As Paul begins to speak of the power of the gospel through the ministers of the gospel, he is quick to note that he and his fellow ministers are not commending themselves. Rather, the ministers of the gospel of Christ need no letter of commendation; the believers are their letter of recommendation. Paul explains that their sufficiency as ministers of a new covenant is not from themselves but from God. The present passage continues this topic and expounds on how the new covenant is far more glorious than the old covenant.
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Moses’ veil (3:13): Paul is making an allusion to the narrative about Moses’ shining face after descending from Mount Sinai, recorded in Exodus 34:29–35.
Based on this passage, what gives Paul so much confidence and courage in his ministry?Hide Answer
Paul considers his ministry as a ministry that is even greater than the ministry of Moses (2 Cor 3:7–18). It is so glorious because it transforms people to reflect the glory of God (3:17–18). The gospel He preaches is a glorious commission because it brings to people the light of the knowledge of the glory of God (4:4, 6).
What is the one recurring word in this segment that makes it the theme of the segment?Hide Answer
Identify the pairs of contrasts Paul is making in this segment.Hide Answer
- “The ministry of death” and “the ministry of the Spirit (vv. 7, 8)
- “The ministry of condemnation” and “the ministry of righteousness” (v. 9)
- “What once had glory” and “the glory that surpasses it” (v. 10)
- “What was being brought to an end” and “what is permanent” (v. 11)
Why is the old covenant called “the ministry of death” (3:7)?Hide Answer
The old covenant is the ministry of death because it brings condemnation. Hence, Paul also calls it “the ministry of condemnation” (2 Cor 3:9). Under the old covenant, the law only regulated man’s external behavior and could not change a person’s heart. Man’s obedience was passive, as if God had to take him by the hand (cf. Jer 31:31–32). Without an inward desire to obey God, those who only keep the letter of the law cannot meet the righteous demand of God’s law. The law, then, brings only condemnation and curse (cf. Rom 7:9–10; Gal 3:10).
Explain the term “the ministry of righteousness” (3:9)Hide Answer
Contrary to the ministry of condemnation, the new covenant is called “the ministry of righteousness” because the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in those who are in Christ Jesus and walk according to the Spirit (Rom 8:1–4). In other words, those who entrust themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ and submit to His Spirit are able to carry out the righteousness that God looks for in His law.
Why is the new covenant even more glorious?Hide Answer
The new covenant, established through the atonement of Christ, is able to accomplish what the old covenant was unable to do because of man’s weakness (cf. Rom 8:3). The new covenant brings righteousness rather than condemnation. It is permanent rather than transient.
How does our glorious hope help us to be confident in our faith and bold in our preaching (cf. v. 12)?Hide Answer
Knowing that the new covenant has so much to offer, we as ministers of the gospel can have great confidence in the message we preach. We know that our labor in preaching the gospel is worthwhile because the gospel can actually lead people to God and enable them to live a new life. We also know that when we faithfully preach Jesus Christ, the Lord Himself will accomplish what we cannot accomplish ourselves (cf.
2 Cor 3:4–5).
What does the veil of Moses represent, according to Paul?Hide Answer
Moses needed to put a veil on his face because the Israelites were afraid to come near him when they saw that his face was shining (Ex 34:30). As such, the veil created a separation between the Israelites and God’s glory. In this passage, Paul uses the veil as a metaphor for the hardening of one’s mind as one reads the old covenant (2 Cor 3:14). Those who do not accept the gospel of Christ are blind to the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor 4:3–4). It is as if their heart has been covered with a veil.
What makes our minds hardened? What are some possible causes?Hide Answer
When we choose to live in darkness rather than light, we become hardened and refuse to accept the light (John 3:19–20). We may also become hardened when we are not spiritually alert and become deceived by sin (Heb 3:12–13). Furthermore, when a person persists in unbelief and unrepentance, God may also harden his heart (John 12:40; cf. Rom 11:7).
How is the veil lifted through Christ (v. 14)? How do we “turn to the Lord” (v. 16)?Hide Answer
Instead of choosing to remain in sin or trust in our own righteousness, we need to come before the Lord Jesus Christ, confess our sins, and acknowledge Him as our Lord. Not only so, we need to obey the Lord in our lives and walk according to the guidance of His Spirit (cf. Rom 8:10; Gal 5:24).
What is the result of turning to the Lord (vv. 16–18)?Hide Answer
When we turn to the Lord, the veil is removed from our hearts and minds. As we behold the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, we are being transformed by the Spirit of God into the image of God (2 Cor 3:16–18). The Spirit of the Lord gives us freedom from sin and death by granting us the power to not live under sin’s control (cf. John 8:31–36; Rom 8:1–4). To live such a glorious life also requires deliberate choice and effort on our part. We must put off the old self with its sinful desires and put on the new self that is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:17–24).
In what ways does the glorious ministry inspire Paul?Hide Answer
Paul believes that it is by God’s mercy that he can have this ministry. Consequently, he does not lose heart (2 Cor 4:1). Because this ministry is so glorious, he determines to be perfectly truthful before God and men in his preaching (v. 2). Even if some people may reject his preaching, he knows that it is only because their hearts have been veiled that they refuse to accept the gospel (v. 3–4). Paul has no reason to be discouraged.
Why is turning away from the gospel turning away from Christ?Hide Answer
When we preach the gospel, we are not preaching ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord (2 Cor 4:5). So to reject the gospel is to reject the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is the right way to view ourselves when we share the gospel with others?Hide Answer
We are not the focus when we share the good news with others. Christ is the content and goal of our preaching. Our job is not to impress others with our eloquence or draw our own followers. We want others to believe in the Lord Jesus and receive the light of God. Like Paul, we ought to view ourselves as servants to others for Jesus’ sake (2 Cor 4:5). We are but instruments to bring blessings into the lives of believers, and we willingly offer ourselves to this cause because Christ’s love has compelled us to live for Him (cf.
2 Cor 5:14–15).