Two Corinthians 3

My last semester of college, I started working at Domino’s Pizza as a driver. I had a friend who worked for them and – with tips – was averaging $20/hour… which for a college kid in 2000 seemed like a whole lot of money. After I was asked not to return to Bob Jones University (for going to a 4Him / FFH concert – yes, that actually happened) I began to work my way up in the company – which is strangely more difficult than just learning how to eat pizza and chicken wings.

I became an assistant manager about six months in and then moved to store manager a coupla months later, and we rocked and rolled. I had a bevy of full-time and part-time employees, drivers and kitchen workers.

One of my drivers was an older Vietnam Vet named Bill. Bill was quirky and weird and hilarious and foul-mouthed and ABSOLUTELY suffered from PTSD, still 30 years later. One time, Bill and I were the only ones in the store and I dropped a pizza pan and Bill literally dove behind the counter and began to scream cursewords. After a coupla seconds, he stood up, brushed himself off and said, “I’m gonna go smoke. Be be back in a few.”

A few months later, Bill bought a used Police Cruiser via auction (this is a thing in South Carolina, not sure if it is here). He loved that car. He loved to – while he was delivering pizza – pull up behind cars and shine his side light into the back of the cars to scare people.

The problem with Bill’s new/old cruiser was that he just did not want to put his Domino’s car-topper on top of his newly-painted, beautiful old cruiser.  He did it once and the car-topper left suction marks on his paint job (for like 5 minutes) and he just wouldn’t do it again. Finally, it came to a head with my boss – the owner – calling me to say he’d seen Bill delivering pizzas without his car-topper and that I had to fire Bill if he didn’t put the thing on top of his car.

Bill returned from the delivery he was on and I delivered the bad news and Bill freaked the freak out. He cussed and ranted and raved and finally – as customers are literally walking out because of the hullabuloo – I fired him. I told him he had to leave.

He looked at me and he said, “I was a sniper in Vietnam. You better have eyes in the back of your head cuz I’m gonna blow that head right off.” And he walked out.

For three weeks, every time I walked out my house or walked out of work, I’d run to my car (or wherever I was going). I’d zig, I’d zag. I’d keep my head down (since I had not yet developed eyes in the back of my head).

Then one day three weeks later Bill walked in the front door of the store. “Hey, man! How you doing?” he asked.

I looked him up and down, looking for any gun-sized bulges in his clothing. “Um, I’m good, Bill. What’s up?”

“I am applying at Brooklyn Pizza – any chance you could write me a letter of recommendation?”

I wrote the most glowing recommendation I’ve ever written, in record time. I did not ask him if he was gonna put Brooklyn Pizza’s car-topper on his car and as he walked out of the front door, so did my fear of losing my head via a sniper bullet.




The Apostle Paul was writing his letters to the early churches all over the place, trying to help shape their understanding of who God was and how believers should act within the context of the church. Paul obviously wrote to many churches… but only a couple of churches got two letters. And you didn’t want to get two letters from Paul… because they basically meant you sucked at being a church and Paul needed to kick your butt to help you figure out how to be better.

Well – the church of Corinth got a second letter. And the feeling I get as I read here is that the Corinthian church was a little peeved at Paul, feeling like he’d judged them incorrectly or gotten it wrong about them. Of course, Paul was obviously not wrong… but leadership isn’t about the truth, it’s about how the people around you feel about the truth before you can ever get to the truth. So Paul has to unruffled some feathers in the 1st couple of chapters before we get to chapter three:


1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.


I sense mild sarcasm here. Paul is being a bit of a smart aleck here, right? The end of chapter two – and let’s not forget that Paul wrote this as one continuous letter that smart people later broke up into chapters – has Paul telling us basically that we have triumph in Christ and tells them that they are not peddlers of God’s word, but sincere men commissioned by God.

Then this: “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again?”

Ultimately, this is a mi;dly strange rabbit trail for Paul to go down. Do we need letters of recommendation? Or is your letter of recommendation what’s happening in your heart.

I’m trying to imagine how Bill would’ve felt if when he’d come to me for the letter of recommendation, I’d simply reached out and touched his chest and said, “You yourself are the letter of recommendation, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God.”

I’m pretty sure Bill pulls out a pistol from an ankle hoster and shoots me somewhere I don’t want to be shot… which is anywhere, really. Just anywhere.


4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.


The “letter” here is the letter of the law… but it’s interesting how he seems to tie this to the letter of recommendation. It’s actually interesting and cool wordplay. And like so many of Paul’s passages – especially ones we’ve been studying lately – he draws this clear distinction between the Law and the Spirit.

The beauty of Grace and living in the Spirit, is that we are able to live within the Spirit of the Law instead of the Letter of the Law. The Letter of the Law says don’t kill. The Spirit of the Law says hating is the same as murder. The letter of the law says don’t sleep with someone who isn’t your wife. The Spirit says even lusting after a woman is wrong.

But on the positive side, we all innately understand the Spirit of the Law in “real life”. Anybody ever driven? What’s the general rule when it comes to speed limits here in America? Drive 9 miles over the speed limit and you’re fine. The Letter says “Drive over 55 and you’ll get a ticket.” The Spirit (of Police Officers) says, “ Eh, you gotta really be going fast for me to give you a ticket… unless I need to meet my quota, then you’re in big trouble.”

Another Domino’s story: a coupla years after the original story, I had moved Domino’s stores out to a little town on the outskirts of Greenville, SC called Easley. I was out delivering pizzas, crossing over a bridge, when a Cop pulled out behind me. I looked at my speed… I was all good.

Then he turned his red & blues on. I pull over, and he saunters up and says {in a deep Southern accent} “You know why I pulled you over, sir?”

“No, actually I don’t officer.”

“You were going 39 in a 35, sir.”

“Um… what was that?”

That’s right. 39 in a 35. I mean according to the Letter of the Law, I was indeed breaking the Law. But come on, sir! The Spirit of the Law – according to my father, who I’m realizing now might have steered me very, very wrong – says something VERY different!

In fact, I think we subconsciously assume the Spirit of the Law about a lot in life. Think about how many times the things we say are misunderstood… we want people to give the benefit of the doubt. Give us the chance to not get it all the way right, but still “get” what we’re trying to say or do. That’s the Spirit of the Law vs the Letter, right? That’s grace.


7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.


I love the comparisons here.

First of all, how on fire is Paul’s wit here? He’s basically calling the Ten Commandments “the ministry of death carved on letters of stone”. Wow.

Then he reminds of the story of Moses coming down from the mountain, after receiving the Ten Commandments, with such a sunburn – i.e, this dude was straight baked from being in the presence of God – that the Israelites literally couldn’t even look at him. The guy was so radiant, people’s eyes would get burned if they looked at him.

But that kind of glory is brought to an end.

Remember, we’re talking about the Old Testament, Old Way (old covenant) God here. This is the God who could not be seen by the normal person. This was the God who could only be seen by the High Priests, within the Holy of Holies, in the inner room of the Temple, hidden behind a giant, perfect Veil.

And EVEN THEN… if the Priest wasn’t exactly garbed right or he wasn’t completely and perfectly clean or the dude had sinned… like ever… the guy was goner. I mean – they seriously used to tie a rope to the High Priest’s leg when he went into the Holy of Holies so that, if they hadn’t heard from him in a predetermined time, they’d have to pull his body out, cuz he was dead.

This is what Paul’s talking about here. He’s comparing this God of Law, this ministry of death from the Old Way to the God of Grace of the New Way and he’s like, “Look if Moses was all baked because of this glory, imagine how freaking awesome the Glory of Grace is!”

This Law that once had glory has no glory anymore. And if this thing that was once so glorious now is come to an end, how much more will this permanent grace have glory?

Holy cow, I love this passage. The Law is done. The Spirit lasts forever.


12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one[c] turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord[d] is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,[e] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.


Now Paul’s a little braggy here, but I get it. I feel a little pumped up right now, too.


Here’s verses 12-16 with my annotation: “Since we have such a hope {in this incredible, glorious Spirit of Grace}, we are very {freaking, crazy} bold, not like {that pansy} Moses who put a veil over his face so that the {wussy} Israelites might not gaze on the outcome of {this crazy law that} was being brought to an end. But {those Jews – who btw I, Paul, am} minds were hardened. For to this day when read the old {way} that same veil {i.e., the Veil that separated this Glorious God of Grace from the humanity is so longs to save} remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the Veil is removed {torn away, thrown away, trashed}.”

And now my favorite verse of all: “NOW {i.e., right now} God is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!”

The Veil has been torn. The scales have been lifted. The chains have been broken. We are free. Free to dance. Free to sing. Free to praise the name of Jesus. And we move and we clap and we worship freely because the Spirit of Freedom is here. It has set us free.

We can invite the Spirit into our worship – not because He is missing, but because we can finally see Him without the fear of being sunburnt by His glory! We can see Him, we can feel Him, we can know Him!

“And we, all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is a Spirit.”

And this worship… this ability to see the Spirit in the New Way… it is transforming us!