2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
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(17) Now the Lord is that Spirit.—Better, the Lord is the Spirit. The words seem at first inconsistent with the formulated precision of the Church’s creeds, distinguishing the persons of the Godhead from each other. We apply the term “Lord,” it is true, as a predicate of the Holy Spirit when we speak, as in the Nicene Creed, of the Holy Ghost as “the Lord, and Giver of life,” or say, as in the pseudo-Athanasian, that “the Holy Ghost is Lord;” but using the term “the Lord” as the subject of a sentence, those who have been trained in the theology of those creeds would hardly say, “The Lord” (the term commonly applied to the Father in the Old Testament, and to the Son in the New) “is the Spirit.” We have, accordingly, to remember that St. Paul did not contemplate the precise language of these later formularies. He had spoken, in 2Corinthians 3:16, of Israel’s “turning to the Lord;” he had spoken also of his own work as “the ministration of the Spirit” (2Corinthians 3:8). To turn to the Lord—i.e., to the Lord Jesus—was to turn to Him whose essential being, as one with the Father, was Spirit (John 4:24), who was in one sense, the Spirit, the life-giving energy, as contrasted with the letter that killeth. So we may note that the attribute of “quickening,” which is here specially connected with the name of the Spirit (2Corinthians 3:6), is in John 5:21 connected also with the names of the Father and the Son. The thoughts of the Apostle move in a region in which the Lord Jesus, not less than the Holy Ghost, is contemplated as Spirit. This gives, it is believed, the true sequence of St. Paul’s thoughts. The whole verse may be considered as parenthetical, explaining that the “turning to the Lord” coincides with the “ministration of the Spirit.” Another interpretation, inverting the terms, and taking the sentence as “the Spirit is the Lord,” is tenable grammatically, and was probably adopted by the framers of the expanded form of the Nicene Creed at the Council of Constantinople (A.D. 380). It is obvious, however, that the difficulty of tracing the sequence of thought becomes much greater on this method of interpretation.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.—The Apostle returns to the more familiar language. To turn to the Lord, who is Spirit, is to turn to the Spirit which is His, which dwelt in Him, and which He gives. And he assumes, almost as an axiom of the spiritual life, that the presence of that Spirit gives freedom, as contrasted with the bondage of the letter—freedom from slavish fear, freedom from the guilt and burden of sin, freedom from the tyranny of the Law. Compare the aspect of the same thought in the two Epistles nearly contemporary with this:—the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, those children being partakers of a glorious liberty (Romans 8:16-21); the connection between walking in the Spirit and being called to liberty (Galatians 5:13-16). The underlying sequence of thought would seem to be something like this: “Israel, after all, with all its seeming greatness and high prerogatives, was in bondage, because it had the letter, not the Spirit; we who have the Spirit can claim our citizenship in the Jerusalem which is above and which is free” (Galatians 4:24-31).

2 Corinthians 3:17-18. Now the Lord Christ is that Spirit — Of the law of which I spake before, to whom the letter of it was intended to lead; and it is the office of the Spirit of God, as the great agent in his kingdom, to direct the minds of men to it. And where the Spirit of the Lord is — Enlightening and renewing men’s minds; there is liberty — Not the veil, the emblem of slavery. There is liberty from servile fear, liberty from the guilt and power of sin, liberty to behold with open face the glory of the Lord. Accordingly it is added, we all — That believe in him with a faith of his operation; beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, &c. — By the glory of the Lord here, we are to understand his divine attributes, his wisdom, power, and goodness; his truth, justice, mercy; his holiness and grace, and especially his love; these, and his other moral perfections, are his greatest glory. But these cannot be beheld by man immediately and directly, while he is in the body: they can only be seen as in a glass, or through a glass darkly; (1 Corinthians 13:12;) namely, 1st, In that of the works of creation, as the apostle states, Romans 1:20, where see the note.

Invisible in himself, he is “dimly seen In these his lowest works, which all declare His goodness beyond thought, and power divine.”

2d, In the dispensations of his providence, in which glass not only his natural, but also his moral attributes are manifested; his long-suffering in bearing with sinful individuals, families, cities, nations; his justice in punishing when they persist in their iniquities; his mercy in pardoning them when they break off their sins by repentance. 3d, In the work of redemption; a work in which divine goodness in designing, wisdom in contriving, and power in executing, are conspicuously declared; in which justice and mercy meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other: a wonderful plan! in which God demonstrates that he is just, while he is the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. See on Romans 3:25-26. 4th, In the glass in which all these are united, and set in a clear point of view, namely, the Word of God, or the gospel of Christ, in which the divine character is clearly and fully delineated; as it is also still more manifestly, and in a more striking light, in his incarnate Son, the brightness of his glory, the express image of his person; the Word made flesh; God manifest in the flesh. But by whom is the divine glory beheld in these glasses? Only by those from whose faces the veil of ignorance, prejudice, and unbelief is removed; so that with open, ανεκεκαλυμμενω, with unveiled face, and with the eyes of their understanding opened, they behold, view attentively, and contemplate this glory of the Lord.

Now, observe the effect produced on those who behold this glory; they are changed into the same image. While we steadfastly and with open face behold the divine likeness exhibited in these glasses, we discern its amiableness and excellence, and the necessity of a conformity thereto, in order to our happiness here and hereafter. And hence arises sincere and earnest desire after that conformity, and an endeavour to imitate such perfections as are imitable by us. Add to this, the very beholding and meditating on the divine glories, has a transforming efficacy. For instance, by contemplating his wisdom, as manifested in his works and word, we are enlightened and made wise: by viewing his power, and by faith arming ourselves with it, we become strong; able to withstand our enemies, as also to do and suffer his will. The contemplation of his truth, justice, mercy, and holiness, inspires us with the same amiable and happy qualities, and knowing and believing the love that he hath to us, and all his people, we learn to love him who hath first loved us; and loving him that beget, we are disposed and enabled also to love all that are begotten of him; and even all mankind, if not with a love of approbation and complacency, yet with a love of benevolence and beneficence, knowing that he is the Father of the spirits of all flesh, and that the whole race of Adam are his offspring. Thus we become godlike, and put on the new man, which is renewed in and by this spiritual knowledge, after the image of him that created him, Colossians 3:10. From glory to glory — That Isaiah , 1 st, As the light and glory of the moon and planets are by reflection from the sun; so from the unbounded, absolutely perfect, and underived glory of the Creator, when beheld and contemplated, results this limited, increasing, and derived glory in the creature: increasing, observe; for, 2d, this expression, from glory to glory, (which is a Hebraism, denoting a continued succession and increase of glory,) signifies from one degree of this glorious conformity to God to another: this on earth. But it implies also, 3d, from grace, (which is glory in the bud,) to glory in heaven, which is the ripe fruit. It is of importance to notice likewise the grand agent in this work, namely, the Spirit of the Lord. 1st, He hath prepared these glasses, particularly the two last mentioned, the Holy Scriptures, indited by his inspiration, and the human nature of Christ, formed by his agency in the womb of the virgin. And he causes the glory of the Lord to be reflected from them. 2d, He rends the veil from our minds, and opens the eyes of our understanding, that we may be enabled to behold the divine glory in these glasses. 3d, He causes the sight to be transforming, communicating his own renewing and sanctifying influences, and thereby imparting his likeness and nature.

3:12-18 It is the duty of the ministers of the gospel to use great plainness, or clearness, of speech. The Old Testament believers had only cloudy and passing glimpses of that glorious Saviour, and unbelievers looked no further than to the outward institution. But the great precepts of the gospel, believe, love, obey, are truths stated as clearly as possible. And the whole doctrine of Christ crucified, is made as plain as human language can make it. Those who lived under the law, had a veil upon their hearts. This veil is taken away by the doctrines of the Bible about Christ. When any person is converted to God, then the veil of ignorance is taken away. The condition of those who enjoy and believe the gospel is happy, for the heart is set at liberty to run the ways of God's commandments. They have light, and with open face they behold the glory of the Lord. Christians should prize and improve these privileges. We should not rest contented without knowing the transforming power of the gospel, by the working of the Spirit, bringing us to seek to be like the temper and tendency of the glorious gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and into union with Him. We behold Christ, as in the glass of his word; and as the reflection from a mirror causes the face to shine, the faces of Christians shine also.Now the Lord is that Spirit - The word "Lord" here evidently refers to the Lord Jesus; see 2 Corinthians 3:16. It may be observed in general in regard to this word, that where it occurs in the New Testament unless the connection require us to understand it of God, it refers to the Lord Jesus. It was the common name by which he was known; see John 20:13; John 21:7, John 21:12; Ephesians 4:1, Ephesians 4:5. The design of Paul in this verse seems to be to account for the "liberty" which he and the other apostles had, or for the boldness, openness, and plainness 2 Corinthians 3:12 which they evinced in contradistinction from the Jews. who so little understood the nature of their institutions. He had said 2 Corinthians 3:6, that he was a minister "not of the letter, but of the Spirit;" and he had stated that the Old Testament was not understood by the Jews who adhered to the literal interpretation of the Scriptures. He here says, that the Lord Jesus was "the Spirit" to which he referred, and by which he was enabled to understand the Old Testament so as to speak plainly, and without obscurity. The sense is, that Christ was the Spirit; that is, the sum, the substance of the Old Testament. The figures, types, prophecies, etc. all centered in him, and he was the end of all those institutions. If contemplated as having reference to him, it was easy to understand them. This I take to be the sentiment of the pas sage, though expositors have been greatly divided in regard to its meaning. Thus explained, it does not mean absolutely and abstractly that the Lord Jesus was "a Spirit," but that he was the sum, the essence, the end, and the purport of the Mosaic rites, the spirit of which Paul had spoken in 2 Corinthians 3:6, as contradistinguished from the letter of the Law.

And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty - This is a general truth designed to illustrate the particular sentiment which he had just advanced. The word "liberty" here (ἐλευθερία eleutheria) refers, I think, to freedom in speaking; the power of speaking openly, and freely, as in 2 Corinthians 3:12. It states the general truth, that the effect of the Spirit of God was to give light and clearness of view; to remove obscurity from a subject, and to enable one to see it plainly. This would be a truth that could not be denied by the Jews, who held to the doctrine that the Spirit of God revealed truth, and it must be admitted by all. Under the influence of that Spirit, therefore, Paul says, that he was able to speak with openness, and boldness; that he had a clear view of truth, which the mass of the Jews had not; and that the system of religion which he preached was open, plain, and clear. The word "freedom," would perhaps, better convey the idea. "There is freedom from the dark and obscure views of the Jews; freedom from their prejudices, and their superstitions; freedom from the slavery and bondage of sin; the freedom of the children of God, who have clear views of him as their Father and Redeemer and who are enabled to express those views openly and boldly to the world."

17. the Lord—Christ (2Co 3:14, 16; 2Co 4:5).

is that Spirit—is THE Spirit, namely, that Spirit spoken of in 2Co 3:6, and here resumed after the parenthesis (2Co 3:7-16): Christ is the Spirit and "end" of the Old Testament, who giveth life to it, whereas "the letter killeth" (1Co 15:45; Re 19:10, end).

where the Spirit of the Lord is—in a man's "heart" (2Co 3:15; Ro 8:9, 10).

there is liberty—(Joh 8:36). "There," and there only. Such cease to be slaves to the letter, which they were while the veil was on their heart. They are free to serve God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus (Php 3:3): they have no longer the spirit of bondage, but of free sonship (Ro 8:15; Ga 4:7). "Liberty" is opposed to the letter (of the legal ordinances), and to the veil, the badge of slavery: also to the fear which the Israelites felt in beholding Moses' glory unveiled (Ex 34:30; 1Jo 4:18).

The Lord Christ was a man, but not a mere man; but one who had the Divine nature personally united to his human nature, which is called the

Spirit, Mark 2:8. But some think, that the article here is not merely prepositive, but emphatical; and so referreth to 2 Corinthians 3:6, where the gospel (the substance of which is Christ) was called the Spirit. So it is judged by some, that the apostle preventeth a question which some might have propounded, viz. how the veil should be taken away by men’s turning unto the Lord? Saith the apostle:

The Lord is that Spirit, or he is that Spirit mentioned 2 Corinthians 3:18; he is a Spirit, and he gives out of the Spirit unto his people, the Spirit of holiness and sanctification.

And where the Spirit of the Lord is, ( that holy, sanctifying Spirit, which is often called the Spirit of Christ),

there is liberty; for our Saviour told the Jews, John 8:36: If the Son make you free, then shall ye be free indeed: a liberty from the yoke of the law, from sin, death, hell; but the liberty which seemeth here to be chiefly intended, is a liberty from that blindness and hardness which is upon men’s hearts, until they have received the Holy Spirit.

Now the Lord is that Spirit,.... "The Lord", to whom the heart is turned, when the veil is removed, is Jesus Christ; and he is "that Spirit", or "the Spirit": he, as God, is of a spiritual nature and essence; he is a spirit, as God is said to be, John 4:24 he is the giver of the Spirit of God, and the very life and spirit of the law, without whom as the end of it, it is a mere dead letter: or rather as by Moses in 2 Corinthians 3:15 is meant, the law of Moses, so by the "Lord" here may be meant the Gospel of Christ: and this is that Spirit, of which the apostles were made ministers, and is said to give life, 2 Corinthians 3:6.

And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty; which may be understood of the third person in the Godhead; where he is as a spirit of illumination, there is freedom from former blindness and darkness; where he is as a spirit of regeneration and sanctification, there is freedom from the bondage of sin, and captivity of Satan; where he is as a comforter, there is freedom from the fear of hell, wrath, and damnation: where he is as a spirit of adoption, there is the freedom of children with a father; where he is as a spirit of prayer and supplication, there is liberty of access to God with boldness, Though rather the Gospel as attended with the Spirit of God, in opposition to the law, is here designed; and which points out another difference between the law and the Gospel; where the law is, there is bondage, it genders to it; it has a natural tendency to it: quite contrary is this to what the Jews (i) say, who call the law, "liberty": and say,

"that he that studies in the law, hath , "freedom from everything":''

whereas it gives freedom in nothing, but leads into, and brings on persons a spirit of bondage; it exacts rigorous obedience, where there is no strength to perform; it holds men guilty, curses and condemns for non-obedience; so that such as are under it, and of the works of it, are always under a spirit of bondage; they obey not from love, but fear, as servants or slaves for wages, and derive all their peace and comfort from their obedience: but where the Gospel takes place under the influence of the Spirit of God, there is liberty; not to sin, which is contrary to the Gospel, to the Spirit of God in believers, and to the principle of grace wrought in their souls; but a liberty from the bondage and servitude of it: a liberty from the law's rigorous exaction, curse, and condemnation, and from the veil of former blindness and ignorance.

(i) Zohar in Gen. fol. 90. 1. & in Exod. fol. 72. 1. & in Numb. fol. 73. 3.

Now the {n} Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

(n) Christ is that Spirit who takes away that covering, by working in our hearts, to which also the Law itself called us, though in vain, because it speaks to dead men, until the Spirit makes us alive.

2 Corinthians 3:17. Remark giving information regarding what is asserted in 2 Corinthians 3:16.

δέ, [the German] aber, appends not something of contrast, i.e. to Moses, who is the letter (Hofmann), but a clause elucidating what was just said, περιαιρ. τὸ κάλ.,[175] equivalent to namely. See Hermann, ad Viger. p. 845; Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 167. Rückert (comp. de Wette) is of a different opinion, holding that there is here a continued chain of reasoning, so that Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:16-17 means to say: “When the people of Israel shall have turned to the Lord, then will the κάλυμμα be taken from it; and when this shall have happened, it will also attain the freedom (from the yoke of the law) which is at present wanting to it.” But, because in that case the ἘΛΕΥΘΕΡΊΑ would be a more important point than the taking away of the veil, 2 Corinthians 3:18 must have referred back not to the latter, but to the former. Seeing, however, that 2 Corinthians 3:18 refers back to the taking away of the veil, it is clear that 2 Corinthians 3:17 is only an accessory sentence, which is intended to remove every doubt regarding the ΠΕΡΙΑΙΡΕῖΤΑΙ ΤῸ ΚΆΛΥΜΜΑ.[176] Besides, if Rückert were right, Paul would have continued his discourse illogically; the logical continuation would have been, 2 Corinthians 3:17 : ΟὟ ΔῈ ΠΕΡΙΑΙΡΕῖΤΑΙ ΤῸ ΚΆΛΥΜΜΑ, ΤῸ ΠΝΕῦΜΑ ΚΥΡΊΟΥ ἘΣΤΊΝ· ΟὟ ΔῈ ΤῸ ΠΝ. ΚΥΡ. Κ.Τ.Λ.

is subject, not (as Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Estius, Schulz held, partly in the interest of opposition to Arianism) predicate, which would be possible in itself, but cannot be from the connection with 2 Corinthians 3:16.[177] The words, however, cannot mean: Dominus significat Spiritum (Wetstein), because previously the conversion to Christ, to the actual personal Christ, was spoken of; they can only mean: the Lord, however, is the Spirit, i.e. the Lord, however, to whom the heart is converted (note the article) is not different from the (Holy) Spirit, who is received, namely, in conversion, and (see what follows) is the divine life-power that makes free. That this was meant not of hypostatical identity, but according to the dynamical oeconomic point of view, that the fellowship of Christ, into which we enter through conversion, is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, was obvious of itself to the believing consciousness of the readers, and is also put beyond doubt by the following τὸ πνεῦμα κυρίου. And Christ is the Spirit in so far as at conversion, and generally in the whole arrangements of salvation, He communicates Himself in the Holy Spirit, and this Spirit is His Spirit, the living principle of the influence and indwelling of Christ,—certainly the living ground of life in the church, and the spirit of its life (Hofmann), but as such just the Holy Spirit, in whom the Lord reveals Himself as present and savingly active. The same thought is contained in Romans 8:9-11, as is clear especially from 2 Corinthians 3:10-11, where Χριστός and ΤῸ ΠΝΕῦΜΑ ΤΟῦ ἘΓΕΊΡΑΝΤΟς ἸΗΣΟῦΝ and ΠΝΕῦΜΑ ΧΡΙΣΤΟῦ (2 Corinthians 3:9) appear to be identical as the indwelling principle of the Christian being and life, so that there must necessarily lie at the bottom of it the idea: ΧΡΙΣΤῸς ΤῸ ΠΝΕῦΜΑ ἘΣΤΙ. Comp. Galatians 2:20; Galatians 4:6, Php 1:19, Acts 20:28, along with Ephesians 4:11. As respects His immanence, therefore, in His people, Christ is the Spirit. Comp. also Krummel, l.c. p. 97, who rightly remarks that, if Christ calls Himself the light, the way, the truth, etc., all this is included in the proposition: “the Lord is the Spirit.” Fritzsche, Dissert. I. p. 42, takes it: Dominus est ita Sp. St. perfusus, ut totus quasi τὸ πνεῦμα sit. So also Rückert, who nevertheless (following Erasmus and Beza) believes it necessary to explain the article before πνεῦμα by retrospective reference to 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 3:8.[178] But in that case the whole expression would be reduced to a mere quasi, with which the further inference οὗ δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα κυρίου would not be logically in accord; besides, according to analogy of Scripture elsewhere, it cannot be said of the exalted Christ (and yet it is He that is meant), “Spiritu sancto perfusus est,” or “Spiritu gaudet divino,” an expression which can only belong to Christ in His earthly state (Luke 1:35; Mark 1:10; Acts 1:2; Acts 10:38); whereas the glorified Christ is the sender of the Spirit, the possessor and disposer (comp. also Revelation 3:1; Revelation 4:5; Revelation 5:6), and therewith Lord of the Spirit, 2 Corinthians 3:18. The weakened interpretation: “Christ, however, imparts the Spirit” (Piscator, L. Cappellus, Scultetus, and others, including Emmerling and Fiatt), is at variance with the words, and is not to be supported by passages like John 14:6, since in these the predicates are not concretes but abstracts. In keeping with the view and the expression in the present passage are those Johannine passages in which Christ promises the communication of the Spirit to the disciples as His own return (John 14:18, al.). Others have departed from the simple sense of the words “Christ is the Spirit,” either by importing into τὸ πνεῦμα another meaning than that of the Holy Spirit, or by not taking ὁ κύριος to signify the personal Christ. The former course is inadmissible, partly on account of the following οὗ δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα κυρίον, partly because the absolute τὸ πνεῦμα admits of no other meaning whatever than the habitual one; the latter is made impossible by 2 Corinthians 3:16. Among those adhering to the former view are Morus: “Quum Dominum dico, intelligo illam divinitus datam religionis scientiam;” Erasmus and Calvin: “that τὸ πνεῦμα is the spirit of the law, which only becomes viva et vivifica, si a Christo inspiretur, whereby the spirit comes to the body;” also Olshausen: “the Lord now is just the Spirit, of which there was mention above” (2 Corinthians 3:6); by this is to be understood the spiritual institute, the economy of the Spirit; Christ, namely, fills His church with Himself; hence it is itself Christ. Comp. Ewald, according to whom Christ is designated, in contrast to the letter and compulsion of law, as the Spirit absolutely (just as God is, John 4:24). Similarly Neander. To this class belongs also the interpretation of Baur, which, in spite of the article in τὸ πνεῖμα, amounts to this, that Christ in His substantial existence is spirit, i.e. an immaterial substance composed of light;[179] comp. his neut. Theol. p. 18 7 f. See, on the contrary, Räbiger, Christol. Paul. p. 36 f.; Krummel, l.c. p. 79 ff. Among the adherents of the second mode of interpretation are Vorstius, Mosheim, Bolten: “ὁ κύριος is the doctrine of Jesus;” also Billroth, who recognises as its meaning: “in the kingdom of the Lord the Spirit rules; the essence of Christianity is the Spirit of the Lord, which He confers on His own.” For many other erroneous interpretations (among which is included that of Estius, Calovius, and others, who refer ὁ κύριος to God, and so explain the words of the divinity of the Holy Spirit), see Pole and Wol.

ἐλευθερία] spiritual freedom in general, without special limitation.[180] To have a veil on the heart (see 2 Corinthians 3:15), and to be spiritually free, are opposite; hence the statement περιαιρεῖται τὸ κάλυμμα, 2 Corinthians 3:16, obtains elucidation by our ἘΛΕΥΘΕΡΊΑ. The veil on the heart hinders the spiritual activity, and makes it fettered; where, therefore, there is freedom, the veil must be away; but freedom must have its seat, where the Spirit of the Lord is, which Spirit carries on and governs all the thinking and willing, and removes all barriers external to its sway. That Paul has regard (Erasmus, Beza, Grotius, Bengel, Fritzsche) to the conception that the veil is an outward sign of subjection (1 Corinthians 11:10), is to be denied all the more, seeing that here what is spoken of is not a covering of the head (which would be the sign of a foreign ἐξουσία), as 1 Cor. l.c., but a veiling of the heart, 2 Corinthians 3:15.

[175] Bengel aptly says: “Particula autem ostendit, hoc versn declarari praecedentem. Conversio fit ad Dominum ut spiritual.” Theodoret rightly furnishes the definition of the δέ as making the transition to an explanation by the intermediate question: τίς δὲ οὗτος πρὸς ὅν δεῖ ἀποβλέψαι;

[176] There is implied, namely, in ver. 17 a syllogism, of which the major premiss is: οὗ δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα κυρίου, ἐλευθερία, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;” the minor premiss is: “this Spirit he who is converted to the Lord has, because the Lord is the Spirit;” the conclusion: “consequently that κάλυμμα can no longer have a place with the converted, but only freedom.”

[177] For the most complete, historical, and critical conspectus of the many different interpretations of this passage, see Krummel, p. 58 ff.

[178] Quite erroneously, since no reader could hit on this retrospective reference, and also the following τὸ πνεῦμα κυρίον is said without any such reference. Paul, if he wished to express himself so as to be surely intelligible, could not do otherwise than put the article; for, if he had written ὁ δὲ κύριος πνεῦμα ἐστι, he might have given rise to quite another understanding than he wished to express, namely: the Lord is spirit, a spiritual being, as John 4:24, πνεῦμα ὁ Θεός,—a possible misinterpretation, which is rejected already by Chrysostom. Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:45. We may add that τὸ πνεῦμα is to be explained simply according to hallowed usage of the Holy Spirit, not, as Lipsius (Rechtfertigungsl. p. 167) unreasonably presses the article, “the whole full πνεῦμα.” So also Ernesti, Uspr. d. Sünde, I. p. 222.

[179] Weiss also, bibl. Theol. p. 308, explains it to the effect, that Christ in His resurrection received a pneumatic body composed of light, and therefore became entirely πνεῦμα (1 Corinthians 15:45). But the article is against this also. Besides, the body of Christ in His resurrection was not yet the body of light, which it is in heaven (Php 3:21).

[180] Grotius understands it as libertas a vitiis; while Rückert, de Wette, and others, after Chrysostom, make it the freedom from the law of Moses. According to Erasmus, Paraphr., it is free virtue and love.

2 Corinthians 3:17. ὁ δὲ Κύριος τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν: but the LORD, i.e., the Jehovah of Israel, spoken of in the preceding quotation, is the Spirit, the Author of the New Covenant of grace, to whom the new Israel is invited to turn (cf. Acts 9:35). It is quite perverse to compare 1 Corinthians 15:45 (where it is said that Christ, as “the last Adam,” became πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν) or Ignatius, Mag., § 15, ἀδιάκριτον πνεῦμα ὅς ἐστιν Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, and to find here an “identification” of Christ with the Holy Spirit. ὁ Κύριος is here not Christ, but the Jehovah of Israel spoken of in Exodus 34:34; and in St. Paul’s application of the narrative of the Veiling of Moses, the counterpart of ὁ Κύριος under the New Covenant is the Spirit, which has been already contrasted in the preceding verses (2 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 3:6) with the letter of the Mosaic law. At the same time it is true that the identification of “the Lord” (i.e., the Son) and “the Spirit” intermittently appears afterwards in Christian theology. See (for reff.) Swete in Dict. Chr. Biog., iii., 115a.οὖ δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα κ.τ.λ.: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty; sc., in contradistinction to the servile fear of Exodus 34:30; cf. John 8:32, Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:7, in all of which passages the freedom of Christian service is contrasted with the bondage of the Law. The thought here is not of the freedom of the Spirit’s action (John 3:8, 1 Corinthians 12:11), but of the freedom of access to God under the New Covenant, as exemplified in the removal of the veil, when the soul turns itself to the Divine glory. “The Spirit of the Lord” is an O.T. phrase (see reff.). We now return to the thought of 2 Corinthians 3:12, the openness and boldness of the Apostolical service.

17. Now the Lord is that Spirit] Literally the spirit, i.e. the spirit which was to replace the letter. The sense is as follows: ‘The Lord (of whom I have just spoken—see last verse) is the spirit of which I have said (2 Corinthians 3:6) that it should be substituted for the letter.’ For the Lord, even Jesus Christ, is Himself that new power—that higher inspiration—through which man finds what he ought to do written, no longer in precepts external to himself, but in his own regenerate heart. The new birth of the Spirit is but the implanting in man the humanity of Jesus Christ. ‘The last Adam was made a life-giving spirit.’ 1 Corinthians 15:45. This expression like John 4:24, refers, not to the person, but to the essential nature of God, just as in John 6:63, the expression is applied even to the words of God, when they communicate to man essential principles of God’s spiritual kingdom. Cf. also John 1:13; John 3:3; John 3:5; Romans 8:2; Romans 8:4. Other explanations of this most difficult passage have been given. (1) ‘The Spirit is the Lord,’ (Chrysostom); and he remarks on the order of the words in the Greek of John 4:24 in support of his translation. (2) ‘The Lord is identical with the Holy Spirit.’ (3) ‘The Lord with Whom Moses spoke is the Holy Spirit.’ (4) ‘The Lord is the Holy Ghost in so far as the Holy Ghost is the living principle of the indwelling of Christ.’ (5) ‘The Lord no dout is a sprete,’ Tyndale, whom Cranmer follows. It seems on the whole best to interpret the words as above. St Paul now boldly declares that the ‘spirit’ of which he has spoken is nothing less than Christ Himself.

and where the Spirit of the Lord is] Hitherto St Paul has been speaking of the Divine Nature of Him who transforms the heart of man. He now speaks of the personal agency through Whom that work is achieved. Christ does these things by His Spirit, who is also the Spirit of the Father. Romans 8:9. Cf. also Galatians 4:6; Php 1:19; 1 Peter 1:11, with John 14:16-17; John 14:26; John 15:26; 1 Corinthians 2:10-12, &c. This interpretation involves no incongruity with the rest of the passage. The Three Persons in the Blessed Trinity are one in essence, and that essence is Spirit. But the personal agency whereby God works His purpose in man’s heart is the Holy Spirit, as Scripture everywhere declares. See the passages cited above.

there is liberty] Liberty not only to speak openly (2 Corinthians 3:12), but (2 Corinthians 3:18) to gaze with unveiled face upon the glory of God, and thus to learn how to fulfil the law of man’s being. This liberty is the special privilege assured to man by the Gospel. See John 8:32; Romans 6:18; Romans 6:22; Romans 8:2; James 1:25; James 2:12; 1 Peter 2:16.

2 Corinthians 3:17. Ὁ δὲ Κύριος τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν, but the Lord is that Spirit) The Lord is the subject. Christ is not the letter, but He is the Spirit and the end of the law. A sublime announcement: comp. Php 1:21; Galatians 3:16. The particle but, or now, shows that the preceding is explained by this verse. The turning (conversion) takes place [is made] to the Lord, as the Spirit.—οὗ δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα Κυρίου, and where the Spirit of the Lord is) Where Christ is, there the Spirit of Christ is; where the Spirit of Christ is, there Christ is; Romans 8:9-10. Where Christ and His Spirit are, there is liberty: John 8:36; Galatians 4:6-7.—ἐκεῖ) there, and there only.—ἐλευθερία) liberty, opposed to the veil, the badge of slavery: liberty, without such fear in looking, as the children of Israel had, Exodus 34:30.

Verse 17. - Now the Lord is that Spirit. The "but" (Authorized Version, "now") introduces an explanation. To whom shall they turn? To the Lord. "But the Lord is the Spirit." The word "spirit" could not be introduced thus abruptly and vaguely; it must refer to something already said, and therefore to the last mention of the word "spirit" in ver. 3. The Lord is the Spirit, who giveth life and freedom, in antithesis to the spirit of death and legal bondage (see ver. 6; and comp. 1 Corinthians 15:45). The best comment on the verse is Romans 8:2, "For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." All life and all religion had become to St. Paul a vision of all things in Christ. He has just said that the spirit giveth life, and, after the digression about the moral blindness which prevented the Jews from being emancipated from the bondage of the letter, it was quite natural for him to add, "Now the Lord is the Spirit to which I alluded." The connection in which the verse stands excludes a host of untenable meanings which have been attached to it. There is liberty. The liberty of confidence (ver. 4), and of frank speech (ver. 12), and of sonship (Galatians 4:6, 7), and of freedom from guilt (John 8:36); so that the Law itself, obeyed no longer in the mere letter but also in the spirit, becomes a royal law of liberty, and not a yoke which gendereth to bondage (James 1:25; James 2:12) - a service, indeed, but one which is perfect freedom (Romans 5:1-21; 1 Peter 2:16). 2 Corinthians 3:17Now the Lord is that Spirit

Κύριος the Lord is used in Exodus 34:34 for Jehovah. The Lord Christ of 2 Corinthians 3:16 is the Spirit who pervades and animates the new covenant of which we are ministers (2 Corinthians 3:6), and the ministration of which is with glory (2 Corinthians 3:8). Compare Romans 8:9-11; John 14:16, John 14:18.


Compare Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:7.

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