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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.
the new testament—"the new covenant" as contrasted with the Old Testament or covenant (1Co 11:25; Ga 4:24). He reverts here again to the contrast between the law on "tables of stone," and that "written by the Spirit on fleshly tables of the heart" (2Co 3:3).
not of the letter—joined with "ministers"; ministers not of the mere literal precept, in which the old law, as then understood, consisted; "but of the Spirit," that is, the spiritual holiness which lay under the old law, and which the new covenant brings to light (Mt 5:17-48) with new motives added, and a new power of obedience imparted, namely, the Holy Spirit (Ro 7:6). Even in writing the letter of the New Testament, Paul and the other sacred writers were ministers not of the letter, but of the spirit. No piety of spirit could exempt a man from the yoke of the letter of each legal ordinance under the Old Testament; for God had appointed this as the way in which He chose a devout Jew to express his state of mind towards God. Christianity, on the other hand, makes the spirit of our outward observances everything, and the letter a secondary consideration (Joh 4:24). Still the moral law of the ten commandments, being written by the finger of God, is as obligatory now as ever; but put more on the Gospel spirit of "love," than on the letter of a servile obedience, and in a deeper and fuller spirituality (Mt 5:17-48; Ro 13:9). No literal precepts could fully comprehend the wide range of holiness which LOVE, the work of the Holy Spirit, under the Gospel, suggests to the believer's heart instinctively from the word understood in its deep spirituality.
spirit giveth life—The spirit of the Gospel when brought home to the heart by the Holy Spirit, gives new spiritual life to a man (Ro 6:4, 11). This "spirit of life" is for us in Christ Jesus (Ro 8:2, 10), who dwells in the believer as a "quickening" or "life-giving Spirit" (1Co 15:45). Note, the spiritualism of rationalists is very different. It would admit no "stereotyped revelation," except so much as man's own inner instrument of revelation, the conscience and reason, can approve of: thus making the conscience judge of the written word, whereas the apostles make the written word the judge of the conscience (Ac 17:11; 1Pe 4:1). True spirituality rests on the whole written word, applied to the soul by the Holy Spirit as the only infallible interpreter of its far-reaching spirituality. The letter is nothing without the spirit, in a subject essentially spiritual. The spirit is nothing without the letter, in a record substantially historical.