Ministers of a New Covenant

Jesus told his disciples at the Last Supper that the cup of wine that he was giving them was his blood of the covenant that was poured out for the forgiveness of sins. But what is this new covenant that Jesus was talking about?

Jesus is referring to the fact that he would soon go to the cross. He would soon give himself, according to God’s plan, as a blood sacrifice, as payment for their sins. In fact, Jesus says that his blood is given for many for the forgiveness of sins.

His body would be broken on the cross and his blood would be poured out so that people from all over the world, both Jews and Gentiles, those that would place their faith in Christ, could receive grace and mercy from God. This now would have the effect of “opening the curtain”, allowing everyone access to God, through a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the New Covenant to which Jesus was referring. God will be our God through Jesus Christ – who is God himself – and we will be his people. We have a direct relationshp with God through Christ and faith in his death and resurrection to allow us to live an eternal life with him.

It is with this in mind that I read 2 Corinthians 3 this morning, noting that Paul commented on the fact that God made each of us ministers of the new covenant. Here is what he says:

Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant —not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

2 Corinthians 3:4-6

Paul talks about a “confidence” that we have. What confidence is he referring to? He is referring back to the previous paragraph where he speaks of the Corinthians, saying that they, themselves, are their letter of recommendation. They are the fruit of Paul’s work, his ministry. They are the ones that have the Spirit of God living within them as a result of their faith in Christ. Paul notes that it is not with regard to adherence to the law that they are saved, but it is walking by the Spirit that they have been given life.

Paul says that their competence to be ministers comes not from them, nothing that they would be able to offer from a human perspective. Furthermore, following the rules hasn’t enabled them either. No religiosity will allow Paul, nor any other believer, neither the confidence nor the competence to be ministers of the new covenant. Instead, what they have to offer comes only from God’s enabling, through the Holy Spirit, because it is only through the understanding given by the Spirit that we can understand what God has done for us through Christ.

Through our normal, human way of thinking, the adherence to the law makes sense. There is a standard and we must live up to the standard to be able to please God.

But in fact, this is not how God decided that the new covenant would work. Instead, God knew that we couldn’t live up to God’s standard. His standard is holiness. His standard is righteousness. But we are not righteous. We are not holy. We are sinful human beings, so we need a way that we can be made holy, and God himself gives a sacrifice that will make us holy.

And it is through this way, and only this way, that we can come to God. Only through being made holy by God can we be known by him. Only through the blood of Christ can we enter into the new covenant. That is what Jesus explained to his disciples, and now it follows what Paul has explained as well. We have been made ministers of the new covenant, allowing others to also enter into relationship with God because of what he has done within us through his Spirit.

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