2 Corinthians 3:12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. [NIV]
A veil is a piece of material worn to protect or conceal the face and certainly must affect the ability to see clearly. “Veil” is a prettier word, but “mask” better describes the man-made barrier between us and God that can dull the mind and cover the heart.
Moses covered his face with a veil to hide “the end of what was passing away” but “we are not like Moses” because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed…”
“…Since we have such a hope,” we can be “very bold.” Are we bold enough to be unmasked? Are we bold enough to trust God at work in us and let others be witnesses of “the end of what [is] passing away” as we are changed “into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” May it be so.
2 Corinthians 3:7 The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. 8 Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? 9 If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! 10 In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. 11 So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! [NLT]
God’s law was chiseled into those tablets of stone. What could be more permanent than stone? Those tablets were “new” then but they are lost today. God had something even more permanent in mind; the same truth reproducible in the hearts of transformed people. Truth that would be new not only in point of time, but also new in quality…for all time.
Etched in stone or etched in life is the difference between the law versus the Spirit and the bottom line of the new way. Now “the Holy Spirit is giving life.” God’s truth is not new but the “new” quality is truth being chiseled into our hearts. No wonder it sometimes hurts but it’s truth that will last for all eternity. We are the tablets the world sees today.
2 Corinthians 3:4 Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. [NIV]
* Confidence [the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something]
* Competence [the ability to do something successfully or efficiently]
* Letter [actual literal terms or wording]
* Spirit [the implied elements of thought and attitude]
The Apostle understands the comfort of trying to obey the law is a much clearer standard to cling to than the mystery of obeying the Spirit. The human option is to use obedience to the law to define our competence and give us confidence that our behavior will save us.
The Apostle reminds us there’s another option: our new covenant of obedience to the life we have through Christ. That obedience defines our confidence in the sovereign reliability of God’s competence to change our thoughts, attitudes and behavior from the harshness of the literal to the Spirit of life in Christ…and that will save us…and others.
2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. [NIV]
“Known and read by everyone” got me thinking about how much effort we spend on creating an image we think will make us look good. It’s easy to confuse image and vanity because both are so closely tied to external influences. Attention to our image supports almost any part of the economy I can think of at this moment; housing, auto, clothing, food and certainly personal care. It’s not a bad thing to want to look good but these external things are only a convenient way for us to manipulate reality.
Paul reminds us part of our image is paying attention to our internal, intangible things that are far less easy for us to manipulate by buying the “right” whatever. They’re written not with ink on a contract or a sales slip “but with the Spirit of the living God.” Paul confirms that what is written on our heart becomes a visible part of our image that can be “known and read by everyone.” It takes the our external efforts and God’s internal commitment to complete the eternal image being written within us: “You are a letter from Christ…known and read by everyone.”