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Ministers of the New Covenant


Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? 2You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; 3and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, 6who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

7 Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, 8how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? 9For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! 10Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; 11for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!

12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. 14But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

3. Ye are the Epistle of Christ Pursuing the metaphor, he says that the Epistle of which he speaks was written by Christ, inasmuch as the faith of the Corinthians was his work. He says that it was ministered by him, as if meaning by this, that he had been in the place of ink and pen. In fine, he makes Christ the author and himself the instrument, that calumniators may understand, that it is with Christ that they have to do, if they continue to speak against him 365365     “De son apostre;” — “Against his apostle.” with malignity. What follows is intended to increase the authority of that Epistle. The second clause, 366366     “Le dernier membre de la sentence;” — “The last clause of the sentence.” however, has already a reference to the comparison that is afterwards drawn between the law and the gospel. For he takes occasion from this shortly afterwards, as we shall see, to enter upon a comparison of this nature. The antitheses here employed — ink and Spirit, stones and heart — give no small degree of weight to his statements, by way of amplification. For in drawing a contrast between ink and the Spirit of God, and between stones and heart, he expresses more than if he had simply made mention of the Spirit and the heart, without drawing any comparison.

Not on tables of stone He alludes to the promise that is recorded in Jeremiah 31:31, and Ezekiel 37:26, concerning the grace of the New Testament.

I will make, says he, a new covenant with them, not such as I had made with their fathers; but I will write my laws upon their hearts, and engrave them on their inward parts. Farther, I will take away the stony heart from the midst of thee, and will give thee a heart of flesh, that thou mayest walk in my precepts.
(Ezekiel 36:26, 27.)

Paul says, that this blessing was accomplished through means of his preaching. Hence it abundantly appears, that he is a faithful minister of the New Covenant — which is a legitimate testimony in favor of his apostleship. The epithet fleshly is not taken here in a bad sense, but means soft and flexible, 367367     “Vn cœur docile et ployable, ou aisé à ranger;” — “A heart that is teachable and flexible, or easy to manage.” as it is contrasted with stony, that is, hard and stubborn, as is the heart of man by nature, until it has been subdued by the Spirit of God. 368368     “Jusques à ce qu’il soit donté et amolli par le sainct Esprit;” — “Until it has been tamed and softened by the Holy Spirit.”

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