2 Corinthians (Program #7) – The Ministry of the New Covenant (3)
You probably remember the story of Moses coming down from Mt.Sinai after having been in God’s presence when he received the ten commandments. His face was shining so brightly that he had to put a veil over it before he can encounter the rest of the children of Israel. That shining was the outward reflection of God’s glory. A shining reflected off of Moses face. But as marvelous as that shining was in 2 Corinthians Paul calls it a fading glory. And rightly so, because in a very short time it was gone from Moses face. Actually this shining represents the glory of the Old Testament ministry. A ministry of as Paul called it “death and condemnation”. No wonder this glory fades.
But the New Testament ministry that Paul declares to us in 2 Corinthians is more in glory, an unfading, eternal, surpassing glory, that shines not just upon us but even out from within us, as the New Testament ministers.
2 Corinthians (Program #6) – The Ministry of the New Covenant (2)
Metaphors play an important role in Scripture. Webster says a metaphor is the use of one set of words to describe or illustrate a similar point.
John uses the technique when he speaks of Jesus approaching him in the gospel. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Surely he wasn’t saying that Jesus was a literal “lamb”. But the metaphor or picture gives us a much richer and clearer understanding.
The apostle Paul was also very fond of metaphors, particularly when conveying his deepest thoughts in teachings. We see it used intensively in 2 Corinthians. For example in 2 Corinthians chapter 2:14 he says “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in the Christ” Here, the metaphor is the triumphant possession of captured and vanquished folks after a Roman battle. And Paul says that we, the believers had become such vanquished ones in the train of the victorious Christ.
Now, we come to another marvelous metaphor in the very next chapter, chapter 3 of 2 Corinthians begins this way:
1-3 “Are we beginning again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some do, letters of commendation to you or from you?You are our letter, inscribed in our hearts, known and read by all men,Since you are being manifested that you are a letter of Christ ministered by us, inscribed not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone but in tablets of hearts of flesh.”
Living letters of Christ. This is our topic today.
2 Corinthians (Program #5) – The Ministry of the New Covenant (1)
When we consider what are the main qualifications to be an effective and useful minister of the gospel. We may list things like been an eloquent speaker or having a charismatic personality or been one in power with miraculous gifts that can perform mighty works of power in the name of Jesus. But the New Testament itself when presenting to us what’s the genuine ministry of the New Testament doesn’t uplift any of these things. Rather what we see in the genuine ministry of the apostles was the growth and maturity in the divine life. Paul the apostle himself was such a minister not relying on either natural ability or super natural gifts. He was the one spent years experiencing, enjoying and been constituted inwardly with the life giving Spirit, the very Christ in resurrection.
Have you ever noticed a married couple that’s been together for a long long time and they know each other so well that they seems to be an unspoken communication between them. It seems that the one can tell how the other feels just by a glance into their face. This is really a blessed state of marriage to arrive at. But more importantly it demonstrate a very special intimacy and knowledge of one another. It is just this kind of tender and intimate knowing that the apostle Paul was referring to in 2 Corinthians chapter 2:10 “But whom you forgive anything, I also forgive; for also what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, it is for your sake in the person of Christ;”
This phrase “in the person of Christ” can also be translated as “in the face of Christ” and it implies the most intimate knowledge of another person.
The apostle Paul after his strong rebuke and dealing with the Corinthians in his first letter had good reason to visit the city at his first opportunity. It would had given him the chance to answer first hand any misunderstandings and to sue any lingering stinging from his rebuke.
In the realms of public relations or human wisdom he surely would had taken this way. But Paul’s living was not directed by such things as “PR” in human wisdom. And though he was criticized by some of the Corinthians for delaying his coming after he told them of his desire to come. We see the real reason for his delay. The reason was the Lord Jesus Himself. And Paul’s first concern which was not to live just a Godly life, but to live Christ, to live in perfect oneness with Him. This is the pattern that Paul had become not just to the Corinthians but to all of us.
The apostle Paul was a remarkable person. He was used by the sovereign God to unveil much of the New Testament revelation. He also performed wondrous miracles and was a mighty evangelist. Yet in the book that had been understood to almost be his autobiography, he tells us that his only boast was in the singleness or sincerity or purity with which he and his co-workers lived and served the faithful God by living Christ. Listen to his words to the church in Corinth in 2 Corinthians chapter 1,
12 “For our boasting is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in singleness and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and more abundantly toward you.”
The apostle Paul’s first epistle to the believers in Corinth was of sixteen chapters and was full of his strong rebuke and argument with the church there. In that letter he subdued them and defeated them. Now in his second letter just as a parent would spend a long period of to comfort and encourage a child that had received the strong chastisement. Paul minsters to comforting ointment and the encouragement of love. Listen to his opening words in his cherishing epistle :
1:1-3 ” Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy the brother, to the church of God which is in Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassions and God of all comfort;”
This is a very subjective book, 2 Corinthians, where by Paul brings the Corinthians back to the experience of Christ and is a book that can lead us to experience Christ as well.
2 Corinthians (Program #55) – Final Exhortations, Greetings, and Blessings (2)
The book of 2 Corinthians has a wonderful conclusions. Paul after unveiling so many aspects of his own living and his own experience of Christ in this book, concludes with this 3-fold blessing. 2 Corinthians 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” But this is not a blessing given in a merely religious way. It’s a blessing that brings us into the very Triune God that Paul himself experienced, enjoyed and even lived out in his daily life. Grace, love and fellowship were his portion and daily enjoyment of the very Triune God. May we have Him as such a portion as well.
2 Corinthians (Program #54) – Final Exhortations, Greetings, and Blessings
The apostle Paul concludes the two long letters to the church in Corinth in a most wonderful, sweet and loving way. “finally, brothers” he writes in verse 11 of chapter 13, “rejoice, be perfected, be comforted, think the same thing, be at peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Actually these concluding words, especially verse 11 gives us a marvelous summary or recap of all the crucial points of the whole book of 2 Corinthians.
2 Corinthians (Program #53) – Paul’s Vindication of His Apostolic Authority (8)
The last four chapters of 2 Corinthians are known as Paul’s vindication of His apostolic authority. On one hand it was something of a shame that Paul was compelled to make such defense on his own behalf. It’s in this light that he says in chapter 11 “What I speak, I speak not according to the Lord but as if in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting.” (11:17) But in the same section just a few verses later, chapter 12 he says “All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you. Before God in Christ we speak; but all things, beloved, are for your building up.” This apparent reversal left Paul vulnerable to the charge of being inconsistent. Was he speaking foolishly not in the Lord or was he really speaking in Christ and before God? The key is found in the last few words of that verse “…all thing, beloved, are for your building up.“