2nd Corinthians – Covenant, Law, and Life in the Spirit
March 14, 2009
Paul discusses two main ideas in chapter three. First, he discusses the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Second, he explains the principle of living in the spirit.
The dynamic church of Corinth contains bona fide Christians with numerous spiritual gifts, however troublesome they may be for Paul. Analyzing his interaction with the community illuminates at least twelve items worthy of reflection:
A minister must be: sincere, faithful and holy as God is holy; a firm leader without being a tyrant; willing to serve sacrificially; ever see his parishioners as the children of God; one who cares and loves sincerely like a good parent loves his child; one who exhibits transparent sincerity in all respects; one who is able to be true to his word; one who speaks the truth in love; one who is willing to appropriately confront the difficulties with people; one who never gives up on the responsibilities of his divine orders; one who does not allow his integrity to be derided by gossip or dissenters; one who does not change or diminish the Word of God for any reason.
The vocation of a pastor is far more than a 9-5 job, but a holy order that demands no less than his entire life. Further, Christians who continue to accept weak or lazy leadership from their ministers are negligent, cheating themselves and the larger Church from receiving true pastors.
Chapter three begins with Paul explaining that he has no need to provide a letter of his credentials, for ”You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your [our] hearts, to be known and read by all men and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (v. 2-3). One does well to confer this with the covenental prophesies of Jeremiah 31:31 and Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26. God’s grace alone will enable one to keep a covenant.
Paul knows that he must minister as purely as Christ does and that it is only through grace that he can do this. His confidence in and reliance on the Spirit of the Living God is striking.
The New Testament is the Word of God, but Paul knows that ”the written code [by itself] kills, but the Spirit gives life” (v. 6) because knowledge of God is not sufficient to save unless it is lived through love, worship, and witness. The content of the Law combined with the sacraments of Jesus Christ is the abundant channel of grace offered to the modern Christians, far more abundant than those who lived only under the Old Covenant.
Lest one think that Paul is an antinomian, he says ”the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good” (Rom 7:12). Inasmuch as the law explicates God, it is worthwhile, but it is not strong enough to carry one to salvation unless it is accompanied by a life in the Holy Spirit.
Music: Gerard Satamian’s Chansons sans paroles op. 2 Melodie printaniere, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
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