1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again [i.e., by saying that we are not like other people]? Or, do we need letters of recommendation to you or from you, as others do? 2 You people are our letters [of recommendation], written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You people show [i.e., by your conversions] that you are a letter from Christ, delivered by us [i.e., the result of our ministry], not written with ink but with the Holy Spirit of the living God; not on stone tablets [i.e., as in the case with Moses' ministry], but on tablets of the human heart. [See Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10].
4 [We say this] because we have such confidence in God through [our relationship with] Christ. 5 It is not that we are [so] competent as to consider anything [we do] as coming from ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has also made us competent as ministers of a New Agreement [i.e., between Himself and mankind]. It is not [an agreement] based [merely] on a written document [i.e., such as the law of Moses], but on the Holy Spirit, for the written document brings [spiritual] death [See Rom. 8:2], but the Holy Spirit brings [never ending] life.
7 But if the ministry [of the law] that brings [spiritual] death, being carved in letters on stones, came with [such] splendor that the Israelites could not look at Moses' face because of its radiance [See Ex. 34:29-35], (even though such radiance [eventually] faded away), 8 will not the ministry of the Holy Spirit [i.e., the New Agreement] have [greater] splendor? 9 For if the ministry [of the law] that brings condemnation came with splendor, will not the ministry that brings righteousness [i.e., the New Agreement] have greater splendor? 10 For truly, what once came with splendor [i.e., the Old Agreement] has now lost it in comparison to that which has surpassing splendor [i.e., the New Agreement]. 11 For if that which was fading away [i.e., the Old Agreement, represented by the law of Moses] had splendor, how much greater is the splendor of that which remains [i.e., the New Agreement represented by the Gospel]? [Note: In this section Paul uses the analogy of the fading splendor on Moses' face to the fading splendor of the Old Agreement].
12 Therefore, since we have such a hope [i.e., that the Gospel is much superior to the law], we speak with great boldness, 13 and are not like Moses, who had to put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from staring at it as [its] radiance was completely fading away. [Note: The analogy continues by suggesting that the Old Agreement was fading away like the splendor on Moses' face did]. 14 But the minds of the Israelites became dull for, to this very day, the same veil remains on them [i.e., figuratively] when the Old Agreement [Scriptures] are read. It is not being revealed to them that the Old Agreement is being abolished by Christ [i.e., by His death on the cross. See Col. 2:14]. 15 But to this day, a veil remains on their minds whenever [the writings of] Moses are read. 16 But whenever a person [i.e., the Jews] turn to the Lord, the veil is removed [i.e., so they can understand the meaning of God's promises to them through Christ]. 17 Now the Lord [i.e., Christ] is the Holy Spirit, and there is freedom [from the bondage of sin and fear] wherever the Spirit of the Lord is. 18 But all of us [Christians], with unveiled faces, see the Lord's splendor reflected, as [though we were] looking in a mirror, and [so] are being transformed into His likeness in ever-increasing splendor. This is [the work] of the Lord, [who is] the Holy Spirit.