Paul, you will recall, was put out to the extreme, I think to the point where it began to distract him in His service to Christ. After his second visit to Corinth, he was so saddened and deflated that he simply quietly returned to Ephesus. In Ephesus, he wrote the “angry” letter that he sent and then wished he hadn’t. He began to be distracted here, I think – you know, that gnawing thing in your mind and gut that just makes you crazy to know what happened? I wasn’t there, but Paul was one of us – human – and it seems reasonable that he would have human responses.
He was becoming so distracted, he left Ephesus and set out for Troas, where Titus was after his own trip to Corinth. It is entirely reasonable that Paul was after news of what happened with that letter that might have been like a hand grenade in the wrong setting. He didn’t find Titus, so he went looking for him in Macedonia, eventually finding him, and receiving a blessed report that at least a majority of the people there were with Paul and not the false teachers that were calling themselves “super apostles” and attacking Paul’s character.
So what is the first thing Paul chose to confront these “super apostles” with? The idea of suffering, and how that suffering perfects the believer. We talked about how the false teachers were essentially trying to use the gospel as a means of gain, and that’s never good. Paul, on the other hand, would not allow the Corinthians to support him while he was there. We talked about how Paul had gone through real life-threatening trials for the sake of the gospel. Were any of these false apostles ever stoned for preaching his message? Not ever. Paul was. Were any ever beaten with rods for speaking publicly about Christ? No, but Paul was, and he was even given 39 lashes on three different occasions. (One more stoke is a death sentence, if you didn’t know.) Had any of them ever been shipwrecked and lost at sea? Paul was, for a day and a night, for the sake of the work of Jesus on earth. No, beloved, suffering perfects us – if we will cooperate with God and let it.
What we saw was Paul talking about how the Lord had led him in real triumph – but it wasn’t Paul’s triumph, it was Christ’s. He speaks greatly here of his own motives in writing that angry letter, and what that meant to the work, his own state of mind, and the effect it had on the Corinthians. It is a sort of apology in our modern sense, but also an explanation of why he wrote it.
This week, in Chapter 3, we study the actual connection between the Old and New Testaments, or Covenants. Paul compares them directly. This is a particularly crucial area of study, because if you get the Covenants confused, or worse ignore the one that has gone before, you end up with some really whacked-out ideas on things like tithing, resisting sin, like that. Let’s have a peek, shall we?
I broke the chapter down as follows:
KV9: A New and Spiritual Reality
9: For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.
1-3: You Represent A New Spiritual Reality
4-6: We Are Servants of A New Spiritual Covenant
7-11: The New Spiritual Reality Surpasses the Old Reality
12-18: We Should All Live In The New Spiritual Reality
Of course, I have to define my terms a little for you before I get into this. The more we get into the silly narrative that liberal theologians of all stripes are engaging today, the more I see a need for precision in the way I speak. I know this has always been there, but it seems that these liberals have begun to redefine words and use them in ways that we do not, and they don’t tell us that they did this. Hence the confusion with CRT/I. The word “BLACK” is being used to define those who are oppressed, regardless of their actual skin colour. The word “WHITE” is being used to represent those who are the oppressors. Beloved, I failed to receive that particular memo. Since when has oppression been defined by the concentration of melanin in one’s skin? Here’s another question. Why are “RED” and “YELLOW” never mentioned? Or even “BROWN?” It is because…please sit down if you are not already…THEY ARE NOT NEEDED. As a red man, that makes me feel a little excluded! But not really, because this is such a manmade idea. Consider these two verses:
- “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col. 3:9-11)
- “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:26-28)
There is no race except the human race, and there are NO ethnic distances or barriers of interaction. There are no social barriers, economic barriers, religious barriers, national barriers, or even sexual barriers, ALL of them have been overcome overwhelmingly by Christ in His coming kingdom, of which rules we are to live by and obey NOW, IN THE PRESENT. We have what I am calling a NEW spiritual paradigm as set up by Christ and set out by the Holy Spirit according to the Will of God the Father. We have a new spiritual reality. [And please, I invite you to check the current dictionary definitions of those words.]
KV9: A New and Spiritual Reality
9: For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.
Verse nine is a watershed kind of verse. Where you land on the topic of the covenants will determine how you view the whole of Scripture. Pure dispensationalists often do not know how to preach through the Old Testament and make it Christian Scripture, for example. Because they do not recognize that covenants have lasting effects, they often just say something like, “Yes, but we are under the New Covenant, so that should be our focus.” And they are correct, but WHY can they say that? Well, it is because of Christ. And it is Christ that defined all of the covenants in the first place. Covenantal theologians often focus too much on which covenant the passage is referring to. If it can’t be seen in the New Covenant, then they ignore the passage. That’s no answer either.
The only thing to me that makes any real sense at all is to read it carefully and ignore your presuppositions. We have in Christ a New Spiritual Reality, and that is reflected in our teaching, in our behaviour, and in our worldview. If it isn’t, then I suggest that you may need to repent and believe the gospel. And what is that Gospel? That God the Son, at the behest of God the Father, became human by means of a virgin birth, and then after living a perfect and holy life under the Law of Moses (the Old Covenant) in obedience to the Father, He willingly and knowingly gave up His life so that He could pay for the sins of all who would ever turn to Him in faith there on a Roman Cross. Friends, such love DEMANDS a response. We either ignore it and procrastinate ourselves into hell for eternity, or we can turn, in repentance of the things we KNOW are wrong anyway, and believe that He really did die for our sins and that He rose again on the third day after to show this to the world. If you believe that, then let us know. We can send you resources that can help.
It is at this point that we may jump in to this study’s text, where Paul begins to expound the virtues of both covenants, and tells us how we are in a whole new reality.
1-3: You Represent A New Spiritual Reality
Paul takes up the analogy of a written letter as an analogy here to demonstrate to the believers in Corinth that they have really been translated into a new and spiritual reality and no longer live in the old reality. I know, it is very reminiscent of The same Old-Nature vs. New-Nature conversations we have had in the past, and of how Paul calls us to walk in the Spirit and not the old fleshly system which governs the world still. Let’s peek into the text and get a picture of what Paul means.
1: Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you?
- Paul takes up his argument asking his customary rhetorical-style questions. Remember that every part of Scripture has a context, and for context here, we look at the immediately preceding text. There, Paul was saying that he was not “peddling” the word of God. He was not some used car salesman doing a con job on people. He was being sincere in his words, and in his intentions, as one who is turning the lights on to show people the truth. After such a statement, he asks: “Do we need to tell you our qualifications all over again?”
- He then proceeds to ask rhetorically, “Do we need letters of commendation again? Do we need to produce then for you? Or are you wanting to writhe them for us?” You may recall the tradition of writing a letter to vet the brother visiting another gathering. Paul is rhetorically asking if all that is necessary. You folks that follow how logical statements and arguments work will recall that when a question is asked rhetorically, the answer is obvious from the tone or the wording of the question. Clearly here, Paul is saying, “Let’s not go down this road again…”
2: You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men;
- He then says, “You are our letter.” In what appears to be a sudden change of direction to me, Paul says, “We don’t need to produce a letter because YOU are our letter.” Remember the purpose of those letters? It was to introduce and assure people in the destination gathering that this was a good brother and that he could be trusted in the faith. Paul is equating the Corinthians as his letter of proof. “YOU are my letter,” says Paul. You are my proof that I have been faithful to my calling in Christ. Moreover, he continues, “You are written in my heart, and you are read by all men.” The truth of my commendation and my faithfulness to God is seen by all in you and in your faith. Imagine someone being able to say something like that about you!
3: being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
- Even better, Paul tells us that the Corinthian believers were a letter written by Christ, no less! And those believers were cared for by the workers in and about Corinth. Timothy, Apollos, Prisca and Aquila, Silvanus, and the like were all involved in the spiritual care of Corinth. Stephanos and his household, and others.
- And Christ wrote the letter, not with ink, but with the very Spirit of the living God! The Holy Spirit! Now comes the comparison between the Old and New Covenants.
- This letter was not written on tablets of stone. This is a reference to the Old Covenant, written by the finger of God on two stone tablets. What did those stone tablets contain? The Ten Commandments, the moral law of God. They first told us how we are to relate to God, and then how we are to relate to others – ALL others, by the use of the word “neighbour.” (Remember who Jesus said your neighbour was? EVERYBODY!). But this letter was not written on stone tablets.
- Instead, this same moral code is written on the tablet of the hearts of believers with the Holy Spirit! This is, by the way, the very reason we can say that a changed life should mark the life of a believer. He has a new set of priorities because he has a new heart that has God’s law written on it by the Holy Spirit, who changes our nature to walk with Him! And it was written by Christ when He rose from the grave, Beloved!
- Now, maybe you’re sitting there and saying to yourself, “I’ve never heard this before.” Well, then I will tell you that it is time, friend. You need to come to Him, the way He has made for us, and accept the fact that He paid for your sins. Leave those old things behind! Become a new person. Like He wants for you. And He won’t leave you alone. He brought you here, and we can help, because WE care for you, just like Paul cared for the church at Corinth. Email me or chat.
You see, if you have come in humility and repentance of your wrongdoings, you represent the very new and spiritual reality that Christ died and rose again to initiate when He came the first time. And He is coming again to bring those who are His to Himself to be with Him forever. That should be comforting and incredibly uplifting and edifying if you are genuinely His.
4-6: We Are Servants of A New Spiritual Covenant
Now, back to the text, although we didn’t really leave it. Paul is writing these things to show just how he cared for Corinth, and the best way to do so was to tell them the truth. And WE can gather blessing and encouragement from what he said also. Let’s look.
4: Such confidence we have through Christ toward God.
- Paul, after touching all the glories of the Mosaic Covenant, and how Christ did even better with the New Covenant for His people, explains that this is the reason he and all the others that have helped from outside Corinth have the kind of confidence and boldness to teach and speak and live in Corinth the way that they do. This confidence doesn’t come from bold personality, or gregariousness, or the ability to make friends , or even great oratory skill. It comes from Christ, and it comes from Christ ALONE. He is the only reason Paul and we could and can have confidence toward God concerning…well…anything.
5: Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,
- See? Paul knew it didn’t come from those external things, or training, or other such silliness. It simply didn’t come from himself. And he speaks in the plural, so we can include all the worker people that helped from outside Corinth like Timothy or Apollos, or inside Corinth like Stephanos and his household. There was no adequacy found in them. And beloved, I get it. There is no adequacy found for this in me, either. I know it. I feel the lack of it every time we put on one of these studies, or a podcast, or a movie watch party. I am completely inadequate for the task in my own strength. Praise god for the next phrase. Our adequacy is from God. And Beloved, there is NOTHING He cannot do. And WE serve HIM.
6: who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
- See, it is this God that makes us adequate to serve Him. We are servants of His spiritual New Covenant. He even talks about how this New Covenant is better in this verse. This Covenant is not of the letter, Paul says. That was the Old Covenant. It was a collection of rules that were to govern the behaviour of those that were under it. It was concerned with the exacting details of every “Jot” and “Tittle” (the smallest elements of the Hebrew Alphabet) of that Law, given by God to Moses for the people of Israel, all to set them apart.
- Now, what do we know about the Law? Hebrews 10: 4 tells us that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins. Romans 2:17 tells us that the Law can only condemn and put to death. Romans 8:3 tells us that the Law was weak through the flesh and could not accomplish redemption – so GOD did it HIMSELF. Christ died to save us. God the Son, the Second Person of the Triune God.
- Why am I taking the time to establish this? Because in the text here in this verse, Paul says that the letter of the Law kills. It is the Spirit, capital s, that gives life, so the Holy Spirit that gives life. Why? Because when we finally turned to Him in repentance and faith, He gave us a new heart, one with the Law of God already written upon it, and a desire to please God and do the things written on our hearts by Him!
Beloved, it is all done in God, this part of our salvation. We are foreknown by Him, we are foreordained (predestined) to be like His Son, we are called, we are justified, and we are glorified, even if that hasn’t happened yet. It is a completed work, a done deal – and WE SERVE HIM! And HE HAS MADE US ADEQUATE! And we can be adequate NO OTHER WAY. No matter how hard we try to live in our own strength and wisdom. You know, I hear smart men say stupid things. Or I hear them pick on irrelevant points, or I hear them nitpick about things for irrelevant reasons. I can do that myself. WE ARE NOTHING OUTSIDE OF HIM. He makes us adequate.
But why should this matter to us? Why should we care?
7-11: The New Spiritual Reality Surpasses the Old Reality
Well, because this new and spiritual reality is infinitely better than what went before, no matter how much we may have liked it! And there are reasons that the old appeals to us! It was a set of rules that we could follow so we didn’t have to figure out what to do for ourselves. We could use it as a basis of comparison with others to make ourselves to feel superior according to imagined or arbitrary measures. And it gets darker from there, so we’ll leave off the analysis. Besides, that isn’t really the point – the point is to show the superiority of the new and spiritual reality! Let’s look at the text.
7: But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was,
- To show the vast superiority, Paul does NOT mock the old system, as we tend to do (Or at least as I tend to do, but I have heard many others do likewise, so forgive the generality). Instead, he simply explains what it was. It was the ministry of death. In other places in his epistles, including the last verse of this very chapter, Paul says that the letter [of the Law of Moses] kills, but the [Holy] Spirit gives life. I recognize that is only one way of looking at that, but the others are similar. The old system causes death, the new reality gives life.
- Why exactly was that? It showed the standard of what was right and what was wrong. It was (literally) written in stone! And it was beautiful and perfect, friends. I’ve read it – there are no contradictions in it, there are no overlays you can impose on it, it stands on its own, like that. But in its beauty, it was – and is – deadly. And it is inflexible, in that there is no wiggle room or uncertainty. Let’s take an example. It says, “You shall not steal.” If you steal, you have broken the Law. It doesn’t examine the motives, it doesn’t consider the circumstances, mitigating factors, nor does it consider the degree of the theft or the impact. If I “stole” a dollar from the register at work to pay for a coffee because I was falling asleep, the boss would have said no problem. The Law would have said I was guilty. If I stole a dollar from a guy that was hard up for cash and needed every penny for home repair, say, he’d miss the dollar, and his roof might continue to leak. I would still be guilty. And the Law says I must atone and then make it right, and in fact must make it better by five times, depending where you look and for what offence. Nevertheless, it is the Law of God. And it is glorious because of that.
- In fact, when God gave that moral law, the great Decalogue, the Ten Commandments to Moses, and he brought it down from the mountain, the Scriptures say his face shone with the glory of God. Let’s look at that. Exodus 34:29-30 says, “It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.” Later it tells us that he had to wear a veil over his face to hide the glow because it was freaking people out! Including Aaron, the High Priest, his older brother. It can clearly be said there was a heavenly glory to the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses, given by God Himself, and written in stone by His [God’s] own hand. And Paul said that glory was fading – and eventually Moses stopped glowing.
8: how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?
- Then Paul poses a real question. It is rhetorical, meaning that the answer to the question is obvious from the question itself – how can the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune Godhead, fail to have more glory than that? It really can’t, can it. That isn’t a question.
- No, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to sanctify the person that Christ has justified by faith! First, He [the Holy Spirit] comes and takes up residence in that person, And then He begins to clean house, changing our personalities into the image of Christ, all while leaving our individuality intact! That is, He sanctifies us as we choose to walk with Christ day by day! ESPECIALLY when the going gets rough. How glorious is that? And it has no real relation to the Law except that He has changed our characters to prioritize that moral law. That can take a long time, but He is doing it! And all so we may stand before Christ on that day He judges us and hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Imagine that…
9: For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.
- If that first Covenant is filled with the Glory of God, How much more is the second? Beloved, we are no longer under the Old Covenant. We have accepted for ourselves by faith the rule of the New Covenant, and it is the Covenant that leads directly to salvation in Christ. And I would further argue that faith in Messiah has ALWAYS been the true path of salvation for man. We can see it from the very beginning, all the way through the last few verses of Scripture. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” (Rev. 22:17). This is the promised Messiah speaking, and HE is referring to Isaiah 55: 1-3, which says, ““Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. “Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, According to the faithful mercies shown to David.” I tell you, Isaiah longed to know what this was about! The ANGELS long to look into these things! “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.” They all see the glory which fills the New Covenant, and THEY want to understand it better! And WE, Beloved, WE are privileged to know this first hand – if we will repent of our sins and believe He is the One that saves us by His death, burial, and resurrection!
10: For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it.
- And this is what Paul is saying! He explains that the Old Covenant, the Law, was filled with Glory – it was the very word of God written in His own hand – and the New Covenant is also the Word of God, but the difference isn’t based on the Word. Both are the Word. The difference is that Christ, the personification of God Himself, died for us as the suffering Messiah to redeem us to Himself! And that has SO much more glory that it is as if the Law had none in comparison. Now THAT’S glory.
11: For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.
- Remember, Moses’ face eventually stopped shining. The Law became so compromised by men that it was no longer effective. So Christ gave Himself – and offers that to all of us, if we will accept it for our own. Now – let me ask – is that something you want? Because if it is, you can have it. Just acknowledge that those things you hate yourself for are wrong – sin – before God. And accept that Jesus paid the price for those wrongdoings when He died on the cross according to the Scriptures, and proved the same when He rose from the dead, also according to the Scriptures.
And Beloved, not to put too fine a point on this, but the Lord is coming back. No matter which shade of rosy-coloured glasses you look through to interpret Scripture, all the main ones agree that Christ is returning, making that offer of repentance through faith in Christ a limited-time offer. Don’t let time run out on you. You risk much if you play that game.
12-18: We Should All Live In The New Spiritual Reality
You see, we should all live in that new spiritual reality of the New Covenant. It is the one that preaches direct salvation in Christ, and it has really always been the way of salvation, even before he entered into earthly time and those verifiable historical events played out in real time. If we will not, then we are choosing not to yield the ground to Him, and he will take it from you on that day. Or we can choose to yield it to Him, and have him bless it and give it to us as our own for real some day. We need to live in the light of reality – the new and spiritual reality.
12: Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away.
- Here, Paul starts to draw practical application regarding everything he has declared. He is saying in modern language, “Because we have this new and spiritual reality in which to place our hope, we speak reality to people. We don’t use types and shadows or euphemisms. We say things plainly, not hiding the light that Christ is shining through us.”
- See, here he talks about how Moses used to have to cover up that light just so the people could look at him when he spoke. That, says Paul, is no longer necessary or advisable. Now I see the guy there in the back row of the internet waving his hand like Arnold Horshack from the 1970s sitcom Welcome Back Kotter. “But what if we get pushback?” he says. Well, then learn how to push back persuasively. What does that mean?
- Well, that’s where YOU become a teacher, showing people the way things really are. You speak the plain truth, unvarnished. But you do it with patience and longsuffering, because not everyone will agree with you, at least not right away. It is your job to bear with them, Christian. It isn’t your job to thump down on them with your BIG Bible. It is your job to live your faith in front of them, and to live in reality, speaking the truth because you love them, and bearing with them patiently when they disagree. Don’t be intimidated, and don’t be backed down by bullies. Live fearlessly. A great example of a Canadian that does this is politician Derek Sloan. When he was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party, his motto was, “Conservative. Unapologetically.” But he wouldn’t argue if there was no point. He would state his case, and restate it until he could get people to see the truth. Now, I know, he’s a politician, but he is also a believer. He gets this. He met James Coates, actually. It’s on video.
- Besides, the brightness of the light we can shine on what is right kind of speaks for itself. People don’t like it because it shows what they are doing wrong, but this isn’t anything Jesus didn’t warn us about. Men hate the light because their deed are evil, it says in John 3:19-20. Don’t be shocked when it happens to you. They don’t want to be exposed. You know, you don’t like it either, we still deal with our old fleshly self daily. You know what it’s like. Have mercy and compassion, but let your light shine and SPEAK THE UNVARNISHED TRUTH.
13: and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away.
- We looked at the text in Exodus 34 in the last section, but it bears repeating that this is the place that it tells us that the people of Israel has Moses put a veil over his face so he wouldn’t freak them out. It bears repeating that Paul here is saying we are NOT like Moses. Sometimes the way we live will freak people out – and I believe that it is God’s intent to shock them out of their spiritual stupor so that they may see the glory of God and give them their opportunity to accept or refuse what He offers in terms of salvation through Christ alone.
- I know some of my own Calvinist brethren will have problems with the way that is phrased, but I don’t care, and I will explain why. It says in the Westminster Confession of Faith in Chapter III, Paragraph I, “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” It is the emphasized portion that says just because God made all His plans before the world was formed, it does not say or mean ANYWHERE that mankind has no choice in his own eternal destiny or destination. No violence is offered to the will of the creatures. They will choose what they want, and will be rewarded eternally and accordingly. The London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 says the same thing and adds a bit extra, but this phrase occurs in both confessions. The WCF notes that this phrase comes from James 1:13, 17; and 1 John 1:5. We’ll look at those for the record.
- James 1:13, 17 – 13: Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 17: Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
- 1 John 1:5 – This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
- All of this is to say that man has a choice. I am NOT going start a debate here about libertarian free will and Arminianism, because that is clearly error (some say heresy), and very common in today’s realm of “Christendom,” please not the use of air quotes. But the doctrines of Grace are still preserved even if humanity has a will of their own. If they will decline the choice to live, that is their right, and it is given by God. If they choose life instead, then God welcomes home his prodigal child. That isn’t what this statement is strictly about, but it is important that we understand that each person has a right to make their own decision. God’s will is done in any case, all to show His glory to the universe, even if we don’t fully understand it.
- What was the real purpose of the veil? It was so they wouldn’t see the glory on Moses’ face fade. That is no longer the case. We now have and are supposed to live in the light of the permanent glory of Christ. There is more about this in the next verse.
14: But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ.
- Paul is explaining the connection. Those who follow the Old Covenant, as glorious as it was, have let the New Covenant pass them by, because, as he says here, their minds have been hardened. The Greek word for hardened is poroo, and defines a making hard, a callousing over, a petrifying. It is in the Aorist tense, in this case translated as a simple past tense, their minds were poroo. I tend to see those as past perfects, though – their hearts were hardened at a starting point, and are still hardened in the present. Both are true. It tells us that when the Law is read, that veil is still unlifted and they still do not see (hence my preference for the past perfect tense) – because they need to turn to Christ in faith to have that veil lifted. That is one of the results of being justified in Christ, and it gets easier, better, and more clear as He continues to sanctify us. I believe it will be perfected when He finally glorifies us and we enter the eternal state, or perhaps the millennial reign (I remain premillennial in my eschatology).
- Beloved, this is important. We cannot understand the Law or its purpose apart from Christ. We cannot understand the Old Covenant apart from the New Covenant, no matter what the New Marcionists like Andy Stanley say. The God of the Old Covenant is the God of the New Covenant. And if you don’t see that, then stick around and keep coming back. I will try to keep explaining it simply and intelligently as long as you want me to do so.
15: But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart;
- Here, Paul is explaining what modern day Ecumenicists miss. We are not New Covenant Jews. We are followers of Jesus, first called “Christians” at Antioch (and it wasn’t a compliment). We share their Old Covenant book, the Torah, along with their Prophets, and their Wisdom writings, commonly called the Tanakh when collected together. We call it the Old Testament (and it contains no Apocryphal books incidentally, so no to the Romanish “translations” of the Scriptures). This is the Jewish Scriptures. It is what the Apostles referred to for the most part when they talked about the Scriptures or the Word of God. When a Jewish person reads those Scriptures, or when it is read to them, Paul says a veil lies over their heart – which is his fancy way of saying that they do not truly understand it.
- Beloved, get this right. The Bible – all of it, Old and New Testaments – are the Christian Scriptures. Jude says it like this: “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Just because it shares a common base with Jewish Scriptures does not mean we have to buy into their traditions and festivals, and feasts, and system of laws. Jesus came to fulfil the Law. Hebrews 8:13 says He has made the first covenant (the Law) obsolete. Jews and Christians are not on the same path at all. Judaism is the religion of the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus rejected when He was here the first time. Classical Judaism on the other hand, ends in Christianity. Whatever Shylocks like Johnathan Cahn try to sell you about Jewish stuff, it is irrelevant to Christianity. We do not need to become more Jewish in our understanding of Scripture. What we need to do is understand what God wrote through Men that He anointed through the Holy Spirit and had write the pages of the library of the 66 books that He ordained. 2 Tim 3:16-17 simply say, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” All we need is the Bible, and the Holy Spirit to help us to understand it when we read it. In fact, that’s why we have these studies! So that we can find out together what it says, what it means (not to us, but what God meant), and what we should be doing about it! And I don’t study the Scriptures any differently if I’m studying them for private edification or for public sharing like now. Beloved, don’t have a veil over your heart. We are all here to understand. Let’s all help each other to do it. You know, I learn from you all too! Come with a study prepared! You WILL get to share it.
16: but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
- See? This is what Paul taught! Turn to Christ in reality, and you WILL begin to understand the Scriptures! The Holy Spirit will guide your understanding of the words that are used and how to apply these words to your life and situations. Then you can act with knowledge of the will of God and gain wisdom as that knowledge is put into practice. This isn’t some airy-fairy mystical meditative garbage, Beloved! It’s VERY real.
- Now, I need to say a word about what this is NOT. This is NOT navel-gazing, new-age crapola. (Which is actually in my spell-checker with one “p,” and not two as I had initially written it.) It is not sitting very quietly and trying to hear a “still, small voice” like came to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:12. By the way, that is the ONLY place that is EVER used in Scripture. But I guess it sounds good, so the Charismaniacs grabbed it and doctrinalized it (see, I can make up words too), because they could get the fish to bite on that is my guess. Hey, I bought into it for years, even after my unceremonious exit from Charismania, because I thought it was biblical. It isn’t. Heck, even John Piper believed it, or rather wouldn’t discount it. He said, “And, even though the glory and majesty of God in his word can be known in the still small voice of whispered counsel by the bedside of a dying saint, there is something in it that cries out for expository exultation.” (John Piper. “John Calvin: The Man and His Preaching”, final paragraph, 1997 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors.) I’m not a big fan of Piper for a number of reasons, but he has a lot of stuff that is decent, and this is one of those.
- In fact, if you look through the New Testament, and I recommend you do, you will sometimes see the giving of visions and things, but these events are specific and rare, confined largely to the “capital A” Apostles. Augustine, by the end of the fourth century had the opinion that these gifts ceased with those Apostles, in fact. Does that mean God doesn’t work that way? No, God can do whatever He wants, He’s God – but we shouldn’t expect that. We should instead seek to know His Word, where His will is recorded for us, or at least the general principles for living in a broken world system that can inform us to make intelligent choices about reality and not be befuddled by the confusion going on “out there.” Let’s look at Hebrews 1 for a moment.
- Hebrews 1:1-4 – God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
- If you will recall when we studied Hebrews, we looked at this passage. We saw that the translation into English here loses some of the strength. Remember that God placed a veil over the hearts of his own people to keep them from a full understanding of His word because of their stubborn sinfulness (we should take caution at that ourselves). What this actually is trying to convey is that (1) God…spoke long ago to the leaders of Israel through the prophets, in little bits and pieces here and there, through many prophets, with many words and prophecies [so they couldn’t even begin to put it all together because of His judgement on them], (2) has in these last days spoken [His will] to us IN HIS SON. That is Jesus, the Christ of God, identified to us by multiple witnesses through history including extrabiblical sources like Josephus. He spoke to us, literally “in Son,” meaning in the person of His Son. Everything He said and did while He was here the first time. Everything He was, both God and Man. This Son, God appointed heir of all things, THROUGH WHOM ALSO HE MADE THE WORLD. The Son was the actual creative force that made EVERYTHING. Shades of John 1, yes? (3) This Son is the EXACT REPRESENTATION of God’s HOLY NATURE. And this Son literally holds everything together by the word of His power. Folks – the universe – have you SEEN the size of it? The scale? The magnitude? From the smallest subatomic particle to the largest star at the greatest distance and beyond – HE holds it all together. And He had time to come and mess around HERE for 33 or 34 years? Beloved, THAT Son. (4) And WHEN (not if) He had cleansed the sins of those who would turn to him throughout history (because time is also a dimensional variable in play here), He sat down. Why? Because He was tired from all the power He is using? NO! Because the work he started in Genesis was now completed insofar as all believers ever had been redeemed. If you grew up on a farm, you might have an understanding of this – you get to sit down when the work is done. Though WE need it. He doesn’t. WHERE did He sit? Right beside the Ancient of Days, the King of the Ages, God the Father, on His throne. And he adds a bit here about how he is so much better than the angels – one in particular I believe – because He has INHERITED a better name than any of them. He didn’t even earn it! He didn’t NEED to do any of this! He DID! Praise His Holy And Awesome NAME!
- Beloved, we need to understand that God spoke once and for all in the final age of the earth before the great and coming kingdom of God in the person of His Son. And HE DID NOT WHISPER IN A STILL SMALL VOICE. And if you have really turned to Him, He will take the veil away from your understanding and allow you to see that.
17: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
- Now, here is a detail for those who are awake. The Lord is the Spirit. What is that saying? Jesus is the Holy Spirit? Well, I think yes. Remember, “exact representation of the divine nature.” Then who is the Holy Spirit? Well, He is God. Not “a” God, “the” God. Is He separate from the Lord Jesus? Yes. And No. Add the Father, and you have the Triune God, who is both three and one. And Three. But still one. I’m not sure we as limited humans can actually figure this out, beloved. And I’m not sure we need to, it’s plain and obvious that salvation comes through the Lord, and His name is Jesus, who sends the Holy Spirit, the great Paraclete to come alongside for our aid.
- And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. The Greek word may also be translated as “freedom.” In this sense, Jesus died to set us free from our slavery to sin. And He did set us free, regardless of our condition in the world. Yes, we are slaves [doulos] to Christ. But in our “slavery” to Christ, we are free of what was killing us – sometimes quickly, sometimes agonizingly slowly – we are free indeed, by the Truth that He alone is. And there is more…
18: But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
- Because Christ has set us free from the power of sin and the fear of death, we can see and know the truth. The world [kosmos] and its corrupt and evil system no longer has power over us. We can live freely as we were meant to live, serving Christ and His people. Does it really matter then that the world hates us, and eventually will want to be rid of us in the greatest slaughter of God’s people of all time? No – because they cannot stop us, they cannot even slow us down in our service to Christ and His people. They cannot silence us. They will have to kill us to do that – and THAT only does us a favour if we are honest, because it sends us directly to be with Christ, says Paul in another place (2 Cor. 5:6-8).
- How long does that take? I don’t know – but I don’t think we can rely on the testimony of those who are marketing “heaven tourism” material or so-called “prophets” like Kat Kerr and her pink hair. I think she needs some professional psychological help for the delusions she speaks every week on Wednesdays. Medication or something. I know the truth isn’t coming from her, that much is sure. You know there was a boy who supposedly died and came back with a story that he had been to heaven and seen Jesus. His name is Alex Malarkey. When he was 6, he and his dad were in a horrific car accident that left Alex a paraplegic (I heard quad, I’m not sure) and in a coma for 2 months with various and multiple spinal injuries. Through what I think is a series of coaching-like statements, his dad got him to say that he died and went to heaven and then came back. I personally think it was for the money to initially pay for the hospital bills, but things that start for one reason often continue for other reasons, and a book deal was born with Tyndale publishers. It became a pretty quick best seller.
- However, at age 17 or 18, in 2015, Alex repudiated the story – publicly. His mom stood by Alex. His dad did not. There was a small war in the family, and dad left, but Alex and his mom are actual Christians. I’ve had the privilege of calling both of them friends since about 2018. In fact, because LifeWay, the Southern Baptist Convention teaching wing, refused to quit selling the book, Alex turned to us at then Pulpit and Pen, and asked US to help get the word out. And we did, and LifeWay has never recovered economically, to the point where they had to close all their brick and mortar locations. But it was for a decreasing interest in book learning, not anything to do with a public spanking of a heresy peddler. No, no. It is apparently the same 15 angry Calvinists that made all the complaints. It was, according to then-President Ed Stetzer, no bid deal. Their leaked (to P&P) emails said different. We published those too, by the way.
- But back to Paul’s point. WE can, in REALITY, not the fake news that passes for reality, carefully crafted in backrooms all over the world, in REAL TRUTH, can look uppon the REAL Jesus. But we still have not a full representation of His glory. It is darkened. Probably for our protection. Our human abilities are not enough at present to grasp that full reality. But even though we cannot see it, we are being transformed into that image we look at through the metaphorical mirror of the Word of God, where we see Christ and follow in our own limited capacity. And this, Say Paul, is from the Lord, the Spirit. It is the Will of God. And it is amazing.
When I really dissect a chapter like this where I see the gospel SO clearly, and I see where it is taking all believers, including me though I don’t deserve it, I am simply amazed. I don’t know what to say or how to respond but to say thanks to God and worship Him in the reality that He has revealed to me personally. That’s how we should all be in the face of Christ. Thankful and amazed at the undeserved glory into which we are being initiated and transformed by the will of God as those who have turned to Christ in repentance and faith.
That’s what I saw in the chapter.