1 & 2 Thess.
1 & 2 Timothy
1 & 2 Peter
Gifts of the Spirit
Exposition of The Spirit in 2 Corinthians
In this Epistle we find Paul for the first time openly confronting the Judaising reaction which threatened to obliterate the Gospel. The argument of chapter 3 contrasting the "law" and the "spirit" suggests they were exalting the Law somewhat from the point of view of the Judaizers who went to Antioch (Acts 15:1; Gal. 2:12).
This letter is the outpouring of his heart occasioned by the information that he received. It tells us several things in relation to the subject of the Spirit:
"Sealed" = Grk. sphragizo meaning "to seal, impress" (Y). The aorist is used indicating a completed act at a definite point in time.
"Earnest" = Grk. arrhabon meaning "pledge" (Y)
The word relates to a first installment given in pledge of full payment in due course. (cf. 2 Cor. 5:5). This divine seal was evidenced in the Holy Spirit gifts—which validated Paul's claim to be a true Apostle—by "signs, wonders and mighty deeds" (2 Cor. 12:12). But this was only a "tasting" of the "powers of the world (age) to come" (Heb. 6:4, 5). Indeed KNOX gives this idea in his translation: "And given us the foretaste of his Spirit". These words cannot apply to us since we have not been sealed by the Spirit in the sense of this verse. (cf. 5:5; Eph. 1:14).
Here the word spirit conveys the meaning of mind and the word pneuma is so translated by the RSV. TCNT translates:
"I could get no peace of mind".
While Phillips is obviously a paraphrase, still it gives the idea:
"I was on edge the whole time because there was no sign of brother Titus". (cf. Rom. 1:9; 12:11).
In what way were the Corinthians engraved by the Spirit of the living God? By the following:
In case someone thinks that the writing (Grk. eggrapho) was a direct influence of the Spirit, let him or her recall that Proverbs 7:3 indicates that we can do this for ourselves.
"Bind them (my commandments) on your fingers;
"Spirit of God" is without the definite article and is parallel with "the word of God" in 2:17.
Paul uses the words that he does because they introduce the contrast which is to follow between the "Letter" and "Spirit" - the position of the Judaiser and the Apostles.
Close attention to the immediate context is particularly rewarding here and Moffatt in particular captures the fact that Paul is the one who actually does the inscribing:
"You make it obvious that you are a letter of Christ which I have been employed to inscribe ... on tablets of the human heart."
Sometimes "the letter" is understood as the written Bible, and "the Spirit" is understood as a mystical inner influence at work in the believer’s heart. However such an interpretation fails to take into account the context which demonstrates a totally different meaning of these words.
The ministration of the "Spirit" superior to that of the Law
Paul now proceeds to attack the position of the Judaiser by clear contrasts between the temporary, transient design of the Law of Moses ("the letter")1 and the enduring, eternal nature of the new covenant ("the spirit"). These contrasts are set out as follows:
While the following points are true this does not seem to be the reason why Paul terms the gospel the "ministration of the Spirit".
This highly figurative phrase is a beautiful example of the vigour and concentration of Paul’s thought. First the "letter" is put by metonymy for that which is written, the Law; secondly, the Law is personified as an active power which can put a person to death; and so, thirdly what is really an indirect consequence of the "law" is attributed to the Law as a personal action. Literally, the Law results in death because of man’s failure to keep it: but how much more vivid to put it in the active, concrete form, "the letter killeth".
The action attributed to the Spirit can equally well (as death from the law) be an indirect consequence. Literally the Spirit which gives the word and so works on men’s minds is the source from which a new life comes.
The "spirit" is again used metonymically for "the dispensation of the Spirit" and relates to the great promise of forgiveness of sins through faith and the imputation of righteousness to life eternal. The dispensation of the Spirit was a "ministration of righteousness" - a better covenant because it was established on better promises (Heb. 8:6).
The glory had a hidden meaning. The spirit-illumination of the face of Moses contained a mystery - God-manifestation (cf. Luke 20:35,36). It was a reflection of divine Glory to show the nature and power of the author of the ministry and the intended object of that ministry - namely the bringing of men and women into Divine contact so that they might be the reflectors morally and ultimately the embodiments in nature of the glory. It is certain that the children of Israel had no idea of this and this fact was typified by the veil over Moses’ face illustrating their inability to "look to the end† of that which is abolished."
Their inability to understand was confirmed by the fact that a sanctuary was required that they might have visible assurance of the Divine presence.
1 by metonymy
† i.e. Christ, which led to Spirit nature for them.
Paul argues in effect as follows: Seeing that the dispensations are different, the "letter" being transient, and resulting only in death, then the dispensation of the "Spirit" - a new covenant which brings life - will be accompanied with far greater splendour. It is of course, obvious that Paul is comparing the physical glory which accompanied the giving of the Mosaic Law with the moral glory of the "Spirit".
It is important to view these words from the correct perspective. Paul’s thought is not "a ministration from the Spirit" but rather a "ministration about or leading to the Spirit". This is evident in a parallel phrase "the ministration of righteousness". It cannot be said that righteousness caused the ministration or that it was a ministration from righteousness. So likewise condemnation did not bring the other ministration. It was rather a ministration leading to death and condemnation.
This is taken to mean that:
Many obviously invalid interpretations of this verse may be given if it is wrenched from the context or from the Bible. We must not be text pickers, nor dreamers.
"‘The Lord’ means the Spirit" (MOFF) (WEY). The Lord here is the same as in v. 16 where it refers to the Angel of the Presence who bore the title YAHWEH when he appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai. V. 16 is a paraphrase of Exod. 34:34 in the LXX, and this must be borne in mind when determining who "Lord" refers to. It can be seen therefore, that "Lord" does not refer to Christ. In Paul’s application of the narrative of the veiling of Moses, the counterpart of "Lord" in the New Covenant is "spirit" which has already been contrasted in v. 6 with the letter of the Mosaic Law.
Paul is clearly saying that "the Lord" of Exodus 34 stands for or represents "the spirit" in the allegory he is developing. The reflected glory on Moses’ face was representative of the free spiritual fellowship he repeatedly enjoyed with the Angel of the Presence ("the Lord") (cf. Acts 7:38 and 53).
"is" i.e. means (MOFF) (Wey) or represents - cf. 1 Cor. 11:24 "This is my body".
In the allegory Paul is developing he says that the Angel of the Presence (Lord) represents "the Spirit" as opposed to "the letter" which Israel saw.
Paul normally uses the Greek definite article with "Lord" when he means Christ and omits it when he means Yahweh. In this passage, only the first "Lord" has the article, and here it is retrospective.
In contrast to the fear which Israel had in beholding the reflected glory of the "Lord" (Exod. 34:30) cf. John 8:32; Rom. 8:15.
The freedom (RSV) included the ability to gaze with unveiled face upon the glory of God revealed in Christ through the gospel.
For a summary we can paraphrase the verse:
"The Angel of the Presence (Lord) represented the real meaning of the new covenant variously termed ‘word of God’ (2:17), ‘ministration of righteousness’ (3:9), ‘the light of the glorious gospel about Christ’ (4:4), ‘our gospel’ (4:3) and in the allegory ‘Spirit’ - God manifestation.
For us of course, the glory of God is revealed in Christ (cf. 4:6) and this replaces "the Lord" in the allegory.
As the train of thought is followed in this chapter one thing becomes clear: neither the term "letter" nor "spirit" can be treated with narrow literalism. "Spirit" does not mean a vaguely defined intention nor does it mean ‘Holy Spirit’. The word stands for that which leads to spirit life and for that activity brought to focus in Christ Jesus.
1 ESSA, P.32-34.
2 see Section B, "BASF".
3 Notice the clever way in which this Brother places himself above the Arranging Brethren and the Statement of Faith.
4See Section B - "Did not cause Righteousness."
- "the Lord" here is the same as in v.16 and 17. The message of the Divine allegory does not end with the lesson for the Jew concerning the fading glory of Moses. Paul advances further by saying that "we all (by contrast with the solitary figure of Moses), with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of ‘the Lord’1 are transformed into the same image from glory to glory2 even as from ‘the Lord’1 the Spirit."
Grk. melamorphoomai = to change one's form (Y) by feeding on food which causes metamorphosis. This food for us is the word of Christ not a mythical ‘spirit’.
"The Word ‘Spirit’ is in the Genitive of Apposition (Companion Bible). It would then read "the Lord", that is to say "the Spirit".
Weymouth’s translates the phrase as "even as derived from the Lord the Spirit". This rendering best brings out the identification of "Lord" and "Spirit" in v.17, and is supported by most translations.
To say that ‘we are changed directly by the Spirit of the Lord’ is to miss the message of the chapter, which describes how the new covenant is dispensed by qualified ministers (3:6) i.e. the Apostles.
1 YHWH again, but for us now manifested in Christ not the Angel of the Presence.
2 Unlike Moses whose facial ‘glory’ faded.
Except for the few apostles who were inspired to write the New Testament and those who possessed the gifts of knowledge, wisdom, prophecy and teaching; enlightenment comes (and came) through the written and spoken word.
Paul in this verse is drawing an extended metaphor from Gen. 1:3-5. The light of God’s creating initiated regeneration on an earth that was "without form and void". Likewise the enlightenment which came from the spoken gospel regenerated perishing man. Just two verses before Paul states that the "light" he is concerned about is "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (v.4). It was "by the open statement of the truth" (i.e. preaching, RSV) that this gospel was made known. The same process operates today. We obtain knowledge of Christ by hearing or reading the gospel not by receiving "enlightenment by the Spirit".
"We have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts"(2 Pet. 1:19).
Paul quite often in this epistle employs the royal "we" meaning "I"
"we despaired even of life" (1:8),
Moffatt captures this clearly in his translation:
"For God who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness’, has shone within my heart to illuminate men with the knowledge of God’s glory..."
If this is the real meaning of the verse then the process on that occasion was limited to him. This seems highly probable, as Paul occupied a very special place in the purpose of God. (cf. also 2:15, 16).
Paul quotes from the experience of Hezekiah in Psa. 116:10 (LXX) as having the same disposition (spirit) of faith. Hezekiah was delivered from imminent death as was Paul (2 Cor. 1:9,10) hence he had the same faithful attitude or disposition. Note the allusions to death in Psa. 116: 3, 4, 8, 9, 15.
"Who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee" (RSV) (cf. 1:22). The Holy Spirit gifts the subject of promise (John 14:26; Joel 2:28-32) had been given as a pledge or guarantee of a later fuller manifestation at the Second Advent. The token fulfillment with the coming of the Advocate and Spirit-gifts (John 14:16; 1 Cor. 12:8-10) was a "tasting" of the powers of the age to come. (Heb. 6:5, 4; cf. 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13-14). It was also a pledge of God’s promise to "swallow up" mortality with life.
1 Hodge suggests that this was the Spirit gift of faith but this explanation does not fit the context. Paul is speaking of personal faith. The language is inappropriate for something given to overcome fear.
The definite article does not occur, and this makes possible the translation of Marshall.
and GSPD (Goodspeed)
This translation gives the possibility of a totally different meaning to the phrase. The phrase is no longer seen to refer to the Holy Spirit or the Gifts but to an attitude produced by the action of the word in a good and honest heart. It is a developed characteristic, not a gift or an inworking of God’s power. The ultimate source of this attitude is the Holy Spirit but indirectly through the Word.
The Greek allows the meaning that Paul properly exercised the Spirit gifts at his command. However, since the Holy Spirit is given such an inconspicuous place the meaning probably is a "spirit that is holy".
"I will dwell among them" (MARS).
Christ’s body is called a temple, because in him dwelled the fulness of God. (John 2: 19). The verse is partially a paraphrase of Lev. 26:11, 12.
In times past He had dwelt in their midst by the Shekinah glory which overshadowed the Mercy Seat in the Most holy place in the tabernacle. God dwelled in the Corinthians by the Holy Spirit gifts which they had (cf. 1 Cor.6:19).
In the wilderness wanderings the Angel of the Presence (exhibited to Israel by cloud and pillar of fire) was visible evidence that God walked among them.
In the first century there was no visible evidence of God walking among His people (such as there was in Sinai). However, such promises as John 14:23 and facts such as Rev. 2:1 (cf. 1:20) indicate, together with this verse, that God (and Christ) abode with or walked among the ecclesia.
We do not have the gifts, so it is obvious that God does not dwell in us in the same way as He did in the first century. God dwells in us only through Christ’s words abiding in us and us bearing fruit because of that fellowship (John 15:7,5). We are the temple of God if we manifest Him in our lives. This does not mean that God dwells in us by some mystical means through the Spirit2. The words of Heb. 1:14 still apply today.
1 cf. Exod. 25.:8; Ezek. 37:27; 1 Cor. 3:16; 1 Pet. 2:5; 2 See Notes on John 17:23.
There may be some disciples who feel that this apostolic admonition is not intended for us. Filthiness of the flesh they may think of as something quite remote, while filthiness of spirit fails to express an intelligible idea to which thought can give attention. However, filthiness of spirit as the Apostle uses the expression can be seen on every side and far too often in the ecclesias. "Of spirit" means "of mind or heart" as is evident in the following table.
There are therefore, two kinds of sin: those that affect the body and those that affect the mind. Christ’s words demonstrate that filthiness of the spirit is much worse than of the flesh. (See Matt. 21:31).
1 see 1 Cor. 7:34 cf. 1 John 3:3; Phil. 4:8.
Paul is almost certainly referring to the Spirit gifts (cf. "so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift", 1 Cor. 1:7; 12:13).
Likely the gift of faith (1 Cor. 12:9) a prerequisite for performing some miracles (cf. Matt. 17:20).
This probably relates to the Spirit gifts of wisdom and knowledge. Note the context of the following:
The RSV translates logos in this verse by "utterance".
The Spirit gifts were given not only to confirm the spoken, (and later the written) word (Mark 16:20), but also for the "perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12). As such, the gifts were able to assist the brethren at Corinth in all diligence. No doubt they had also responded to his exhortation on agape in 1 Cor. 13.
The whole construction of this verse is difficult, but the basic idea is that since you put up with a man who preaches another gospel you should therefore put up with me (Paul) because, after all, I was the one who betrothed you to Christ.
This false apostle is a deceitful worker (11:13) when he says to you that you can receive different spirit (gifts) than those which you have received.
The Corinthians had only to think first of Paul, and then of Titus, to be reassured that in motive ("the same spirit") and also in action ("the same steps") they were one and the same as men working for Christ.
Paul wrote this epistle so that the Corinthians would examine themselves and correct their errors before Paul came to them. If they did this, then Paul would not have to exercise the gift of miracles of judgement1. Christ had given this power to Paul for edification. From the Corinthian’s point of view it may have looked like the gift caused destruction but their view was incorrect, because the gift could only be exercised for good. Christ would not sanction an unjust decision, or clothe the arm of man with supernatural power to inflict unmerited punishment.
1 See Section D - "Miracles (of judgement)".
2 This is further emphasized by John. This last survivor of the apostles makes reference to this fellowship. It is essential to note his pronouns:
"That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3).
The "we" who have "seen" and "heard" can be no other than the apostles, the chosen witnesses of
the resurrection of Christ. The "we" and "our fellowship" was the apostles’ fellowship. Others were
introduced into it by accepting their gospel. In this way, fellowship was established with the Father and Son.