Daily Bible Nugget #204, 2 Corinthians 3:6

The Nugget:

2 Corinthians 3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

My Comment:

The letter of the Scriptures without the spirit killeth. Several times I’ve had individuals throw this verse in my face. I first heard it misused back in the 1960s when the Jesus People and Hippies appeared on the scene. Some of them wanted to avoid doctrinal discussions from the Bible at all costs. I’ve had a few Pentecostal believers use this same text that way too. It is as if they read this verse to mean that careful Bible study and doctrinal teaching represented the “letter,” and supposedly spirit-led free-wheeling discussion about spiritual things was the way to go. They even preached this theme, in one service I attended, using the illustration of a bird must have two wings to fly, representing the Spirit and the Word. Of course they implied that anyone who centered their life on the Word in the Bible was lacking the Spirit. Such a stance opens up the highway to heresy in a hurry.

Paul was writing about the Ten Commandment Law, which brings death, which he called the “letter.” If we think we must obey the Ten Commandments in order to be saved, we will be lost, for no one except Christ has ever kept the Law perfectly. That truth hardly represents antinomianism, the mistaken notion that anything goes since grace covers it all. Paul’s enemies used this notion against him (Romans 3:8). Yet many who understand and teach that we are saved by grace through faith still over-emphasize one particular commandment, the Fourth Commandment regarding keeping the Sabbath holy. Such an emphasis is legalism. Such an emphasis fails to acknowledge that in Christ we are no longer under the Law, but under grace. Nine of the commandments are addressed to Christian believers by repetition in the New Testament, but the Fourth Commandment regarding the Sabbath is never once given as a commandment anywhere in the New Testament. That surely is a significant omission. Any emphasis upon keeping the Law is a mistaken emphasis. The emphasis must be on establishing a right relationship with God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for us (Romans 10:9-10). One who has true faith in Christ experiences the regenerative change (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17) that accompanies the experience of the new birth (John 3:7). The Holy Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit in the lives of true believers (Galatians 5:22-23; Romans 8:4). Paul wrote to the Galatians that those who are led of the Spirit are not under the law (Galatians 5:18). John begins the Gospel of John by asserting that the law came by Moses, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17).

For those who desire to DIG DEEPER into this subject:

(1) Consult the cross references given in Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible on page 1331 for 2 Corinthians 3:6.

(2) Consult the cross references given in The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge on page 1354 or in Logos 5 Bible software for 2 Corinthians 3:6.

(3) Lacking access to those two resources, consult the cross references for this passage as I have developed them as given below:

2 Corinthians 3:6. also. FS77, +Ex 3:19. hath. 2 Cor 5:18-20. *2 Cor 12:9. Ps 78:72. 119:25. Mt 13:52. Ro 1:5. 1 Cor 3:5, 10. 12:28. *Ep 3:7. 4:11, 12. *Col 1:25-29. *1 Tim 1:11, 12. 4:6. 2 Tim 1:11. made us able. 1 Ch 26:8. Col 1:12g. ministers. Gr. diakonos (S#1249g, Mk 9:5). ver. 2 Cor 3:3. 2 Cor 4:1. 5:18, 20. 6:4. 11:23. =1 Ch 26:8. Jl 1:13. Ep 3:7. 4:12. +*Col 1:23, 25. 1 Tim 1:12. 2 Tim 2:15. the new. Gr. kainos (S#2537g, Mk 2:22n). ver. 2 Cor 3:14. *Je 31:31-34. Mt 9:17n. *+Mt 26:28. Mk 14:24. Lk 22:20. 1 Cor 11:25. He 7:22. *He 8:6-10, 13. 9:15-20. 12:24. 13:20mg. testament. or, covenant. Gr. diathēkē (S#1242g, Mt 26:28). This is the covenant of Je 31:31. See Mt 26:28. Compare He 8:6-13 (CB). not. *Ro 2:27-29. 6:14. *Ro 7:6. of the letter. Gr. gramma (S#1121g, Lk 16:6). This is the Siniatic covenant, called “the ministration of death” in ver. 7 (CB). Ro 2:29. spirit. Gr. pneuma, FS121A2, +Mt 26:41n. Here, “spirit” is put for the gospel (so C. Hodge). Horne states “But by the spirit is intended the saving doctrine of the Gospel” (Introduction, vol. 2, p. 455). +*Mt 26:41. Jn 6:63. Ro 8:2. letter killeth. FS121I2, +Ge 2:17. T#1054. This often cited but misapplied text is used too frequently to belittle faithful adherence to the teaching of written Scripture (misidentified as the “letter” that killeth) as opposed to following the “spirit” as identified with the nebulous experience of the objector who alleges a disdain for doctrinal teaching. More correctly, “letter” refers to the Mosaic law written on stone (thus a direct reference to the Ten Commandments), which brings death because it condemns all who cannot keep it (Le 18:5n), but the gospel of Christ, here called “spirit,” written in the heart, brings life to all who will receive it. ver. 2 Cor 3:7, 9. Dt 27:26. Jn 6:63. Ro 3:20. *Ro 4:15. *Ro 7:5, 9-11. *Ga 3:10-12, 21, 22. but the. *Jn 6:63. Ro 8:2. 1 J 1:1. spirit. Gr. pneuma, FS121A2, +Mt 26:41n. FS121A3, +Nu 11:17. ver. 2 Cor 3:8, 17. **Ga 5:25. 1 Th 1:5. giveth life. or, quickeneth. *2 Cor 5:15. Jn 5:21. *Jn 6:63. Ro 4:17. *Ro 8:2, 11. 1 Cor 15:45. *Ga 5:4-6. Ep 2:1, 5. Col 2:13. 1 P 3:18.

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1 Response to Daily Bible Nugget #204, 2 Corinthians 3:6

  1. ken sagely says:

    2 co 3.6 who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter,
    but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

    encouraging cross refs(the best commentary on the bible is the bible)
    1. 2 co 5.18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself
    by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
    2. ep 3.7 Whereof i was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God
    given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
    3. ep 4.11-12 Aand he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some,evangelists;
    and some, pastors and teachers; vs 12 for the perfecting of the saints, for the work
    of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
    4. mt 26.28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the
    remission of sins.
    5. rom 7.6 But now we are delievered from the law, that being dead wherein we were
    held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
    6.rom 3.20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his
    sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
    7. rom 8.2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ jesus hath made me free from the
    law of sin and death.
    8. 1 pe 3.18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

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