2 Corinthians 3

Chapter three continues Paul’s defense of his apostolic ministry and authority in Corinth. It seems that one of the attacks his accusers used was that he had no credentials. Officially, that was true. However, Paul took the firm stance that, since he was commissioned by Jesus himself (Acts 9:15-16; Galatians 2:6-10), he did not “need letters of recommendation” either to or from the churches he started (2 Corinthians 3:1-3). On the contrary, the churches themselves and the stories of life change through Christ were all the credentials he needed to prove the authority and authenticity of his message. What could be better proof than the Corinthians themselves?

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Additionally, Paul needed nothing for his own benefit either, because God had both called him to that ministry and made him adequate to accomplish it (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

For the rest of the chapter, Paul used the example of Moses receiving the stones tablets with the Ten Commandments as an illustration of the difference between the old spiritual life under the Law and the new spiritual life under the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:7-18). Exodus 34:29-35 records that Moses’ face glowed after having seen God, but he wore a veil in the presence of the people when not relaying God’s message to them. Paul noted that this veil unintentionally became a barrier between them and God, much like the unbiblical clergy-laity divide in the Church. Rather than seeing it as a visible reminder that they could not approach God’s holiness, the people used it to elevate and exalt Moses.

On a spiritual level, the Jewish people still have a veil which they misunderstand, but it is the Law itself, the one that God gave through Moses. Paul was clear in Galatians 3:19-25 that the Law was a temporary guardian over Israel until Jesus came and that it did not have the power to give spiritual life, only point to death. Thus, in a sense, the Law actually kills those who trust in it for salvation (2 Corinthians 3:6), even though the Law itself was holy (Romans 7:7, 12). By clinging to the Law instead of turning to Christ, the Jewish people continue to “veil” their own eyes to the truth of God’s plan for them (2 Corinthians 3:15-16). Only the Spirit of God can produce the freedom they are looking for (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Acts 15

Chapter fifteen introduces the first major theological issue the early Church faced. About A.D. 50 (17 years after Acts 2), as the church at Antioch continued to grow with no sign of slowing down, some of the Jewish believers felt it necessary to “correct” an issue about which they had some concern. Specifically, the Gentiles were not being circumcised “ACCORDING TO THE CUSTOM OF MOSES” (Acts 15:1). In Exodus 12:48, circumcision was required of Gentiles for them to participate in Passover; spiritually, circumcision made them just like a natural-born Jew.

As Gentiles were being saved, many Jewish believers thought that they were essentially joining their Jewish Church, which required becoming a Jew (Acts 15:1-5). 1 To sort this out, Antioch sent “PAUL AND BARNABAS AND SOME OTHERS” to Jerusalem to meet with “BOTH THE APOSTLES AND THE ELDERS…TO DELIBERATE ABOUT THIS MATTER” (Acts 15:6). 2 During the discussion, Peter recounted what had happened to Cornelius (Acts 15:7-11), while Paul and Barnabas shared their ministry among the Gentiles (Acts 15:12). Finally, James spoke, the brother of Jesus and Chief Elder or Lead Pastor of the Jerusalem Church. After reminding the crowd that Gentiles were always part of God’s calling, he concluded that “WE SHOULD NOT CAUSE EXTRA DIFFICULTY FOR THOSE AMONG THE GENTILES WHO ARE TURNING TO GOD” (Acts 15:19). He suggested only that they refrain from a few things that were either blatant sin or that could cause Jews to stumble. So the church sent an official letter back to Antioch via Paul’s team, encouraging the believers and giving the results of their conference (Acts 15:22-35).

The chapter concludes with Paul making preparations for a second missionary tour (Acts 15:36-41). Barnabas wanted to include his nephew John Mark again, but Paul was vehemently against him because the young man had quit on the previous tour. The argument ended with the two apostles splitting ways. Barnabas took John to Cyprus, while Paul invited Silas to join him.

Notes:

  1. This group was probably the source of the Jewish opponents that Paul faced throughout his career, as they followed him around, adding the requirement of circumcision to his message of faith alone.
  2. The mention of elders here, distinct from the apostles, shows that the Seven from Acts 6 were not the only ones the apostles had placed into leadership in the Church. It is significant that they appointed “elders” to lead, not additional or new “apostles.” Thus, even this early, we see the two-fold distinction of elders and deacons that Paul taught further in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and mentioned in Philippians 1:1.

Zechariah 12

Chapter twelve begins the final message of the ultimate deliverance and restoration God would bring to Israel. At least 17 times these last three chapters contain the phrase “in/on that day,” showing the end times nature of this message. Zechariah 12:1 points back to God as Creator, declaring that, if he could create the heavens, earth, and humans, he could fulfill what he was about to promise. On the coming day of battle, Jerusalem and Judah would become a weight for any who would try to move it (Zechariah 12:2-6). During the battle on Jerusalem at Jesus’ Second Coming, he will strike the enemies’ horses with confusion and blindness, and their riders with madness. This will embolden the future Jewish leaders in their fight against “all the surrounding nations right and left.” Christ will “will set out to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem,” then restore Judah and Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:7-9).

In another prophecy setting up in his first coming, all of Israel will look on their Messiah, “the one they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10-14). This recognition will cause a great lamentation in Israel by all the clans of Israel. Three clans are specifically mentioned – Nathan, Levi, and Shimei. The Shimeites were part of the tribe of Levi (Exodus 6:16-17), so they and the Levites represent the priestly class in the kingdom. Nathan was the son of David whose descendant was Mary and, biologically, Jesus (Luke 3:23-31). Thus, Nathan and David refer to the royal class of the kingdom, generically, and to Jesus Messiah, specifically.