Glory, To See and Reflect

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:1-18

 Are we beginning to praise ourselves again? Are we like others, who need to bring you letters of recommendation, or who ask you to write such letters on their behalf? Surely not! The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.

We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.

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. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? 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!

12 Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. 14 But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. 15 Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.

16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

INTRODUCTION [2 Corinthians 3:1-6]

Although the church at Antioch is the mother church in terms of Missions, the Jerusalem church was considered the mother church in terms of authority and the ‘true’ Apostles carried credentials from the Jerusalem church to validate their authenticity. Evidently Paul had no such letter and did not feel the need for such. I am in full agreement with Paul.

Paul insisted that his credentials was his body of work, the Corinthian church was a testimony to Paul’s work and commitment to the gospel. Why did he need a letter written with pen and ink when he had a far greater letter written by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the Corinthians believers?

Let me say in passing that letters of recommendation [Resume] are not proof of work. Documents can be altered or falsified but a man’s testimony is the real deal. A man’s body of work is a far greater recommendation than a legal document.

This argument ignited Paul’s mind and he illustrates this comparison with another comparison. The opening comparison is “Letters of Recommendation,” verses “Body of Work.” From 3:7-18, we have the comparison of the OLD COVENANT verses the NEW COVENANT. Paul’s ultimate point will be, there is no comparison–the New Covenant [Christ] is infinitely superior to the Old [Moses]. As we talk about this comparison tonight, keep in mind that we as believers are to “See and Reflect” the far greater glory of the New Covenant.

Before we get into the heart of the message: let me show you the details of the comparison between the Old Covenant and the New.

OLD COVENANT……………..…………NEW COVENANT

Mediator is Moses                                                    Mediator is Christ

Letters, words engraved in Stone                       Spirit, indwelling the heart         

External                                                                       Internal

Produces Death                                                         Produces Life

Condemnation                                                          Justification

Fading Glory                                                              Unfading Glory

Temporal                                                                    Eternal

Produces Fear                                                            Produces confidence and hope

Veiled {Christ in the Law}                                     Unveiled {Christ in the Gospel}

Results in spirit of slavery                                     Results in spirit of liberty

Obviously, I cannot elaborate on every comparison so I want to make three comments which will hopefully shed some light on all.

I. THE NATURE OF THE COVENANTS

The Old is external and temporal which the New is internal and eternal. The stumbling block for the Jews [Veil] has to do with the Nature of the Covenant. The Jews, as a whole, failed to realize the Temporal nature of the Old Covenant. You and I know that Christ is in the Old Testament [on every page, in every observance, every law, every sacrifice, every offering]. We see this because we repented when we heard the gospel and the veil was removed so that we could see. The veil remains over the eyes of the Jews [as a whole]. They do not see Jesus in Isaiah 53. If you do not see Jesus in Isaiah 53, you have never repented of your sins and the veil is still over your eyes.

God’s plan from the foundation of the world has been Jesus.  Paul said, All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. {Ephesians 1:3-4}

I began preaching at the age of 19 and serving churches at the age of 20 and I did not know jack squat. I remember preaching a sermon that basically said, “God gave us the law and that failed and so plan B was Jesus.” Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! I could have been tried for heresy and burned at the stake. God has only one plan and that is JESUS. The law did not fail, it did exactly what God intended, he convicted us of our sin and ultimately lead to the crucifixion of Jesus. You protest, “Jesus didn’t break the law.” Right, but He didn’t die for Himself, He died in our place as a curse and law breaker.

Moses foreshadowed Jesus…He was an OT type of Christ. You and I have seen the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and we know that Jesus is infinitely greater than Moses. We respect Moses but we worship Jesus. The unbelieving Jews had no respect for Jesus and worshiped Moses, to this day. They did not see and do not see that Judaism was temporal. Judaism was pointing toward the body of Christ, the church. It was never intended to be an end of itself, it was a cursor pointing to Jesus.

[Aside: although Paul understood the temporal nature of Judaism and the writer of Hebrews really understood the nature of the Old Covenant, the Jewish converts, Paul included, had a hard time letting go of Judaism. This is what got Paul arrested, he was in the Temple, of all places, carrying out a Jewish rite of purification. He had no business in the Temple or trying to fulfill something that Christ had already completed. This simply highlight what a huge problem the Jews had with letting go of their religion and clinging only to Christ]

II. THE PURPOSE OF THE COVENANTS

Keep in mind, God does not see the Old and New Covenants competing. It is not Plan A verses Plan B. God has only one plan, the salvation of man and both covenants have the same end in mind and that is man’s salvation. It is better to think of the covenants as phase one and two but both heading in the same direction, seeking the same end.

The Law revealed through Moses the mediator of the Old Covenant was perfect. The Law has no flaws. The law simply reveals our flaws which is exactly what God intended. The Law was not given to save us although observing the law enhances our quality of life. Due to the fact that we are sinners and have a rebellious nature, the law brought us condemnation. It highlighted our problem but offered no solution. Jesus by His own admission in John 3, did not come to condemn but to save. Jesus was the Law incarnated into flesh, He was perfect and thus fulfilled all the laws demands. He came to live a life we could not live and die a death we deserved to die. The law takes life but Jesus gives life.

This vast superiority of the New Covenant is obvious. What do we get when we preach the law only? You get condemnation because none of us can meet the requirements of the law. BUT now, in the new covenant, we preach the GOSPEL which is good news to those condemned under the law. Had I rather be an OT prophet or a NT evangelist? Hey, I will take the message of the gospel, “No condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,” to the law of condemnation any day.

Jesus said in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” In 1 Timothy 2, Paul said, This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truthFor there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all. In 2 Peter 3:9, the scripture reads,  The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

John the Baptist was not sent to save anyone, he was sent to point the Jews to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John wrapped up phase one, which is to convict us of sin and lead us to repentance. No one can receive what Jesus has without a repentant heart. The purpose of phase one [old covenant] was to get us ready for Jesus. Everything is about Jesus. This must be at the core of your faith and practice.

III. THE MANIFESTATION OF THE COVENANTS

Both covenants produced glory but the old was a fading glory and the new is an internal and eternal glory. The old covenant glory diminishes with time; the new covenant glory is enhanced by time. The NRSV translates verse 18 like this: And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

Paul said in Colossians {and this is a key to your understanding}, For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. This has to be one of the most incredible passages of scripture in the entire bible and it is not believable a part from the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Everything about the covenants is expressed in verse 18, So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. You have to “See the glory” before you can “reflect the glory.” The veil was a cloth that Moses used as a mask to hide the true appearance of his face. When he first came from the presence of the LORD, his face would glow but the glory would not last, it would fade so Moses covered his face. F.F. Bruce says there are two possible reasons why Moses wore the veil: [1] It made it possible for the Israelites to look at him without being dazzled and [2] Moses wished to prevent them from seeing that the glory was fading. Bruce believes that it was the latter that was true.

Think of the sun as the ‘glory’ and clouds as the ‘veil.’ Remember, we have to see the glory to reflect the glory. There can be no obstruction or veil. When a cloud comes between us and the sun, we can neither see nor reflect the sun’s glory. The same is true with the ‘SON,’ we must have a clear view with no obstructions to see HIS GLORY or reflect HIS GLORY. When I look at the Christ of scripture, I see clearly the GLORY but when I look inward, I don’t see any glory and I am lead to question, “Does anyone else see HIS GLORY in me?” No one ever tells me that they see His glory in me so what am I to believe?

It is at this point that Colossians three comes into play: Paul said, “His glory is hidden in us.” He echoes the same principle in 2 Corinthians 4…

You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

It is evident that we can reflect very little glory if our lives are eclipsed with sin and rebellion. We have to have clear view of His glory in order to reflect it to others. The true church will not be know until Christ is revealed and these clay jars are broken. The only one who sees our future potential or glory is Jesus. I don’t see yours and you don’t see mine but it is there if you are in Christ and Christ in you. He is our only hope of glory.

CONCLUSION

Seeing and reflecting; this is what it is all about. We must have an unobstructed view of Jesus in order to reflect His glory. The only way to remove the veil is to repent of sins and turn to Christ.

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