The Third in a Series of Sermons on Select Passages in Second Corinthians
The coming of Jesus Christ is the critical turning point in redemptive history. Before the coming of Jesus, God’s people (Israel) related to God under the terms of the covenant God made with Israel at Mount Sinai. The Sinaitic covenant (or Old Covenant) centered in God’s revelation of his will (complete with blessings and curses) in the form of the two stone tables of the law. The mediator of that covenant was Moses, and its character was that of type and shadow. But with the coming of Jesus Christ, through his sacrificial death and perfect obedience, the law of God is now fulfilled, and a new age of redemptive history has dawned–an age we know as the New Covenant era and the age of the Holy Spirit. The fading glory of the Old Covenant has given way to the glories of the New. Understanding redemptive history in terms of promise (Old Covenant) and fulfillment (New Covenant) is not only essential in making sense of the Bible, but in 2 Corinthians 3, Paul draws our attention to this matter in order to help us understand the nature of his apostolic office, which is conducted in the power of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel.
We are continuing our series on select passages in 2 Corinthians. We have come to Paul’s remarkable contrast between the ministry of Moses and glory of the New Covenant. Although much mischief has been done throughout the centuries by those who misread Paul’s contrast between the law and the Spirit, this distinction arises from the fact that the coming of Jesus Christ fulfilled everything to which the law and the Old Covenant administration had pointed. The coming of Jesus Christ reveals that God’s promises have been fulfilled, and that the coming of the Holy Spirit is one of the great hallmarks of the New Covenant era just as Jeremiah, Joel, and Ezekiel had predicted. Paul now sets forth the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old as the theological basis for his mission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, and to establish largely Gentile churches such as the church in Corinth.
It is important to keep in mind the reason why Paul wrote the letter we know as 2 Corinthians. Recall that Paul writes this second Corinthian letter instead of undertaking yet another difficult journey to Corinth. In the opening chapters of this letter, Paul addresses the themes of Christian comfort in the midst of persecution and affliction, as well as the need for brothers and sisters in Christ to forgive one another and not let personal disputes foster division in the churches. Paul has also spoken of how the Lord has opened a door for him to go and preach the gospel in Troas and Macedonia, and that despite his own weaknesses, and due to those difficult circumstances which left him feeling as though he could not go on (either physically or emotionally), God had blessed his preaching and Paul gives thanks.
In preaching the gospel, Paul witnessed the triumphal procession of Christ, as he calls it. The gospel establishes the true knowledge of God, and is described by Paul using the metaphor of a fragrant aroma. This metaphor made perfect sense to Paul’s contemporaries who were familiar with imperial processionals in which the emperor’s passing presence was accompanied by flower petals and incense, while the defeated enemy brought up the rear, wreaking with bodily stench. In using this metaphor, Paul is also alluding to the fact that throughout the Old Testament, various sin offerings and thanksgiving offerings are described as having a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Paul describes the gospel as a pleasing aroma unto God because Jesus offers the one sacrifice which is sufficient to remit the guilt of our sins.
To read the rest of this sermon: Click Here