Sunday School with Pastor, Dr. Theodis Acklin

Scriptural text: 2 Corinthians 3:5-18

Lesson Context: The letters 1 and 2 Corinthians demonstrate a congregation troubled on every front. Challenges to Paul’s apostolic authority aggravated those troubles, and his letters to that church feature responses to personal criticisms leveled at him (l Corinthians 9:1-2; 2 Corinthians 10:10, etc.). Therefore, Paul used much ink in 2 Corinthians to defend the legitimacy of his apostolic calling.

l. Paul’s Expertise (2 Corinthians 3:5-6):

A. Source: God (v. 5).

“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” Paul knows that what he has just written might sound proud in the ears of the Corinthian Christians. After all, it is no small thing to say, “You are my letter of recommendation” and “I am a pen in God’s hand.” Paul knows these are big ideas, but his place for thinking these big ideas is in Jesus, not in himself.

“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves.” Paul doesn’t consider himself sufficient for the great task of changing lives for Jesus. Only Jesus is sufficient for such a big job.

B. Focus: New Covenant (v. 6). “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” The idea of a new covenant was prophesied in the Old Testament (Jer. 31:31) and put into practice by Jesus (Luke 22: 19-20). This new covenant presents the terms by which we can have a relationship with God, centered on Jesus and His work for us.

“Not the letter but the Spirit:” When Paul contrasts the letter and the Spirit, he isn’t favoring “experience” over ‘the word,” nor is he favoring allegorical interpretation over a literal understanding of the Bible. Rather Paul shows the superiority of the new covenant over the old covenant. The letter of the law came from the old covenant. It was good in itself, but it gave us no power to serve God, and it did not change our heart; it simply told us what to do. Paul can say the letter kills because the law, exposing our guilt, kills us before God. The law thoroughly and completely establishes our guilt.

ll. Paul’s intent (Colossians 1:25-29): A. By Design of God (v. 25). 25a. “Whereof I am made a minister.” Paul was a minister- that is, a servant of the body of Christ, the church. He did not take this position on his own initiative, but according to the stewardship from God. God put Paul into this position, he did not put himself.

25b. “According to the dispensation of God which is given to me.” The dispensation of God which Paul speaks of is recorded in Acts 9:15; 22:14-15; and 26:16-18. These passages could be called Paul’s “mandate” or “marching orders.”

25c. “For you, to fulfill the word of God.” “To fulfill the word of God” establishes the benchmark by which to measure the accomplishments of those tasks.

Paul’s Interpretation (2 Corinthians 3:7-11):

A. First If-Then Argument (vv. 7-8).

“But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away. How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?”

References: International Sunday School Lessons, KJV 2023-2024, David Guzik Bible Commentary