II Corinthians 3

 

 

In this chapter Paul relates that he does not need letters of commendation since he has been

chosen to minister of a new covenant (Acts 26:15-18) far more glorious than old which was

given to Moses.

 

 

            Paul’s Ministry is His Sufficient Letter of Commendation (vs. 1-11)

 

1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? The last verse of the last chapter might

be seized upon by Paul’s opponents to renew their charge — that he was always

praising himself. The word “again” implies that this charge had already been brought

against him, perhaps in consequence of such passages as I Corinthians 2:16; 3:10;

4:11-14; 9:15-23; 14:18. Such passages might be called self-laudatory and egotistical,

were it not that they arose only from a sense of the grandeur of his office, of which he

was the almost involuntary agent, used by God as it seemed best to Him. Hence he

says later on (ch.10:18) that self-praise is no commendation, and that the true test of a

man is God’s commendation – “or need we, as some others, epistles of

commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?”  It was worse

than absurd to suppose that St. Paul should need those literae formatae to a Church

of which he was the thunder; and nothing but the boundless “inflation” which characterized

the Corinthians could have led them to imagine that he needed letters from them to other

Churches, as though, they were the primary Church or the only church (I Corinthians 14:36). 

 

2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men” – Their very

existence as a Church was the most absolute “commendatory letter” – “The seal of mine

apostleship are ye in the Lord” – (ibid. 9:2)   3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly

declared to be the epistle of Christ (Christ was the composer) ministered by us,

written not with ink” - not with visible or perishable materials, but spiritual in its

origin and character. The notion of “the finger of God” naturally recalled the notion

of “the Spirit of God” (comp.Matthew 12:28 with Luke 11:20) - not in tables of

stone” - God’s writing by means of the Spirit on the heart reminds him of another

writing of God on the stone tablets of the Law, which he therefore introduces with no

special regard to the congruity of the metaphor about “an epistle.” – “but in fleshy

tables of the heart.” The overwhelming preponderance of manuscript authority

supports the reading “but in fleshen tablets — hearts.” Paul is thinking of Jeremiah

31:33, “I will put my Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts;” and

Ezekiel 11:19, “I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a

heart of flesh.” The tablets were not hard and fragile, but susceptible and receptive.

Our letters of introduction are inward not outward, spiritual not material, permanent

not perishable, legible to all not only by a few, written by Christ not by man.  Let us

call it soul-literature or Christianity written on the heart.  Following are five remarks:

 

  • Christianity written on the soul is CHRISTIANITY IN THE MOST

            LEGIBLE FORM. There are some whose hand-writing is difficult to

            decipher and whose thoughts are difficult to understand; their ideas are

            misty and their style involved; but what is written on the soul is written

            so clearly that a child can make it out.

 

  • Christianity written on the soul is CHRISTIANITY IN THE MOST

            CONVINCING FORM. Books have been written on the evidences of

            Christianity, but one life permeated and fashioned by the Christian

            spirit is a far more convincing power than any or all of their most

            magnificent productions. He who has been transformed by Christianity

            from the selfish, the sensual, and corrupt, into the spiritual, the benevolent,

            and the holy, furnishes an argument that baffles all controversy and

            penetrates the heart.

 

  • Christianity written on the soul is CHRISTIANITY IN THE MOST

            PERSUASIVE FORM. There are many books “persuasive to piety,” and

            many of them very powerful; but the most powerful of them are weak

            indeed compared to the mighty force of a Christly life. There is a

            magnetism in gospel truth embodied, which you seek for in vain in any

            written work. When the “Word is made flesh” (John 1:14) it becomes

            mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” – (ch. 10:4)

 

  • Christianity written on the soul is CHRISTIANITY IN THE MOST

            ENDURING FORM. This tablet is imperishable. You may put truth on

            paper, but the paper will crumble; put it into institutions, but the

            institutions will dissolve as a cloud; put it on marble or brass, but these are

            corruptible.

 

  • Christianity written on the soul is CHRISTIANITY IN THE DIVINEST

      FORM. The human hand can inscribe it on parchment or engrave it on stone,

      but God only can write it on the heart. “The Spirit of the living God.” Paul

      was but the amanuensis, God is the Author.

 

4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:  5 Not that we are

sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves” - He here reverts to the

question asked in ch. 2:16. He cannot bear the implication that any “confidence” on

his part rests on anything short of the overwhelming sense that he is but an agent, or rather

nothing but an instrument, in the hands of God! -   “BUT OUR SUFFICIENCY IS OF

GOD!” 

 

6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament” - rather, of a fresh

 covenant (Jeremiah 31:31). The “new testament” has not the remotest connection with what

we call “The New Testament,” meaning thereby the book — which, indeed, had at this time

no existence. The word “testament” means a will, and in this sense implies neither the

Hebrew berith nor the Greek diaqh>kh, — dee-ath-ay’-kay; - diatheke, both of which

mean “covenant.” In one passage only of the New Testament (Hebrews  9:16-17) does

diatheke mean a “testament” or “will.” For the thought, see Ephesians 3:7; Colossians

1:25; I Timothy 1:11-12 - “not of the letter, but of the spirit” - In other words, “not

 of the Law, but of the gospel;” not of that which is dead, but of that which is living; not

of that which is deathful, but of that which is life-giving; not of bondage, but of freedom; not

of mutilation, but of self-control; not of the outward, but of the inward; not of works,

but of grace; not of menace, but of promise; not of curse, but of blessing; not of

wrath, but of love; not of Moses, but of Christ. This is the theme which Paul

develops especially in the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians (see Romans

2:29; 3:20; 7:6,10-11; 8:2; Galatians 3:10; 5:4). Not of the letter. Not, that is, of

the Mosaic Law regarded as a yoke of externalism; a hard and unhelpful “thou shalt

and “thou shalt not;” a system that possessed no life of its own and inspired no life

into others; a “categoric imperative,” majestic, indeed, but unsympathetic and

pitiless. Both the Law and the gospel were committed to writing; each covenant had

its own book; but in the case of the Mosaic Law there was the book and nothing more;

in the case of the gospel the book was nothing compared to the spirit, and nothing without

the spirit. Out of the spirit. That is, of the gospel which found its pledge and consummation

in the gift of the Spirit. The Law, too, was in one sense spiritual” (Romans 7:14), for it was

given by God, who is a Spirit, and it was a holy Law; but though such in itself (in se) it was

relatively (per aceidens) a cause of sin and death, because it was addressed to a fallen

nature, and inspired no spirit by which that nature could be delivered (see Romans 7:7-25). 

But in the gospel the spirit is everything; the mere letter is as nothing (John 6:63) – “for the

letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”  Christianity has both “letter” and “spirit.” If it

had no “letter,” it would be unrevealed, a thought shut up in the mind of God; if it had no

spirit,” it would be but a hollow sound. The words point to two distinct methods of teaching

Christianity.

 

  • The Technical Method. Who are the technical teachers?

 

ü      The verbalist. There were men in the Corinthian Church who thought

                        much of words. “The words of man’s wisdom,” (I Corinthians 2:4)

                        high-sounding sentences, oratoric periods, they scrupulously studied.

                        The spirit of thought is so subtle that it goes off in the attempt to give

                        it grand verbal costume.

 

ü      The theorist. Those who throw into a logical system the ideas they

      have derived from the gospel; he who exalts his system of thought or     

      creed and makes it a standard of truth is a minister of the “letter.” The

      grandest system of theology can no more contain the whole truth than a

      nutshell can the Atlantic.

 

ü      The ritualist. Men must have ritualism of some kind. What is logic

      but the ritualism of thought? Art but the ritualism of beauty? Rhetoric

      but the ritualism of ideas? Civilization but the ritualism of the thoughts

      of ages?  But those who represent those symbols as supernatural powers          

      and mystic media of saving grace are ministers of the “letter” rather

      than of the “spirit.

 

  • The Spiritual Method. What is it to be a minister of the “spirit”? He is a man

            more alive to the grace than the grammar, to the substance than the

            symbols of revelation. He is a man who has a comprehensive knowledge of

            those eternal principles that underlie all Scriptures, and has a living

            sympathy with those eternal elements.

 

The twofold RESULTS. “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”

 

  • The Result of the Technical Ministry. It killeth.”

 

ü      The verbalist kills. It was said by Burke “that no man understands less

                        of the majesty of the English constitution than the nisi prius lawyer, who                                   

                        is always dealing with the technicalities of precedence.” And truly no

                        man understands less of the gospel than he who is constantly dealing

                        with its verbalities. Words in religion, when taken for realities, “kill,”

                        kill inquiry, freedom, sensibility, moral manhood.

 

ü      The theorist kills. He who preaches his own little creed instead of the

                        gospel of God kills souls. The Jews formulated a theory concerning the

                        Messiah from their Scriptures. In their theory He was to appear in such

                        a form, do such a work, reach such a destiny. He came, but did not

                        answer to their theory, and they rejected Him and were damned. Man’s                                   

                        theory of the gospel is not the gospel, any more than pneumatical science                                  

                        is the life-breathing atmosphere.

 

ü      The ritualist kills. He who exalts even the authorized ritualism of the

                        gospel, such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper, to say nothing of the

                        unauthorized rites, kills souls. The ceremonial Church has ever been a                           

                        dead Church. The ministry of the “letter” then killeth;” it reduced the                                  

                        Jewish people to the valley of dead bones, (Ezekiel 37) and entombed

                        the souls of Europe for many a long century. (Look what it is doing to

                        the Unites States – CY – 2010)

 

  • The Result of the Spiritual Ministry. “The spirit giveth life.” “It is the

            spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak

            unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John  6:63) - “The spirit giveth        

            life — life to the intellect, conscience, sympathies, the whole soul. How little of           

            this soul-life we have in congregations!  Creed-life, sect-life, Church-life, we

            have in abundance; but where is soul-life, the life of holy love, earnest inquiry,   

            independent action, spiritual freedom in relation to all that is Christ-like and     

            Divine?

 

Two questions arise:

 

  • What and whom does it kill? the letter — the Law regarded as an outward

      letterpasses the sentence of death on those who disobey it. It says, “He

      who doeth these things shall live in them;”(Romans 10:5) and therefore   

      implies, as well as often says, that he who disobeys them shall be cut off.

      It is, therefore, a deathful menace.  For none can obey this Law with perfect  

      obedience.

 

  • How does it kill? The answers seem to be that the sting of death being sin,

      the Law kills by directly leading to sin, in that it stirs into existence the

      principle of concupiscence (Romans 7:7-11; I Corinthians 15:56; Galatians

      3:10, 21).

 

But the spirit giveth life. This contrast between a dead and a living covenant is fundamental,

and especially in the writings of Paul (Romans 2:27-29; 7:6; 8:11; Galatians 5:8; I Corinthians

15:45). The Law stones the adulteress; (Leviticus 20:10) the gospel says to her, “Go, and

 sin no more.” (John 8:11) 

 

7 But if the ministration of death” – This statement is one of the arguments which is the

basis of the book of Hebrews -  “written and engraven in stones” – (Exodus 31:18) –

was glorious,”- In itself the Law was “holy, just, and good” (Romans 7:12), and given

at the  disposition of angels” (Acts 7:53); and its transitory glory was illustrated by the

luster which the face of Moses caught by reflection from his meeting with God (Exodus 24:16)

– “so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses” –

Paul has been led quite incidentally into this digression in the course of defending

himself by describing the nature of his ministry; but it bore very definitely on his

general purpose, because his chief opponents were Judaists, whose one aim it was to

bind upon the Church the yoke of Mosaism. That they could not “behold” the face of

Moses is the hagadah, or traditional legend, derived from Exodus 34:30, which says

that “they were afraid to draw nigh to him.”   for the glory of his countenance;

which glory was to be done away” - The verb “to do away,” implying annulment,

and the being abrogated as invalid, is a characteristic word in this group of Epistles,

in which it occurs twenty-two times. This illustrates the prominence in  Paul’s

thoughts of the fact that the Law was now “antiquated” and “near its obliteration”

(comp. Hebrews 8:13). But in dwelling on the brief and transient character of this radiance,

Paul seizes on a point which (naturally) is not dwelt upon in Exodus 34.

8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?” - A contrast

may be intended between the ministration of the letter, which “became glorious,”

which had, as it were, a glory lent to it (ejgenh>qh ejn do>xh|), and that of the Spirit,

which is, of its own nature, in glory.  9 For if the ministration of condemnation”

- The same antithesis between the Law as involving “condemnation” and the gospel

as bestowing “righteousness” is found in Romans 5:18-19 – “be glory, much more

doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.” – This involves the further

conception of “justification,” as in Romans 5:21; 1:16-17; 4:25; 5:21.  10 For even

that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory

that excelleth.”  In other words, the glory of Mosaism is so completely out-dazzled

by the splendor of the gospel, that, relatively speaking, it has no glory left; the moon

and the stars cease to shine, they “pale their ineffectual fires” when the sun is in the

zenith. The phrase, “in this respect,” occurs again in ch. 9:3 and I Peter 4:16.

11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which

remaineth” - The final, eternal, unshakeable gospel – (Hebrews 12:27) – “is glorious.” 

Literally, is in glory. Christ is eternally the Light of the world (John 1:9; 9:5); and

Moses and Elias derived all their permanence of glory by reflection from this light on

the Mount of Transfiguration.  (Luke 9:28-35)

 

The infinite Father has made a special revelation of Himself to humanity.  This special

revelation of Himself has mainly come through two great general sources — Moses and

Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son. The special revelation of Himself, as it came through

Christ, far transcends in glory the form it assumed as it came through Moses.

(Hebrews 1:1-3) – The essence of the revelation is the same, but the forms differ, and

the form it assumes in Christianity are the most glorious. There are two facts here:

 

  • That the special revelation as it came through MOSES WAS GLORIOUS.

      It was so glorious that “the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold

      the face of Moses.” (Exodus 34:30; v.13) - Four things impress us with its

      glory as revealed in Moses.

 

ü      The wonderful display of divinity attending its manifestation on

       Mount Sinai. The expression, “the face of Moses,” refers to this     

      (Exodus 34:1). What wonderful things Moses saw and heard during

      the forty days he was on the mount! “The Lord rose up and came

      from Seir with ten thousand of his saints,” (Deuteronomy 33:2).

           

ü      The magnificence of its religious scenes and celebrations. The

      temple, how splendid! the priesthood, how imposing! the psalmody,

      how inspiring!  “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O thou city of            

      God.”  (Psalm 87:3)

 

ü      The stupendous miracles that stand in connection with it. The

                        wilderness was the theater of magnificent manifestations — the pillar,

                        the manna, the flowing rock, the riven sea, etc.

 

ü      The splendid intellects which were employed in connection with it.

                        Solomon, Elijah, Daniel, David, Ezekiel. For these reasons Divine

                        revelation as it came through Moses was truly glorious.

 

  • That although this special revelation was glorious as it came in connection with

      Moses, it was MORE GLORIOUS as it came in connection with CHRIST.

      “How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?” (v. 8)    

      Confining our illustrations on this point to the passage before us, we observe:

 

ü      The Christian form of revelation is more likely to give life than the

                        Mosaic. In Moses it was theministration of death.” (v. 7) - The Jews                                

                        exalted the “letter” that killeth above the “spirit that giveth life,”

                        and they got buried in forms. In Christ the revelation is the gospel in life.

 

ü      The Christian form of Divine revelation is more emphatically spiritual

                        than the Mosaic. It is here called the “ministration of the spirit.” In                         

                        Moses it was associated with numerous forms and ceremonies; in Christ                                   

                        there are only two simple rites, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and the                                    

                        spirit throbs in every sentence.

 

ü      The Christian form of Divine revelation is more restorative than the

                        Mosaic. The apostle speaks of the one as the “ministration of

                        condemnation,” (v. 9) of the other as the “ministration of                                                     

                        righteousness.” (ibid.)  Maledictions thunder in the former,

                        beatitudes in the latter.

 

ü      The Christian form of Divine revelation is more enduring than the

                        Mosaic.For if that which is done away [which passeth away] was

                        glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.” (v. 11)                                          

                        Judaism is gone; Christianity is the “Word of God, which abideth                               

                        forever.” IT IS THE FINAL REVELATION OF HEAVEN TO

                        OUR WORLD.

 

Such, then, is a brief illustration of the apostle’s position; and the subject,

in conclusion, serves several important purposes.

 

  • It serves to expose the absurdity of making Moses the interpreter of

            Christ. It has been common with professing Christians to look at the New

            Testament through the spectacles of Moses, and thus to Judaize

            Christianity. Much in popery, much, alas! in old puritanism, much even in

            modern theology, is but Christianity Judaized, a going back to the

            beggarly elements.”  (Galatians 4:9)

 

  • It serves to show the wrongness of going to Moses to support opinions

            which you cannot get from Christ. You can support war, slavery, capital

            punishment, by going to Moses; but you cannot find the shadow of a

            foundation for these in Christ.

 

  • It serves to reveal the glorious position of a true gospel minister. To

            show this was the object of the apostle in the text. The position of Moses,

            David, Isaiah, and all the great teachers under the old administration was

            glorious, but it is scarcely to be compared with the position of him who

            preaches that Christ of “whom Moses and the prophets did write.”

            (John 1:45)

 

 

The Veil on the Hearts of Those Who will not Recognize this Ministration (vs. 12-18)

 

12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech” - The

frankness and unreserved fearlessness of our language is justified by the glory of our ministry

and the hope based upon the abiding glory of this gospel covenant.  It was impossible for

Moses to speak with the same bold plainness. 

 

13 And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could

not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished” – Moses was aware, and

even told the people, that his legislation was not final.  (Deuteronomy 18:15-19) 

 

14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail” - The

vail which prevented them from seeing the evanescence of the light which shone on the face

of Moses was symbolically identical with that which prevented them also from seeing the

transitory character of his Law. It had been as it were taken from his face and laid on their

hearts (see Acts 13:27-29; Romans 11.). This metaphor may have been suggested by

Isaiah 25:7, “And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast ever all

people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.” – untaken away” - It is not the

veil, but the old covenant, which is being done away in Christ. To the Jews that truth

still remained under a veil. The present tense, “is in course of annulment,” might naturally

be used until the utter abrogation of even the possible fulfillment of the Mosaic Law at the

fall of Jerusalem -  in the reading of the old testament” – rather, the old covenant.

There is no allusion to the Old Testament as a book, but the phrase is equivalent to

Moses is read” in the next verse. (On this obduracy of the Jews, see Romans 11:7-8, 25.)

which vail is done away in Christ. 

 

15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.”  A

vail of moral obstinacy, which prevents them from seeing the disappearance of the old

covenant!

 

16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord” - The nominative of the verb is

not expressed. Obviously the most natural word to supply is the one last alluded to, namely,

the heart of Israel.” The verb may have been suggested by Exodus 34:31

- “the vail shall be taken away.” - literally, is in course of removal. The tenses imply that

the moment the heart of Israel shall have turned to the Lord, the removal of the

vail begins.” Then “they shall look on him whom they pierced” (Zechariah 12:10);

“He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and

the vail that is spread over all nations” (Isaiah 25:7). 

 

  • IN WHAT DOES THE VAIL CONSIST? Especially in prejudice and in

            unbelief. As the Israelites were so persuaded of the incomparable

            excellence of the Mosaic Law that they could not discern the higher

            revelation to which that Law was designed to lead, so oftentimes men’s

            minds are so preoccupied with their own notions of religion, of

            righteousness, etc., that they are not prepared to give heed to the Divine

            manifestation and appeal.  (A very dangerous situation – CY – 2010)

 

  • WHAT DOES THE VAIL HIDE? The covering referred to in the

            context hid the face of the lawgiver; but the vail of error and of unbelief

            conceals the countenance of Christ, the revelation of Divine attributes,

            purposes, and promises. What it would be most for our interests to behold

            we may, by our sin and folly, obscure from our own view. See what we

            may, if we behold not the light of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ

            we forfeit the highest privileges of which we are capable. (ch. 4:4-6)

 

  • HOW IS THE VEIL REMOVED? The answer is very simple, “When

            it shall turn to the Lord.” That is to say, the obstacle to spiritual vision

            lies with ourselves and not with Heaven. Repentance, or the turning of the

            heart away from sin, is the condition of true enlightenment, Whilst the

            mind is occupied with itself and its own inclinations and fancies, the

            spiritual glory of the Saviour is not discernible. It only needs that, under

            the guidance of the Spirit of God, the mind should look away from self to

            Christ, in order that at once the scales should fall from the eyes of the

            beholder, and the veil should drop from the face of the Redeemer, and a

            true revelation should take place.

 

17 Now the Lord is that Spirit:” – Jesus Christ is the Savior, who saves from the

yoke of sin, the doom of death; the Redeemer, who ransoms from a spiritual

captivity, who pays the price, and sets the prisoner free!  The Lord is the Spirit, who

giveth life and freedom, in antithesis to the spirit of death  and legal bondage (see v. 6; and

comp. I 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 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.”  - “and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”  The liberty of

confidence (v. 4), and of frank speech (v.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; 2:12) — a service, indeed, but one which is  perfect freedom

(Romans 5:1-21; I Peter 2:16). 

 

18 But we all, with open face” – rather, with unvailed face;  beholding as in a glass”

a description of the “beatific vision” which brings us to a SPIRITUAL REFLECTION.

Instead of the countenance being concealed by a vail, it is, in the case of true Christians,

converted into a mirror, which receives and then reflects the rays of light. Thus the glory of

the Lord, which is ever manifested in nature, and which shone in the face of our

incarnate Redeemer, is gathered up and given forth by the renewed and purified

character of the Christian. This is a moral process. A spiritual nature alone is capable

of attracting and receiving such light, alone is capable of giving it forth in uncontaminated,

though reflected, rays. Thus the disciple mirrors the Teacher and the servant mirrors the Lord.

We are living representatives of the Divine Head -  the glory of the Lord” - Namely,

Him who is “the Effulgence of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3), the true Shechinah, “the

Image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). are changed into the same image” –

The present tense implies a gradual transfiguration, a mystical and spiritual change which

is produced in us while we contemplate Christ - Faith in Christ and fellowship with Christ

are the forces which produce assimilation to Christ. The image which is beheld seems to

infix itself upon the mirror-like soul that receives it. The life of faith thus serves to carry on

a gradual process of spiritual assimilation. The progression is denoted by the phrase,

from glory to glory,” by which we understand, not earthly splendor, but spiritual

excellence and perfection. And the agency is indicated by the expression here used,

as by the Lord the Spirit.” Because He is the Spirit, the Lord has access to the heart,

and renews, hallows, and glorifies the nature to which He makes Himself graciously and

divinely known. And there seems to be no limit to this most blessed process. In fact,

the future state appears to offer the most amazing scope for its continuation: “We shall be

like Christ; for we shall see him as He is.” – (I John 3:2)  from glory to glory” -  

Our spiritual assimilation to Christ comes from His glory and issues in a glory like His

(I Corinthians 15:51; comp. “from strength to strength,” Psalm 84:7). (For the thought,

comp. I John 3:2.) even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  This rendering (which is that

of the Vulgate also) can hardly be correct. The natural meaning of the Greek is “as by

the [or, from] the Lord the Spirit.” Our change into glory comes from the Lord, who,

as Paul has already explained, is the Spirit of which he has been speaking. No such

abstract theological thought is here in his mind as that of the “hypostatic union,” of the

Son and the Holy Spirit. He is still referring to the contrast between the letter and the

spirit, and his identification of this “spirit” in its highest sense with the quickening life which,

by the gift of the Holy Spirit, we receive from Christ, and which is indeed identical with

the Spirit of Christ.”

 

 

Consider the Gospel as a Transcendent Benefactor.  Seeing then that we have such hope,”

(v. 12) -  Amongst the invaluable services which the gospel confers on man, there are four

suggested by the text. It gives him moral courage, spiritual vision, true liberty, and

Christlike glory. First it gives him:

 

  • MORAL COURAGE. “Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great

      plainness [boldness] of speech: and not as Moses, which put a vail over

      his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the

            end of that which is abolished,” - This means that, seeing the revelation

            we have of God in Christ is not so terrible as His revelation in Moses, we

            have “great boldness.” We need have no superstitious fear or dread. Unlike

            the Jews, who were afraid to look at the Divine radiance on the face of

            Moses, who trembled at the manifestation of God on Sinai, and who lacked

            the courage to look at the fact that their system was a temporary one,

            passing away; we have courage to look calmly at the manifestations of God

            and the facts of destiny. We use “great boldness.” He who has the spirit of

            Christianity in him has courage enough to look all questions in the face,

            and to speak out his convictions with the dauntless force of true manhood.

 

  • SPIRITUAL VISION. “But their minds were blinded: for until this day

            remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament;

            which veil is done away in Christ.” (v.14) - The vail of Moses was on his face,

            some material used for the moment and then withdrawn, but the vail referred to

            here was that “vail” of prejudice and traditional notions which prevented them from

            seeing when Paul wrote that the old dispensation has passed away before the

            brightness of the new. The souls of un-renewed men are so vailed by depravity

            that they fail to see anything in the great universe of spiritual realities. The spiritual is

            no more to them than nature is to men born blind. Now, the gospel is the only power

            under God that can take the vail from the soul, and enable us to see things as they

            are. Its grand mission is to open the eyes of the blind!

 

  • TRUE LIBERTY. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

            (v. 17) - By the “Spirit of the Lord” here is meant the Spirit of Christ, His

            moral temper; and wherever this is, there is freedom.

 

ü      Freedom from the bondage of ceremonial sin.

ü      Freedom from the trammels of legality.

ü      Freedom from the dominion of sin.

ü      Freedom from the fear of death.

 

            The Spirit of Christ is at once the guarantee and the inspiration of that

            liberty which no despot can take away, no time destroy — the “glorious

            liberty of the children of God.”  (Romans 8:21)

 

  • CHRIST-LIKE GLORY.But we all, with open face, beholding as in

            a glass the glory of the Lord,” (v. 18)

 

ü      The glory of Christ was the glory of moral excellence. He was the

                        brightness of His Father’s glory.”  (Hebrews 1:3)

ü      The glory of Christ is communicable. It comes to man through

                        transformation “changed into the same image.”  (v. 18)

ü      The glory of Christ which comes to man is progressive: “from glory

      to glory.” (ibid.) - The gospel alone can make men glorious.

 

 

                        Additional Note on the Blindness of the Jews (v. 14)

 

The vail that we have been considering concealed the evanescence of the brightness

of God in Christ Jesus and was symbolic of that judicial blindness which fell upon

Israel. “Their minds were blinded,” or hardened, so that their perceptions were not in

accordance with facts; impressibility was lost, feeling was callous. “Until this day

remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament.” The

punishment continued. What were the old Scriptures but a sealed book to most of the

Jews in the apostle’s day? and now, after twenty centuries, how palpable to us the

confirmation of his words in the ignorance and the delusions of the Jews touching the

spiritual import of their sacred books!  “Until this day” has a meaning for us it could

not have had to Paul’s contemporaries. Time has done nothing or next to nothing to

remove the darkness enveloping Jewish mind. Shrewd, intelligent, sagacious, in

everything else; distinguished on nearly every arena of commercial and

professional life; often foremost among men in matters as widely separated

as music and statesmanship; — they yet present the strangest of contrarieties in

adhesion to prejudices almost two thousand years old, and that too while evincing

an adaptiveness to every form of civilization and to all the modifications

 going on in the current activities of the age. Find them where you may, they

are pliant to circumstances, Not a national mold can be mentioned in which their external

character cannot be cast, and yet, while this plasticity is such that we have Russian, Italian,

German, Spanish, French, English, American, Jews, and withal the individual

nationality apparent, there is the same religious blindness of which Paul wrote long

ago. Their land, homes, institutions, the objects that come before us when we think of

Judaea and Galilee, have passed from their grasp; (Israel is a player today – becoming

a nation again in 1948 – although she has prospered she is none the more savvy about

God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit – but there is hope – “Nevertheless, when it

shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away” – (v.16) -  “Who hath heard

such a thing?  who hath seen such things?  Shall the earth be made to bring forth

in one day?  or shall a nation be born at once?  for as soon as Zion travailed, she

brought forth her children.”  (Isaiah 66:8) “In that day there shall be a fountain

opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for

uncleanness.” [Zechariah 13:1]  Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy

spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.  For I will gather all nations against

Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the

women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue

of the people shall not be cut off from the city.  Then shall the LORD go forth,

and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.” [Zechariah

14:1-3 and following verses] Does not the Bible teach that Israel can turn to Christ,

the Messiah at once?  Does it not sound like we are in the last days?  IF I WAS

A PART OF THE ARAB WORLD THAT WANTS TO WIPE ISRAEL FROM

THE FACE OF THE EARTH, or IF I WAS A PART OF SECULAR AMERICA

OR EUROPE WHO SUPPORTS THIS POLICY, I THINK I WOULD BE VERY

CONCERNED THAT GOD WOULD WIPE ME OFF THE FACE OF THE

EARTH AND THEN PLACE ME IN HELL TO BOOT! – CY – 2010) but they

hold fast to the shreds of  their ancient beliefs, nor can any power relax their

hold. Now, surely, this is inexplicable on the ordinary grounds of human experience.

No law of the mind, no law of society, can explain the phenomenon. Such a spectacle

as the Jews present of retaining their attachment and devotion to a skeleton religion,

from which the soul has departed, is unique in the world’s history. Paul solves the enigma;

it is providential, it is punitive; “until this day the veil is untaken away.” Two

statements follow:

 

Ø      the vail is done away in Christ;”

Ø      but, though done away in Christ, “even unto this day, when Moses

      [his writings] is read, the veil is upon their heart.”

 

Only in and through Christ have we the power to see Christ in the Old Testament.

(Marion Duncan the late 1960’s preached a series of sermons from this pulpit on

Premanifestations of the Pre-Incarnation of Christ in which he used many Old

Testament scriptures which spoke of Christ under the Old Covenant.  Remember

Jesus, Himself, to the two on the road to Emmaus “beginning at Moses and all

the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things

concerning Himself.  [Luke 24:27] and before His disciples gathered after the

resurrection “Then opened He their understanding that they might

understand the scriptures”  [ibid. v. 45] – Ponder the import of the teaching

of Acts 28:24-28.  – CY – 2010) - Only in Christ risen and glorified, only in Him

as sending the Holy Ghost, can we understand the relations of Moses to the gospel.

 “Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures”

a post-resurrection matter altogether and coincident with the preliminary gift of

the Holy Ghost during the forty days.  MAY CHRIST OPEN OUR UNDER-

STANDING AS WELL!

 

The work of grace extends to all the man’s faculties. The intellect, the moral

sensibilities, the social affections, lift up the physical man into themselves, and

grow together into the spiritual man. Not an appetite, not a passion, not an attribute,

of body or soul is left neglected. The ideal is “body, soul, and spirit”

(I Thessalonians 5:23)  consecrated to Christ, living, working, suffering, so that

whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus.”

(Colossians 3:17).

 

 

                                    The Vail on the Heart (v. 15)

 

The vail on the heart obscured the glory of the Old Dispensation.  It did so

to Jews in Paul’s day; it does so to Jews now. The true glory of the old

covenant lay in its foreshadowing of the new. It was a covenant of types

and shadows. Underlying its legality was a deep spirituality. The Law

condemned, and only condemned, but the “Law” was not the whole of the

old covenant. Associated with the Law was the embryo of the gospel. And

unvailed hearts looked through condemnation and shadow and type to the

delivering Messiah, by whom men could be justified by faith and not by

works. But the vail upon the heart caused the Jew to regard the old

covenant as complete in itself, and to disregard the deeper spiritual

meanings of its provisions. From him its true glory was thus hidden. A rigid

system became much more rigid. The wings of a dispensation rising to

something higher were clipped. A hard, narrow creed was substituted for

an expansive and noble theology.

 

The vail on the heart OBSCURES CHRIST!  It did so when Christ came. When the

Messiah appeared, vailed hearts failed to recognize Him. The Jews would have

welcomed a Messiah who came to continue Judaism as Judaism was understood

by them. But the development of Judaism into Christianity, the fruition of the old covenant

in the new, had no charms for them; on the contrary, it was obnoxious to

them in the highest degree, as spirituality is ever to a carnal nature. In the Christ

they could not see the Christ. He was not their Christ, and by facile logic was thus

demonstrated to be no Christ at all. “Their minds were blinded” (v. 14). From

many today Christ is thus hidden. To them “a root out of a dry ground” (Isaiah 53:2)

is as beautiful as He. They think the fault is in Him, but it is in themselves. False

conceptions of the objects, duties, and pleasures of life possess them, and are the

colored media through which Christ is looked at. They see a darkened, shorn,

maimed Christ; the true Christ is hidden from them.

 

A vailed heart CAUSES MEN TO REST IN SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS. This was

the only way of justification which was apparent to the Jew upon whose heart the

vail rested. The vail shut out all, except legalism. So with many now. It is their

righteousness, not the righteousness of Christ, to which they look. They seek to

save themselves, not to be saved by another. Each is a Messiah to himself???  But

poor rest is secured. The voices of old sins make themselves heard, and to their

clamor no satisfactory response is forthcoming. Present power to do right is found

lacking. This is not to be wondered at, seeing that the Source of all true spiritual

 power has been ABANDONED.  Piety becomes either a vague dream of the future

or a dismal formality of the present.

 

The vail KEEPS MEN UNDER CONDEMNATION. The Law of God condemns,

and if only the bare Law is seen there is no deliverance. Self-righteousness,

if attained to in perfection, would not cancel past sentences on sin. But self-

righteousness practically is ever self-unrighteousness, and, instead of atoning for sin,

continuously increases it. The most moral man has but the cheerless vision of a

broken Law imperiously demanding its penalties.

 

The vail is only removed AS WE TURN TO THE LORD. (v. 16.)  When the Jew,

led by the Spirit, believed on Christ, the vail, which had obscured his vision of the

old covenant, and which had thus perverted his being and life, was removed. He saw

then the true significance of the old economy, and perceived that Christ, in His own

person and work, constituted the very fulfillment of the Law. Old things passed away,

all things became new. The vail is destroyed forever as we come to Christ.  The apostle

has, no doubt, in his mind the action of Moses: “When Moses went in before the

Lord to speak with him, he took the vail off” (Exodus 34:34). Our turning to the

Lord is a sign that the vail is rent in twain like the veil of the temple, (Matthew 27:51)

and as we reach the Lord and are taught by the Divine Spirit, the vail vanishes,

obscurity gives place to brightness, and we marvel that we ever could have been as we

once were. When Moses came out from the presence of the Lord he again assumed

the vail, but he is not here an example to us; for we are not to come out again, but to

abide with Christ, to be “forever with the Lord.”  (I Thessalonians 4:17)

 

 

                                    The Great Change (v. 18)

 

 

What is THIS CHANGE? It is a change into the Divine likeness. This, which was

lost through the Fall, is recovered in the gospel. Believers become like Christ, who is

the Brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express Image of His person (Hebrews

1:3). The change is not merely of opinion, or feeling, or even conduct, but a change

of being. It is not something connected with ourselves, but our very selves which are

changed, and changed so as to be like Christ, for before men believe, they are

singularly unlike Christ. By nature they are like Satan; by grace like Christ.

 

The MANNER OF THE CHANGE. It follows upon turning to the Lord (v. 16).

As Moses, standing before God, was singularly changed in countenance, so that

his face reflected the Divine glory, so we are changed as we are turned towards

Christ, as we turn towards Him in penitence and faith and in desire to be His. The

figure of a mirror is employed.  The idea conveyed is that, as Christ shines upon us,

as He acts upon us, we become changed. It is by the Divine action we are changed,

our looking upon Christ being only the means by which the Divine action reaches us.

 

A SPECIAL FEATURE OF THE CHANGE. It is progressive — “from

glory to glory.” The change is often gradual. There is a great fundamental

change at conversion. A condition of “glory” is reached, but there is a

glory beyond this. We “grow in grace.” At first we are “babes in Christ,”

but we develop into the stature of perfect men in Him (Ephesians 4:13).

Conversion is but the first stage. Many seem to think that it is the final one.

Justification is enough for them; sanctification is not in their thoughts. But this

is not the salvation of Christ. We are saved for holiness, for usefulness, for the

service of God, and as continuously we gaze upon Christ in faith, and as His power

falls upon us, we pass into a further “glory.”

 

A CONDITION OF THE CHANGE. Our face is unvailed. And here face stands for

heart. The vail occasioned by the old enmity, by prejudice, by misconception, by ignorance,

must be removed. This will be so with all who in sincerity turn to the Lord. “When it shall

turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away” (v. 16). The more completely our face

is unvailed the more rapidly shall we pass from “glory to glory.”  We should strive to

remove all that is likely to hinder our development into the likeness of Christ. Anything that

comes between ourselves and Him will do this. Heart vails are of very various patterns.

 

THE STRIKING USEFULNESS OF THE CHANGE. Adopting the reading

reflecting as a mirror,” we see that those who turn to the Lord reflect the glory

of the Lord. They show forth Christ. Men take knowledge of them that they have

been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)   They reflect the redemptive glory of Christ. They

exemplify the power of His salvation. They are monuments upon which is inscribed

“Christ, and Him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2) - They reflect the love of Christ in

Christian activity. Having been saved themselves, they desire the salvation of all

around them. What a thought, that we may reflect, Christ!  As we seek to reflect

Christ the change progresses. It is when we are diligent in the Master’s business,

when we consecrate ourselves to Him, when we strive to set Him forth in daily life,

that we become changed into His image. (Romans 12:1-2) - As we strenuously

endeavor to be like Him we become like Him. Our endeavor to reflect Him is

responded to by the change in us which enables us to reflect Him. Reflecting His

glory as a mirror, we are changed into the same image.

 

THE WORKER OF THE CHANGE. The Holy Ghost, “the Lord the Spirit.”

Christ working by His Spirit, who takes of the things of Christ and reveals them

unto us. The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my Name” (<John 14:26).

The work is Divine; it calls for DIVINE POWER!  We cannot work this change,

yet we can “turn to the Lord,” that it may be worked.

 

 

 

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