Written in Their Hearts

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    Written in Their Hearts

    By Justin Johnson

    That God made the new covenant with Israel is clear from scripture (Hebrews 8:8; Jer 31:31).

    “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” – Jeremiah 31:33

    Does this new covenant get fulfilled in the church in 2 Corinthians 3:3-6? Do the Gentiles saved according to the revelation of the mystery partake of the prophesied covenant in Jeremiah 31?

    We think not, but it is easy to see where this mistake can be made when both passages talk about something being written on hearts, both reference God’s people, and both mention the new covenant.

    However, when we look closer at the details it becomes apparent that these passages are different and should not be confused. Instead, like other prophecies, Jeremiah 31 should be rightly divided from the mystery ministry performed by Paul.

    Whose Heart

    In Jeremiah 31 God’s concern is the restoration of Israel (Jer 31:1-4). The new covenant concerns “the house of Israel”, and so the people identified in the phrases “their hearts”, “being their God”, and “they shall be my people” refers specifically to Israel.

    The new covenant was given to turn the hearts of Israel toward God (Mal 4:6; Jer 32:39).

    In 2 Corinthians 3 the apostle of the Gentiles and of the mystery of Christ is speaking to a mixed Gentile audience. These Gentiles were strangers of the covenants of promise (Eph 2:12).

    In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul is talking to and about the hearts of men who are not Israel.

    What is Written

    In the new covenant of Jeremiah 31 what is written in the hearts of Israel is clearly the law.

    “…I will put my law in their hearts, and write it [the law] in their hearts…” – Jer 31:33

    Just as clearly, in 2 Corinthians 3 what is being written is people, specifically the Corinthians saints.

    “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men” – 2 Cor 3:2

    “ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ” – 2 Cor 3:3

    Paul did not need letters of commendation for his ministry, nor could he provide the letter of the new covenant to justify it, his letters of commendation were the saved people in Corinth.

    Who Wrote It?

    In Jeremiah God promises to write the law in the hearts of Israel to turn them back to him. How does he accomplish this? We read about it in Ezekiel 36:27.

    “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” – Ezekiel 36:27-28

    God was going to write the law in the hearts of Israel by His Spirit.

    Here we find the first thing in common with 2 Corinthians 3. The Spirit is also doing the writing among the Gentile Corinthians.

    “…written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” – 2 Cor 3:3

    Paul did not write the Corinthians into a new covenant, nor did he write them into salvation, or Christ. They were the epistles of Christ written (evidenced) by the Spirit of God himself through the ministry of the apostle Paul.

    The New Testament

    While the content and people of the Spirit’s writing in hearts are different in Jeremiah 31 and 2 Corinthians 3, it is true of both ministries that the the Spirit does the writing. The sufficiency is of God the Spirit.

    It is this common point that Paul emphasizes the rest of the chapter.

    “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” – 2 Cor 3:5

    When Paul says God has made him an able minister of the new testament, it is because he understood that it is the Spirit that does the writing, not men, laws, or covenants. not of the letter or the law, but of the spirit (2 Cor 3:6).

    The rest of 2 Corinthians 3 confirms that the the ministration of the Spirit is what Israel should have been looking for. It is this ministration of the Spirit (as was also necessary under the new covenant) that Paul ministered among the Gentiles.

    Same Spirit, Different Writing

    The Spirit was not writing the law in their hearts in 2 Corinthians 3, nor empowering them keep the law, or to restore the nation of Israel.

    It was the same Spirit, with a different ministry in different hearts. The Spirit was writing them as epistles of Christ, the trophies of God’s grace according to the mystery.

    In time past the Spirit wrote about prophecy under the new covenant (2 Pet 1:21). In Paul’s epistles the Spirit wrote according to the mystery of Christ (Eph 3:4-5).

    It was the same Spirit writing a different thing. Instead of writing the law of God into the hearts of men, now the Spirit is writing men into the body of Christ.

    “That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.” –Romans 15:16

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