by Jerry Shugart

JerryShugart2@yahoo.com

Ministers of the New Testament

First let us look at the following verse where Paul speaks about Christians being ministers of the "New Testament" or New Diatheke:

"Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament (diatheke); not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (2 Cor.3:6; KJV).

When we compare that verse which speaks of the "ministry" of the New Testament with verses which follow later about the same ministry then we can understand that Paul understood that the words "testament" and "gospel" have the same meaning or signifiance:

"Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord" (2 Cor.4:1-4).

Paul's words "this ministry" are obviously pointing back to the "ministry" of 2 Cor.3:6 and it is evident that his words "this ministry" are in regard to the "manifestation of the truth, the preaching of "Christ Jesus the Lord"-- "the glorious gospel of Christ."

So we can understand that when Paul speaks of the ministry of the New Testament he is speaking of the ministry of the gospel.

Albert Barnes wrote the following commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:1:

"Seeing we have this ministry - The gospel ministry, so much more glorious than that of Moses 2 Corinthians 3:6; which is the ministry by which the Holy Spirit acts on the hearts of people 2 Corinthians 3:8; which is the ministry of that system by which people are justified 2 Corinthians 3:9; and which is the ministry of a system so pure and unclouded, 2 Corinthians 3:9-11, 2 Corinthians 3:18" (Barnes' Notes on the Bible; Commentary at 2 Corinthians 4:1).

In the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary we read: "seeing we have this ministry 'The ministration of the Spirit' (2 Co 3:8, 9): the ministry of such a spiritual, liberty-giving Gospel: resuming 2 Co 3:6, 8" (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, Commentary at 2 Corinthians 4:1).

Even Progressive Dispensationalist Craig Blaising understands that the ministry in question is the ministry of the gospel, writing that "the message of new covenant blessings is called the Gospel in these verses...God is removing the blindness of human hearts and minds by causing the light of the Gospel to shine 'in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ'" (Blaising & Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993], 204).

Since we know that the words "this ministry" are referring to the preaching of the gospel and those same words are referring to the ministry of "the New Testament" mentioned at 3:6 then we know that both are referring to a ministry of the gospel. Therefore, we can understand that in Paul's mind when he used the word diatheke when applying it to the Body of Christ his reference was to the gospel which comes in the Holy Spirit:

"For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake" (1 Thess.1:5).

With that in mind let us look at the same verse again:

"Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament (diatheke); not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (2 Cor.3:6; KJV).

When we look at the words describing the New Diatheke (the spirit giveth life) we can understand that the ministry in question is preaching the gospel.

John Calvin certainly understood that Paul was speaking of the ministry to preach the gospel, writing the following:

"'Not of the letter but of the spirit'...There is, however, no doubt, that by the term 'letter,' he means the Old Testament, as by the term 'spirit' he means the gospel; for, after having called himself a 'minister of the New Testament,' he immediately adds, by way of exposition, that he is a 'minister of the spirit,' and contrasts the letter with the spirit" [emphasis added] (John Calvin, Commentary on Corinthians - Volume 2, Christian Classics Ethereal Library).

In the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary we read the following remarks on 2 Corinthians 3:6:

"spirit giveth life--The spirit of the Gospel when brought home to the heart by the Holy Spirit, gives new spiritual life to a man (Ro 6:4, 11)" [emphasis added] (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, Commentary at 2 Corinthians 3:6).

The "ministry" which Paul mentioned at 2 Corinthians 3:6 is the one which he refers to here:

"But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).

Therefore, we can understand that when Paul uses the word diatheke at 2 Corinthians 3:6 the meaning of that word is the Last Will and Testament of Christ, the "gospel of Christ."

Next, we will see that the author of Hebrews makes the case that the diatheke which is in operation today is the Last Will and Testament of Christ and not the New Covenant (diatheke) promised to the nation of Israel.

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