In this chapter, the apostle Paul is beginning to engage with some of the tactics and teachings of the unnamed false teachers who had gained influence among the Corinthian believers. False teaching must be combatted, and Paul does that here.
It seems the false teachers were carrying around letters of recommendation as they moved from one church to another. Maybe the Corinthian Christians were asking, “Where is Paul’s letter of recommendation? Who gives him his credentials as an apostle?”
This is a good question for us today. Many of us have college degrees. We can pull them out if anyone ever wonders about how we were educated – and by whom. Others are certified in their trades. They have certificates they can pull out to show they have been properly trained in their profession.
Where was Paul’s letter of recommendation? Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation.” This should have made the church sit up and listen. The church itself was evidence of the authenticity of Paul’s ministry. Here was a group of people from all walks of life who had been pulled away from false religion to the One True God. This group of people had the Holy Spirit, and they were living lives of power and wisdom.
If Paul needed to point anywhere for recommendation about his ministry, he could point to the church in Corinth.
But not only that, Paul said the church was “a letter from Christ.” This really should have made them sit up and take notice. It should make us sit up and take notice. If Jesus were to write a letter to this fallen world, that letter would be in the form of his church. We share the message of the gospel, both in our words and actions. If someone want to know what it is like to have the gospel and to be in Christ, that person only needs to pay attention to what the church is doing and how it is living.
Paul then contrasted the new covenant with the old covenant that God made with his people Israel through Moses. It seems likely that the false teachers in Corinth were trying to get the new Christians to adhere to the Old Testament Law. We sometimes call them Judaizers. These people teach that true Christians must keep the Jewish law and practices.
But Paul noted the new covenant of grace is permanent and surpasses the old covenant. The new covenant is connected to Christ and is sealed by the Holy Spirit. The old covenant was for a time, and that time had passed. It wasn’t that there was no value in the old covenant. But Jesus has fulfilled all of its requirements. We keep that covenant through our faith in Christ.
Moses wore a veil over his face after he received the Law from God. Read Exodus 34:29-35. The veil protected the people of Israel from seeing the fierce glory of God in the face of Moses. In some sense, people still read the Old Testament Law with a veil between themselves and the glory of God.
But faith in Jesus Christ takes away that veil. We can see right into the things of God with unveiled faces. That is, we can see and understand that forgiveness of sins comes through Jesus Christ. We can see the righteousness of God in Jesus.
The Holy Spirit, which fills us, enables us to do what those under the old covenant were unable to do. The Spirit gives life, and the Spirit brings freedom.
In this, we can rejoice.