"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .

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Sunday, May 29, 2022

“Confident Sufficiency in Christ Alone” - 2 CORINTHIANS 3


~ by James Fire

2 CORINTHIANS 3 “Confident Sufficiency in Christ Alone”
Watch the TWO PART Facebook video - PART ONE and PART TWO.

INTRODUCTION: The church at Corinth, founded as you know, by the apostle Paul is a perfect example of how corruption found in any culture wrongly infects the body of Christ. We aren’t to have fellowship with the works of corruption, sin, and darkness (EPH 5:11), because this will adversely affect us. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 COR 5:6). Whereas the LORD Jesus ate, drank, and regularly fellowshipped with sinners, these children of darkness (MT 11:19). Is this a contradiction? Not at all!

We’re called of GOD to be salt and light and have a godly influence among the lost. We can follow our LORD’s example and minister to the lost; but we’re not to come under the influence of ungodliness.

Of all of Paul’s epistles, 1st and 2nd CORINTHIANS have the most corrections, admonitions, and rebukes. This demonstrates the apostle’s unswerving love and devotion to the saints in this fellowship (2 COR 12:15), just as the LORD Himself rebukes and chastens those He loves (REV 3:19).

Last week pastor Kevin spoke about biblical hope: it’s not wishful thinking; rather it’s a confident expectation; a confident expectation of the truth of GOD’s Word that fulfills all of His promises. In this chapter, we’ll continue this theme of biblical hope found only in Christ Jesus and nowhere else, and thus the title for this sermon “Confident Sufficiency in Christ Alone”.

2 CORINTHIANS 3:1-3
1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? 2 You are our epistle written in our hearts, known, and read by all men; 3 clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart
.

Paul asks rhetorical questions here. Because these other so-called teachers were trying to discredit Paul. The apostle is asking the saints at Corinth if he’s disallowed to minister to them unless he has letters of recommendations.
Letters of commendation were frequent in the early Church… as we learn from [these verses], but probably not used by the apostles who brought their own testimonials, the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. Those who didn’t have the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, needed such necessary letters to prevent the Churches from being imposed on by false teachers.”
~ from Adam Clarke’s Commentary
Another reason Paul discounts commendations as unnecessary: he states:
Vs. 2: “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known, and read by all men”. The proof of Paul’s ministry was in the fact that these saints at Corinth, though they had serious issues that needed correction were bearing fruit of repentance; of salvation and of good works; their lives were a testimony that was seen by others.

Vs. 3: continues this thought, that they were “a letter of Christ”; they were served by Paul and company who labored in the Gospel, and the results were “written not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living GOD” – in their hearts filled with the living GOD, not written on tablets of dead stone.

It's been said, “You may be the only Bible some people will ever read”.

How you’re empowered and governed by the Spirit of GOD; how you live in JESUS Who isn’t just a part of your life – He IS your life! How making decisions and taking actions, the words you speak, your attitudes, how you relate to people around you with love, truth, grace, and peace – these will speak of biblical truth to people who might not otherwise read the Bible for themselves.

And as a result of seeing your life, they might even be persuaded to pick up the Bible and read it for themselves, because of your witness and being refreshed by seeing a humble Christian, and not a hypocritical Christian.

In the days of Christ: the religious leadership were more about the teachings of Rabbis, following customs and traditions more than the Holy Scriptures, which they for the most part ignored and failed to teach to the people. Then the LORD Jesus Christ came and the people saw and heard the Word of GOD in action for themselves!

Concerning truth written in the hearts of saints, I found these seven declarations of truth written in various places:

The Seven Editions of Divinely Declared Truth (a diagram in Thompson. Chain Ref. Bible):
1st Edition of Declared Truth: Written in creation: PSALM 19:1 (General Revelation)
2nd Edition of Declared Truth: Written on the conscience: ROM 2:15 (General Revelation)
3rd Edition of Declared Truth: Written on Tablets of Stone: EX 24:12 (Special Revelation)
4th Edition of Declared Truth: Written in the Entirety of Scripture: ROM 15:4 (Special Revelation)
5th Edition of Declared Truth: Christ, the Illustrated Edition: JOHN 1:14 (Special Revelation)
6th Edition of Declared Truth: Written on the Heart of the Saints: HEB 8:10 (Special Revelation)
7th Edition of Declared Truth: Outward Christian Life: Living Epistles: 2 COR 3:2-3 (Special Revelation)
2 CORINTHIANS 3:4-6
4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, 6 who also made us able
[sufficient] ministers of the new testament, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The apostle was committed to GOD through Jesus Christ and the LORD ministered to the saints of the Corinthian church through His chosen and sanctified vessel, Paul.
He regarded himself and those with him (Timothy, Silas; later on Aquila and Priscilla, and Dr. Luke) as incompetent (“not sufficient”) in their own right, and rightly looked to GOD and His transformative powers (we’ll focus specifically on “transformed” more in vs.18) which made them competent (their “sufficiency is of GOD”) for the work of the ministry in the new covenant.

Paul makes comparisons between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and the contrasts are remarkable! Under the Old Testament, the Spirit of GOD would rest upon individuals, and would come and go, and even abandon those who were unfaithful

Examples: king Saul, the Spirit did an initial work in him so that he was a “changed man” (1 SAM 10:9) but because of his consistent disobedience, the Spirit departed from him.
Even David asked that GOD wouldn’t take His Holy Spirit from him after he committed adultery with Bathsheba (PS 51:11).

But the Spirit never took up permanent residency in those saints – they were saved by faith, just as we are, but there is a difference between these, and New Testament saints known as the church, the “temple of the Holy Spirit”. We are permanently indwelt by the Spirit of GOD and sealed (2 COR 1:22; EPH 1:13)! To be sealed in this sense carries the powerful idea of permanency; of a covenant or contract that can’t be broken.

This is both a comfort as well as a cause for concern: A comfort because just like the LORD Jesus, the Holy Spirit will never leave us nor forsake us (HEB 13:5); He is our permanent seal.

This is also a concern, because if we are careless about our lives, not endeavoring to live for JESUS and given to living in sin, we can grieve, cause pain to the Holy Spirit Who forever dwells inside of us and Who loves us. You can’t grieve someone who doesn’t love you:

EPHESIANS 4:29-32
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed until the day of redemption
[this is speaking of the redemption of our bodies when they’ll be glorified as spoken of in ROM 8:23]. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor [loudly complaining, an indecent display, making a show], and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.

Vs. 6: “…able ministers…” Because of Christ’s work in us we go from incompetent and disabled, to competent and enabled ministers, servants of GOD! Aren’t you blessed to realize that you aren’t expected to live out this Christian life under your own power? Doesn’t this truth of GOD bring to you a deep sigh of relief and peace: that it’s the same Spirit that inspired the Holy Scriptures, Who also enables us to live according to the Holy Scriptures?

About Ronnie Tolan

I used to teach 1st and 2nd grade Sunday School; as any teacher of kids will tell you illustrations and props are very helpful in creating a picture that’s worth a thousand words.
One week I asked for a volunteer and this lad, Ronnie Tolan raised and waved his hand so eagerly. And he was overjoyed when I chose him, particularly because he saw a baseball and a glove on the table situated between me and the class.

He got up and stood next to me, eagerly awaiting my instructions and I asked him to tell the glove to pick up the ball and throw it. He looked up sideways at me, staring out of one eye as if to say, “You’re kidding me, right?”

“No, I’m serious Ronnie – tell the glove to pick up the ball.” You could see the regret written all over his freckled face, thinking, “Why did I even raise my hand!?” He shoved his hands in his pockets and mumbled, “glove, pick up the ball.” Of course nothing happened. I asked him to say it louder – maybe the glove didn’t hear you.

To his credit, he said it louder, but with the same result. I then asked the class what we could do to help Ronnie, help the glove to pick up the ball. One girl said, “Tell Ronnie to put his hand in the glove, that’ll help the glove pick up the ball.” Ronnie shot a look at me, and his eyes said it all, “Can I, can I? Huh, huh?”

“Go for it Ronnie” He did, and he tossed the ball towards the kids; one of them caught it, tossed it back, and Ronnie threw it to someone else and this went on for a while. After some giggles and laughs I called a halt to it, thanked Ronnie and he sat back at his desk.

I said to them, “Kids – that glove was absolutely helpless to pick up that ball. It had no life of its own. But when Ronnie put his hand in that glove, it could do anything that his hand could do, because it was the hand that had life in it, the power to pick up that ball and throw it.” Then I picked up the Bible and continued:

“We are just like that empty glove, spiritually speaking. We are hollow, lifeless, unable to obey GOD’s Book. But then, just as the hand filled that glove, when we accepted JESUS as our LORD and Savior He came and filled us with His Spirit. And because of His life inside of us, we can obey GOD’s Book the way that Jesus does – not perfectly, but we can.

Now what if we gave Ronnie a cement glove?
That cement glove would be useless – it doesn’t bend, so the power of the hand wouldn’t work. That’s how it is when we have a hard heart: GOD can’t use us that way. We need to be soft, flexible, yielded like that leather glove.

What if Ronnie was told to put on some smelly, slimy sewer drenched glove?
No way would he want to stick his hand in that; it’s filthy! That’s what we’re like to GOD with unconfessed sin in our life. If we want to be able for GOD to use us then we can’t have a hardness, or sinfulness in us.

A word to all of us as ministers and servants of Christ: Avoid spiritual burn out: be filled to overflowing in the “fullness of GOD” (EPH 3:19; what if Ronnie had a glove so big that his hand couldn’t fill it? For that glove to work best, his entire hand would need to fill that glove completely!).

TTUF: ABLE MINISTERS Of The NEW TESTAMENT

Under the Law, people were blessed if they were obedient, and they were condemned if they broke the Law, and even killed at times – as we know, the Law could never impart life to perpetual law-breakers: it can only expose and condemn sinners and that includes all of us.

This is why the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) looked more like a butcher shop than a religious place of worship. All kinds of slain animals burning, blood drenching the altar, and these sacrifices being continued year after year, decade after decade, century after century, all because of the sins of the people, but they couldn’t ever take away sin – only cover them. The Law convicted the people of sin, and sin had to be punished by death (“wages of sin” ROM 6:23), and so these animals were killed so that the people of Israel could live.

Where the Old Testament Law could only condemn sin and seek out justice by the death of the sinner (or the sacrifices they made), the New Testament is established on one death only: “the LAMB Of GOD Who takes away the sin of the world” and the resulting eternal life given by the Spirit that dwells in the Temple of the Holy Spirit – you, the church!

2 CORINTHIANS 3:7-11
7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?
9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious
.

The glory of the Old Testament covenant was in the revealing of the Law of GOD that glorified His holiness and presented with majesty and awesome power. Think of the scene there on Mt. Sinai: dark, brooding clouds swirling about the peak of the mountain, with blinding flashes of lightning and deep, rumbling thunder, deafening blasts of trumpets sounded on the lips of powerful angels, the earth trembling under the feet of the Hebrews – even the mountain itself moving at the presence of GOD (EX 20:18; PS 68:8; ACTS 7:53; HEB 2:2)!

Moses spent so much time in the presence of GOD that the shekinah glory of GOD glowed on his face – but he wore a veil to conceal the fact that this glory was fading away. It’s the same with the Mosaic system of the Law: it was destined to be replaced by the new covenant through Jesus Christ and His salvation (whose face on the Mount. of Transfiguration outshined the sun itself, and Whose glory will be never ending!):

HEBREWS 8:6-13
6 But now He
[Our high priest, Jesus Christ] has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. 7 For if that first [Mosaic] covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says:

"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new [testament] with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 "None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." 13 In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away
(New Testament spoken of directly in MT 26:28; MK 14:24; LK 22:20; 1 COR 11:24; HEB 9:15; 12:24).

2 CORINTHIANS 3:12-15
12 Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech 13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds [of the Jewish people] were blinded. For until this day [2022] the same veil remains unlifted [continues to conceal] in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart
.

The Old Testament Law (Mosaic) was temporary, destined to be replaced by the New Testament, in which all the promises made to Abraham, to Moses, the nation of Israel, to king David will all find their ultimate fulfillment in the Person of Jesus Christ. This entails both the kingdom of Israel as well as the eternal kingdom which will last forever. That’s the kind of sure foundation which can grant us confidence and boldness in declaring Christ and His eternal reign!

By worldly wisdom, the Word of GOD, GOD Himself and the things of the Spirit can’t be understood (1 COR 2:14). The minds of humanity are blinded by Satan, the ruler of this present world system (2 COR 4:4).

Likewise, the eyes of the Jewish people are also blinded, unable to identify Jesus as their Messiah, but their blindness is temporary – it will end when “the fullness of the Gentiles is complete” – that is, when the bride of Christ is ready to meet her bridegroom, or as you could say, the number of souls are saved and added to the church, according to the foreknowledge of GOD. Then that blindness will be lifted, and the Jews will begin to understand about Y’shua as their Messiah (ROM 11:25)!  

ONE FOR ISRAEL ministries (www.oneforisrael.com).
“ONE FOR ISRAEL is an initiative of native-born Israelis on the forefront of high-tech media evangelism, proclaiming salvation to Israel, raising up spiritual leaders through ONE FOR ISRAEL’s Bible College and equipping them with the tools they need to transform our communities.”
Now let’s take the remainder of our time and focus on these last three verses:

2 CORINTHIANS 3:16-18
16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord
.

We spoke of general revelation and special revelation – now let’s look at what’s called progressive revelation.

The Bible is structured somewhat like an onion: there are many layers to it. In GENESIS and the other four books of Moses we’re given key insights into the power, presence, and personality (or character) of GOD, and as we read further, we’re peeling back the outer layers and discovering deeper ones, that reveal greater insights and details into GOD. This progressive revelation maxes out with the arrival of Jesus Christ, and most especially in the book of REVELATION (note: it’s not REVELATIONS – it’s singular, because it’s the ultimate revelatioN of the Person of JESUS CHRIST).

As we look to the teachings of the LORD Jesus, we gain the greatest insight into all the rest of the Bible, because – as we know – this Book is all about Him (PS. 40:7; JN 5:38)!
In Christ, this veil is taken away, and we find liberty from sin, from the Law that would condemn us, the power to fulfill the righteousness of GOD that the Law represents, the ability to live holy, and justly and lovingly express mercy and humbleness (MIC 6:8)!

The veil is removed by the Spirit of Christ that’s granted to us new life by being born again and from that time, we begin to see ever more clearly Who Jesus is, and what He intends for our lives.

Still, we don’t see Him face to Face yet! We see Him in His glory like you’d see a beam of light reflected in a mirror – through the Holy Scriptures (James refers to the Word of GOD being like a mirror JAMES 1:23).

Yet this glory has the power to transform us, just as we were initially transformed when we were first born again: transformed from a condemned sinner to a commended saint, from a child of darkness to a child of light! That’s a transformation that takes us from the extreme ends of the spiritual spectrum of reality!

This transformation has only yet begun! Look at verse 18 once again:

“… But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

What’s “the same image” that’s spoken of here? Whose image is this that we’re being transformed into? JESUS of course! Think about how profound that really is! We know that one day, when we see Him at the rapture, “we shall be like Him” (1 JN 3:2). We know this transformation will happen eventually; but realize, this can happen in deeply profound and significantly ways now! Today! With your feet still firmly planted on the ground!

“…by the Spirit of the LORD.”

Look at 2 CORINTHIANS 4:6-7
6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us
.

Moses wanted to see the face of GOD, and the LORD told him, “No one can see Me and live” (EX 33:20). The best GOD could offer is pass by Moses and let him see the LORD from behind – and according to the revelation Moses was given was incredibly awesome in itself:

"The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generationEX 34:6-7).

Yet here in 2 CORINTHIANS 4, we have the light of GOD, His revelation shine in our hearts, giving us the glorious knowledge of GOD – “in the Face of Jesus Christ.” This knowledge that is imparted to us, where we can see the Face of GOD – the Son – is treasured in our hearts and the resulting power from GOD brings about this transformation!

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