Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 4 * BOOK 30
2 CORINTHIANS 1:1-3:18 – PART 2
We’re going to begin with Chapter 3. We would encourage you to study right along with us. We had missionary friends from Bolivia stop by this summer, and they couldn’t get over the fact that all of our people had a Bible and most had a notebook in front of them. They said they had never seen that before, even on the mission field. And I do think it’s unique that our people always bring their Bible to class.
I want to remind you that the Apostle Paul was always having to defend his apostleship because of all the false teachers that were coming in. Probably the strongest element at Corinth that was in opposition to Paul and his teaching according to the mysteries, were those who claimed to follow Peter. And right next to that were those who claimed to follow the teachings of Jesus. And, of course, it’s no different today. Many people tell me, “Les I know you like to teach Paul, but I’m not going according to what Paul said, but rather what Jesus said.” Well I know these people mean well, but you want to remember what Jesus said, He said in His earthly ministry. Also remember that He was only sent to the Nation of Israel.
“But he (Jesus) answered and said, `I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'”
“Now I (Paul) say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision (Jews only) for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:” (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob)
So what Jesus said was to the Nation of Israel under the Law. Although we can make applications from it, it was not spoken to us. What the Apostle Paul writes is Holy Spirit inspired and it is directed directly to us as Gentiles in this age of Grace in the Body of Church. Verse 1:
II Corinthians 3:1
“Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?”
Do you see what Paul is saying? Do I have to come here with official letters from Peter, and the eleven in Jerusalem? Do I have to come with some kind of a commendation from those who were apostles before me? They had nothing to do with his apostleship. Peter and the eleven didn’t send Paul out into the Gentile world, but rather the ascended Christ seated at the Father’s right hand did. So Paul is reminding them of that. Now verse 2:
II Corinthians 3:2
“Ye (these people I pointed out in our first lesson today, like the Thessalonians. They had turned from idols to the living God. So Paul says you) are our epistle (you are changed people)written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
I like to feel the same way about so many who have come to know The Lord through our simple teaching. They’ve become living epistles!
II Corinthians 3:3
“Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, (now watch this) written not with ink, (on paper) but with the Spirit (Holy Spirit) of the living God; not in tables of stone, (reference to the Ten Commandments,) but in fleshly tables of the heart.” So you as believers are living epistles with the work of the Holy Spirit written on the heart – and that’s where it all has to be.
II Corinthians 3:4,5
“And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;”
Now again let me remind you, what kind of a man was Saul of Tarsus? Highly educated. He was the most educated Jew of his day, having sat at the feet of the greatest Rabbi of that time. So he had all that intellectual background, and he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He could have said, “Hey, I’m qualified by virtue of my training.” But he never did that. In fact back in the Book of Philippians he called all of that just so much what? Dung.
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”
He cast it all aside as worthless that he might become the very workmanship of Christ Himself. So all of his sufficiency was never because of his background. Not because he was a Hebrew of Hebrews but because he was a humble servant of the Creator God.
In these next series of verses, the casual reader probably never catches this, but there is one example after another of the difference between Law and Grace. I trust that, if The Lord tarries, and I go by way of the valley of the shadow of death and I’m off the scene, that people will still be able to remember that I was constantly trumpeting the difference between Law and Grace, and here it is again. Verse 6:
II Corinthians 3:6
“Who (God from verse 5) also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, (the Law of Moses) but of the spirit: for the letter (Law) killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”
See the difference? Law could do nothing but condemn. The Law had no life-giving power whatsoever. And that’s why people are so foolish when they say, “Well, I’m trying to do the best I can. I’m keeping the Commandments.” The Commandments can’t do anything but kill. The Commandments pronounce it as guilty! But Grace, which is epitomized here in verse 6 as the work of the Holy Spirit, giveth life. Now, remember from our resurrection study that when we get into the eternal state we will no longer be flesh and blood, but rather flesh and bone with that power of life coming from the Holy Spirit. Now here in this verse is that same Spirit – that power from on High, it’s that Holy Spirit that gives life. But the Law can only condemn.
II Corinthians 3:7
“But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, (the Law, and so if that) was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which was to be done away:”
Now before we go back and look at those verses in the Book of Exodus I’m going to tell you something. I’ll bet that you thought, like I did for so long, that in the account when Moses came down the mountain after talking with The Lord face-to-face that Moses’ face shone, Right? So we know a veil was put upon his face. Now what do most of us think that the veil was for? Well, because Moses was so radiant in his glory, having been in the presence of Christ of the Old Testament that the children of Israel couldn’t stand to look on his face. But that’s not what that means at all. Now this is going to be hard to swallow isn’t it? What was being veiled was the passing away of the Law. Now put that in your mind, and as we come down the line you’ll see what we’re talking about. Now verse 8:
II Corinthians 3:8
“How shall not the ministration of the spirit (which is now indicative of Grace) be rather glorious?”
What’s Paul talking about? As the gloriousness (if there is such a word) of the Law faded away, then what takes its place and is even more glorious? Grace! So you have the passing away of one and the bringing on the scene of the other. Law has to fade away and Grace becomes epitomized. Now moving on to verse 9:
II Corinthians 3:9a
“For if the ministration of condemnation…” Remember you only condemn something that has a flaw. We had better use some Scripture with this so let’s go back to the Book of Romans in Chapter 3.
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, (who’s under the Law? Israel. The Gentiles never were. But the power of the Law didn’t stop with Israel but) that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world (not just Israel) may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds (or keeping) of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
And what’s the other word that is connected with sin? Death! So the Law was an administration of death. All the Law could do was condemn the individual, and if he was condemned then death was the only alternative. Now coming back to II Corinthians again. If that was going to be done away with in verse 7, now we have the whole concept of Grace taking the place of Law.
II Corinthians 3:9
“For if the ministration of condemnation (Law) be glory, (then) much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.”
As great as the system of Law was in operating in the Nation of Israel, it’s nothing to be compared with the operation of Grace.
II Corinthians 3:10
“For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.”
Now you know what I think Paul is saying? That, by comparison, the glory of legalism which was, of course, the way God mandated to the Nation of Israel living under the Law, was nothing. The sad thing is that we have people today by the millions who turn their backs on Grace and say, “I’ll do the best I can, I’ll keep the Commandments.” It’s just a sad commentary isn’t it?. Now verse 11. In this verse Paul puts it in plain language. This isn’t covered up or veiled one iota.
II Corinthians 3:11
“For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.”
Well what was done away with? The Law. What now remains? Grace. So we have two great contrasts, but the same God. These are two totally different economies. The one said,“Thou shalt not and thou shalt.” The other one stands over here in the verse we saw a couple of lessons ago. “Therefore stand in the liberty wherewith Christ has saved us.”What a difference.
“And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:”
So you can see what a difference. Grace is far more glorious. Now verse 12:
II Corinthians 3:12
“Seeing then that we have such hope, (the coming out of legalism with all of its demands) we use great plainness of speech:”
I don’t care in what form or shape legalism comes, it’s legalism. And legalism always instructs you as to what you have to do in order to merit favor with God. There are millions of people who are shunning the Gospel of God’s Grace, (believing in His finished work of the Cross. (I Corinthians 15:1-4) and saying, “I have to work for it.” What a sad commentary, but that’s the Devil’s lie. When Christ died and rose from the dead, God was totally satisfied that was all we needed. We can trust that completely, and we don’t have to work and sweat, and worry, hoping that maybe we’ve done enough, because Christ did enough. He did all that was necessary. But always remember that Grace is not license. That doesn’t mean that I can go out and live like the Devil’s crowd, and mostly because we don’t want to. I dare say that the average true believer would be as miserable in a honky tonk on Saturday night as a regular honky tonk customer would be in Church on a Sunday morning. It’s the same difference. Two totally different lifestyles, two totally different desires, and this, of course, is what makes it work. Now verse 13:
II Corinthians 3:13
“And not as Moses, (in other words it’s not the same set-up that Moses was operating under when he had to put the veil over his face.) which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:”
Does that tell you what I’ve been trying to say? In other words when Moses put the veil over his head, it wasn’t that Israel couldn’t stand the brightness of his complexion, but rather that they could not see the end of this whole system of Law, and they can’t even to this day. They are blinded to the fact that the whole system of Law has passed off the scene, it is abolished, and in it’s place is this tremendous revelation of the mysteries, “The Grace of God!” Now verse 14:
II Corinthians 3:14
“But their (the Nation of Israel) minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken (or not taken) away in the reading of the old testament; which is done away in Christ.”
In other words when Christ finished the work of redemption by virtue of His death, burial, and resurrection the whole system of Law was done away with. It was abolished because now we’ve got something far better. Now you want to remember that the Law was given to the Nation of Israel to prepare them for the coming of their Messiah. But in their unbelief they failed it from start to finish, but God didn’t stop His plan of redemption because of it, He carried it out anyway. So Christ died, He rose from the dead, He revealed to this apostle, the apostle Paul, this whole new concept of salvation by faith because of God’s Grace, and nothing added. But the average Jew in his blindness is still tying himself to the Law. To him the veil is still on Moses’ head, and they cannot see that it has come to an end. Now I hope you can see that. It took me a long time and I don’t expect you to really catch it in five minutes. But the veil was only to keep Israel from seeing that the Law was fading away, and that something better had now come in it’s place. Now reading on:
II Corinthians 3:15
“But even unto this day, (now Paul was writing this about 60 AD but it’s the same truth for 1997. To this day) when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.”
Remember in synagogue worship what is primarily read? The Torah, from Moses. Bless the Jews’ hearts because they’re sincere, and Paul felt the same feeling toward them. They were sincere in their activity, but as they read from Moses that veil that keeps them from seeing that it has all passed off the scene, is still on their hearts. Now let’s look for a moment at a verse back in Romans Chapter 11. This says it in a little plainer language than what it is here in II Corinthians.
“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. (in other words, Grace cannot operate mixed with Law. It has to stand totally by itself.) But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more works. What then? Israel (nationally. not individually) hath not obtained that which he seeketh for: but the election (that small percentage of Jews who believe the Gospel) hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” And that’s the vail that’s on their heart according to II Corinthians, and they just can’t see through it. Now coming back to our text for the few moments we have left, and lets read verse 15 again.
II Corinthians 3:15-17
“But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it (their hearts) shall turn to the Lord, (by believing Paul’s Gospel) the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
We have liberty, and not the heavy hand of legalism. Every believer has that liberty, that wherewithal to search the Scriptures to come to their own conclusion. I don’t mind if folks write or call saying, “Hey I don’t agree with you.” That’s fine. We have that liberty. But when they disagree they have to do it on the basis of The Book. Now verse 18:
II Corinthians 3:18
“But we all, (now who is Paul speaking on behalf of? Every believer of the Grace Gospel) with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Remember when they’re on the Mount of Transfiguration and Peter, James, John, and The Lord was transfigured before them, and He shone forth with all of his glory. Do you know that’s the same identical word as changed is here in the Greek. So every believer has experienced that already. Oh we don’t show it outwardly, but God sees it inwardly, and so we have already been transfigured into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of The Lord. All right come back up to the first part of that verse for a moment.
II Corinthians 15:18a
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,…”
Now Israel was depicted as being veiled from the truth of the Law. They couldn’t see that it was fading away. But we look at Christ as in a mirror, and as we look at Christ in a mirror, what does the world see on us? His reflection! It’s just that simple, and the Law could never do any of that, because Moses had to be veiled, and Israel could never understand. But you’re not under Law, but rather GRACE!