Chapter three continues Paul’s defense of his apostolic ministry and authority in Corinth. It seems that one of the attacks his accusers used was that he had no credentials. Officially, that was true. Paul took the firm stance that, since he was commissioned by Jesus himself (Acts 9:15-16; Galatians 2:6-10), he did not “need letters of recommendation” either to the churches he started or from them (2 Corinthians 3:1-3). On the contrary, the churches themselves and the stories of life change through Christ were all the credentials he needed to prove the authority of his message. What could be better proof than the Corinthians themselves?
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Additionally, Paul needed nothing for his own benefit either, because God both called him to that ministry and made him adequate to accomplish it (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).
For the rest of the chapter, Paul used the example of Moses receiving the stones tablets with the Ten Commandments as an illustration of the difference between the old spiritual life under the Law and the new spiritual life under the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:7-18). Exodus 34:29-35 records that Moses’ face glowed after having seen God, but he wore a veil in the presence of the people when not relaying God’s message. Paul noted that this veil unintentionally became a barrier between them and God, similar to the unbiblical clergy-laity divide in the Church.
On a spiritual level, the Jewish people still have a veil, but it is the Law itself, the one that God gave through Moses. Paul was clear in Galatians 3:19-25 that the Law was a temporary guardian over Israel until Jesus came and that it did not have the power to give life. Thus, in a sense, the Law actually kills those who trust in it for salvation (2 Corinthians 3:6), even though the Law itself was holy (Romans 7:7, 12). By clinging to the Law instead of turning to Christ, the Jewish people continue to “veil” their own eyes to the truth of God’s plan for them (2 Corinthians 3:15-16). Only the Spirit of God can produce the freedom they are looking for (2 Corinthians 3:17).