v1-3 - Remember the context of this letter. The new Christians in Corinth were confused because they thought that each different apostle represented a different version of religion, so they wanted to verify Paul was a genuine apostle, and they had asked for him to produce a letter of recommendation. In the opening paragraphs, Paul replies that the fact that their lives have been changed and that they now have "confidence through Christ before God (v4)" is the best letter of recommendation he could ever produce.
v4-11 - Paul continues the contrast between the Old Testament, which he refers to as 'the letter' (as in, the letter of the Law), and the gospel, which he calls 'the Spirit.'
Nobody except for Christ has been able to keep the letter of the law, so logically if a person had nothing but an unkeepable law to cling to they would have nothing but death as a result, so Paul writes, "the letter kills..."
Conversely, those who put their full hope in the gospel gain the Spirit which "gives life (v6)."
Understand that Paul is not just dumping on the Old Testament, as if it was flawed or a poorly designed concept that needed to be replaced.
The law came with, and continues to point toward, God's glory.
It's just that the gospel, in which Christ as fulfilled God's law, is so much more glorious that it far outshines anything else.
v12-18 - Paul has been using the example of Moses' glowing face. See the Old Testament Reference below to be reminded of that story in Exodus 34.
Moses' shining face, which was a reflection of the glory He experienced while in God's presence.
This radiance slowly faded away over time.
One of the reasons Moses veiled his face was so that the Israelites wouldn't notice the glory was fading away.
Paul writes that in the same way, a veil covers the hearts of people who read or hear God's law (v15).
In this case, the veil is not hiding the fading glory of a person's heart, rather it's blinding them, causing them not to see how the law points to Christ.
When the Holy Spirit regenerates (makes new) a person's heart, the veil is taken away and they can see the salvation that comes through Christ (v14).
Because in Christ you can see what was veiled, you can use God's Law to see what it means to live in Christ's image.
OLD TESTAMENT REFERENCE: Read about Moses' radiant face in Exodus 34:29-35.
Use the comment box below to discuss one or more of these questions:
EYE FOR DETAIL—From what you recall seeing in this chapter, try answering the following question without looking at your Bible: How did Paul complete the following sentence? “The letter ______, but the Spirit __________.” (See verse 6.)
Give an example of an Old Testament law that you can use to help transform yourself into the image of Christ.
Question 1 taken from The Complete Bible Discussion Guide: New Testament
Follow the AAA Prayer Pattern:
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our God and heavenly Father whose very presence literally lights up the faces of those He visits (v7)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Be a letter from Christ (v3) testifying to the transforming work of the Spirit in your life
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: