Join us as we study through 2 Corinthians verse by verse. Our discussion questions, teaching points, and applications can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.
2 Corinthians 3:7-17 Inductive Bible Study Guide And Questions For Small Groups
I. Ministers of the New Covenant participate in glory (7-11)
II. Jesus removes the veil (12-18)
I. Ministers of the New Covenant participate in glory (7-11)
- What is the ministry of death? Why does Paul call this the “ministry of death?”
- What comparison does Paul make in these verses?
- How is the new covenant more glorious than the old?
- Why does Paul want to tell the Corinthian church about the glory of the new covenant?
- What does this glory mean for us as ministers of the new covenant?
- How should this affect our attitude and confidence as we share the good news with others?
Hebrews 8:13 – In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Hebrews 9:15 – Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
Romans 7:7 – What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
2 Timothy 4:5 – As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
1. The ministry of death – Paul calls the old covenant the “ministry of death.” He uses strong wording because he wants to make a clear contrast with the new covenant, highlighting the life which Jesus brings. The Mosaic law was given with a specific purpose. This purpose included:
- Giving a clear standard of right and wrong, God’s standard.
- Showing that no person could keep this standard.
- With this standard, providing a mirror that emphasizes people’s sin.
- Confirming that people are hopelessly mired in sin which brings death.
- Preparing people for a Savior by teaching them that they cannot ever save themselves.
It is for these reasons that Paul calls it the “ministry of death.” The law shows that by depending on ourselves there is no way out, no way to avoid sin, death, and judgment.
Many people when giving news say, “I have good news and bad news, which do you want to hear first?” The Bible does the same. First in the old covenant it shows us the bad news. The bad news is that even with every possible resource, people cannot break free of the bondage of sin and death. The bad news has to come first so that people would realize they need the good news.
Imagine a doctor who has bad news and good news. The patient opts to hear the good news. So the doctor says, “I can save your life by performing an emergency brain surgery. We will have to operate immediately.” Without the bad news that “you have a brain tumor” the good news doesn’t make sense. Someone must know they are sick before they will want the cure. Someone must know they are lost before they seek to be found.
The old covenant says, “you are spiritually dead.” Then Jesus comes and says, “I can give you life.”
John 11:25 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.
2. Carved in letters on stone – The basic tenets of the old covenant were first written by God Himself on tablets of stone with His own fingers.
Exodus 31:18 – And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.
3. Came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face –
One of the records of this phenomenon is found in Exodus 34:29-35 –
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai. When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.
Every time Moses spoke with God face to face he beheld a small part of God’s glory. In one case Moses asked God to pass before him and God allowed Moses to view his “back.” Moses could not look at God’s full glory in its most intense form or he would die.
Exodus 33:20 – But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!
Even getting a glimpse of God’s glory was amazing. And when Moses came down off of the mountain his face shone. He in some part was reflecting God’s glory to the people. Moses was God’s messenger, the middle man, the mediator. He could not bring God’s full glory to the people, nor could they bear to see it. But through Moses they could get some small sense of the terrifying and awesome God they were dealing with.
Application: Although this is not the main point of the passage today, it is a good lesson that we too can reflect God’s glory to the people around us. We are to shine His light and attract people to God. The more time we spend with God, the more our lives and even our countenance would be changed. We will become more and more like Him and the light will reflect us stronger and the stronger. The key is to spend more time with him.
Paul’s point is simple. The old covenant was glorious. It was amazing. All powerful, infinite, holy God spoke to man. He revealed Himself. He revealed His will. He extended wonderful blessings. Paul is not knocking the old covenant as some failure. It was an integral part of God’s plan. And it it revealed to people important aspects of God’s nature.
4. What was being brought to an end – However, the old covenant was being brought to an end. It was never intended to be God’s permanent solution to the sin problem. It was temporary, a stepping stone to prepare people for the climax of His redemptive plan established from eternity past.
5. Will not the ministry of the Spirit have more glory? – Here Paul arrives to the crux of his argument. He is not saying, “The old covenant is bad. The new covenant is good.” He is saying, “If the old covenant, which is temporary, was so glorious, how much more glorious is the new covenant!
He reinforces this argument in verses 9-11 through two comparisons.
A. If there is glory in condemnation, there is far more glory in reconciliation –
The old covenant is akin to the doctor saying, “You have terminal cancer.” That is the condemnation Paul mentions. And that’s not a bad thing. It is a vital step in the process. In the old covenant God speaks to man, gives His law, and reveals Himself. Important! But how much more joy is there when the doctor says, “We have found a cure for your cancer.” That is what will be remembered and celebrated.
Our reconciliation to God is glorious. Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross to pay for our sins and bring us to God is the climax of all of world history. Everything before that moment looks forward to it. Everything after that moment looks back on it.
When I share the gospel it goes like this:
- God created the world.
- People sinned.
- Sin has consequences including death, judgment, and separation from God.
- There is nothing any person can do on his own to solve this problem of sin.
At this point in the gospel presentation it feels like I am a doomsayer, a bearer of ill tidings. But then I come to my favorite part!
- God loves you and He made a way for you to be reconciled.
- He sent His son, Jesus, as a Savior.
- Jesus died to take away your son and rose again to prove He could.
We have hope! The God of the universe, the Creator of heavens and earth, became a man and died a heinous death. Then He defeated death and the grave. And He will reign forever as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Anyone who believes in Him can be part of His eternal kingdom. That is the glory of the ministry of righteousness.
B. If there is glory in the temporary, there is far more glory in the permanent –
The old covenant was like a band aid and the new covenant is permanent healing of the wound. The new covenant, saved by grace through faith, will never be replaced. It is the final revelation of God’s redemptive plan. Salvation is permanent. Forgiveness of sins is permanent. God’s adoption of believers as His children is permanent. The church is a permanent part of the kingdom of God.
II. Jesus removes the veil (12-18)
- What hope does Paul refer to in verse 12?
- What happened when Moses spent time with God which led him to veiling his face?
- What was being brought to an end?
- In verse 14, whose minds were hardened?
- What does verse 14 mean?
- In what way did a veil lie over their hearts?
- How does Jesus remove that veil?
- How do we behold the glory of the Lord?
- How can you be transformed into His image?
1 Corinthians 11:25 – In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Hebrews 8:6 – But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.
1. Since we have such a hope we are very bold – Here Paul connects this argument with his point which he started back in chapter 2:14-16 –
“Who…always leads us in triumphal procession….For we are the aroma of Christ…Who is sufficient for these things?”
Believers are called to be ministers for Christ, proclaiming the gospel and declaring Christ’s victory. It sounds like a challenging task. There are many powerful opponents. Who can boldly stand up to them? Who is sufficient?
In these past lessons we have already seen the answer, “No one is sufficient when relying on himself.” But as it says in 3:4, “Our sufficiency is from God.”
In verses 7-11 we have seen the glory of the gospel. It is the most amazing aspect of God’s plan. And Paul makes a practical application from this principle. That is that such a hope gives us great boldness.
Application: When you share the gospel you have nothing to fear. Jesus has won the victory. God’s redemptive plan has been fulfilled. He stands with you and you stand with Him. You are telling people about the most amazing news in all of human history. So don’t cower. Don’t be shy. Proclaim the truth with boldness!
2. Not like Moses who put over his face so that the Israelites may not gaze – In the old covenant times there was always a mediator between man and God. The priests served as mediators. And Moses also served as a mediator, taking God’s message to the people and their needs to God. The veil in the temple and even the veil over Moses’ face served as a barrier highlighting the separation between man and God.
3. But their minds were hardened. For to this day when they read the old covenant , the same veil remains unlifted because only through Christ is it taken away –
Jesus came to reconcile man to God. Because of our sin we were separated from Him, which was symbolized in the veil.
Ephesians 2:13 – But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
Christ is the only way through that veil back to God. He is the only way this gap can be crossed.
But most Jews rejected Christ. Instead of accepting the new covenant, they kept adhering to the old covenant. They were stuck in the past. Instead of embracing the final solution of God’s redemptive plan, they stayed on step one, trying to satisfy the requirements of God’s law by their own efforts. And it is is and always has been a losing effort. Only Christ can bring man to God. No single person has ever been saved through his own efforts.
Therefore they missed the way of salvation and remained separated from God.
4. To this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts – Jews without Christ have had not had their spiritual eyes opened. They cannot comprehend Jesus’ sacrifice, salvation, or justification by grace through faith. It is as if a blanket lies over their eyes and over their hearts.
5. When one turns to the Lord the veil is removed –
Psalm 119:18 – Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
Ephesians 1:18 – Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.
Jesus opens our spiritual eyes. This applies to Jews who grew up believing in the Mosaic law. But it also applies to everyone. It applies to the Buddhist who grows up believing that people are inherently good and in reincarnation. It applies to the Hindu who believes that all roads lead to paradise as long as you are sincere. It applies to the Muslim who relies on his spiritual zeal to save his soul. It applies to those who follow animistic and superstitious religions and live trying to appease evil spirits. It applies to the atheist who refuses to see any supernatural explanation for anything. It applies to the one raised in a Christian family who only saw rules and tradition instead of Jesus.
Whatever blinds you, Jesus can remove it and make you see. Only through Him can you view this world clearly. Through Jesus you can see past the lies, deception, and moral relativity and know the truth. And the truth will set you free.
6. The Lord is the Spirit – Here is strong evidence for the Trinity as the Spirit is called Lord.
7. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom –
Galatians 5:1 – For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
John 8:36 – So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
People are born into bondage. We are in bondage to sin. And people bind themselves with even more things, including false religion. The law cannot set people free from sin, but instead reveals that people are bound to it with no way out.
Only Jesus can set people free. That is why He came. How does He set us free?
- By forgiving our sins.
- By showing that rules based religion can’t work so that we won’t rely on it.
- By opening our eyes to the truth.
- But giving us the strength to resist temptation and live in victory.
- But setting us free from Satan’s domain and bringing us into His own kingdom.
Application: Is something holding you in bondage? Is there perhaps a sin with power over you that you want to break free from? Your own will power is not enough to set you free. You need Jesus. You need the power of the Holy Spirit. Confess that sin to God. And ask His Spirit to empower you to live a victorious life. Then pursue righteousness by getting accountability and taking practical steps to protect yourself from temptation.
8. We are being transformed from one degree of glory to another – Paul describes the process of sanctification. When we are saved we are set free from the power of sin. But we are not yet set free from all of its corrupting effects. For now we are still trapped in these fleshly bodies, which were born into sin. In Christ, we have spiritual life. Those in Him have been born again into a glorious kingdom. We have an inheritance. We are adopted as His children. We will take part in the resurrection. But we have not yet received our eternal bodies which will be free from sickness, pain, death, and sin. Salvation is the first step in a process that will culminate at the resurrection when our transformation is complete.
Application: Today we have read about the old and new covenants, the glory of God’s redemptive plan, and our part as ministers of that new covenant. What is the point? It is that we are to be confident as ministers of the new covenant! We are not called to a spirit of timidity, but of boldness. So go out this week and courageously share the gospel.
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