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Bible Commentaries

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

2 Corinthians 3

Verses 1-18

  1. Intro:
    1. Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it. Issac Newton, First Law of Motion.
      1. As human beings we normally do not like change, but it is inevitable.
      2. As Christians we normally do not like change, but it is inevitable.
    2. Have you ever cried out to God, “God, what are You doing? What do you want from me? Why did you leave me here”
      1. If He only had 1 verse to sum up what He wants...I think He’d answer 2Cor.3:18.
        1. It is vital that day by day we live w/in this conceptual framework so that in everything we do or think we promote the growth of Christlikeness (or glorification) within our lives. (Paul Barnett, BST, Pg.75)
        2. See, the gospel of Christ not only illuminates our darkened lives; equally remarkably, it transforms them little by little so that they increasingly resemble the moral & spiritual character of the Lord Jesus.
    3. Slide#3 Paul points out to us 4 great comparisons between the OT Law & the NT Grace:
      1. [1] From Tablets of Stone to Tablets of Flesh [2] From Death to Life [3] From Fading Glory to Lasting Glory [4] From Bondage to Freedom
  2. Slide#4 FROM TABLETS OF STONE TO TABLETS OF FLESH! (1-3)
    1. ​​​​​​​(1) Commendations & Credentials!
    2. Paul here defends himself against the Jewish legalists.
    3. Diogenes, the cynic philosopher, was once asked to give a letter of commendation for someone & he answered, That you are a man he will know at a glance; but whether you are a good or a bad man he will discover if he has the skill to distinguish between good & bad, & if he is without that skill he will not discover the facts even though I write to him 1000’s of times.
    4. These letters were popular in Paul’s day.
      1. Here’s one that was found on papyri, “To Julius Domitius, military tribune of the legion, from Aurelius Archelaus, his beneficiaries (a soldier exempt from menial duties), greeting. I have already before this recommended to you Theon, my friend
        1. now also, I ask you sir, to have him before your eyes as you would myself. For he is man such as to deserve to be loved by you, for he left his own people, his goods
        2. his business & followed me, & through all things he has kept me safe. I therefore pray you that he may have the right to come & see you. He can tell you everything about our business…I have loved the man…I wish you, sir, great happiness & long life w/your family & good health. Have this letter before your eyes & let it make you think that I am speaking to you. Farewell.”
    5. Paul sees a need to give one of these commendations in Rom.16:1,2 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.
      1. Yet Paul here says he needs no letter of commendation…because “the Corinthian believers” were his commendation!
        1. The change in their character & life is the only commendation that he needs.
    6. Not w/ink – years before Plato had said, “The good teacher does not write his message in ink that will fade; he writes it upon men.”
      1. Job said, Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! That they were engraved on a rock With an iron pen and lead, forever! 19:23,24.
      2. This is what Jesus had done. He wrote His message upon the Corinthians hearts, …through his servant Paul. - Not w/Fading Ink but w/His Permanent Marker Spirit; not on tablets of stone (as they were 1st written) but on the tablet of their hearts.
        1. The Law was external - You could hold the tablets of stones in your hands your whole life & it could never change your life.
        2. The NT ministry is internal – The Spirit of God living inside & empowering you.
      3. We ought to be Christians in large type, in bold font, underlined, highlighted, & exclamation marked!
    7. The Law only reveals sin; it cannot do anything about it!
    8. (2) All men - Christianity is essentially a lay movement.
      1. Every believer is an open letter for Jesus.
      2. Every Christian is an advertisement for Christianity.
        1. We judge a store by the quality of goods it sells; We judge a craftsman on his quality of work; We judge a Church by the kind of Christians it produces; & therefore The world judges Christ by His Followers!
          1. Dick Sheppard said, “The greatest handicap the church has is the unsatisfactory lives of professing Christians. ”
        2. ​​​​​​​When we step out into our world everyday we are “open letters”, “advertisements” for Christ & His church. We are “Sandwich boards for the Savior”!
      3. Poem: You are writing a Gospel, a chapter every day, By the deeds that you do & the words that you say. Men read what you write, whether faithful or true.Just what is the gospel according to you?
    9. The Spirit wants to write a new version of His Word on your heart…Will you let Him?
    10. George Whitefield said, “God has condescended to become an Author, and yet people will not read his writings. There are very few that ever gave this Book of God, the grand charter of salvation, one fair reading through.”
    11. What are your thoughts when I say, “you may be the only letter from Christ that some people ever read?”
  3. Slide#11 FROM DEATH TO LIFE! (4-6)
    1. ​​​​​​​(6) Our sufficiency is from God – At one time Paul tried to find his sufficiency in his pedigree, background, & education.
      1. We often work overtime to get people to notice us. We want to show them howadequate we are, how competent, how gifted, how important. [Dr.Bell - Hhmmmm, has a sortof ring to it!]
      2. It’s not important that they see us, only HIM!
      3. Often our impressive qualifications & accomplishments only obscure the view!
    2. New covenant – The Greek has 2 main words for “new”.
      1. neos new in point of time. Like a young person because he is a newcomer into the world.
      2. kainos new in quality. It brings something fresh into the situation.
        1. This is the word used here.
    3. How was the Old Cov. a deadly thing?
      1. Note: the letter kills(6); the ministry of death(7); the ministry of condemnation(9).
      2. The Law was never given to impart life!
      3. Because it produced a legal relationship between God & man.
        1. It basically said, “keep these laws if you want to maintain relationship w/God.”
      4. God was the judge, & man was the criminal forever in default before the bar of God’s judgment.
      5. The OT law was deadly because it killed Hope (just frustrated man); killed life (for it only brought condemnation); & killed strength (for it could only “tell” a person what to do but gave them no power to “do it”!)
    4. The New Cov. was much different!
      1. It is a relationship of Love!
      2. It is no longer a Judge/criminal relationship; but now a Father/son relationship!
      3. It changes a man, not imposing a new law but by changing his heart!
      4. It not only tells man what to do but gives him power to do it (via the H.S.)
    5. E. The Old Cov. wasn’t a bad thing; it was a step on the way!
      1. “When the sun rises the lamp is no longer needed!”
        1. Some still bring the lamp out in the sunlight though???
  4. FROM FADING GLORY TO LASTING GLORY! (7-16)
    1. ​​​​​​​Background: Read Ex.34:29-35.
    2. There definitely was a glory to the OT Law: the Temple, the priesthood, the ceremonies, the awesome revelations of Gods power, the cloud by day & the pillar of fire by night!
      1. ​​​​​​​But it doesn’t compare to the Glory of the New Covenant which grows more & more glorious.
        1. Prov.4:18 the path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.
      2. Augustine said, “We do wrong to the OT if we deny that it comes from the same just & good God as the New. On the other hand we do wrong to the NT, if we put the Old on a level with it.”
        1. “The one is a step to glory; the other is the summit of glory!”
      3. Picture glory as light! – The stars & moon have their certain shine at night; but when the sun comes up in the morning, these other luminaries pale in comparison!
        1. Why? Because the glory of the sun outshines that of the moon & stars!
    3. ​​​​​​​(13) Passing away Why do you think Moses covered his face from Ex.34?
      1. Paul let’s us know why Moses covered himself. Not because the people were scared of his glow, but so people couldn’t see it fading away!
        1. But God never meant for it to stay…it was supposed to fade before the abounding glory of the gospel.
        2. Maybe like going to the beach & getting a bad sunburn. After a few days it starts to fade. (Of course this was a Godburn!…what does that look like?)
    4. (14-16) Spiritual application to Moses’ Veil:
      1. There is still a veil over the hearts that keep people from seeing Christ.
        1. The Scriptures are a locked book to the heart that knows not Christ.
        2. Read ch.4:3,4.
  5. FROM BONDAGE TO FREEDOM! (17,18)
    1. ​​​​​​​(17) This passage has been grossly misused & misquoted to be a loose “free-for-all”.
      1. He gives us liberty…“from Spiritual bondage”!
      2. The OT Law brought bondage. Acts 15:10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
      3. Liberty is not license! [It’s freedom from…fear, sin, the world, & legalistic religious practices]
        1. Gal.5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
      4. Freedom ever have to catch a wild bird in your house? (came down fireplace)
        1. I chased it till it was so tired it had to land. [I’m sure it had some terrible misconceptions of me “coming at it with different instruments to drive it to the ground!”]
        2. Then I gently caught the bird, folding my fingers around its wings and body. It must have felt so powerless and vulnerable, tired & hopeless. I released it, and the bird flew away.
          1. As I did with the bird, “God takes us captive only to set us free”.
    2. (18) Do you know the only reason you are here instead of heaven?
      1. We are being transformed…
        1. When we come to Jesus our lives are transformed.
        2. We come to the cross, confessing our own inadequacy; we go away, claiming only His adequacy!
          1. “Nothing in my hand I bring only to the cross I cling!”
      2. Here we have the meaning of sanctification & growing in grace.
      3. How long does it take to become a Christian?…In a moment (justification) and over a lifetime (Sanctification).
        1. Interesting…The God of miracles isn’t into instant discipleship!
        2. Heaven never hangs the sign, “Overnight transformations. Inquire Within!”
      4. God doesn’t do overnight makeovers!…but over lifetime transformations!
    3. Being transformed into the same image – “It is not the business of the church to adapt Christ to men, but men to Christ.”
      1. It has been said that When the people of God, look into the Word of God, & see the Glory of God, the Spirit of God, transforms them, to be like the Son of God
      2. Rom.8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,
    4. From glory to glory - (i.e. Salv-Sanct-Glorif) Each day you can have your own personal transfiguration as you worship the Lord & yield to the Spirit.
      1. Some say we should be invisible in ministry. Paul says they should see you… see your reflection…see Jesus’ reflection in you!
      2. Maybe this is why no portrait of Jesus exists, because He desires to be seen in each of our faces/lives!
        1. We know what Augustus Caesar looked like! And he was just before the time of Christ?
    5. CM, I see Jesus in you more & more! - Allow Him to continue to transform you day by day!
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3". "Brian Bell Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/2-corinthians-3.html. 2017.