CTT | 2nd Commandment Violation (2CV)?

Today I’d like to take a look at a commonly used rebuke in social media whenever someone posts an image of God or old icons from the early church depicting Jesus, or even a crucifix. The rebuke being a claim that the post was a 2CV, or 2nd Commandment Violation. So, what does this mean? 
 
This is a reference to a numbering of the 10 commandments common to the Reformed tradition and most Protestant denominations. By that numbering, the 2nd Commandment is “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” or usually shortened to “You shall not make any graven images”. The argument usually follows the line of reasoning that any image that might be of God or might be worshiped as an idol constitutes a breaking of this commandment, regardless of how the image is actually being used. There are varying definitions of what constitutes a 2CV, but in the extreme sense, any paintings, drawings, carvings, statues, etc. are forbidden by the 2nd Commandment. 
 
Lutherans don’t follow this numbering of the 10 Commandments so a “2CV” for a Lutheran would be breaking of the Commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” This leads to some confusion in communication between Lutherans and Protestants. So, let’s look at the Commandments themselves rather than the list/numbering found in a denomination’s Catechism or Confessions. For that, we’ll turn to Exodus 20:1-21 without the verses numbered.
 
Exodus 20:1-21 (ESV)
And God spoke all these words, saying,
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
Now, the ESV editors also insert line breaks. But if we look at the words themselves, we don’t see any numbering. I don’t read Hebrew or Greek so we cannot discuss this passage linguistically. But we can look at the context of what is written. Both traditions start numbering the Commandments at “You shall have no other gods before me.” 
 
2CV2CV2
In the images above, I’ve highlighted the verses surrounding what is called the 2nd Commandment by those using the 2CV rebuke. Here is where Lutherans (and others) see a problem with isolating verse 4 as its own Commandment. The context of verses 2-6 is all on the same topic… the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before (or besides) me”. So we treat v2-6 as all part of the 1st Commandment and consider verse 7 as the start of the 2nd. I’ve run across folks who allege that Rome and Lutherans number the Commandments so they can “skip the second commandment” to protect their graven images. This is simply untrue, particularly given how we teach the commandments. It is true that at the time of the Reformation, Rome was in grave error of several forms of idolatry, but their numbering of the Commandments wasn’t born of these errors. Rome’s numbering comes from the early Church fathers and Luther pulled from the early church as well, so Lutherans didn’t pull from Rome, we both pull from St. Augustine’s work. I believe most Protestants pull from Origen. Historicity alone cannot determine which is “more right”, which is why we started by examining the Scriptures in context.

So is it a direct violation of the 1st or 2nd Commandment to depict Christ or the Holy Trinity in a drawing or sculpture?

I cannot see that as the focus of Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5. The focus is on idolatry, the worshiping of idols as gods. An argument can be made that under the Mosaic covenant, the idols themselves were idolatry. Under the New Covenant, we have a clearer picture of the sin of idolatry and realize that we are guilty of the sin of idolatry when we allow anything to rise above God in our hearts, even without physical idols, and that we are far more guilty of this sin than any of us can imagine. So, under the New Covenant, we need to carefully examine the purpose of such depictions of the Triune God of Scripture to ensure that it is indeed pointing the observer to the One True God, not to worship of the depiction as god. Discernment is needed here. Now, not all depictions of Christ are sound, some are quite blasphemous. The blasphemy should be targeted and rebuked. I don’t recommend getting stuck on a blanket prohibition of drawings/depictions in hopes of making your rebuke irrefutable.

But the commandment says not to make ANY graven image of ANYTHING!

If we allow that verse to be lifted out of its context, this might be a fair argument. But it becomes highly problematic both in its immediate context and in the instructions God gives Moses for the construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25-27), which included several graven/woven images of cherubim. God commanded Moses to craft a fiery serpent on a pole (Numbers 21) for the Children of Israel to look at for healing from the deadly snake bites. That bronze image had to later be destroyed because the people later set it up as an idol they had named and made sacrifices to (2 Kings 18). So, we see the heart of the matter is the worship of a false god. Idolatry is found in the heart of the idolators, not in the substance of the idol. The idol itself is nothing (1 Cor 8), but in worshiping the idol, pagans are worshiping demons (1 Cor 10). This is breaking the first and greatest commandment:

Matthew 22:36-38 (ESV) “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.

Deuteronomy 6:5 (ESV) You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Since someone might stumble due to a depiction of the Triune God, we should ban all of them!

No, the answer to sin isn’t more law; rather, it is the clear preaching of the Gospel. God’s Law doesn’t grant the power to keep it, a man-made law is infinitely worse. The New Testament makes it clear that no one keeps the law but Christ and that salvation is by Grace through Faith, not by works of the Law. Your accuser might claim to be (or speaking out of concern for) a weaker brother/sister.

1 Corinthians 8:4-13 (ESV) Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Speak in truth with the brother/sister with all patience, humility, and kindness. If it is something you’ve posted deliberately on their wall or in their feed, remove it. If they are demanding you remove it from your own social media, kindly decline when the depiction is intended to benefit other neighbors. Need to exercise discernment here on a case-by-case basis.

Conclusion

When someone charges you with 2CV! do try to give it a best possible construction, that the individual is trying to uphold the Law as he/she has been taught. Might there have been something idolatrous in what you shared? Temper your initial response (and offense) in order to gauge the level of knowledge or understanding possessed by your accuser. Above all, do everything to the Glory of God.

Our catechisms are helpful in training up disciples. We need to know our catechisms well enough to identify where they summarize Scripture and how they’ve done so. The numbering of the 10 commandments is such a summary. Be willing and able to return to the Scriptures when dealing with differences in confessions.

Jude 24-25 (ESV) Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Move (Keep Walkin’)” by TobyMac

disapproveCCM Radio Edition.

April 4, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Move (Keep Walkin’)” by TobyMac which currently sits at #16 on the 20theCountdownMagazine.

TobyMac puts out another motivational song devoid of scriptural foundation or prescription. In today’s song, I’m not even sure he’s clear on what the problem is. We’ll work through the lyric together, but this song ends up being the musical equivalent to “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” There’s no Gospel here, no Law, just empty cheer-leading and an allusion to a false promise. We’ll do our best to clean up the narrative, but frankly this is a rather indulgent and empty motivation song.

Move (Keep Walkin’) Lyric Video

 

Lyrics (via SongLyrics.com)

Verse 1
Another heartbreak day
Feels like you’re miles away
Don’t even need no shade
When your sun don’t shine, shine
Too many passin’ dreams
Roll by like limousines
It’s hard to keep believin’
When they pass you by and by

Pre-Chorus
I know your heart been broke again
I know your prayers ain’t been answered yet
I know you’re feeling like you got nothing left
Well, lift your head, it ain’t over yet, ain’t over yet so

Chorus
Move, keep walkin’ soldier keep movin’ on
Move, keep walkin’ until the mornin’ comes
Move, keep walkin’ soldier keep movin’ on
And lift your head, it ain’t over yet, ain’t over yet

Verse 2
Echoin’ inside your head
Are the words that your sweet momma said,
“shoot for the moon, my dear”
So you took aim out of this atmosphere
Between high stakes and pump fakes
You’re feelin’ like you can’t buy a break
I can hold your hand, but I can’t turn your eyes to freedom

Pre-Chorus
I know your heart been broke again
I know your prayers ain’t been answered yet
I know you’re feeling like you got nothing left
Well, lift your head, it ain’t over yet, ain’t over yet so

Chorus
Move, keep walkin’ soldier keep movin’ on
Move, keep walkin’ until the mornin’ comes
Move, keep walkin’ soldier keep movin’ on
And lift your head, it ain’t over yet, ain’t over yet

Bridge
Hold on, hold on
Lord ain’t finished yet
Hold on, hold on
He’ll get you through this
Hold on, hold on
These are the promises
I never will forget
I never will forget [x2]

I know your heart been broke again
I know your prayers ain’t been answered yet
it ain’t over yet, ain’t over yet so

Move, keep walkin’ soldier keep movin’ on
Move, keep walkin’ until the mornin’ comes
Move, keep walkin’ soldier keep movin’ on
And lift your head, it ain’t over yet, ain’t over yet

Discussion

So the over arching theme of this song is simple: Don’t let your current circumstances bring you down, just keep doing the Christian thing and eventually you’ll have victory.

So what’s wrong with that? Well, the song doesn’t get any more helpful than that, and there are lines that suggest that victory will be born out in our circumstances and that we’ll have our prayers answered because God’s not yet finished with us so we need to move, keep walkin’.

Verse 1. Here, TobyMac presents the dilemma for the first time. What’s the dilemma? Well, we have a heartbreak day when someone feels isolated and alone… but not like in a scorching desert; rather, it’s like being in the dead of winter under a prolonged night… no sunshine. Not clear on the pronouns if it’s a scenario where the person feels that way because their own light isn’t shining (depressed) or if its because of a trial the God has brought (or allowed to be brought) upon the individual. Vague pronoun use is part of TobyMac’s colloquial style. So the unclear sun that doesn’t shine could be an internal mood thing or an external circumstance thing. It’s the next portion of the first verse that has me rather frustrated.

Too many passin’ dreams
Roll by like limousines
It’s hard to keep believin’
When they pass you by and by

So, not only do we have the individual heartbroken over dreams, they’re dreams that roll by like limousines?  So they are big dreams? Is this where our Christian focus should be properly fixed? On the wealthy? on the Celebrity? on the spectacle? Hard to keep believing in what, exactly? Your dream-destiny thingy, or on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ who died on the cross and rose again on the third day so that by His blood we may be forgiven of our sin and gain eternal life? We’re going to camp out on these lines now, because once we get this cleared up the rest of the song is tripe…. and not the tasty kind in Phở Bò.

Firstly, I think we need to visit the 10 Commandments, specifically the last couple of commands:

Exodus 20:1-17 (ESV) | The Ten Commandments
20 And God spoke all these words, saying,

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Now, often times when we think about the sin of coveting our neighbor’s things, in our minds we connect it to stealing as in, “by allowing ourselves to covet we invite the temptation to steal”. While that is true, that isn’t the only way in which coveting is wrong. Coveting is a sin unto itself, it is the sin of discontentment with the provision of God in our lives. Our coveting of our neighbors things creates enmity between us and our neighbor… and in extreme cases between us and God for not having given us what he gave them. This is a sinful condition that needs repentance and forgiveness that can only be found in Christ Jesus. We weren’t all promised limousines. Contrary to what you’ll find in the local “Christian” bookstore or shared on various evangelical memes, we weren’t even promised dream-destinies or to have our dreams fulfilled. We weren’t even all promised to dream dreams of our purpose or directions for our lifelong pursuits. The song is describing someone who is feeling lonely, heartbroken, in the dark… and possibly coveting those who get to ride in limousines. Whether we take that as a metaphor or literal doesn’t make any difference in this problem… it’s covetous. The individual in question is heartbroken because his/her life isn’t going like his/her neighbor’s.

Pre-Chorus. Once again, not clear about the pronouns here. I have no clue who the “I” is supposed to be, the singer or God? No clue. Are these declarative statements or are they slightly patronizing dismissals of the hurting individual’s “woe is me” rhetoric? Still unclear. So this “I” knows the person’s heartbroken again, and knows their prayers aren’t answered yet? That’s odd. Unless the prayer is to be in heaven, or for Christ to return, or that the heartbroken feeling be taken away, we don’t know anything about these prayers and whether or not they are answered in the affirmative “yet”, or if the answer has already come in the form of “no”. Empty motivation. I’m sure some who seek to defend TobyMac and this song are probably thinking up of some scriptures that “promise” that God always answers His children with a “yes”, but before we go there, let’s see what James wrote about unanswered prayers in light of this song’s setup of potential coveting going on.

James 4:1-10 (ESV) | Warning Against Worldliness

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Well, that doesn’t play into the narrative of this song, does it? What does it mean to humble yourself before God? Repent and be forgiven in Jesus’ Name. It’s not something you can “do”, it is something only He can do and has done For you.

Chorus. Modern evangelicalism is absolutely flooded in works-righteousness. Sure, they give lip service to the Grace of God, but everything they teach, preach, and insist upon is works. They push sanctifying works onto professing Christians to rid themselves of sin or to somehow untie God’s hands so that He can finally grant you that blessing He’s been wanting so badly to give you, His best friend, if only you would let Him. False narrative for a false gospel, from a false god. The Triune God of the Bible doesn’t need you, lowly mortal man, to do anything for Him to then bless or keep you. That’s a lie of the devil. The Truth is far more beautiful.

Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV) | Spiritual Blessings in Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

What did we do for this? Nothing. He did all of it for us.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV) | By Grace Through Faith

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

So, you think this “only applies to salvation”, but once saved we need to do our part working in harmony with the Holy Spirit to sanctify ourselves? The Apostle Paul had a different answer to in his letter to the Galatians

Galatians 3:1-9 (ESV) | By Faith, or by Works of the Law?

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Yeah, Paul is clearly talking about continuing in the faith and living the Christian life after having been saved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ (having begun in the Spirit). Splitting justification and sanctification into two categories where Christ’s finished work on the cross justifies us by Grace in one hand, but we need to do our part in working toward sanctification in a separate category is bad theology (are you now being perfected by the flesh?). They are indeed separate terms that communicate different things, but both are works of the Holy Spirit, neither is a work of the flesh.

Verse 2. Wow, didn’t even attempt to bring this to any sort of Biblical narrative. He’s exegeting the proverbial dear old mamma pep-talk of “shoot for the moon”? Really? That isn’t Christianity speaking, that is secular humanism!

Bridge. These are the promises… huh? What promises? From whom? What is TobyMac talking about here? He hasn’t shared any of God’s promises in this song. No Law, No Gospel, No Christ. Just empty encouragements hold on, keep walkin’, soldiering on, and shooting for the moon and hopefully you heart won’t be broken anymore and then you might be the one in the limousine (figuratively or literally, who knows?).

Conclusion

The song is worthless. Maybe TobyMac is struggling with his own career, maybe he is having a crisis of faith and setting it to music hoping to give himself some sort of spark of revival… who knows, but the theology in this song is thin, pale, and vacuous. Please pray for TobyMac and those who clamor to see him. They need the rest that can only be found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | From Glory to Glory

Growing up in Pentecostalism, there was always a focus on “what God is going to do” either in us, for us,  or through us in Earth. In Pentecostalism, “It is Finished” seems to morph into “It will be finished for those who are filled in the Spirit”. We’ve looked at a lot of the Pentecostal proof-texts here in our CTT posts, today we’ll look one that is used to justify the Pentecostal push for the “new” and why they are always talking about being “in transition” or how we can’t “live in the past” or “rely on former glory”. It is most recognizable in the NKJV

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NKJV)

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Most of the time this gets truncated down to a cliche of “from glory to glory”, as a rationale for some teaching that the Holy Spirit is progressing Christians from one level of power to another. In “Presence” theology, term glory is often used to describe the presence of the Holy Spirit or the Shekinah Glory. Is that the referent here in Paul’s letter? Is Paul talking about a repeating cycle of progression from glory to glory to glory… until Christ’s return? Well, let’s look at what Paul is teaching here beginning at the first verse, paying special attention to the word glory. I’m going to switch to the ESV, but I’ll link the passages with ESV and NKJV side-by-side.

2 Corinthians 3 (ESV) | Ministers of the New Covenant

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Now this is a wonderful Gospel passage. The chapter begins with Paul asking of the Corinthians if they need to prove their ministry to them. He makes reference to others who needed “letters of recommendation”, and Paul tells them point-blank, “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all“. Notice how quickly he takes the concept of “letter of recommendation” and creates a teaching point contracting a letter written with ink on paper vice a letter written with the Spirit on our hearts. He’s going somewhere with this. He then makes a shift from ink to letters in stone and compares the letters carved on stone against the letters written with Spirit on hearts. What is Paul comparing? He’s comparing the Law given to Moses with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In verse 6, Paul is closing out who they are, they are Ministers of the New Covenant (the Gospel) not of the Law but of the Spirit. For the letter kills (Law) but the Spirit gives life (Gospel). Paul went into detail teaching the purpose of the Law (to expose sin) and how the Spirit of Christ sets us free from that sin in Romans 8. Paul does not dismiss the Law outright. The Law is beautiful and it is of God, but it does kill us by exposing how wretched we are in comparison to a Holy God. You see in verse 7 Paul refers to the Mosaic Covenant as the ministry of death. That’s what the Law does, it kills us Justly. The due punishment for our sin is death. The Law makes that clear. And that Law, the ministry of death, came with such glory that Moses had to veil his face. That law which was to be brought to an end in Christ Jesus (who fulfilled the Law) was not without glory. However, once Jesus Christ, the Messiah, had come in His Glory, He would surpass the glory of the Law and the ministry of death. The glory of what is permanent, the Spirit of Christ, far exceeds the glory of the Law that was brought to an end in Christ. In fact, now that Christ has come the Law has no glory at all by comparison.

So we see that Paul isn’t talking in vague generalities here, nor is he suggesting there is to be some succession of glory that Christians or the Church are supposed to experience before the return of Jesus Christ. Paul is very specifically addressing the New Covenant’s replacement of the Old. The Glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, written on our hearts allows us to behold the glory of God with unveiled faces. Why? Because in Christ our sins have been paid and His righteousness has clothed us by faith. Those who would seek to remain under the Mosaic covenant, have no boldness or hope of being made righteous in His sight, not to the extend that we who are in Christ Jesus have.

Romans 3:19-20 (ESV) 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The veil remains over their hearts. They’ve rejected the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Living God and His finished work on the cross. But this isn’t just about the Jews who rejected Jesus. This is about all who have rejected God. For before Jesus arrived, the only glory on earth, the only hope of salvation was Israel, which means all others were lost. Notice, Paul says that the whole world may be held accountable to God. But now that Christ has come, the former glory of the Law is no more in light of the Permanent and Greater Glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

There are several passages the speak to the growing and learning and coming to fullness of Christ who is the Head of His Church. This isn’t what Paul is conveying here when he summarizes this picture of 2 covenants and how we are being transformed from one degree of glory (the Law) to another (the fullness of the Gospel). Until the day of our resurrection in Christ, we don’t graduate from denying our selves, taking up our crosses daily, our sins being mortified in the flesh by Faith in repentance and being forgiven and made righteous in God’s sight by faith in our risen savior, Jesus Christ. When Christ returns, we’ll finally be rid of this body of death and will see what for now we must hope for by faith in Christ. To suggest, that there would be any interim greater glories is to undermine what Paul is teaching in this letter to the Corinthians.

Romans 11:32-36 (ESV)

32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. 33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge