his name, his character, his mercy, grace, patience, love, faithfulness, forgiveness, and his justice and righteousness. It says Moses ‘was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights’ (34:28). And it says

Exodus 34:29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Paul has already drawn attention to the shining or glorious face of Moses in 3:7.

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end,

Now in verse 13 he draws attention to the veil that Moses used to hide his face.

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.

Both verses talk about what was being brought to an end. As we saw last time, this word literally means being abolished, extinguished, destroyed, or done away with. This word shows up in verses 7, 11, 13 and 14. The glory of Moses’ ministry is rendered inoperative or ineffective.

In verse 7 the Israelites were not able to give attention to Moses’ face because of its glory. In verse 13 the veil blocked the Israelites from giving attention to the goal or outcome. So the glory is parallel to the outcome. This word outcome is the point aimed at or the termination. We could think of the finish line of a race. It is the end point where the race concludes; it is also the goal or purpose, the thing aimed at. The veil prevented them from fixing their eyes on the goal of what was being abolished. What was the glory and the finish line of Moses’ ministry?

I think we can find the answer in this passage in Exodus. After the rebellion of Israel with the gold calf, God said depart, go to the land I promised to you, ‘but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people’ (Ex.33:1-6). Exodus 33:7-11 described how Moses would enter the tent to speak with the LORD, and how “the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex.33:11). In verses 12-16 Moses asks God in his grace to go with his people. “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found grace in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” The Greek version of Exodus 33:16 has

Exodus 33:16 (LXXE)“And how shall it be surely known, that both I and this people have found favour with thee, except only if thou go with us? So both I and thy people shall be glorified beyond all the nations, as many as are upon the earth.”

The goal and the glory of Moses’ ministry was the presence of God with his people. This was visibly displayed in the pillar of cloud and fire, and the glory cloud resting on and filling the tabernacle. The goal of Moses’ ministry pointed beyond itself to the greater presence of Immanuel, God with us.

It was this glory that the Israelites, because of their hard hearts, could not bear, but requested that Moses speak to them, “but do not let God speak to us, lest we die” (Ex.20:19). When Moses came down from talking with God, the people were afraid because of the glory of his face. This glory of God, the very presence of God with his people, Moses concealed, hid, blocked with a veil to prevent the Israelites from fixing their attention on the goal of his ministry. They were unable to look past the letter to see who the letter pointed to. They were not able to look, and then they were blocked from looking.

Hardened Minds

Paul says in verse 14 ‘But their minds were hardened.’ The fault was not in Moses. The flaw was in the people. They rebelled. They rejected and fell short of the glory of God. God offered to be with them as their God and take them to be his people, but they refused. And so their minds became like stone.

Jesus, in John 12,

John 12:37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

Unbelief in the face of God’s proof becomes an inability to believe, and this is a divine act of judgment to ‘entrap them in their very defiance’ (Seifrid, p.167), to keep them from seeing and understanding and turning.

The Veil Abolished

2 Corinthians 3:14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Paul says that the same veil conceals the goal of Moses’ ministry today whenever the Old Testament is read. The old covenant, in contrast to the new covenant in Jesus’ blood. The Torah or the books of Moses are equated with the old covenant. Moses pointed beyond his own ministry to the full manifestation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus. Why was Paul run out of so many synagogues? Why was his ministry so ineffective among his own people? Because there is a veil blocking them from seeing the true goal of the Scriptures. There is a hardness of mind, a veil draped over their hearts.

Jesus said to his disciples on the road to Emmaus:

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Paul says ‘only through Christ is it taken away’. Only in Christ is the veil abolished, destroyed, brought to nothing, made ineffective. It is in relationship with Christ that the veil disintegrates. We can expend a significant amount of effort attempting to lift veils. We can become very clever at dismantling the things that prevent people from seeing. But the problem is they don’t want to see. It is not an eye problem so much as a heart problem. Paul was content to proclaim Christ and him crucified. Because Christ is mighty to save. Jesus destroys veils. He rips open veils top to bottom.

‘When one turns to the LORD, the veil is removed.’ Moses took off the veil when he entered the presence of YHWH, the LORD in the tent in the wilderness. When he turned away from the people and toward the LORD, he removed the veil. Moses is a picture. Moses, the one through whom the law was given, spent time with the Lord, without a veil, and he was transformed. He was able to look beyond himself to the goal, to the purpose of his ministry, to the one his ministry pointed to, he one he wrote about, to Jesus. Only in Christ is the veil abolished. When one turns to the LORD, the veil is removed. Jesus is the LORD, YHWH of the Old Testament. When anyone turns to Jesus Christ as the LORD, the veil is removed.

When Saul, on the road to persecute followers of Jesus, was struck blind by the glory of God, he asked ‘who are you LORD?’ When the LORD answered ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting’ the spiritual blinders fell off and Paul began to really see. This is the ministry of the Spirit, this is the hope that gives us boldness, freedom to speak openly and plainly the simple veil-rending gospel message that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

Advertisements

June 4, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 3:7-11; Exceedingly Glorious Ministry

05/27_2 Corinthians 3:7-11; Exceedingly Glorious Ministry ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180527_2cor3_7-11.mp3

In 2 Corinthians Paul is defending the authenticity of his ministry. He says that the church of God in Corinth and the transformed lives of believers is authentication of his ministry.

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Then he answers the question he raised back in chapter 2, who is sufficient? Who is competent for this ministry, ministry that introduces some to eternal life, but is the stench of death to many. He says:

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Who is competent? We are, but not in and of ourselves. We cannot claim anything as coming from ourselves. All our competency comes from God who makes us competent. Not ministers of the old , the letter, not ministers of death. Competent to be ministers of a new covenant. Ministers of the life giving Spirit.

Moses and Paul

Then he contrasts the glory of Moses’ ministry with that of his own apostolic ministry.

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

This is absolutely staggering, and it would be startling to anyone with any Jewish background. Paul is commending his apostolic ministry, and arguing that his ministry is more glorious than Moses’ ministry. Moses! The one God raised up to lead Israel out of Egypt, the one who received the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone at Mount Sinai. Moses who led the children of Israel for 40 years in the wilderness. Moses who wrote the first five books of the Old Testament. Moses, who Deuteronomy 34 says there is none like him, whom the Lord knew face to face. Moses, who according to Acts 15:21 has been proclaimed in every city from ancient generations, and who is read every Sabbath in the synagogues. Moses was one of two who appeared on the mount of transfiguration to speak with Jesus. How shocking for Paul to even put himself in the same sentence with Moses.

What is Glory?

Paul tells us some amazing things about his ministry, and consequently about our ministry as well.

He mentions ‘glory’ no less than 10 times in these 5 verses. What is glory? He mentions the glory of Moses’ face, glory the Israelites could not look at, glory that was being done away with; exceeding glory, much more super-abundant glory in the ministry of the Spirit. What is glory?

In this passage Paul is teaching out of the text of Scripture; he is explaining Exodus, specifically chapter 34. In the context of Exodus, we see God get glory over Pharaoh and over the armies of Egypt (14:4, 17-18) by displaying his power and superiority. We see in Exodus 24

Exodus 24:16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

God displayed his glory in the cloud and in devouring fire on top of the mountain. And Moses went up into the cloud to meet with God and receive his commands. By the time he came down, the people were involved in idolatry with the golden calf. In Exodus 32, God threatened to destroy the people for their rebellion and sin, but Moses implored the Lord and he turned from his wrath. In Exodus 33, God said he would fulfill all his promises to the people, but he would not personally be with them, because of their rebellion. But Moses prayed that the presence of God would go with them, and God extended grace and granted this request.

Then Moses asked this daring question: “Please show me your glory.”

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

God instructed Moses to make a second set of tablets to remake the covenant, and

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

The glory of God is the visible manifestation of his character and attributes, an outward display of his inner characteristics. His name, his goodness, his grace, his mercy, his steadfast love and faithfulness, his justice. The glory of God is who he is.

The Glory of Moses’ Face

This next section in Exodus 34 is the passage Paul is teaching from in 2 Corinthians 3.

Exodus 34:28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. 29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

The radiant or beaming or shining face of Moses, in the Greek translation the glorious face of Moses, is the transformation that came from spending time with God. He radiated out the absorbed glory of God.

This is the glory of the Old Covenant. Moses’ ministry was glorious. This is the foundation of Paul’s argument. He moves from the lesser to the greater. The ministry of Moses was unquestionably glorious.

We read the account in Exodus and think, wow, I would love to have been there to see that! The triumph over Egypt, the cloud and consuming fire that engulfed the mountain, the beams of glory coming from Moses

skin. I’ve never seen anything like that!

Paul argues: No, you have something better, something greater, you have experienced something supremely more glorious.

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

Contrast The Letter and The Spirit

Look at the contrasts he draws in these verses:

[Old Covenant]- Moses——–New Covenant – Apostles

Ink——————————Spirit of the Living God

Letter—————————Spirit

Letters on Stone Tablets—–Letters on Tablets of Flesh Hearts

Kills—————————-Gives Life

Ministry of Death————Ministry of the Spirit

Ministry of Condemnation–Ministry of Righteousness

Abolished———————-Permanent

We have already looked at how the ministry of the Old Covenant brought death, where the ministry of the Spirit of the Living God makes alive. Let’s look at some of the other contrasts Paul highlights.

Condemnation vs. Righteousness

2 Corinthians 3:9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.

Paul calls Moses’ ministry a ministry of condemnation, and he calls the apostolic ministry of the Spirit a ministry of righteousness. This is what we see in Romans 3.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Moses’ ministry was a ministry of condemnation, to stop every mouth and hold the whole world accountable to God’s perfect standard. Moses’ ministry was not a ministry of justification or righteousness. These words, justification and righteousness, are the same. One is the noun, one is the verb form. We might make up a new word; righteousness and righteous-ified; to make just or righteous. No person will be justified or righteous-ified by the law, by the ministry of Moses. This word ‘righteousness’ actually shows up in the Greek translation at the beginning of Exodus 34:7

[LXXE] Exodus 34:6 And the Lord passed by before his face, and proclaimed, The Lord God, pitiful and merciful, longsuffering and very compassionate, and true, 7 and keeping justice [δικαιοσύνην] and mercy for thousands, taking away iniquity, and unrighteousness, and sins; and he will not clear the guilty; bringing the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and to the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.

This self-description of God in Exodus causes problems for anyone who thinks carefully about it. God says he is merciful and gracious and that he forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. But in the same breath he says he is righteous or just, and he will by no means clear the guilty. How can God possibly be both gracious and just, merciful and righteous? How can he forgive and yet by no means will he ever clear the guilty? Romans 3 goes on to answer this question.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified [righteous-ified] by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness…

God’s righteousness is put on display apart from the law. God is righteous, and God declares righteous those who believe in Jesus. God’s righteousness comes to believers as a gift, a grace-gift purchased by the blood of Jesus, who fully satisfied the just wrath of God by taking on himself all my sin, and receiving in himself the just penalty I earned. John 1 says

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

If the ministry of Moses that brought condemnation was a glorious ministry, how much more glorious the ministry of the Spirit that makes sinners righteous!

Abolished vs. Permanent

Paul also draws a contrast between the duration of the ministries.

2 Corinthians 3:7 …the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? … 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

The ministry of Moses was being brought to an end, being abolished, extinguished, destroyed, done away with. The ministry of Moses by design was to be superseded. It was glorious, but it was not intended to be the final word. Thank God, condemnation was not the final word. Condemnation was to be swallowed up in righteousness and life. The apostolic ministry of the gospel, however, remains. It stands. It is lasting.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Although the ministry of Moses, the ministry of death, the ministry of condemnation came with glory, that which was glorious came to be not glorious because of that which so far surpassed it in glory; the life giving ministry of the Spirit, the ministry of righteousness. The ministry of Moses had an outward glory, but it was utterly overwhelmed and out-shined by the much more super-abundant glory of the ministry of the apostles, the proclamation of the gospel, the seemingly foolish message of the cross. The far-surpassing glory was hidden in a ministry characterized by suffering, by affliction, by persecution. This ministry was not outward; lightning and thunder, fire and cloud, but quiet, even inconspicuous, the inner transformation of people by the Holy Spirit of the Living God through the foolishness of preaching. The ministry of death and condemnation has been swallowed up by the exceedingly more glorious ministry of the Spirit, giving righteousness and life to those who were dead in trespasses and sins.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

May 29, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 3:6; The Letter Kills, The Spirit Makes Alive

05/20_2 Corinthians 3:6; The Letter Kills; The Spirit Makes Alive ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180520_2cor3_6.mp3

What we want to be about, what we must be about as followers of Jesus, is spreading the knowledge of Jesus everywhere. We have seen in 2 Corinthians 3 that the sufficiency, the competence for this kind of ministry comes through Christ and toward or in the presence of God. We must recognize we are not competent in ourselves. We cannot claim anything as coming from ourselves. Anything. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing.’ But then Paul says we are competent, because of God,

2 Corinthians 3:6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

This raises some questions. What does it mean to be a minister? What is the new covenant? How do we minister not by the letter, but by the Spirit? What is the role of the letter and the role of the Spirit?

Ministers

As we saw last time, a minister is simply a servant. One who serves others for their good. If we are all called to be ministers of a new covenant, we need to know what this means.

Covenant

Paul introduces this concept of a new covenant here. He says that he has been made sufficient to be a minister of a new covenant. What is the new covenant? We began to look at this when we were exploring the contrast between letters on tablets of stone with letters written with the Spirit of the living God on tablets of fleshly hearts.

A covenant is a binding contract, an agreement between two parties. God made a covenant with his people at Mount Sinai, after he freed them out of slavery in Egypt.

Exodus 24:3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

Deuteronomy says:

Deuteronomy 4:13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.

God gave Israel his covenant, his commands, his requirements. This was a binding agreement written on stone. He says in Leviticus:

Leviticus 18:5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

If a person does them, by them he shall live. Obedience equals life. Jesus affirmed this. When he was asked by a lawyer ‘what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus responds ‘What is written in the law? How do you read it? The lawyer summarized the law by the two great commands; love God and love neighbor as yourself. Jesus said:

Luke 10:28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Do this and you will live. The lawyer, wanting to justify himself, asked ‘and who is my neighbor?’ He wanted to check off a box to show that he was good enough. Jesus gave him the parable of the good Samaritan. Everyone you come in contact with is your neighbor. Keep the law and you will live. Obedience to the law equals life.

The Letter Kills

The flip side of that, of course, is disobedience equals death. And that’s what we see if we look back to the giving of the law. Exodus 19-31 record the giving of the law to Moses. It is interesting to look back and see the difference before and after the giving of the law.

-In Exodus 14:6-14, at the Red Sea, before Sinai, Israel cried out to the Lord and complained that they would die in the wilderness; God parted the sea and rescued them. In Numbers 11:1-3, immediately after leaving Sinai, the people complained about misfortunes and the fire of the Lord burned among them. In Numbers 16:41-50 the people grumbled against their leaders, and 14,700 died in plague. In Numbers 21:4-9 the people become impatient and discontent; and the LORD sent fiery serpents to kill many.

-In Exodus 15:22-27, before the law, the people grumbled because the water was bitter; and the bitter water was made sweet. In Exodus 17:1-7 people grumbled and quarreled because they had no water; God instructed Moses to strike the rock and water came out from the rock for the people. But in Numbers 20:2-13, after the law was given, when there was no water and people quarreled, God instructed Moses to speak to the rock. Instead, he disobeyed and struck the rock. Water came out, but because of their disobedience, Moses and Aaron would die in the wilderness and not enter the land.

-In Exodus 16:1-18, before the law, the people grumbled because of hunger; God provides manna and quail for them to eat. But in Numbers 11, after the law came, the people grumble about no meat, and God sent quail until it came out their nostrils, and he sent a very great plague to destroy them.

– In Exodus 16:19-30, before the law, the people are instructed to rest and not go out looking for manna on the Sabbath, but they disobey. Nothing happens. But in Numbers 15:32-36, a person caught gathering sticks on the sabbath is stoned to death for breaking the law.

– In Exodus 17:8-14, before Sinai, God defeats Amalek before Israel. In Numbers 14:39-45, after Sinai, Israel is defeated before the Amalekites and Canaanites.

Some of the very same things that had no consequences before the law, after the law brought death. The history of Israel after the giving of the law is a chronicle of disobedience and death. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:6 that the letter kills. This is very literally true.

Romans and the Law/Letter

Paul gives us more systematic teaching on the role and purpose of the law in the book of Romans. It will serve us well to look there to fill out our understanding of what he means when he says that ‘the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.’

Romans 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

The Jews prided themselves on having the law. But as we have seen, unless the law is obeyed, it brings death.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The law was given to shut every mouth and hold all people accountable to God. The law shows us our sin; it does not make us righteous. This is made even more clear in chapter 4.

Romans 4:15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

The law brings wrath. We see this graphically displayed in the history of Israel after Sinai. Romans 5 tells us

Romans 5:20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass…

The law did not create righteousness; it actually did the opposite; it served to increase trespass. Romans 7 tells us how.

Romans 7:5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

The law actually stirred up our sinful passions. Paul gives a personal example:

Romans 7:7 … if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

He is describing what he said in 3:20 that ‘through the law comes the knowledge of sin.’ The commandment that promised life; the law says ‘do this and you shall live’ proved in his own experience to deliver death.

If the law produces death, does this mean that the law is bad? Paul answers:

Romans 7:12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 … It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

The law is holy, righteous, good, even spiritual. But the law puts on display the sinfulness of sin. The law’s good purpose is to show us our sin, to stop our mouths, to hold us accountable to God, and to put us to death. I said that is the law’s good purpose. How is that good? Good is not determined by what is good for me. It’s not all about me! Good is what is good absolutely. It is good and right for God to display his justice and to punish sin. But this is good for me. It is good for the law to show me my sin, because only sinners who confess their sin can be forgiven. It is good for the law to put me to death, because only those who are dead can be raised to newness of life. Only those who are shown their desperate need will cry out to God for rescue. Jesus said

Mark 2:17 …“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The law plays a vital role in showing us God’s justice and our need. This is what makes the good news so very very good! The law brings us to the end of ourselves, and that is very good. The letter kills but the Spirit makes alive.

A New Covenant

This is where the new covenant promises come in. As we looked a few weeks ago, God promises in Jeremiah and Ezekiel to make a new covenant with his people, a covenant different from the covenant he made with the fathers, not like the covenant that they broke.

Jeremiah 31:33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

This is the contrast Paul draws in 2 Corinthians; They old covenant was written on tablets of stone, and the result was disobedience and death. The new covenant of which he is a minster, is a heart agreement. No longer is it an external standard, which we may even agree is good, but our competing desires and inclination to disobedience thwart our best efforts to keep it. Now in the new covenant God writes his instruction on our hearts. It is part of us. It is internalized. It is who we are. It now defines us.

forgiveness

A critical component of this new covenant that God works in us is that he says ‘I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sins no more. This is powerful. This is so powerful for obedience. If we feel like a failure, if we feel like we have already disappointed him, we feel defeated. The guilt and shame are disabling. It’s like an overwhelming record of debt that stands against us. When you’re in debt and really see no way out, it’s easy to just give up and spend even more, run the credit card again, dig the hole deeper, We feel crippled to ever be good enough, to ever measure up. But in the context of forgiveness; this is so beautiful, so powerful, let this sink in an saturate your soul and transform everything; God says he remembers your sin no more. If you are in Christ, you always, always have a clean slate. You are always accepted. You are always good enough. You can’t sin fast enough to make the record stick. Do you see how powerful this is? Try to fight when you are all tied up and ensnared and weighed down. You can hardly even move. But God cuts the cords and sets you free and keeps you free so that you can fight.

This is so powerful, and I pray it shapes the way we relate to each other, to our spouse, to our children. Shame and guilt can be a motivating factor, but it is disabling. Forgiveness is so much more powerful.

they shall all know me

Notice another key aspect of this new covenant in Jeremiah 31. it says ‘they shall all know me.’ Paul is spreading the knowledge of Jesus everywhere. The new covenant is built on relationship. Intimacy. This is not second-hand knowledge. I know God and I have to tell you, God says what you’re doing is wrong. Someone stands between. You’re not hearing it first hand. It’s not direct. Someone is in between. That’s exactly the way it was at Sinai with the law. The people said ‘don’t let God speak to us directly. Moses, you go listen to God and then come tell us what he said.’ When I send one of my kids to pass along instruction to one of their siblings (and this happens a lot in our house) it doesn’t carry much weight. They say ‘hey, you need to do this’ and it’s easy to ignore. They might even say ‘hey, dad said you should do this’ and that carries a little more weight, but it’s still easy to ignore. Sometimes something gets lost in the delivery. The messenger got sidetracked and never delivered my message. Something got lost in the communication and something different than what I asked gets done. Is it the messenger who failed or the one who was supposed to receive the message who didn’t listen? It’s easy to shift blame. But when I show up personally, that’s completely different. It’s no longer someone passing along second hand information about what I said. Now it’s me, in relationship, really present, it’s direct. That’s what the new covenant does. It brings each of us into direct relationship with God. It’s no longer someone else telling you what you ought to be doing. It’s no longer mediated. It’s God himself communicating directly.

And it’s within the context of loving relationship. It can try to tell someone else’s kids what to do, but if the relationship isn’t there, if the accountability and love and respect in relationship hasn’t been established, it isn’t very effective. They run to mom or dad and say ‘that weird guy just told me what to do.’ In the new covenant, God brings us into relationship with himself. They shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

a new heart and God’s Spirit

Another piece of this transforming power of the new covenant we see in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

God gives us a heart transplant. Our hard rebellious heart needs to be removed, and replaced by a soft, tender heart, a heart capable of love, a heart receptive to the Lord. But he doesn’t stop there. In the New covenant he puts his Holy Spirit in us. This is the aspect that Paul highlights in 2 Corinthians. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. O hear this! Let the truth of this sink in! The Holy Spirit of the living God; God the Holy Spirit, comes in, takes up residence in us. He lives in us and makes us alive. He transforms us from the inside. He will never leave!

Romans 7:6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

We are released from the law to serve in the new way of the Spirit.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

This is the message we are called to minister! This is the good news of the gospel! Through the cross there is forgiveness, no matter what you have done. You can know God yourself, you can enjoy relationship. God the Spirit comes to live inside and make you alive, truly alive, eternally alive! So walk in the Spirit and spread the knowledge of Jesus everywhere!

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

May 23, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment