Wednesday, 1 July 2015
…who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6
Paul shows here that the sufficiency of his ministry came from God “who also made us sufficient ministers of the new covenant.” From beginning to end, his work was enabled and carried through because of the work of God. And there is an end-purpose to it that God is working towards. It is in these duties, ministering to the new covenant, that they have been so enabled to work.
This new covenant is then contrasted to the old covenant through Paul’s continued words. He says, “…not of the letter but of the Spirit.” The Mosaic Law came in writing by the hand of God and carried with it the full force and effect of consequences for violating its precepts. Instead, the new covenant in Christ’s blood is received by hearing and believing. Upon belief the person is sealed with the Spirit. It is an accomplished fact at that point.
The difference between the two is then explicitly stated in Paul’s next words – “for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Paul explains this in detail in Romans. But a good summary set of verses is found in Chapter 7 –
“I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.” Romans 7:9-11
And as an object lesson of the severity of the law in contrast to the life-giving power of the new covenant, God reveals these two examples from biblical history –
“Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’” 28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day.” Exodus 32:25-28
“And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:40-42
At the time of the giving of the law, 3000 people perished due to disobedience of the law. At the time of the giving of the Spirit, 3000 people were saved due to reception of the word of life! It is an object lesson in and of itself concerning the superiority of the giving of the Spirit over the giving of the written code of the Mosaic Law.
The contrast in this verse is between the entire body of law given at Sinai and the giving of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem at Pentecost. We now also have written guidelines with the completion of the New Testament, but its application is based on the work of the Spirit after salvation. It is He who saves us and then we learn the details of this new life in Christ. In contrast, the Old Testament simply brought death through the revival of sin.
Life application: We are saved by grace through faith. That is a very simple concept which is often turned into a convoluted system of working towards salvation by uninformed or outright false teachers. To say that works are required to save us or to keep us saved is to say that what Christ did was insufficient for our salvation. May we never be so presumptuous!
Lord God, at the giving of the Law of Moses, three thousand people perished. At the reception of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, three thousand people were saved. The contrast is clear concerning the superiority of the New over the Old. For me, I choose life; I choose salvation; I choose Jesus! Thank You for such obvious examples in Scripture which confirm Your hand in redemptive history – all leading to the wonder of understanding salvation by grace through faith. Marvelous! Amen.