2 CORINTHIANS 3
1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
Self-commendation, with which he had apparently been charged by some in Corinth, we know was farthest from Paul's nature and desires. And yet he was a special, chosen vessel, and he knew it, and he had to proclaim it as part of his message. He had to establish his authority and apostleship.
It was a very difficult and trying position, especially as there were always those who were eager to seize upon any apparent indication of self-glorification.
Some in Corinth questioned Paul's authority to instruct and correct them. But, he says, answering their criticism, why should I need any evidence of authority, why should I need any letter of recommendation?
2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
He has told us plainly and elaborately what He would have us to do, and what kind of people He would have us be and all we have to do is to make ourselves acquainted with what He has said. This requires continual reading, without discouragement, with great perseverance, of the things that God has caused to be written for our instruction.
By this means, the divine law will in course of time work into our nature, and become written In our hearts -- a living power within, which will outwardly manifest itself in the doing of the will of God.
You yourselves are my letter of authority. You are a letter from Christ, delivered by me, written with the Spirit of God on the hearts, for all men to read in your way of life.
It is a beautiful and sobering thought: each ecclesia is a letter written by God to men.
Bro Growcott - Sorrowful Yet Rejoicing.
3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle 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.
Where the truth has possession of the sentiments, setting them to work and so forming the thoughts, it becomes the law of God to them which the apostle styles "the law of his mind;" and because it is written there through the hearing of "the law and the testimony," which came to the prophets and apostles through the Spirit, he terms it, "the law of the spirit" (Rom. 7:23; 8:2) inscribed "on fleshly tablets of the heart "; and "the law of the spirit of life," because, while obeyed, it confers a right to eternal life.
Elpis Israel 1.3.
5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
Every moment of our life, every thought, must be consciously related to God and His purpose. God is the whole essence and meaning of life.
The closer we get to Him, the deeper and fuller our life becomes. This is the key to everything: the solution to all problems, the end of all struggle and striving. Our minds must be filled continually with God. This is the power that transforms our characters. This is our transition from the natural to the spiritual; from death to life, from passing emptiness to eternal fullness of joy.
..."Set your affection upon things that are above, not on things on earth" (Col 3:2).
The natural mind is petty, self-centred, small, narrow, ignorant and childish. We must enlarge our minds, get them onto the track of real and eternal things; clear out all the passing rubbish of the present. This must be the foundation of our mind and consciousness. All must be viewed from this one perspective.
The degree of the closeness that we attain to God is the measure of our real value and maturity. The degree to which God fills our minds and thoughts is the measure of our wisdom and intelligence.
Bro Growcott - Mercy
6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
The Letter Killeth
"A minister of the New Covenant: not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth,
but the Spirit giveth life"-2 Corinthians 3:6.
There is a great lesson in this but it is often sadly misapplied to the detriment of holiness and encouragement of looseness. In the first place, we should note very particularly that the Scriptures never speak of the commands of Christ as the "letter that killeth." Rather Jesus says-
"The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).
The "letter that killeth" was the Mosaic Law-the "law of carnal commandments"-designed specifically to expose and manifest man's sinful, rebellious nature, and to humble him before his Almighty and Holy Maker. And even then we must be very careful how we look upon the letter of this Law, for the Law was
"holy, just and good" (Rom. 7:12). Jesus said (Matt. 23:23)-
"This (the spirit of the Law) ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other (the letter) undone."
He condemned them-not for obeying the letter-but for glorifying the letter to the exclusion and neglect of the spirit which the letter was intended to develop and teach. To the Ephesian ecclesia, the Spirit says (Rev. 2:2-5)-
"I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience . . .But-thou hast left thy first love . . Repent or I will come and remove thy candlestick."
There is the letter without the spirit. If love is not the motive force, then works, labour, and patience are not only useless, but are obnoxious to God, for they just glorify the flesh. Therefore God cannot acknowledge a candlestick-no matter how bright-that is shining by its own self-glorifying efforts, and not truly and consciously by the power of the Spirit of God.
Whatever we are doing, the moment we let slip the consciousness that God gives all the increase, and that all power, both to will and to do, is of God-then we cease to serve God or to be of any value to Him because we cease to glorify Him, and begin to glorify ourselves.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4. 35
7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly 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?
Each true saint is a part of the living Word of Life. This leads him to a comparison between the Old (Mosaic) Covenant, engraved on dead stones-the ministration of condemnation and death; and the New Covenant, written by the Spirit of God on the living hearts of the regenerated believers.
If the giving of the first was so glorious an event (v. 7) that Moses had to cover his face to protect Israel from the radiance of the reflected glory of what he had experienced, how infinitely more glorious is the New Covenant - the ministration of righteousness and life!
And this leads him to that beautiful verse at the end of chapter three that is so full of practical instruction in the way of holiness-that expresses, in fact, the only possible hope of success-
"We all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord."
Bro Growcott - Sorrowful Yet Rejoicing.
17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Writing about body, the apostle says, "there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." But, he does not content himself with simply declaring this truth; he goes further, and proves it by quoting the words of Moses, saying, "for so it is written, the first man Adam was made into a living soul and then adds, "the last Adam into a spirit giving life (1 Cor. 15:44-5).
Elpis Israel 1.2.
20. What is IMMORTALITY?
Incorruptible body in living action; or life manifested through an incorruptible body. The Deity, who is the life, is the only being in the universe who has it underived from anything exterior to Himself. (1 Tim. 6:16.)
21. What is the relation of the resurrection-earthy body to the resurrection spiritual body?
Its relation is that of a "terrestrial" inferior body to a "celestial" superior body; bearing a similar relation the one to the other, that the acorn does to the oak.
22. What is the transition from the lower terrestrial body to the higher celestial, or heavenly, termed?
It is an ascent, in which the subject of the ascension is exalted and "RAISED" from the one to the other. (John 19:17.)
23. What was the Body that came out of Joseph's sepulchre?
The same that was crucified, died, and was buried there -"out of the earth, earthy." An earthy body is not consubstantial with the Father, who is Spirit. At the emergence from the tomb, there was inequality of substance between the Father and the Son.
24. What was necessary in order to remedy this imperfection?
It was necessary that the Body which had come forth, and which is the example that illustrates "the Way," should be "made perfect" by ascending to the Father, in the twinkling of an eye.
25. Are the ascent and the assumption of Jesus the same?
No; they occurred forty days apart. The assumption of Jesus was the taking of him up into heaven, where he now is. (Acts 1:11.)
26. What did the crucified body become on its instantaneous ascent to the Father, on the third day?
It became "the last Adam for a spirit-imparting life." (1 Cor. 15:45.) He was "made both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:36.) He became "the Lord from heaven." (1 Cor.15:47.) "The Lord the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:17); and "the exact likeness of the Father's substance." (Heb.1:3.)
27. What is it to be "clothed upon with the house which is from heaven?"
To be "swallowed up of life."
28. At what time does the swallowing-up of life occur?
After the coming forth of the earthy body from the grave, and after it has subsequently passed the scrutiny of the judgment.
29. What does Paul say it is that, after coming forth from the grave, is swallowed up of life?
"THE MORTAL"-to thneton: his words are, "that the Mortal might be swallowed up of life." (2 Cor. 5:4.)
30. By what other form of sound words does he express the same thing?
By the words in 1 Cor.15:53, "this corruptible must put on incorruption, and THIS MORTAL (to thneton touto) must put on immortality:" incorruption and immortality are vestments to be put on to a corruptible and mortal thing.
31. What is "the mortal" and "the corruptible" he refers to in these texts?
It is not to dust and ashes in the grave, for they are neither corruptible nor mortal. He refers to what he plainly expresses in Rom. 8:11, where he says "The Spirit of Him who raised the Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies:" to thneta somata. Dust and ashes resulting from decomposition, are not mortal bodies.
There is liberty
Liberty from Law? No. We cannot have liberty without law. We cannot be free without knowing and fulfilling the law, although the more freely we accept the law and the more we absorb it within us and adjust our lives to its wisdom and light, the less it becomes law. Law, we are told (1 Tim. 1:9)—
"Is not for the righteous, but for the lawless and disobedient."
We are all "lawless" to begin with—law is to create the righteous man. But to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, it is not law, but wisdom; it has no penalties, but only blessings.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4. 35
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.
In Jesus, then, raised from the dead, incorruptible, and clothed with brightness as when He was transfigured upon the Holy Mount (Matt. 17:2), we behold the image and likeness of the God. When we contemplate Him by faith, as we shall hereafter by sight, we see A MIRROR from which the glory of Yahweh is reflected in intellectual, moral, and physical grandeur.
He that would know God must behold Him in Christ. If he be acquainted with Him as He is pourtrayed in the prophets and apostles, he will understand the character of God, whom no man hath seen, nor can see; who chargeth His angels with folly, and before whom the heavens are not clean. Jesus was the true light shining in the darkness of Judea, whose inhabitants "comprehended it not." Through Him, God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shone into the hearts of as many as received Him, to give them the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; that so they might receive power to become the sons of God, believing on His name (2 Cor. 3:18,4:6; John 1:5-12).
How consoling and cheering is it, then, amid all the evils of the present state, that God hath found a ransom, who is willing and able to deliver us from the power of the grave; and not only so, but that "at the manifestation of the sons of God " (Rom. 8:17-25), when He shall appear in power and great glory, "we shall be like Him: because we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2). Then will the saints be "changed into the same image from glory," now only a matter of hope, "into glory," as seen and actually possessed, "even as the Lord " Himself was changed, when He became "the spirit giving life," or "a quickening spirit."
Elpis Israel 1.2.
CHANGED INTO THE SAME IMAGE
Unhappily, it is only too possible to be in an ecclesia for years and years in a stagnant, preoccupied, self-satisfied state, and never make any progress in spiritual transformation.
How much closer are we to this Divine image than we were a year ago? How much have we grown in godliness? How much better do we comprehend—and manifest before men—the mind of Christ?
It is relatively easy to "talk the Truth" to others, but how much of its true and gentle and holy spirit do we show to them in our lives? That is "preaching the Truth" in its fullness.
What we call "doctrine" (although actually it is an artificial distinction, for all teaching and commands are doctrine)—what we call "doctrine" is truly important, yea, it is essential, but dead "doctrine" without the living spirit of holiness and love is but an ugly repulsive, rattling skeleton.
What about those of us who have supposedly been going through this glorious, spiritual transforming process for 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 or more years? What results have we to show? For in the end the sole test of the value and success of our lives will be—Has this process really occurred within us?
Paul says speaking of some—
"In whom the god of this world hath 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 unto them."
Belief is a matter of action and way of life, not of words and profession, as James so searchingly points out. Is it possible that we are among those unfortunates whom the god of this world (the veil of the flesh) has blinded, so that we are missing in our lives the Divine, transforming glories of Christ?
—Bro Growcott - BYT 4. 35