Monthly Archives: June 2016

2 Corinthians with Andy Murray

Old and New – Part III

The surpassing glory of Christ

2 Corinthians 3:4-18

Andrew Murray

Introduction

We have been in verses 4-18 of 2 Corinthians 3 considering the glory of Christ and the New Covenant and this week we continue in those verses. This section hangs together in Paul’s thought and is really laying a crucial foundation for Paul’s explanation of ministry in the New Covenant. As some of you may have noticed in the last two weeks of our study we have landed in verses 7-11 but have not yet really unpacked verses 4-6 in any real depth. There is a reason for that.

Next time, if the Lord wills, we will take up verses 4-6 and verses 12-16 as those verse apply the glory of the New Covenant to New Covenant ministry. The surpassing glory of Christ and the New Covenant in His blood shapes New Covenant ministry and ministers is certain ways. And really the shape of New Covenant ministry is what Paul is going to be unfolding all the way through chapter 5 and into chapter 6 and beyond.

But we still have work to do in understanding the glorious nature of the New Covenant as Paul describes it in these verses. So we are going to be focusing in on verses 17 and 18 as Paul gives us two more aspects of the New Covenant. And although Paul does not explicitly tease out the contrasts with the Old Covenant here, the contrasts are implied. And elsewhere in the NT Paul does tease out the contrasts and so we will look at some of the contrast as well.

But the two aspects of the New Covenant that we will consider this morning are Freedom and Transformation.

Slavery vs Freedom

Let’s dive right into verse 17:

2 Corinthians 3:17

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Let’s focus in here on the contrast Paul is making. He says that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Make no mistake, he is saying that every person in the New Covenant has had the Spirit of the living God written upon their hearts (3:1-3). He is talking about the nature of the New Covenant. Every person who comes to God through faith in Jesus Christ has the Spirit of the Lord in them. Christ is in you. This is one of the terms of this Covenant: God plants His Spirit in you. You are a new creation.

But what we need to notice here is that this means something in your life now and into eternity. Paul says, “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” When the Spirit of the living God lives in you He brings with Him freedom. What is Paul talking about?

Well, to unpack this allow me bring in a parallel passage of Paul.

Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

In this Galatians context that yoke of slavery is the law. He says in the next verse that if you accept any part of the law (circumcision being the issue there) as required to get you right with God you are then obligated to keep the whole law and Christ is of no advantage to you.

In other words, there is no middle ground between these covenants. Either you approach God by your own merits and works of the law, which is slavery, or you approach God by Christ’s merits and work on your behalf, which is freedom. To stand in some imagined middle ground where Christ does something and you do something, is to reject and distain Christ’s perfect, sufficient, completed, finished glorious work.

So Paul says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” This is a very similar context as in 2 Corinthians. False teachers had come in undermining the sufficiency of Christ in the gospel. And Paul would have none of it! Christ has done it all!

The Law did not serve to liberate and set free; it served to enslave and imprison. The prison is the prison of sin and fear and guilt and death. And the Law is the cord that binds us there. The holy standard of God enslaves us in the prison of our sin and guilt. Again, let’s get this language and picture in our thinking as New Covenant people. We do not relate to God as slaves, yoked with a heavy burden. We do not sit chained in a dungeon, restricted by the holy standard of God from doing what we want to do. Slaves labor because they must. Slaves are kept in line by external restrain and force. That is not the nature of our relationship with God. You are not a slave to your sin and the law does not bind you to sin and condemnation and death.

You are free. There is no heavy yoke on your shoulders. There is no chain on your wrists or ankles. There is no dungeon. There is no locked door keeping you from doing what you want to do. There is no whip ready to strike your back – there is no threat of death in this covenant. There is no external restraint or force keeping you in line. You are a member of the New Covenant and you are free!

And the language Paul uses over and over again in his New Testament letters (and as he will quote from Isaiah in chapter 6 of 2 Corinthians) is that we are sons, not slaves; we are heirs, not enemies. “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Galatians 3:26)!

How do you think about your relationship to God? Are you coming to church desperately trying to get God on your side? Are you laboring under a yoke of slavery trying to behave and perform because you fear the lash? Do you feel chained in a dark dungeon – forced to do what’s required but hating ever minute of it?

Or have you beheld the glory of Christ and the New Covenant in Him and been set free? As the great hymn And Can It Be? says so well,

Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night; Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light. My chains fell off; my heart was free. I rose went forth and followed Thee.

Has this happened to you? Has God sent out His quickening ray into your heart – in other words have you been born again, made live, and has He written the Spirit of the living God on your heart? Have your chains fallen off? Has your heart been set free? Have you left the dungeon of sin and guilt and fear and stepped forth into the freedom of the sons of God?

Paul says in Romans 8:14 -15 “…all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!

How do you think about your relationship to God? What are the terms of that relationship? Are you compelled by fear because you are a slave or are you compelled by love because you are a son or daughter? Paul tells us in our passage this morning, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Is that how you would describe your life? If the Spirit of the Living God is in you this means something extraordinary in your life now and into eternity. It means you are free indeed. Free from fear. Free from condemnation. Free from death. Free from the power of sin. Christ has set you free forever and you are an heir of glory. That is who you are in Christ.

Objection!

Now I can imagine an objection: It sounds like you’re saying we have been set free to be lawless – the chain that bound us is gone and we are set lose. It sounds like your saying that Christians are free… to sin, free… to plunge into wickedness and do whatever they please. What are you saying? Are we free to do wickedness?

As Paul says in Romans: may it never be!

Maybe an illustration will help:

Let’s say your great uncle dies and you have the misfortune of inheriting his dog. Now this is not an ordinary dog. Your uncle spent years making this dog the meanest, most ugly, most vicious guard dog he could. This dog is ferocious. Just a nasty critter. Well soon someone comes over to deliver this dog to you from your uncle’s estate and it comes in a cage, which is dropped off in your backyard. Well, you can’t get within 25 feet of that cage without his dog snarling and barking and snapping at the cage. This is one mean-hearted stinker of a dog.

Now we would all agree that it would be foolish open that cage. If you value your skin and your children that dog is doomed to the cage. For all intents and purposes this dog is a slave. Because of the nature of this dog it needs to be chained, confined, restricted. The fact is that the cage is a testimony to its nature.

You see, by nature we are the dangerous dog and the law was like a cage keeping us restrained by external force, but doing nothing to change our nature. In fact, the law only enflamed the sinful nature in our heart and served to condemn us. So, you can understand the objection of somebody when they think they hear Paul in 2 Corinthians saying Christ has set the nasty dog free! Free?!? Free to kill and devour and maul? Don’t let that dog out!

But what if there was a way to change this dog’s nature? What if you could change its heart of stone – its nasty dog eat dog heart – and replace it with a heart of flesh – a new nature?

Now, I don’t know of any surgery or pill or therapy that can change a dog’s nature, but I do know of a covenant that always without fail change a person’s nature – a covenant that takes out a heart of stone and puts in a heart of flesh – a heart that feels what it ought to feel.

Here is a crucial thing: Paul did not say, Christ has let the nasty dog out. He said through Christ the Spirit of the living God was been written on the tablets of human hearts to be seen and read by all. He said, in the new Covenant the Spirit gives life. He said the New Covenant is the Ministry of the Spirit and where the Spirit of Christ is there is freedom. You no longer need a cage because you have the Spirit; you don’t need a chain, you don’t need restraint or a whip to do what you ought to do

In the New Covenant how do we serve? What moves us?

Romans 7:6

But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Brothers and sisters, in Christ, we are not whipped or chained or caged or threatened. There is no external force bearing down on us. That is not how we serve. We are free. We serve in the new way of the Spirit. We are not whipped from behind. We are led from within – as God’s sons and daughters. In the New Covenant we are actually remade in the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Where do I see that here in 2 Corinthians 3? Verse 18.

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 the Spirit.

Transformation

We need to take note of a couple things here.

Remade

First, notice that in the New Covenant we are actually remade in the likeness of Jesus Christ: we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord (Jesus), are being transformed into the same image. We are being transformed. This is a passive action on our part. God is the one transforming us; we are the one’s being transformed as it says, “this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Let’s mark this carefully in our thinking.

When one comes to the Lord Jesus Christ by saving faith and enters the New Covenant it is not simply that Divine justice is satisfied, wrath is removed, a righteous verdict is given, there is now no condemnation, and an everlasting inheritance with God and His people is secured – that is all true – but that is not all. The New Covenant comes with the glory of Christ’s transforming power as well. The New Covenant does not leave us to go on snarling. You can’t change yourself, but God can. And Paul says, “we all.” If you are a believer the Spirit is at work in you.

A Process

But notice here also that this transformation is not instantaneous. We are being transformed – on going action, not, “we have already been completely transformed in the past.” No, it is from one degree of glory to another. So when you catch yourself snarling at someone don’t throw your hands up and think God is not at work in you. No. The question is not do you ever struggle with that old dog nature, the question is: are you in Christ by faith because if you are you have Christ in you! You may have a lot of nasty dog in there, but if you are in Christ His Spirit is leading you, transforming you, and it will be seen.

Our Part

Now, in verse 18, does Paul describe this process of New Covenant transformation in such a way that we have nothing to do with it at all? Does God just zap us periodically and bingo we are one step closer to being fully remade? (wow! I woke up more godly this morning!) No.

Is it as we compile longer and longer lists of dos and don’t and review those lists? “I’m not supposed to steel… not supposed to lie… not supposed to lust… not supposed to worry.” No.

God has designed our transformation so wisely – in this New Covenant. It is as we are beholding the glory (weight, significance, excellencies) of the Lord Jesus Christ that we are transformed into His image from one degree of glory to another.

Steady Diet of Beholding

I want to land here just and consider the immensity of this New Covenant occupation and privilege of beholding the glory of Jesus. It is our great New Covenant occupation and privilege.

In John 17 this was Jesus’ prayer to the Father, that you and I might be with Him to behold His glory (17:24). And here Paul says that it is as we behold the glory of the Lord that we are being transformed into His image from one degree of glory to another by the Spirit.

How will we be changed (transformed) from being selfish, lying, thieving, bitter, mean, lusting, using, addicted, self-righteous, un-loving people? In God’s infinite wisdom this is not automatic. The transforming power of the New Covenant to remake us in Christ’s image does not, cannot, will never happen apart from beholding the glories, excellencies, beauties of Christ as He shines forth from the gospel. If you don’t see His glory, you won’t become like Him. If you don’t know Him you will not be transformed.Transformation will not happen if we are ignorant of and indifferent to the Lord of glory. Storms:

“Sanctification is the fruit of seeing and savoring”

The Essence of Sin

I think to understand the essence of Christian transformation we need to understand the essence of sin. The essence of sin, according to Romans 1, is the exchanging of the truth about God for a lie and worshipping and serving created things rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, amen (Romans1:25). It is the exchanging of the glory of the immortal God for images – fakes! (Romans 1:23). The essence of sin is to take the infinite worth and loveliness of who God is and cast it aside as common and worthless – to not honor Him or give thanks to Him.

As the Lord says in Jeremiah 2:11-13,

…my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils:  they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

That is the essence of sin. Many will say that sin is the breaking of God’s law. Yes, that is true. But what is God’s law? To love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself, just as He does. The essence of sin is the rejection of God as the great treasure, the great fountain of life, the great satisfaction of the soul, our very great reward. And so the essence of righteousness and holiness is to love and esteem and value and enjoy and treasure and savor the Lord above all other treasures.

Transformation in your life cannot take place apart from beholding the glory of the Lord, because the very transformation we are talking about is the transformation of going from one degree of seeing and savoring His glories to another, deeper, fuller, higher degree of seeing, that is comprehending, and savoring, that is loving, adoring, enjoying His glories. Transformation in your life is all about learning of God in the revelation of the Son, Jesus Christ and loving Him.

Sanctification, this process of going from one degree of glory to another, truly is the fruit of seeing and Savoring Christ as He is revealed to us in the gospel.

Under the Law, to gaze upon the Lord of glory was to be condemned to death. Under the Old Covenant there was no transformation, there was increased trespass and guilt and death. Do you know the terms of the New Covenant and the infinite privilege that is ours in Christ to gaze upon the Son for life and joy and love and peace! Are you setting your gaze upon Him? Is this you occupation? Do you see it as the highest privilege of your life?

Christians Without Christ

This week I had the frustrating experience of listening to a preacher do what he called preaching a sermon. The message was about life as a Christian and the preacher claimed to be drawing the message from the bible, though there was no effort given to understanding any particular biblical text. Instead, the preacher pulled out one idea: persevere. And this pastor went on to define and explain this important quality that Christians should have. We must finish what we have started, press on, and finish well. Many motivations were given: this is what pleases God, this will reap great benefits in your life, etc. And he gave personal illustrations and even showed a secular movie clip to punctuate his point.

And yet there was nothing Christian about this sermon (the suffix ‘-ian’: of, relating to, or resembling; one relating to, resembling, or belonging to) The only time our Lord was mentioned was the closing prayer: in Jesus name, amen.

But how does Christ factor into our Christian lives?

It is an absolute travesty of Christianity to think that what we really need more than anything is moral instruction and practical tips for living. That is not what we need. The Old Covenant contains many details about what Israel was to do – and all that did was condemn them. Yes, the bible is full truth about what is good and right and acceptable, but unless we understand the terms of the New Covenant in Christ and what transformation is and how it happens, we will misuse and abuse ever word and sentence in the Bible, claiming to be teaching Christian truth all the while ignoring the Christ.

What we need is to behold the glory of Christ in His Person and work. And it is a tragedy in the Church when we abandon Him, the fountain of living water, and seek happiness and satisfaction and joy and maturity and godliness apart from Him.

The great endeavor of our lives in this age and the one to come must be to drink from the fountain of living waters, Jesus Christ. In Him there is abundant life and perfect peace and fullness of joy and practical holiness and satisfaction and maturity and every other spiritual blessing. Are you setting your gaze upon Him?

Summary

So, we have seen this morning that the terms of the New Covenant in Christ result in freedom. Freedom from fear and guilt and death. Freedom from sin’s power. In Christ you are a son, not a slave, an heir not an enemy. And we have seen this morning that the terms of the New Covenant result in transformation. The glory that once meant condemnation and death and fear and guilt now means righteousness and life and love and joy and satisfaction in God for all who are in Christ by faith. The law could not touch our nature, but the Spirit has come and is at work to transform us from one degree of glory to another as we behold the excellencies of our beloved lord and Savior, Jesus Christ as He comes in the gospel with power and wisdom and holiness and meekness and mercy and love.

Let us press on, let us press on to know the King, Jesus Christ.

~ Andy

About Andrew Murray
Andrew “Andy” Murray was born and raised in New Hampshire. His father, pastor Loren Murray, served Fellowship Bible Church in Chester, NH. At six years of age Andy trusted in Jesus Christ and was baptized. He was brought up “acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” At the age of 12 his father was in a fatal car accident. Reflecting on the loss of his dad Andy writes; “I see now the wise and loving hand of Christ in my life, as He used this event to, shape, mold and press me toward Himself. It was this event that sparked in me an earnest desire to know God from His Word. By His grace, this desire has continued to grow.” Andy met his wife, Elizabeth, at Philadelphia Biblical University (now Cairn University). They have four wonderful boys. Visit Windham Bible Chapel.
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A. Ward Brandenstein

Walk In The Spirit: Identification

Part 2 – Who are we?

 

CHAPTER 3 – WHO I AM IN CHRIST BECAUSE OF WHO CHRIST IS IN ME

A. Ward BrandensteinThere is freedom from living a guilt-ridden life to those who have received Christ, once the person learns his true identity in Christ. Sadly, there are too few Christians who learn this early in their Christian experience, and, it is safe to say, many never do. As a result, they live in a frustrated, defeated condition as they endeavor to prove that they are worthy of acceptance based on their performance. Mankind is conditioned to strive for performance-based acceptance by the world system around him and by his own prideful tendency that he can attain anything he strives for hard enough.

When the believer learns that his true identity in Christ is the result of what God has provided for him, the person can focus his life and energy on the kind of walk that he is to enjoy.

It is marvelous to know that there are at least fifty truths that relate to a person’s placing his faith in Christ as his or her Lord and Savior! They happen automatically and simultaneously with the receiving of Christ as Lord and Savior! These wonderful truths will be considered in alphabetical order, and the Scriptures under each item will be presented in the chronological order of the New Testament. (See Appendix C, New Testament Chronological Order (located in the printed edition.)) An expositional commentary will follow the Scriptures under each item in the following section.

As the Holy Spirit brings understanding to a believer that these truths are real regardless of how one feels, there will be a greater assurance, with a sense of inner peace never before experienced. Each new day becomes an opportunity to …know Him, and the power of His resurrection… (Phil 3:10), and to …press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14). There will be freedom from fear and frustration, and a new excitement in facing life with a heavenly viewpoint.

The following Scriptural facts of salvation enable the believer to know who he is. Knowing who we are directly affects how we walk and eliminates the need to work for what we already have in Christ. In other words, knowing who and what we are in Christ frees us to walk in the Spirit without our trying to attain that which we already have in Him, such is acceptance, for one example, from the following list of FIFTY MARVELOUS FACTS OF SALVATION.

 

FIFTY MARVELOUS FACTS OF SALVATION!

(What We Are And What God Has Done!)

Fact 1 – Accepted
Fact 2 – Adopted
Fact 3 – Baptized In The Spirit
Fact 4 – Blessed With All Spiritual Blessings
Fact 5 – Born Again
Fact 6 – Called Of God
Fact 7 – Children Of God
Fact 8 – Children Of The Light And Of The Day
Fact 9 – Chosen Generation, A People Of His Own
Fact 10 – Cleansed
Fact 11 – Complete In Christ
Fact 12 – Dead To Sin
Fact 13 – Dead To The Law
Fact 14 – Delivered From The Power Of Darkness
Fact 15 – Eternal Or Everlasting Life
Fact 16 – Forgiven All Trespasses
Fact 17 – Given A New, Pure Heart
Fact 18 – Glorified
Fact 19 – God’s Building
Fact 20 – God’s Elect; Chosen Of God
Fact 21 – God’s Inheritance
Fact 22 – Having Access To God
Fact 23 – Having Liberty
Fact 24 – Heirs Of God, Joint-Heirs With Christ
Fact 25 – Holy Nation
Fact 26 – Indwelt By God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Fact 27 – Justified
Fact 28 – Kept By God
Fact 29 – Light In The Lord
Fact 30 – Member In Christ’s Body
Fact 31 – New Creation
Fact 32 – Partaker Of The Divine Nature
Fact 33 – Perfected Forever
Fact 34 – Placed In Christ
Fact 35 – Predestined To Conformity To Christ
Fact 36 – Predestined To An Inheritance
Fact 37 – Presented To Christ As A Gift By The Father
Fact 38 – Reconciled
Fact 39 – Redeemed
Fact 40 – Royal Priesthood
Fact 41 – Sanctified (Saint)
Fact 42 – Saved, Salvation
Fact 43 – Sealed By The Spirit; Having The Earnest Of The Spirit
Fact 44 – Sheep Of The Good Shepherd, Great Shepherd; God’s Flock
Fact 45 – Son Of Obedience
Fact 46 – Sons Of God
Fact 47 – Spiritual Household Member
Fact 48 – Temple Of The Holy Spirit
Fact 49 – Translated Into The Kingdom Of God’s Dear Son
Fact 50 – United With Christ In Death, Burial, Resurrection, Ascension (Identification)

EXPOSITION OF THE 50 FACTS OF SALVATION

All of the amazing facts occur at the moment that a person receives the Lord Jesus Christ as his or her Saviour! All of the facts are positional truths. Some may not be apparent as an evident experience at the moment of salvation. (What the believer is to do as a practical result of knowing who he is will be considered under the last section of walking in the Spirit.) These wonderful facts of salvation allow us to know who we are in Christ.

Next Week: Facts 1 – 2 (Accepted and Adopted)

Copyright © 1996 A. Ward Brandenstein

Used with permission.

[Series Index

 

A. Ward Brandenstein

Pastor Ward earned an M.A. in Guidance and Counselling from Eastern Michigan University after taking special courses in psychology at Wayne State University, and earned a Bachelor of Theology (Th.B.) from Baptist Bible College and Seminary with Greek and Hebrew studies, and earned a diploma from Philadelphia Bible Institute (now Cairn U.), including New Testament Greek studies. His knowledge of the Bible and close walk with God are appreciated by all who know him and have sat under his teaching. Pastor Brandenstein and his wife Rose Ann reside in California, teaching college level singles and married couples, young professionals, and retired pastors and missionaries.

 

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