2 Corinthians 3
The apostle makes an apology for his seeming to commend himself, and is
careful not to assume too much to himself, but to ascribe all praise
2 Corinthians 3:1-5.
He then draws a comparison between the Old Testament and the New, and
shows the excellency of the later above the former
(2 Corinthians 3:6-11),
whence he infers what is the duty of gospel ministers, and the
advantage of those who live under the gospel above those who lived
under the law,
2 Corinthians 3:12-17.
|Apology for Seeming Self-Commendation.
||A. D. 57.|
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?
2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of
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.
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;
In these verses,
I. The apostle makes an apology for seeming to commend himself. He
thought it convenient to protest his sincerity to them, because there
were some at Corinth who endeavoured to blast his reputation; yet he
was not desirous of vain-glory. And he tells them,
1. That he neither needed nor desired any verbal commendation to them,
nor letters testimonial from them, as some others did, meaning the
false apostles or teachers,
2 Corinthians 3:1.
His ministry among them had, without controversy, been truly great and
honourable, how little soever his person was in reality, or how
contemptible soever some would have him thought to be.
2. The Corinthians themselves were his real commendation, and a good
testimonial for him, that God was with him of a truth, that he was sent
of God: You are our epistle,
2 Corinthians 3:2.
This was the testimonial he most delighted in, and what was most dear
to him--they were written in his heart; and this he could appeal
to upon occasion, for it was, or might be, known and read of all
men. Note, There is nothing more delightful to faithful ministers,
nor more to their commendation, than the success of their ministry,
evidenced in the hearts and lives of those among whom they labour.
II. The apostle is careful not to assume too much to himself, but to
ascribe all the praise to God. Therefore,
1. He says they were the epistle of Christ,
2 Corinthians 3:3.
The apostle and others were but instruments, Christ was the author of
all the good that was in them. The law of Christ was written in their
hearts, and the love of Christ shed abroad in their hearts. This
epistle was not written with ink, but with the Spirit of the living
God; nor was it written in tables of stone, as the law of
God given to Moses, but on the heart; and that heart not a stony
one, but a heart of flesh, upon the fleshy (not fleshly,
as fleshliness denotes sensuality) tables of the heart, that is,
upon hearts that are softened and renewed by divine grace, according to
that gracious promise, I will take away the stony heart, and I will
give you a heart of flesh,
This was the good hope the apostle had concerning these Corinthians
(2 Corinthians 3:4)
that their hearts were like the ark of the covenant, containing the
tables of the law and the gospel, written with the finger, that is, by
the Spirit, of the living God.
2. He utterly disclaims the taking of any praise to themselves, and
ascribes all the glory to God: "We are not sufficient of
2 Corinthians 3:5.
We could never have made such good impressions on your hearts, nor upon
our own. Such are our weakness and inability that we cannot of
ourselves think a good thought, much less raise any good thoughts or
affections in other men. All our sufficiency is of God; to him
therefore are owing all the praise and glory of that good which is
done, and from him we must receive grace and strength to do more." This
is true concerning ministers and all Christians; the best are no more
than what the grace of God makes them. Our hands are not sufficient for
us, but our sufficiency is of God; and his grace is sufficient for us,
to furnish us for every good word and work.
|Law and Gospel Compared.
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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.
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
9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more
doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
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.
Here the apostle makes a comparison between the Old Testament and the
New, the law of Moses and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and values
himself and his fellow-labourers by this, that they were able
ministers of the New Testament, that God had made them so,
2 Corinthians 3:6.
This he does in answer to the accusations of false teachers, who
magnify greatly the law of Moses.
I. He distinguishes between the letter and the spirit even of the New
2 Corinthians 3:6.
As able ministers of the New Testament, they were ministers not merely
of the letter, to read the written word, or to preach the letter of the
gospel only, but they were ministers of the Spirit also; the Spirit of
God did accompany their ministrations. The letter killeth; this
the letter of the law does, for that is the ministration of death; and
if we rest only in the letter of the gospel we shall be never the
better for so doing, for even that will be a savour of death unto
death; but the Spirit of the gospel, going along with the ministry
of the gospel, giveth life spiritual and life eternal.
II. He shows the difference between the Old Testament and the New, and
the excellency of the gospel above the law. For,
1. The Old-Testament dispensation was the ministration of death
(2 Corinthians 3:7),
whereas that of the New Testament is the ministration of life.
The law discovered sin, and the wrath and curse of God. This showed us
a God above us and a God against us; but the gospel discovers grace,
and Emmanuel, God with us. Upon this account the gospel is more
glorious than the law; and yet that had a glory in it, witness the
shining of Moses's face (an indication thereof) when he came down from
the mount with the tables in his hand, that reflected rays of
brightness upon his countenance.
2. The law was the ministration of condemnation, for that
condemned and cursed every one who continued not in all things
written therein to do them; but the gospel is the ministration
of righteousness: therein the righteousness of God by faith is
revealed. This shows us that the just shall live by his faith. This
reveals the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ, for obtaining
the remission of sins and eternal life. The gospel therefore so much
exceeds in glory that in a manner it eclipses the glory of the legal
2 Corinthians 3:10.
As the shining of a burning lamp is lost, or not regarded, when the sun
arises and goes forth in his strength; so there was no glory in the Old
Testament, in comparison with that of the New.
3. The law is done away, but the gospel does and shall remain,
2 Corinthians 3:11.
Not only did the glory of Moses's face go away, but the glory of
Moses's law is done away also; yea, the law of Moses itself is now
abolished. That dispensation was only to continue for a time, and then
to vanish away; whereas the gospel shall remain to the end of the
world, and is always fresh and flourishing and remains glorious.
|Superiority of the Gospel.
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12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness
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:
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.
15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon
16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall
be taken away.
17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the
Lord is, there is liberty.
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.
In these verses the apostle draws two inferences from what he had said
about the Old and New Testament:--
I. Concerning the duty of the ministers of the gospel to use great
plainness or clearness of speech. They ought not, like Moses, to put a
veil upon their faces, or obscure and darken those things which they
should make plain. The gospel is a more clear dispensation than the
law; the things of God are revealed in the New Testament, not in types
and shadows, and ministers are much to blame if they do not set
spiritual things, and gospel-truth and grace, in the clearest light
that is possible. Though the Israelites could not look stedfastly to
the end of what was commanded, but is now abolished, yet we may. We
may see the meaning of those types and shadows by the accomplishment,
seeing the veil is done away in, Christ and he is come, who was the end
of the law for righteousness to all those who believe, and whom Moses
and all the prophets pointed to, and wrote of.
II. Concerning the privilege and advantage of those who enjoy the
gospel, above those who lived under the law. For,
1. Those who lived under the legal dispensation had their minds blinded
(2 Corinthians 3:14),
and there was a veil upon their hearts,
2 Corinthians 3:15.
Thus it was formerly, and so it was especially as to those who remained
in Judaism after the coming of the Messiah and the publication of his
gospel. Nevertheless, the apostle tells us, there is a time coming
when this veil also shall be taken away, and when it (the
body of that people) shall turn to the Lord,
2 Corinthians 3:16.
Or, when any particular person is converted to God, then the veil of
ignorance is taken away; the blindness of the mind, and the hardness of
the heart, are cured.
2. The condition of those who enjoy and believe the gospel is much more
(1.) They have liberty: Where the Spirit of the Lord is, and
where he worketh, as he does under the gospel-dispensation, there is
(2 Corinthians 3:17),
freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, and from the servitude of
corruption; liberty of access to God, and freedom of speech in prayer.
The heart is set at liberty, and enlarged, to run the ways of God's
(2.) They have light; for with open face we behold the glory
of the Lord,
2 Corinthians 3:18.
The Israelites saw the glory of God in a cloud, which was dark and
dreadful; but Christians see the glory of the Lord as in a glass, more
clearly and comfortably. It was the peculiar privilege of Moses for God
to converse with him face to face, in a friendly manner; but now all
true Christians see him more clearly with open face. He showeth them
(3.) This light and liberty are transforming; we are changed
into the same image, from glory to glory
(2 Corinthians 3:18),
from one degree of glorious grace unto another, till grace here be
consummated in glory for ever. How much therefore should Christians
prize and improve these privileges! We should not rest contented
without an experimental knowledge of the transforming power of the
gospel, by the operation of the Spirit, bringing us into a conformity
to the temper and tendency of the glorious gospel of our Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ.