Paul proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom in terms of relationships. In 2 Corinthians 3 his focus is on God’s relationship with us in the Spirit in contrast to God’s relationship with His old covenant people.
Paul tells the Corinthians and us we are a letter of Messiah “written with the Spirit of the living God.” He was a servant of the new covenant, “not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
God’s old covenant people were under the Law. Not just the 10 Commandments, written on stone, but many rules and regulations.
1 Are we beginning again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as do some, letters of commendation to you or from you? 2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men, 3 being revealed that you are a letter of Messiah, served by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone, but in tablets that are hearts of flesh.
4 Such confidence we have through Messiah toward God, 5 not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Cor 3:1-6
Now, Paul compares the glory of old covenant to the glory of the new covenant.
The Law written engraved on stones came with glory. When Moses went to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, Moses and the Israelites saw the glorious presence/Sh’kkinah of God. God’s presence terrified the people.
“All of Mount Sinai smoked, because the LORD descended on it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly” (Ex 19:18). “All the people perceived the thunderings, the lightnings, the sound of the shofar, and the mountain smoking. When the people saw it, they trembled, and stayed at a distance” (Ex 20:18).
While Moses was on the mountain, they made a golden calf to worship. When Moses came down and saw their idolatry, he thew down the tablets of stone and broke them.
God was going to destroy them, but Moses interceded and God relented. Then God called Moses to the mountain a second time and again gave him the tables of stone. When Moses came down from the mountain the second time, his face was so radiant the people begged him to put a veil over his face (Ex 34:29-35).
“…won’t service of the Spirit be with much more glory?”
The service of death vs. the service of the Spirit 7 But if the service of death, written engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look steadfastly on the face of Moses for the glory of his face, which was passing away, 8 won’t service of the Spirit be with much more glory?
The service of condemnation vs. the service of righteousness 9 For if the service of condemnation has glory, the service of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For most certainly that which has been made glorious has not been made glorious in this respect, by reason of the glory that surpasses. 11 For if that which passes away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.
The veil 12 Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness of speech, 13 and not as Moses, who put a veil on his face, that the children of Israel wouldn’t look steadfastly on the end of that which was passing away. 14 But their minds were hardened, for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains, because in Messiah it passes away. 15 But to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.
The veil taken away 16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face seeing the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Cor 3:7-17