2 Corinthians 3:12-17
New Covenant Boldness
“Out with the Old, in with the New” was the name of the game last post. In these next verses, our Apostle Paul still contrasts New Covenant realities with Old Covenant foreshadowings. The contrast continues but takes a turn from the respective glories of the two covenants to their proclaimers. Paul says that he is bold to proclaim God’s gospel in the new, more glorious covenant. This contrast relates to Moses: “we are very bold, not like Moses” (vv. 12-13). What a bold statement, Paul! Yes and no. It’s not that Paul is here saying that Moses was his prophetic inferior. Paul, a thorough-going Jew, has much love and respect for Moses. Paul’s greater boldness owes itself to the greater covenant of which he is minister. Paul is not the focal point; the New Covenant is. Because he has in the unfolding of God’s revelation been gifted with this ministry, his boldness is firmer than that of Moses (you might even be reminded of the many times Moses wavered and wanted nothing to do with the hard-hearted Israelites).
In v. 12, Paul’s greater confidence springs from the hope that he has from the abundantly more glorious New Covenant. Remember that Paul didn’t just one day wise up to the superiority of the New Covenant. He was made a minister. This ministry was a gift. And it’s from God himself. As he said earlier, this confidence is through Christ, because God has made him a sufficient minister of the New Covenant (3:4-6). The Spirit of the New Covenant gives life, freedom, and righteousness, whereas the Mosaic Covenant (when misused) brought death, slavery, and condemnation. What an honor for Paul to be made a minister of an incredible covenant. Such doctrine of grace ought to embolden anyone.
But why would Paul need to say that he as New Covenant minister was very bold, that he had much confidence? A couple reasons can be given. First, it’s because the knowledge of God that he was sharing, even though it was a pleasing aroma that gave life to those quickened by the Spirit (2:16; 3:6), nevertheless brought death to those unchanged by the gospel. Second, to put Moses in his covenantal place (i.e., in his typological place, not as the be-all-end-all of progressive revelation) is to stir the pot. The early Jewish Christians (e.g., Stephen in Acts 6:8-15, and Paul himself in Gal. 1; Acts 21:27ff; et al.) were often accused of hating on Moses or the Law, and they were understood as throwing the Mosaic Covenant out the window (which, of course, neither did). Hard truths aren’t always swallowed with glee or ease.
Paul, emboldened by his God, and confident through Christ, is hopeful of the life-giving Spirit to do his work in the lives of his hearers. Paul is able to courageously share the glories of the New Covenant with the Jews whose hearts and minds have been veiled by an overestimation and misappropriation of Moses and the Law. Paul is confident that “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (v. 16). Wherever the Spirit goes, freedom is sure to follow. Like the unpredictable blowing of the wind, we don’t know where Spirit goes (John 3:8), but we see the effect of his work. We, likewise, have such Spirit-wrought confidence, because the Spirit that was at work in Paul’s day is still at work in ours, setting the captives free, enlightening the eyes of the darkened, and granting new life to the dead.