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Servants of the New Covenant

Are we beginning to sound like those who speak highly of themselves? Do you really need letters of recommendation to validate our ministry, like others do?[a] Do we really need your letter of endorsement? Of course not! For your very lives are our “letters of recommendation,” permanently engraved on our hearts, recognized and read by everybody. As a result of our ministry, you are living letters written by Christ, not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God—not carved onto stone tablets[b] but on the tablets of tender hearts. We carry this confidence in our hearts because of our union with Christ before God. Yet we don’t see ourselves as capable enough to do anything in our own strength, for our true competence flows from God’s empowering presence. He alone makes us adequate ministers who are focused on an entirely new covenant. Our ministry is not based on the letter of the law but through the power of the Spirit. The letter of the law kills, but the Spirit pours out life.[c]

The Glorious Ministry of the Spirit

Even the ministry that was characterized by chiseled letters on stone tablets came with a dazzling measure of glory,[d] though it produced death. The Israelites couldn’t bear to gaze on the glowing face of Moses[e] because of the radiant splendor shining from his countenance—a glory destined to fade away.

Yet how much more radiant is this new and glorious ministry of the Spirit that shines from us! For if the former ministry of condemnation was ushered in with a measure of glory, how much more does the ministry that imparts righteousness far excel in glory.[f] 10 What once was glorious no longer holds any glory because of the increasingly[g] greater glory that has replaced it. 11 The fading ministry came with a portion of glory, but now we embrace the unfading ministry of a permanent impartation of glory. 12 So then, with this amazing hope living in us, we step out in freedom and boldness to speak the truth.

13 We are not like Moses, who used a veil to hide the glory to keep the Israelites from staring at him as it faded away.[h] 14 Their minds were closed and hardened, for even to this day that same veil comes over their minds when they hear the words of the former covenant. The veil has not yet been lifted from them, for it is only eliminated when one is joined to the Messiah. 15 So until now, whenever the Old Testament[i] is being read, the same blinding comes over their hearts. 16 But the moment one turns to the Lord[j] with an open heart, the veil is lifted and they see.[k] 17 Now, the “Lord” I’m referring to is the Holy Spirit,[l] and wherever he is Lord, there is freedom.

18 We can all draw close to him with the veil removed from our faces. And with no veil we all become like mirrors who brightly reflect the glory of the Lord Jesus.[m] We are being transfigured[n] into his very image as we move from one brighter level of glory to another.[o] And this glorious transfiguration comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.[p]


  1. 3:1 Apparently, there were some insecure and phony ministers who would carry forged letters of recommendation in an attempt to validate their ministry. Paul’s supernatural ministry needed no such letter of recommendation.
  2. 3:3 See Ex. 24:12; 31:18; 34:1; Deut. 9:10–11; Jer. 38:33 (LXX).
  3. 3:6 To illustrate this, on the day when the law was given by Moses, three thousand people were killed, but on the day the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, three thousand people received new life. See Ex. 32:28; Acts 2:41.
  4. 3:7 Glory or glorious is mentioned fourteen times in this chapter. No chapter in the Bible refers to God’s glory more than 2 Cor. 3.
  5. 3:7 See Ex. 34:29.
  6. 3:9 The contrast here is between a ministry that brings awareness of sin and leads to condemnation and a new ministry that confirms to us that we are made righteous and innocent by the work of the cross and the grace of the Spirit.
  7. 3:10 As translated from the Aramaic and implied contextually in the Greek.
  8. 3:13 Or “the end of what was fading.”
  9. 3:15 Or “Moses,” an obvious metonymy.
  10. 3:16 The Aramaic can be translated “Lord Yahweh.”
  11. 3:16 See Ex. 34:34.
  12. 3:17 Paul is teaching us that not every time the word Lord appears does it mean Jesus Christ. Here we see that “the Lord” refers to the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is ruling, speaking, convincing us of truth, there is freedom. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Lord of the harvest who prepares the workers and the harvest fields, sending them out into specific places for the reaping of souls. See Matt. 9:38.
  13. 3:18 Or “We all, with unveiled faces, behold the glory of the Lord as in a mirror.”
  14. 3:18 The Greek verb metamorphoō is the same word used for Jesus’ being transfigured on the mountain (Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:2) and for our transfiguration through the renewing of the thoughts of our minds (Rom. 12:2).
  15. 3:18 The source of our transformation comes from Christ’s glory, and the destination we are brought to is more glory. The transforming glory is the result of gazing upon the beauty and splendor of Jesus Christ.
  16. 3:18 Notice the ten aspects of New Testament ministry given by Paul: (1) It is based on the triumph of Christ over every power of darkness (2:14). (2) It diffuses the fragrant aroma of Christ everywhere (2:15–16). (3) It refuses to water down the Word of God (2:17). (4) It produces living letters of Christ (3:3). (5) It is not based on the clever abilities of men but God’s empowering presence (3:6). (6) It imparts life (3:6). (7) It flows from the Holy Spirit (3:8, 17–18). (8) It imparts righteousness (3:9). (9) It contains a greater glory than the law (3:10–11). (10) It brings the transfiguration of believers into greater levels of glory (3:18).