Study on the Book of 2nd Corinthians

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Division 3 — “The Ministry & It’s Description”

Lesson 3: "The Ministry and It’s New Covenant" - II Cor 3:6-18

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

II Corinthians 3:6-18, “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. 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: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 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.”


-Introduction: This is a graphic picture of the minister's ministry—he serves the new covenant. This passage is also a graphic contrast between the old covenant and the new covenant. Eight things we want to look at here,


1.  The minister serves a new covenant (v.6).

2.  The old was a written law; the new is the Spirit (v.6).

3.  The old kills; the new gives life (v.6).

4.  The old was glorious; the new is more glorious (v.7-8).

5.  The old brought condemnation; the new brings righteousness (v.9-10).

6.  The old faded away; the new is permanent (v.11).

7.  The old spoke with veiled meanings; the new speaks with plain meaning (v.12-16).

8.  The new covenant brings liberty through the Lord Jesus Christ (v.17-18).


1.The minister serves the new covenant.

Look again with me at 2 Corinthians 3:6, “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 word "testament" here is translated covenant. It means an agreement made between two parties; a contract drawn up between two or more people; a special relationship set up and established between persons. In the Old Testament period of history, God had set up an old covenant between Himself and man which is here called the covenant of the letter. This simply means a written covenant or the covenant of the law.


Since Christ, He has set up a new covenant with man which is here called the "new covenant of the Spirit." This is simply another way of describing the covenant of grace or of the gospel. In Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the New Testament, this covenant is called the "new" in Hebrews 9:15, and the "second" in Hebrews 8:7, and the "better" in Hebrews 7:22. The point is this: God used to deal with man by law, but now He deals with man through the Holy Spirit. The law was the old covenant between God and man. The Spirit is the new covenant between God and man. Today, since Christ, the minister serves the new covenant of the Spirit, not the old covenant of the law.


This is significant for the minister: it means that the new covenant has to do with God's Spirit, that is, with a personal relationship with God. Therefore, the only way a minister can share the new covenant of God's Spirit with people is for God to allow Him. It is God's presence and God's Spirit being dealt with; therefore, no man can share God's presence and God's Spirit unless God allows him. God has to make the man fit, able, and adequate. This is what Paul is saying. God has allowed us to share His Spirit, His new covenant. God has called us and qualified and equipped us to minister the new covenant. And the new covenant of His Spirit—of a personal relationship with Him—is far superior to the old covenant.


#2) The old covenant was a written law; the new covenant is the Spirit of God Himself.

Look once again at 2 Corinthians 3:6, “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 old covenant was written words and letters, a written document, a set of laws that men had to obey. The fact to note is this: the law was external; it sat outside man and insisted that man subject himself to the rule and obey it. The new covenant is different, entirely different. It is internal, within man. It is a personal relationship with God, a relationship that is created by God Himself. When a person trusts Christ, God places His Spirit in the heart of that person, and that person becomes a Spirit filled person.


"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16).


"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

#3) The old covenant killed; the new covenant gives life. 

Once again look at 2 Corinthians 3:6, “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 question is, how does the law kill? There are two ways,

          -First, when society sets a law before a man, he has to obey it. If he fails to obey it, he breaks and severs his relationship with society and he has to bear the punishment of a broken and severed relationship. He has to be put away, cut off, and separate from society.


The punishment for breaking God's law is the same: when a man breaks God's law, he breaks and severs his relationship with God. He cuts himself off from God; he has no relationship, no connection, and no life with God. The law kills him, his relationship and his life with God.


-Second, the law is only letters and words written on paper, stone, or wood. It is external and outside man. It only commands; it does not give man the power to do the command. The will, ability, and power to obey are entirely left up to the man. The man may wish to keep the commandment, but he may not have the will or power to keep it. Therefore, he breaks the law, and the law kills him. It should be noted that the law not only kills man eternally, but through guilt and despair, it kills his human spirit and will, sapping his energy, ambition, drive, and hope.


"For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them" (Romans 10:5).


"Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Galatians 3:10).


"The man that doeth them shall live in them" (Galatians 3:12).


The new covenant is different, wonderfully different. The Spirit gives life. He gives life by doing two things,

          -First, the Holy Spirit enters a believer's life, imparting the "divine nature" of God to him.  (2 Peter 1:4). The believer becomes a "new creation," a "new man," a spiritual man with a transformed mind that focuses upon God.


"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:4).


"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17).

-Secondly, the Holy Spirit infuses the desire to please God. And, although the new man fails often, he is pricked by the indwelling Spirit of God to confess, ask forgiveness, and to cast himself afresh upon the strength and care of God. His whole desire is now to trust God, to depend upon Him completely for life and breath and all the necessities of life. Simply put, his whole life is now wrapped up in God and the things of God.


#4) The old covenant was glorious; the new covenant is more glorious.

Look with me at 2 Corinthians 3:7-8, “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: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?”


Two things here,

1-How can the law which kills and ministers death be said to be glorious?

-The law was glorious in that it was given to Moses by God Himself—face to face.

-The law was glorious in that it reveals the nature of God Himself, that He is holy and righteous and must be approached in holiness and righteousness.

-The law was glorious in that it pointed men to their desperate need for salvation. It showed men as nothing else could that they were sinners and short of God's glory and desperately needed a Savior.


Note what Paul says here, The glory of God which was upon Moses' face was to pass away. Paul is saying that this was a symbol of God upon the old covenant. The glory of God upon the old covenant was to pass away. The old covenant, the law, was meant to be only a temporary arrangement between God and man.


2- The new covenant is different, gloriously different. The difference is clearly seen in the thought provoking question asked: if the old covenant that ministered death was glorious, how shall the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? The answer is obvious: the ministry of the Spirit is to give life to men and the power to live life; and life is far more glorious than death. In fact, life is eternally more glorious than death.


#5) The old covenant brought condemnation; the new covenant brings righteousness.

Look again with me at 2 Corinthians 3:9-10, “For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.”


The law condemned a man when he broke the law: the law condemned him to a broken and severed relationship with God. The man was to die. However the new covenant, the Spirit of God, imparted righteousness, the very nature of God to a man.

Therefore, the glory of the new covenant exceeds the old covenant so much that by comparison the old covenant has no glory at all.


#6) The old covenant faded away; the new covenant remains and is permanent.

Look with me again at 2 Corinthians 3:11, “For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.”


As commentator Matthew Henry points out, “When the sun rises, the light of a lamp fades and diminishes.” It might be added: its function is no longer needed. The light of the lamp is superseded by a much greater light.


The glory of the new covenant is permanent. Its glory and function will never be superseded. There will be no new relationship set up between man and God, no new way for man to become related to God. The final covenant between God and man has been set and established forever. If a man is ever to have a relationship with God, he must allow God's Spirit to enter his heart and life. There is no other way to live with God. If a man wishes to live forever with God, he must invite God's Spirit into his life.


"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Romans 8:9).


"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken [eternally] your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Romans 8:11).


"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live [eternally]" (Romans 8:13).


-Thought 1. The point of this whole section is to discuss the new covenant which the minister serves. The minister does not serve the old covenant of the law; he serves the new covenant of God's Spirit.


"For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28)


"For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins" (Romans 11:27).


"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Hebrews 8:8-13).

#7) The old covenant spoke with veiled meaning; the new covenant speaks plainly. 

Look with me at 2 Corinthians 3:12-16, “Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.”


Several things here,

          -The new covenant gives such a glorious hope that the minister of God can proclaim it clearly and boldly. Of course, the reason he can proclaim it so clearly and boldly is because the new covenant is given by the Spirit in a clear and unveiled message.


"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Cor. 2:12-13).


-The old covenant was not like the new covenant. The old covenant was set up by God with veiled meanings. Such as,

          -The veiled meaning is illustrated by Moses. When the people saw the glory of God shining in the face of Moses, Moses had to put a veil upon his face. Why? Because the people withdrew from the glory of God, and because the people were not to see the fading away of the glory from Moses' face. Note the exact words of Paul: Moses veiled his face so that they "could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished."


Paul is saying that what Moses did was an illustration of how man sees the old covenant or law. Man looks at the law and sees that he is to obey it if he wishes to please God. Therefore, man works and works to keep the law, believing all the time that he is earning the favor and acceptance of God. Man is blinded to the real meaning of the law. The glory and meaning of the law are veiled from his sight; he is unable...

•  to see the real meaning of the law.

•  to see that the law was given to reveal the nature of God's glory and perfection.

•  to see that man comes short of the glory and perfection of God.

•  to see that man cannot keep the law, not perfectly.

•  to see that the law was given to show man his desperate need for a Savior.


                   -Even today when the Old Testament is read, those who still follow the law are blinded to the truth. The veil still remains covering the true glory of God. They still do not understand the true purpose of the law: to point men to their need for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Christ and Christ alone who has removed the veil to the glory of God. Men can face and see the glory of God only in Jesus Christ.


                   -The veil of the old covenant is removed only when a person turns to the Lord. When a person truly turns to Jesus Christ, he is shown how Jesus Christ is the glory of God and the end, purpose, and fulfillment of the law. The veil is removed from the law, and he understands the marvelous glory of God.


"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (Galatians 3:24-25).


#8) The new covenant brings liberty through Christ.


Note that the Lord is identified as the Spirit: "the Lord is that Spirit." Remember that God the Father, the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit are all co-equal, co-existent, and eternally existent. They are different Persons, but they are one in their Godhead and Deity. Jesus Christ is One with the Spirit in the same way He is one with God the Father: one in mind, spirit, being, nature, and essence. Therefore, they are one in will, purpose, and work.


Note how the Father, Christ, and the Holy Spirt are all involved in showing and revealing salvation to man. This is what is meant by saying the Lord is that Spirit. The Lord Himself was actually the One who secured salvation and liberty for man, but it is the Spirit who is actively involved in revealing the truth of salvation and liberty to man. "Where the Spirt of the Lord is, there is liberty." In Christ there is liberty and freedom. Several things here,


-Christ frees the believer from the dominion of sin.


"For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14).


-Christ frees the believer from the law.


"Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God" (Romans 7:4).


"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" (Romans 7:6).


"But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law" (Galatians 5:18).


-Christ frees the believer from the bondage of fear.


"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage agan to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15).


-Christ frees the believer from the power of Satan, which is the fear of death.


"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14-15).


-Christ frees the believer from the bondage of corruption.


"Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God....and not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:21, 23).


*Next lesson: The Ministry: Its Demands, II Cor 4:1-6



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