Ministers of the New Covenant
3 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3 Commentary
by Hank Workman
“You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”2 Corinthians 3:2-3
We often will sign a letter to someone we know “Sincerely yours”. It’s usually to someone we know well.
I have always thought of this phrase when reading this passage as Paul speaks of the Corinthians being a letter written on his heart. Through all the hard times and good, these people were firmly on his heart and ever on his lips before the Father. They were a living letter of his ministry and ever abounding work of the Spirit. Yes, these letters to the Corinthian church had been difficult. There had been a lot of mess he had to work through and call them out even on. But it didn’t change his love for these people. And although things had been a slow process, these were living epistles of God at work and lives being changed.
For each of us, we too are letters. Others read our lives and behaviors much the same. We are letters for Christ. Not written with ink but by the Spirit of the living God. The transformation taking place in each of us as we continue to walk alongside and submit to His lead is bold, powerful statements.
Are we signing our own dedication to Jesus with the same closing warm words: Sincerely yours?
2 Corinthians 3 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
The Corinthians, like many today, wanted written proof of Paul’s legitimacy as an apostle. Like a certification or degree, letters of commendation would have authenticated the status of a leader of God. They were often used to introduce a person in early first-century churches. It is speculated that false teachers would make their rounds with forged letters in order to weasel their way into church leadership. Theirs may have said, “I have been sent by Paul, so you should support me.”
Paul’s point is that letters mean nothing compared to changed lives. The churches Paul had planted were the real letters of commendation which validated his ministry.
“Today, the best analogy might be a certificate of ordination. Many people think that a certificate of ordination means that you have the credentials of ministry. While there is an important purpose in a public ordination to ministry, a piece of paper in itself never is a proper credential. The true credentials of the ministry are changed lives, living epistles. Keep your paper to yourself; show us the changed lives from your ministry!”David Guzik
Paul takes this analogy a step further when comparing the law to the Spirit. The law of Moses contained words engraved on stone tablets. At the time it was given, the glory of God was on full display. There were earthquakes, thunder, lightning, a resounding blast from heaven, and the mighty voice of God. If this was the result of the law (which cannot save) then how much greater is the work of the Spirit? As Paul writes, “The system which brings condemnation (the law) was glorious; how much more glorious is the activity which brings Salvation!”
Just like the letters of commendation should not be the primary validation of our spiritual life, the law itself should not be the measuring stick for following Jesus. Just like Paul’s churches substantiated his ministry, we will know true believers today by the fruits of the Spirit. Paul has given practical advice on how we can evaluate the fruitfulness of an individual. Every great pastor I know does not go around claiming to be a great pastor. The fruit of their ministry will speak for itself. This should be true of every believer today as we all have a ministry of some kind.