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Home » Daily Readings, New Testament Writers

Paul’s Boasting

Submitted by on Wednesday, 10 June 2009No Comment

Moses-glory

It is not rare in his letters that Paul “boasts”. In fact, in 2 Corinthians one would find Paul “boasting” quite a number of times, i.e., he puts forward his credentials as an apostle. This is due to the fact that in his absence from his community there has been people who have disparaged his credentials as an apostle. Not that these were spreading lies about Paul. But they talked about Paul in a way that went against his credibility. For example, Paul is not technically one of the Twelve Apostles which was already an institution during the time. Second, unlike the new missionaries from Jerusalem, and probably ones that were even associated with James, Paul had no letter of commendation to show. Paul however will not be stymied by labels, nor by letters of commendation. He tells the Corinthians that they themselves are his letter of commendation written in not in ink but in the Spirit (3:3). Nor does Paul worry about labels, since the integrity of his ministry — an integrity that is proved by the marks of lashes on his body — has made him and his companions “the aroma of Christ for God” (2:15) among those to be saved and the odor of death for those who are on the way to death.

Paul’s qualifications do not come from himself nor from other men. He is “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 1:1). His qualifications come from God who has qualified him to be a minister of the new covenant, “not of the letter, but of the Spirit” (3:6).

From Experience to Proclamation

Once more we find Paul drawing a theological reflection from an experience. Three times now in these liturgical readngs we find Paul using an experience as a launchpad for proclaiming an aspect of the faith. Last Monday, we find him talking about the many consolations that God showers on his ministers on the event of the good news that Titus brings from the Corinthians. Yesterday, we find Paul telling his audience that his change of plans were not due to levity; this gives him the occasssion to speak of the firm commitment of God in Christ. Today, Paul’s discourse on his credibility as a minister of the gospel and of the Corinthians themselves as the proof of his accomplishments as an apostle becomes an occassion for him to underscore the reality that relates him to the Corinthian community: the new covenant in the Spirit.

The New Covenant

2 Corinthians 3:7-18 is one of the classic texts about the “New Covenant”. In verses 7-11, we find Paul showing how the new covenant is more glorious than the old covenant. He calls the attention of his audience to the glory that shone on the face of Moses which had to be covered.

As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the LORD. When Aaron, then, and the other Israelites saw Moses and noticed how radiant the skin of his face had become, they were afraid to come near him. Only after Moses called to them did Aaron and all the rulers of the community come back to him. Moses then spoke to them. Later on, all the Israelites came up to him, and he enjoined on them all that the LORD had told him on Mount Sinai. When he finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. Whenever Moses entered the presence of the LORD to converse with him, he removed the veil until he came out again. On coming out, he would tell the Israelites all that had been commanded. Then the Israelites would see that the skin of Moses’ face was radiant; so he would again put the veil over his face until he went in to converse with the LORD. (Exodus 34:29-35)

The glory of the old covenant that shown on Moses’ face is a glory destined to fade because the prophets themselves would announce a new covenant. “When he — Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31) — speaks of a “new” covenant, he declares the first one obsolete. And what has become obsolete and has grown old is close to disappearing. (Hebrews 8:13)”. And so Paul argues

For if the ministry of condemnation was glorious1, the ministry of righteousness will abound much more in glory. Indeed, what was endowed with glory has come to have no glory in this respect because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was going to fade was glorious, how much more will what endures be glorious. (2Corinthians 3:9-11)

Paul sounds like he is boasting because he is bold and confident, not because he is sure of himself or he feels sufficient, but because of his place under the new covenant of which he is a minister. It is a place guaranteed by God’s “Yes” in Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit.

2 Corinthians 1:1
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1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother: to the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints that are in all Achaia:
2 Corinthians 3:7-18
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7Now if the ministration of death, engraven with letters upon stones, was glorious; so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses, for the glory of his countenance, which is made void:
8How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather in glory?
9For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more the ministration of justice aboundeth in glory.
10For even that which was glorious in this part was not glorified, by reason of the glory that excelleth.
11For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is in glory.
12Having therefore such hope, we use much confidence:
13And not as Moses put a veil upon his face, that the children of Israel might not steadfastly look on the face of that which is made void.
14But their senses were made dull. For, until this present day, the selfsame veil, in the reading of the old testament, remaineth not taken away (because in Christ it is made void).
15But even until this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.
16But when they shall be converted to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.
17Now the Lord is a Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
18But we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Exodus 34:29-35
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29And when Moses came down from the mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord.
30And Aaron and the children of Israel seeing the face of Moses horned, were afraid to come near.
31And being called by him, they returned, both Aaron and the rulers of the congregation. And after that he spoke to them.
32And all the children of Israel came to him: and he gave them in commandment all that he had heard of the Lord in mount Sinai.
33And having done speaking, he put a veil upon his face.
34But when he went in to the Lord, and spoke with him, he took it away until he came forth, and then he spoke to the children of Israel all things that had been commanded him.
35And they saw that the face of Moses when he came out was horned, but he covered his face again, if at any time he spoke to them.
Jeremiah 31:31
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31Behold the days shall come, saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Juda:
Hebrews 8:13
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13Now in saying a new, he hath made the former old. And that which decayeth and groweth old, is near its end.

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  1. the Law made one aware of one’s sins; and since it does not empower one to be saved — it is not the job of the Law — it was “a ministry of condemnation” []

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