The Glory of Paul’s Ministry
2 Cor. 3:1-6
The enemies of Paul specially the false teachers which includes the Judaizers as well as the Gentile
unbelievers continuously attacks him and his ministry. His credentials as a minister of God is always
put in question. Here we can see his defence and how he answers his critics. This chapter shows the
relationship between the Old Testament message of Law and the New Testament ministry of the
Gospel of God’s grace.
I. Living Epistles (2 Cor. 3:1-2)
A. Paul does not want his enemies to accuse him of being proud so he began his
defence by asking them questions:
1. Do we begin again to commend ourselves? The false teachers have introduced
themselves to the Christian church by showing recommendations and letters
which they may have forged (Acts 15:1, 5) or obtained under false pretences
from prominent members of the church in Jerusalem. For them it’s just right
and fair if they ask Paul for such kind of letter.
2. It is a sad thing when a person measures his worth by what people say about
him instead of by what God knows about him.
3. Letters of recommendation and credentials have their place, but they can never
take the place of personal performance. Read some New Testament examples of
commending persons (Acts 15:25; 18:27; 1 Cor. 16:10; Romans 16:1; Colossians
4:10; 2 Cor. 8:22).
4. “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts… “(2 Cor. 3:2): The Corinthians were
Paul’s credentials (2 Cor. 3:2). Paul tells them the Corinthian believers
themselves are his “epistles” or letters . The Corinthians knows his sincerity and
Godly character as well as the truth of his message which caused them their
salvation. Formerly they were pagans, now they were Christians, children of
God and Paul was the instrument used by God to bring them to the right faith.
5. “Known and read of all men”. Christian are different from others by the way
they live and by their characters. We are the light of this world and the salt of
the earth”. Jesus also said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16).
All men in Corinth knows who the real Christians are. They know their past and
they know what kind of persons they are now after believing in the Lord Jesus
II. The Corinthian Christians are Christ’s credentials (2 Cor. 3:3).
A. Who the Corinthian Christians are now?
1. “Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ”. The false
teachers did not have a letter of recommendation signed by Christ, but Paul had
the Corinthian believers changed lives as a proof that Christ had transformed
them. All men who see the changed lives of the Corinthians read each one
as an epistle. It is commonly said that Christians are the Bible that men read and
know. It is a fact that each of us pulls people to Christ, or pushes them away
from Christ by what they see in us.
2. “Written not with ink”. Paul’s letter was not a human document written with ink
that can fade. It was a living one.
3. “Spirit of the living God”. Paul’s letter was alive, written by Christ’s divine
supernatural power through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4,
5, 1 Thess. 1:5).
4. “Tablets of stone” is a reference to the Ten Commandments.
5. “Fleshly tables of the heart”. God’s law was not just written on the stone but
God is writing His law on the hearts of those people He transformed (Jer. 31:33,
32:38, 39, Ezek. 11:19, 36:26, 27). The false teachers claim external adherence
to the Mosaic Law as the basis of salvation, but the transformed lives of the
Corinthians proved that salvation was internal change wrought by God in the
Illustration 1: An Odd Number
A real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen.
Talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see. He expects to go to heaven on the virtue of
another, empties himself in order that he might be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared
right, and goes down in order to get up. He is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is
poorest, and is happiest when he feels worst. He dies to he can live, forsakes in order to have, and
gives away so he can keep. He sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passes
knowledge. – A.W. Tozer Source unknown
III. Confidence in God (2 Cor. 3:4-6)
A. Paul’s call (2 Cor. 3:4).
1. “And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward” (2 Cor. 3:4): Paul is giving
glory to God for the success of his ministry not to himself. Christ personally
called Paul to be His minister on the Damascus Road (Acts 26:15-18). God’s
blessing and approval is the cause of its victory.
B. Paul’s equipment (2 Cor. 3:5).
1. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but
our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 3:5): Paul is telling his own sufficiency and
competence in the ministry was derived wholly from God (1 Tim. 1:12).
Illustration 2: Weak Hands
“Since God has put His work into your weak hands, look not for long ease here: You must feel the full
weight of your calling: a weak man with a strong God.”
Lady Culross to John Livingston of the Covenanters, quoted in Prodigals and Those Who Love Them,
Ruth Bell Graham, 1991, Focus on the Family Publishing, p. 23
Illustration 3: One Day at a Time
Once there was a rich man who had a son to whom he promised an annual allowance. Every year on
the same day, he would give his son the entire amount. After a while, it happened that the only time
the father saw his son was on the day of allowance. So, the father changed his plan and only gave
the son enough for the day. Then the next day the son would return. From then on, the father saw
his son every day. This is the way God dealt with Israel. It is the way God deals with us.
C. New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:6).
1. Paul’s emphasis on the New Covenant implies that his opponents were ministers
of the Old Covenant. The Mosaic Covenant was a written revelation of the
righteousness God asked of Israel (Ex. 19-23). It was accepted with an oath of
obedience and a blood sacrifice (Ex. 24). When Israel proved unable and
unwilling to remain faithful to that covenant, God graciously intervened and
promised a New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; 32:40), new (kaines) both in time and
in quality. It was inaugurated by Christ in His sacrifice on the cross (Luke 22:20),
and is entered into by faith (Phil. 3:9) and lived out in dependence on the Spirit
(Rom. 7:6; 8:4). (However, the physical and national aspects of the New
Covenant which pertain to Israel have not been appropriated to the church.
Those are yet to be fulfilled in the Millennium. The church today shares in the
soteriological aspects of that covenant, established by Christ’s blood for all
believers [Heb. 8:7-13].)
2. Reliance on human rather than divine authority in letters of commendation was
short sighted and dangerous (2 Cor. 3:1-3). Even more so was the attempt to
fulfil God’s righteousness apart from divine enablement. Those who did so found
that the letter kills (Rom. 7:10-11). But those who trust in Christ find that the
Spirit gives life (Rom. 8:2). (Bible Exposition Commentary)
In serving the Lord there will always be opposition. Our evidence of the effectivity and
triumph of our ministry is the changed or the transformed lives of the people we are
ministering. It is Christ who enables us to serve Him and blesses our work specially now
that we are no longer under the Mosaic Covenant but under the New Covenant.