What is God's Spirit Doing?

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 5/9/2021

Happy Mother’s Day! Such a special day. We spent part of Friday with my mother, Rosemary; Today we’ll spend part of the day with Lara’s mother, Margaret. On Friday, my mom was talking about the importance of history—of knowing who you are, and where you are from. As an infant, my mother was adopted. I’m thankful my mother was adopted, because it was through her adoptive parents, that my mother (that our family) became adopted as sons and daughters into God’s Kingdom. Mom’s adoptive parents loved Christ, and loved his Kingdom, they’ve loved and supported generations of preachers and churches. I’m standing here today as part of that legacy of faith.

Still, when you are adopted, you feel you’ve lost a sense of your history. There was a point when mom discovered who her “biological family” was, and the circumstances of her adoption. Someone on my mother’s side of the family had been doing genealogical research and had been puzzled by a simple mystery. “What happened to Rosemary? What happened to Edna Sander’s little girl?” My sister was researching our family tree, and was able to connect all the dots and relationships! Mom’s quite proud to have discovered for instance, we have ancestors who fought alongside George Washington in the Revolutionary War! We have access to volumes and volumes of amazing history.

In 2 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul offers a sweeping perspective of history. Keep in mind, there was a certain group of people in Corinth who thought Paul was an “illegitimate” apostle, and believer, and child of God. 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 is Paul’s effort to say, “This is who I am” and “This who you are.”

The unspoken backdrop for Paul’s remarks is Genesis 1-3. Every single one of us can trace our biological lineage back to Adam and Eve. In Genesis 1:26-27 we find this amazing chronicle of creation. The Father-Son-Holy Spirit, in conversation with one another say, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. . . So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.”

The apex of creation, Day 6, is God creating humankind in his image, in his likeness! God creating us to reflect his personhood, his own character and glory, his goodness. Nothing else in all creation was created to so profoundly reflect the nature of God as God’s special creation, man. Our deepest biological and spiritual identity (whether or not we can trace out every branch of family tree) is we were created by God, to be like God, and to exist for God’s praise and glory.

Think of the Sun and Moon. The moon is not the Sun. The moon is nothing but rock and dust. Yet despite being made of dust, God gave us this great purpose, to reflect his glorious light, like stars shining darkness, for all the world to see!

The story of Adam and Eve is a story of disobedience. Genesis 3. They got out of proper orbit, they got out of proper relationship with Father-Son-Spirit. Instead of reflecting the glorious image and likeness of God they sinned, and marred that image. Throughout all of Genesis, humankind spirals further into darkness!

Despite man’s transgressions, like a grieving parent, God never abandons his children. Now in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 the language is a bit tricky, but no worries, I’m here to help you make sense of history. As I read these first verses, I want you to key into three phrases Paul alludes to. They refer to three grand epochs (three grand periods) of time in human history, when God related to us in a particular way. Are you ready?

2 Corinthians 3:7-11: “Now if the ministry that brought death, chiseled in letters on stones, came with glory, so that the Israelites were not able to gaze steadily at Moses’s face because of its glory, which was set aside, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? 9 For if the ministry that brought condemnation had glory, the ministry that brings righteousness overflows with even more glory. 10 In fact, what had been glorious is not glorious now by comparison because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was set aside was glorious, what endures will be even more glorious.”

First, Paul mentions “the ministry that brought death” and “the ministry that brought condemnation.” (v.7,9) Second, he mentions “the ministry that brings righteousness.” (v.9) Third, he mentions (and will continue to mention) “the ministry of the Spirit.” (v.8) Throughout history we can think of God “ministering” to his people in distinctive, and increasingly glorious ways. Each way eclipses the previous.

[1] So first, let’s think of Genesis, as the “1.) Ministry of Creation.” Those aren’t Paul’s words, those are my words. In Genesis we track our genealogical, genetic, biological, spiritual heritage. If the branches of your family tree have gotten fuzzy, you can always turn to Genesis 1-2 to discovery your true identity, purpose, calling to glorify God. Over in Ephesians 1:6 Paul says among many things, that we were adopted in Christ and exist for “the praise of God’s glorious grace.” But we fell short of God’s purpose.

[2] So next comes the “Ministry that brought death,” the “Ministry that brough condemnation.” I know it sound’s horrible right? Why would God ever allow condemnation and death to be human realities? But what Paul is referring to here is the “2.) Ministry of Moses & Law.

How did God begin to minister to sinful humankind? God raised up Moses as a special deliverer, and spoke to Moses directly, and gave Moses the Law. The Law (the commandments of God) was a hand-chiseled, hand-written, reflection of God’s intentions and will. Even to this day when people read the law, they understand that they condemned for their sin, deserving death. Evil men can do everything in their power to suppress the perfect law of God, but the law testifies to the truth about man. We have sinned. We have shattered God’s perfect holy image. What is glorious about the Law is it starkly contrasts God’s perfect character with our own corrupt character. We realize how all have fallen short of the glory of God.

Now here is what Paul is alluding to. As sinful human beings, God’s people could not look directly upon God’s face. Think of it this way—none of us can look directly into the sun without going blind. So what did God do? God passed by Moses, and showed Moses his back (not his face), and God spoke to Moses. In Exodus, God also hand-chiseled his perfect and holy law on stone tablets for Moses to take back to the Israelites. The more time Moses spent with God, the more his face radiated the glory of God. It’s like the Moon. We cannot gaze upon the Sun, but we can surely gaze upon the moon.

The Israelites were so sinful, they could neither gaze upon God, nor Moses’ radiant face, and nor could they receive God’s Holy and Perfect Law! When the Law was read, their minds were hardened and their hearts were veiled.

Paul refers to this in 2 Corinthians 3:12-16, “12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness. 13 We are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from gazing steadily until the end of the glory of what was being set aside, 14 but their minds were hardened. For to this day, at the reading of the old covenant, the same veil remains; it is not lifted, because it is set aside only in Christ. 15 Yet still today, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts, 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

[3] Now all this bring us to the “3.) Ministry of Righteousness,” the “Ministry of Christ Jesus, Gospels, Righteousness.” We couldn’t see God face to face. We couldn’t even look upon Moses’ radiant face. We couldn’t submit to letter of God’s perfect Law.

So what is God to do? In the fullness of time, God sent his One and Only Son Jesus Christ into the world! Now who is this Jesus? John’s Gospel says Jesus is the “Word,” the “Letter,” “the Epistle” of God made flesh.

John 1:1-4, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The Reaction to Word? Mixed. John 1:9-14, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Whereas the Law was a chiseled-in-stone representation of God’s righteousness, Jesus Christ was the profoundly more glorious flesh and blood, divine and human embodiment of God’s righteousness! But humankind’s reaction to Christ’s manifestation of righteousness wasn’t to embrace Christ, but reject and crucify Christ. But some did indeed receive Christ, and became children of God!

Paul says something quite profound about Christ in 2 Corinthians 3:15-16, “Yet still today, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their [unbeliever’s] hearts, but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” In 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 Paul says about the Ministry of Christ: “. . . the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake. 6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.”

[4] You might wonder what could possible eclipse the Ministry of Christ and Righteousness. Paul’s answer is the 4.) “Ministry of Spirit and Life and Freedom!” What is more glorious than God Himself appearing in flesh?

· How about God's Spirit taking up residence in our very lives?

· How about God’s Spirit giving us new minds and new hearts?

· How about God writing his law right on our flesh and blood, hearts and minds?

· How about God’s Spirit taking the veil off our face, and letting us gaze into God’s Glory in the face of Jesus Christ?

· How about God’s Spirit transforming us into his very own image and very own likeness…fulfilling his Creation intention in our lives, that we live and exist for the praise of God’s glorious grace?

· 2 Corinthians 3:6, “the letter kills… but the Spirit gives life.”

In 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 Paul sounds off the high and glorious note of the Ministry of the Spirit. He says, ““Yet still today, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their [unbeliever’s] hearts, but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 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.”

I don’t know your life story, your Mother’s Day story. My family helped me turn to the Lord, they helped anchor my identity the ministry of Christ, and the ministry of the Spirit. Regardless of our human heritage, the past decisions of humans that have affected us. . . we can be adopted as sons and daughters. The veil can be removed. By God’s Spirit we can reflect the “same image and likeness” of our God and Father, and his Son Jesus Christ, and His Holy Spirit.

Scripture Verses

2 Corinthians 3:7-18, 4:4-6; Genesis 1:26-27; John 1:1-4, 1:9-14

Worship Playlist

Come Thou Fount (Above All Else) by Shane & Shane

Forever (We Sing Hallelujah) by Kari Jobe

What a Beautiful Name by Hillsong

Study Questions

  1. Why is the ministry of the Spirit and righteousness so fruitful, and life-giving, and transformative?
  2. Is your mind open to Christ? Are you increasting in hope, boldness, and freedom as you work with the Spirit's transforming action?

Apply It!