The Fifth in a Series of Sermons on Select Passages in Second Corinthians
Many of you have heard the revivalist preaching that I have. When Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “today is the day of salvation,” revivalists interpret this to mean that right now, at this very moment, the time has come for you to repent of your sin, and accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 5:17–“the old has passed away, the new has come”–are taken to mean that if you truly did accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you instantly become a new creature and all former bad and sinful habits should immediately cease. But if these bad habits don’t go away immediately, either you didn’t really surrender all and are holding something back, or else you love your sin more than you love Jesus. But this is not what Paul means. In fact, this peculiar reading of Paul’s discussion about the greater glory of the New Covenant robs us of the confidence of trusting in a merciful Savior who has reconciled us to God, precisely because we live in the New Covenant era and the age of the Holy Spirit. Those living under the Old Covenant could only look forward to that final sacrifice which would take away sin. But as beneficiaries of the New Covenant, we can look back to the reconciling death of Jesus, which once for all, establishes peace with God. The war is over. The day of salvation has come.
We are making our way through that section of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians in which the apostle is contrasting the fading glory of the Old Covenant God made with Israel at Mount Sinai, with the much greater glory of the New Covenant which has been ratified in the blood of Jesus Christ. Whereas the Old Covenant was written on stone tablets, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the New Covenant is written upon human hearts. Whereas the mediator of the Old Covenant was Moses, Jesus Christ is the mediator of the New. This is why the New Covenant has a greater glory, and will not fade away as did the Old Covenant which was superseded, and is now rendered obsolete by the coming of Jesus Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 3-6, Paul has made a running argument (in which he contrasts the old and new covenant) in defense of his apostolic authority which has been challenged by a group of self-proclaimed “super apostles” (as Paul calls them). In Paul’s absence from Corinth, these men complained that Paul was not eloquent enough, too weak and lacking in charisma, and not present frequently enough in Corinth, to properly serve as an apostle. Paul is not as capable as they are. And so despite his own weaknesses and lack of personal charisma, Paul points the Corinthians back to the power of the gospel and to the greater glory of the new and better covenant. This isn’t about Paul’s personality, or how to attract an audience.
In the previous section of 2 Corinthians, Paul pointed out that in light of the contrast between the fading and temporary glory of the Old Covenant, and the greater glory of the New, Christians must walk by faith and not by sight. Although Paul speaks of fallen humanity as “tents” and “jars of clay” (temporary dwellings because of our human weakness and frailty), Paul reminds us that we must live our daily lives in the light of eternity. Paul knows what it is to have given himself completely to the cause of Christ–in fact, to the point that death shadows the apostle constantly. Yet Paul exhorts us that even as we wear out physically (due to age, illness, and the wear and tear of life), we need not lose heart, or despair because of our circumstances. Paul reminds us that we have been given new life in Christ (regeneration), we are presently being sanctified (being renewed day by day), and one day, we will be raised from the dead (in an eternal dwelling not built by human hands–the resurrection of our bodies).
To read the rest of this sermon: Click Here