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Tuesday, November 28th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 3

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


Does this sound? It could be that Paul’s strongly worded letter made some say he was boasting about himself. Something important is involved here, because Paul accuses his opponents of boasting (2 Corinthians 10:12), but denies boasting about himself (2 Corinthians 5:12). MacKnight says: “The things mentioned in the beginning of this chapter show, that the false teacher had established himself at Corinth, neither by working miracles, nor by communicating to the Corinthians spiritual gifts, but by producing letters of recommendation from some brethren in Judea, and by boasting about his own talents.”

Verse 2


You yourselves. The existence of the messianic community at Corinth is the only credential which Paul needs! Written on our hearts. MacKnight says it is best to understand this as the letter itself written on the heart of Paul, and a copy of that same letter written on the hearts of the Corinthians. To know and read. MacKnight thinks the letter written on Paul’s heart was the spiritual gifts which he had as an apostle (compare 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and note). But we can also understand this to mean that the whole world can know and read Paul’s work through the church at Corinth!

Verse 3


That Christ himself. “Christ himself wrote the letter and I delivered it by converting you to Christ and giving you the gifts from the Spirit!” It is written. Paul purposely associates the letters of recommendation that some had received from Judea, with the stone tablets of the Law. Christ does not write with ink on stone tablets, but with the Spirit on human hearts!!! Paul is saying that the Corinthian Christians are living evidence of Jeremiah’s prophecy coming true! Compare Hebrews 8:10 and notes.

Verse 4


We say this. “This kind of a boast, that you are a copy of our letter of recommendation, we have in the presence of God through the assistance of Christ!”

Verse 5


There is nothing in us. The false teachers boasted about their own talents. Paul does no such thing! Comes from God. “It is God who tells us how to carry out our mission as apostles, and it is God who gives us the capacity to do it!!!”

Verse 6


Not of a written law. Jeremiah’s prophecy told about a new covenant (Hebrews 8:10). It would be a time when God would make us capable of serving, as Paul says here. Paul sees this fulfilled in the Holy Spirit as a gift (the indwelling). So he contrasts the written law (the old covenant) with the new covenant of the Spirit. Compare Romans 2:27-29; ch 7 & 8. See also note on the three uses of law, Romans 3:31. Death . . . life. The written law brings death because it is weak through our human nature. The Spirit gives life, something that law cannot do (Galatians 3:21). Christians have this life now (John 6:63; John 7:37-39), because they receive the Spirit at baptism (Colossians 2:12-13; Acts 5:32).

Verse 7


The Law. The false teachers were very proud of The Law! Paul shows us that The Law was a thing of glory! When Moses came down from the mountain with the stone tablets of The Law, his face shone with a brilliant, blinding light! But that brightness faded away, and Paul uses this to introduce the thought, that if The Law, whose service was to bring death, came with such glory, how much greater the glory of the Spirit!!!

Verse 8


How much greater! In contrast to The Law, the service of the Spirit (1) gives life, not death; (2) is eternal, not fading away; (3) is written on hearts, not stone. Notice that in comparing the service of the two covenants, Paul assumes that he is as great as Moses (1 Corinthians 4:6), and yet the service of Paul is in fact greater than the service of Moses! See 2 Corinthians 3:14.

Verse 9


Are condemned. Paul repeats what he has just said, but contrasts are condemned (by the old covenant) with declared innocent (by the new covenant). DIKAIOSUNE = declared innocent is a legal term, which implies that God declares a man innocent even though he is actually guilty. See Romans 4:3 and note.

Verse 10


Because of. Paul sees value in God’s old covenant ( Romans 15:4), yet the far brighter glory of the service of the Spirit supersedes and displaces all else!!!

Verse 11


For. “If there was glory in the service of Judaism, how much more glory is there in the service of the Spirit, which lasts forever!!!” Compare Hebrews 8:13. Paul probably says this for the benefit of the circumcision party who thought The Law was eternal!

Verse 12


Because. The facts in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 are the basis of confident hope, which gives the servants of Christ boldness in speaking!!! This is Paul’s answer to his opponents.

Verse 13


Not like Moses. Paul again compares himself to Moses, and shows the veil which Moses put over his face symbolized both a lack of boldness and that God’s truth was veiled in The Law. But as the glory of Moses’ face faded away, those who continue to look to Moses or The Law, will find no glory there!

Verse 14


Were closed. Stephen used the same reasoning (Acts 7:51-53). The reason for the Jewish leaders rejecting Christ was that they did not understand the intent and purpose of The Law from the earliest times!!! Removed only. Since God’s promises made in The Law were fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Acts 13:32-33), only when these Jews turned to Christ could they see the true message of The Law!

Verse 15


Even today. Every Sabbath, the Law of Moses (the Old Testament) was read publicly in the synagogue. Paul says the veil still covers their minds! The veil he speaks of, is the veil of prejudice and evil desires which they have constructed for themselves!

Verse 16


But it is removed. Paul paraphrases Exodus 34:34 and uses it to show that when they go into the presence of God IN FACT, this veil will be removed! Compare Romans 11:23-26 and notes. When the Jews believe the gospel, then the veil will be removed!

Verse 17


Is the Spirit. What does it mean for the Christian to have this veil removed??? This verse gives the answer!!! Paul is a monotheistic-trinitarian (see note on Romans 16:27) and he does not sharply contrast the functions of the Father, Son, and Spirit. There is freedom. The Law is slavery, The Spirit is freedom! The Christian is not a slave, but a son (includes daughter)!!! Compare Romans 8:14-17 and notes.

Verse 18


All of us, then. MacKnight thinks Paul means the apostles only, but it seems better to understand this to mean every Christian, as Johnson does. With uncovered faces. As Moses removed his veil when he came before the Lord, we Christians reflect the Lord’s glory without any need to cover our faces! [There may be a reference here to the fact that Jewish men prayed with their heads covered.] Transforms us. Christians are new in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and are transformed by their direct access to God. The Spirit is involved in this (2 Corinthians 4:16); and none of this transformation was available through the old covenant.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/2-corinthians-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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