It was becoming an either / or proposition within the church. This town wasn’t big enough for the both of them. Corinth wasn’t big enough for the apostle Paul and the “super” (aka false) apostles (aka Judaizers). Someone had to go. Many in the Corinth church thought that someone should be Paul. Paul determined he wasn’t going without contending for the Corinthians’ affection.
But for Paul it wasn’t just a popularity thing, it was a divine dynamics thing. It wasn’t about Paul being accepted; it was about the way of the Spirit being embraced. And so, at the heart of this most personal of Paul’s letters is the glory of the gospel and his desire that it be even more glorious.
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are Christ’s letter, delivered by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God — not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
(2Corinthians 3:1-3 CSB)
Paul wasn’t going to “sell himself” again. He wasn’t going back to trying to gain their confidence nor earn their trust. They were the living proof of his legitimate calling. They were Paul’s letter of commendation because they were Christ’s letter testifying of a new covenant, a new way for God to be among His people and for His people to dwell in His midst. They were a letter not written with ink which perishes and fades, but with the Spirit of the living God who abides forever. A letter not written on tablets of stone as Moses had brought down from the mount but written on tablets of human hearts by the One who was raised from the dead. And Paul springboards from this thought of tablets of stone vs. tablets of human hearts as he reminds them of his ministry and contends for the glory of the gospel.
[God] has made us competent 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 that brought death, chiseled in letters on stones, came with glory, so that the Israelites were not able to gaze steadily at Moses’s face because of its glory, which was set aside, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry that brought condemnation had glory, the ministry that brings righteousness overflows with even more glory. In fact, what had been glorious is not glorious now by comparison because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was set aside was glorious, what endures will be even more glorious.
(2Corinthians 3:6-11 CSB)
Many in the church, it would seem, were being persuaded by smooth talking, Paul slandering “apostles” of the way of Moses. Speaking of a way that sounded good, because, for its time and purpose, it was good. A way of glory because the glory shone through the face of Moses, the man who delivered it. But Paul reminds these Corinthians that what had happened to them when they received the greater Moses, Jesus, was more glorious . . . overflowing with even more glory . . . making the way of Moses now inglorious in comparison because of the glory that surpasses it . . . thus setting aside the way of Moses with the way of the Spirit, a way that endures forever and will be even more glorious.
Glory . . . glorious. More glory . . . even more glorious. The glory of the gospel. That’s what Paul cared about most.
The church’s response and rejection of Paul was more in line with tablets of stone. But Paul contended for them because what he wanted to prevail was the glory of the good news that had been written on tablets of human hearts. The glorious, good news brought about by the ministry of the Spirit within the souls of men and women. The gospel of greater glory because it revealed not only how to live with God in their midst, but how they could be conformed to the image of God through His Son, the One who know now lived in and through them.
The division and discord within the Corinth church was veiling the glory. He wanted the veil removed.
For to this day, at the reading of the old covenant, the same veil remains; it is not lifted, because it is set aside only in Christ. Yet still today, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts, but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
(2Corinthians 3:14b-15 CSB)
The glory of the gospel. It’s what’s wired within the DNA of the church. It’s what written on our hearts. O, that God would remove the veil of our fleshly ways, so that the glory might be even more glorious.
By His grace. For His glory.