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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 3

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verses 1-6

2 Corinthians 3:1 to 2 Corinthians 4:10 . The Splendour of the Apostolic Ministry in Spite of its Outward Lowliness.

2 Corinthians 3:1-6 . One of the charges laid against Paul had probably been that of overweening self-esteem, leading to a claim to greater authority than rightfully belonged to him. One of the means used by his enemies had been “ letters of introduction” from high authorities, possibly apostles in Jerusalem. Was he not now displaying only too clearly the reasonableness of such a charge? Did he really need to justify himself, as by such letters others had done? Far from it. The church at Corinth was his sufficient testimonial. Its religious experience, recorded in the hearts of the converts there, was in fact Christ’ s own letter of commendation for Paul, the only one he required. His confidence, great as it is, is justified, for it lays hold on God through Christ as a channel. And even his confidence does not imply a claim to draw any conclusion, to form any judgment, on his own responsibility. His qualifications come wholly from God. It is He who has qualified him to be a minister of a new covenant. And the supreme distinction of this new covenant is that, being based not on written legislation but on the Spirit, it avoids the deadly consequences of the old covenant ( Romans 7:11), and substitutes for them the life which the Spirit alone can create ( Galatians 3:21).

Verses 7-16

2 Corinthians 3:7-16 . This opens the way for a comparison between the ministry under the one covenant and the ministry under the other. The former, even though its issue was historically failure, condemnation, and death, and while its inferiority was shown by its being engraved on tables of stone (though it was destined to pass away), was nevertheless promulgated in circumstances of dazzling splendour— though even that was a splendour that was fading. How much greater must be the splendour belonging to the new covenant, and to its ministry, which has the Spirit in place of a written law, creates righteousness where the other wrought condemnation, and moreover is destined to abide. Even the real glory which attached to the former covenant is cancelled, at least to this extent, by the surpassing glory of the new one. For the glory of the new covenant neither passes away nor is it obscured by any veil, as the old one was. Its ministers have no need to put a veil over their message as Moses did over his face when he promulgated his Law ( Exodus 34:33), in order, as Paul here suggests, to hide the fading of the glory. [This, of course, was not the actual intention as represented in the OT.— A. S. P.] In one phrase, “ their minds were hardened,” he sums up the fatal consequences, as he conceives them, of the covenant which had these disabilities. And a symbol of its inadequacy was still to be seen in any synagogue. For there the rolls of the Law were punctiliously wrapped in a “ veil” ; and a like veil was over the heart of Israel, still unremoved because it could be done away “ in Christ” alone.

The phrase, “ the old covenant” or “ testament,” referring to the Mosaic Law, occurs here for the first time, and is a significant testimony to Paul’ s consciousness that the new wine of the Gospel demanded new bottles. The words in 2 Corinthians 3:16 are a free paraphrase of Exodus 34:34, applied by Paul to Israel. [When Moses went in to Yahweh he removed the veil. Accordingly, if one now turns to the Lord ( i.e. Christ), the veil is removed from the heart.— A. S. P.]

Verse 17

2 Corinthians 3:17 f. In 2 Corinthians 3:17 he explains the deep reasons why “ turning to the Lord” is followed by the removal of the veil, and in so doing gives utterance to a statement of the greatest importance for his Christology, “ the Lord is the Spirit.” For here, as elsewhere with few exceptions, “ the Lord” is Christ. It is the heavenly Christ whom he recognises as the Spirit. Their influence is the same. He who turns to the One turns to the Other. And where the Spirit is there is liberty (from the Law). The hindering veil is removed. And so, because Christians are men who have turned to Christ, there is no such veil upon their hearts or upon their revelation of God. They reflect the glory of the Lord Christ undimmed. Nay, more, in reflecting it they undergo a continuous change within themselves. The image they reflect forms itself in them, and they advance from one stage of glory to another, as might be looked for from the working of the Lord the Spirit. In the case of Moses, the glory diminished and faded; in the case of Christians it increases and brightens. And where the OT spoke of the glory of Yahweh, Paul speaks of the glory of Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/2-corinthians-3.html. 1919.
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