2 Corinthians 3 – 4

Original URL | Wednesday, September 14, 2022


um yeah so uh jim asked me to give the class a couple weeks back and i didn't really have a particular topic in mind back then but we're doing the readings a couple sundays ago and the reading was uh second corinthians three and four and that passage really struck me i've read it many times before um

but you know trying to figure out what i was going to do the class and i figured hey i want to spend some time in this passage so i spent the last week and a half going through it and focusing on those chapters second corinthians three and four particularly um now that that sunday when it was in the readings i think it was august uh september 7th and um ken and i were away and we were with uh my in-laws so we tuned into the cranston um memorial service um

and it hadn't occurred to me that maybe the brother in boston had actually given an exhortation on that particular topic which it turns out he had that's brother steve i don't know if steve's on the line tonight um but he he gave a lovely talk i looked it up on youtube and watched it and um you know he he connected with that verse second corinthians three verse two um you are our epistle written in our hearts known and read of all men and he he connected that with something that i think was brother bob lloyd had said once i don't know if anybody remembers what that was

i remember

oh he hey steve

yeah what was it remind us

bob bob used to say that you are sometimes the only bible other people will read

yeah it's not isn't that wonderful um i think that's such a great message and that that really is the point of the verse too it's it's we should see the word of god operating in the hearts of those who love him that you know because you know people not might not have a letter from paul or you know they may not have read the word of god um so this is another way for them to get it uh so it's such a perfect message to connect with this verse um uh brother steve i know i know you're a bit of a current expert i think you gave some classes at niagara a few years ago and so i um

i didn't really mean to try over this territory again maybe i'll get a different take on it um one of the things that i noticed in my reading of 2nd corinthians was the theme of comfort it kept coming up again and again so i don't have a lot of slides to share this time around but i'm gonna share one now

if i can

so um

you got that we can great


so this this this theme of comfort shows up again and again in second corinthians and so i've there's three greek words that are related um the expression paraklesis is often translated consolation and excitation um so i looked at all the places where those terms are used throughout the new testament there's another expression the comforter that john so jesus promises would come after he departs to the father he identifies the comfort with the holy spirit in john 14 and um you know it's described jesus himself as our advocate with the father that's the same term in first john

um there's somebody else whose name is connected with this this term uh comfort or consolation it's the the um the apostle barnabas in acts 4 verse 36 part of this means son of consolation that's the kios para kalisi uh i don't know if i said that right but son of consolation so you have all these ideas comfort exhortation drawing close to wrapped up in this expression uh paraklesis herculeo

and um paul sets the tone in chapter one uh he uses his term uh ten times between verses three and seven i've gone through and highlighted my bible just because it's like it's so thick and densely packed in to those introductory words to second corinthians one verse three through seven um and you might ask well why is this message of comfort so prominent in second corinthians

and if you recall first corinthians uh is is a bit of a rough one that was a tough letter for paul to write

paul hedge rebuked the occlusion for a number of issues uh including drunkenness at the memorial service as you can imagine that uh brethren suing one another at law

teaching that there was no resurrection and and of course most notoriously this issue of the ecclesia failing to handle um a case of serious sexual misconduct


and paul writes about this in the second letter uh in 2nd corinthians 2 if you have your bibles open we'll be going through a few passages here second corinthians 2 verse 7 through 8 he writes about the specific individual who had experienced church discipline he says that steps should be taken to restore that person he writes

so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow so i beg you to reaffirm your love for him so we see forgiveness and comfort and re-affirmation of love is part of the restorative process

paul is very clear when there's a problem right he's not going to beat around the bush when there's issues to contend with first corinthians makes that very clear

but he's equally assertive about ensuring that that restored center

knows the breach has been closed the relationship has been made whole again and i think it's a really important lesson for us to learn because

we must ensure that the the stigma and the shame

do not linger do not remain attached to the person that's been restored in such cases

um so that's that's how other people might see that person

but it's also important for the the individual to realize uh that the guilt um

it's no longer there it's forgiven uh it can feel very easy for that person to to have a sense of inadequacy attached um because of their history um

and and paul says you know there's that one might be swallowed up with sorrow that's not the intent

we don't want the the regret and sorrow to destroy the person um

so so just one more in in chapter seven if you like a few pages over

uh paul once again addresses the situation of his previous letter uh second corinthians 7 verse 8 for even if i made you grieve with my letter i do not regret it though i did regret it before i see that the letter grieved you though only for a while so paul didn't want to have to write that letter right he didn't want to have to discipline the ecclesia um it grieved him to do so but he doesn't regret it uh verse nine as it is i rejoiced not because you were grieved but because you grieved into repenting for godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation

uh verse 11 see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you but also what eagerness to clear yourselves

what indignation what fear what longing what zeal what punishment at every point you've proved yourselves innocent in this matter uh it's giving down verse 13 wherefore we are comforted and besides our own comfort we rejoice still more at the joy of titus because his spirit has been refreshed by you all so paul wasn't there to meet them in person but titus was titus brings back the good report it's kind of a turnaround story in some ways and and just imagine how relieved titus must have been to go to corinth and find that the corinthians had corrected their issues think about how relieved paul must have been to receive that good report from titus and so in some ways this is a a letter of celebration

the crisis that paul had been addressing in his first letter it could have played out in a lot of different ways i could have had a number of unfortunate conclusions but it seems like the outcome uh was was very favorable in almost every respect it's not to say that paul isn't dealing with any issues in the second letter but there's a lot of comfort to be had for those who uh heeded the first one

ben can i make a comment certainly brazil

so there are a number of scholars that think that there were three letters that were written to the corinthians have you looked at that at all

uh no not too close

yeah so um

so the second one is the missing letter right a lot of the scholars think the missing letter was the was this um a letter between first corinthians and second corinthians and this is what paul refers to in chapter two verse four

as his quote-unquote severe letter and it says that he wrote it with tears and anguish

and you know if you read through first corinthians yeah it's challenging but it's not like over the top

and i think that it's like in my mind anyway i i kind of like the idea that there was a letter in between the two that's been lost it was this severe letter and it's almost like the pendulum has swung you know like paul came down so hard on the ecclesia

and now this third letter that we know is second corinthians right he's just like trying to comfort them bring them back you know as a you know as a parent who disciplines his child you know you can't leave the child crushed you've got to sort of build this kid up again you know and if you've ever been at the receiving end of uh a father's wrath right you know you know how important it is for the dad to sort of build you up again and i think in my mind that's that's what what's happening and i think you're making a great point about all this emphasis on comfort i'd not really seen it displayed that way that's a great slide

yeah thanks for that comment i i hadn't really explored the the idea um i had heard about that so so in that case i would make second corinthians really the third epistle and yeah a more severe one um interesting in between yeah you know he wrote it with tears and anguish it says in chapter two verse four

um yeah so for what it's worth yeah damn i'm gonna i'm gonna stop the share at this point um

may go back to it at some point but um

yeah i wanted to to you know just in the vein of looking at this message of comfort and education um i wanted to begin by considering a really ancient promise that was given to the prophet jeremiah

and i think you'll make the connection with the the verse in 2nd corinthians 3 that we just considered about uh you may be the only bible someone reads and in jeremiah 31 33 god says

this is the covenant i will make with the house of israel after those days declares the lord i will put my law within them and i will write it on their hearts

and i will be their god and they shall be my people

and um you know as christophians as as fathers of christ we love our bibles we love them so much but if they do not affect our hearts if they do not enter into us and change our hearts um they're just words on the page aren't they

so it's not enough for god's commandments need to be written on stone tablets as they were under the old covenant or printed with ink on the pages of our bibles um [Music]

you know god's been trying to work on our hearts for a long time

and scripture uses the analogy of a craftsman to make this point so so think about somebody um the tablets of stone were written with the finger of god right that's exodus 31. um

i think that's such a neat picture that god you know put the ten commandments on tables of stone you know just through the force of his his finger um

and and in moses's time uh they might have used chisels to work stone you can think about the way that a chisel directs all the force of the hammer blow onto a single cutting edge

to cut stone to cut a very difficult material to work with and nowadays we have uh laser etching and we can use high energy photons of light directed on on steel to to make our mark um

and so i was thinking about you know


how the the children of israel were not able to to bear the law of moses and you know if you've ever worked with wood and have the experience of of a piece of wood splintering or um you realize that the work piece cannot always take the force that we impose upon it right there there's a there's an allegory there and in some senses i i think that when moses came down from the mountain and he

destroys the the tables of stone almost represents the broken covenant uh the ineffectiveness of the law to make its mark on a stony human heart


god tells zachariah the prophet that the people had made their hearts as an adamant stone unless they should hear the law and zechariah 7 12. the esv has um you know they made their hearts diamond heart right so what what's harder than a diamond right there's not much harder than a diamond they have diamond drill bits you know for cutting through very hard pieces of material right usually it's the it's the harder material that works the softer material so for us to have you know diamond hard hearts

how can god work with that

he can't so so we need to be transformed our hearts need to be changed before god can work on it ezekiel says well god in ezekiel says that he will give a new heart he'll give us a heart of flesh ezekiel 36 27 and i will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes you shall keep my judgments and do them and so that transformation of the heart is what the new covenant is all about is it um the writer of the hebrews says that christ mediates a new covenant that is better than the old one and speaking of a new covenant he makes the first one obsolete and what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away

and so this is the context for what we're about to consider in second corinthians 3. um

any questions or comments

yeah so i don't go ahead no just i said it sounds good all right

so in some ways you know this is a topic that we we've covered before you know it's well trodden ground and yet it's it keeps coming up right you know i i go on the internet sometimes and read uh messages and christian forums and people want to know well are christians supposed to follow the law of moses isn't part of the word of god and there's this phenomenon um i don't know if this has always been going on or if it's more it seems like it's more of a recent thing this hebrew roots movement with uh christians people who follow christ going back and trying to follow the law as much as they can and i i don't really understand it i don't know how we were expected to you know follow the purification rituals and sacrifices and things like that i don't know how they reconcile that with acts 15 the jerusalem conference and you know so many areas of teaching in the new testament and my intention isn't really to get into that too much tonight um but you know there are lessons to be learned um when spirit works in our hearts you know the law talks about leaving the corners of the field unharvested so that gleaners can come in and reap from them so if i followed the letter to the law very literally that commandment wouldn't have much meaning to me because i don't have a field um something but but there is some concept that i could apply with respect to leaving for others and so you know obviously there's much that we can learn from the love notes it's beyond even realizing that it was the old way that taught us about our own sin and taught us about our own inadequacy and yet was insufficient to save us and pointed forward to the new covenant um

you know even beyond that that lesson there's a lot for us to take from from the old testament and from the law of moses um

and i think it's important for us to recognize that the the pharisees and the people of christ's time you know they had a hard time dealing with this and there was this whole concept of of of putting a fence around the torah and and you know making sure that we were so far away from even violating god's commandments um that's you know tithing mints and cumin all these things uh even the herbs got got tied um

but you know there was wasn't anything to say well

how about 15 or 20 percent why are we selling for ten percent which i think is what the you know the new covenant spirit says hey

god wants complete devotion he wants all of us


so so there is anything wrong with the law certainly it's just insufficient to save us um [Music] so

bringing this back to the second corinthians i didn't want to get too bogged down in that point but

in insights scripture in second corinthians we're going to be looking at how paul speaks about his credentials as an apostle i i wanted to get to this point i think there is a connection to the way we think about um the law in the new covenant we're going to get into that in a few minutes um but but paul seems to be being challenged on his credentials to instruct the corinthians uh and to be a leader in the ecclesia

um and so the lawful thing for paul to do would be to speak in human terms without his preeminent qualifications as the apostles of the gentiles um but you really get the sense he doesn't want to do that um if you still have your bibles up in terms of second corinthians 12 in verse 11 [Music] and um

he says in second corinthians 12 11 i have become a fool and glory you have compelled me

for i ought to have been commended of you

for nothing am i behind the very chiefest apostles

though i'd be nothing

all right let me get the screen share going again here

all right so this this bit about commendation you notice in in second corinthians 12 verse 11 he talks about you know i ought to have been commended of you so this is the theme of commendation i'm not going to share the slide right now but it's the same thing it's it's one that comes up in second corinthians over and over and over again um so in second corinthians 11 if you want to go back just one chapter uh verses 16 to 33 he he really lays out his credentials as an apostle points to the beatings the shipwrecks the perilous journeys all these outward markers of the sacrifices he's made as uh demonstrating his complete devotion to christ [Music] you wouldn't sacrifice everything the way that paul had unless you were entirely devoted um but but he says that that thing again i speak as a fool right second corinthians 11 verse 23 uh because to highlight those markers of his discipleship and his piety and his devotion it doesn't appear to be the most humble thing to do

we have this expression nowadays we talk about the people who uh virtue signal and it's like they're they're they're grandstanding uh their morals they're showing how good they are uh but by the things they do and it almost reads like paul's friend grandstanding this way and he says i speak as a fool he doesn't want to do that but his opponents the people that are putting him down who he hardly addresses directly in this epistle um are kind of forcing him into this position where he has to speak in human terms about his his credential to be a spiritual leader isn't that

what crazy what was the expression you use virtue signature signaling yeah i've not heard that it's just

it's like a humble brag

yeah kind of like that

yeah um

so so that's that's where we are in second corinthians three um when he's talking about do we need letters of commendation from second corinthians three verse one

do we begin again to commend ourselves or need we as some others epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you

um so he's saying like well what do we need to establish our authenticity as apostles to to have some authority to speak um in the ecclesia

um you know so we actually use letters of commendation inclusion today don't we um when hannah and i joined boston i'm pretty sure the reporting brother in france sent some sort of letter vouching for us

um it was a very nice letter too

that's that's good to hear


there's some other examples in the new testament of this right so um

max 18 verse 27 apollos


i don't know if this table is helpful but the idea is to kind of outline it and i want to compare what paul says about uh his true commendation in terms of sender who's the senator who received the letter who was the subject of the letter and who delivered the letter so in acts 18 verse 27 you know apollos is a new disciple he's he's come from alexandria to ephesus where he learned the truth

and now he wants to go to ikea and it seems like

well the brothers and sisters in ephesus basically sent a letter of vouching for him

something similar happens in romans 16 where where paul is commending phoebe uh from the church at san crita

to the romans

and speaking on her behalf

so there absolutely is a precedent for this


but paul uses the idea a little bit differently he seems to point that there's there's actually a higher ideal

to recognize individuals through the transformative work of god's spirit in their hearts

so just look at second corinthians three verse two and three and let's read carefully and think about the sender receiver subject who's delivered it because each of these aspects are addressed in these verses

you are our epistle there you go so um

the epistle is the corinthian equation themselves written in our hearts known and read of all men so the receiver is read by all verse 2 in as much as you are manifestly declared to be the epistle of christ so it's a letter from jesus

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

so this is really what should have identified paul as as a follower of christ an apostle a trustworthy brother to receive instruction by

it seems like paul had some opponents who were saying you know we need to look into this guy we need to make sure he's on the up and up or he on the level and and paul's saying isn't am i not recognizable to you as one in whom christ is

working so i think it's really interesting how he takes that sort of natural idea that kind of i'm not going to say fleshly or human thinking but this this letter of recommendation letter of combination sort of a natural way of addressing this in human terms and he he takes that he has a spiritual angle um for kind of addressing you know what my authority should be recognizable this way

i think that's why i think that's why he got the letter recorded


so there's there's a loose analogy here between

um you know kind of what moses taught the people the lessons we learned from the old covenant and how we're supposed to think in the new covenant and um

you know just because the old covenant is no longer binding on believers today doesn't mean we go out and do murders and we we teach children not to hit um or behave violently before we ingrain in them a non-violent character right so it's sort of the same thing here when somebody you know at the outset you know these letters of recommendation they have great utilities we see the first century equation using them we use them today right they serve our purpose but we're supposed to grow beyond that

so we don't totally disregard the moral teaching of the old covenant

but we're supposed to have our thinking elevated beyond that and that's what paul hopes the corinthians would see in him

that god's word was working in his heart

so i want to i want to change gears just a little bit and

go to the book of exodus chapter 34. please turn with me to exodus 34. and so this this is a passage that takes place after moses has come down from the mounts

he's asked god to see his glory


god places him in the cleft of the rock and passes before him and says you'll see my back you can't see my face but but i'll show you um in some sense my glory


so moses comes down from the mountain and his his face is radiant right to such an extent that aaron and the people are afraid


exodus 34 verse 30 uh when aaron and all the children of israel saw moses behold the skin of his face shone and they were afraid to come near to him

and later in the story he dons a veil to cover his face and um

i would say and i think that this is a passage that i may have misunderstood in the past because with a sort of a superficial reading it'd be easy to make a connection between the veil as being intended to conceal the radiance of moses's face um perhaps because the people were afraid right they saw his radiant face he was glowing right think about like jesus on the mountain transfiguration it says his space glowed and his ramen glowed and this was like an awesome site it says something similar about um stephen uh that he had the appearance of an angel and we know how people are you know the angels always tell him do not be afraid there's something about the angel there's something about stephen's appearance there's something about jesus on the mount of transfiguration that's just um unworldly you know kind of supernatural radiance in some respect it seems like that's what's happening um

and so i think in the past i've read this passage about moses's face shining and him donning the veil to hide the globe so the people wouldn't be afraid

but while they were afraid of the glory that was manifest in his face

i don't think that's why he donned the veil um so let's let's take a closer look at this um

i think the the king james is actually not that great here it says in verse 33 that

till moses had done speaking with them he put a veil on his face so to me that kind of sounds like you know he he put the veil on until he was finished speaking with them but you'll see pretty much every other translation makes it really clear that moses starts the veil after he's finished speaking with the people it's really important to understand for paul's point in 2nd corinthians 3 to be coherent we'll look at how paul uses this in a moment

but you know if you look at those alternate translations of verse 33 um does anybody have that would like to read yesterday or niv

um [Music]

gallery 33 in uh niv ben yes

yeah when moses finished speaking to them he put a veil over his face

excellent can you read 35 as well or 34 and 35 just keep going to the end yep


but whenever he entered the lord's presence to speak with him he removed the veil until he came out and when he came out and told the israelites what he had been commanded they saw that his face was radiant then moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the lord

okay so

here's the thing it seems like it happened repeatedly so first moses speaks unveiled with god then the children of israel witness moses unveiled radiant face

and then last of all only then does moses dawn the veil until the next time he speaks with god

so they they see the glory of god in the face of moses there's no doubt about that so why does he wear the veil i think we have to go to paul's exposition to understand this better um any questions on exodus 34 before we go back to second conditions

all right so ii corinthians 3 verse 6 paul identifies himself as minister of the new covenant

um holds that in contrast to the administration of death he calls in verse 7 which was written and engraven on stones i'm in second corinthians 3 verse 7 interestingly enough when it said it talks about the administration of death that sounds really bad um written and ingrained that word written is the same as letter in verse in the previous verse uh

the letter kills but the spirit gives life so the letter is what's written engraved in stones um

but the spirit is what gives life so so paul's asking if the torah which came with glory in verse 7 again so that the children of israel could not look steadfastly upon the face of moses for the glory of his face which glory was passing away how shall not rather the ministration of the spirit be with glory


so so this expression that the people could not look steadfastly upon the face of moses no it might mean that they couldn't look steadfastly on the face of moses like they had to avert their eyes like they couldn't make eye contact with moses um

you know

i i don't think that's it because it does say that they approached moses presence when he was in glory and he donned the veil afterwards um and i would say that second corinthians 3 verse 17 i'm sorry i got the reference wrong it's verse 13. so verse 7 verse 13 both talk about the people um not looking steadfastly at moses's face so let's look at verse 13 now moses would put a veil over his face so the israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end

um the king james version that was the usb king jam says could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished and so the same expression is in verse seven it could not step fast and behold um so in both references it's clear that the veil blocked their site that's why they couldn't steadfastly hold the veil blocked their site so they could not exhibit uh they could not see the glory that was passing away

so the veil represents uh their blindness uh not to the glory of god exhibited in the old testament because that's what they saw in the face of moses right they did see moses's radiant face so they weren't blind to that but they were blind to the glory of god that would be exhibited in christ uh by the new covenant um that would ultimately eclipse the glory of the former government

um so so my conclusion looking at this more closely um i don't know if this is new for anybody else's um not something i think i completely understood before but the this moses wore the veil because he didn't want people to see the glory fading from his face

and in paul's time the people it says that even on to this day verse 15 when moses is read the veil is upon their heart

um in the previous verse 14 as well their minds were blinded for until this day remains the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament


so so so there's some blindness

i think part of it i mean you know taking us to

that's verse 18 right

we we have the open face we're beholding

uh as in a glass of glory of lord um i think that's talking about like like a mirror image right the rv as reflecting as a mirror the glory of the lord that's what we get to see right so as glorious as moses was

he wasn't a mere image of god that's what christ shows us um

you know we in exodus 34 he's just come down from the mountain and moses had asked god to show show me your glory and god says well you know nobody can actually see me and live

and yet jesus teaches that the pure in heart blessed are they for they shall see god how can they see god so so christ is that that mirror reflecting who god is and um you know just it really is kind of mind-blowing to consider that um that we we can see god with with more clarity than moses or anyone the old covenant could and and i think that the message about you know are we in fact reflecting christ are we being transformed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the spirit of the lord right so that's that's where it applies to us right we have to be transformed into that and be mere images ourselves

i mean if we want to carry on in this vein i mean what paul brings us to ultimately by the end of chapter four is that we look not at the things which are seen but the things which are not seen the things which are seeing our temporal things we're generating are eternal and so moses was looking to see god um

you know the people were seeing the radiance of moses face you know so we're talking about vision in a very literal sense right using our eyes to observe something but paul's talking about perceiving something that's unseen

right and so that that's something that happens through character that that's that's that higher level that we have in the new covenant is seeing spiritualize uh what we can't see with their natural place you know a letter of commendation that's not a bad thing it's a good thing to be able to see with our eyes that's what a letter of commendation does in terms of identifying us to to people who we might be strangers to but really um

the the true identification of those who are who belong to the good shepherd who who the the shepherd recognizes is his letter written in their heart and so that's that's that higher level of spiritual vision that we're trying to achieve through christ

yeah any other comments and the points to share this is such a rich topic there's so so many different ways you can go with this i love to hear what people have to say