THE MINISTRY OF THE SPIRIT (NEW COVENANT) FAR SURPASSES THE GLORY OF THE MINISTRY OF THE LAW (OLD COVENANT)
How to solve a crisis of confidence in the ministry; Who is adequate to be a minister of the Gospel? How can anyone really have a vision for the Glory of the Lord? How can New Testament ministry be effective?
I. (:4-11) GOD MAKES US COMPETENT THROUGH THE SPIRIT TO REFLECT HIS GLORY IN NEW COVENANT MINISTRY
A. (:4-5) Competent to Minister
Cf. Jay Adams’ book: Competent to Counsel
1. Assurance of Confidence
a. Possession of Confidence
“And such confidence we have”
b. Provider of Confidence
“ through Christ”
c. Orientation of Confidence
2. Source of Confidence
a. Negatively: Not from Relying on Self
“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves”
b. Solely from Relying on God
“but our adequacy is from God”
Cf. “The Sufficient One” as a name of God – Ruth 1:20, 21; Job 21:15; 31:2; 39:32
Piper: Here Paul explains why he has such an amazing confidence that he is actually an instrument of God in the great fulfillment of the new covenant promises. His confidence is not based on anything that comes from himself. Instead he says it is all of God, and the evidence is that he is not merely handing on written laws or traditions like the scribes and Pharisees. Rather, he is preaching Christ in the ministry and power of the Spirit. And the result is new life. This new life is the authentication of Paul’s authority as a minister of the new covenant.
Barclay: Paul is feeling that perhaps his claim that the Corinthians are a living epistle of Christ, produced under his ministry, may sound a little like self-praise. So he hastens to insist that whatever he had done is not his own work but the work of God.
B. (:6-11) Comparison of Surpassing Glory of New Covenant Ministry vs. Old Covenant
Transition: “who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant”
Not just is God adequate in Himself, but He has made us adequate!
1. (:6a) New Covenant vs. Old Covenant
Cf. new and old wineskins; old covenant is worn out and obsolete; replaced by new covenant which is enduring
Study OT promises of New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-33 and Ezekiel 36:26-27
2. (:6a) Spirit vs. Letter
“not of the letter, but of the Spirit”
Plummer: in all this disparagement of to gramma there was no danger of seeming to disparage Christian writings, for as yet there were no Christian Scriptures.
3. (:6b-8) Ministry of Life vs. Ministry of Death
“for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how shall the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?”
4. (:9) Ministry of Righteousness vs. Ministry of Condemnation
“For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.”
Stedman: Righteousness means being fully accepted, having a sense of being approved by God, of being honored and cherished by him. The nearest word I know to describe this is the word worth. God gives you a standing of worth. You don’t have to earn it; you start with it. God tells you already in the new covenant, “I have loved you, I have forgiven you, I have cleansed you. You are my dearly beloved child. I intend to use you; you are part of my program; your life is significant. There is nothing more you can add to that. Now, on that basis, with the security of that acceptance, go back to your work.” And you go with a sense of approval and security.
5. (:10) Surpassing Glory vs. No Glory in Comparison
“For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory on account of the glory that surpasses it.”
6. (:11) Enduring Glory vs. Fading Glory
“For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.”
II. (:12-18) GOD GRANTS CONVERTS THE LIBERTY THROUGH THE SPIRIT TO SEE HIS GLORY REFLECTED IN BOLD NEW COVENANT MINISTRY
A. (:12-13) Boldness Should Characterize New Covenant Ministry
1. Boldness in Ministry Inspired by Assurance of Enduring Glory
“Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech”
Piper: Now we should be able to see what the hope is that Paul has in mind. It is the hope of the new covenant promise. It is the confidence that the sovereign Spirit of God is at work in his ministry to change hearts of stone into hearts of flesh and to give life (v. 6) and righteousness (v. 9) and permanence (v. 11) to all God’s people. God is at work! Not simply to tell them on tablets of stone what they must do but to do it in them!
Paul’s hope is that God has now undertaken to fulfil his ancient promise to take out the heart of stone, to write his law on soft hearts of flesh (Jeremiah 31:33) and put his Spirit within them and cause them to walk in his statutes (Ezekiel 36:27). The age of fulfillment has begun! And the victory of God’s purpose is certain because his Spirit is sovereign. He will create new hearts wherever he pleases. He will cause the obedience he requires. He will preserve permanently all that he calls. And the glory of his work will be great beyond anything the Old Testament ever knew.
2. Boldness Contrasted with Caution Exercised Under Ministry of the Law
“and are not as Moses, who used to put a veil over his face that the sons of Israel might not look intently at the end of what was fading away.”
Tasker: This frankness, so characteristic of Paul’s ministry, was not conspicuous in the ministry of Moses. This was not due to any moral failure on the part of Moses. It was inherent in the very nature of the revelation he mediated. He was concerned very largely with types and shadows, in which truth was very often wrapped up in mystery and symbol; and the mystery remained till the archetype was made known and the reality became visible.
Paul illustrates this from the Exodus story, and underlines the secondary inference that he has drawn from it in passing in verse 7. Moses, he says in effect, veiled his face not only because the Israelites shrank back from its brightness, but also because he knew that the glory upon it was fading; and in the providence of God, though not necessarily in the express and conscious design of Moses himself, the Israelites were not to see that the fading was symbolic of the ultimate abolition of the old dispensation. . . In the providence of God the Israelites, under the Mosaic dispensation, were able to enjoy only a revelation that was preparatory to something better. The sacrifices enjoined upon them were temporary and inferior sacrifices, the blood of bulls and goats; those who offered them could not see the end to which they were pointing; viz. the perfect sacrifice of Christ, which inaugurated the new covenant, and so had as its corollary the abolition of the old.
B. (:14-16) Enlightening via Christ Contrasted with Hardening and Rejection of the Lord
“But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart”
“but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away”
Guzik: Paul says that the Jews of his day were unable to see that the glory of Moses’ ministry had faded in comparison to the ministry of Jesus. If the veil were unlifted, they would see that the glory of Moses’ ministry had faded and they should now look to Jesus. But since the “same” veil that hid Moses’ face now lies on their heart, they still think there is something superior or more glorious in the ministry of Moses.
C. (:17) Liberty Associated with the Spirit
“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
Stedman: Freedom is being out in the open, it is having boldness, nothing to hide. That is what Paul is talking about. The man who is free is one who does not have any reputation to defend, no image to hide behind, nothing to preserve about himself. He can be himself. That is what freedom is. . .
This accounts for what many of us have difficulty understanding. It is the work of the Spirit to remove the veil, which is what is keeping us from seeing ourselves, and how futile it is for us to try hard to please God. There is another way of pleasing him — accepting what he gives you. As long as you are trying hard, you never can lay hold of what he is ready to give. Therefore, the work of the Spirit is to help you to see how futile your efforts at trying have become.
D. (:18) Inward Transformation to Mature Christlikeness is the Goal
“But we all, with unveiled face reflecting/beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
Commentators differ as to the meaning of the word “reflecting/beholding” here …
Kent: Although the idea of reflecting fits the parallel with Moses who reflected the glory of God, the translation “beholding” is usually preferred. The ancient versions commonly understood it this way. There is no clear instance of the verb having the meaning “reflect” unless it is in the active voice (it is middle here). Furthermore, the passage speaks of believers who can now see clearly because the veil has been removed from them.
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1) The one who has reconciled us to God the Father, has granted us free access and boldness to approach the throne of grace for whatever help we need is the one who has filled us with confidence towards God that we truly have the resources to effectively minister in the context of the glory of the New Covenant (vs.4).
2) Christ as the New Adam has made us adequate to serve as ministers of the New Covenant to extoll all of the blessings associated with the ministry of the Spirit. Whereas the Old Covenant was filled with types and shadows that pointed ahead to fulfillment in Christ, the New Covenant is one of surpassing glory and permanence (vs. 6).
3) Only the Lord is able to grant the freedom that comes from the enlightenment of a true knowledge of who He is and what He has accomplished in redeeming His own. This true knowledge removes the veil that obscured the vision of the Jews who were locked into Old Covenant realities and the fading glory of the ministry of Moses (vv. 14-16).
4) The identification of the Lord with the Spirit is an interesting one (v. 17). The ministry of glorifying Christ and hence the Father is now conducted by the Holy Spirit who grants the freedom and enlightenment that we need.