There is something in the human heart that is constantly on a quest for whatever is newer and better. Although these desires are routinely misguided, perhaps this is part of how our deep longing for God and eternity is partially expressed. Ever since humankind’s fall into sin, we’ve longed to be reunited with him. But our attempts at this always fall short. It is thrilling to know that God himself presents a way that is altogether different and better—so much so, that it’s described as new, glorious, and permanent.
- Remember a time when the thrill of something new lasted only a short time. What was that like?
READ THE WORD: 2 CORINTHIANS 3:1-18 (ESV)
3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 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.
4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(Today’s questions focus on verses 7-18.)
- How many ways did Paul contrast the Old and New Covenants in this passage? (You may find it beneficial to make a list.)
- Why do you think Paul tried so hard to help people understand the difference between the Old Covenant (Law) and the New Covenant (Spirit)? Why is the New Covenant better (more glorious)?
- Why was it necessary for the Old Covenant to be replaced by a new and everlasting covenant in Christ (see also Romans 3:19-24)?
- What are the practical results of the New Covenant (Spirit) we see in verses 16-18?
- Would you describe your relationship with God as based on the Law or the Spirit? How might your relationship with God be different if you relied daily on the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within you?
RESPOND TO GOD
The contrast between “the letter” and “the Spirit” is more than a simple comparison between the Law and the gospel. Scripture makes it clear that the Law is holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:12). But because the Old Covenant (letter) is written on stone tablets, it is unable to impart life or empower us to obey. The Spirit, however, indwells believers and enables them to do what they now want to do but cannot do on their own. This is why Paul compared the glory that came with the giving of the Law to the new, surpassing, there’s-no-going-back-now glory that accompanies the Holy Spirit. Just think—this new arrangement, which brings us incredible freedom, is ours right now. It’s changing us day by day. And since this transformation is happening in ever-increasing degrees (vs. 18), we can look forward to better days every single day.
- Thank God for the freedom found in the transforming work of the Spirit. Consider memorizing these verses as a way of yielding more fully to the work of the Spirit within you.