2 Corinthians 3
Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
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2 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? 2Cor 5:12; 2Cor 10:8; 2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Mt. 5:16; 3 [Forasmuch as ye are] manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. Exod 24:12; Exod 34:1; Jer 31:33; Ezek 11:19; Ezek 36:26; Heb 8:10; 4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency [is] of God; Phil 2:13;
6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 2Cor 5:18; Heb 8:6; Heb 8:8; 7 But if the ministration of death, written [and] engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which [glory] was to be done away: Exod 24:12; Exod 34:1; Deut 10:2; Exod 34:30; 8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? 9 For if the ministration of condemnation [be] glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. 11 For if that which is done away [was] glorious, much more that which remaineth [is] glorious.
12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: 13 And not as Moses, [which] put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: Exod 34:35; Rom 10:4; 14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which [vail] is done away in Christ. Isa 6:10; Ezek 12:2; Matt 13:11; Acts 28:26; Rom 11:8; 15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. 16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Rom 11:23; 1Cor 2:10; 17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] liberty. John 4:24; 18 But we all, 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. 1Cor 13:12; 2Cor 5:7; TOC
2 Corinthians -
Preface to the Second Epistle to the Corinthians
It is a general opinion among learned men that this epistle was written about a year after the former: and this seems to be supported by the words, 2Co. 9:2 : Achaia was ready a year ago; for the apostle having given instructions for that collection, to which he refers in these words at the close of the preceding epistle, they would not have had the forwardness there mentioned till a year had elapsed. As the apostle had purposed to stay at Ephesus till pentecost, 1Co. 16:8; and he stayed some time in Asia after his purpose to leave Ephesus and go to Macedonia, Acts 9:21, Acts 9:22; and yet making here his apology for not wintering in Corinth, as he thought to do, 1Co. 16:6; this epistle must have been written after the winter, and consequently when a new year was begun. It therefore, says Dr. Whitby, seems to have been written after his second coming to Macedonia, mentioned Acts 20:3. For,
(1.) It was written after he had been at Troas, and had left that place to return to Macedonia: now that was at his second going thither; see 2Co. 2:12.
(2.) It was written when Timothy was with him: now, when he left Ephesus to go into Macedonia, Timothy went not with him, but was sent before him, Acts 19:22; but at his second going through Macedonia, Timothy was with him, Acts 20:4.
(3.) He speaks of some Macedonians who were likely to accompany him, 2Co. 9:4. Now, at his second going from Macedonia, there accompanied him Aristarchus, Secundus, and Gaius of Thessalonica, the metropolis of Macedonia, Acts 20:4.
(4.) The postscript says that this epistle was written from Philippi, where Paul was till the days of unleavened bread, Acts 20:6; it therefore seems to have been sent from thence to them by Titus, and some other person, not long before St. Paul’s coming to them; which he speaks of as instant, 2Co. 13:1; and that which he was now ready to do, 2Co. 12:14; and did, according to Dr. Lightfoot, in his journey from Philippi to Troas; he sailing about from Philippi to Corinth, to make good his promise; whilst the rest that were with him, Acts 20:4, went directly the next cut to Troas, and there waited for him. See Whitby.
That the first epistle had produced powerful effects among the Corinthians is evident from what the apostle mentions in this. Titus had met him in Macedonia, and told him of the reformation produced by this epistle, see 2Co. 7:5, 2Co. 7:6; that the Church had excommunicated the incestuous man; that the epistle had overwhelmed them with great distress; had led them to a close examination of their conduct and state; and had filled them with respect and affection for their apostle, etc. Hearing this, St. Paul wrote this second epistle, to comfort, to commend them, and to complete the work which he had begun, by causing them to finish the contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem; and also to vindicate his own apostolic character, and to unmask the pretended apostle, who had led them so long astray. See the preceding Introduction.
Its principal divisions are: -
I. The preface, 2Co. 1:1-7.
II. The Narration, comprehending an account of what had happened to himself; his answer to their questions concerning the incestuous person, with different other matters; among which, the following are the chief: -
(1.) The persecution which he had suffered in Asia, and from which he had been miraculously rescued, 2Co. 1:8-14.
(2.) His purpose to pay them a visit, 2Co. 1:15-24.
(3.) Concerning the sorrow which they had suffered on account of the excommunication of the incestuous person, 2 Corinthians 2, 7.
(4.) His own vindication against the false apostle; in which he gives an account of his doctrine, 2Co. 3:6-18. His conduct, 2Co. 4:1-6. His bodily infirmities, 2Co. 4:7; and 2 Corinthians 5.
(5.) Strongly exhorts them to a holy life, 2 Corinthians 6, 7.
III. Of the Alms that had been collected, and were yet to be collected, 2 Corinthians 8, 2Co. 9:1-15.
IV. His Defence against the false apostle and his calumniators in general, 2 Corinthians 10-12.
V. Miscellaneous matters, 2Co. 13:1-14.
It may be remarked, once for all, that none of these or such artificial divisions are made by the apostle himself, no more than the divisions into chapters and verses. All these are the work of man, and certainly contribute nothing to a proper understanding of the epistle itself. The apostle appears to have sat down, and, under the influence of the Divine Spirit, he wrote on the different subjects treated of in the epistle just in the order that these things occurred to his mind, without intending particular heads, divisions or subdivisions. And, as he probably wrote the whole with very little intermission of time, his sense will be best apprehended by those who carefully read over the whole at one sitting. — Clarke
2 Corinthians - An Exposition, with Practical Observations, of The Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians
In his former epistle the apostle had signified his intentions of coming to Corinth, as he passed through Macedonia (1Co. 16:5), but, being providentially hindered for some time, he writes this second epistle to them about a year after the former; and there seem to be these two urgent occasions: - 1. The case of the incestuous person, who lay under censure, required that with all speed he should be restored and received again into communion. This therefore he gives directions about (ch. 2), and afterwards (ch. 7) he declares the satisfaction he had upon the intelligence he received of their good behaviour in that affair. 2. There was a contribution now making for the poor saints at Jerusalem, in which he exhorts the Corinthians to join (ch. 8, 2Co. 9:1-15).
There are divers other things very observable in this epistle; for example, I. The account the apostle gives of his labours and success in preaching the gospel in several places, ch. 2. II. The comparison he makes between the Old and New Testament dispensation, ch. 3. III. The manifold sufferings that he and his fellow-labourers met with, and the motives and encouragements for their diligence and patience, ch. 4, 5. IV. The caution he gives the Corinthians against mingling with unbelievers, ch. 6. V. The way and manner in which he justifies himself and his apostleship from the opprobrious insinuations and accusations of false teachers, who endeavoured to ruin his reputation at Corinth, ch. 10-12, and throughout the whole epistle. — Henry
Even the appearance of self-praise and courting human applause, is painful to the humble and spiritual mind. Nothing is more delightful to faithful ministers, or more to their praise, than the success of their ministry, as shown in the spirits and lives of those among whom they labour. The law of Christ was written in their hearts, and the love of Christ shed abroad there. Nor was it written in tables of stone, as the law of God given to Moses, but on the fleshy (not fleshly, as fleshliness denotes sensuality) tables of the heart, Eze. 36:26. Their hearts were humbled and softened to receive this impression, by the new-creating power of the Holy Spirit. He ascribes all the glory to God. And remember, as our whole dependence is upon the Lord, so the whole glory belongs to him alone. The letter killeth: the letter of the law is the ministration of death; and if we rest only in the letter of the gospel, we shall not be the better for so doing: but the Holy Spirit gives life spiritual, and life eternal. The Old Testament dispensation was the ministration of death, but the New Testament of life. The law made known sin, and the wrath and curse of God; it showed us a God above us, and a God against us; but the gospel makes known grace, and Emmanuel, God with us. Therein the righteousness of God by faith is revealed; and this shows us that the just shall live by his faith; this makes known the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ, for obtaining the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The gospel so much exceeds the law in glory, that it eclipses the glory of the legal dispensation. But even the New Testament will be a killing letter, if shown as a mere system or form, and without dependence on God the Holy Spirit, to give it a quickening power.
It is the duty of the ministers of the gospel to use great plainness, or clearness, of speech. The Old Testament believers had only cloudy and passing glimpses of that glorious Saviour, and unbelievers looked no further than to the outward institution. But the great precepts of the gospel, believe, love, obey, are truths stated as clearly as possible. And the whole doctrine of Christ crucified, is made as plain as human language can make it. Those who lived under the law, had a veil upon their hearts. This veil is taken away by the doctrines of the Bible about Christ. When any person is converted to God, then the veil of ignorance is taken away. The condition of those who enjoy and believe the gospel is happy, for the heart is set at liberty to run the ways of God's commandments. They have light, and with open face they behold the glory of the Lord. Christians should prize and improve these privileges. We should not rest contented without knowing the transforming power of the gospel, by the working of the Spirit, bringing us to seek to be like the temper and tendency of the glorious gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and into union with Him. We behold Christ, as in the glass of his word; and as the reflection from a mirror causes the face to shine, the faces of Christians shine also. — MHCC
V. 2: Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: The World’s Bible
We are the only Bible the careless world will read,
We are the sinner’s Gospel; we are the scoffer’s creed.
We are the Lord’s last message given in deed and word,
What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?
What if your hands are busy with other work than His?
What if your feet are walking where sin’s allurement is?
What if our tongues are speaking of things His lips would spurn?
How can we hope to help Him and hasten His return?
To hasten our Lord’s return we truly need more power.
So let us all be Spirit filled and awaiting Him each hour.
In an hour that we think not, He said He should appear.
Then let us walk in Holiness and meet Him with a cheer.
Part of a poem by Annie Johnson Flint, born 1866. Short biography here:
2Co 3:16: See Israel: chosen or forgotten?
In these verses,
I. The apostle makes an apology for seeming to commend himself. He thought it convenient to protest his sincerity to them, because there were some at Corinth who endeavoured to blast his reputation; yet he was not desirous of vain-glory. And he tells them, 1. That he neither needed nor desired any verbal commendation to them, nor letters testimonial from them, as some others did, meaning the false apostles or teachers, 2Co. 3:1. His ministry among them had, without controversy, been truly great and honourable, how little soever his person was in reality, or how contemptible soever some would have him thought to be. 2. The Corinthians themselves were his real commendation, and a good testimonial for him, that God was with him of a truth, that he was sent of God: You are our epistle, 2Co. 3:2. This was the testimonial he most delighted in, and what was most dear to him - they were written in his heart; and this he could appeal to upon occasion, for it was, or might be, known and read of all men. Note, There is nothing more delightful to faithful ministers, nor more to their commendation, than the success of their ministry, evidenced in the hearts and lives of those among whom they labour.
II. The apostle is careful not to assume too much to himself, but to ascribe all the praise to God. Therefore, 1. He says they were the epistle of Christ, 2Co. 3:3. The apostle and others were but instruments, Christ was the author of all the good that was in them. The law of Christ was written in their hearts, and the love of Christ shed abroad in their hearts. This epistle was not written with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; nor was it written in tables of stone, as the law of God given to Moses, but on the heart; and that heart not a stony one, but a heart of flesh, upon the fleshy (not fleshly, as fleshliness denotes sensuality) tables of the heart, that is, upon hearts that are softened and renewed by divine grace, according to that gracious promise, I will take away the stony heart, and I will give you a heart of flesh, Eze. 36:26. This was the good hope the apostle had concerning these Corinthians (2Co. 3:4) that their hearts were like the ark of the covenant, containing the tables of the law and the gospel, written with the finger, that is, by the Spirit, of the living God. 2. He utterly disclaims the taking of any praise to themselves, and ascribes all the glory to God: “We are not sufficient of ourselves, 2Co. 3:5. We could never have made such good impressions on your hearts, nor upon our own. Such are our weakness and inability that we cannot of ourselves think a good thought, much less raise any good thoughts or affections in other men. All our sufficiency is of God; to him therefore are owing all the praise and glory of that good which is done, and from him we must receive grace and strength to do more.” This is true concerning ministers and all Christians; the best are no more than what the grace of God makes them. Our hands are not sufficient for us, but our sufficiency is of God; and his grace is sufficient for us, to furnish us for every good word and work.
Here the apostle makes a comparison between the Old Testament and the New, the law of Moses and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and values himself and his fellow-labourers by this, that they were able ministers of the New Testament, that God had made them so, 2Co. 3:6. This he does in answer to the accusations of false teachers, who magnify greatly the law of Moses.
I. He distinguishes between the letter and the spirit even of the New Testament, 2Co. 3:6. As able ministers of the New Testament, they were ministers not merely of the letter, to read the written word, or to preach the letter of the gospel only, but they were ministers of the Spirit also; the Spirit of God did accompany their ministrations. The letter killeth; this the letter of the law does, for that is the ministration of death; and if we rest only in the letter of the gospel we shall be never the better for so doing, for even that will be a savour of death unto death; but the Spirit of the gospel, going along with the ministry of the gospel, giveth life spiritual and life eternal.
II. He shows the difference between the Old Testament and the New, and the excellency of the gospel above the law. For, 1. The Old Testament dispensation was the ministration of death (2Co. 3:7), whereas that of the New Testament is the ministration of life. The law discovered sin, and the wrath and curse of God. This showed us a God above us and a God against us; but the gospel discovers grace, and Emmanuel, God with us. Upon this account the gospel is more glorious than the law; and yet that had a glory in it, witness the shining of Moses's face (an indication thereof) when he came down from the mount with the tables in his hand, that reflected rays of brightness upon his countenance. 2. The law was the ministration of condemnation, for that condemned and cursed every one who continued not in all things written therein to do them; but the gospel is the ministration of righteousness: therein the righteousness of God by faith is revealed. This shows us that the just shall live by his faith. This reveals the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ, for obtaining the remission of sins and eternal life. The gospel therefore so much exceeds in glory that in a manner it eclipses the glory of the legal dispensation, 2Co. 3:10. As the shining of a burning lamp is lost, or not regarded, when the sun arises and goes forth in his strength; so there was no glory in the Old Testament, in comparison with that of the New. 3. The law is done away, but the gospel does and shall remain, 2Co. 3:11. Not only did the glory of Moses's face go away, but the glory of Moses's law is done away also; yea, the law of Moses itself is now abolished. That dispensation was only to continue for a time, and then to vanish away; whereas the gospel shall remain to the end of the world, and is always fresh and flourishing and remains glorious.
In these verses the apostle draws two inferences from what he had said about the Old and New Testament: -
I. Concerning the duty of the ministers of the gospel to use great plainness or clearness of speech. They ought not, like Moses, to put a veil upon their faces, or obscure and darken those things which they should make plain. The gospel is a more clear dispensation than the law; the things of God are revealed in the New Testament, not in types and shadows, and ministers are much to blame if they do not set spiritual things, and gospel-truth and grace, in the clearest light that is possible. Though the Israelites could not look stedfastly to the end of what was commanded, but is now abolished, yet we may. We may see the meaning of those types and shadows by the accomplishment, seeing the veil is done away in, Christ and he is come, who was the end of the law for righteousness to all those who believe, and whom Moses and all the prophets pointed to, and wrote of.
II. Concerning the privilege and advantage of those who enjoy the gospel, above those who lived under the law. For, 1. Those who lived under the legal dispensation had their minds blinded (2Co. 3:14), and there was a veil upon their hearts, 2Co. 3:15. Thus it was formerly, and so it was especially as to those who remained in Judaism after the coming of the Messiah and the publication of his gospel. Nevertheless, the apostle tells us, there is a time coming when this veil also shall be taken away, and when it (the body of that people) shall turn to the Lord, 2Co. 3:16. Or, when any particular person is converted to God, then the veil of ignorance is taken away; the blindness of the mind, and the hardness of the heart, are cured. 2. The condition of those who enjoy and believe the gospel is much more happy. For, (1.) They have liberty: Where the Spirit of the Lord is, and where he worketh, as he does under the gospel-dispensation, there is liberty (2Co. 3:17), freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, and from the servitude of corruption; liberty of access to God, and freedom of speech in prayer. The heart is set at liberty, and enlarged, to run the ways of God's commandments. (2.) They have light; for with open face we behold the glory of the Lord, 2Co. 3:18. The Israelites saw the glory of God in a cloud, which was dark and dreadful; but Christians see the glory of the Lord as in a glass, more clearly and comfortably. It was the peculiar privilege of Moses for God to converse with him face to face, in a friendly manner; but now all true Christians see him more clearly with open face. He showeth them his glory. (3.) This light and liberty are transforming; we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory (2Co. 3:18), from one degree of glorious grace unto another, till grace here be consummated in glory for ever. How much therefore should Christians prize and improve these privileges! We should not rest contented without an experimental knowledge of the transforming power of the gospel, by the operation of the Spirit, bringing us into a conformity to the temper and tendency of the glorious gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. — Henry
Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13