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3. Glory of the New Covenant
1Are we beginning again to commend ourselves? or need we, as do some, epistles of commendation to you or from you? 2Ye are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men; 3being made manifest that ye are an 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 tables that are hearts of flesh. 4And such confidence have we through Christ to God-ward: 5not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God; 6who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 7But if the ministration of death, written, and engraven on stones, came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look stedfastly upon the face of Moses for the glory of his face; which glory was passing away: 8how shall not rather the ministration of the spirit be with glory? 9For if the ministration of condemnation hath glory, much rather doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 10For verily that which hath been made glorious hath not been made glorious in this respect, by reason of the glory that surpasseth. 11For if that which passeth away was with glory, much more that which remaineth is in glory. 12Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness of speech, 13and are not as Moses, who put a veil upon his face, that the children of Israel should not look stedfastly on the end of that which was passing away: 14but their minds were hardened: for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remaineth, it not being revealed to them that it is done away in Christ. 15But unto this day, whensoever Moses is read, a veil lieth upon their heart. 16But whensoever it shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.
17. The Lord is the Spirit. This passage, also, has been misinterpreted, as if Paul had meant to say, that Christ is of a spiritual essence, for they connect it with that statement in John 4:24, God is a Spirit. The statement before us, however, has nothing to do with Christ’s essence, but simply points out his office, for it is connected with what goes before, where we found it stated, that the doctrine of the law is literal, and not merely dead, but even an occasion of death. He now, on the other hand, calls Christ its spirit, 411411 “L’esprit de la Loy;” — “The spirit of the law.” meaning by this, that it will be living and life-giving, only if it is breathed into by Christ. Let the soul be connected with the body, and then there is a living man, endowed with intelligence and perception, fit for all vital functions. 412412 “Tous mouuemens et operations de la vie;” — “All the movements and operations of life.” Let the soul be removed from the body, and there will remain nothing but a useless carcase, totally devoid of feeling.
The passage is deserving of particular notice, 413413 “Voici vn beau passage, et bien digne d’estre noté;” — “Here is a beautiful passage, and well deserving to be carefully noticed.” as teaching us, in what way we are to reconcile those encomiums which David pronounces upon the law — (Psalm 19:7,8) — “the law of the Lord converteth souls, enlighteneth the eyes, imparteth wisdom to babes,” and passages of a like nature, with those statements of Paul, which at first view are at variance with them — that it is the ministry of sin and death — the letter that does nothing but kill. (2 Corinthians 3:6,7.) For when it is animated by Christ, 414414 “Quand l’ame luy est inspiree par Christ;” — “When a soul is breathed into by Christ.” those things that David makes mention of are justly applicable to it. If Christ is taken away, it is altogether such as Paul describes. Hence Christ is the life of the law. 415415 “La vie et l’esprit de la Loy;” — “The life and spirit of the Law.”
Where the Spirit of the Lord. He now describes the manner, in which Christ gives life to the law — by giving us his Spirit. The term Spirit here has a different signification from what it had in the preceding verse. There, it denoted the soul, and was ascribed metaphorically to Christ. Here, on the other hand, it means the Holy Spirit, that Christ himself confers upon his people. Christ, however, by regenerating us, gives life to the law, and shows himself to be the fountain of life, as all vital functions proceed from man’s soul. Christ, then, is to all (so to speak) the universal soul, not in respect of essence, but in respect of grace. Or, if you prefer it, Christ is the Spirit, because he quickens us by the life-giving influence of his Spirit. 416416 “Par l’efficace et viue vertu de son Sainct Esprit;” — “By the efficacy and living influence of his Holy Spirit.”
He makes mention, also, of the blessing that we obtain from that source. “There,” says he, “is liberty.” By the term liberty I do not understand merely emancipation from the servitude of sin, and of the flesh, but also that confidence, which we acquire from His bearing witness as to our adoption. For it is in accordance with that statement —
We have not again received the spirit of bondage, to fear, etc. (Romans 8:15.)
In that passage, the Apostle makes mention of two things — bondage, and fear. The opposites of these are liberty and confidence. Thus I acknowledge, that the inference drawn from this passage by Augustine is correct — that we are by nature the slaves of sin, and are made free by the grace of regeneration. For, where there is nothing but the bare letter of the law, there will be only the dominion of sin, but the term Liberty, as I have said, I take in a more extensive sense. The grace of the Spirit might, also, be restricted more particularly to ministers, so as to make this statement correspond with the commencement of the chapter, for ministers require to have another grace of the Spirit, and another liberty from what others have. The former signification, however, pleases me better, though at the same time I have no objection, that this should be applied to every one according to the measure of his gift. It is enough, if we observe, that Paul here points out the efficacy of the Spirit, which we experience for our salvation — as many of us, as have been regenerated by his grace.