An Exegetical Look of 2nd Corinthians 3:1-11

2 Corinthians 3:7-8 “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,[8]will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?”

The words “carved into letters on stone” seem to represent the ten commandments of the old testament. In Exodus 34:29-30, it is said, that “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone, while He talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come near him.”

Paul certainly means to say that the glory of Moses, and of his dispensation, was a fading glory; but that the glory of the gospel would be permanent, and increasing forever. Tasker (page 62) says this in relation to the superiority of the new covenant, “But although the Mosaic law killed it had a very necessary function in the education of man’s moral sense, for it was, as Paul says in Galations 3:24, ‘ Our custodian until Christ came’ (RSV). It reflected the character and the purposes of God, and so could be rightly described as glorious.

Gods presence on mount Sinai caused the face of Moses to glow. We are lights to the world because we wear Christ in our hearts. He is our law, He is or letter (Word; John 1:1), He is our life, and He is our light. Jesus is the light of the world and His presence being within us allows each of us, as Christians, to glow throughout all of the world. The glory in the new covenant is so much greater than the old, because it gives us the privilege to walk in the light as Jesus is in the light (1 John 1:7), and in Jesus there is no darkness. So if we are glowing as mosses glowed, then there is no need for letters of recommendation. Our hearts will shine in a way that is evident that we are Gods children. The world will know we are Christians by our supernatural love, because God is love. Anytime we show love to our brothers and sisters in Christ, or show love to the world in general, we show them God as well, and if we show them God, then we also show them light, and if we show them light, they know who we are and what we are here for. This is so because our purpose is the same as Christ’s purpose. There is no need for boasting about our works, or being consumed with the idea of letters. We now, though Jesus Christ, have something much greater (Romans 8:1).

2 Corinthians 3:9-11 “For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.[10] Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.[11]For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.”

In describing the law of condemnation Tasker says (page 63), “. . . the apostle elaborates the contrast which he has already drawn between the two covenants. The greater glory of the new covenant is to be seen, he says, in the superior function it was instituted to discharge.” If you try to justify yourself by the works of “the law,” you condemn yourself, but the law of righteousness justifies us because Jesus paid the price for us for all time. Therefore, more glory comes with the new covenant. Kruse explains this in more detail (page 96), “This is the apostles second argument from the lesser to the greater, to demonstrate the more splendid character of the new covenant. Here, the old covenant is called the dispensation of commendation, reflecting again the fact that the law operating under it can only condemn those who fail to meet the demands. The new covenant is called the dispensation of righteousness because under its provisions, those who are certainly guilty of transgressions are nevertheless accounted righteous by God (cf Romans 3:21-26). Once again the new covenant is shown to be more splendid than the old, for under the new covenant, the grace of God is seen far more clearly.”

The blood of animal sacrifices will not pay for our sins, so the old law could not last forever if we were to have any hope in our life after death. The blood of Christ is for all, forever. When we come in contact with the blood of Christ, we live eternally as Gods children (John 17:3). Jesus is the truth that is everlasting. He is never-ending, and those who live in him will be never-ending as well. Before the law, we knew no guilt, we knew not our own sin. The law allowed us to see what sin is, so that we would realize our need from a savior from those sins. We can’t be in relationship with God when we are in sin because sin makes us unholy, and God is holy; set apart, pure love. The law is impossible to keep, but it’s purpose is to show us what morality is, so that we will be humbled.

This impossible law could not be everlasting, because we are here on earth to have a relationship with God if we choose to love him. Jesus makes this possible, so there is no longer a need for a covenant beyond this covenant. Kruse says (page 96) “The old covenant is described as that which faded away (NIV, was fading away’, is better). It is important to recognize that Paul does not imply that the law itself is fading away, but that it was the ministry of the law that was fading away. The law, as the expression of the will of God for human conduct, is still valid. In fact, Paul says the purpose of God bringing in the new covenant of the Spirit was so that the righteous demands of the law might be fulfilled in those who walk by the Spirit (Romans 8:4). However, the time of the ministry of the law has come to an end.” There is nothing that can separate us from God if we are in Christ (Rom. 8). No sin, no doubt, no thought. In Christ we are a light of life to a world that is dead. We are now walking by the Spirit of Christ.

In my own words, I summarize this passage as the realization that the world knows us by our love. We have no need for letters to or from people to commend each other. Our lives in and of itself, as Christians, are how people know who we are, and what we are about. We glow forever, in Christ, in such away as to where it is unavoidable to recognize who we are. Paul’s ministry, and those to whom he ministered to in Corinth, wore that light.

So, If we boast, let us boast in Christ. To him be the glory. He lives through us, therefore He (and the work we do in His name) is our recommendation. It’s amazing to me how Paul can take an ignorant request from the people at Corinth, and turn it into the Gospel somehow. He is able to take any situation and find Jesus is it. I guess that might be because Jesus is truth. I wonder if maybe we could apply this to our lives?

If someone accuses us, could we respond by sharing the good news a Jesus Christ, and his new covenant? That’s one way to get an enemy thinking about the Lord. We must always remember, that just like the old law passes way, as does this world. Just like the letter, this world has light, but only for a short time, and then that which is greater will come, and shine its light forever. This should make us even more urgent to share the Gospel, as well as make sure that we ourselves are in the light!

We must use our short time here to show people the light that last eternally. We can’t get so consumed with the small details in life that we forget about our main focus as Christians. To seek and save the lost. God gives us free salvation, all he asks in return is for us to bring others to the same salvation. When we are at a store, or social event, are we building relationships with customers and workers we come in contact with? Remember, if they know us, they know Christ, and if they know Christ, they know God. Are we taking advantage of relationships we already have with friends, co-workers, and family to try to amplify our Christ-likeness with them so that they might come to Jesus? We must take advantage of every opportunity. God wants a relationship with everyone. Sometimes we allow our pride to get in the way. We must not worry what the world thinks of us, good or bad. We can’t spend our time wondering how people view us because of our past, good or bad. Our confidence is in Christ and Him crucified. Anything good we do is not from us, but from Jesus. Anything bad we do is no longer on our shoulders, because Jesus saved us from our transgressions. We are lights that now shine forever!

Everyone has a story, and the only way that story will have a happy ending is if they know our savior. He will feel any void in their life, but he can only do that if we take the opportunities presented to us to teach these people of him! So to answer Paul’s question in verse one, no, we don’t need letters of recommendation to or from each other, because our hearts are our letters! Written in spirit, in love, in grace, and in light. People will see how Christ has changed us if we make it evident by living in love! We will have confidence if we remind ourselves that we are not of this world, but rather, we are sons and daughters of God, through Jesus. In regards to the old and new promises of God, R.A. knox says (tasker, page 63), “its glory is now dimmed like the shine of lamps when dawn comes.” But now, God says through the life of Jesus “let there be light,” and it was good! – Jesse

Suggest Reading Before This: An Exegetical Look of 2nd Corinthians 3:1-11, Part 1