Paul thanks God for two things: (1) victory in Christ - “leading in triumph” (Col 2:15) and proclaming of the Gospel everywhere - “manifesting the odor of the knowledge of Christ”.
It is God, who leads in triumph in Christ; it is also God who proclaims the Gospel through the apostles. The victory is permanent - always; and the proclamation reaches everywhere.
The odor (2:14), becomes “sweet smell” (see Gen 8:21 LXX - the same word, also Ex 29:18; Ezekiel 6:13). Thus, the word is used in relation to the OT offerings and sacrifices. Paul sees either Christians or the proclamation of the Gospel by Christians as that kind of sacrificial sweet small of Christ to God.
Then, in front of the Gospel one cannot remain neutral. There are only two options: for or against (1 Cor 1:18). The idea of two options is often seen in the OT (see Psalm 1, Jer 17:5–8). This is also present in the Gospel (Matt 7:13–14.24–27).
2:17 - Paul and his companions are able to manifest this sweet small of Christ, because they do not “kapeleuontes” the word. This word means “to make money by selling anything” and “to do a thing for base gain”. In this case, it would indicate that there were some - already in the time of Paul - who preached the word of God for gain. But, this word can also mean “to corrupt, to adulterate”. In this case, it would indicate the corruption of the message of the Gospel.
Perhaps, some in order to profit from the preaching corrupted the word of God make it more appealing to the people. In this case, the sharp distinction between those who “unto death” and those “unto life” (2:16) would disappear.
It was a common practice that the missionaries - apostles, going into new community that did not know them asked for the letters of recommendation (see Acts 18:24–27).
In the case of Paul, the community in Corinth is such a letter - everyone knew that Paul founded it.
3:3 - refers to Ex 24:12 and Jer 31:33. Their conversion from paganism to Christianity fulfills the promise of Jer 31:33.
Introduction (3:4–5) - the apostleship is God’s gift - its power comes from God;
|differences||Moses (Old Testament)||Apostles (New Testament)|
|first difference||letter||Spirit (3:6–8)|
|second diffrence||ministry of condemnation||ministry of righteousness/justification (3:9–10)|
|third difference||being done away||remaining (3:11)|
|fourth difference||veil over Moses’s face (3:12)||no veil anymore (3:18)|
|fifth difference||Israel||Church (3:14–17)|
Conclusion - the Christians are the icons of the Lord (3:18)
3:4–5 answers the question in 2:16 - the source of any evangelical ‘success’ is God.
3:6 - God is also the one who chose Paul and others to this ministry - to proclaim the Gospel (see Gal 1:15–16).
In this verse we have the phrase - New Testament - that become the name for the Christian part of the Bible. The same term appears in the stories of the Last Supper related in the Gospels (Matt 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; see also 1 Cor 11:25, Hebr 9:15).
This New Testament is described as of the Spirit as opposed to the Old Testament described as of the letter (see again 3:3).
The Spirit testifies that we are God’s children (see Gal 4:6). The Spirit ‘writes’ on human hearts.
Letter - refers to Ex 31:18; 34:1 God wrote the law (Decalogue) on the first and second tablets and 34:27–28 - Moses wrote the laws given by God. The word write (grapho)and letter (gramma) in Greece has the same root.
The Old Law - as argued in Gal 3:10–12 - leads to condemnation - informs what should be done, but it does not empower us to do that, it is also unable to justify us (Heb 9:13–14). On the other hand, the New Law sets us free from the requirements of the law and the Spirit within us empowers us to live according to God’s will - as God’s children.
3:7–16 - (see 34:29–35). Both ministries possess glory. But one is short-lived the other is permanent; one has glory, the other has excelling glory (3:10). Thus, the Old Testament pales in comparison with the New Testament.
There seems to be two reasons why Moses veiled his face: (1) that people would not see the glory of God on his face (see 3:15); (2) that people would not see that the radiant face of Moses is not permanent but fades way with the passing time (see 3:13).
In the first case, we have the biblical principle - namely that only Christ can explain the Scriptures - the Old Testament (see Luke 24:44–45). This verse (3:15) also reflects the sad reality of Paul’s time - very few Jews joined him in following Christ (Rom 9:2–5). In the second case, Paul states that the New Testament is permanent.
3:17 - an interesting verse: It can be translated:
It all depends which noun in this sentence is taken as the subject of the verb “is”.
Freedom from the Law with its impossible to fulfill rules and obligations leading to condemnation (3:6).
3:18 - a beautiful ending. The people could not look at the face of Moses radiating with God’s glory. Christians can look at the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces ,but “beholding in a mirror” (the idea that no one can see the face of God directly and remain alive - see also 1 Cor 13:12).
Like Moses’ face was radiant after spending time with the Lord, so Christians shine by being transformed into the image of Christ (see Gen 1:27).
Christ is the image of God (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15); Christians are being transformed into the image of Christ. We have here an idea of renewal - the image that was lost after the Fall, now is being ‘renewed’ in those, who turn to Christ (2 Cor 4:6).