Evangelism Part 4 – The Gospel of Boldness
2 Cor. 3:7-18
I am on Reddit quite a bit. I haven’t posted there for a while, but I try and keep up with the “Ask a Christian” subreddit. In this discussion board, non-Christians ask a question to Christians. The goal is to be respectful and have good dialogue. Only Christians can answer the questions, and each Christian must declare their faith tradition or denomination. What I have been noticing lately is several questions about moral issues. Here is a sample:
- What, if anything, do we learn from Leviticus 20:18/15:24 (concerning sexual issues) and similar passages? Do we glean anything about God’s character, or does it simply reveal the squeamishness of the ancient Israelites?
- Is there a set moral code which God abides by?
- Would it be possible to torture or annoy someone in Heaven?
- What does the Bible or God say about weed?
- What are your thoughts on LGBTQ+?
These questions have a common denominator focusing on the moral Law and codes of right and wrong. Many responses from Christians focus on explaining the minutia of the Law and moral codes. In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul has a different perspective.
Read 2 Corinthians 3:7-11. Paul is doing an exegesis here on Exodus 34:29-35. The scene in that passage is that Moses has gone up to Mt. Saini, encountered God and received the Law, and has returned with a face that displayed the glory of God. The glory on Moses’ face scared the Israelites, so they had to put a veil over Moses’ face. Paul compares the Law, which came in glory, with the “ministry of the Spirit” (Vs. 8). Here are some differences we note:
|Ministry chiseled in stone||Ministry of the Spirit|
|Less glorious (vs. 7)||More glorious (vs. 8)|
|Brought condemnation (vs. 9a)||Brought righteousness (vs. 9b)|
|No longer glorious (vs. 10a)||Surpassing glory (vs. 10b)|
|Has been set aside (vs. 11a)||Endures (vs. 11b)|
When we focus on the rules and regulations of the Law, we are not proclaiming the gospel. When we engage with someone in evangelism, it is critically important that we first listen to them and, second, ask the Holy Spirit how we can speak the love of Jesus into their lives. If we concentrate on their sins, they cannot find an effective path to share Jesus. This fact does not mean that sin, in general, is off-limits – far from it. Part of evangelism is leading folks to an understanding of their fallen state before a holy God. But if we focus on specific sins, we run the risk of getting written off as just another unloving insensitive Christian.
In our passage, Paul is talking about how the Law – the specifics of morality – is far inferior to the gospel of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. If evangelism is getting someone to switch from one set of moral rules to another set of moral rules, we have genuinely failed to present the gospel of Jesus.
Read 2 Corinthians 3:12-18. Because we are proclaiming the gospel of Jesus, which is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we can be bold and unafraid. We don’t have to shrink away in embarrassment as the Israelites did before Moses and the Law. Focusing on the Law hardens a person’s mind and blinds them to the truth of Christ (vs. 14). But listen to what Paul says about being bold in our faith and evangelism: “but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (vss. 16-17). The Law is slavery and death. Living a moral life will never save a person. Only faith in Jesus can save a person and free them from sin and death.
What does this ultimately mean? We can be bold in our faith because, when we are in Christ, God sees his righteousness, not our unholy unrighteousness. When we live in Christ and communicate the love of Jesus to other people, we are allowing God to repair His image in us that was damaged by sin. Paul finishes this section with a bold proclamation: “We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” That is the gospel – so be bold in the knowledge of who you really are in Jesus!