Not Stone, Not Paper

READ: 2 Corinthians 3

Paul begins this section of his epistle saying that letters of recommendation were part of verifying someone's work in ministry, and viable and important, but the Corinthians had a greater authentication: seeing and experiencing Paul's teaching and service unto themselves which other churches had not. Paul wrote commendation letters when he sent missionaries out to churches, but, knowing the Corinthians himself, he need not do such for himself when he sends out his very instructions via this letter.

Paul writes to the Corinthian church that his own spiritual credentials aren't written on a piece of paper with ink nor on tablets carved into stone, but on the "tablet of the heart" in each of the Corinthian Christians themselves, who he had ministered to in person. His reference to tablets of the heart are a direct reference to Proverbs 7:3, which reads, "Bind [my instruction] on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart" and Proverbs 3:3, "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart." In other words, Paul was referencing that he, too, as a witness for Christ and only by the grace of Christ, was a teacher and servant writing the Lord's instruction of love and faithfulness on the hearts of the Corinthian congregation and not in the way of the old covenant, or, the "stone tablet."

More than a letter of recommendation, a stone tablet was used for something far more enduring, and specifically, in the context of Paul's letter, he means the very Word of the Lord given to the Israelites, which needs no authentication from Paul. Clearly, in verses referencing the "letter" of the Law of Moses (v.6-8), Paul reiterates that for the Christian the old covenant has passed away, calling the Mosaic law and the glory shown from it "transitory," or not permanent. As we read in Romans 7, the Law revealed to the Israelites revealed sin so that they would no longer sin in ignorance, but also, it created further sin when they willfully sinned knowing it is such. We, too, are in this predicament. Yet, we, like Paul, realize the ministry of this Law was good and perfect, but also condemns us. In fact, the glory of the Law given unto Moses was so good and perfect that it literally made his face glow after he received the tablets or had been in the presence of God. But that same source of glory from God could (and did) consume Israelites who failed to uphold the Law, swallowing them up in death.

While the stone tablets made Moses's face glow temporarily, now, Paul says, that the new covenant brings life out of the death and resurrection of Christ. Here we get double the glory--this Law is not good and perfect while condemning us, this Law is good and perfect and frees us!

We no longer live under a law that gives death, but one that gives life, so it follows that the glory of such a law would be even greater as its goodness increased!

Under this new covenant, we have a permanent glory, not one that is transitory. The completed work of Christ Jesus allows us to turn to the Lord through Christ's work, with the veil (i.e., separation from God's holiness and protection from God's holiness) being removed. We are safely in the presence of the Spirit of the Lord, where there is freedom in Christ! We are not burned up in the holy, glorious presence of the Lord, but cleansed by it as we "are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory which comes from the Lord."

In other words, you and I can be transformed into his image (more so than that which we were already created with!) with the exact same glory that had shown on Moses's face after entering the presence of God but even more. Why? Because Christ's death and resurrection has unveiled the glory of God to all those who believe in the Spirit not outwardly as it had shown upon Moses, but inwardly as it comes from the heart. His light does not shine upon our faces, but from within our very bodies and souls because of "the Lord, who is the Spirit"!

Dear Heavenly Father,
Sometimes I forget that your glory is both good and dangerous. Without the work of Jesus, I could never be in your presence, but now I can not only be in your presence but also have it within me through your Holy Spirit. Thank you for sending your Son to rescue me from my sins and to bring me into your presence again. Please forgive my failings in both sins known and unknown, and continue to transform me into the likeness of Christ.
In Jesus' Name,

Why do you think God gave a '"transitory" covenant before a more lasting one?
What does it mean to be "transformed into his image"?


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