Sufficiency in Christ - Message 2
September 26, 2021
I. Introduction: we continue our survey of 2 Corinthians, Sufficiency in Christ.
A. Today’s message is entitled, New Covenant.
- The New Covenant is compared to the Old Covenant of law-keeping given to Moses by God on Mt. Sinai.
- Theme: 2 Corinthians 3:6 (NLT)—…under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.
II. The New Covenant is… (2 Corinthians 2:14-3:18)
A. #1 - Expressed in the Gospel. (2 Corinthians 2:14-17. C/R: Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 1:17; Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:4)
- Paul had just explained (last week) why he didn’t visit Corinth as he had planned, but sent a letter instead (2 Corinthians 1:15-2:4)—then added that he was led by God!
- 2 Corinthians 2:14a (NLT)—But thank God! He has made us His captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession.
- The path Paul traveled to spread the gospel was led by the Spirit of God and would lead to triumph, for the Gospel of Jesus cannot will fulfill its purpose! (Isaiah 55:11)
- 2 Corinthians 2:14b-16a (NLT)—14b Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 15Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. [like the aroma of Temple sacrifices; Philippians 4:18; Ephesians 5:12] But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16aTo those who are perishing [unbelievers], we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.
- This is why some are eager to hear our faith stories (testimony), but others are offended, even angry, because of our faith; our faith reminds them of the reality of God, including His standards of morality and His judgment, even when we say nothing!
- 2 Corinthians 2:16b (NLT)—And who is adequate for such a task as this?
- Paul declared that he could not, by himself, lead people into eternity; his sufficiency, his (and ours), is in Christ, as we follow God to spread Good News! (1 Corinthians 1:17;
2 Corinthians 3:5)
- 2 Corinthians 2:17a (NLT)—You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. [Greek kapēlĕuō; a con artist or street salesman (hawker) who deceives buyers into purchasing a cheap imitation of the real thing. ILL.: “knock-offs”]
- Paul had in mind the false apostles at Corinth, who peddled a contaminated, adulterated, impure, mixture of the Gospel’s truth and Jewish legalism (rule-keeping) to the people.
- 2 Corinthians 2:17b (NLT)—We preach the Word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.
- We can’t alter the Gospel to make it more pleasing and acceptable to people, more saleable, because we can only speak with Jesus’ authority when we are accurately expressing God’s Word, knowing He is watching; our efforts must please Him!
- APP.: Are you careful to express the whole, biblical Gospel or do you reshape it so people will accept it?
The New Covenant is…
B. #2 - Evidenced by life change. (2 Corinthians 3:1-6. C/R: Exodus 31:18; Jeremiah 31:33; Ephesians 4:21-24; 1 Thessalonians 1:5)
- 2 Corinthians 3:1 (NLT)—Are we beginning to praise ourselves again? Are we like others, who need to bring you letters of recommendation, or who ask you to write such letters on their behalf? Surely not!
- The false apostles in Corinth may have been accusing Paul of pride, but he deflects such accusations by asking two questions that confirmed his calling and his authority.
- Traveling preachers used letters of recommendation to establish the legitimacy and authority (Acts 15:22-31; 2 Corinthians 8:16-24), but Paul said he didn’t need a letter.
- 2 Corinthians 3:2 (NLT)—The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you.
- The transformed lives of the Corinthians gave testimony of the validity and power of Paul’s ministry; they were Paul’s letters of recommendation. (1 Corinthians 9:1-2)
- 2 Corinthians 3:3a (NLT)—Clearly, you are a letter from Christ [who alone saves and transforms] showing the result of our ministry among you [by preaching and praying].
- When a pastor accurately proclaims the Scripture, it is Christ speaking, transforming.
- 2 Corinthians 3:3b (NLT)—This “letter” [a believer’s life] is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone [Law of Moses; Mt. Sinai; Exodus 24:12], but on human hearts. [New Covenant; Jeremiah 31:33)]
- Here, Paul is confronting the false apostles who mixed Christianity with circumcision, Old Covenant ceremony and legalism; but this is always a condemning message, because no one can obey the law perfectly, which is what is required. (James 2:10)
- Was the law revoked? No, God’s standards of morality do not change. (Matthew 5:17-18)
- The New Covenant does not excuse us from obeying the law; the Spirit enables our obedience and the imputed righteousness of Christ, covers all our violations of it.
- 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 (NLT)—4We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. 5It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God.
- Paul answered the question he asked in 2:16: …who is adequate for such a task as this?
- God qualified Paul by saving him, then by choosing him as His apostle to the Gentiles and equipped him for service through the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:4–5).
- 2 Corinthians 3:6 (NLT)—He has enabled us to be ministers of His New Covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws [Law of Moses; Romans 2:27; 7:6], but of the Spirit. The Old written Covenant ends in death [not justifying, identifying and condemning sin; Romans 3:20; 8:3]; but under the New Covenant, the Spirit gives life. [eternal]
- APP.: Is your life a letter from Jesus, revealing His work of transformation in you?
The New Covenant is…
C. #3 - Experienced as glorious. (2 Corinthians 3:7-18. C/R: Exodus 34:29-35; Matthew 5:17-18; 13:14-16; Romans 3:20-22; 7:5-12)
- Paul continued to contrast his ministry with the ministry of Moses.
- 2 Corinthians 3:7 (NLT)—The old way, with laws etched in stone [by God; Exodus 31:18; 32:15-16], led to death [condemnation, separation from God; Romans 7:5–12], though it began with such glory [Greek dŏxa, the splendor of God’s visible (manifest) or perceived presence; referred to as the Shekinah, Hebrew word, not in Bible, lit., He caused to dwell]
that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away.
- Moses’ face was radiant from exposure to the presence of God; the light from his face was too bright for people to view, but it was temporary.
- God’s holy, pure, brilliance affected Moses, but did not transform him.
- 2 Corinthians 3:8-9 (NLT)—8Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? [permanent spiritual life] 9If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! [righteous, permanently justified!]
- The old way (under the Old Covenant) was glorious because the Law of Moses did reveal the righteousness, holiness, moral purity and justice of God, but the new way (the New Covenant) is more glorious because it reveals the grace, mercy and forgiveness of God, making us right with God (by imputing righteousness to us).
- 2 Corinthians 3:10-11 (NLT)—10In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. 11So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever!
- The Old Covenant commands righteousness, the New Covenant confers it.
- The Old Covenant exposed sin and led to death (condemnation); the New Covenant erases the control of sin (Romans 6:14) and leads to eternal life!
- When the Law revealed God’s pure standard that required perfect compliance, it condemned sinners and drove them to the Savior. (Romans 7:5-12)
- 2 Corinthians 3:12-15 (NLT)—12Since this new way gives us such confidence [of God’s forgiveness], we can be very bold. [to spread Good News] 13We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. [concealed its fading quality] 14But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the Old Covenant is being read [every week in the local synagogue], the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. 15Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.
- Jews with hardened hearts (Matthew 13:14–16; Acts 28:26-27) rejected Jesus and the Gospel message as the fulfillment of the Old Covenant.
- 2 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NLT)—16But whenever someone turns to the Lord [conversion, faith], the veil is taken away. [Nothing stands between believers and God.] 17For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
- Freedom from sin through forgiveness, freedom from condemnation through justification, freedom to obey, to do right, freedom to experience God’s presence.
- 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)—So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His [Christ’s] glorious image. [Romans 8:29; Colossians 3:10]
- Believers will progress through ever-greater degrees of glory (doxa in Greek).
- Colossians 3:10 (NLT)—Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him. [Sanctification by Spirit leading to glorification.]
- APP.: Are you displaying the glory of God for all to see?
Memory verse: 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NLT)—For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.