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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 3

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

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Verse 1


1) "Do we begin again to commend ourselves? (archometha palin heautous sunistanein) "Do we begin again to commend or prove ourselves to you?" as in 1 Corinthians 9:15; 1 Corinthians 14:18; 1 Corinthians 15:10.

2) "Or need we, as some others," (e me chrezomen hos tines) "or we do not need as certain others, do we?" this is a rhetoric question, assuming a "surely not" reply. Only unknown or little-known people need letters of certification, commendation, or introduction, to you all.

3) "Epistles of commendation," (sustatipon epistolon) "Commendatory or endorsement letters," letters of favorable introduction, certifying our character and reputation, among you all?

4) "To you, or letters of commendation from you:" (pros humas e eks) "to you or to approach you" or "to (go out) from you," do we? Surely not, for he and his missionary helpers had been eminently accepted among them, 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 10:12; 2 Corinthians 10:18; 2 Corinthians 12:11.

Such letters were written by New Testament churches to introduce:

1) Silas and Judas to Antioch, Acts 15:25.

2) Apollos to Corinth, Acts 18:27.

3) Phoebe to the church at Rome, Romans 16:1.

4) Titus and his companions to Corinth, 2 Corinthians 8:16-24.

Verse 2

1) "Ye are our epistle" (te apistole hemon humeis este) "You all are (exist as) our epistle (letter);" Brethren who had been saved and/or confirmed in the faith under his former ministry; They were his credentials of a credible ministry from God, called the "seal" of his work; 1 Corinthians 9:2.

2) "Written in our hearts,” (engerammen en tais kardiais hemon) "Having been inscribed in our hearts; affections, by the memory of his labors among them, indelibly stamped upon his heart.

3) "Known and read of all men," (ginoskomene kai araginoskomene hupo panton anthropon) "being known and being read by all men;- the Corinthian brethren led lives that were known and read of all men, lives that were reflected in their Christian mode of living, where facts speak louder than words, Matthew 7:17-20. As a dog is known by his bark, a duck by his quack, a pig by his squeal, are men morally and ethically known by their conduct, pattern of behavior, before the world; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17. "No man liveth or dieth to himself," alone, without influencing others, Romans 14:7.

Verse 3

1) "Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ," (phaneroumenoi hoti este epistole Christou) "being manifested that you all are an epistle of Christ;"


A missionary in India was so feeble mentally that he could not learn the language. After some years he asked to be recalled, frankly saying that he had not sufficient intellect for the work. A dozen missionaries, however, petitioned his Board not to grant his request, saying that his goodness gave him a wider influence among the heathen than any other missionary at the station. A convert, when asked, "What is it to be a Christian?" replied, "it is to be like Mr -------naming the good missionary. He was kept in India. He never preached a sermon, but when he died hundreds of heathen, as well as many Christians, mourned him, and testified to his holy life and character.

-S. S. Chronicle

2) "Ministered by us," (diakonetheisa huph’ hemon) ministered by us," in a common service manner; instrumentally, Paul had begotten to spiritual life the Corinthian brethren thru the gospel, 1 Corinthians 4:15.

3) "Written not with ink," (engegrammene ou melani) not having been inscribed by (with) ink," as the Hebrew letters and scrolls were written.

4) "But with the Spirit of the living God:" (alla pneumati theou zontos) "But (in contrast) by (the) Spirit of a living God," or by the living Spirit - God upon their hearts when they "believed unto righteousness," John 6:63; Romans 10:10; 2 Corinthians 3:6.

5) "Not in tables of stone", (ouk en plaksin lithinais) not in stony tablets" or tables made of stone, like the old law - the law of Moses was written.

6) "But in fleshly tables of the heart," (all’ en plaksin kardiais sarkinais) "but in tablets (which are) fleshly hearts;" when we were made partakers of his Divine Nature, in and thru the second birth, the new birth, the Spirit birth, John 3:6; 2 Peter 1:4.

Verse 4

1) "And such trust we have," (pepoithesin de toiauten echomen) "and we have or hold such confidence." The minister of God holds trust or confidence in God as his power-house for strength and achievement, as he approaches God and his work in prayer through faith in Christ, 1 John 3:22; 1 John 5:14.

2) "Through Christ to God-ward;" (dia tou Christou pros ton theon) "through Christ to or toward God;" Christians are taught that whatever they do, or attempt to do, for God, must be done in the name, or by the authority and sanction of Jesus Christ, Colossians 3:17.


I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands--that I still possess.

-Martin Luther


A ship was once tossing on the stormy seas; the angry waves dashed over the deck, and the captain said the danger of shipwreck was great, and that they must leave the vessel for the boat. But the boat looked a tiny thing to trust to, and many stout hearts feared. One of the first who ventured into it, as it lay alongside the reeling ship, and while the billows seemed to play with it as you might play with a shuttlecock, was a pale, delicate woman: with a child in her arms and another clinging to her dress. She did not cry nor scream, but was very still, and the children were still also; indeed, the baby slept. "Are you not afraid?" said a gentleman to the little quiet boy, who neither spoke nor sobbed. "I do not like the storm," he said, "but mother is here." "And are you not afraid?" asked the same gentleman of the child’s mother. She shook her head, and pointing upward, said, "God is ruling the storm, sir, and I am not afraid, for he is my Father." The voice was scarcely to be heard amid the howling of the mighty wind and raging sea; but the gentleman was struck with the trust of the child in its mother, and the faith of the mother in God.

-S. S. Treasury

Verse 5

1) "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves," (ouch hoti aph’ heauton hikanoiesmen) "not that we are, have, or hold competence of ourselves," for it is not within man’s power "to direct" his own steps, Jeremiah 10:23. The Lord promises to direct the steps (in sufficiency) of those who trust in Him, Proverbs 3:3-5.

2) "To think anything as of ourselves," (logisssthai ti hos eks heauton) "to reckon, reason, calculate, or conclude anything as of (out of) ourselves;" For it is written, "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord, Zechariah 4:6. Even methods used and moves made in the ministry must be Holy Spirit guided, John 16:13.

3) "But our sufficiency is of God," (all’ he hikanotes hemon ek tou theou) "but the competence of us is of (out of) God" source of all competence, achievement, all that is honorable. Even the belief of the heart and confession of mouth and tongue to salvation are God-initiated, through the wooing and conviction of the Holy Spirit, Proverbs 16:1; Romans 10:8-10; Our Lord declared to His own disciples, regarding fruit-bearing, A. without me ye can do nothing;" The bestowed grace of God enables the believer in every state, condition, trial, and act of service and sacrifice for the Lord, 1 Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9.


Verse 6

1) "Who also hath made us able," (hos kai hikanosen humas hemas) "who also made us competent;" True Christian ability, competence, must always be considered humbly as existing from the Lord, and the ministerial endowment, especially, Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:25; Colossians 1:27; 2 Timothy 1:11.

2) "Ministers of the new testament;" (diakunos kaines diathekes) (as) ministers of a new covenant," which is a new program of work and worship, initiated in and through the church, and authorized by Jesus Christ, John 20:21; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 8:8; Matthew 28:18-20.

3) "Not of the letter," (ou grammatos) "not of a letter, or writing;" not of the literal "law-letter" or word-letter; These are not the initiative sources of the ministerial call; God puts true men into the ministry, by a Divine Call, 1 Timothy 1:12.

4) "But of the spirit," (alla pneumatos) "but of Spirit;" But "out of", the source of the Holy Spirit as the Holy Spirit put Jeremiah of the Old Testament and Paul of the New Testament into the ministry, so must every true minister and minis", be Spirit directed, Jeremiah 1:4-9; Galatians 1:11-12.

5) "For the letter killeth," (to gar gramma apokteinei) "For the letter kills," indicts, Romans 3:19; Romans 4:15; Romans 5:20.

6) "But the spirit giveth life," (to de pneuma zoopoiei) Yet the spirit makes alive, quickens to life, John 6:63; Romans 8:2. The spirit liberates, sets free from the law of sin and death, every believer in regeneration and in the resurrection, Romans 8:11.

Verse 7

1) "But if the ministration of death," (ei de he diakonia tou thanatou) "If indeed the ministry of death;" administered by direction of the Law of Moses, Romans 7:10, indicting as sinners those who broke its principles, Romans 3:10; Romans 3:20; Exodus 20:1-26.

2) "Written and engraven in stones," (en grammasin entetupomene lithos) "having been engraved in letters in stones," Exodus 34:1; Exodus 34:26-29; Deuteronomy 10:1-5.

3) "Was glorious," (egenethe en dokse) "was or existed in a glory state or condition;" as from the Lord, Divine, holy, good, Romans 7:12; Exodus 34:29-30.

4) "So that the children of Israel could not steadfast behold," (haste me dunasthai atenisai tous huious Israel) "So that the heirs of Israel were not able to gaze," Look upon in an inquiring, investigative manner, Exodus 34:29-30.

5) "The face of Moses for the glory of his countenance," (eis to prosopon Mouseos dia ten doksan tou prosopou autou) "at the face of Moses on account of the glory (dazzle or brightness) of his face;" Exodus 34:33-35.

6) "Which glory was to be done away," (ten katargoumenen) “which is done away;” as the glory radiance on Moses’ face was temporary, for a time, then passed away, so was and did the law pass, as a rule and guide and pattern for worship, Colossians 2:14-17.

Verse 8

1) "How shall not - be rather glorious." (pos ouchi estai mallon en dokse) "how will not be rather in a state of glory?" It is as if Paul were saying, "Is it not therefore more reasonable to accept the greater glory of Jesus Christ and His coming and church program of worship and work to which the glory of the former Law of Moses pointed?" For He came to fulfill the Law and the prophets, Matthew 5:19; Luke 16:16; Luke 24:44; and establish His exceeding glory, Matthew 17:1-5.

2) "The ministration of the Spirit," (hediakonia tou pneumatos) "The common ministry (ministration of) the spirit"; John 16:13; Galatians 3:5. The Holy Spirit came, as a special empowering person, to and upon the church on Pentecost, to abide within and upon her forever, never to "pass away," as the Law did; John 14:16-17; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8.

Verse 9

1) "For if the ministration of condemnation be glory," (ei gar he diakonia tes katakriseos doksa) -For if the ministry of condemnation (was) glory," an occasion for glory, and it was, till Jesus came, Romans 7:12-13; Galatians 3:24-25. The law was a glorious schoolmaster to guide men to Christ, till he came.

2) "Much more," (polio mallon) "by much greater degree,” or much more glory; as the bride and groom are more glorious than those who accompany them to the beginning of a new life, so is the ministry of the Spirit thru the New Testament Church, new covenant.

3) "Doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory," (perisseuei he diakonia tes dikaiosunes dokse) "does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory," or an occasion for glory, for "unto Him (God) be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages," (Ephesians 3:21) as the church, which He purchased by His own blood, and commissioned with His own authority, bears His message and does His work till He comes again, Acts 20:28; Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20.

Verse 10

1) "For even that which was made glorious," (kai gar ou dedoksastai to) "For indeed has not been glorified the thing," The letter, of the stone-law-The law that was written in stone, and its glory days are passed, Colossians 2:14-17; Galatians 3:19; Galatians 3:24-25.

2) "Had no glory in this respect " (dedoksasmenon en touto to merei) "had (not) glory in this respect," in respect to the kind or degree of glory of the new ministry of the covenant, of the Holy Spirit and His manifestation in the church, as He came to the church on Pentecost, to abide with her forever, Acts 2:1-4; John 16:13.

3) "By reason of the glory that excelleth," (eineken tes huperballouses dokses) "For the sake of the excelling glory," or the surpassing glory of the Spirit thru the new covenant church, which excels the glory of the ancient, decadent Law of Moses, now and forever hereafter, even in and beyond the millennial age, Ephesians 3:21; Revelation 19:1-9; Revelation 20:9-11.

Verse 11

1) "For if that which is done away was glorious," (ei gar to katargoumenon dia dokses) "For if the (thing) being done away (was) through glory;" and it was; The "thing being done away," in a state of having passed away, by reason of its fulfillment of purpose and usage had only a flash of transient glory, but that of the new has an abiding glory, without end, Hebrews 12:18-27.

2) "Much more that which remaineth is glorious," (pollu mallon to menon en dokse) "by much more or a larger degree is the thing remaining in glory;" The church, the bride of Christ, institutionally, is our Lord’s new Light reflecting, glory-reflecting agency for this and the coming ages, without cessation, Matthew 5:13-16; Ephesians 3:21; Revelation 11:15-19; Revelation 19:5-9; Revelation 20:9-12.

Verse 12

1) "Seeing then that we have such hope," (echontes oun toiauten elpida) "Therefore having or holding such hope." of the glorious ministration and manifestation of the Spirit, 2 Corinthians 3:8 - a manifestation of the superiority of the gospel message over the Law, John 1:14.

2) "We use great plainness of speech," (polle parresia chromeiha) We use much boldness of speech;" The we refers specially to 1) Paul and his missionary helpers, and 2) to the Corinth church and other like churches in which the empowering presence and glory of the Holy Spirit abides; 2 Corinthians 7:4; Ephesians 6:19; Acts 4:29; Hebrews 4:16; Acts 5:29; Acts 5:40-42.

Verse 13

1) "And not as Moses," (kai ou kathaper Mouses) and not as or like Moses;" We of the church, His new covenant people, His light reflecting agents and agencies, put no veil on our faces or basket over our head, Matthew 5:13-16.

2) "Which put a vail over his face," (etithel kalumma epi to prosopon autou) "when he put a veil on his face," Exodus 34:33-35.

3) "That the children of Israel could not steadfastly look." (pros to me atentsai tous huious Israel) “to the end that the children of Israel should not gaze either upon the reflected glory of God, or upon the face of Moses, who had been in God’s presence to receive the new tablets of stone (ten) commandments, Romans 3:23; Exodus 34:27-33.

4) "To the end of that which is abolished," (eis to telos tou katargoumenou) "unto the end of the thing being done away;" The "that which is abolished," and is done away," which was glorious," is the Law of Moses which was a schoolmaster to point to Christ, the Redeemer, till He came, Galatians 3:19; Galatians 3:24-25. The Law of Moses was annulled, had its program of religious, ceremonial, and worship rites invalidated in the death of Christ on the cross, Colossians 2:14-17; when He cried, "it is finished," men were liberated from any and all Mosaic law claims of adjudication over them, John 19:30.

Verse 14

1) "But their minds were blinded." (alla eporothe ta noemata auton) "But their thoughts or minds were hardened (blinded);" uncomprehending and obstinate, petrified, insensible, Isaiah 6:10; Matthew 13:11; Acts 28:25-31.

2) "For until this day," (achri gar tes semeron hemeros) "For even to this present day;" the time of Paul’s writing, in particular, about 60 A.D. and in general, even now, as the Gentile age nears it’s end.

3) "Remaineth the same vail." (to auto k ’ alumma menei) "The same veil remains-or lingers;" the veil of spiritual blindness, lack of comprehension of Divine Truth, 1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 11:25.

4) "Untaken away in the reading of the old testament" (me anakaluptomenon epi te anagnosei tes palaias diathekes) "not being unveiled at the reading of the old covenant;" Tho they yet meet and mourn in temples of worship in all parts of the world and at the western (wailing) wall of the Jerusalem Temple, yet they reject Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Messiah.

5) "Which vail is done away in Christ," (hoti en Christo katargeitai) "That veil which in Christ is being done away," or "is having been done away, abolished, or fulfilled." Jesus Christ is the true light, the true glory of God, of which the law was only typical. The law-veil is taken away and the true light now shines to all who accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, John 1:9; John 8:12.

Verse 15

1) "But even unto this day," (all’ heos semeron) "but (even) until today," up to this time, thirty years after the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom, signifying the end of the law veil.

2) "When Moses is read," (heinka an anaginosketai Mouses) never Moses is being read," the law of Moses, by the Jews, for they yet read it and claimed to believe it, though they rejected its central redemption Messiah who had come, Romans 11:7-8; Romans 11:25; Acts 13:27-29; 2 Corinthians 4:4.

3) "The vail is upon their heart." (kalumma epi ten kardian auton keitai) "a veil lies upon their heart," much as the veil was upon Moses face when he returned from the mount to face Israel, upon receiving the law. This veil of misapprehension, doubt, unbelief, and hardness of heart in a moral sense was of their own volition, personal choice. Yet, it was used, is used, and purposed of God to bless the Gentiles until even now. Because the Jews rejected Jesus, as a nation, in person, blindness and hardness of heart lingers in judgment on them as a nation, blinded by Satan and unbelief, 2 Corinthians 4:4; They will eventually, in this unbelief receive and. embrace the Anti-christ in person, Daniel 9:26-27; John 5:40-43.

Verse 16

1) "Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord," (henika de ean epistrepse pros kurion) "yet whenever it (the nation of Israel) turns to the Lord;" For they shall return, Exodus 34:34; Romans 11:23; Romans 11:26. They shall return in penitence, Jeremiah 31:33-34; Zechariah 12:10.

2) "The vail shall be taken away," (perioureitai to kalumma) "(then is taken away the veil;)" This removal of the veil is prophecied, Isaiah 25:7. All unbelievers in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, are aliens from God, even I till today through ignorance of the word, and blindness of their own hearts by Satan, the god of this world, John 8:44; Ephesians 4:18.


I was in the Eye Infirmary the other day, when a woman came in with a beautiful babe. The woman said to the doctor; "Doctor, my child has not had its eyes open for a few days, and I have come to see if there can be something done for him. I did not like to open them, for it seemed to hurt him." The doctor, thereupon, pulled down the eyelids of the child, and the child gave a loud scream of pain. But he went on and made an examination, and then, turning to the poor woman, said: "Your child is blind of that eye." He then opened the other and said, "Yes, and this one too; your child will never see again." And it seemed to burst upon the woman so suddenly and so unexpectedly, that she screamed out at the top of her voice: "Oh, will my darling child never see me again? Oh, my darling child! oh, my darling child!" She pressed the child to her bosom, and I had to weep, too. Don’t you sympathize with that poor mother? Don’t you suppose I sympathize with her? Yes; but if I know my heart, I would rather lose my sight - have my eyes dug out as Samson’s were - than to lose my soul. What is sight to the soul? Yes, I would a thousand times rather lose my sight on earth and see God in heaven than have my light here and darkness beyond the grave.


Verse 17

1) "Now the Lord is that Spirit," (ho de kurios to pneuma estin) "now the Lord is (exists as) that Spirit," the spirit life-giving one, even Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 3:6, John 1:4; John 10:28. Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly," John 10:10. Jesus was made a quickening Spirit, 1 Corinthians 15:45; Philippians 3:21.

2) "And where the Spirit of the Lord is," (ou de to pneuma kuriou) "And wherever the spirit of the Lord exists;" In the hearts of believers in Jesus Christ, in contrast with hard hearts of unbelief, Romans 8:1-2; Romans 5:5; Proverbs 1:23; 1 John 4:13.

3) "There is liberty," (eleutheria) "There freedom exists;" or liberty exists, John 8:32; John 8:36; Galatians 4:6-7; Galatians 5:13. In the latter passage Paul asserted "ye have been called to liberty." Liberty sets free, yet it places the believer in bondage to Christ. Free from sin’s eternal bondage, yet called to bondage - free, willing bondage of service to Christ, Mark 8:34-36; Ephesians 2:10; Romans 8:15.

Verse 18

1) "But we all," (hemeis de pantes) "yet we all," including all, excluding none are confronted with a call to liberty - service in Christ, Galatians 5:13.

2) "With open face," (anakekalummeno prosopo) “with an unveiled face, clear view, or clear sight," of the revealed will of God for us in salvation and service through Christ, Hebrews 1:2-3; 1 Corinthians 13:12; James 1:25.

3) "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord," (ten dokson kuriou katoptrizomenoi) "beholding or looking upon, (as) in a mirror, the glory of the Lord;" one is to see Jesus Christ in the mirror of the Scriptures, John 5:39; Acts 10:43; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:6.

4) "Are changed into the same image," (ten auten likona metamorphoumetha) "are being changed into the same image;" our lives are to be changed, transformed into a reflecting image or mirror of His glory, Romans 8:29; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:45; Colossians 3:10.

5) "From glory unto glory," (apo dokses eis doksan) "From glory unto glory," from His glory unto a like glory in the believer, Ephesians 4:23-24; Matthew 5:15-16; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

6) "Even as by the Spirit of the Lord," (kathaper apo kuriou pneumatos) "Just as from the Spirit of the Lord." we are changed, led, guided, Romans 8:14; Romans 8:16.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/2-corinthians-3.html. 1985.
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