In 2 Corinthians 3:7-11, Paul reminds the church in Corinth of how much more glorious the New Covenant is than the Old Covenant (the Law), and he does so with a threefold comparison between the two. It is interesting to note that while the Christians in Corinth struggled with a lot of things, it seems that Judaizing the faith was not one of their struggles. After all, they were primarily Gentile believers. Yet, even though the Corinthian church did not struggle with going back to the Law, Paul still made it a point to remind them of how much more glorious the gospel is over the Law. So we realized: Just as the Corinthians, we also need the gospel as we struggle against sin and temptation—particularly, as we fight against the influence of the world. So, as Paul argued for the surpassing glory of the New Covenant over the Old, we learned of three things to remember about the New Covenant as we fight against worldliness and as we aim to live lives that are pleasing before God’s sight:
1. The New Covenant Gives Life
In verses 7-8, Paul describes the Old Covenant as a ministry of death and the New Covenant as a ministry of the Spirit (who gives life; see verse 6). By doing so, he reminds his readers that the Law reveals the death our sin earns (Romans 6:23), because we could never keep the Law. The New Covenant, on the other hand, promises intimate, relational knowledge of the Lord and the forgiveness of sins (Jeremiah 31:34), glorious promises that are fulfilled in Christ, the innocent one who died that we—the guilty—might receive everlasting life. In Ephesians 2:1-5, Paul describes this ministry of the Spirit as one that brings us from death to life. What a glorious truth to remember! Especially as we, like the Corinthians, fight against the influence of the world in our own hearts. My dear church: Do you want to live in a way the honors our Lord? Remember that the Holy Spirit—through the promises of the New Covenant—brings everlasting life! In Christ, your sinful transgressions are already acquitted. This means you already have Spirit-generated and Spirit-empowered life, so live as if you’re already forgiven, because you are. And live as if you already have intimate, relational knowledge of the Lord, because you do. In short, live a life in submission to the Spirit, who empowers you to the holy living meant to be experienced by the rebirth and regeneration that only the Spirit of God gives.
2. The New Covenant Gives Righteousness
In verse 9, Paul describes the Old Covenant as a ministry of condemnation and the New Covenant as a ministry of righteousness. By doing so, he reminds his readers that the Law reveals the verdict of condemnation against us because of our own lawlessness. Being sinners by nature and by choice, we cannot keep the Law, and so we stand condemned, short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The New Covenant, on the other hand, promises the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and a new, God-honoring heart (Jeremiah 31:33 ; Ezekiel 11:19-20), glorious promises that are—again—fulfilled in Christ, the one who perfectly kept the Law for us because we never could; the one who gives his righteousness to us (Romans 1:17; 3:21-22). Once again, what a glorious truth to remember as we fight against worldliness! Do you want to live in a God-glorifying way? Remember that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to you. Remember that the Spirit of God lives within you. Remember that you have a new heart, that you might obey the Lord. So once again, live as if you have the righteousness of Christ, because you do. Live as if the Spirit has made his dwelling within you, because he has. Live as if you have a new heart, because you do. In short, live in submission to the Spirit, who has already given you everything you need to walk in righteousness.
3. The New Covenant is Permanent
In verse 11, Paul describes the Old Covenant as being brought to an end and the New Covenant as being permanent. By doing so, he reminds his readers that the Law has become obsolete (Hebrews 8:13), all because the New has superseded it with its eternal nature. In fact, under the New Covenant, God has promised, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 11:20), a promise which has an unending nature to it; a promise that—once more—is fulfilled in Christ, who is preparing our eternal dwelling place (John 14:1-3), that we might enjoy him forever (Revelation 21:3). Once more, what an infinitely glorious truth to remember as we fight against worldly living! Lake Murray: Do you want to honor the Lord with your redeemed life? Remember that the good news of the New Covenant being fulfilled in Christ comes with everlasting promises! These promises will never end. These promises are secured in Christ. These promises will go on forever, even into the age to come. So once more, live as if you belong to Jesus forever, because you do. In short, live in submission to the spiritual presence of God, who has graciously promised to be your God, forever.
For at least these three reasons, Paul reminds us that the New is so much better and so much more glorious than the Old (verse 10). Let’s remember these glorious truths as we aim to live in total Christlikeness in this world, even though we are not of the world (John 17:14).
And for small group discussion, here is a PDF copy of Sunday’s order of worship/sermon note sheet with follow up questions to the sermon: 2 Cor. 3.7-11 Insert. “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
-Pastor Marttell Sánchez