It’s day 14 of our 30 Days of Paul Reading Challenge and things took a weird turn. As you can see by the title of this post, we’re staring Paul’s second letter to the followers of The Way of Jesus in Corinth. However, for some reason that I can’t seem to figure out, we’re reading 2 Corinthians 2:14–3:18, instead of the first couple of chapters. I suppose the belief is that this section was written first (?) since we’re supposed to be reading these chronologically. That doesn’t make sense to me, but there it is nonetheless. So, let’s get to it!
Starting at the beginning of chapter 3, Paul talks about the two different covenants; the two different ministries. One covenantal ministry brought death and the other brought life. Paul states that the ministry that brought death was written on stone tablets but the ministry that brought life is written on hearts (3.1-6). This is an obvious reference to the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. He even says as much in verse 14, “But their minds were closed. Right up to the present day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. The veil is not removed because it is taken away by Christ.”
What’s remarkable, though, is verse 6, “G‑d has qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not based on what’s written but on the Spirit, because what’s written kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Again, Paul’s context here is the Old Covenant, the Mosaic Law.1 What Paul’s saying here — and saying it rather boldly, I might add — is that he and the others ministers of the New Covenant were doing things based on the Spirit and not the Jewish Scriptures.
But let’s extrapolate that out to include the Bible as a whole. If our only knowledge of Jesus is “what’s written,” then does that, too, lead to death?
If we’re constantly saying, “The Bible says…” as some sort of legitimacy for our harsh and hateful words and actions toward others then it’s quite true, “what’s written kills.” I think Paul would be mortified if he saw that we’ve made the Bible into an idol, the “fourth person” of the G‑dhead.
At the end of Matthew’s telling of the Jesus story, Jesus tells the disciples, “I’ve been given all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28.28; GNT2; cf. Daniel 7.13-14). Notice he didn’t say, “All authority has been given to the letters and stories you chaps are going to write about me.” And yet, that’s exactly the way we treat the Bible! But Paul wrote that what’s written kills. And while he was specifically meaning the Torah (which, for a Jew must have been a very shocking thing to say, let alone read!), could the same be said to many of us today and our handling of the Bible? What would it look like if we stopped using the Bible as a legal document full of facts and started seeing it as a living guide full of truths? What if we insisted on being led by the Spirit instead? What would that look like in our world today?
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
1. To be fair, the “stone tablets” were only part of the Mosaic Law. As we know, they were the Ten Commandments. Kind of an interesting spin given all of the news here in Oklahoma about removing a monument of them at the State Capital. Not to mention those people who insist that followers of Jesus must keep the big ten!
2. Scripture quotations marked (GNT) are from The Good News Translation in Today’s English Version — Second Edition. Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission.