Bible Studies for Life Sunday School lesson for February 4, 2018

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School lesson for February 4, 2018

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By Jim Barnette, Ph.D.
Samford University and Brookwood Baptist Church, Mountain Brook

I Am a Minister
2 Corinthians 3:4–12

All Christians are ministers of a New Covenant. This truth leads Paul into a comparison between the “old” ministry of Moses and the new ministry through Christ. Moses’ was a ministry of “glory” — a glory symbolized by the radiance of his face. The glory of that ministry is inferior, however, since it was the ministry of the covenant of the letter that leads to condemnation and death. In contrast, the ministry of the Spirit reveals righteousness and offers life.

We can serve with confidence because God has given us all we need to serve. (4–6)

How did Paul reply to his critics who accused him of being conceited? He asserts that the source of his confidence is the reality that “our adequacy is from God.” What sounded like self-confidence is actually God-confidence. As in Philippians 4:13, Paul declares the he is able to do all things “through Christ” (v. 4). Paul had confidence not because of what he could do for God but because of what God could do for him.

The term for “ministers” or “servants” does not refer to ordained ministers of a church. The term includes all who have been redeemed by Christ and called for service in His name. The old “written covenant” (Ex. 24) demanded a standard impossible for humans to reach without help. But the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus offers humanity the spiritual ability to keep it (see 1 Cor. 11:25). Instead of laws written on tablets of stone, the laws are written on the heart. Instead of being an external form to follow, the laws of God written on the heart are an internal force that motivates the believer to a life of commitment.

We serve God by presenting His righteousness to others. (7–10)

Paul acknowledges the glory of the Old Covenant. Hearkening back to Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from God, Paul notes the radiance of God’s presence on Moses’ face. Indeed, Moses’ face shone so brightly that he had to cover it with a veil. However, Paul cites two limitations of that glory.

First the Old Covenant was limited in its power. The law had no power in and of itself to create life; indeed, Paul calls the ministry of the Old Covenant a “ministry of death.” Second the Old Covenant was limited in its permanence. Just as the brightness of Moses’ face faded so the law is revealed for its impermanence.

At first Moses wore the veil so the people would not be blinded by God’s glory. Later he wore the veil so people would not see that the glory had faded from his face (2 Cor. 3:13). By contrast the New Covenant is powerful, both in its effect and in its eternal glory. The glory of the Old Covenant then is eclipsed by the glory of the New — as the brightness of a single candle is overwhelmed by the brightness of the very sun.

The sure hope we have in Christ emboldens us to minister. (11–12)

Like Paul, we can be bold in proclaiming the gospel, for the gospel of Christ will never pass away. In the verses following, Paul makes further use of the allegory of the veil over Moses’ face. Paul declares the veil that covered the Israelite leader was covering the minds of the Jews.

Whenever the Old Testament is read, a veil lies over the minds (literally “hearts”) of the hearers, so that they do not understand what the Scriptures mean (see Rom. 11:7–8). The veil can only be removed by Christ; He is the true revelation of the meaning of the Old Testament.