A. Most of the stuff God created on earth doesn’t really last. Most things rot or rust or get eroded or dissolved or in some way break down.
1. But God has made a few earthly things which last: most precious stones like diamonds, and precious metals like gold. It’s not only their beauty which makes them valuable, but their durability.
2. Well, the same holds true in the arrangements God sets up with man. Some are designed to be temporary. And some are made to be permanent.
3. And in this section of 2Cor.3, Paul is contrasting the fading old covenant made with Israel through Moses with the permanent new covenant made through Christ.
B. 2Cor.3:7-11 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, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 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.
II. Made to Fade
A. One of Paul’s points in this passage is that the old covenant God made with Israel through Moses was a temporary measure. It was made to fade.
1. 7 the ministry of death, ... its glory...was being brought to an end,
2. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.
3. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
B. When a couple has a baby, they get baby equipment: car seats, strollers, carriers, cribs, diapers, wipes, baby bottles, baby spoons, and on and on. But when the little child season of their lives comes to an end, they get rid of all that stuff. It’s not made to be a permanent part of life.
1. In a similar way, Paul is saying that there’s a time for the old covenant things to be set aside. They were created only for a season. They’re not only inferior, but they’ve passed their due date.
2. In Galatians 4 and Colossians 2, Paul talks about how we "have died with Christ" (Col.2:20) to this old covenant which was "destined to perish with use." (Col.2:22) and that God gave this old set-up to His people in their historical childhood "until the date set by the Father." (Gal.4:2) And "while we were children, we were held in bondage under" (Gal.4:3) this old way of thinking. "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son" (Gal.4:4) so we might be set free from these slavish, childish ways.
3. There is a time to give up on baby food and binkies and blankies. There’s a time to stop sucking your thumb, and to stop riding in a stroller.
4. There’s a time to move past parent-enforced bedtimes.
5. Your children may think you are a terrible parent for trying to help them get rid of these things.
6. But it’s not unloving to start taking these things away.
7. In the same way, God wanted them to give up on these old covenant things: for their sake.
C. But it was hard for some first century Jews to let go of the past & embrace the new things of Christ.
1. They had an aversion to these changes. And Jesus knew this would happen. He spoke of it in Luke 5:37-38 “No one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins & it will be spilled, & the skins will be destroyed. New wine must be put into fresh wineskins.”
D. And this is why Paul contrasts the old covenant with the new covenant here in 2Cor.3.
1. It’s because Paul’s opponents in Corinth were Judaizers. That is, instead of accepting Jesus as Lord and the initiator of a promised new covenant, they tried to fit Jesus into the context of the old covenant.
2. You see, the time of the NT was the time of the transition from old to new. It was time to give up on the old, to let go of the old, and to embrace the new.
3. But change is often hard. And the only Jews who could accept it were those who had been so gripped by Christ that they were happy to let Him do whatever He wanted. They understood that He was Lord of the Sabbath, Lord of the law, Lord of the covenants, Lord of all.
4. But those who just willing to make minor adjustments to their lives and thinking couldn’t accept all the changes the apostles testified that Jesus came to make.
E. Why was it so hard for them to let go? Why were these Christian Jews clinging to the old covenant?
1. Because they loved their circumcision and their food laws and their temple and their priests and their sacrifices. They loved their festivals and ceremonies. They loved their Jewish exclusiveness.
2. They liked the idea of adding a messiah to their religion – to improve it even more.
3. But the fact is, they loved their religion, but they didn’t actually love God. REPEAT
4. This is why so many of the prophets said that God hated their sacrifices and festivals (e.g. Amos 5:21-23; Is. 1:11-16, 66:3; Jer. 6:20, 7:21-23; Hosea 8:13).
F. And there are three reasons why it’s so important for us to talk about this.
1. Because today there are many people who love Christianity but don’t love Jesus Christ.
a. They love the gathering and the singing and the fellowship and the sacraments. They love the doctrine and the majesty of the Scripture. They love the assurance and the positivity.
b. But they don’t actually love Christ.
2. Because today there are many people whose Christianity is a Christianity of minor adjustments.
a. It’s a Christianity which fits into our little political boxes or philosophical boxes or moral boxes.
b. It’s normal human life with Christian flavoring. It is worldly thinking cloaked in Christian language. It is making Jesus the champion of my little cause or ambition.
c. It is not a Christianity which bows down to Jesus and says, “You are my Lord. I am Your servant. May it be to me as You say.”
3. But it’s more than that. It’s also because there is part of us which resists the way of Christ and His new covenant and prefers old covenant religion.
a. After talking about how the new won’t fit into old wineskins, Jesus adds this: “And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” – Luke 5:39
(1) Remarkable! Jesus brings the new, Jesus is the new, but there’s something in us that still prefers the old; there is a gravitational pull to go back to old ways of thinking.
b. There are numerous references to this tendency in the rest of the NT.
(1) Peter’s struggle to accept the new economy: Cornelius (Acts 10-11)
(2) Don’t go back to the elementary principles: verses in Gal.4 and Col.2
(3) “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear!” (Romans 8:15)
(4) “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
(5) The Book of Hebrews is all about the tendency and danger of going back.
(6) Romans 11:18-20 talks about the possibility of Gentiles falling into this same trap.
c. What’s so desirable about the old? Why in the world would someone ever prefer the old to the new?
(1) First of all, it’s familiar, comfortable, not scary – We’re attached to it. It’s like an old friend.
(a) Often it’s hard to get a woman to leave the man who’s beating her.
(2) Easier to understand: like going from Newtonian physics to Einstein’s physics (elementary principles: Gal.4 and Col.2)
(3) It’s easier to have someone tell you what to do than it is to decide yourself.
(a) Story: mom waking up son for church
(4) More natural
(a) OT way was more adapted to man’s nature: elementary principles, more according to what man was familiar with and could see and handle, and more gratifying to the flesh.
(b) NT way more dependant on the Spirit, way more dependant on what we can’t see. And that makes us nervous. Now we are called to live by the Spirit, by faith in what we cannot see, not by nature.
(c) Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it is right and good.
i) E.g. hanging around people who are like you is natural and in the flesh that’s what we’re going to do. But the Spirit compels us to live in a way that is not natural but supernatural.
(5) For all these reasons, there’s a part of us which tends to cling to old covenant ways.
d. But God doesn’t require us to let go of the old just because He likes to be in charge. He does it because He loves us and because the new things He brings are far superior to the old things in our lives. And, He wants us to have the better things instead of the inferior things. He wants us to live in sonship, not in slavery.
(1) He has made something vastly superior to the old covenant, and it’s infantile to prefer the old.
(2) He didn’t come to leave us where we already were. He didn’t save us so that we could stay the same. He didn’t come to help us take a step in the right direction.
(3) He came to bestow upon us the greatest treasure there ever was.
(4) Child who picked Macaroni & Cheese for his birthday dinner
(5) “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2Corinthians 5:17
(6) Don’t treasure the old! Cherish and treasure Christ’s new life and new covenant and new
A. There are two kinds of glory: fading and unfading. And it’s important to distinguish them.
a. Our bodies, our clothing, our loved ones
b. Buildings, nations; a church, a denomination, a movement, a leader
a. The gospel of our salvation: perpetually new
b. The Lord: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8
B. The problem is, we get attached to things. We keep thinking of the fading things as if they’re permanent, and it’s hard to let them go.
1. But following Jesus means letting go of everything else. Everything. (Abraham movie)
2. Luke 14:33 “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
C. We’ve got to cling to what cannot fade. “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..., 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.” – 1Peter 1:3–5