Why do we need to be set free and from what?
The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the CORINTHIANS – Chapter 3
1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?
2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.
3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. – 2 Corinthians 3:1-3
David Guzik says that a letter of recommendation was common in those days as there were many false prophets. The letters were recommendations from well known Christians to churches that the person was of good reputation in the Lord. Paul is saying do you need to see my qualifications, have my reputation confirmed. He goes on to say how they were living epistles (which was very gracious of him). Paul was blessed by the church even though there were problems as they were living manifestations of grace. We are living epistles written by the Spirit on our human hearts. God wants the spiritual and the natural to be united. He wants us to be manifestations of His glory on the earth now. By grace we are holy and sanctified to do His work and we have all that we need because he has given us a new heart of flesh.
And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, – Ezekiel 11:19
8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. – Psalm 16:8-9
4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.
5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,
6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. – 2 Corinthians 3:4-6
Paul is entering into his teaching about the glory of God, which was revealed through the giving of the law and then through the coming of Jesus. He begins by saying that there is nothing of ourselves that we can bring. When Abraham was told to take Isaac to offer him as a burnt sacrifice Isaac asked why they did not have an animal to offer:
Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. – Genesis 22:8
Abraham knew that he had nothing of himself to offer, no self-sufficiency, as the Lord had taught him that He was his provider – Jehovah-Jireh (Gen 22:14). But, we have the New Covenant. The law has been fulfilled by Jesus, replaced by the sacrificial offering of Jesus and the giving of the Holy Spirit. God is our sufficientcy. His grace is sufficient:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9
We have the Holy Spirit, the very power of God Living in us so that we can be ministers of Christ:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:8
The law given without grace condemns us however, to those who are saved it teaches us. But, it is the Spirit that gives us life. May the power of Christ rest upon us today in all that we think, do and say.
7 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?
9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. – 2 Corinthians 3:7-9
When Moses was with the Lord on Mount Sinai He appeared first as a fire
18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.
19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. – Exodus 19:18-19
Fire speaks of judgment and here we see the Lord about to gone his holy law and revealing Himself as the Holy God of righteousness. Later that Lord calls Moses and Aron to the Mount again and this time He reveals Himself as a cloud of glory. When Moses came down from the mount hie face radiated the glory of God.
The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. – Exodus 24:16
God led the Children of Israel through the desert using fire and a cloud. Could the fire represent His righteousness and the cloud His glory? When we face the righteousness of God it leads us to repent. The ministry of condemnation. When we face the glory of God we realise what he wants for our lives – to reflect that glory. The ministry of righteousness received by grace through faith in Jesus alone.
In between these, when Moses came down from the mount his face radiated the glory of God. He reflected the glory of God physically for a while but it faded. However, the glory God places in our lives through the Holy Spirit will never fade but grow, in our time on earth and forever in eternity. God will be glorified.
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. – 2 Corinthians 3:10-11
Paul continues to compare the two covenants. The first covenant which was based on the Law of the Lord was given to teach us that we are unrighteous.
24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,
26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. – Galatians 3:24-26
Term term “guardian” is translated in other places “teacher” as the people who were employed to care and protect the children also taught them, in Roman times (just like the Holy Spirit cares, protects and teaches us). The law reveals God’s glory where as the Holy Spirit is God’s glory living in us. The law shows us what is expected. The Spirit fulfills that expectation in our lives and manifests the glory of God through us. The law was fulfilled in Christ and Will be brought to an end, whereas the Spirit is eternal and will never pass away. Therefore we being sealed with that spirit will never pass away.
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. – Ephesians 1:13-14
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold,
13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.
14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.
15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.
16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. – 2 Corinthians 3:12-16
This passage suggests a reason why Moses wore a veil. When he came down from Sinai he’s face shone with the glory of God.
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.
30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. – Exodus 34:29-30
And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. – Exodus 34:33
Paul suggests Moses wore the veil not to protect those who looked at him but to hide the fact that the glory was fading. The glory he received was fading. The law could not give life but revealed the heart of mankind. In the Old Testament the glory of God was concealed but it was revealed in the New Testament. When Jesus died the veil on the temple was rent from top to bottom as God made it possible for ordinary men to enter the presence of God through the sacrifice of His Son. Sadly people still have a veil over their hearts and unless God is allowed to do a work in their lives to take the veil away they remain in unbelief. When people believe that they can be righteous by trusting in fulfilling the law their mind is darkened,
They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. – Ephesians 4:18
Let’s rend our hearts today to receive the grace Jesus is pouring out on us , that gives us His righteousness which is the only thing that pleases the Father. As Joel said:
and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. – Joel 2:13
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. – 2 Corinthians 3:17
Sadly many people misunderstand this verse and believe it gives them licence to do things. Paul has been talking in this section about the relationship between the two covenants, the law and the Spirit. The liberty (freedom, as this translation states) we have is liberty from the bondage of the law and from the consequences of sin: death and destruction. We are made free, free to make our own decisions, not bound to obey our sinful nature as we were before Christ set us free. True freedom is to be able to submit to the Holy Spirit in worshipful obedience. The Lord is the Spirit. The Lord is our freedom. Freedom from our sick, rebellious and selfish nature that constantly fights against the freedom that God has given us to be obedient.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:29-30
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18
We are being changed from one level of glory to another as we are sanctified for service, set apart for the Masters use. We see the Glory of the Lord, not really with our eyes (although creation does reveal His glory) but with our spirit as we become closer to God through our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The Lord is the Spirit. This verse has been translated in various ways:
(NKJV) But 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.
(NLT) So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
The thought of the reflected glory being like a mirror is apparent in many translations. When we look at ourselves in a mirror we see a reflection of who we are. When people look at us they see a reflection of who Christ is. If we are walking in the Spirit that gives out a true reflection of Jesus. But is we are in the flesh all they see is us. We are being changed into His glorious image, while we wait patiently for our transformation in to our eternal dwelling place, when we will truly reflect His image for all eternity.
20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. – Philippians 3:20-21
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers