Lesson: Glory of the New Covenant
By Rev. Leo H. McCrary II – May 1, 2022
Taught From – 2 Corinthians 3:7-18
Our lesson this week continues in our look at Paul’s encouragement to those who are of genuine faith. In our lesson last week, Paul encouraged believers to turn to the Lord in those times of need, rather than trying to take on all that we go through by our own might. This week’s lesson is going to take a look at continuing to grow and mature in our faith in the Lord and what He has promised through Christ. Our lesson this week is being taught from 2 Corinthians 3:7-18.
The Ministry of Righteousness
Our lesson opens with Paul speaking about the glory of the ministry of the Spirit. To do this, we will first see Paul speaking about the glory of the “ministry of death” (v.7). One may ask the question, how could a ministry of death be glorious? Well, let’s take a look at this ministry of death that Paul is speaking of in the opening verse of our lesson.
Ministry of “death”
We will see Paul tell us that this ministry of “death” was written and engraved on stones. This is a major clue to the fact that Paul was speaking of the Mosaic Law and the Ten Commandments. Initially, we will recall that the law and commandments were written by God and given to Moses (Ex. 24:12). Those tablets were destroyed when the children of Israel had worshiped the golden calf. After a certain period of time, Moses was commanded to write on two new stone tablets God’s law and commandments and teach them to the children of Israel (Ex. 34:1; Deut. 10:1).
So, if Paul was speaking about the law and commandments of God, why did he refer to it as a ministry of death? To answer this question, I want to reference what Paul wrote in his letter to the Roman church. Paul wrote, “for what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:3-4).
Paul, I want you to understand, was not condemning the law but spoke of a truth about the law. When the Lord gave the law, the children of Israel were supposed to live by it in order to become holy priests. However, the children of Israel immediately sinned with their worship of the golden calf and broke their covenant with the Lord. In breaking the covenant, there was no redemption for the children of Israel.
Earlier in that same letter, Paul said to the Romans, “I was alive once without the law (he thought he was), but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death (Rom. 7:9-10).” The law convicted Paul of his sin but was unable to bring to him mercy, forgiveness, and salvation. So, this is why Paul referred to the law and commandments as a ministry of death.
Now, I do want to point out, again, that Paul was not condemning the law. As Paul says here to the Corinthians, the law was and still is glorious – it was given by God. After Moses was given the law and commandments by the Lord, His countenance reflected God’s glory! To the Romans, Paul said, “the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good (Rom. 7:12).” However, Paul was simply pointing out the obvious that mankind needed the help of God with fulfilling the law and that the help the Lord provided was even more glorious
Ministry of the Spirit
Paul speaks of the ministry of the Spirit and asks in comparison to the ministry of death, “how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious (v.8)?” What is the ministry of the Spirit? In John’s gospel, we are told that the ministry of the Spirit is the doctrine of truth – the gospel of Christ – which is given by the Father through His only begotten Son (John 16:13-15).
Paul then makes this statement about the ministry of the Spirit: “if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory (v.9).” To further show the exceeding glory of the ministry of the Spirit – the gospel – Paul speaks to the glory of the law again. Paul says, “what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels (v.10).” This was not to say that the law doesn’t still have glory because it does, but the glory of the gospel of Christ shines even brighter than the glory of the law.
The children of Israel were proud to have the law and commandments, though they struggled mightily to even keep part of the law. Their pride came from the fact that they were God’s chosen people. Yet, I tell you today that all people are now God’s chosen as He chose to love the world and give the world His only begotten Son. So, we who have believed in the only begotten Son, we should be filled with much pride in our deliverance!
We will see Paul speak to this pride as he said that he and Timothy spoke boldly in their ministering of the gospel (v.12). They spoke the gospel with great boldness because of the hope that they had. Paul would tell you that he came to realize that he had no hope while he lived under the law; the reason being because he realized he could not find mercy and salvation under the law. Yet, because of Christ, Paul would tell you that he now had hope in the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness, therefore, he had hope in his salvation.
So, Paul was not ashamed of the gospel and letting its glory shine through the boldness of his speech. We will see in this scripture that Paul speaks of how Moses had to cover his face with a veil after visiting with the Lord (v.13). Moses would cover his face to dim the shine of God’s glory when speaking to the people (Ex. 34:33-35). This reflection of God’s glory on Moses’ face would only last for a little while – it would eventually fade away until he would visit the Lord again. The gospel of Christ was not like the shine of Moses’ face after visiting with God; the gospel will never lose its shine – its splendor (glory).
Unveiled glory of God
Unfortunately for the children of Israel, their minds remained veiled to the glory of God (vss.14-15). Why was this the case? Well, Paul tells us that the only one that is able to take the veil off of anyone’s eyes so that they can behold God’s glory is Christ (v.16). Unfortunately, for the Jews, their eyes were still veiled to the glory of God because they had not yet accepted Christ who is able to and can take the veil away.
The glory of the Lord is present in our world today just as it was for the children of Israel when Moses came down from Mount Sinai. How so, you ask? Well, God’s glory no longer is hidden from us as we receive the gospel and enter into fellowship with the Lord. Moses would visit with the Lord on occasion, but for the genuine believer, the Lord abides in us and is with us at all times through the inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Paul closes out our lesson on this thought: “we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (v.18).” You have heard me say in recent weeks, in my sermons, that through the inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit, we become a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
With the Lord dwelling in us, He is changing us from our old man – that sinful creature – into a creature that is led by the Spirit. Because we are being led by the ministering of the Spirit, which is glorious, we are becoming glorious as well; we begin to take on the image of God. Now, some people will notice this transformation and even rejoice at this transformation. Others will notice that something has changed about you and not rejoice at your transformation.
You see, those who are of Christ, they will see the glory of God radiating from, not just your face, but from all of you. Those who are of Christ will greatly rejoice at this sight! However, those who are not of Christ, won’t care much for the brightness of this glory and will have to cover their eyes with a veil to dim God’s glory radiating from you. Again, there are many people whose eyes are veiled and they end up being blinded by the veil from seeing the glory of God.
I tell you, it is not a good thing to be blinded from seeing the glory of the Lord! You should certainly want to behold God’s glory today! So, I encourage you who may have veiled eyes to God’s glory to seek Christ – go to Him so that you can have that veil taken off of your eyes and see the splendor of God’s glory.