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The Proof is in the Pudding
2 Corinthians 3
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The world wants proof, and
we have it, I believe. And I
rejoice in sharing proofs from science, archaeology, medicine, history, etc.
But I don’t need those proofs personally anymore, because I’ve found
much better proof. It’s not
proof that unbelievers may accept, but it is more powerful to me than any of
the things listed above. The
proof is changed lives, visible fruit…bodies and faces and hearts touched
and changed! Jesus said that by their fruits we will know them.
Jesus said that by their fruits we will know them.
Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? [2Cor. 3:1].
Paul is asking, "Do I need a letter of recommendation from my employer? Do I need a letter from God testifying that I am His minister?" Paul says, "No, I don't need to have that" -- for this reason:
Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the 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 fleshy tables of the heart [2Cor. 3:2-3].
The proof of the effectiveness of any ministry is whether or not it has a recommendation from God. He is not giving out letters of recommendation; the proof lies in the epistles that are written in the fleshly tables of the heart. I read many letters from folk who have turned to Christ because of our internet ministry. They are letters of commendation. They are proof!
Paul says to the Corinthian believers, "You are our epistles written in our hearts, known and read of all men."
And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward [2Cor. 3:4].
This gives me confidence. I know the Bible is the Word of God. When I was in seminary, I believed it was the Word of God. I think that intellectually it can be determined that it is the Word of God. But today I don't even need the intellectual demonstrations anymore. I've passed that. To me it is very simple -- the proof of the Word of God is what it does. They say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. God put it like this: "O taste and see that the LORD is good . . ." (Ps. 34:8). This is His challenge to you.
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God [2Cor. 3:5].
I am sure that you have already sensed the weakness of the apostle Paul in this epistle of 2 Corinthians. But Paul could say, "For when I am weak, then am I strong" (2Cor. 12:10).
God is not looking for some big something or some big somebody. If He had wanted that, He couldn't use me and He couldn't use you. God chooses the weak things of this world, little things, insignificant things to accomplish His purposes. Our sufficiency is of God.
Contrasts Between The Old And New Covenants (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 [2Cor. 3:6].
We see here a contrast between the old covenant (the Old Testament) and the new covenant (the New Testament). There is a contrast here in several different ways.
"Not of the letter, but of the spirit." In the Old Testament, and specifically in the Law, the letter kills; the letter of the Law actually condemns us. The Law says that you and I are guilty sinners. Those letters which were written on the tablets of stone condemned man. The Mosaic Law never gave life. That is the contrast he is making here. The letter kills. "For the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."
I challenge you to name somebody who was saved by the Law. Did you know that even Moses, the law-giver, could not be saved by the Law? Do you know why not? He was a murderer! Also David broke the Law even though he was a man after God's own heart. You can't be saved by keeping the Law. The Law kills you; the Law condemns you.
But if the ministration of
death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of
The old covenant, the Law, was a ministration of death. When it says that it was written and engraved on stones, we know he is talking about the Ten Commandments.
It "was glorious." It is the will of God, and it is good, even though it condemns me. There is nothing wrong with the Law. The problem is with me. It shows me that I am a sinner. "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." That glory on Moses' face slowly disappeared.
How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? [2Cor. 3:8].
If the Old Testament was glorious, how much more the New Testament!
For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory [2Cor. 3:9].
"The ministration of righteousness" is the righteousness which we have in Christ Jesus.
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 [2Cor. 3:10-11].
"That which is done away" is the Law. Notice that it is "done away." Then how much more glorious is that which remains, that new covenant. He is making a contrast between the giving of the Mosaic Law and the day of grace in which we live.
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 [2Cor. 3:12-13].
To what is he having reference?
We need to recognize that there was a first giving and a second giving of the Law. When Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai, God gave him the tablets of stone, and God Himself wrote the Law on them. That was the Law that the children of Israel were to live by and actually be saved by (if they could keep it -- which no one could). And they were going to be judged by it. While Moses was up on the mountain with God, the children of Israel were already breaking the first two commandments: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exod. 20:3) and "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image . . ." (Exod. 20:4). The Mosaic Law was a very strict, rigid law. Even Moses said, ". . . I exceedingly fear and quake" (Heb. 12:21). It demanded an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, burning for burning, and cutting for cutting. It was absolute, intrinsic righteousness and holiness. Whatever a man deserved according to the Law was what he was to receive. In Exodus 32 the people were already breaking the Law. What is going to happen? God told Moses to go down to the people. When Moses went down the mountain, he could see from a distance that the children of Israel were breaking the first two commandments, and he didn't dare bring the tables of the Law into the camp. Why not? If he had, the entire nation of Israel would have been blotted out at that very moment. They would have been judged immediately because the breaking of those laws meant instant death. So Moses smashed those tablets of stone; then he went into the camp.
Now when Moses goes back to the top of Mount Sinai into the presence of God, we see that something happens. Moses recognizes that all Israel should be destroyed because of their sin, but he asks God for mercy. And God gives them a second chance as He gives Moses the second tables of the Law. Moses now understands that God is tempering the Law with mercy and grace. At the very heart of the Mosaic system is to be a tabernacle and a sacrificial system that will be the basis of approach to God, which is ". . . without shedding of blood [there] is no remission" of sin (Heb. 9:22). But "without holiness, no man is going to see God" (see Heb. 12:14). How in the world are we going to get into His presence? Well, God will have to make a way for us, and God did make a way. What a glorious, wonderful revelation this is. No wonder Moses' face shone!
When Moses came down from the mount, he had the second tables of the Law, which was a ministration of condemnation and a ministration of death, demanding a righteousness of man which he was unable to produce of himself; but also there was the sacrificial system that manifested the grace of God. It was the grace of God, fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Christ, that Paul the apostle found -- Paul, who had been a man under the Law, a Pharisee of the Pharisees -- and that brought him to the place where he could say, "And be found in him [Jesus], not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil. 3:9).
The Law was glorious. It offered man a way of salvation, but man was too feeble to fulfill its demands. It was a glorious way of life that was pleasing to God, but for man it became a ministration of death because of his lost condition.
When Moses came down from the mountain the second time, there was joy in his heart and his face shone. Now there was a way for the children of Israel to come into the presence of God through the sacrificial system.
Now let's make this very clear - the veil Moses put on his face was not only because his face was shining with a glory so that they couldn't look at him. It was also because that glory was beginning to fade away. The fact that Moses' face shone was a glorious thing, but the glory began to fade.
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 [2Cor. 3:14].
They couldn’t understand it yet, and their minds are blinded until this very day.
The veil that Moses wore on his face is now a veil on the minds of God's ancient people. It is still there because of the fact that these people actually do not see that Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness. They do not see that He is the fulfillment of the whole Law. The blindness is still there.
When we get into the next chapter, we will find that the "god of this world" has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, and we will see why this is true.
But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart [2Cor. 3:15].
When they read the Law, they actually think that they are able to keep it. But in reading the Old Testament we do not find the confidence that you would expect in the hearts and minds of God's people. Even David raised some questions. Job was in absolute bewilderment. Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and wept when he faced death. However, in this day of grace in which you and I live, even the weakest saint who trusts Jesus has absolute assurance of his perfect acceptance with God.
Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away [2Cor. 3:16].
"It" refers to the heart. When the heart turns to the Lord Jesus Christ, the veil is taken away. Man's trouble is heart trouble. He is blinded because of the sin in his life. When he is willing to turn from his sin and receive the Lord Jesus as his Savior, "the veil shall be taken away."
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [2Cor. 3:17].
Only the Spirit of God can lift the veil and help us to see that Christ is the Savior. He alone can do that. He is the One and the only One.
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 [2Cor. 3:18].
I wish I had spent more time looking in the mirror, beholding Him more. In the Word of God we see the unveiled Christ. Oh, how wonderful He is!
Dr. H. A. Ironside told the story about an old Scot who lay suffering and, actually, dying. The physician told him he didn't have very long to live. A friend came to spend a little time with him and said to him, "They tell me you'll not be with us long." That's a nice thing to say to a man who is dying. Then he continued, "I hope you get a wee glimpse of the Savior's blessed face as you are going through the valley of the shadow." The dying man looked up when he gathered a little strength and answered, "Away with the glimpse, mon; it's a full view of His blessed face I've had these forty years, and I'll not be satisfied with any of your wee glimpses now." How wonderful to behold Him today.
Perhaps some of you remember Nathaniel Hawthorne's story about the great stone face. A little lad lived in a village where there was a mountain with a rock formation which they called the great stone face. The people had a legend that someday someone would come to the village who would look like the great stone face. He would do wonderful things for the village and be a means of great blessing. That story really took hold of the lad. During his lifetime he would gaze at the great stone face at every opportunity that he had, and he would dream of the time someone looking like the great stone face would come to the village. Years passed and as time went by, he became a young man, then an old man. He was tottering down the street one day when someone looked up and saw him coming and shouted, "He has come. The one who looks like the great stone face is here." This man had looked at the great stone face for so long that now he bore its image.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus; Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
I think you can tell when someone has been with Jesus…the proof is in the pudding, and you can see it all over their face!
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