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2 Corinthians 3:1-6 – A Covenant Written on Hearts

Summary

This passage begins with Paul responding to some concern of the Corinthians with letters of recommendation and extends into an announcement of a new covenant written on human hearts.

Analysis

In 2 Corinthians, Paul mentions other apostles whom he calls "super-apostles" (2 Corinthians 11:5, 12:11) and "false apostles" (2 Corinthians 11:13). These traveling missionaries have come to Corinth after Paul left. Now, impressed by these new apostles' credentials, the Corinthians may be asking about Paul's credentials.

In response, Paul tells the Corinthians that he and Timothy do not need letters of recommendation since the Corinthians themselves are a letter recommending Paul's ministry. Paul echoes Jeremiah 31:31-34 as he speaks of a new covenant written on human hearts. In Jeremiah, God had promised to write his law-a new covenant-on the hearts of the people. Here Paul says that the Corinthians are a letter of Christ, "written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2 Corinthians 3:3).

The rest of the chapter uses more images from the Old Testament to contrast the glory surrounding God's giving of the law to Moses and the people of Israel with the even more glorious work of God in Christ. Paul's argument runs from the lesser to the greater: if there was so much glory around the giving of the law that Moses had to veil his face to protect the Israelites, how much more will the glory of God abound in the work of God's Spirit in "the ministry of justification" (2 Corinthians 3:8-9). Yet, this time, those who participate in the new covenant may do so "with unveiled faces" (2 Corinthians 3:18).

2 Corinthians 3:1-6

Ministers of the New Covenant

3Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? 2You yourselves are our letter, written on our* hearts, to be known and read by all; 3and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared 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 towards God. 5Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, 6who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

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v 2.2.7
10 February 2011

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