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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:The Veil Removed in Christ
Text:2 Corinthians 3:6-18 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Covenant faithfulness
 
Preached:2018-01-14
Added:2019-02-05
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 

The Veil Removed in Christ”
Exodus 34:29-35; 2 Corinthians 3:6-18
 
Can you begin to imagine what the scene was like when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the law of God written on the two tablets of stone? Maybe some of you have seen the movie about Moses and the 10 Commandments. I have not, but no matter how anyone tries to convey that scene, it is still beyond our ability to fully comprehend.
 
Moses had been on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights with the Lord. During that time, he did not eat or drink. He was sustained by the Lord and beheld the glory of the Lord. And when he came down from the mountain, Exodus 34:29 tells us he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.
 
When the people saw the radiance of glory on the face of Moses they were terrified. Verse 30 describes how they were afraid to come near him. Because they were afraid to come near Moses, Aaron and the other leaders of the community came to Moses and Moses spoke to them. Later, he gave the people the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai. After speaking to the people, Moses put the veil over his face. However, verse 34 tells, whenever he entered the Lord's presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out.
 
It is that passage from Exodus 34 that the Holy Spirit uses in 2 Corinthians 3 to teach us about the surpassing greatness of the new covenant. In verse 7-8 the apostle asks this question: Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?
 
Throughout this entire chapter the apostle Paul has been contrasting the old covenant which centered on the law, and the new covenant which focuses on the gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. (Those of you who were here last week recall that) in verse 3 we saw one of the differences between the two covenants. That verse explains how the old covenant, summarized in the law, was written on stone tablets but the new covenant is written upon the hearts of God's people by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. Yet it is important to see that it is still the same law that is written upon the heart. In other words, the new covenant, the teaching of the Gospel, does not discard the law but rather uses the law to convict us of our sin and to focus on us in faith upon Jesus Christ, through a regenerated heart brought by the Holy Spirit's power.
 
Another great difference is there in verse 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. How does the letter kill..?   - One commentator explains it this way: “The letter (meaning the law) kills in that it causes us to sin knowingly; …. But the Spirit gives life in that it causes us to fulfill what is commanded…” (Herveius as quoted by Hughes; NICNT, 2 Corinthians, pg. 102)
 
An example of how God’s law makes us know our sin is found in Romans 7:7, where the apostle Paul writes: If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
 
John Calvin also gives insight on how the law brings death and the gospel brings life. He writes: “The office of the law is to show us the disease in such a way that it shows us no hope of a cure; whereas the office of the gospel is to bring a remedy to those who are past hope. For the law, since it leaves man to himself, necessarily condemns him to death; whereas the gospel, by bringing him to Christ, opens the gate of life”. (As quoted by Hughes, IBID. p. 104).
 
Picture yourself in the office of your doctor. He explains that you have a terminal disease. He explains that there is nothing he can do to help you. He explains there is nothing in your power to overcome the certainty of impending death. No special diet will stave off the disease, no regimen of exercise holds a key. That is what Calvin is getting at in his comparison of the two covenants when he observes: “For the law, since it leaves man to himself, necessarily condemns him to death.”
 
But as your heart sinks at this news, suppose you are told there is one specialist in all the world, only one Great Physician who can overcome your terminal condition and open the gate of life. That Great Physician is Christ. He comes into the room and says to you, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32). That is what Calvin is getting at when he writes, “whereas the gospel, by bringing him to Christ, opens the gate of life”.
 
That is a great contrast between the law and the gospel – one leads to death and the other to eternal life – yet the law and the gospel are linked together inseparably. Just because the law condemns and brings death, it is still crucial in the life of God's people.  Galatians 3:24 describes how the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
 
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the well-known preacher from a former generation wrote:
 
I do not believe that any man can preach the gospel who does not preach the law. The law is the needle and you cannot draw the silken thread of the gospel through a man's heart unless you first send the needle of the law to make way for it.  If men do not understand the law, they will not feel they are sinners.  And if they are not consciously sinners, they will never value the sin offering.  There is no healing a man until the law has wounded him, no making him alive until the law has slain him."
 
Although the glory of the gospel far exceeds the glory that radiated from the face of Moses as he brought God’s law from Mount Sinai, both the law and the gospel are inseparable.
 
Further Contrasts
 
Verse 9 describes another contrast between the old covenant and the new covenant. It says: If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!
 
The law does bring condemnation. We read in Romans 3:19 how no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But that same chapter goes on to tell how a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. (Romans 3:21-25)
 
Verse 11 shows yet another contrast between the two covenants. The old covenant radiated glory. After all, the face of Moses was so radiant that he covered his face with a veil. But it was a fading radiancy while the glory of the new covenant will never fade away; it lasts eternally.
 
The difference between the glory of the old covenant and the radiant face of Moses, and the new covenant and the glory of Christ, has been likened to the difference between the radiancy of the moon and the brilliance of the sun. The full moon, on a clear night, especially when reflected off a dusting of recent snow, glimmers with its own special glory. But it is nothing compared to the radiancy of the sun. 
 
Others liken the light of the old covenant to a lamp that is used at night. It is nothing compared to the brilliance of the morning sunshine, and yet it has great value. No one in their right mind would say, “Since the sun is shining I will do away with the light I use at night.” In the same way, the law is not abrogated – done away with – by the gospel, but rather works hand-in-hand with the gospel in the life of the believer. But the glory of the law is a temporary glory, while the glory of the gospel is eternal.
 
The Veil Removed Through Christ
 
In verse 13-16 the apostle describes how a veil covers the minds and hearts of all who do not know Christ by saving faith. Only in Christ is the veil removed, which reminds us that we only understand the Old Testament through the lens of the cross. The types and shadows of the Old Testament are made clear only when we look at them through Christ.
 
For example, when we look at the Old Testament through Christ we see the meaning of all the bloody sacrifices. We read in Scripture how the blood of bulls and goats could never make atonement for sin. It may seem strange to us that there were so many bloody sacrifices in the Old Testament. But when we read about those sacrifices through the lens of Christ, the veil is taken away and we clearly see that those bloody sacrifices pointed to his perfect sacrifice.
 
Or, consider the imagery of the Passover lamb. We may wonder why it was so important for the people to bring a lamb without spot or defect to be sacrificed on the Day of Atonement, the day of the Passover. But when we view that Old Testament regulation through Christ we see, in the words of 1 Corinthians 5:7 how Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
 
He who is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, very God of very God, perfect in every way without spot, without defect, the exact image and representation of his heavenly Father, came to this earth as our Passover lamb. He allowed himself to be sacrificed in our place. When we believe in him our sins are covered by his shed blood. The Lord sees not our sin, but sees his Son and passes us over for judgment, just as the Israelites who put the blood of the Passover lamb on their door posts were spared when all the firstborn of Egypt were slain.
 
We see those types and shadows of the Old Testament fulfilled in Christ. We see the true meaning of the Old Testament only through the lens of the cross. For example, we see that the sacrifice of Abraham's one and only son with Sarah, the son of promise, is a foreshadow, or type, of the sacrifice of Jesus. In each case the father is sacrificing his son through whom great and precious promises are given.
 
The same is true when you look at David's kingship and power, which was but a foreshadow of the greater kingship and eternal reign of Christ. The same is true of Solomon's splendor. The splendor of his kingdom was great; none of his cups and goblets were made of silver; instead they were all made of gold. But the glory of Solomon’s kingdom was yet looking ahead to the glory of Christ. As Jesus himself said,And now one greater than Solomon is here,” speaking of himself (Matthew 12:42).
 
Do you see what a blessing it is to live in the New Testament time frame that we are in? Do you see what a blessing it is to have the veil removed, to understand the old covenant through the lens of Christ and all the blessings of the new covenant?
 
Those who, by God’s grace, know Christ through saving faith in him receive immeasurable grace from God. As John wrote in John 1:16-17: …From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
 
Blessings From the Fullness of Christ
 
What are some of the blessings that flow from the fullness of Christ? In this passage from 2 Corinthians 3 we read of several great new covenant blessings, including, first, that we who believe in Christ have boldness in approaching the Lord.
 
In verse 12 the apostle describes the boldness that he and all who have faith in Christ enjoy. Our boldness comes not from anything within ourselves. Rather, our boldness in approaching the Lord is based on the perfect work of Jesus Christ. He is the Mediator of the new covenant. Thus, we come to the Father through the Son and boldly claim the gift of salvation, with all its benefits which Christ has earned for us.
 
We have boldness to claim all the promises that God has given us because of the completed work of Christ. And we have boldness in witnessing the gospel to others, not because of any boldness within ourselves but because of the confidence that we have in the work of Christ on our behalf. Charles Wesley described it this way in the last verse of the well-known hymn, And Can Be That I Should Gain? where he wrote:
 
No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head, And clothed in righteousness divine
Bold I approach th’eternal throne, And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
 
The ministry of the apostle Paul is an example of the boldness that we have in Christ. We know that Moses also knew Christ by saving faith. Jesus himself said to the Pharisees, If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. (John 5:46). But under the old covenant everything was done with types and shadows. Those who by God's grace had faith in the promised Messiah, such as Moses had, did not yet have the blessing of clarity that we have under the new covenant. Jesus explained it this way, in Matthew 11:11, “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
 
John the Baptist represented the old covenant, and he was appointed to announce the new covenant, through the work of Jesus Christ. But the blessing of the new covenant is so great that Jesus points out that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist in the sense that we see the fulfillment of the old covenant. And the fulfillment of the law is through the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, which is why we have boldness as Christians.
 
Again I ask, Do you see what a blessing it is to live in the New Testament time frame that we are in? Do you see what a blessing it is to have the veil removed, to understand the old covenant through the lens of Christ and all the blessings of the new covenant?
 
Verse 17 describes another great blessing of the new covenant: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. What do we have freedom from? Through faith in Jesus Christ, which comes by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, we have freedom from our slavery to sin.
 
I don't imagine that most people today think of themselves as slaves. But everyone who has not accepted by faith the promises of the new covenant, everyone who has not placed their faith in Christ alone for salvation, is a slave to their sin. As Jesus said in John 8:34, “I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
 
Romans 6:16 adds, Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
 
2 Peter 2:19 points out They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.
 
John Calvin’s comments on 2 Corinthians 3:17 by writing, “I acknowledge, that the inference drawn from this passage by Augustine is correct – that we are by nature the slaves of sin, and are made free by the grace of regeneration.”
 
Another great blessing for those who have saving faith in Jesus Christ is there in verse 18: And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
 
The Greek word translated “reflect” can also be translated as to “see” or to “behold”. Because of that, there are various views on whether Paul is saying that we reflect the glory of God – which we certainly are to do by the way we live our lives – or whether this verse is telling us that as we behold the glory of God we are transformed to be more like him.
 
In the context of the passage, the latter view seems most accurate. Although it is true that we are to reflect the glory of Christ to others, it is by growing in our knowledge of the Lord, as we see his glory revealed in the pages of Scripture, that we are shaped and molded more and more after Christ.
 
I like the terminology that Philip Edgecombe Hughes uses in his commentary on 2 Corinthians. He points out that through faith in Christ we are imputed with his righteousness, which is of course our justification, but then by the Holy Spirit's sanctifying work we are also imparted with the image of Christ within us in ever-increasing measure. And he points out: “In glorification, justification and sanctification become complete and one, for that image is then finally impressed upon the redeemed in unobscured fullness, to the glory of God throughout eternity.” (Page 120).
 
* * *
 
However, the truths that are embedded in the new covenant are of no value if they are only in our head and not within our heart. And that leads to our application this morning, namely, it is crucial that, by God’s grace and enabling Spirit, we turn to the Lord through saving faith in Christ alone.
 
So again, I ask: Do you see what a blessing it is to live in the New Testament time frame that we are in? Do you see what a blessing it is to have the veil removed, to understand the old covenant through the lens of Christ and all the blessings of the new covenant? Have you, by God's grace and enabling Spirit, truly committed your life to him? Is the veil removed through faith in Christ? Do you see your sin in the light of the law and your redemption in the shed blood and perfect life of your Savior?
 
If you do, you have reason to greatly rejoice! Through faith in Christ you are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory. Through faith in Christ you have redemption from your sin and the gift of everlasting life in the glory of heaven.
 
But, on the other hand, if you have sat the church for many years and know these truths in your head, but still have an empty heart, know that the same Lord who is the mediator of the new covenant is also the one who said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). Come to the Lord Jesus and rejoice in his saving grace! Come to the Lord Jesus and rejoice in all the blessings of the new covenant in his blood! Amen.
 
 
- bulletin outline -
 
 
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. 
2 Corinthians 3:14
 
The Veil Removed in Christ”
Exodus 34:29-35; 2 Corinthians 3:6-18
 
I.  This passage uses the account of Exodus 34:29-35 to teach that the ministry that brought death (the old covenant – the law) was glorious, but the ministry
     that brings eternal life (the new covenant – the gospel) is far more glorious (7-8). The passage also contrasts the two covenants (6, 9-11)
 
 
 
 
 
II.  A veil covers the minds and hearts of all who do not know Christ by saving faith, just as a veil covered Moses’ face; only in Christ is the veil removed (13-16). 
     But those who know Christ through saving faith in Him receive innumerable blessings (John 1:16-17), including:
      1) Boldness in approaching the Lord (12-13)
 
 
 
 
 
      2) The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who gives freedom from slavery to sin through faith in Christ (17)       
 
 
 
 
 
      3) Sanctifying transformation as we are conformed more and more after the likeness of Christ (18)
 
 
 
 
 
III. Application: It is crucial that by God’s grace and enabling Spirit we turn to the Lord through saving faith in Christ alone (16)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Ted Gray

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