Day 310 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Second Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 3 – The rhetorical (and ironic) questions in verse reveal Paul’s desire to challenge the false apostles’ tendency toward one-upmanship. He says, essentially, “I don’t need an external letter of recommendation or reintroduction, because the internal work of the Spirit in your hearts is all the endorsement that is required.” The changed lives of the Corinthians are proof that Paul is a minister of the new covenant Jeremiah ; Ezekiel ). Under this new administration, the internal effects of the Gospel upon the heart take precedence over one’s external credentials.
Moralism and external religiosity are marked by the belief that change happens from the outside in (i.e., change your behavior, and you will experience the grace of God). In contrast, the Gospel proclaims that, by the work of the Spirit, transformation happens from the inside out (i.e., because you have experienced the grace of God, you can be sure that the Spirit is working in your heart to bring about change). Because the Believer’s sufficiency/competence comes not from external achievements but from God, we should not grasp after a secure position in life on the basis of outward performance. Rather, we can rest in our already established position before God, knowing that the inward “heart work” of the Spirit leads to genuine, visible change.
Unlike the ministry of Moses, which was limited, impermanent, veiled, and lacking transformative power, Paul’s new covenant ministry is characterized by an all-surpassing, permanent, unveiled, transformative glory that is mediated by the Spirit of the Lord. Moses had a remarkable encounter with the presence of God (Exodus 34:29–35), but the new covenant Believer’s access is even more astoundingly complete. While Israel could not even look at Moses’ face without the aid of a veil (Exodus 34:33), Christians can now behold the glory of the Lord with an unveiled face. This experience is ours “through Christ”. He is the answer to the question, how can we behold the glory of God? Jesus, the new temple, has given us full access to the presence of God “through His flesh” (Hebrews 10:20), literally tearing the temple curtain that formerly acted as a barrier between a holy God and a sinful people (Matthew 27:51; Exodus 26:31–33).
The implications of this are profound. First, we have unlimited access to the very presence of God. Second, in Jesus we are given an unashamed boldness to enjoy our free and limitless access to God. Third, this bold beholding of God’s glory is the very means that the Spirit uses to bring about our utter transformation into the image of God’s glory. From start to finish, the Believer is being transformed by God’s glory, for God’s glory, and into the image of God’s glory.
How does understanding how God transforms you free to live in your new identity in Jesus?
2 Corinthians 4 – Paul’s reference to shows that the work of God in revealing the light of the Gospel in our hearts is a new creational act. It is the means by which the veil is removed from our eyes and we are transferred from darkness into His marvelous light ( Peter ; Colossians ). This new creational work is bound up with Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus, who is the Light of the World ( ; ), endures “the power of darkness” ( ; Matthew ) in order to absorb and to rescue us from eternal outer darkness (Matthew ; ). And it is through His “being the first to rise from the dead” that He now “proclaims light” ( ). The result is that our minds are no longer blinded by unbelief. Instead, we are now creatures who are called to “walk as children of light” (Ephesians ).
The Gospel is the ultimate source of light that puts all of life into proper perspective. Because we view life according to how we are seen in the sight of God, we are free to abandon underhanded ways in favor of a transparent, grace-dependent life. All other ways of seeing will lead to blindness; other light sources represent darkness (Luke 11:34–36). God graciously exposes this darkness and empowers us to live as “children of light” (1 Thessalonians 5:5) who are being transformed by the work of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
The Christian life is paradoxical because it is built upon the ultimate paradox, the death of Jesus, where perfect divinity and beauty was horribly killed. Through that tragedy, life for sinners blossomed. We are comforted because of His affliction (see 1:3–11), accepted because of His rejection. We live because He died. When we taste life in light of the Gospel, we begin to understand Paul’s paradoxical logic: The Gospel enables us to deal with difficult momentary experiences because it assures us of the permanence of God’s promises. When we are momentarily afflicted, we are certain that we will not be crushed because Jesus was crushed on our behalf (Isaiah 53:5). When we are persecuted, we know that God will not forsake us because Jesus was forsaken in our place (Mark 15:34). When we experience death we need not fear, for we know that we will experience resurrection life because Jesus bore the penalty of death on our behalf (2 Timothy 1:10).
Paul claims that these paradoxes exist to show that surpassing power—beyond human control or fathoming—belongs to God. Furthermore, the fruit of Gospel faithfulness in momentary affliction is a picture of our witness.
How does our believing and speaking the Gospel during the most difficult times, result in grace extending to more and more people, and God being seen as more glorious?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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