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Again ; probably with reference to a charge of self-commendation against his former epistle.
To commend ourselves ; in what we have said of the dignity of our office, our purity in the discharge of it, and the triumphs in it which God awards to us, chap 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 . The reader should notice in this epistle the abundant use of the plural number, where the apostle means chiefly himself, but prefers to speak in the name of his fellow-laborers also.
Ye are our epistle ; his letter of commendation, which all could read. He says here, "written in our hearts," because he wishes thus to express the place which the Corinthian converts have in his affections. In the next verse he represents the epistle as written, by his ministration, on the hearts of the Corinthians, because it is there that the gospel has exerted its power. Such changes of figure are very common with Paul.
Ministered by us ; written by our ministration, as his instruments.
Not in tables of stone ; as a mere outward law is. The allusion is to the ten commandments written on tables of stone.
Fleshly tables of the heart ; compare Jeremiah 31:33 ; Ezekiel 11:19 ; Ezekiel 36:26 . When ministers of the gospel are instrumental in converting men from sin to holiness, it is proof that the Spirit of God accompanies their labors; and though they are the means, he is the author of their success, and to him belongs the glory.
Such trust have we ; in regard to the success of our ministry, as just stated.
Through Christ ; not through our own power.
To God - ward ; in regard to God. In these words the apostle represents himself as always acting with reference to God’s glory, and putting all his trust in him.
To think any thing ; aright, or which would insure success.
Hath made us able ministers ; hath given us sufficiency to be ministers, as the original means.
The new testament ; the new covenant of the gospel, revealing the way of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Not of the letter ; not of the outward form merely, but of the design, end, and spiritual meaning, the right apprehension and cordial reception of which is, through the grace of God, life-giving, while dependence upon the letter or outward form merely is ruinous to the soul. To rely for salvation on the possession of the Scriptures, on the stated reading of them, or on any outward forms and privileges, is destructive; while the right understanding of the Scriptures, and spiritual obedience to their true meaning, are saving to the soul.
The ministration of death ; of the Mosaic law, which "worketh wrath," and brings death instead of life to sinners. Romans 4:15 ; Romans 7:10 .
Written and engraven in stones ; the ten commandments thus written here represent the whole Mosaic economy.
Was glorious ; in the circumstances of its institution, and in the objects it was designed to accomplish. Of this glory the splendor of Moses’ countenance was the divinely appointed symbol. The apostle therefore puts the latter for the former.
Could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses ; Exodus 34:29-35 . The glory of Moses’ countenance represented that of the dispensation of which he was the mediator; the veiling of his face, the obscurity which God threw over it, in consideration of the inability of his covenant people to behold directly the true spiritual end which this temporary dispensation had in view.
The ministration of the spirit ; of the gospel, which is a spiritual dispensation, administered by the Holy Spirit, and giving life to the soul, instead of death. The chief reason why the Christian dispensation excels in glory is, that under it the Spirit is given with a fulness and power unknown before.
Righteousness ; here the righteousness which God gives through faith in Christ, bringing to the soul justification instead of condemnation.
Had no glory ; ceased to appear as glorious.
In this respect ; in comparing its glory with the greater glory of the gospel.
That which is done away ; the Mosaic dispensation.
That which remaineth ; the gospel dispensation.
Is glorious ; as accomplishing a more glorious work, and to continue with increasing power to the end of time.
Seeing then that we have such hope ; of the glorious results to be accomplished by the Spirit through the gospel.
Great plainness of speech ; not veiling what we teach under obscure types and symbols, as did the law of Moses, but declaring boldly, clearly, and freely the doctrines and duties of religion. Living faith in the gospel inspires those who preach it with glorious hopes, and leads them to preach so plainly and with such earnest, affectionate boldness, that all who are disposed may understand them, and be made wise unto salvation.
Not as Moses , which put a veil over his face ; our message is not in any measure concealed, as was the face of Moses, in token of the darkness of that dispensation.
Could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished ; not clearly understand the meaning and design of the ceremonies and types of the Mosaic dispensation, which was appointed to pass away.
But their minds were blinded ; not only did God place a veil on the dispensation, but there was a veil on their minds also-that of unbelief and hardness of heart. In this natural and easy way does the veil on Moses’ face lead the apostle to speak of the veil on the minds of the covenant people.
The same veil ; the same blindness as to the meaning of the Old Testament scriptures.
Which veil is done away in Christ ; the obscurity of the Old Testament prophecies, types, and figures, is removed by their fulfilment in Christ. But as the hearts of the Jews are still opposed to him, and their minds blinded, they do not see this fulfilment.
It ; the heart of the Jewish people.
Turn to the Lord ; embrace Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
The veil shall be taken away ; they shall understand the meaning of the Old Testament scriptures, and see their application to Christ. The reason why the Jews misunderstand the Old Testament and reject the New, is their hardness of heart and blindness of mind. These, with regard to many, the Holy Ghost at some future day will remove. Then they will see that Jesus is their long promised Messiah, and will embrace him as their hope of glory.
The Lord ; the Lord Jesus.
Is that Spirit ; more literally, is the spirit; the spirit in contrast with the letter, verse 2 Corinthians 3:6 . The Old Testament types, figures, and prophecies, taken without him, are the letter which killeth. But in him they are the spirit which giveth life.
The Spirit of the Lord ; the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, which need not be here distinguished from the Holy Spirit, since it is through him that Christ works in our hearts.
Liberty ; from bondage to the letter. Such liberty includes free access to God and communion with him.
With open face ; literally, with unveiled face, the veil having been, to us, taken away in Christ.
The glory of the Lord ; the Lord Jesus.
From glory to glory ; from one degree of glory to another.
By the Spirit of the Lord ; or, as the margin, by the Lord the Spirit; that is, by the Lord Jesus, who is the Spirit, 2 Corinthians 3:17 . Both renderings come to the same thing; since it is by the Holy Spirit that the Lord Jesus transforms us into his own image.
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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12