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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 3

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

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Verse 1

Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others , epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?

Do we begin again, … — As we had done before, 2 Corinthians 1:12 .

To commend ourselvesQuod magnificum referente alio fuisset, ipso qui gesserat recensente vanescit. (Plin.) "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth," Proverbs 27:2 . Laus proprio sordescit in ore. But the apostle was necessitated to it.

As some others, letters of commendation — As the false apostles, who carried it by testimonial; in giving whereof, many good people are much to blame. Beauty needs no letters of commendation, saith Aristotle; much less doth virtue, where it is known. If moral virtue could be seen with mortal eyes, saith Plato, it would soon draw all hearts to itself.

Verse 2

Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:

You are our epistle — The fruitfulness of the people is the preacher’s testimonial; as the profiting of the scholar is the teacher’s commendation.

Written in our hearts — Or rather in your hearts, as tables; the Spirit writing thereon, by his ministers as pens, that form of doctrine,Romans 6:17; Romans 6:17 , that law of their minds, Romans 7:23 ; Hebrews 8:10 , to be known and read of all men.

Verse 3

Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

Ministered by us — Who are devoted to the service of your faith, and are the Lord Christ’s secretaries.

But in fleshy tables — In the softened heart God writes his law, puts an inward aptness, answering the law of God without, as lead answers the mould, as tally answers tally, as indenture answers indenture.

Verse 4

And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:

Such trust have wei.e. Such boldness of holy boasting. If Cicero could say, Two things I have to bear me bold upon, the knowledge of good arts and the glory of great acts; how much more might Paul!

Verse 5

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;

Not that we are sufficient — Lest they should think him arrogant. Cyrus had this written upon his tomb, "I could do all things," παντα ποιειν εδυναμην , as Arrianus reports. So could Paul too; but it was through Christ which strengthened him, Philippians 4:13 .

All our sufficiency is of God — Had not ministers then need to pray? Bene orasse est bene studuisse, saith Luther. And whether a minister shall do no more good to others by his prayers or preaching, I will not determine (saith a reverend writer), but he shall certainly by his prayers reap more comfort to himself; whereto I add, that unless he pray for his hearers as well as preach to them, he may preach to as little purpose as Bede did, when he preached to a heap of stones; and that if people pray not for their ministers, they may prove ministrorum opprobria, like Laban’s lambs, or Pharaoh’s kine; they may thank themselves for their minister’s insufficiency and their own non-proficiency.

Verse 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.

Not of the letter — To wit, of the law, which requireth perfect obedience, presupposing holiness in us, and cursing the disobedient; but the gospel (called here the Spirit) presupposeth unholiness, and, as an instrument, maketh us holy,John 17:17; John 17:17 ; Acts 10:32 . For we preach Christ,1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 1:23 . We give what we preach. The Spirit is received by the preaching of faith, Galatians 3:2 . This manna is rained down in the sweet dews of the ministry of the gospel, 1 Peter 1:22 .

For the letter killeth — Many popish priests, that hardly ever had seen, much less read, St Paul’s writings, having gotten this sentence by the end, "The letter killeth," took care of being killed, by not meddling with good literature. Hence that of Sir Thomas Moore to one of them,

" Tu bene cavisti, ne te ulla occidere possit

Littera: nam nulla est littera nota tibi. "

Verse 7

But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:

The ministration of death — That is, the law. David was the voice of the law awarding death to sin, "He shall surely die." Nathan was the voice of the gospel awarding life to repentance for sin, "Thou shalt not die."

For the glory of his countenance — Which yet reflected not upon his own eyes. He shone bright and knew not of it: he saw God’s face glorious, he did not think others had so seen his. How many have excellent graces and perceive them not!

Verse 8

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

Be rather glorious — Let this comfort the ministers of the gospel under the contempts cast upon them by the mad world, ever beside itself in point of salvation. See Isaiah 49:5 .

Verse 9

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

Exceed in glory — A throne was set in heaven, Revelation 4:2 ; not in the mount, as Exodus 25:9 . The pattern of our Church is showed in the heavens themselves, because of that more abundant glory of the gospel above the law. And therefore also John describeth the city far greater and larger than Ezekiel, Revelation 21:16 ; because Ezekiel was a minister of the law, John of the gospel. (Brightman in loc.)

Verse 10

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

Had no glory — To speak of, and in comparison. The light of the law was obscured and overcast by the light of the gospel. The sea about the altar was brazen, 1 Kings 7:23 , and what eyes could pierce through it? Now our sea about the throne is glassy,Revelation 4:6; Revelation 4:6 , like to crystal, clearly conveying the light and sight of God in Christ to our eyes.

Verse 11

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

Much more that, … — As the sun outshineth Lucifer his herald.

Verse 12

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

Plainness of speech — Or, much evidence, as John 10:24 ; John 11:14 ; John 16:29 ; with much perspicuity and authority we deliver ourselves; we speak with open face, not fearing colours.

Verse 13

And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:

Could not stedfastly, … — Could not clearly see Christ the end of the law, Romans 10:4 ; Galatians 3:14 .

Verse 14

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

But their minds — Unless God give sight as well as light, and enlighten both organ and object, we can see nothing.

Which vail is done away — See Isaiah 25:7 . Faith freeth from blindness; we no sooner taste of that stately feast by faith, but the vail of ignorance, which naturally covereth all flesh, is torn and rent.

Verse 15

But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.

The vail is upon their hearts — By a malicious and voluntary hardening, they curse Christ and his worshippers in their daily devotions, and call Evangelium Avengillaion the gospel a volume of vanity or iniquity. (Elias in Thisb.)

Verse 16

Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.

When it shall turn — Of the Jews’ conversion, and what hinders it. See Trapp on " Romans 11:7 " See Trapp on " Romans 11:8 " See Trapp on " Romans 11:25 "

Verse 17

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

The Lord is that Spirit — Christ only can give the Jews that noble spirit, as David calleth him, Psalms 51:12 , that freeth a man from the invisible chains of the kingdom of darkness.

Verse 18

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Are changed — As the pearl by the often beating of the sunbeams upon it becomes radiant.

From glory to glory — That is, from grace to grace. Fulness of grace is the best thing in glory. Other things, as peace and joy, are but the shinings forth of this fulness of grace in glory.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/2-corinthians-3.html. 1865-1868.
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