2 Corinthians 3:7-11
Greetings, everyone! God’s peace, and welcome to Tuesday’s edition of EDiBS! Thanks for being here for another day of Bible study in the book of 2nd Corinthians, where today we’ll be continuing our way through 2 Corinthians 3. I’m always so glad to have you along; if you’ll grab your Bible and find your place, we go to the Lord in prayer as we begin.
Heavenly Father, how wonderful indeed your promises are – and how manifold are they as well! Thank you for the power of your love, the promise of your presence, and the purposeful way that you work in each one of our lives. Teach us today by your Word and build us up in our faith. This we ask in Jesus’ name, amen.
As we get started today, Paul takes us deeper into the differences between the Old Covenant and the New. Our focus: no comparison with surpassing glory!
2 Corinthians 3:7-11
7Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, 8will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
One afternoon several years ago, I went out to the meadow on my little hobby farm and picked some wildflowers to place on the table in the entryway by the front door. I did that quite often back when I lived in the Ozarks, but for some reason, on that day something seemed different about what I had picked. When I walked back inside I took stock of what I had: Black-eyed Susans, Queen Anne’s lace, purple milkweed, daisy fleabane, blackberry stems with ripening berries, and pink multiflora roses. I put them all together in a vase — just a small sampling of what was available at the time — and I though I’ll never claim to be a flower arranger, I still remember how beautiful they were and how much I enjoyed that particular bouquet. I also remember a specific thought I had as I placed them in their spot on the table: as glorious as they looked in that vase inside the house, it didn’t come close to comparing with how they looked in their natural setting. In fact, when I lived in the country, every time I considered putting in formal flower beds around the house, I ultimately abandoned the idea, because when I looked at what God was doing in the fields and considered the eye He had for color and arrangement, I realized that the beauty of His divine touch was far more wonderful than what I could ever create myself.
In our reading today from the Scriptures, Paul sets out to distinguish the difference between two things similar in substance, but opposite in how they impact the lives of the people for whom they were made. One is beautiful, but the other far surpasses it, and in fact, replaces it. Paul wants to differentiate for us the Old and New Covenants established and initiated by the Lord. Up front, let’s be sure and say that both covenants are defined by glory. It’s not that one is bad and the other is good. It’s not that God made a mistake with the old and had to come up with the new to get things squared away. But the Bible is very clear that though the Old Covenant absolutely was one wrought in, defined by, and physically shown as being of God’s glory, it was only a shadow of what would finally come through the Lord Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It was destined to fade, partly due to the fact that it was not sufficient to save; it could only point out the need for a Savior. So, though the Old Covenant manifested glory, it was temporal in nature and would ultimately be replaced by the surpassing glory of the New Covenant, the Covenant brought by Christ and which will never fade away.
In essence, that’s really the whole point of today’s text, and Paul simply emphasizes it in several different ways. As we move into the passage, the first thing we see is that Paul calls the Old Covenant the ministry that brought death. Does that offend your sensibilities? It shouldn’t; that’s what the law does to us. It slays us as guilty sinners before God. The problem isn’t with the law, of course, but with us: as Paul says so well in the 7th chapter of his letter to the Romans, “...The sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death.” But he goes on to say right after that, “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” He’s talking about the New Covenant, of which we are part through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. And again, though there was indeed a glory associated with the Old Covenant…the giving of the Law and the calling of the people to separate themselves unto the Lord…it would only be in the New Covenant that righteousness would finally come; the righteousness given to us, that is, credited to our account, by the Lord Jesus.
Paul gets excited as he talks about this! If the Old Covenant, which brought death, had glory such that the people couldn’t even look at Moses because of the radiance on his face after coming down the mountain from being with the Lord, just think, he says, about the far exceeding glory of the New Covenant, which brings life and the ministry of the Holy Spirit!
What a great thought that is, and a fitting one to wrap up with for the day! We’ll get into this once more in tomorrow’s session, but here simply is what we’ve been given to meditate on as we close: The Old Covenant was a ministry of condemnation, but the New Covenant is the ministry of righteousness. The Old Covenant is passing away, but the New Covenant will not pass away. No wonder the New Covenant is much more glorious! The Old Covenant had glory to be sure...but it is far surpassed by the glory of the New Covenant. Just as the sun will always outshine the brightest moon, so is the distinction between the New Covenant and the Old. In fact, so great and all-surpassing is the New Covenant, it’s as if the Old Covenant never had any glory at all.
I’ll look forward to continuing with this next time we gather. Until then, have a super day, and joy to you in the Savior who has brought us new life! God bless you richly, and take care!