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By: Larry Shaffer
Today Leigh and I celebrate 36 years of marriage bliss! 🙂
To Receive, Not to Do
2 Corinthians 3
I’m having a difficult time moving forward from this chapter. It is very rich. The theme is the glory of the New Covenant. The false teachers that infiltrated Corinth after Paul departed were doing what others have continued to do over the last 2000 years since Christ. They inappropriately mix the Old Covenant laws with the New Covenant grace.
Their first error is they consider the laws and commandments of the Old Covenant as guidelines to follow that impart grace. In other words, following the law produces favor with God, grants “righteousness” and induces the grace of God. This is a wrong interpretation of the law.
Pharisees viewed the Old Covenant in this way. Remember Luke 18:9 when “two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” Basically, the Pharisee said “I thank You God that I’m not like other people, I follow the law and I act righteously.” He thought the laws and rules of the Old Covenant were his means to righteousness and grace. WRONG! Dead wrong! Meanwhile, the tax collector responded appropriately to the Old Covenant when he beat his chest in great despair and helplessness and prayed “God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
Back in 2 Corinthians 3, Paul called the Old Covenant “the ministry of condemnation.“ The tax collector understood the Old Covenant far better than the highly educated Pharisee. The purpose of the Old Covenant was to condemn and point out our need for a Savior. The tax collector felt the full force of the Old Covenant and fell on his knees and asked for mercy. The Pharisee didn’t get it. He thought his actions were his saving grace and his means of grace.
I say all this to make the point that the false teachers were coming in and speaking partial truth. They would say, yes, Jesus is our savior but we still need to follow the rituals of the Old Covenant in order to be right with God. They were adding to the grace of Jesus the rituals and ceremonies of the Old Covenant as necessary means of grace as well. This is not good.
An example of how this has continued over the last 2000 years is the sacrament of communion. Evangelicals view communion as a “symbol” of grace. Some view it as a “means” of grace. Big difference between symbols of grace and means of grace. I grew up in the Church of Christ. Many in this denomination view baptism as a “means” of grace. They say salvation doesn’t happen until the point of baptism. Wrong. Baptism is a symbol of grace not the actual means of grace. Thus, Paul is saying to the Corinthians that the false teachers are messing things up.
“But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; (they are incorrectly understanding the Old Covenant), but when a person turns to the Lord, (like the tax collector) the veil is taken away….where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” verses 15-17.
Ceremonies and rituals are symbols of grace, not means of grace. Good deeds are not a means of grace, they are our response to grace received. The tax collector teaches us the true and simple means of grace when from his heart he says “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus said, “he went down from the temple justified.” Beware of any gospel that adds to the requirements of grace of the New Covenant.
Keep it simple
Dear Father, thank you and praise you for the simplicity of the gospel. When from my heart I said, ‘have mercy on me, a sinner’, you saved me. Period. Nothing else required. Now, just help me to love you more, love others and follow you with a heart of gladness. Amen!