Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today’s reading is taken from the third chapter of Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth. In this chapter, Paul expounds on the Glories of the Law and the Gospel, and reveals the wonders that are manifest in the Spirit.
Reading: II Corinthians 3
Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
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.
Paul makes a great many comparisons between the dead law (the Old Testament) and the living covenant we have in Christ Jesus. While the old law was passed down on tablets of stone and given to men for their condemnation, the new covenant is given to us by the Living Lord. While the old law was preached and centered in a temple of stone, the new covenant is preached among men, and the worship thereof is the temple of the flesh.
Therefore, it is not words that show our faith, but our lives themselves. Paul needed no letters of recommendation to carry authority, because the lives of the brethren were his recommendation, and his authority comes from the Living God.
4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:
5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
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.
The Holy Spirit which we have received is a Living Spirit, one of the three persons of the Living God whom we worship. This spirit is given us that we might have faith, collateral of a sort to ensure that what Christ has promised will be fulfilled. Thus, by faith we are certain of that salvation we hope for.
We are nothing of ourselves. Some men are greater than other men, but all are still men, and all will die. However, thanks be to God that we are no longer servants and slaves to death, but children of the God who gives life.
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:
8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
For those who have read the Old Testament, this is no new story. When Moses would meet with the Lord (though he never saw the Lord’s face), he shone with a radiance that terrified the people. In order to walk among them, he would wear a veil for a week, until the radiance faded and people dared look on him again. Such glory is all but unheard of in our world.
If this is the glory that was present at the giving of the Law, which condemns alone, how much greater must the glory be in the fulfillment of that Law, through the mercy and grace of God?
9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
Righteousness is the fulfillment of the law, which brings condemnation. The law by itself is dead, but in righteousness it has life.
10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.
11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.
The grass whithers, the flowers fade, but the Word of God lives forever. We see the glory of the heavens, which we know will one day pass away – even the atheist scientists know this. However, if that which is temporary can have such glory, surely that which is everlasting has greater glory.
As the Law and Death will be destroyed, they have but fleeting glory. But the righteousness of God came before the Law and will survive long past the death of the Law – surely its glory is eternal.
12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:
13 And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
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.
Moses had to hide himself, for the people were fallen and unable to bear the countenance of righteousness. Thanks be to God that, through Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we are now of one communion with that same righteousness. Paul and the apostles had no need to veil themselves, for the righteousness they preached was made receivable by the Spirit.
The veil in the temple was rent asunder when Christ died. At that moment, the Glory of God was made known to the whole of the world, no longer hidden for our sakes, but now revealed for our sakes.
15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.
16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.
The Jews have but half the story. When they hear the preaching of the Law, their hearts are as stone, and they do not hear the call of salvation. For them, the veil remains, so that they might be shielded from the Glory that is come.
However, when they come to know the Lord, and the great works done by Christ Jesus, and the salvation that comes from His name, the veil is removed. At that time, the Law is fulfilled in them, and the Glory of the Lord is manifest unto them. This is why we pray for all people, but especially the Jews, who are condemned under the Law yet blinded from the Gospel that brings life.
17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
The Founding Fathers of the United States took this passage quite literally, for they believed that the nation they created could only survive among a righteous Christian people. Without the Lord, how can there be liberty, for only by Him have we been freed from slavery to sin and death.
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.
The manifest glories we can see in this world are but a poor reflection of that Glory we will behold on the Last Day. When we are changed from glory to glory, when we are given new flesh and can see the Lord in truth, then we will rejoice at the wonders we could only dimly imagine. I, as all the saints who have come before, anxiously await that day.
Let us Pray
Glorious Lord, we stand in awe of the wonders we see around us. When we consider the heavens, the works of your fingers, the sun, moon, and stars that you have put in place; what is man that you are mindful of him? The son of man, that you care for him?
Lord, reveal to us the glories you have already shown. We often act and think according to our dead natures, and do not appreciate the wonders you show each day. Open our eyes.
We ask these things in the name of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, who has gone before us into death and into life.
May the Lord look upon you with his favor, now and forever.