Series: 2 Corinthians 3
Hope is crucial. Yet many people have lost or are losing hope in our time. Everything seems to be falling apart. Suggested solutions increase in desperation. However, the decline across the world continues. But they forget that there is hope, real hope, living hope and that it is a Person, Christ Jesus our hope (1 Tm 1:1). When we find that hope of glory, who is Christ (Col 1:27), then faith and love spring from that hope (Col 1:3-5). It is my desire that you find and enjoy that hope or confident expectation in the Lord Jesus Christ!
When we gather together, it is my privilege to set before you our hope in the Lord. This third chapter of Second Corinthians is a tremendous place to learn more about all that we have in Christ. We do not seek merely to add to an ever-increasing mountain of information. We want you to delight in the Lord, to rejoice in him with an inexpressible and glorious joy! So, how is your hope? We want you to experience more today. Let’s look at this passage again.
I. The attitude of new covenant ministry—“very open” – What this means is explained in the immediate context.
A. The basis of this attitude
1. The apostle has just said that new covenant has surpassing and enduring glory. Now he speaks as a representative new covenant person. This better covenant provides us with hope—confident expectation.
2. This means that “we are very bold” or “act very openly”. The idea is that the hope of glory produces a change in the way new covenant life and ministry is conducted. This is consistent with the teaching that God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ changes our way of life. So what is this change of attitude spoken of here?
B. The nature of this attitude
1. As is clear from the following verses, the old covenant was characterized by a veil, and a veil covers and hides from view. Yes, the old covenant came with God’s glory, but there was a separation of the people from the glory by a succession of coverings—around the tabernacle courtyard, the tabernacle itself, and the veil before the Most Holy Place. The glory was revealed, but you couldn’t get to it, except for the high priest once a year or Moses, the mediator of the old covenant.
2. It is different in the new covenant. All who are in Christ have the surpassing glory. The Spirit of God and of glory rests on us and lives in us. We are “very open”. Clearly, this is a superior position to be, so the Corinthians should not be tempted by false teachers to go back to the inferiority of the law.
Apply: This is why the gospel is to be preached and taught plainly and clearly (Col 4:4). We are not to obscure the message, but set it forth in an understandable manner. A message or Bible lesson is no place to be displaying one’s supposed intellect by subtle imagery and showy vocabulary. Instead, we want people to know the grace of God in the good news of Jesus Christ.
II. A contrast with the old covenant ministry—veiled
A. The purpose of Moses’ veil—“to prevent…”
1. Paul has already said that the glory of the law covenant was transitory. From the very first, it was not intended to last. Lasting glory could only come through the Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2. So in the old covenant, the glory was becoming ineffective, and Moses did not want the people to see “the end” of it. So, he would go into the tabernacle, take off the veil, receive God’s message, return outside to the people, and deliver God’s word to him. They would look intently at God’s glory shining on his face and would be afraid (Ex 34). When he finished speaking, he would cover his face with the veil until the next time he went in to speak to the Lord. They would not see the end of that glory.
B. Paul uses this to set forth what life was like under the law. We should remember that he had experienced worship in this way. He says that the veil remains on the people of Israel.
1. They saw the glory, but their minds were hardened. This was not a good spiritual position to be in! You see, people tend to think that if they experience the spectacular, they are all right. But God looks on the heart. This was always the problem of Israel under the law covenant. It is still the problem of those who participate in moving religious services. “Oh, it just felt like God was there!” But God is not concerned how moved you where in an experience. He is interested in your mind. Do you love God with all your mind? Do you believe the truth that is in Jesus, or is your mind hardened against the good news? Do you delight in the truth? The Jews at Sinai, of whom Paul speaks, were not really interested in what God told them. So God hardened their minds (note the passive verb).
2. Their descendants continue in this same spiritual condition. Now this hardening does not extend to all Israel (cf. Rm 11:25; etc), but it is generally true. Paul is explaining why many of his fellow Israelites according to the flesh do not believe. They can read Moses, but they do not see the glory of the Lord. You still encounter this in spiritual conversations with many Jewish people. Sadly, their religious experience is reduced to what is ethnic and cultural.
Comment: This is one serious reason to disregard what Jewish rabbis have taught about the OTS over the centuries. They really do not understand the old covenant.
Apply: We should pray for salvation of Jewish people. They need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in order to understand the scriptures that God has given them. They need to see that they tell of the Lord Jesus Christ.
III. The change that the Lord Christ is able to make
A. The veil is removed when anyone is “in Christ” (3:14).
1. Once again we see the importance of union with Christ. Everything in the new covenant age depends on the Lord Jesus. If you want to explain salvation to someone, you must tell them that it means to be in Christ. In him we have election, calling, cleansing, forgiveness, righteousness, adult sonship, the Holy Spirit, the inheritance, and a proper grasp of the OTS, which is Paul’s point here.
2. Paul himself experienced this removal of the veil when Christ was revealed to him on the road to Damascus (Ac 9). Only when he saw the glory of the risen Jesus was he able to discern Christ in the OTS, and then he saw Christ as he is in the OTS—everywhere!
B. The way this change comes—conversion
1. This expression occurs throughout Acts (9:35; 11:21; 14:15; 15:19; 26:20). See also 1 Th 1:9; 1 Pt 2:25). It means to have a change of mind in which a person turns from their rebellion against God to trust in Christ alone for salvation. It means to repent and to believe the good news!
Apply: Has this happened to you? Have seen by faith how much superior Christ is to anything the world can offer? Have you relied on him to rescue you from your evil and empty way of life?
2. As is clear from the passages in Acts and the emphasis in our passage on the Holy Spirit, this change or conversion comes from the operation of the Spirit with the word on people. This is the reason we must pray for the blessing of the Spirit on the message as we tell it to others?
Apply: For whom are you praying?
3. This salvation is offered to all: “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord.” It does not matter what you’ve done, where you were born, what your family of origin was like, how old you are, how well you did in school, how intellectual you think you are, how much money you make, how many friends you have, what your personal appearance is like, or even how hopeless your life seems to be. The message is for anyone.
Apply: Have you turned to the Lord Jesus Christ?