2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 12
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
The Presence of His Glory
Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 3, and we’re going to talk about some great things. And we’re going to begin to introduce something that will not be finished this time. It’ll have to take at least another message because Paul continues right on to develop it. We’re talking about now, servants of a new covenant. What I’m doing as we do 2 Corinthians is breaking it into small series. We’ve talked about the God of all comfort. We saw that for at least 11 verses in chapter 1. We’ve talked about when your walk matches your talk. What does that look like? And then we’ve just started talking about servants of a new covenant. This is part 3, and we’re talking about the presence of His glory, verses 7-11.
Now, let me just get you into this in case you haven’t been with us for a while. Paul, in 3:5-6 has introduced the fact that he was a servant—and this is so profound—of a new covenant. He says in verse 5, “Not that we’re adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” And verse 6 says, “Who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” You see, what the Corinthians had not yet grabbed—they had, it hadn’t been revealed to their hearts yet—was that the new covenant is all about Christ coming to live in the hearts of those who have by faith trusted Him to be their Lord and Savior. This is so uniquely different from the old covenant of law.
This is what the gospel is all about. The gospel means God’s good news. That’s what it’s all about; Christ coming to live in believers to become our adequacy, to enable us to be that which He demands us to be. Everything that we’re not apart from Him, He is in us. Paul of all people understood that Christ had come to live in him. I mean, he’s the one who said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it’s no longer I who live, but Christ lives [where?] in me, and the life which I now live [after salvation, in the flesh] I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
This is the theme that runs through almost every epistle that Paul writes. Matter of fact, when I was in conference work I wanted to do a series on the Christ-life in Philippians, the Christ-life in Ephesians, in Colossians, in Philemon when he wrote a man to forgive someone knowing he couldn’t apart from the enablement of God in his life. It’s everywhere in Paul’s letters. Paul knew that Christ came to live through him and to do through him what he had already discovered that he could not do himself.
I want you to listen to his words in Romans 7. Now, listen to them, because sometimes they almost sound like an echo of you and me daily in our lives. Listen to what he says in verses 14-25. And remember, some people think this is when he was lost. Oh no! Oh no, not at all! This is Paul being honest about what he understood about his flesh. And he says in Romans 7:14, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of flesh,” there’s something about me that’s still fleshly, “sold into bondage to sin. For what I’m doing I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I’d like to do, but I’m doing the very thing I hate.”
Let me stop there for a second. Raise your hand if you’ve had that thought maybe in the last several months. Thank you. I understand. We’re the choir here tonight. Verse 16, “But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.” If it hadn’t been for the Law I wouldn’t have understood this. “So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me.” And somebody says, you see there, he had to be lost because Christ lives in him. And then he goes—if you just keep reading it explains itself—“that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I’m doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”
Can you imagine a lost person telling God, it’s really not me, it’s sin that dwells in me? It’s not my fault. No, no. This is a believer being gut honest. “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body,” remember that body of flesh, “waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members [of my body]. Wretched man that I am!”
I wonder if you understand that, “the wretched man that I am” has the idea of “nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus.” Have you had days like that? Have you had any days when you got up in the morning and you said, “Oh God, I’m going do it and I’m going to do it right?” By the end of the day it’s “O wretched man that I am! Who [not what; there’s not a formula here] Who will set me free from the body of this death?” And then he gives the answer. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand, I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” Wouldn’t it be great to put over every committee meeting we have, every time we get together to do anything “with my flesh I’m always serving the law of sin.”
See, Paul in Romans 7 is just being honest about what he’s come to realize about his own flesh. In the last days when he wrote Philippians, when he wrote 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy, when he wrote those books and he talks about “I’m the chief of sinners.” No, he starts off and he says “I’m the least of all the apostles,” and then he says “I’m the least of all the saints,” and then he says “I’m the chief of sinners.” It’s amazing the closer you get to God the more you understand the desperation that you have for the message of God’s grace.
But I’ll tell you what, it’s a tough place to come to when you have to admit what you’re not apart from God. Paul saw that Christ came to replace him, not to make his flesh any better. Paul as a Pharisee was a religious man who was so sincere in trying to do right before God. But the problem was, he impressed everyone but God. God is only impressed when He looks at us and He sees Himself. Christ met him on the Damascus road, blinded him for three days and changed his life forever. He, because of this and the faith that was placed into Christ, he came apart, became a part of a new covenant. He had religiously been a part of the old, but now he’s a part of the new. All that he had accomplished in the religious world growing up and as a Pharisee and all those accomplishments listed in Philippians 3, he looked at as waste and rubbish, every bit of it, every bit of it.
He says in Philippians 3:7-11, listen, this is his own words, he says, “But whatever things were gain to me [back when I was a Pharisee, back when, according to the law I was found blameless], those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be lost in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things.” It’s good that he counted them loss because he did suffer the loss of all things. “And count them but rubbish [and that word “rubbish” is not really rubbish, but we’ll leave it alone] so that I may gain Christ,” and then he says, “and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law.”
I don’t want all the accolades from people. I don’t want to be in Time magazine, he says, as being the greatest preacher in the country. I don’t want any of those accolades. I don’t want anything that I could have done in my own ability, “but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith; that I may know Him,” and that means to experientially know Him as God reveals Himself as we trust Him. “That I may experience His love, that I may experience His forgiveness, that I may experience His life and the power of His resurrection, out of the deadness of my flesh I want to see His life raised up, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death in order that I may obtain to the resurrection from the dead.” In other words, that I might be the living among the dead.”
Now that’s quite a radical difference from an old religious rascal, the most religious person you can find in Scripture, to a person who has entered into the new covenant. Paul discovered he couldn’t live the Christian life. It’s incredible how many books tell you how you can live the Christian life. You can’t live the Christian life. The only one that can live it is the One who demands it, and that’s Christ who lives in us. That’s why he says Christ lives through us. But Christ in Paul, he knew could and would live that life if Paul would just simply bow before Him and trust Him.
Paul wanted the Corinthian church to understand that everything that he had done as a minister, Paul had done as a minister, was a total failure apart from Christ doing it through him. He wanted them to understand he could have letters of recommendation stacked a mile high, but that didn’t mean a thing when it came to ministry. It had to be Christ enabling him and producing that ministry. Only Christ in Paul could produce, when we’ve looked at this as review, authentic ministry. The Corinthian church itself was evidence of that as we saw in verses 1-3. They couldn’t say a word. Even though they were skeptics there of Paul, they couldn’t really say anything. The church came alive, not because of Paul, but because of Christ in Paul.
Changed lives, transformed lives, are always the result of a believer living as a servant of the new covenant. Because it’s not the believer anymore; it’s Christ in and through the believer. Big buildings, numbers, noses, mean absolutely nothing to God. It’s the changed lives of people that have been touched by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ living His life through surrendered vessels. The results of Christ living through a believer are irrefutable. Nobody can refute them and nobody can miss them. Nobody can explain them except that Christ did it. Paul was not adequate as a minister apart from Christ working through him.
He says that Christ was his adequacy in verses 5-6 again. He says “Not that we’re adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant.” He talks about the letter of the law. He says, “Not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” The letter of the law demands a standard before salvation and even after salvation. It continues to demand if that’s where a person wants to live. That’s why Paul says be real careful, because if you’re going to try to live the law, if you mess up in one area, you’ve messed up in all of the areas, and no man can attain that. Christ came and attained it for us and now He lives in us.
And what the Law did to Paul once he became a believer—and I think that was his struggle in Romans 7—is it killed everything, every effort he put out because it condemned it. It wasn’t produced by Christ who lived within him. In fact, it condemns all of our efforts to produce ministry. It condemns every one of them. There’s no touch of God on them. God’s hand’s not on anything a man comes up with and asks God to bless. Only that which God does, does He anoint. What He initiates He sustains.
We must understand that living as servants of a new covenant is not some kind of passive lifestyle. I hear this so much, of people who don’t really hear with both ears. They’re hearing on the one side, yes, it’s Christ doing it through them, but on the other side for whatever reason they hear passivity and that’s not at all the truth. You see, the same way we receive Christ by faith is the same way we must now walk to experience Christ daily in our lives. Colossians 2:6, “Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus.” What does that mean? In the same manner, the same manner. You’ve received Him by faith. You couldn’t save yourself; it wasn’t any human effort. Now, as the same way you receive Christ Jesus so walk in Him. Living by faith means trusting Christ, His Word, and Him alone.
Well, today in our text we’re going to begin to see that if Christ lives in us His very presence in us begins to change us, and others begin to see the change on the outside. The only thing that can mask the change that God brings in a believers life, the only thing that can veil it, is when you and I choose to do things our way and it’s veiled that which Christ is seeking to do in and through us.
Let’s look at the passage we’re going to look at and then I’ll come back. And we’re refer to two things in these verses. Second Corinthians 3:7-11: “But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more the ministry of righteousness does abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case had no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.”
The fading glory of the old covenant
Two things I want you to see. I’m sure some of you are saying what in the world did you just say? Well, let’s just see if we can understand it, okay, two things. The first thing Paul brings up is the fading glory of the old covenant. As we begin let me explain what glory is. Let me put it in the most simple and understandable terms I can. Glory is that which brings recognition, true recognition to someone or something. So the glory of God is that which expresses, whether verbally or visually, the true recognition of who God really is. So think about that. When you think of glory, it’s pointing to someone. It’s reflecting who he really is, whether, like as I said, verbally or visually.
Now Paul, in helping them to understand his ministry as a servant of a new covenant, this is what he’s doing here. He takes them back to when Moses received the Ten Commandments. You have to realize that Moses was alone with God on Mount Sinai when the Ten Commandments were given to him to give to Israel; alone with God, in the presence of God. As a matter of fact, the Scripture says God wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone with His divine finger. Now sometimes we get hung up in those things. And the Bible was not written so that God could understand it, it was written so we can understand it; and so there’s several terms like that that sometimes, “the eye of the Lord,” etc., things like that, but it’s very important.
He says in Exodus 31:18, “When he had finished speaking with him [up on Mount Sinai], He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone written by the divine finger of God.” But that’s really not what Paul’s getting at. He’s already touched some of this before. What he’s doing now, the emphasis he’s bringing out here at this point is to bring out that Moses was one of the few people that got to literally stand in the presence of God. No one was ever in the presence of God and remained the same. In fact, it says He dwells in unapproachable light and no one can approach that. So it’s very rare when God would reveal Himself. So Moses got to stand in the presence of God and the glory of God, that which points only to God.
Nobody can take away His glory. He says in Isaiah 42 and Isaiah 48, “I’ll share My glory with no man.” And when God’s glory is revealed there’s no mistake. He was in the presence of God and His glory changes people once they realize who He is. It changes you; you’re never the same. You’re never again the same. I pray that every time that I preach or we sing that somehow God will reveal Himself to somebody’s heart, that they begin to get an understanding of who we’re dealing with here, that this isn’t some casual thing that we do called Christianity. This is our life.
And who is this God that we bow before? Well, it says in 3:7, “But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory,” now I want you to notice something. He’s already said the letter kills. He’s already talked about the condemning nature of the law. And he says here the Ten Commandments given to Moses, he calls the ministry of death. Why? Because it sent out a standard that no man can live; therefore, it pronounced the judgment on all for eternal death. And so “the ministry of death in letters engraved on stones.” So the ministry of death is that which condemns all men; the covenant of law condemns all men.
But Paul says, the law which was given to Moses however, even though it condemns men to death, pronounces a sentence of eternal death, it came with glory. Now it’s interesting. The word “came” there is not the word you think it is. It doesn’t mean it was sitting over here so it came over here. No, it’s the word ginomai. Ginomai doesn’t mean came, it means came into being, came into existence. It never existed before until God spoke it. And Paul explains that the law came right out of God. The glory and the recognition of who God was, was in that, and how He not only did it, but in what He said. He gave the law, the glory of God’s presence. Once Moses had stood there and watched, this radiated on the face of Moses. Paul says “So that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of His face.”
Let me give you an illustration of that. It’s going to be very trite and it’s not going to anywhere close get to what Moses experienced here that Paul’s bringing out. But let me just give you an understanding. Have you ever been in the presence of the hot sun and you’ve gotten sunburned? I’m fair skinned. I burn real quick. Now, when you walked indoors and people saw you walk indoors, the glory of the sun was all over your face. It left a mark. It left a visible expression of the glory of the sun. It’s there when we’re sunburned. In a similar sense—not in exactly the same—Moses had been God’s presence and the glory of God visibly shone on his face.
But it’s significant to note that he’s not through there. This still is not his focus. He goes on to say “fading as it was.” The word is katargeo. Katargeo means when something becomes ineffective. And in this particular case it means to start fading into nonexistence. You know, summer time’s right around the corner and, you know, during the winter time, unless you go to a tanning place, you’re pretty white. You know what I mean? If you put your bathing suit on right now that’s a scary thought. But we’d be white. We go out on the beach as soon as summer comes and the people that haven’t gotten a tan yet, that haven’t been able to get out into the glory of the sun, they go out and all the glory of the sun that they had last year has faded away. And now when they come out they’re pretty bland and they’re white.
Isn’t it interesting; you can have people on the beach and you can tell who’s been there before. You can tell the tourists from the locals. You can tell it why? Because everybody’s doing the same thing. Everybody’s dressed pretty much the same way. But there’s a difference; the glory of the sun is on some and the glory has faded on others.
Now understand what he’s doing here. This is probably as clear as anything in Scripture in the difference of the old and the new covenant. Moses went to the top of the mountain and there God appeared to him. But as he walked away from that place, from the presence of God, immediately, even though the glory was on his face, it began to fade away. In fact, Moses put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from seeing the glory fade away. We won’t get to verse 13, but look at it just for a second. He says in verse 13, “and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away.” The significant thing is that the glory that radiated on Moses face was two things: it was external and it was temporary at best. It was about to fade away.
In the phrase in verse 7 when he’s says, “so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses,” the little word there “look intently,” is atenizo. It’s the word which means to strain to see something. I mean, you’re just looking and you’re looking. That’s the idea, to squint down and focus in and try to read something with a fixed gaze. Maybe it could be referring to simply the glory that was on his face. I don’t think that’s what he’s saying, because that’s not where the text goes. I think they’re trying to get one last look at it before it fades away. It’s referring to the fact that Moses realized that the glory was fading and didn’t want them to see it do so, so he veiled his face.
Now I’m going to ask you a question. Do you see it? Do you see what he’s doing here? The law, which many of the false teachers preached in Corinth, that were criticizing him and tearing him down as to not being authentic, was only given for a short time. It had a certain purpose, but it was fading away. It was never meant to be everlasting. It was only meant for a certain reason. Paul says in Galatians 3:19, “Why the Law then? [Good question.] It was added because of transgressions.” People needed to know that they were sinners, and the only way to know is to know the standard. “Having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.” What was the Law for? It was only for a temporary time until the covenant, the new covenant of grace could come. It was just temporary.
In fact, Paul went on in Galatians and he said the Law was like a tutor or a babysitter. It had to contain, to fence us in. It had to contain us, but only for a short period of time. Galatians 3:24, “Therefore the law has become our tutor [to do what?] to lead us to Christ so that we might be justified by faith.” No man will ever be justified by faith if he thinks he can obey the law in the energy of his flesh. God’s presence, as Moses stood there in front of it, was accompanied by His glory. And that glory was external on the face of Moses, but it was only temporary; it was fading away. When we seek to minister, when we seek to live the Christian life in the energy of our flesh, performing to the very best of our ability, the glory of God’s presence is non-existent. It has faded away. There’s no recognition as to who God is and what human flesh does in all of its creative ability.
But when you see the glory of God, when you see the divine enablement upon a person who knows he’s weak, when you see the divine empowerment of an individual who knows what he can’t do apart from God, that’s when the glory of God is back. That’s when the new covenant is being served. That’s when the new covenant is manifested.
Let me give you an illustration of that. I love stories about Dwight L. Moody. He had a fourth grade education, speech impediment. God used him in his weak state to shape two continents for Christ. And a story about him says one day during his great mission in London Mr. Moody was holding a meeting in a theater packed with the most select audience. Noble men and noble women were there in large numbers and a prominent member of the royal family was in the royal box. Mr. Moody arose to read the Scripture lesson. He attempted to read Luke 4:27 which says “and many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus [that’s Elisha in the Hebrew] the prophet.” But when he came to the name Eliseus, he stammered and stuttered over it. He went back to the beginning of the verse and began to read it again. But when he reached the word he could not get over it. He went back the third time, but again the word was too much for him and he just couldn’t get it out.
He closed the Bible with deep emotion and looked up and said, “O God, use this stammering tongue to preach Christ crucified to these people.” The power of God came upon him, and one who heard him then and had heard him often at other times said that he had never heard Mr. Moody pour out his soul in such a torrent of eloquence as he did then, and the whole audience was melted by the power of God.
If you cannot see the difference in the old covenant whose glory has faded away and the new covenant that has to be Christ and when He enables an individual He reveals His glory in His divine enablement; and when you see a divinely enabled and you see authentic ministry and you see adequate ministers that’s a person who is a servant of a new covenant. That’s what it’s all about. You can get letters of recommendation and stack them up at this high. It means nothing in the sight of God. But the trail of transformed lives from your being a willing vessel to be yielded to Him grants us authenticity; it had to come from God.
So the fading glory of the old covenant. Now, some of you haven’t been with us and so you don’t know the background of this is why I’m saying some of these things. Paul has already said, “Do I need a letter of recommendation to you?” Are you kidding me? Do you mean I’ve got to be commended to you at Corinth? Do you not know you are my letter? You wouldn’t be a church had Christ not birthed you. I had nothing to do with it. I was just the vessel.
The everlasting glory of the new covenant
But the second thing he wants us to see, not just the fading glory of the old covenant, but the everlasting glory of the new covenant. Now, folks, don’t miss this; only when Moses was in God’s presence did the glory shine on his face. But when he walked away the glory began to fade away. You see, its effect again was external and temporary. But now listen to me carefully. Oh, man! Christ, listen, is the glory of God. Let me read a verse to you. Maybe you don’t believe that. First Peter 4:11, “Whoever speaks is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God. Whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified,” now listen, “through Jesus Christ to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever.” And then Paul as if to put the big exclamation point on it says, “Amen!”
That means don’t you ever change that. Jesus is the glory of God. Now listen to me, listen to me. See if you can catch this. Christ, the glory of God, comes to live in us. He is the essence of the new covenant. No wonder Paul says in verse 8 of our text, 2 Corinthians 3, “How will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?” Oh, folks, Christ’s effect on us is not external. I don’t walk in His presence and walk out of His presence. I am daily in His presence. Why? Because the glory lives in me. It’s not up on Mt. Sinai to where I have to go and meet and then walk away and it fades away. The glory of God, Christ Himself comes to live in us in the person of His Spirit.
Turn over to 4:6 and let’s just see what he says. He’s headed this way. We’re going to be here for a while. It says in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the one has shown [now look at this] in our hearts to give the light of the glory, the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of [whom?] Christ.” We are eternally affected by the glory of God shining in our hearts. But as we as new covenant believers have the glory of God in us in the person of Christ Himself, the ministry of the Spirit is inward, not outward.
Now put together what Paul has been saying since verse 1 of chapter 3. Christ, the glory of God, was shining in Paul’s heart. When? As long as Paul was living chained to the chariot back in chapter 2. This produced through Paul authentic ministry resulting in changed lives, the Corinthian church being the example. Christ in Paul was his adequacy. The glory of God was his. He revealed that glory by enabling Paul. And what people saw on the outside of Paul was the result of the glory of God that was working on the inside of Paul. Paul was a servant of a new covenant. In his weakness, which he had now come to realize, Christ’s strength was made perfect.
Let me ask you a question. Are you showing on the outside the glory, the true recognition of who He is, of the one who’s living on the inside? Paul calls the greater ministry of the Spirit the ministry of righteousness in verse 9. You ever tried to be righteous and do it yourself? Remember the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Second Corinthians 3:9, “For is the ministry of condemnation, the law, has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.” You see, God gave them both. There was glory in each, but one was external and temporary and faded away. The other comes by faith in Christ Jesus who is the glory of God who comes to live in us.
But the greater glory is in the new covenant, because Christ is our righteousness. Paul’s already told this church in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” To describe the ministry of the Spirit and how it’s much greater than the law, we must condemned human effort. Paul says in verse 9, “For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.” The word “abound” is the word meaning when you contrast two things it far surpasses the other.
Well, I want you to know the new covenant does away with the old. It’s faded away, folks. In fact, in Christ, if you’re looking at Christ and calling yourself a believer trying to live under the old covenant it’s futile. It’s like running downhill with no brakes. I mean, it’s futile. There’s no glory in it. There’s no hand of God. There’s no touch of God in it. People that are religious can’t seem to get this. Christianity is not a religion; it’s a covenant relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ His Son and God sent His glory, the One whose essence of who He is comes to live in us.
Well, Christ is the glory of God. He lives in us. He manifests His glory through His power to enable us to be what we ought to be. Do you remember the Mount of Transfiguration. And remember when Peter, James and John were there, and the glory of Christ began to do what? Shine through His robes. Isn’t that awesome! I’ll tell you what, people make Christianity such a shallow addition to their life in the 21st century, and they don’t have a clue that the glory of God comes to live in the life of a believer. And the only way you can veil that glory is to choose to do things in your own strength and your own power. That veils it right there and shuts down the glory and shuts down the witness and shuts down the anointing that could be touching other people.
You see, the difference in the old and the new, the commendation of the new, changed lives. The commendation of the old, letters of recommendation and a list of all the things you did for God which will burn at the judgment seat of Christ.