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2Corinthians 3and4 - Light Afflictions

INTRODUCTION: Paul stated that it was of the Lord that he was sufficient to present the gospel in all the circumstances that he faced; and he did not need written commendation from anyone, because the evidence of faith presented by the Word was written in the hearts of the believers at Corinth. All trials that he faced were just temporary light afflictions compared with the eternal reward awaiting in glory.

NOTE: Bible passages are from the American KJV.

A - THE GLORY IN CHRIST EXCELS THE GLORY IN THE LAW

2Corinthians 3 "1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, letters of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? 2 You are our letter written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 3 For as much as you are manifestly declared to be the letter of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. 4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; 6 Who also has made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life. 7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: 8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? 9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more does the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excels. 11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remains is glorious."

COMMENTS: Paul did not need any letters of commendation to the Corinthians, or even from them, since they were like a letter written in their hearts; and the believers at Corinth were clear evidence that he had ministered the gospel of Christ to them. Those letters were not written with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God in the fleshy tables of the heart. The letter of the law was written on tables of stone, and since no person could keep the whole law perfectly, it was a law pronouncing death. But those commandments made it clear that the only way to be saved from eternal death was to be chosen through the grace of God. The law then became the guide for a life that would honor God, for those who were no longer stiff necked to refuse God's grace. This truth in the time of Moses became even more glorious and precious in the time of Christ.

Deuteronomy 10 "14 Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD's your God, the earth also, with all that therein is. 15 Only the LORD had a delight in your fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff necked."

Romans 7 "4 Why, my brothers, you also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that you should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit to death. 6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter."

2 Peter 1 "1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."


B - WHERE THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS, THERE IS LIBERTY

2 Corinthians 3 "12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: 13 And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: 14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remains the same veil not taken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, the veil is on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. 17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD."

COMMENTS: Paul delivered the great hope of the gospel in plain terms; and did not need to be like Moses who put a veil over his face because the people could not bear the brightness of God's glory.

Exodus 34 "32 And afterward all the children of Israel came near: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai. 33 And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. 34 But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out. And he came out, and spoke to the children of Israel that which he was commanded. 35 And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone: and Moses put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him."

That veil was needed in the sense that many people had their hearts blinded to the complete light of salvation in that day; and Paul said that same veil still remains today because all are under sin, unless the veil is taken away by the Spirit of the Lord to provide liberty through faith. Then it is as though we look in a mirror and see the glory of the Lord changing us into the same image, from glory to glory, even as it is done by the Spirit of the LORD.

Galatians 3 "22 But the scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up to the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Why the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."


C - THE GOSPEL IS HIDDEN TO THOSE WHO ARE LOST

2Corinthians 4 "1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; 2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. 3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them. 5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined 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 excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."

COMMENTS: Paul said he had received the ministry by the mercy of God, and he would not faint as he renounced all dishonest, duplicitous, or deceitful purposes in sharing the Word of God. That statement should warn us of the ever present ministries that give partial truth mixed with the selfish effort to gain status and financial wealth for themselves. Paul wanted to clearly present the truth to every man's conscience knowing all that he did was in the sight of God. If the message of the gospel is hidden from those who hear, it is because they are lost, as the god of this world has blinded their minds from receiving the light of the glorious soul-saving message that Christ is the image of God that could shine upon them. Those who preach the gospel are not presenting themselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and they do this as servants for the sake of Jesus. The Creator God commanded light to shine out of darkness, and He shines into the heart with the light of the knowledge of the glory of God found in Jesus Christ. So then, the wonderful blessing is a treasure within our temporary earthly body, so the superbly magnificent power may be of God, and not of us.


D - THE OUTWARD MAN PERISHES, THE INWARD MAN IS RENEWED DAY BY DAY

2 Corinthians 4 "8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 11 For we which live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. 12 So then death works in us, but life in you. 13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; 14 Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. 16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."

COMMENTS: Though we may be troubled on every side, we should not be in distress. If circumstances are perplexing to us, we should not be in despair. We are not forsaken if we are persecuted, even if we endure physical harm but do not die. Though the situations may vary, every Christian should realize our identity with the physical death of the Lord Jesus, that the eternal life also of Jesus might be made evident in our mortal body. Paul said by having the same spirit of faith as the psalmist, he believed and therefore wrote knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall cause us with you, to walk before the LORD in the land of the living. These things given through abundant grace should redound through the thanksgiving of many, to the glory of God. Paul gives encouragement to anyone who reads that the inward man is renewed day by day; and to consider whatever we suffer now as a light affliction for only a moment, as it compares with a far more exceeding and eternal reward of glory. We should look past the temporal things which are seen now, and look toward the eternal things which are yet to be seen.

Psalms 116 "8 For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. 9 I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. 10 I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: 11 I said in my haste, All men are liars. 12 What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits toward me? 13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the LORD. 14 I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all his people. 15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints."

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, I thank you for the comparison Paul made between the glory of the law given through Moses, and the exceeding glory provided by the sacrifice of Christ. The Spirit of the LORD has given me liberty from my inherent sin that otherwise had condemns me to eternal death. I thank you Lord for opening my heart to the gospel of salvation by your grace, because until that day it was hidden to me as I was among the many lost sinners. I want to have the strength from you to consider any suffering as light affliction while still in the physical body. Thank you Lord, for the reminder from Paul that though the outward man perishes, you renew the inward man day by day. Amen.

Published 16 November 2020